Sunday, July 26, 2020

FEATURED AUTHOR: DANI PETTREY





ABOUT THE BOOK


When an accident claims the life of an oil-rig worker on the first drilling platform off the North Carolina coast, Coast Guard investigators Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers are sent to take the case. Tensions surrounding the oil rig are high and the death has everyone on edge. Environmental activists are threatening to do whatever it takes to stop the structure from being completed, while rumors are being whispered about ancient curses surrounding this part of the ocean.

Mounting evidence shows the death may not have been an accident at all. Was he killed by one of the activists or, perhaps more frighteningly, a member of his own crew? Rissi and Mason have to sort through not only a plethora of suspects, but also their own past and attraction to each other.

Just as the case seems like it'll break open, worse news arrives. A tropical storm has turned their way and soon they're cut off from any rescue–and right where the killer wants them. It's a race to discover his identity before he eliminates the threat they pose.



Book Details:
Title: The Crushing Depths

Author: Dani Pettrey

Genre: inspirational romantic suspense



Series: Coastal Guardians #2


Published by: Bethany House
 (June 30th 2020)


Print length: 320 pages

On tour with: Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours









LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH DANI PETTREY



A few of your favorite things:  time with grandbabies, the beach, hiking, coffee, chocolate.
Things you need to throw out: irrelevant papers—I keep everything for years after it’s needed.


Things you need in order to write: yellow legal pad, Frixxon erasable pens in blue, coffee in one of my favorite mugs.
Things that hamper your writing: alerts on my phone, writing in public, procrastination. 


Things you love about writing: daydreaming, getting to know my characters, creating the world they live in.
Things you hate about writing: the blank page, writer’s block, dead ends.

Easiest thing about being a writer: the joy of getting to tell stories for a living. 

Hardest thing about being a writer: having people accept you do have a real job and have to keep work hours.


Things you love about where you live: close to my daughters, son-in-law and grandbabies. Only three hours from the beach. Hiking is about 15 minutes away.
Things that make you want to move: the beach. I could easily live in Kona, Hawaii.

Words that describe you: whimsical (it’s a fancier word than mess), loving, compassionate, and spontaneous.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: procrastinator, worrier, or as my oldest daughter calls me—stress bunny.

Favorite song: “To Make Me Feel Your Love” sung by Garth Brooks
Music that make your ears bleed: Techno.

Favorite beverage: coffee 

Something that gives you a pickle face: grapefruit juice.

Favorite smell: honeysuckle. 

Something that makes you hold your nose: manure.

People you consider as heroes: my husband and all soldiers who have served our country and fought for our freedom.
People with a big L on their foreheads: conceited.

Things you’d walk a mile for: to see my grandbabies.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: doing taxes.

Things you always put in your books: humor.

Things you never put in your books:  foul language.

Things to say to an author: I really enjoy your books. 

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: I found your book dry and boring.

Favorite places you’ve been: Amalfi Coast, Pompeii, Kona Hawaii, Monument Valley.

Places you never want to go to again: LAX.

Things that make you happy: writing, playing with the grandbabies, watching the sunrise and sunset, traveling.  

Things that drive you crazy: going to the dentist; my husband but in the very best way.

Most embarrassing moment: there are too many to choose from. Yesterday I spilled sparkling water all over my lap and capris right before I had to go into the doctor’s office to get stitches removed. That was fun—explaining soaked, sticky pants. 

Proudest moment: when both my girls and both my grandsons were born.

Best thing you’ve ever done: married my husband. 

Biggest mistake: rolling my Bronco in the middle of the New Mexico mesa.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: hiked along a narrow dirt path so tight I had to put one foot in front of the other—not enough room for two feet—at the top of the Sandia mountains in New Mexico, in flip-flops. 

Something you chickened out from doing: skydiving.





EXCERPT FROM THE CRUSHING DEPTHS

Chapter One

Late September

Thirty-eight miles off North Carolina’s coast

Greg Barnes clinked along the grated metal steps, his boot heels rasping with each shuffle as he headed topside for a much-needed breath of smoke.
Thrusting the door open with a resounding creak, he stepped out into the night air.
A litany of protestors’ chants mimicked the shrill whining of cicadas.
He glanced at his watch. 1930. Didn’t those eco-nuts ever give it a rest?
As if the cursed rig wasn’t enough—they had the dang relentless protestors going practically day and night.
Exhaling, he rubbed his thumb along the smooth surface of the tarnished gold lighter in his pocket. His tight muscles seized, making his movements stiff. He shook his head. Those people needed to get a life.
Edging around the far corner of the main separator facility, he pressed his back against the structure’s cool outer wall. Generators whirred across from him, finally drowning out the clatter. He scanned his surroundings and exhaled in relief. Finally, alone.
His leg twitched. Just one drag . . . maybe two. It’d been an awful day, and that was the gentleman’s way of putting it.
With unsteady hands, he pulled the plastic-wrapped pack from his shirt pocket.
It crinkled beneath his hold and the sweet scent of tobacco wafted beneath his nose. He tamped the cigarette in his palm and slid it between his cracked lips. Just one drag.
Tugging the lighter from his pocket, he flipped it open, then rolled the pad of his thumb across the ignitor.
A spark flashed and fire roared, hissing over him in a sizzling cascade of torment.

Chapter Two

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
Rissi Dawson sat at the long table on Dockside’s waterfront deck, gaping at Mason Rogers. He turned to look at her, his green eyes illuminated in the bright pole lights lining the wooden structural beams. She averted her eyes as heat rushed up her throat, spreading across her cheeks. He’d caught her staring again. Embarrassment drenched her. It’d been three days since his arrival, and she still couldn’t wrap her mind around the fact he was actually sitting next to her.
The boy she’d had the biggest crush on as a teen was back in her life. And on her Coast Guard Investigative Service team.
He handed her the basket of hush puppies the restaurant served instead of bread to start everyone off. His hand brushed hers with the movement, and her heart fluttered. “Thanks,” she said, keeping her gaze fixed on the red basket as she pulled two balls of fried cornmeal from it. She plopped the still-warm puppies onto the round plate to the right of her Coke. Get it together, girl!
The whir of a boat’s motor dropping to an idle sounded over the deck’s edge. A teen jumped out of the white outboard and onto the pier, tying her up to the cleat. Rissi loved living in a place with a boat drive-thru.
Noah raised his glass of iced tea. “Everyone . . .” The team lifted their glasses in response to their boss’s prompting.
Noah dipped his chin. “Welcome, Mason. Happy to have you on board.”
The team clinked their glasses together, even Caleb who sat brooding to her left. Observant as he was, there was no chance he missed the way she looked at Mason. In recent months, he’d developed feelings for her, so it wasn’t surprising he’d bristled at Mason’s arrival—especially after learning she and Mason shared a past, though he didn’t know the half of it. Only that they spent time in a children’s home together for a handful of months as teens.
The opening riff of “Sweet Home Alabama” emanated from Noah’s jean pocket. He hitched up as he extracted his phone. “Rowley,” he answered. “Yes?” Standing, he headed down the ramp toward the restaurant’s pier.
“Rockfish tacos,” the waitress said, placing the plate in front of Rissi. The sweet, tropical scent of the mango slaw swirled in the air.
The waitress handed out plate after plate to each of them, setting Noah’s burger at his spot while he continued to pace the pier.
Caleb bit into his Carolina BBQ pork sandwich, the scent of vinegar wafting in the night’s gentle breeze.
Finn Walker did the same with his crab cake sandwich. He and Noah, who was from Maryland, had argued for months over which state had the best crab cake. Finn had been convinced it was North Carolina, right up until Noah had crab cakes flown in fresh from Jimmy’s Famous Seafood in Baltimore. It took two bites for Finn to concede the win.
“Sorry about that, folks,” Noah said, retaking his seat.
“Everything okay?” Emmy Thorton asked. Rissi looked forward to seeing the quirky angel every day at the station.
“Rissi, Mason.” Noah lifted his chin in their direction. “I’ve got an assignment for you.”
Her and Mason? They’d worked a case his first day on the team, but Finn had joined them for most of the investigation. This would be the two of them . . . alone. A mixture of elation and fear sifted through her.
“Great.” Mason set down his lemonade.
“We’ve got a death out on the Dauntless.”
“The offshore oil platform?” Mason asked, swiping a drop of lemonade from his bottom lip.
Stop staring, girl. So he’s jaw-dropping gorgeous. So you share a past. Still, staring is plain rude. Despite not having a mother to teach her, Rissi knew or, at least had come to learn, her manners.
Noah laid his napkin across his lap. “You two need to determine if the death was an accident or if foul play was involved. Helo is leaving from Textra Oil’s copter hub in forty-five. I need you both on it.”
Mason pushed back from the table. “No problem.”
“Great,” Noah said. “You’ll be joining the head of operations, a commercial diver, and the deceased’s replacement on the company copter.”
Rissi took one last bite of her taco before setting it down. She dabbed the corner of her lips with a napkin. “They aren’t wasting any time in replacing the deceased.”
“The deceased’s name is Greg Barnes. I talked to the head of operations, Bob Stanton, and he said they needed to replace him ASAP.”
“Must be an important position.” She reached for her glass and took a final sip.
“You’d think,” Noah said. “But Bob said the main reason they need to replace him fast is they’ve been working with a skeleton crew.”
Mason’s brows pinched as he stood. “Why?”
“Several guys didn’t show up for their three-week rotation transport out,” Noah said, popping a fry in his mouth.
“I know why they didn’t show up for that copter ride out there.” Tom Murphy leaned toward them from his table situated to their right.
“Why?” Mason asked, moving around to the back of Rissi’s chair. He held it out for her as she stood.
She glanced over her shoulder at him and smiled. “Thanks.”
He nodded.
Tom, one of Wrightsville’s most colorful fishermen, crooked his index finger, drawing them in. “That rig’s cursed.”
“Cursed?” Caleb chuckled. “You can’t be serious?”
Tom waggled his finger. “It’s no laughing matter, young man.”
“I’m sure it’s a good story, Tom,” Rissi said. No reason not to be polite. “But I’m afraid we’ve got to catch a copter ride.”
Tom shrugged and turned back to his food. “It’s your lives at stake.”
“What do you mean?” she asked before they passed his table, unable to stem her curiosity.
“You’ll see.” He smiled, his right incisor missing. “Henry’s curse is real.”
“Henry?” Why was she letting herself get sucked into this?
Tom let out a high-pitched chuckle. “Oh, you’ll learn all about Henry.”
“Shall we?” Mason said, gesturing to the wooden ramp leading down to the gravel parking lot.
Excusing themselves, they moved down the ramp. Mason leaned in. He smelled of the ocean and warm spice. He whispered, “Did that guy seriously just cackle?”
She nodded, strangely curious about the old man’s ghost story.
“I thought people only did that on Scooby-Doo.”
She let out a slip of laughter.
“I wouldn’t be laughing,” Tom called after them as they rounded the ramp on his side of the deck. “You two be careful out there, you hear? It’s a dangerous place to be. Just ask the men on board.”

***
Excerpt from The Crushing Depths by Dani Pettrey.  Copyright 2020 by Dani Pettrey. Reproduced with permission from Dani Pettrey. All rights reserved.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Praised by New York Times best-selling author Dee Henderson as "a name to look for in romantic suspense," Dani Pettrey has sold more than half a million copies of her novels to readers eagerly awaiting the next release. Dani combines the page-turning adrenaline of a thriller with the chemistry and happy-ever-after of a romance.

Her novels stand out for their "wicked pace, snappy dialogue, and likable characters" (Publishers Weekly), "gripping storyline[s]," (RT Book Reviews), and "sizzling undercurrent of romance" (USA Today).

Her Alaskan Courage series and Chesapeake Valor series have received praise from readers and critics alike and have appeared on the CBA, ECPA, Publisher’s Weekly, and Amazon #1 bestseller lists. Dani has also been honored with multiple awards, including the Daphne du Maurier Award, two HOLT Medallions, a Christy Award finalist, two National Readers' Choice Awards, the Gail Wilson Award of Excellence, and Christian Retailing's Best Award.

Connect with Dani:


Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  BookBub  |  Instagram  |  Twitter

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  ChristianBook 





Friday, July 24, 2020

FEATURED AUTHOR: ZACHARY RYAN



ABOUT THE BOOK


For a group of friends, one mistake changed the course of their lives forever.

In the aftermath of a tragic school shooting, the group must find their own form of justice and a way to begin healing from a wound that just won’t stop hurting.

For them, the lines were drawn.

Right and wrong became blurred.

Friends became enemies.

Told from the perspective of four friends, we learn how one student’s revenge reigned terror over a school and a community-- causing secrets to unfold and relationships to be tested.

A compelling and powerful story about a school shooting. A must read.


Book Details:


Title: Silent Screams

Author’s name: Zachary Ryan


Genre: young adult, coming of age


Publisher: Kingston Publishing, (June 29, 2020)


Print length: 265 pages






LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH ZACHARY RYAN


Things you need in order to write: my journal, a clean apartment or workspace, MUSIC, and my laptop.
Things that hamper your writing: apps on my phone. I’ll be in the middle of writing a chapter, and I’m like let me look at an app. Usually it takes me 20-30 minutes to write a chapter. Then it takes me an hour because I get so distracted. 


Things you love about writing: being able to escape my mind and be able to go into this different world. I get to avoid my problems for a while and make see how other people live even if I make the characters up.
Things you hate about writing: editing. I hate it. I will always hate it. I know it necessary, but I can’t stand it.


Easiest thing about being a writer: being able find something I’m insanely obsessed with. It makes me get up in the day knowing I have something that I love to do. 

Hardest thing about being a writer: getting your work out there. Making people believe that your work is worth reading.

Things you love about where you live: I live in Chicago, and I think it’s the greatest city. We have nature if we feel the city could be too much. I have the city for when I want to be around so many groups of people.
Things that make you want to move: I wish we didn’t have so much traffic. I used to live in the country where I could walk around barefoot and just enjoy nature. I can’t do that in Chicago.

Things you never want to run out of: office supplies. I have a weird obsession with office supplies.
Things you wish you’d never bought: furniture. I keep buying furniture, and it keeps breaking— especially our dinning room tables. It’s the worst. 


Words that describe you: loud, friendly, loyal, and funny.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: stubborn, irrational, loud.

Favorite foods: my dad’s pasta, my grandmother’s porkchops, and my mother’s meatloaf.
Things that make you want to throw up: seafood; sushi.

Favorite song: "Chasing After Something" by Mia Carruthers. Also, anything Kelly Clarkson.
Music that make your ears bleed: rap, death metal.

Favorite beverage: Propel Water. 

Something that gives you a pickle face: grapefruit juice.

Favorite smell: Home Depot or Lowes or fresh cut grass.
Something that makes you hold your nose: Asiago cheese.

Something you’re really good at: writing and entertaining guest. 

Something you’re really bad at: Being quiet and, according to my husband, dancing. 


Something you wish you could do: sing.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: college science. Never needed it after college.

Something you like to do: drink with friends. 

Something you wish you’d never done: sky dive (hate heights).

People you consider as heroes: my dad (I know, corny). 

People with a big L on their foreheads: arrogant people that are full of themselves. I just watched a documentary of a music producer, and they named dropped left and right. I’m like oh my god, you’re full of it. 



Last best thing you ate: there’s a place in downtown Annapolis that has the best lemon chicken pasta. 
Last thing you regret eating: wings from this to-go place because it was the worst wings I’ve ever had. The breading was too too soggy.

Things you’d walk a mile for: a bottle of whiskey, an open floor plan home, JB Alberto’s pizza.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: having to sing karaoke.

Things you always put in your books: the idea to be open with people and be true to yourself. 

Things you never put in your books: supernatural elements.

Things to say to an author: "Love your work, it helped me get through some tough times in my life," and "I really hated this character."
Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: "You should never have been a writer," and "Who even thought this was worth publishing?"

Favorite places you’ve been: Maine!!

Places you never want to go to again: a place in Wisconsin where we stayed for a wedding. I thought we were going to get murdered the whole time.

People you’d like to invite to dinner: Kelly Clarkson, Lana Del Rey, Logan Lerman.

People you’d cancel dinner on: I’ll keep this blank because it would be a very long list.

Favorite things to do: writing, drinking, binge watching Housewives. 

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: I’m going to get all of hell for this: watching Friends. I don’t get why people like the show.

Things that make you happy: being with close friends and my husband. 

Things that drive you crazy: When my apartment isn’t clean.

Most embarrassing moment: I once popped myself in an elevator. 

Proudest moment: when I moved to Chicago.

Biggest lie you’ve ever told: I think the weirdest was that I took an African dance class one time when I was drunk. 

A lie you wish you’d told: Honestly, I don’t know.

Best thing you’ve ever done: write Silent Screams because it was my 50th novel. 

Biggest mistake: staying in a relationship because I was too stubborn to admit that it wasn’t working out.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: proposed to my husband while drink holding a box of leftover pasta. 

Something you chickened out from doing: Coming out to my parents sooner.

The last thing you did for the first time: got married to my husband.

Something you’ll never do again: be straight.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Zachary Ryan grew up in a black-and-white box in Maryland, before moving to Chicago to start a new life. There, he found that he was accepted for his misfit status—and learned that it's perfectly normal to spend your twenties feeling lost and confused.



After a disastrous sexual encounter, Ryan stumbled on a group of true friends, or "soul cluster," that he connected with. Through his writing, he hopes to help other broken souls out there find comfort amid the chaos.



Buy the book:

Amazon  |  Amazon author page 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

FEATURED: JEFF BOND'S CHARACTERS



ABOUT THE BOOK





From Jeff Bond, author of Blackquest 40 and The Pinebox Vendetta, comes Anarchy of the Mice, book one in an epic new series starring Quaid Rafferty, Durwood Oak Jones, and Molly McGill: the trio of freelance operatives known collectively as Third Chance Enterprises.



How far could society fall without data? Account balances, property lines, government ID records — if it all vanished, if everyone’s scorecard reset to zero, how might the world look? What savagery would take hold?



The Blind Mice are going to show us.



————



Molly McGill is fighting it. Her teenage son has come downstairs in a T-shirt from these “hacktivists” dominating the news. Her daughter’s bus is canceled — too many stoplights out — and school is in the opposite direction of the temp job she’s supposed to be starting this morning. She is twice-divorced; her P.I. business, McGill Investigators, is on the rocks; what kind of life is this for a woman a mere twelve credit-hours shy of her PhD?



Then the doorbell rings.



It’s Quaid Rafferty, the charming — but disgraced — former governor of Massachusetts, and his plainspoken partner, Durwood Oak Jones. The guys have an assignment for Molly. It sounds risky, but the pay sure beats switchboard work.



They need her to infiltrate the Blind Mice.

Danger, romance, intrigue, action for miles — whatever you read, Anarchy of the Mice is coming for you.


"Bond’s three main characters leap off the page . . . hurtling from one life-threatening challenge to the next . . . a gripping thriller, sure to please its target audience and likely to have crossover appeal as well." — BlueInk Reviews (starred)


Book Details

Title: Anarchy of the Mice

Author: Jeff Bond

Genre: action-adventure


Series: Third Chance Enterprises (#1)


Publisher: Jeff Bond books
 (June 15, 2020) 

Print length: 462 pages

On tour with: Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours







INTERVIEW WITH JEFF BOND’S CHARACTERS


Who are the main characters and owners of Third Chance Enterprises?
Molly McGill.  Durwood Oak Jones, and Quaid Rafferty.

Relationship status? Are they single, married, widowed, divorced?
Molly is twice-divorced and sometimes tweets (@mollyMcGill3rd) matrimonial cautions under the hashtag #youChoseWrong.

Durwood is a widower. He lost his wife, Maybelle, to a terrorist attack in Tikrit. He later avenged her killing by wiping out the responsible cell in defiance of his commanding officer, who’d intended to wait on a full and proper investigation before retaliating. This incident resulted in Durwood’s discharge from the Marines.

Quaid, a bachelor, boasts a checkered history of liaisons with Third Chance Enterprises accomplices—including Molly McGill.

Do they have any tattoos?
Molly is forced to get a nose-ears-whiskers tattoo during her initiation into the Blind Mice. This is a source of angst, as she’s staked out a firm “no body art/piercing” policy with Zach, her rebellious fourteen-year-old son.


What are Quaid’s and Durwood’s personal style?
Quaid consistently dons a sport coat and spends more time than he cares to admit re-mussing his wavy blond hair, which features appealing curlicues at the temples on better days.

Each morning, Durwood pulls on blue jeans, boots, and the first shirt he sees.

What is Quaid’s favorite catchphrase?

The word “believe” is central to Quaid Rafferty’s ethos. He believes in the Blind Mice mission. He believes in Molly McGill and her ability to rise to the job. When a mission gets tough and the odds look long for Third Chance Enterprises, he believes their motley gang will pull together and prevail. More often than not, this belief carries the day.

Does Durwood have any bad habits?

Durwood suffers from chronic migraines. Sometimes fishing helps. Other times, he’ll lean into a headache—nurse it, use it to enhance that righteous rage that drives him.

What is Molly’s strongest character trait?

Molly’s overarching mode is hope. She believes the future will be brighter—for her kids, for the world, for herself. She wakes every morning eager to do better than she did yesterday, to show more patience at home, to make McGill Investigators all it can be, to settle for nothing less than a full and equal partner in matters of the heart.

What is Quaid’s weakest character trait?

Quaid struggles with boredom and its insidious cousin, apathy. He does poorly with cases requiring monotonous daily chores like close surveillance. (A task at which Durwood Oak Jones excels.) Too often in these moment, Quaid falls back on women, gambling, alcohol—or all three.

What quality do Molly and Quaid most value in a friend?
For Molly, kindness and selflessness. Jenny, her girlfriend down the street, is a great example. They regularly watch each other’s kids in a pinch or drop chocolate biscotti by in hard times—Molly’s last divorce, Jenny’s middle schooler getting suspended. (Again.) True friends buck you up before you even know you need bucking.

Quaid has a soft spot in his heart for conversationalists. If you’re vain, if you’re mean, if you can’t reason your way out of a paper bag—all that’s fine with Quaid so long as you’ll open up your trap and engage. This is a common source of friction with Durwood, a conversationalist on par with cabinetry.



If Durwood could change one thing about himself, what would it be?

Durwoood would give himself foot speed. A fan of West Virginia Mountaineers football, he admires the players’ speed and grace. He marvels at squirrels chasing each other in the sorghum fields, zooming through stalks like silent wind. He would love to be fast. It wouldn’t hurt for chasing down criminals, either.



What is Durwood’s obsession?

Justice. He maintains a standing ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine soliciting “injustices in need of attention,” which serves as the basis for book two in the series. Durwood sidesteps anthills if he sees them, mindful of the work those beady-eyed creatures put into their structures.

What is Quaid’s greatest achievement?

Before his second impeachment removed him from the governor’s mansion, Quaid successfully humanized Massachusetts’ criminal justice system and reformed its mental health bureaucracy—items on progressives’ bucket lists for a good long while.

What are Molly and Quaid’s ambitions?

When Molly allows herself to slip from the daily grind and dream, she imagines having brunch at a funky diner with Karen—who’s settling into her first apartment, dishing breathlessly about some office romance—and later meeting Zach out somewhere. The details are fuzzier with Zach. Is he a graphic designer? An architect? An Uber driver? Do they meet at a seaside boardwalk? At Molly’s place? It’s different every time, but for some reason he’s always drinking a Red Bull smoothie.

Quaid, when struck by the red devil of ambition, thinks of reentering politics. Could he assemble a new progressive majority, heal the dysfunctional left and bring home the flyover states with the same down-home charm he uses in his Jesse Holt—the Caterpillar rep from Peoria—disguise? Possibly. The womanizing could be a problem, though.



Where’s Durwood’s favorite hangout place?


Durwood’s blood pressure is lowest while with Crole, his neighbor, on the river dividing their two properties. The Appalachians loom at the horizon. Insects buzz and whine. Sue-Ann lies snoring on the muddy banks, all right with the world.



What is Molly’s password?

She uses her kids’ birthdays joined together with the nonsense word “KfurrDL!” in between.



What are Quaid and Durwood’s favorite foods?

Though fine dining is Quaid’s preference, for fare closer to home, the Caesars Palace buffet does a superb filet with olive tapenade.

Crole cooks a variety of stews, eating them for upwards of a month. Durwood makes a point to join for the beet-turnip variety in the fall.



What is Quaid’s alcoholic drink of choice?

Quaid’s drink is the prairie fire: whiskey with a dash of hot sauce. He loves the bite of Cholula, but in times of great distress, Tabasco is adequate too.

Describe Quaid’s best friend.
Sergio Diaz, the mayor of New York City, is an old political ally of Quaid’s and lately his partner in the Manhattan social scene. Six-foot-five with a mane of jet-black hair, the mayor has been known to slip his security detail for an escapade or two.

Who are Durwood’s enemies?

Nobody gets under Durwood’s skin quite like Blake Leathersby, the former British Army commando and current international mercenary. Though the two ostensibly fought on the same side of the Gulf War, Leathersby looks down his nose at enlisted grunts—and enlisted American grunts like Durwood especially.

What does Durwood love to hate?

Durwood bears a secret grudge against the University of Texas. The first year his West Virginia Mountaineers joined the Big 10, Durwood saw them play UT in person. Watching the visitors prance onto Mountaineer Field in their pretty orange uniforms, jumping up and down, cocky. It bothered Durwood.

Do Molly and Durwood carry weapons?

She never would’ve dreamed of carrying a weapon in her purse, but at the height of the Anarchy, the guys convinced her to.
Durwood carries an M9 semi-automatic, United States Armed Forces standard issue.


What is Molly’s current job?
Molly is the founder and sole employee of McGill Investigators. (She apologizes for that misleading plural in the name.) The business is on the rocks, and she’s just dipping her toe back into temp work—because bills don’t pay themselves—when Quaid and Durwood show up on her porch.

What are Quaid’s hobbies?
Swim-up blackjack.

What is Molly’s educational background?
Molly is twelve credit-hours shy of her PhD in Psychology. Her second husband convinced her, when she got pregnant with Karen, there was no point in finishing. His sales numbers were outta the park that quarter. She should just relax and kick up her feet. He had a plan.
Yeah, a plan…

Does Durwood have any special training?
He does. Sniper training, alpine warfare training, amphibious warfare draining, and a dozen others they give you a cloth patch for. Durwood keeps the patches in a shoebox out in the shed.

Does Molly have a natural talent for something?
Molly speaks a half-dozen languages, making her invaluable to Third Chance Enterprises’ many international operations. She is also, in her own humble opinion, the world’s best splinter remover.


What’s in their car?
The Third Chance mobile headquarters is a beater Vanagon, which Durwood maintains. Among the supplies inside are tubed Stinger missiles, grenades (frag, concussion, smoke), assault and sniper rifles, blocks of C4, detcord, and peanut butter dog treats. Sue’s favorite kind.

What is Quaid’s most treasured possession?
Quaid travels with a signed copy of Ann Richards’s autobiography. The hand-scribbled note from the liberal former governor of Texas reads, “With that face, that tongue of yours, there’s nothing you won’t do.”


Are Molly and Durwood comfortable with technology?
Molly just started paying bills online.

Durwood does okay with the computer he got from Wal-Mart on Black Friday, forty-nine bucks. It’s a tool like any other.



EXCERPT FROM ANARCHY OF THE MICE

 

CHAPTER ONE

The first I ever heard of the Blind Mice was from my fourteen-year-old son, Zach. I was scrambling to get him and his sister ready for school, stepping over dolls and skater magazines, thinking ahead to the temp job I was starting in about an hour, when Zach came slumping downstairs in a suspiciously plain T-shirt.
“Turn around,” I said. “Let’s see the back.”
He scowled but did comply. The clothing check was mandatory after that vomiting-skull sweatshirt he’d slipped out the door in last month.
Okay. No drugs, profanity, or bodily fluids being expelled.
But there was something. An abstract computer-ish symbol. A mouse? Possibly the nose, eyes, and whiskers of a mouse?
Printed underneath was, Nibble, nibble. Until the whole sick scam rots through.
I checked the clock: 7:38. Seven minutes before we absolutely had to be out the door, and I still hadn’t cleaned up the grape juice spill, dealt with my Frizz City hair, or checked the furnace. For twenty minutes, I’d been hearing ker-klacks, which my heart said was construction outside but my head worried could be the failing heater.
How bad did I want to let Zach’s shirt slide?
Bad.
“Is that supposed to be a mouse?” I said. “Like an angry mouse?”
“The Blind Mice,” my son replied. “Maybe you’ve heard, they’re overthrowing the corporatocracy?”
His eyes bulged teen sarcasm underneath those bangs he refuses to get cut.
“Wait,” I said, “that group that’s attacking big companies’ websites and factories?”
“Government too.” He drew his face back ominously. “Anyone who’s part of the scam.”
“And you’re wearing their shirt?”
He shrugged.
I would’ve dearly loved to engage Zach in a serious discussion of socioeconomic justice—I did my master’s thesis on the psychology of labor devaluation in communities—except we needed to go. In five minutes.
“What if Principal Broadhead sees that?” I said. “Go change.”
“No.”
“Zach McGill, that shirt promotes domestic terrorism. You’ll get kicked out of school.”
“Like half my friends wear it, Mom.” He thrust his hands into his pockets.
Ugh. I had stepped in parenting quicksand. I’d issued a rash order and Zach had refused, and now I could either make him change, starting a blow-out fight and virtually guaranteeing I’d be late my first day on the job at First Mutual, or back down and erode my authority.
“Wear a jacket,” I said—a poor attempt to limit the erosion, but the best I could do. “And don’t let your great-grandmother see that shirt.”
Speaking of, I could hear Granny’s slippers padding around upstairs. She was into her morning routine, and would shortly—at the denture-rinsing phase—be shouting down that her sink was draining slow again; why hadn’t the damn plumber come yet?
Because I hadn’t paid one. McGill Investigators, the PI business of which I was the founder and sole employee (yes, I realized the plural name was misleading), had just gone belly-up. Hence the temp job.
Karen, my six-year-old, was seated cheerily beside her doll in front of orange juice and an Eggo Waffle.
“Mommy!” she announced. “I get to ride to school with you today!”
The doll’s lips looked sticky—OJ?—and the cat was eyeing Karen’s waffle across the table.
“Honey, weren’t you going to ride the bus today?” I asked, shooing the cat, wiping the doll with a dishrag.
Karen shook her head. “Bus isn’t running. I get to ride in the Prius, in Mommy’s Prius!”
I felt simultaneous joy that Karen loved our new car—well, new to us: 120K miles as a rental, but it was a hybrid—and despair because I really couldn’t take her. School was in the complete opposite direction of New Jersey Transit. Even if I took the turnpike, which I loathed, I would miss my train.
Fighting to address Karen calmly in a time crunch, I said, “Are you sure the bus isn’t running?”
She nodded.
I asked how she knew.
“Bus driver said, ‘If the stoplights are blinking again in the morning, I ain’t taking you.’” She walked to the window and pointed. “See?”
I joined her at the window, ignoring the driver’s grammatical example for the moment. Up and down my street, traffic lights flashed yellow.
“Blind Mice, playa!” Zach puffed his chest. “Nibble, nibble.
The lights had gone out every morning this week at rush hour. On Monday, the news had reported a bald eagle flew into a substation. On Tuesday, they’d said the outages were lingering for unknown reasons. I hadn’t seen the news yesterday.
Did Zach know the Blind Mice were involved? Or was he just being obnoxious?
“Great,” I muttered. “Bus won’t run because stoplights are out, but I’m free to risk our lives driving to school.”
Karen gazed up at me, her eyes green like mine and trembling. A mirror of my stress.
Pull it together, Molly.
“Don’t worry,” I corrected myself. “I’ll take you. I will. Let me just figure a few things out.”
Trying not to visualize myself walking into First Mutual forty-five minutes late, I took a breath. I patted through my purse for keys, sifting through rumpled Kleenex and receipts and granola-bar halves. Granny had made her way downstairs and was reading aloud from a bill-collection notice. Zach was texting, undoubtedly to friends about his lame mom. I felt air on my toes and looked down: a hole in my hose.
Fantastic.
I’d picked out my cutest work sandals, but somehow I doubted the look would hold up with toes poking out like mini-wieners.
I wished I could shut my eyes, whisper some spell, and wake up in a different universe.
Then the doorbell rang.

CHAPTER TWO

Quaid Rafferty waited on the McGills’ front porch with a winning smile. It had been ten months since he’d seen Molly, and he was eager to reconnect.
Inside, there sounded a crash (pulled-over coatrack?), a smack (skateboard hitting wall?), and muffled cross-voices.
Quaid fixed the lay of his sport coat lapels and kept waiting. His partner, Durwood Oak Jones, stood two paces back with his dog. Durwood wasn’t saying anything, but Quaid could feel the West Virginian’s disapproval—it pulsed from his blue jeans and cowboy hat.
Quaid twisted from the door. “School morning, right? I’m sure she’ll be out shortly.”
Durwood remained silent. He was on record saying they’d be better off with a more accomplished operative like Kitty Ravensdale or Sigrada the Serpent, but Quaid believed in Molly. He’d argued that McGill, a relative amateur, was just what they needed: a fresh-faced idealist.
Now he focused on the door—and was pleased to hear the dead bolt turn within. He was less pleased when he saw the face that appeared in the door glass.
The grandmother.
“Why, color me damned!” began the septuagenarian, yanking open the screen door. “The louse returns. Whorehouses all kick you out?”
Quaid strained to keep smiling. “How are you this fine morning, Eunice?”
Her face stormed over. “What’re you here for?”
“We’re hoping for a word with Molly if she’s around.” He opened his shoulders to give her a full view of his party, which included Durwood and Sue-Ann, his aged bluetick coonhound.
They made for an admittedly odd sight. Quaid and Durwood shared the same vital stats, six one and 180-something pounds, but God himself couldn’t have created two more different molds. Quaid in a sport coat with suntanned wrists and mussed-just-so blond hair. Durwood removing his hat and casting steel-colored eyes humbly about, jeans pulled down over his boots’ piping. And Sue with her mottled coat, rasping like any breath could be her last.
Eunice stabbed a finger toward Durwood. “He can come in—him I respect. But you need to turn right around. My granddaughter wants nothing to do with cads like you.”
Behind her, a voice called, “Granny, I can handle this.
Eunice ignored this. “You’re a no-good man. I know it, my granddaughter knows it.” Veins showed through the chicken-y skin of her neck. “Go on, hop a flight back to Vegas and all your whores!”
Before Quaid could counter these aspersions, Molly appeared.
His heart chirped in his chest. Molly was a little discombobulated, bending to put on a sandal, a kid’s jacket tucked under one elbow—but those dimples, that curvy body...even in the worst domestic throes, she could’ve charmed slime off a senator.
He said, “Can’t you beat a seventy-four-year-old woman to the door?”
Molly slipped on the second sandal. “Can we please just not? It’s been a crazy morning.”
“I know the type.” Quaid smacked his hands together. “So hey, we have a job for you.”
“You’re a little late—McGill Investigators went out of business. I have a real job starting in less than an hour.”
“What kind?”
“Reception,” she said. “Three months with First Mutual.”
“Temp work?” Quaid asked.
“I was supposed to start with the board of psychological examiners, but the position fell through.”
“How come?”
“Funding ran out. The governor disbanded the board.”
“So First Mutual...?”
Molly’s eyes, big and leprechaun green, fell. “It’s temp work, yeah.”
“You’re criminally overqualified for that, McGill,” Quaid said. “Hear us out. Please.”
She snapped her arms over her chest but didn’t stop Quaid as he breezed into the living room followed by Durwood and Sue-Ann, who wore no leash but kept a perfect twenty-inch heel by her master.
Two kids poked their heads around the kitchen doorframe. Quaid waggled his fingers playfully at the girl.
Molly said, “Zach, Karen—please wait upstairs. I’m speaking with these men.”
The boy argued he should be able to stay; upstairs sucked; wasn’t she the one who said they had to leave, like, immedia—
“This is not a negotiation,” Molly said in a new tone.
They went upstairs.
She sighed. “Now they’ll be late for school. I’m officially the worst mother ever.”
Quaid glanced around the living room. The floor was clutter free, but toys jammed the shelves of the coffee table. Stray fibers stuck up from the carpet, which had faded beige from its original yellow or ivory.
“No, you’re an excellent mother,” Quaid said. “You do what you believe is best for your children, which is why you’re going to accept our proposition.”
The most effective means of winning a person over, Quaid had learned as governor of Massachusetts and in prior political capacities, was to identify their objective and articulate how your proposal brought it closer. Part two was always trickier.
He continued, “American Dynamics is the client, and they have deep pockets. If you help us pull this off, all your money troubles go poof.”
A glint pierced Molly’s skepticism. “Okay. I’m listening.”
“You’ve heard of the Blind Mice, these anarchist hackers?”
“I—well, yes, a little. Zach has their T-shirt.”
Quaid, having met the boy on a few occasions, wasn’t shocked by the information. “Here’s the deal. We need someone to infiltrate them.”
Molly blinked twice.
Durwood spoke up, “You’d be great, Moll. You’re young. Personable. People trust you.”
Molly’s eyes were grapefruits. “What did you call them, ‘anarchist hackers’? How would I infiltrate them? I just started paying bills online.”
“No tech knowledge required,” Quaid said. “We have a plan.”
He gave her the nickel summary. The Blind Mice had singled out twelve corporate targets, “the Despicable Dozen,” and American Dynamics topped the list. In recent months, AmDye had seen its websites crashed, its factories slowed by computer glitches, internal documents leaked, the CEO’s home
egged repeatedly. Government agencies from the FBI to NYPD were pursuing the Mice, but the company was troubled by the lack of progress and so had hired Third Chance Enterprises to take them down.
“Now if I accept,” Molly said, narrowing her eyes, “does that mean I’m officially part of Third Chance Enterprises?”
Quaid exhaled at length. Durwood shook his head with an irked air—he hated the name, and considered Quaid’s branding efforts foolish.
“Oh, Durwood and I have been at this freelance operative thing awhile.” Quaid smoothed his sport coat lapels. “Most cases we can handle between the two of us.”
“But not this one.”
“Right. Durwood’s a whiz with prosthetics, but even he can’t bring this”—Quaid indicated his own ruggedly handsome but undeniably middle-aged face—“back to twenty-five.”
Molly’s eyes turned inward. Quaid’s instincts told him she was thinking of her children.
She said, “Sounds dangerous.”
“Nah.” He spread his arms, wide and forthright. “You’re working with the best here: the top small-force, private-arms outfit in the Western world. Very minimal danger.”
Like the politician he’d once been, Quaid delivered this line of questionable veracity with full sincerity.
Then he turned to his partner. “Right, Wood? She won’t have a thing to worry about. We’d limit her involvement to safe situations.”
Durwood thinned his lips. “Do the best we could.”
This response, typical of the soldier he’d once been, was unhelpful.
Molly said, “Who takes care of my kids if something happens, if the Blind Mice sniff me out? Would I have to commit actual crimes?”
“Unlikely.”
Unlikely? I’ll tell you what’s unlikely, getting hired someplace, anyplace, with a felony conviction on your application...”
As she thundered away, Quaid wondered if Durwood might not have been right in preferring a pro. The few times they’d used Molly McGill before had been secondary: posing as a gate agent during the foiled Delta hijacking, later as an archivist for the American embassy in Rome. They’d only pulled her into Rome because of her language skills—she spoke six fluently.
“...also, I have to say,” she continued, and from the edge in her voice, Quaid knew just where they were headed, “I find it curious that I don’t hear from you for ten months, and then you need my help, and all of a sudden, I matter. All of a sudden, you’re on my doorstep.”
“I apologize,” Quaid said. “The Dubai job ran long, then that Guadeloupean resort got hit by a second hurricane. We got busy. I should’ve called.”
Molly’s face cooled a shade, and Quaid saw that he hadn’t lost her.
Yet.
Before either could say more, a heavy ker-klack sounded outside.
“What’s the racket?” Quaid asked. He peeked out the window at his and Durwood’s Vanagon, which looked no more beat-up than usual.
“It’s been going on all morning,” Molly said. “I figured it was construction.”
Quaid said, “Construction in this economy?”
He looked to Durwood.
“I’ll check ’er out.” The ex-soldier turned for the door. Sue-Ann, heaving herself laboriously off the carpet, scuffled after.
Alone now with Molly, Quaid walked several paces in. He doubled his sport coat over his forearm and passed a hand through his hair, using a foyer mirror to confirm the curlicues that graced his temples on his best days.
This was where it had to happen. Quaid’s behavior toward Molly had been less than gallant, and that was an issue. Still, there were sound arguments at his disposal. He could play the money angle. He could talk about making the world safer for Molly’s children. He could point out that she was meant for greater things, appealing to her sense of adventure, framing the job as an escape from the hamster wheel and entrĂ©e to a bright world of heroes and villains.
He believed in the job. Now he just needed her to believe too.

CHAPTER THREE

Durwood walked north. Sue-Ann gimped along after, favoring her bum hip. Paws echoed bootheels like sparrows answering blackbirds. They found their noise at the sixth house on the left.
A crew of three men was working outside a small home. Two-story like Molly’s. The owner had tacked an addition onto one side, prefab sunroom. The men were working where the sunroom met the main structure. Dislodging nails, jackhammering between fiberglass and brick.
Tossing panels onto a stack.
“Pardon,” Durwood called. “Who you boys working for?”
One man pointed to his earmuffs. The others paid Durwood no mind whatsoever. Heavyset men. Big stomachs and muscles.
Durwood walked closer. “Those corner boards’re getting beat up. Y’all got a permit I could see?”
The three continued to ignore him.
The addition was poorly done to begin with, the cornice already sagging. Shoddy craftsmanship. That didn’t mean the owners deserved to have it stolen for scrap.
The jackhammer was plugged into an outside GFI. Durwood caught its cord with his bootheel.
“The hell?” said the operator as his juice cut.
Durwood said, “You’re thieves. You’re stealing fiberglass.”
The men denied nothing.
One said, “Call the cops. See if they come.”
Sue-Ann bared her gums.
Durwood said, “I don’t believe we need to involve law enforcement,” and turned back south for the Vanagon.
Crime like this—callous, brash—was a sign of the times.  People were sore about this “new economy,” how well the rich were making out. Groups like the Blind Mice thought it gave them a right to practice lawlessness.

Lawlessness, Durwood knew, was like a plague. Left unchecked, it spread. Even now, besides this sunroom dismantling, Durwood saw a half dozen offenses in plain sight. Low-stakes gambling on a porch. Coaxials looped across half the neighborhood roofs: cable splicing. A Rottweiler roaming off leash.
Each stuck in Durwood’s craw.
He walked a half block to the Vanagon. He hunted around inside, boots clattering the bare metal floor. Pushed aside Stinger missiles in titanium casings. Squinted past crates of frag grenades in the bulkhead he’d jiggered himself from ponderosa pine.
Here she was—a pressurized tin of black ops epoxy. Set quick enough to repel a flash air strike, strong enough to hold a bridge. Durwood had purchased it for the Dubai job. According to his supplier, Yakov, the stuff smelled like cinnamon when it dried. Something to do with chemistry.
Durwood removed the tin from its box and brushed off the pink Styrofoam packing Yakov favored. Then allowed Sue a moment to ease herself down to the curb before they started back north.
Passing Molly’s house, Durwood glimpsed her through the living room window. She was listening to Quaid, fingers pressed to her forehead.
Quaid was lying. Which was nothing new, Quaid stretching the truth to a woman. But these lies involved Molly’s safety. Fact was, they knew very little of the Blind Mice. Their capabilities, their willingness to harm innocents. The leader, Josiah, was a reckless troublemaker. He spewed his nonsense on Twitter, announcing targets ahead of time, talking about his own penis.
The heavyset men were back at it. One on the roof. The other two around back of the sunroom, digging up the slab.
Durwood set down the epoxy. The men glanced over but kept jackhammering. They would not be the first, nor last, to underestimate this son of an Appalachian coal miner.
The air compressor was set up on the lawn. Durwood found the main pressure valve and cranked its throat full open.
The man on the roof had his ratchet come roaring out of his hands. He slid down the grade, nose rubbing vinyl shingles, and landed in petunias.
Back on his feet, the man swore.
“Mind your language,” Durwood said. “There’s families in the neighborhood.”
The other two hustled over, shovels at their shoulders. The widest of the three circled to Durwood’s backside.
Sue-Ann coiled her old bones to strike. Ugliness roiled Durwood’s gut.
Big Man punched first. Durwood caught his fist, torqued his arm behind his back. The next man swung his shovel. Durwood charged underneath and speared his chest. The man wheezed sharply, his lung likely punctured.
The third man got hold of Durwood’s bootheel, smashed his elbow into the hollow of Durwood’s knee. Durwood scissored the opposite leg across the man’s throat. He gritted his teeth and clenched. He felt the man’s Adam’s apple wriggling between his legs. A black core in Durwood yearned to squeeze.
He resisted.
The hostiles came again, and Durwood whipped them again. Automatically, in a series of beats as natural to him as chirping to a katydid. The men’s faces changed from angry to scared to incredulous. Finally, they stayed down.
“Now y’all are helping fix that sunroom.” Durwood nodded to the epoxy tin. “Mix six to one, then paste ’er on quick.”
Luckily, he’d caught the thieves early, and the repair was uncomplicated. Clamp, glue, drill. The epoxy should increase the R-value on the sunroom ten, fifteen, units. Good for a few bucks off the gas bill in winter, anyhow.
Durwood did much of the work himself. He enjoyed the panels’ weight, the strength of a well-formed joint. His muscles felt free and easy as if he were home ridding the sorghum fields of johnsongrass.
Done, he let the thieves go.
He turned back south toward Molly’s house. Sue-Ann scrabbled alongside.
“Well, ole girl?” he said. “Let’s see how Quaid made out.”

CHAPTER FOUR

I stood on my front porch watching the Vanagon rumble down Sycamore. My toes tingled, my heart was tossing itself against the walls of my chest, and I was pretty sure my nose had gone berserk. How else could I be smelling cinnamon?
Quaid Rafferty’s last words played over and over in my head: We need you.
For twenty minutes, after Durwood had taken his dog to investigate ker-klacks, Quaid had given me the hard sell. The money would be big-time. I had the perfect skills for the assignment: guts, grace under fire, that youthful je ne sais quoi. Wasn’t I always saying I ought to be putting my psychology skills to better use? Well, here it was: understanding these young people’s outrage would be a major component of the job.
Some people will anticipate your words and mumble along. Quaid did something similar but with feelings, cringing at my credit issues, brightening with whole-face joy at Karen’s reading progress—which I was afraid would suffer if I got busy and didn’t keep up her nightly practice.
He was pitching me, yes. But he genuinely cared what was happening in my life.
I didn’t know how to think about Quaid, how to even fix him in my brain. He and Durwood were so far outside any normal frame of reference. Were they even real? Did I imagine them?
Their biographies were epic. Quaid the twice-elected (once-impeached) governor of Massachusetts who now battled villains across the globe and lived at Caesars Palace. Durwood a legend of the Marine Corps, discharged after defying his commanding officer and wiping out an entire Qaeda cell to avenge the death of his wife.
I’d met them during my own unreal adventure—the end of my second marriage, which had unraveled in tragedy in the backwoods of West Virginia.
They’d recruited me for three missions since. Each was like a huge, brilliant dream—the kind that’s so vital and packed with life that you hang on after you wake up, clutching backward into sleep to stay inside.
Granny said, “That man’s trouble. If you have any sense in that stubborn head of yours, you’ll steer clear.”
I stepped back into the living room, the Vanagon long gone, and allowed my eyes to close. Granny didn’t know the half of it. She had huffed off to watch her judge shows on TV before the guys had even mentioned the Blind Mice.
No, she meant a more conventional trouble.
“I’ve learned,” I said. “If I take this job, it won’t be for romance. I’d be doing it for me. For the family.”
As if cued by the word “family,” a peal of laughter sounded upstairs.
Children!
My eyes zoomed to the clock. It was 8:20. Zach would be lucky to make first hour, let alone homeroom. In a single swipe, I scooped up the Prius keys and both jackets. My purse whorled off my shoulder like some supermom prop.
“Leaving now!” I called up the stairwell. “Here we go, kids—laces tied, backpacks zipped.”
Zach trudged down, leaning his weight into the rail. Karen followed with sunny-careful steps. I sped through the last items on my list—tossed a towel over the grape juice, sloshed water onto the roast, considered my appearance in the microwave door, and just frowned, beyond caring.
Halfway across the porch, Granny’s fingers closed around my wrist.
“Promise me,” she said, “that you will not associate with Quaid Rafferty. Promise me you won’t have one single thing to do with that lowlife.”
I looked past her to the kitchen, where the cat was kinking herself to retch Eggo Waffle onto the linoleum.
“I’m sorry, Granny.” I patted her hand, freeing myself. “It’s something I have to do.”

***

Excerpt from Anarchy of the Mice by Jeff Bond.  Copyright 2020 by Jeff Bond. Reproduced with permission from Jeff Bond. All rights reserved.





ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 Jeff Bond is an American author of popular fiction. His books have been featured in The New York Review of Books, and his most recent, The Pinebox Vendetta, received the gold medal (top prize) in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards. A Kansas native and Yale graduate, he now lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters.

Connect with Jeff:
@mollyMcGill3rd, @quaidRafferty, @durwoodOakJones

Buy the book:

Monday, July 6, 2020

A LOOK AT THE MENU BY STEVEN MANCHESTER



#1 Bestselling author, Steven Manchester, is excited to announce the release of his long-anticipated, soul-awakening novel, The Menu.

ABOUT THE BOOK



Blessed with a high emotional IQ, Phinn Reed enters the world with the promise of finding his soul mate. With heaven’s memories erased, his romantic quest teaches him that the heart often sees clearer than the eyes—and that not everyone has ordered the same items from The Menu. Evidence that love stories come in many different forms, The Menu is a spiritual journey involving more than just a man and a woman; it is a modern-day tale that reaches far beyond the boundaries of reason.


Book Details:

Title: The Menu

Author: Steven Manchester

Genre: literary fiction

Publisher: Luna Bella Media, Incorporated (June 2, 2020)

Print length: 318 pages







Early Reviews:

“If you liked The Shack, then The Menu is a must read.” – John Lansing, Bestselling Author

“Congratulations on The Menu. Continue to use your gifts to glorify God!” – Matthew West, Christian Singer/Songwriter

“Steven Manchester writes like Nicholas Sparks on steroids.” – Jon Land, USA Today Bestselling Author

“The Norman Rockwell of Literature, Steven Manchester has bared his soul in the intense story, The Menu.”  – Shannon Gonzalez, Book Blogger, Literarily Illumined



EXCERPT FROM THE MENU


“It’s important that I know compassion,” Phinn said.
“It’s yours, but not before experiencing pain and suffering,” God answered.
Glancing up at his Father, Phinn gave it some thought. “Sure, I’ll accept pain and suffering for compassion.”
God nodded.
“I also wish to have commitment and wisdom and…”
“Good choices, Phinn, but not before conquering trials and tribulations,” God said.
Phinn looked up from the menu again. “And courage?” he asked.
“After overcoming fear.”
“Honor?”
“Once you have faced shame.”
“Success?” Phinn asked.
“Much failure,” God answered.
Phinn stared at his master before closing the menu and handing it back. “I can’t have any of the good without the bad, can I?”
“Sure, it’s called love; and no matter what you do, I’ll always love you,” God promised. “Pretty clever design, don’t you think?”




Check out past features of Steven on A Blue Million Books:
November 27, 2019
July 27, 2018
May 30, 2018
December 23, 2017
February 21, 2017
May 17, 2014



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers Twelve Months, The Rockin' Chair, Pressed Pennies and Gooseberry Island; the national bestsellers, Ashes, The Changing Season and Three Shoeboxes; the multi-award winning novel, Goodnight Brian; and the beloved holiday podcast drama, The Thursday Night Club. His work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN's American Morning and BET's Nightly News. Three of Steven's short stories were selected "101 Best" for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. He is a multi-produced playwright, as well as the winner of the 2017 Los Angeles Book Festival and the 2018 New York Book Festival. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or their children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing.


Connect with Steven:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:
Amazon

Thursday, July 2, 2020

GUEST POST BY KEVIN DOYLE




ABOUT THE BOOK



When private detective Sam Quinton sets out to solve the murders of a stripper and small-time gambler, he ends up in the middle of an organized crime war, testing Quinton’s loyalty to an old friend and making him the killers’ next target. While working to stay one step ahead of the killers, Quinton also has to safeguard the life of an elderly couple, who unwittingly hold the key to solving the murders and ending the war.


Book Details:


Title: Squatter’s Rights

Author: Kevin R. Doyle

Genre: mystery

Series: Sam Quinton

Publisher and date: Camel Press, March 2020

Print Length: 213 pages








GUEST POST WITH KEVIN DOYLE




A Day in the Life 



Describing a typical day in my life is a bit complicated, mainly because I have two distinct phases to the year. As a high-school teacher, for nine months I follow one pattern (though said pattern got a tad disrupted this spring), and for the other three months (eleven weeks usually) there’s a completely different pattern. And while a lot of people may look at those three summer months and imagine them to be nothing but playtime, that’s only how it used to be. Not so much anymore.
I work like the dickens all through the school year. I teach English, so by the time you factor in lesson prep and grading papers, you’re easily talking a total of fifty-five to sixty hours, on average, per week. I remember when I was younger thinking that teachers had such a cool job because they were done by three in the afternoon.

Uhm, no.

Not that way at all. 

On top of that, totally through my own choice, I have about a forty-minute commute to and from work. I’m usually up about 6:30 in order to get out the door by 7:00 and be to school by 8:00 (classes start at 8:30 each morning). 

The day usually goes non-stop until a little after three, and most days I’m on the road home by 3:45 or so. During the morning, I don’t mind the commute, as it’s a straight shot on the highway, mostly against traffic, and allows time to sort things out and plan the day in my head.

Driving the same distance back home is another matter. When the day’s over, I want it to be over and done. I just want to be home. So that commute home can be a bear some days.

Nighttime work usually begins right after dinner, and continues, off and on, till around ten or so. If this sounds excessive, you should have seen my first year. Nothing, but nothing that anyone said could have prepared me for that first year of teaching. I went about seven months straight rarely getting to bed before 1:30, if not later, including weekends. Things didn’t ease off until somewhere around the end of April.

(Several folks told me to just hang in there, that the second year would be easier. Which it was, though what shocked me was just how much easier it was. I’m talking something around the order of a third as much work the second year as the first.)

To put this in total context, for most of the time I’ve been writing it’s been mainly short stories. For years and years I pounded away at short stories, considering myself fortunate to have one or two see print during a given year. With that consideration, the teaching load didn’t impact my writing a whole lot because I wasn’t doing anything that took long, intense concentration.

However, as time went on my fiction began stretching longer and longer, resulting in now, where most of my work is in the 80,000 word range. This is when balancing the writing with the day job has become a bit of an effort. 

Even with my work load, I generally look for time to write during the school year. How much I do depends on what stage of work I’m involved with. If I’m doing the first draft of a book, where I have to spend a lot of time thinking things out, I generally shoot for about fifteen pages (more or less 3,600 words) a week. If I’m doing heavy revision, maybe twenty pages a week, and if I’m just doing edits I shoot for twenty-five pages a week.

Keep in mind, those are aspirations. Some weeks, especially when the grading is really intense (hello, senior research papers), I find it difficult to crank out even five pages. Most of the writing is done during the week, in the few hours between dinner and hitting the sack, with the weekends reserved mainly for grading and lesson prep.

It probably goes without saying that my schedule during the summertime is a bit more relaxed. Even so, more and more, I find myself longing back to the days when summer vacation meant actual vacation. Back when I was only writing short stories, I’d manage to churn out four or five during the summer, but it never felt like work. If an idea came to me, I’d sit down and hammer away at it until I finished, but there was never any rush or pressure. These days, with two series started up for two different publishers, things are quite a bit different.

My usual day during the summer involves getting up around six, a little earlier than I do during the school year, and if the weather’s good I pull off a couple of miles walking along the trails in town coupled with half an hour or so in the swimming pool. Then it’s time to sit down and get to work.

I’m usually writing off and on during the day, ending up somewhere around 9:00 at night. Obviously, I’m not writing this entire time. I take breaks, run errands, watch a little TV, and hit the pool every chance I get. I also manage a fair amount of traveling, usually doing two or three long trips during the summer break. 
 But the work is fairly scheduled. For instance, this summer I’m working on edits for the second Sam Quinton book, waiting to begin edits on a book for my Canadian publisher and trying to complete the third (final?) draft for a new standalone novel.

All fine and good, and it’s kind of gratifying to have this much opportunity presented to me. Sometimes, however, despite best laid plans and with no job to keep me on a tight schedule, I find myself drifting away, especially as the weather heats up and the pool beckons just a few feet away.

That’s why I keep an old-fashioned wall calendar next to my work space. To remind me that the time until the next school year begins (it is hoped) is ticking away, and I have to get to work.



OTHER BOOKS BY KEVIN DOYLE

The Group


When You Have to Go There


The Litter 




Coming in November 2020:
And the Devil Walks Away





ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A high-school teacher, former college instructor and fiction writer, Kevin R. Doyle is the author of two crime novels, The Group and When You Have to Go There, published by MuseItUp Publications, and one horror novel, The Litter, published by Night to Dawn Magazine and Books. This year also saw the release of the first book in his Sam Quinton mystery series, Squatter’s Rights, by Camel Press. He has had numerous short horror stories published in small press magazines. Doyle teaches high-school English in Missouri and is currently planning his retirement to the Gulf Coast.

Connect with Kevin:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes and Noble

Check out Kevin's interview from May 15, 2020 here.