#ReleaseBlitz “Hot Vegas Nights” Collaboration Week #5

Series: Hot Vegas Nights Collaboration
Authors: Shannon O’Connor & M Leigh Morhaime, E.M. Shue, and D.M. Davis
Genre: Romance
Collection Hosted by: S.L. Sterling




Two strangers. One bed. A steamy weekend in Vegas & a wedding.


Violet:

All I need is for the damn stick to not turn blue. And for the wedding to go off without a hitch.
But my best friend keeps trying to tell me he’s in love with me and I don’t know how to let him down gently.
When the blue haired goddess catches my attention, I can’t help but wonder if she’s what I’ve been missing.

Dakota:
All I want is for my little brother’s wedding to go well. And maybe a nap.
So when the hotel tells me all their rooms are booked, I’m about to lose it.
That’s when the beautiful maid of honor swoops in to save me.
Now all I want to do, is save her from herself.

All’s Fair in Love & Vegas is a FF only one bed, rom-com set in Vegas. All’s Fair in Love in Vegas is apart of the Hot Vegas Nights Series.





D.M. Davis’ Vegas Storm is a spicy, billionaire, recovering bad boy, contemporary romance of of mistaken identity, misconceptions, and rules that were made to be broken.


There are two things you should know about me: I don’t gamble. I don’t date.

Relationships are not my thing.
I have fully vetted, no strings attached arrangements.
No repeats.
Then I kiss the wrong woman.
Mix up my arrangement with a business deal.
That’s a line I never intended on crossing.
Yet, I can’t stop thinking about doing it again.
There are exceptions to every rule.
I pride myself on not being one of those exceptions.
She prides herself on proving me wrong.
I’m willing to gamble my future for a chance with her. Only, she calls my bluff.
Never gamble what you’re not willing to lose.

Vegas Storm is a Storm Brothers Novel as well as part of the Hot Vegas Nights Series.


The Vegas Strip is the gateway to your wildest fantasies.

Where debauchery rules and depravity runs rampant.
Ellusive billionaires, celebrity bad boys, tantalizing dancers, master mixologists, and sexy tattoo artists are all within reach.
During these 17 Hot Vegas Nights, you’ll take a chance on love, lose yourself in entertainment, and gamble your heart away!
Seventeen books are all written with your pleasure in mind.

Jackpot
Winning big has always been my thing. I grew up in Las Vegas in the harsh glare of the bright lights. I worked hard for everything I have, but winning at poker was my hobby. Learning to cater to the whales was my passion. Owning my own casino was my dream. But the reality is like the dead man’s hand. A jinx.
Until I saw her.
She’s everything I never knew I needed or wanted. She is sexy, tattooed, and not afraid of me. But she has no clue who I really am. She thinks I’m just a poker player. She doesn’t know that being my queen entails the royal flush. That I’ll take everything from her and more. I’ll take her dominance as my own and she will submit to me. I’ll make her mine permanently so she can’t ever leave me.
But she does and she doesn’t know the danger she’s in. What I’ll do to keep her safe. And what I’ll give up for a chance at the ultimate jackpot—her heart.



The Vegas Strip is the gateway to your wildest fantasies. Where debauchery rules and depravity runs rampant. Elusive billionaires, celebrity bad boys, tantalizing dancers, master mixologists, and sexy tattoo artists are all within reach.
During these 15 Hot Vegas Nights, you’ll take a chance on love, lose yourself in entertainment, and gamble your heart away!

Fifteen books are all written with your pleasure in mind.


Join our Reader Group HERE





Shannon O’Connor


M Leigh Morhaime

D.M. Davis


E.M. Shue




HOSTED BY:

#BookTour “Concrete Evidence” by DiAnn Mills

Virtual Book Tour

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Synopsis:

Concrete Evidence by DiAnn Mills

On the family’s Brazos River Ranch in Texas, Avery Elliott helps run her grandfather’s commercial construction business. Raised by Senator Elliott, Avery has never doubted her grandfather is the man of integrity and faith she’s always believed him to be . . . until the day she finds him standing with a gun over the body of a dead man. To make matters worse, Avery’s just discovered a billing discrepancy for materials supposedly purchased for construction of the Lago de Cobre Dam.

Desperate for answers, Avery contacts FBI Special Agent Marc Wilkins for help. As Marc works to identify the dead man Avery saw, threats toward Avery create a fresh sense of urgency to pinpoint why someone wants to silence her. With a hurricane approaching the Texas coast and the structural integrity of the Lago de Cobre Dam called into question, time is running out to get to the bottom of a sinister plot that could be endangering the lives of not only Avery and her loved ones but the entire community.

Praise for Concrete Evidence:

“VERDICT Mills … delivers another action-packed novel that offers intrigue and an adventurous ride. Recommend to fans of Dani Pettrey, Lynette Eason, and Carrie Stuart Parks.”

Shondra Brown for Library Journal

“The confident plotting keeps the mysteries coming, and red herrings will have readers guessing the culprit through to the satisfying conclusion. Fans of Colleen Coble and Susan Sleeman will savor this thrilling standalone.”

Concrete Evidence Trailer:

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Book Details:

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Published by: Tyndale House Publishers

Publication Date: October 2022

Number of Pages: 416

ISBN: 9781496451897 (ISBN10: 1496451899)

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Tyndale

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Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Texas Hill Country

AVERY ELLIOTT SPURRED HER HORSE across one of the thirty-five thousand rolling acres of the Brazos River Ranch in the blazing heat. The sultry August wind blew through her hair, bathing her damp face and shoving aside her pensive mood. Granddad had told her once that if he could lasso the wind, he’d ride that bronc to eternity. She’d framed the saying and placed it in the reception area of their office.

Granddad had left at dawn to ride fence and enjoy some solitude and think time. His work habits overruled his stomach, which meant he wouldn’t stop to eat until he’d inspected a recently repaired stretch. Then the Internet had gone down ending her morning’s work. A good excuse for her to get away from the office and spend special time with him.

She lightly grasped the reins of the most wonderful quarter horse on the planet and the perfect cure-all for the morning’s frustration. Closing her eyes, Avery allowed Darcy’s rhythmic gallop to soothe her.

Avery slowed the mare to a walk and twisted her phone from her jeans pocket. Pressing on Granddad’s name in Favorites, she breathed in the sweltering heat and envisioned him fumbling for his phone.

“Mornin’, sweet girl.”

“Can I treat you to a five-star restaurant for lunch?” He chuckled. “You’ll have to fly in the prime rib.”

“I’ve packed us a picnic, and I’m on my way to meet you. Just say where.”

“Drivin’ or ridin’?”

“You’ve hurt Darcy’s feelings.”

“Give her my apologies. I’m west of the river about a mile from the family cemetery. Should be a nice breeze there this morning. We could talk and have lunch with your grandma.”

“Good. I’d planned to stop at her grave while I was out.” The oaks bordering the family plots would offer relief from the hundred-degree temps. With the abundance of summer rain, the area brimmed with green and vibrant wildflowers. “I’ll make sure she has flowers on her grave.”

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her. Guess I’m a sentimental old man who never got over his first love.”

Someday Avery wanted the same kind of love. She remembered the woman with warm brown eyes and a loving touch who fell prey to a stroke nearly fifteen years ago and never recovered. “You’re not a sentimental old man but one who misses his wife and best friend.”

“I see her in you.” He sighed. “You have a spirit of strength deep in your heart. Others think you’re quiet—until you’re riled. Then you’d give the devil a run for his money.”

“I hope I can always live up to that strength.”

“You already have. One day you’ll make the right man proud.” “Haven’t found him yet.”

“Time’s just not right. So when will you get here?”

Avery studied the familiar landmarks—thoroughbred horses grazing to the south and cattle taking advantage of the Brazos River. Why anyone would choose to live away from nature’s beauty made little sense to her. “About thirty minutes.”

“You didn’t bring tofu and carrot sticks? Mia’s new diet is killing me. The doctor doesn’t need to worry about my cholesterol or weight because she’s starving me.”

Avery laughed. “No. I packed ham and cheese, jalapeño-bacon potato salad, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and apple pie. You can eat light this evening.”

“I have a political dinner at six o’clock and a deacon meeting at seven thirty. Hey, how did you get the forbidden food past Mia?”

“She was upstairs while I hurried in the kitchen.” Their housekeeper and cook had entered the back side of her sixties and refused to slow down, but Granddad and Avery kept trying. Both knew better than to tell Mia to cut back on her pace unless they were looking to be chased down the road with buckshot in their rears. Granddad had no room to talk. He faced the big seven-oh in October, and he’d made no plans to ease back.

She slipped the phone back into her jeans pocket and hurried Darcy on. Avery wanted to arrive at the picnic site well before Granddad and have lunch set out for him.

Her thoughts crept back to the accounting issue from this morning. A work problem had made another moment at the ranch office torture, and getting away from the computer served as the perfect antidote. In examining Elliott Commercial Construction’s records before the auditors arrived next week, she’d found a discrepancy. A paid bill for materials was much lower than it should have been. Why hadn’t she seen this weeks ago at the completion of the Lago de Cobre Dam? The original bid for the project included the cost to supply additional rock and expand the footprint, footers, and other foundational elements to compensate for the soft ground. Those materials were ordered, canceled, and still the specs showed the work had been completed per the contract.

She’d contacted the material’s supply company, and the accounting manager confirmed they’d invoiced what they supplied. Yet Avery’s files didn’t reflect a different supplier for the required foundation, as though Granddad had substituted inferior materials or hadn’t followed the specs. He’d never sacrifice safety. Even the idea scraped raw against her conscience.

A call had gone to Craig, the foreman, but only voice mail greeted her. The accounting mess would drive her nuts until she resolved it, but she’d have to wait. Granddad would laugh at her fears about the dam’s potentially faulty construction and explain the discrepancy. Accurate details ruled her thoughts, and perfectionism had a way of eating at her logic. A lot of good her Ivy League education accomplished when the numbers didn’t add up.

Granddad said Avery shared his insight and discernment. The ability took practice, prayer, and purpose—his favorite three p’s as though he’d outlined a sermon. But Granddad was wrong. She must have made a mistake, and the error warred within her.

Avery rode the path to the family cemetery. Elliotts had owned this property and been buried there before Texas became a state. Irish, English, and Scottish heritage—hard workers and fighters for faith, family, and freedom. Which had a lot to do with Granddad’s name, Dad’s, and hers—Avery Quinn Elliott, respectively Senior, Junior, and whatever that made her. Fortunately, Granddad went by Quinn or Senator, Dad went by Buddy, and she was simply Avery. Proud family and heritage, although Dad and Mom slipped in applying all three traits of being an Elliott.

Not going there today. After spending time with Granddad and finding out the source of her accounting problem, she—

A shot rang out from the direction of the cemetery.

She dug her heels into Darcy’s side and bolted ahead. Had Granddad met up with a wild pig, a rattler, or even a two-legged varmint? The latter caused her to slow the mare and circle a grove of trees. If she needed her Sig, the firearm rested in a saddlebag beside the packed lunch. Granddad wasn’t in sight. Only his stallion.

She dismounted and grabbed her gun. Tying Darcy to a slender oak, Avery moved closer to the iron gate of the cemetery entrance and prayed he hadn’t been hurt. How had he been a mile west of here when she called him?

Hesitant to call out for him and draw the shooter’s attention to her, she hid behind an oak. A riderless motorcycle—a shiny, blue Yamaha Tracer 9 GT—had parked in the shadow of more trees outside the far edge of the iron fence, a few yards from a worn path leading to the main road.

On the opposite side of the cemetery, Granddad bent over a man, whose blood stained his chest and pooled on the ground. He felt for a pulse and lifted his head to the cloudless sky. In Granddad’s gloved right hand rested a gun. He shoved the weapon into his front belt and lifted his phone to his ear.

“He’s dead. This has to end.” Granddad scanned the area, no doubt searching for someone. “I want Avery kept out of this, but I’m expecting her in the next twenty minutes.” He kicked the dirt with the toe of his boot. “He parked on the road and walked back. She isn’t to know about any of it. I’ll handle the situation on my end. . . . Yes, I’ll be careful and not let the authorities know what happened. Look, I need to move his body out of sight. He was a friend, one of the best. I despise where this has gone.” Granddad waved his hand. “I told you Avery won’t be a problem.”

***

Excerpt from Concrete Evidence by DiAnn Mills. Copyright 2022 by DiAnn Mills. Reproduced with permission from DiAnn Mills. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

DiAnn Mills

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She weaves memorable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure? Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards, the Golden Scroll, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, an active member of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. DiAnn continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

                      DiAnn is very active online and would love to                        connect with readers on:
diannmills.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @DiAnnMills
Instagram – @diannmillsauthor
Twitter – @DiAnnMills
Facebook – @DiAnnMills
YouTube – @DiAnnMills

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Tour Participants

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaway entries!

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#BookTour “Hero Haters” by Ken MacQueen

Hero Haters by Ken MacQueen BannerNovember 7 – December 2, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

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book cover

 

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Synopsis:

 

He seeks redemption, others want revenge

Jake Ockham had a dream job, vetting nominees for the Sedgewick Medallion-the nation’s highest civilian award for heroism. His own scarred hands are an indelible reminder of the single mother he failed to pull from a raging house fire; her face haunts him still. Obligations drag him back to his hometown to edit the family newspaper but attempts to embrace small-town life, and the hot new doctor, are thwarted by unknown forces. The heroes Jake vetted go missing and he becomes the prime suspect in the disappearances. Aided by resourceful friends, Jake follows a twisted trail to the Dark Web, where a shadowy group is forcing the kidnapped medalists to perform deadly acts of valor to amuse twisted subscribers to its website. To save his heroes, Jake must swallow his fears and become one himself…or die in the attempt.

Praise for Hero Haters:

“An edge of your seat thriller. MacQueen, a journalist, ratchets up the suspense and tightens the grip to the explosive end.”

Robert Dugoni New York Times Bestselling Author of The Tracy Crosswhite series

“Gripping from the first page. A thrill ride with all the right moves.”

Rick Mofina USA Today Bestselling Author

Book Details:

Genre: Adult Thriller

Published by: The Wild Rose Press, Inc

Publication Date: October 2022

Number of Pages: 366

ISBN: 9781509243853 (ISBN10: 1509243852)

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

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Read an excerpt:

Prologue

Spokane, Washington, August 2019

Local hero Anderson Wise can’t remember the last time he paid for a drink at Sharkey’s.

Nor can he remember an embarrassing assortment of the women who selflessly shared their affection, post-Sharkey’s.

As for that last blurry night at the gin mill, he wished to hell he’d stayed home.

The bar’s owner, Sharon Key, hence Sharkey’s, took joy in chumming the waters on Wise’s behalf for a regular catch of what she called “Hero Worshippers.”

She saw getting him laid as partial repayment for saving her eleven-year-old grandson Toby’s life some eighteen months back.

A disaffected dad, high on crystal meth, stormed into Toby’s classroom to take issue with his kid’s latest report card. He showed his displeasure by shot-gunning the teacher, then reloaded and asked all A-students to identify themselves. Being A-students, they dutifully raised their hands, Toby among them.

As the high-as-a-kite shooter herded the high achievers to the front of the class, Wise, the school custodian, charged into the room armed with a multipurpose dry-chemical fire extinguisher. He blasted the shooter with a white cloud of monoammonium phosphate, to minimal effect, then slammed the gun out of his hands. It discharged into the floor sending several pellets into Wise’s left foot. Thoroughly pissed, Wise ended the drama by pile-driving the extinguisher into the shooter’s face.

Sharon Key, a widow in her early sixties, subsequently replaced the beer signs and dart board with blow-ups of the laudatory press Wise earned during the tragic aftermath. The front of the next day’s local paper held pride of place. It carried a photo of Wise, extinguisher in hand, under the headline: Greater Tragedy Averted as Hero Janitor Extinguishes Threat. The story contained a pull quote in large font which Wise came to regret: “ ‘It’s a versatile extinguisher,’ the modest 30-year-old explained, ‘good for class A, B and C fires—and meth-heads’.”

Said famous extinguisher now guards the top-shelf booze behind Sharkey’s oak-and-brass bar.

New stories were added to Sharkey’s wall five months back after Wise was awarded, with much publicity, the Sedgewick Trust Sacrifice Medallion— one of the most prestigious recognitions of heroism that American civilians can receive.

Wise’s liver and a lower part of his anatomy took a renewed pounding in the weeks thereafter. So much so he declared a moratorium on visits to Sharkey’s for reasons of self-preservation.

He was back in the saddle a month now, but his attendance was spotty. “This hero stuff,” he confided to Key one night, while slumped in his chair. “Maybe it’s too much of a good thing?”

“Ya think?” Key muttered as she took inventory of that night’s limited offerings.

It wasn’t just the women. Men often bought him drinks too, happy to bask in the reflected glory of a proven manly man.

Two weeks ago, some weedy academic from back east interviewed him at Sharkey’s and staked him to an alcohol-fueled dinner at the city’s best chop house. The brainy one expected Wise to opine on such things as “neo-Darwinian rules for altruism.”

Asked him if he’d been motivated by “a kinship bond” with anyone in the room?

Er, no.

Wondered if Wise knew that a disproportionate number of risk takers are working-class males?

Nope, sorry.

And had he calculated in the moment that a heroic display of “good genes” would make him a desirable mating partner?

Cripes. Really?

“Don’t know what I was thinking,” Wise said, swirling a glass of something called Amarone, a wine so amazing angels must have crushed the grapes with their tiny, perfect feet. “Heard a gun blast, grabbed the fire extinguisher off the wall. Saw the dead teacher, all those kids, and a nut with a shotgun. Did what anybody would do. I spent three years in the army after high school, mostly in the motor pool. Much as I hated basic training, maybe some of it stuck. Who knows?”

The academic gave a condescending smile and called for the bill, his hypothesis apparently confirmed.

Wise fled to the restaurant toilet and took notes on the back of his pay slip. Back home, he Googled the hell out of studies on “extreme altruist stimuli,” on “empirical perspectives on the duty to rescue,” and after many false starts, on theories of “Byronic and Lilithian Heroes.”

He kinda got the concept of “desirable mating partner”, but he was pretty sure his dick didn’t lead him into that classroom. Did it?

While not a reflective guy, Wise had to admit it was creepy to reap the fleshy benefits of his few seconds of glory while his dreams were haunted by visions of teacher Adah Summerhill slumped over her desk, blood pooled beneath her. So much blood. With the shooter sprawled unconscious, Wise gently lifted Adah’s head.

She had no pulse and her eyes, once so vibrant and expressive, were as empty as an open grave. She’d always been nice, and totally out of his league.

So, here he was, back at Sharkey’s, mind made up.

Key arrived at his “courting table” and set down his Jack and ginger ale.

“Gave my notice at the school,” he told her. “Getting outta here for a while. Got that Sedgewick money to spend. Someplace they don’t know me. Mexico, maybe.

Or Costa Rica.”

Key patted his hand. “Knew this was coming, Andy.

You banged every eligible female in town, pretty much.

And some who shoulda been out of bounds. I’m amazed the Tourist Bureau doesn’t list you as a top-ten attraction, up there with the botanical gardens.”

“All I want, Shar, is to be liked for me, not for something I did because I happened to be in the wrong place at the right time. Or is that the other way ’round?”

“Hey, you’re a good-looking guy. Still got that shaggy blond baseball player thing going for ya.

Might’ve taken a run at you myself if my hips weren’t shot.” She patted his cheek. “Made you blush. Now don’t turn into a beach bum down there. Always thought you aimed too low, mopping floors and washing windows for the school board. Time to stretch—”

She craned her neck toward the door after it opened with a bang. “My, my, here’s one for the road. She was in earlier, asking after you.” Key aimed a nod at the door and whispered, “Don’t strain anything.” And headed to the bar.

Wise looked up and…sweet Jesus.

Early twenties, he guessed. His eyes roamed from strappy sandals, up a long expanse of tanned bare legs to a glittering silver dress that started perilously high-thigh and ended well below exposed shoulders. The ripe promise of youth was on full display, like she’d dipped her bounteous curves in liquid lamé.

She drew every eye in the place as she undulated to his table. Full red lips, high cheekbones, chestnut hair piled high. Up close now, her gimlet eyes were at once innocent and knowing, like a debauched choirgirl.

“Hi, hero.” Her voice was low and sultry, as he knew it would be. She remained on her feet, hands on the table, leaning low to full effect. “When you finish that drink, I really want to see your medal.”

**** He remembered her mixing drinks back at his apartment while he retrieved his medallion from the sock drawer in his bedroom. He remembered her running a sensuous thumb over the bas-relief portrait of Philip Sedgewick as she read aloud the inscription: “The most sublime act is to set another before you.”

That wondrous voice lingering over “sublime act,”

like it was lifted from the Kama Sutra.

And like too many times, post-Sharkey’s, damned if he could remember her name—that evil bitch. He awoke, bouncing in the back of a van, hands and legs cuffed to rings set in the floor. A broken-glass headache served notice of every bump in the road.

Another lost night at Sharkey’s.

Wise had a dreadful feeling he’d never be back.

Chapter One Aberdeen, Washington, July, one month earlier Jake Ockham was one kilometer in, one kilometer to go and already in a world of pain. Lungs, legs and palms, always the damned palms, screaming enough already.

He’d whaled away on his Concept II rowing machine for thirty minutes, building up to this. Stripped off the sweatshirt after ten minutes, the t-shirt after twenty-five. Down now to running shoes and gym shorts, his torso gleaming with sweat despite the morning chill.

He’d rested after a thirty-minute warm-up to gulp water and to consider the need to reinforce the pilings under the creaky wooden deck before it dumped him and the ergometer into the Wishkah River below. Might leave it in the river mud if it came to that.

Full race mode now, one kilometer in, another to go.

The erg’s computer showed the need to pick up the pace to break the six-minute barrier, something he’d regularly shattered a decade ago during his university rowing days.

Thrust with the legs, throw back the shoulders, arms ripping back the handle. Return to the catch and repeat.

Five hundred meters to go. Eyes fixed on a duck touching down on the river, looking anywhere but the screen.

Two hundred and fifty meters. Faster. Harder. Don’t lose the technique.

Fifty meters. You can do this.

A final piston thrust of legs, shoulders, arms and…six minutes, thirteen seconds.

“Fuck!” His roar startled the duck into flight.

He slumped over the machine, gasping for air, ripping at the Velcro tabs of his gloves, throwing them on the deck in disgust. Hated those damned gloves, so essential these days.

Head bowed, he heard the cabin’s door rasp open.

“Such language.” Clara Nufeld, his aunt, and technically his boss as publisher of the Grays Harbor Independent, leaned against the doorframe.

He didn’t look up. “Don’t bother knocking. Make yourself at home.”

“I did, and I am. Got a couple of things to show you.

Right up your alley. Might be pieces for next week’s issue.”

She was lean and tall, in tight jeans and a faded Nirvana sweatshirt, her spiked white hair cut short. At sixty-four, she still turned heads. Jake knew her age to the day, Clara being his mother’s identical twin. Connie, his late mother, fell to breast cancer at age forty-five.

So much of his mother in Clara. So much that when Jake finished high school and rode his rowing scholarship east to Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, his father, Roger Ockham, moved his accounting business to Bend, Oregon. Said it was for the golfing, but Jake suspected the sight of his late wife’s twin was a constant reminder of his loss.

Connie and Clara, fresh out of university, worked for their father at the Independent, Clara on the advertising side, Connie as a reporter.

They took the helm of the paper after Derwin Nufeld—their dad, Jake’s grandfather—collapsed and died mid-way through crafting a fiery editorial on a mule-headed decision to pull The Catcher in the Rye from the high school library.

After Connie’s death, Clara did double duty as editor and publisher until she succeeded six months ago in luring Jake home to Washington State from Pittsburgh to take over as editor-in-chief.

This five-room stilt home, Clara’s former cottage on the tidal Wishkah, was his signing bonus.

One of the dwindling numbers of real estate ads in the Independent would describe the cabin something like: “A cozy oasis on the Wishkah, surrounded by nature and just minutes from the city. Fish from your deck while contemplating the possibilities for this prime riverfront property. A bit of TLC gets you a rustic getaway while you make plans for your dream home.”

After years in urban Pittsburgh, he awoke now to bird chatter and the sights and scents of the moody, muddy Wishkah—its current pulled, as he was pulled, to the infinite Pacific.

Jake gathered his shirts and gloves and cringed at a sniff-test of his underarms. “I’ll keep my distance.” He waved Clara inside. “What’s up my alley?”

She waved two dummy pages, the ads already laid out, plenty of blank space for him and his skeleton staff to fill with stories and photos.

Jake was still adjusting to small-town journalism, covering at least one earnest service club luncheon every week, puffy profiles of local businesses, check presentations, city council and school board meetings.

And jamming in as many names as possible. He’d done some summer reporting for the weekly during his high school years, but rowing had occupied most of his time.

Clara handed off a page proof with a boxed advert already laid out. “A new doctor is taking over old Doc Wilson’s practice, thank God. I swear the last medical journal that old man read was on the efficacy of leeches and bloodletting.”

Jake nodded. Worth a story for sure. A few words from Wilson about passing the scalpel to a new generation, then focus on Dr. Christina Doctorow. No hardship there.

The ad for her family practice included her photo.

Rather than the cliché white coat and stethoscope she wore hiking shorts and a flannel shirt with rolled sleeves, thick dark hair in a ponytail, a daypack hanging off a shoulder. A husky at her side gazed up adoringly.

Smart dog.

Jake put her at early thirties, his age more or less. He nodded approval. “Sporty. A fine addition to the Grays Harbor gene pool.”

“The woman’s a firecracker. Spent ten minutes haggling down the price. I finally caved. Said I’ll bump this up to a half-page, but you owe me a free checkup.”

“Seriously?”

“What she said, too. Also asked ‘Is that ethical?’ I said, ‘darling, I’m in advertising. You want ethics, deal with my nephew on the editorial side.’ “

Jake laughed. “Pretty good at bloodletting herself.

What else you got?”

“This is so up your alley.” She handed him a classified ad page-proof. “You being an expert.”

Jake slumped onto a kitchen chair. “On what?”

She tapped a one-column boxed ad in the lower left, “Heroes.”

“Not hardly.”

He looked closer and reared back. The heading read: “For Sale. Rare Sedgewick Sacrifice Medallion. $100 OBO.”

There was a thumbnail photo of the medal’s obverse, showing the craggy face of Philip Sedgewick, a leading member of the long-dead school of industrialist robber barons. He’d amassed a fortune in textile mills, newspapers, and exploitive labor practices. Awash in cash he came to philanthropy late in life. Like others in this elite group—Carnegie, Mellon, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, et al—their names and reputation-burnishing generosity live beyond the grave.

Sedgewick, at his wife’s urging, chose to celebrate extraordinary acts of heroism. He used eight of his many millions—an enormous sum in 1901—to endow a family trust to award exceptional heroism with the Sacrifice Medallion and needs-based financial assistance. Over the past one hundred twenty years, the trust awarded some eleven thousand medallions, an inspiring legacy of courage, and yes, sacrifice.

The grainy photo in the classified ad was too small to read the inscription under Sedgewick’s stern visage, but Jake knew it well. It was a quotation by the English poet William Blake: “The most sublime act is to set another before you.”

Below the photo was a post office box address, and “mail inquiries only.”

Jake shook his head. “This is nuts. The price is insanely low, insulting really. The medallions are kinda priceless.”

“I wondered about that,” Clara said. “The ad cost fifty dollars so not much of a profit.”

“The rare few that get to auction can fetch in the thousands. We try to buy them back, prefer that to having them land up in the hands of the undeserving.”

Clara cocked an eyebrow. “We?”

Jake shrugged. “I still do the occasional freelance investigations for Sedgewick. The thing is, there’s never a good reason to sell these. Either the recipient is dead broke, or dead without relatives to inherit it. Or it’s stolen.”

“Or,” Clara said, resting a hand on Jake’s shoulder, “the hero feels undeserving.”

He flinched. “Was there a photo of the medal’s back? It’d have the recipient’s name and the reason it was awarded.”

“Don’t even know who placed the ad. Arrived in the mail: a photo, the ad copy, and a fifty-dollar bill. No return address but the post office box.”

“Pull the ad, Clara. I’ll buy it and return the money.

There’s a story here, something’s not right.”

Clara toyed with her car keys. “I feel bad sometimes, guilting you back. Do you miss it, your old life back in Pittsburgh?”

His pause was barely discernable. “Great to be back in the old hometown.”

“Great to earn half the salary you did in the big city?

Great to prop up the family business? Great to be stuck with your old aunt?”

“Aunt doesn’t cover it. I was twelve when Mom passed. You stepped up for Dad and me.”

She looked like she was about to say something, then shook her head and flashed an enigmatic smile. “A topic for another day. Gotta run.”

She leaned across the table, took his hands in hers, running her thumbs lightly over his scarred palms. She raised his hands to her lips for a kiss, then turned for the door.

***

Excerpt from Hero Haters by Ken MacQueen. Copyright 2022 by Ken MacQueen. Reproduced with permission from Ken MacQueen. All rights reserved.

~~~~

Author Bio:

Ken MacQueen

Before turning to fiction, Ken MacQueen spent 15 years as Vancouver bureau chief for Maclean’s, Canada’s newsmagazine, winning multiple National Magazine Awards and nominations. He traveled the world writing features and breaking news for the magazine, and previously for two national news agencies. Naturally, he had to make Jake Ockham, his hero, a reporter, albeit a reluctant one. MacQueen also covered nine Olympic Games and drew Jake’s athletic prowess from tracking elite rowers in training and on podiums in Athens, Beijing and London. He and his wife divide their time between Vancouver, and British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast.

Catch Up With Ken MacQueen:
KenMacQueen.com
Goodreads
Instagram – @kmqyvr
Twitter – @kmqyvr
Facebook – @kmqyvr

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#BookTour “Nunzio’s Way (Book 2 in the Weepers Series)” by Nick Chiarkas

Nunzio's Way by Nick Chiarkas Banner~~~~

book cover

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Synopsis:

 

“In this city, you can have anything you want if you kill the right four people.” ~ Nunzio Sabino

In Weepers (Book 1), Angelo and his gang, with a bit of help from his beloved “uncle” Nunzio Sabino, defeated the notorious Satan’s Knights. Now, in this standalone sequel to Weepers, it’s 1960 and Nunzio is still the most powerful organized crime boss in New York City, protecting what’s his with political schemes and ‘business’ deals.

Against this backdrop of Mafia turf wars, local gang battles, and political power-plays in the mayoral election, the bodies begin stacking up. An unlikely assassin arrives fresh from Naples after killing a top member of the Camorra to avenge the murder of her family. She blends seamlessly into the neighborhood and with the focus on the threat from the Satan’s Knights, no one suspects that Angelo’s father and Nunzio are next on her hit list. Nunzio has lived his entire life by the mantra; Be a fox when there are traps and a lion when there are wolves. Will Nunzio be a lion in time?

Praise for Nick Chiarkas:

“Writers are always told, ‘Write what you know.’ Nick Chiarkas knows New York, organized crime, and how to write an engaging story. Nunzio’s Way is gritty and thoroughly gripping.”

John DeDakis, award-winning Novelist and former editor for CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer”

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Thriller / Historical

Published by: HenschelHAUS Publishing

Publication Date: October 2022

Number of Pages: 261

ISBN: 978159595-908-6

Series: Weepers, #2

Book Links: Amazon | Kindle Unlimited | Goodreads

~~~~

Read an excerpt:

PROLOGUE

For those who have read Weepers a while ago, and for those who have not read Weepers, here is a brief description of Nunzio Sabino, as told by Father Joe to Father Casimiro (Father Cas) in Weepers.

***

“In 1920… Caffè Fiora was the Baling Hook, a tough bar owned by an ex-longshoreman, Stanley Marco, and his wife Sylvia—who was every bit as tough as Stan. The place was decorated with nets, anchors, and baling hooks hanging all over the walls. It had a long bar and small tables.”

“Sounds charming,” Father Casimiro said sarcastically.

“In a strange way, it was. The booze was good. The food was tolerable. And the dancers were okay—that is, except for one. Fiora Ventosa was a delicate breeze in a cigar-filled room. And when she danced, the room dropped silent. She was sensational.”

“A stripper?”

“Not completely, more burlesque. The dancers would take off this or that but never stripped completely. Each night of the week featured a different dancer. Fiora danced on Tuesday nights. And Nunzio fell in love with her.”

“How old was he?”

“Thirteen. We were all kids about the same age. There were five of us—me, Nunzio, Pompeo—Anna’s father—

George, and Nick. We would sneak in every Tuesday night. Sylvia knew, but let it slide.”

“Did Fiora know how Nunzio—”

“Probably. She would sometimes sit with us after her show. Thinking back, she probably thought it was cute, and compared to the rest of the clientele, we were safe, adoring fans. We would sit there and Nunzio would be transfixed. She was seventeen and Nunzio figured a four-year difference wasn’t that much. So, after watching her dance every Tuesday for seven or eight months, on the third Tuesday in January 1920, Nunzio decided to tell Fiora he wanted to marry her. Seems silly now, but back then…what did we know? Anyway, Nunzio had to work late, so we waited for him and then we beat it over to the Hook.”

Father Casimiro loved these stories. They gave him a history, like he belonged to the neighborhood. “Did he tell her?”

“When we got to the Hook, Stan was shoving everyone out of the place, telling them to go home. Somebody, I don’t know who, said, ‘You kids better not go in there tonight.’ We pushed our way in against everybody leaving. There were several overturned tables and a couple of people standing around looking down.”

“Looking down?” Father Casimiro dodged several kids running along the sidewalk.

“Sylvia was sitting on the floor crying. Fiora was lying on the floor, covered by a large flannel shirt. Her head in Sylvia’s lap. Stan was arguing with a big guy they called the Bear. He was six- foot-six and must have weighed in at over three hundred pounds. He was a foreman on the docks and a neighborhood bully. The Bear stood there in a T-shirt and said to Stan, ‘Don’t you say nothing, you hear me? Nothing.’ Sylvia shouted up at the Bear, ‘You sonofabitch, you killed this little girl.’”

“What? She was dead? He killed her? Why?”

“The drunken Bear wanted to see more skin. He yanked her off the dance floor. She fought and he broke her neck.” Father Joe lit a cigarette and handed the pack to Father Casimiro.

Father Casimiro lit a cigarette and took a long drag. “Poor girl.” Cigarette smoke escaped with the words. He handed the pack back to Father Joe. “Nunzio must have been devastated. You all, just kids, must have been—”

“It was the only time I ever saw Nunzio cry. Ever. It was the most heart-rending, profound sadness I ever witnessed. Nunzio dropped to his knees and touched her face. Meanwhile, the Bear was standing over Sylvia with his two buddies, one on either side of him, and he said to Stan, ‘The girl’s trash; nobody’s gonna miss her. So, you and your wife keep your mouths shut.’ He reached down and grabbed his shirt off Fiora and started to put it on.

He continued, “That was when I noticed that Nunzio was missing. And then I heard the scream. It didn’t sound human. It was pain and fury. It was Nunzio, and he was in midair—he jumped from the top of the bar behind the Bear. In each hand, he gripped a baling hook—he had taken them off the wall. He looked like an eagle screaming in for the kill. The Bear’s arms were halfway in his shirt sleeves when the points of the heavy hooks pierced his deltoid muscles from behind. The hooks hit both shoulders and sunk behind his collarbone.”

“Dear God,” Father Casimiro shivered as he imagined the pain of a thick steel hook sinking into his shoulder muscle.

“The Bear roared and swung from side to side. Nunzio held on tight to the hooks, his legs flying from left to right, back and forth. The Bear’s arms were pinned halfway in his shirt. He kept trying to grab Nunzio’s legs. But with each movement, the hooks sank deeper.”

Father Casimiro was no longer aware of the people pushing past him, some smiling and nodding. The musty beer and sawdust of the Baling Hook filled his senses. He imagined the blood spurting from the hooks, and a thirteen-year-old boy hanging on—fortified by rage. Father Casimiro smoked and listened. “What about the Bear’s friends?”

“The two of them grabbed at Nunzio, and that’s when we—all four of us—jumped in. I was a pretty good boxer by then, and Pompeo was always a strong kid. Nick pulled a knife, and George grabbed another baling hook off the wall. The Bear’s buddies ran out of the place; they weren’t up for the fight. After that, the only ones in the Hook were Stan, Sylvia, the Bear, Fiora, and us. The Bear started spinning and coughing up blood. Nunzio just held on. We were trying to get them apart. But the Bear kept spinning, knocking over tables. And Nunzio was like a cape flying from the Bear’s shoulders.

“Then, finally, the Bear dropped to his knees, straight down, his arms dead, draped at his sides. As the Bear fell forward, Nunzio pulled on the hooks. The Bear growled and then whimpered as his face cracked the wooden floor. All the time, Nunzio held onto the hooks—pulling. He let go when the Bear rolled over on his back—hooks still buried in his shoulders. He looked straight up at Nunzio.”

“He was still alive?” Father Casimiro gasped.

“Only for a moment or two. Nunzio wasn’t finished, but Stan grabbed him and said, ‘He’s gone. You kids get out of here so we can clean up.’ Nunzio never fell in love again.”

“Did she have any family?” Father Casimiro asked, flicking his cigarette into the gutter. “I mean, Fiora.”

“Fiora was fifteen and pregnant with Natale when she arrived in New York from Genoa. The Cherry Street Settlement took her in and after Natale was born, they got her a room with Sylvia and Stan, who hired Fiora to tend bar and dance on Tuesday nights. Fiora Ventosa was born on the third Tuesday in March and seventeen years later died on the third Tuesday in January, and her only family was two- year-old Natale Ventosa. No one ever knew who the father was. Natale was raised by Sylvia and Stan.”

“What about the police and the Bear’s friends?”

“No police—Stan fixed that. But the Bear’s pals came after Nunzio. The five of us were inseparable. Nunzio was, is, a born leader. Battle after battle, victory after victory, we quickly gained a reputation. Eventually other guys wanted to join our gang. By sixteen, Nunzio was the most powerful gang leader in the city. When he was twenty, he bought the Baling Hook.”

“He bought it?”

“Stan had passed away a couple of years earlier, so Nunzio turned it into a pretty good restaurant—no dancing—and re-named it Caffè Fiora. He sent Sylvia money every month to cover Natale’s financial needs. He paid Sylvia more than she ever dreamed to run the restaurant. When Sylvia died in ’51, Nunzio gave the restaurant to Natale.”

“So, you became a priest to …”

“The battles we won were hard fought and people were killed. We all…I killed,” Father Joe confessed. “At nineteen, I decided to become a priest and devote my life to saving as many kids in these neighborhoods as I could in return for God’s forgiveness. We have an uneasy relationship—I’m certain God doesn’t always agree with my methods, and I have some questions for Him as well. But I’m sticking to the deal.”

“What about the other kids? Did they stay in the gang?”

“No. Pompeo is a foreman at the meat market, Nick became a cop, and George is a foreman on the docks. But on the third Tuesday of each month, the five of us go back there, just like when we were thirteen, but now it’s the Caffè Fiora—and we play poker in the back room and talk about how fast time passes.”

“Does Natale know?”

“Sylvia told her the whole story. Natale loves Nunzio like a father,” Father Joe said as he and Father Casimiro passed Columbus Park and made a left from Mulberry Street onto Worth Street. “This is the end of Little Italy.”

As they reached St. Joachim’s, Father Casimiro said, “I think I’ll walk over to the Settlement. You want to come with?”

“Come with?” Father Joe teased. “Sure, I can use the exercise.”

“Does Nunzio ever worry about some ambitious hooligan wanting to take over? Or is that just in the movies?”

“Hooligan?” Father Joe smiled. “Nunzio is the top lion. He is constantly watched by the ambitious and the aggrieved. He can’t show weakness. He can’t let a single insult—especially a public one—go unchecked. Continued leadership requires constant vigilance and no margin of error. None.”

“Sounds stressful.”

“It is. The only time Nunzio can relax—really be himself, joke around—is with us, the kids who grew up with him, on the third Tuesday of the month.”

CHAPTER ONE

“The right four people”

“Pal, in this city, you can have anything you want if you kill the right four people.”

“Nunzio, we don’t have to kill –”

“We? Me and you, De?” Nunzio leaned back, a gesture as intimidating as a knife to the throat when it came from Nunzio Sabino, the most powerful crime boss in the city.

Nunzio sat at his private table with his attorney, Declan Ardan, in the dusk-lit Caffè Fiora on Grand Street in Little Italy. On the walls, ropes, hooks, and paintings of Genoa’s seaport, honored the birthplace of the owner’s mother, Fiora, her dark eyes still vigilant from the portrait above Nunzio’s table. The Caffè was quiet on this rainy St. Patrick’s Day. Two of Nunzio’s men sat at a nearby table. The guy who had come with Declan sat hunched over coffee near the entrance.

“No, I mean, nobody has to get killed; talk to your guys at Tammany. They respect –”

“You still got that scar,” Nunzio said. It’s bad enough in court; there, I do what he says. But not at my table. Since we were kids, this mameluke was a bully. I can’t give him an inch. Not an inch. “What about my guys?”

De touched the scar above his left eye. “Doolin said the Italians run everything now. He said, ‘If anyone can pull strings…’”

“Before you start pinning medals on my ass,” Nunzio signaled to a waiter. “Arturo, bring me and ‘Deadshot’ here a couple of espressos and Natale’s little cakes.”

“All I’m saying is–”

“Marone, you’re still talkin’?”

“All I want – ”

“I know what you want. You wanna be mayor.” Nunzio lit a Camel and tossed the pack on the table while exhaling through his nose like a dragon. “Listen to me, Brian Doolin is a piantagrane, a troublemaker. For an upfront payment he sells you a dream. Then when it doesn’t come true it was always somebody else’s fault. Like you, that time when we were kids, and you told me Eddie Fialco sounded on my mother. It was bullshit, you just wanted me to beat him up. You’re a piantagrane, like Doolin. It works for you in court, but Doolin just likes to cause trouble. Look, you got a kid who wants to go to college for a grand, your kid’s in. But mayor, forse si forse no?”

“So, maybe a chance?”

“Maybe.”

De stroked his scar absentmindedly. “You gave me this when we were kids.”

“It makes you look like a tough guy.”

“I once asked Joe why you hit me with that rock.”

“It was a brick,” Nunzio said.

“Joe said it was to save my life. I still don’t get it.” “You don’t have to.”

“But Joe was there.”

“Joe was with Pompeo and me and a bunch of us.

What were we, ten years old? We were cutting through the empty lot to school, and you – ”

“Okay, so I was taking kid’s lunch money. They all gave it up except you. You were the smallest kid, and you just said ‘No’.”

“And what did you say to me?”

“That’s what I don’t get; I just said, ‘okay, maybe next time’ and you hit me hard with a brick. I swear I was knocked out for a couple of minutes.”

“You said ‘maybe next time.’”

“Yeah, that’s all.”

“But you never asked me again.”

“I thought you were crazy. I followed you home one day. I figured if I saw where you lived, I would get a better read on you. I trailed you into the cellar of 57 Canon Street. I saw a little bed in one corner and a pile of banana crates by the door – the only things in that dirt floor cavernous space. You were shoveling coal into the furnace, which explained why you always had soot on you. I was about to say something when a spider the size of my face jumped out at me from the crates, and I beat it the hell out of there.”

“You followed me?”

“How could you have lived in that cellar?”

“Instead of where?”

“I don’t know. Maybe in…I don’t know. Didn’t some family take you in?”

“Yeah, the Sas family. Good people.”

“Anyway, I never asked you for money again.”

“If you had, I would’ve killed you. So, the brick saved your life.”

Declan nodded. “Yeah. Got it.”

Three years later, a hulking longshoreman people called “The Bear” wouldn’t be so lucky. He was the first man Nunzio killed. At the ripe age of 13, his life and the lives of four of his friends, changed forever.

Nunzio drifted back to his childhood. He was six years old when his mother and he moved from Naples to the Lower East Side. Alone after his mother died, he learned to survive in one of the most notorious neighborhoods in the city. Where the narrow, trash-lined streets and alleys weaved together decaying brownstone tenements with common toilets, one per floor. He shoveled coal and guarded the produce stored there by the ships docked off South Street, to pay for living in the cellar.

After school, Nunzio mostly walked the streets. He recalled the putrid smell of decomposing cats and dogs covered with a trembling blanket of insects, rats, and things he didn’t recognize. Lying in the gutter against the sidewalk on Pike Street was a horse, with old and fresh whip wounds, shrouded in a cloak of flying and crawling insects. Plenty of other horrors and hardships confronted him throughout his life, but when he closed his eyes, Nunzio saw the horse.

“I know you’re not here to talk about old times. Whadaya need?”

“Nunzio, no one is better than you with –”

“Christ, without the bullshit.”

De lowered his voice, “Tammany Hall is on the outs

with the mayor, and they’re scrambling to find a candidate to run against him. So, if you would tell them that you would be grateful if they would pick me…”

“You tellin’ me what to tell them? Forget about it. Anyway, I like the deputy mayor; he postponed the Brooklyn Bridge deal as a favor to me back in ’57.

“Nunzio, did I do something to piss you off? Is that why your guys searched us when we came in today?”

Chinatown was pushing towards Canal Street; the Russians were gaining a footprint in Brighten Beach. And Pepe, Nunzio’s driver, bodyguard, and right hand since forever, told him there were rumbles of a hit on Nunzio. Someone or some group was always waiting and watching. He knew, like bosses everywhere, that everyone under him thought they could do a better job and thought the boss never did enough for them. This felt different. Pepe had heard it from one of his spies in Satan’s Knights. Pepe would get more information.

But all Nunzio said was, “I’m a little cautious these days. You know how it is.”

“I’m your lawyer; you call me when you need help. Right?”

“I pay you top dollar. You complainin’?”

“No, I’m saying we help each other. We knew growing up here, the only choice was to be a gangster or a victim. No offense.”

“You believe that crap?” Nunzio shook his head. “What?”

“You can be whatever you wanna be.”

“I try to be straight, but you know – ”

“Who you kiddin‘?”

“The point is, we have to trust each other.” De took a long breath and looked wistful as his eyes landed on the painting of Fiora. “I came here with you to see her dance. She was 16 back then, with a two-year-old kid.”

“Seventeen,” Nunzio said, “and the kid’s name is Natale.”

“And you were 13 and asked Fiora to marry you in this Caffè. Am I right?”

“I never got the chance.”

***

Excerpt from NUNZIO’S WAY by NICK CHIARKAS. Copyright 2022 by Nicholas L. Chiarkas. Reproduced with permission from Nicholas L. Chiarkas. All rights reserved.

~~~~

Author Bio:

Nicholas L. Chiarkas

Nick Chiarkas grew up in the Al Smith housing projects in the Two Bridges neighborhood on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

When he was in the fourth grade, his mother was told by the principal of PS-1 that, “Nick was unlikely to ever complete high school, so you must steer him toward a simple and secure vocation.” Instead, Nick became a writer, with a few stops along the way: a U.S. Army Paratrooper; a New York City Police Officer; the Deputy Chief Counsel for the President’s Commission on Organized Crime; and the Director of the Wisconsin State Public Defender Agency.

On the way to becoming an author, he picked up a Doctorate from Columbia University; a Law Degree from Temple University; and was a Pickett Fellow at Harvard. How many mothers are told their children are hopeless? How many kids with potential simply surrender to despair? That’s why Nick wrote Weepers and Nunzio’s Way— for them.

Catch Up With Our Author:
NickChiarkas.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @AuthorNickChiarkas
Twitter – @chiarkas
Facebook – @NicholasChiarkasAuthor

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Tour Participants:

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#BookTour “Secrets of the Gold” by Baer Charlton

Secrets of the Gold by Baer Charlton BannerNovember 7 – December 2, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

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book cover

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Synopsis:

 

Concealed in his jacket are ingots of gold; he just doesn’t remember why.

A young girl running from an abusive foster home kidnaps the older biker with a mystery for a past.

Leaving the mining town in Colorado and crossing state lines, anything can happen.

What neither is looking for or expecting is friendship.

But in the cold of the desert night, life lessons can go both ways—even if they are not about a million dollars in gold.

Growing up is hard enough, even without the shooting.

 

Praise for Secrets of the Gold:

“kept me spellbound”

“you will have a very hard time putting this book down!”

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Coming of Age, Female Sleuth

Published by: Mordant Media

Publication Date: March 2022

Number of Pages: 374

ISBN: 1949316203 (ISBN-13 9781949316209)

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Books2Read

~~~~

Read an excerpt:

Eight Years Before

Someone unexpected at the front door is exciting—for a nine-year-old girl. But time and experience change people.

“I’ll get it,” she squealed.

The sound of cheap sneakers slapped on the cheap flooring. Military housing, even off-base, has never changed. Expensive big toys were always more exciting for congressional representatives than looking after the troops and their families.

“Check the peephole before you open the door.”

The polished brass belt buckles dully reflected the peeling white of the door. The dark blue of the uniforms wasn’t what she was used to seeing around the base, but she had seen them occasionally.

Pulling on the door, she yelled over her shoulder. “It’s a couple of marines like Daddy.”

The enormous crash at the back of the small apartment ricocheted off the rigid walls and out the open door. It hit the two lieutenants hard.

One with their mouth half open.

The man looked at his female companion as she hurried into the apartment. The man reached for the girl’s arm.

“Mom?”

* * *

The California sun did nothing to brighten the day. The two lieutenants in dress blues stood a short distance away. The casket sat draped with flowers, but only two adults and a young girl filled the fourteen chairs.

The girl’s hazel eyes appeared washed out—more watery-blue than green. The swell of her lower lip slowly sucked in and then released over and over. The blink had nothing to do with what the chaplain was saying. It had nothing to do with her world. The black dress didn’t fit her, but at least it covered the scrapes and scars on her knees. The long sleeves performed the same service for her arms. The rusty blonde hair, chopped at the center of her neck, was the only acknowledgment of her being less than delicate.

The deep low rumble of the officer’s voice left his Minnesota lips motionless. The sound carried only to his partner. “What now?”

The woman shrugged slightly.

“Any relatives at all?”

The woman turned her head slightly. “There’s an older uncle. He’ll be available, possibly in ten to fifteen—if he behaves this time.”

The man frowned and looked out from the side of his eye. They had worked together long enough for the silent shorthand.

“Aggravated homicide with extenuating circumstances.”

His eyes didn’t move. He was waiting for the boot to drop.

“Beat his wife and then cut off her breasts and legs to let her bleed out.” Her eyes moved to lock on his. “He caught her in bed with his best friend.”

The man’s frown furrowed deep. “And his friend? What did he do to him?”

The woman’s eyes snapped to a distant tableau—seven marines with seven rifles for a different burial. “You mean her. His best friend since high school. He beat her to death with the waffle iron.”

They both came to attention and saluted the three-shot salute of the honor guard from across the cemetery. The other funeral was well attended, even though it was unusual for military internment with honors to be held in a civilian cemetery. The passing thought was that the funeral was for a much-loved senior member of a large family.

“Did they cross-check the weapon of choice for a match…?”

If the dead were not theirs or family, they were fair game for lighthearted banter.

“The prints matched. The iron was still hot when he struck.”

The last rifle volley faded away as three riflemen gave their squad leader a cartridge. The two officers watched as the squad leader marched over to the casket and began folding the flag with the rest of the honor guards. The three shells folded into the flag forever. Some thought the seven riflemen firing three volleys was a twenty-one gun salute. But the tradition didn’t come from salutes of Man-O-War dreadnaughts but to let an opposing army know they had cleared the field of battle of their dead. The three spent shells also had a simpler meaning than many thought—the flag was from a military funeral. Nothing more. They presented the folded flag to the soldier’s spouse or parent.

The two officers couldn’t tell the woman’s age through the black veil. The man nodded his chin toward the small girl, who looked frightened by the whole proceeding. After that, they resumed standing at ease.

The female lieutenant spoke softly. “Child Services is picking her up this afternoon.”

“None of the family friends could take her? Keep her in the same school or with people she knows?”

The woman rolled her eyes shut and opened them again as she faced the man. “You grew up a navy brat. How many new schools did you go to before you got out of high school?”

“Fifteen or sixteen.” He looked back at the woman. “Dad was on the fast track. We lived on sixteen bases in seven different countries. He wanted dragons on both arms.”

She nodded. “Yeah. A double shellback. I’ve seen a few. The tattoos become muddy, ugly, and smeared by the time you’re eighty. But by then, who cares?”

***

Excerpt from Secrets of the Gold by Baer Charlton. Copyright 2022 by Baer Charlton. Reproduced with permission from Baer Charlton. All rights reserved.

~~~~

Author Bio:

Baer Charlton

Baer Charlton, is an Amazon Best-Selling author, and a Social-Anthropologist. His many interests have led him worldwide in search of the unique.

As an internationally recognized Photo Journalist, he has tracked mountain gorillas, been a podium for a Barbary Ape, communicated in sign language with an Orangutan named Boolon, kissed a kangaroo, and had many other wild experiences in between. Or he was just monkeying around.

His love for sailing has led him to file assignments from various countries, as well as from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean aboard a five-mast sailing ship. Baer has spoken on five continents, plus lecturing at sea.

His copyrighted logo is “WR1T3R”. Within every person, there is a story. But inside that story, even a more memorable story. Those are the stories he likes to tell.

There is no more complex and incredible story than those coming from the human experience. Whether it is a Marine finding his way home as a civilian or a girl who’s just trying to grow up, Mr. Charlton’s stories are all driven by the characters you come to think of as friends.

Catch Up With Baer Charlton:
www.BaerCharlton.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @BaerCharlton
Twitter – @baer_charlton
Facebook – @WR1T3R

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#GuestBlogger Straddling the Line Between Paranormal Romance & Horror by Kelli A. Wilkins

Greetings Romance Lovers!

At this time of year, horror movies are extremely popular and everyone is focusing on the supernatural. Werewolves, vampires, and other “creatures of the night” seem to be lurking everywhere, just waiting to leap out and terrify an unsuspecting heroine…

Confessions of a Vampire's Lover coverBut sometimes the heroine isn’t terrified. Sometimes she’s attracted to a vampire and can’t wait for the sun to go down so they can roam the night together, like any couple. That is, any couple in a paranormal romance.

Paranormals are a unique genre in the romance world. (Where else can a woman make love to an undead creature and not face criticism?) They straddle the line between traditional romances and the supernatural/fantasy/horror realm. And to create a convincing paranormal romance, the author has to do a bit of juggling in all of those worlds.

One of the most important elements in writing paranormal romances is to invent a believable universe where shifters, vampires, and other types of “otherworldly” characters are very real. Sometimes these creatures interact and coexist with “normal” humans (everyday people accept that vampires and shapeshifters exist), but most times they stay hidden in the shadows.

Whatever the basic premise, readers need to suspend their disbelief and lose themselves in the world the author has created. The writer has to establish a realistic paranormal character (or several) and take the reader on an exciting journey with the hero and heroine as they fall in love. After all, this is a romance!

The type of paranormal character who stars in the story is key to the plot, and can vary from nearly human to full-fledged monster.

For example, suppose the hero was once human and has been cursed to live as another vikings witchcreature (such as a Bigfoot, or a gargoyle). Can the curse be broken if he finds a human woman to love him? How does he go about that? Does he retain his human memories? Is the woman repulsed by him at first? Do they make love while he’s in his altered state? Variations on this “beauty and the beast” theme have been used in many paranormal romances, and usually there is a happy-ever-after ending for the couple.

But maybe the hero is an undead creature (a vampire) or turns into an animal (a werewolf or a werepanther). How does this change his personality and way of life? Does he resent humans and live with others of his kind? What does he do when he’s not transformed? How (and why) does he transform? What happens when he reveals his true nature to his beloved? How do they live happily-ever-after?

As you can see, falling in love with a non-human can create a lot of conflict and difficulties for the couple. And sometimes it’s a challenge for the author to make the “monster” into a romantic lead.

coverEven though the hero isn’t human, he must have a special appeal that makes the heroine overlook this fact and fall in love with him. Basically, the hero-creature has to remain true to his paranormal status and still be attractive to humans (and human readers), just like a traditional romance hero. (If not, then he’s the lead in a horror story, and that’s an entirely different realm.)

If the author doesn’t create a believable paranormal hero, readers won’t buy into it, and there certainly won’t be any sparks flying in the romance. Writers must make the “monster” as real as any other human character and flesh him out completely with a backstory, goals, motivation, and conflicts.

Another challenge for the author is to keep a balance between the paranormal elements and the romance. There needs to be realistic supernatural details added to the love story, but the author can’t gross out (or turn off) the heroine… or readers.

If a paranormal romance includes too much violence or gore, it could turn into a horror story. (In fact, with a little bit of rewriting, practically any paranormal romance could be transformed into a dark and disturbing horror tale.) To avoid this, the author has to find a way to deal with the bloodier or unpleasant aspects of being a monster, while still keeping the hero attractive.

For example, if the hero is a vampire, he’ll have to feed at some point during the story. The book coverwriter and the other characters must address this. How does the heroine deal with her boyfriend’s need to drink blood? Does she accept it? Ignore it? Does he feed “off page” where she can’t see? Does she ever let him feed off her? What if he loses control and goes wild?

These are all crucial things the author has to consider when developing characters and plotting a paranormal love story. Readers want to fall in love with a “safe” creature and live vicariously through the heroine as she navigates the paranormal world. But the monster/hero shouldn’t be dull or boring, or too predictable, either.

It’s always refreshing when authors break patterns and have paranormal characters go against stereotype. (Why do all vampires have to be suave, live in large houses, and dress well?) When I write paranormal romances, I always try to give readers something unexpected, turn a cliché on its ear, or use a different point of view to liven up the story.

In Killer in Wolf’s Clothing, my “werewolf” didn’t turn into a four-legged animal; he became a super-aggressive Alpha male. Beauty & the Bigfoot is a paranormal comedy that explores the legend of Bigfoot through quirky characters (and some hot love scenes!).

Rothgar, the hero in The Viking’s Witch doesn’t believe the heroine has witchlike powers—until she proves it. Confessions of a Vampire’s Lover is told in first person from the hero’s point of view and takes place at the beach—and that’s not where you expect to find a vampire. Eddie, my “ghost cop” from In Another World has a lot of supernatural talents most ghosts don’t— including the ability to pull the living into an alternate realm—and make love to the heroine!

As Halloween approaches, take a closer look at the “monsters” and other supernatural creatures you encounter. But don’t be afraid… you might just fall in love with one of them!

Here’s the summary and links to In Another World, my latest paranormal romance.

 

In Another World

A Paranormal Mystery/Romance Novel

Disgraced psychic medium Julie Kershaw has finally met her soul mate. The problem is he’s dead… and his spirit haunts the car she just bought.

The spirit of Detective Eddie Mahoney is determined to find his killer and needs Julie’s help. At first, she refuses. She’s tired of being called crazy and swore she’d never use her abilities to speak to the dead again—even if Eddie is handsome and charming.

Eddie persuades Julie to contact his former partner, Lou Kaplonski, to ask him to reopen his case. Skeptical, Lou dismisses Julie as a fake—until she proves she can communicate with the dead—and he finds out Eddie has a lot to say.

Julie channels Eddie’s spirit and together with Lou, the unusual trio tracks down leads and follows clues to solve Eddie’s murder. The case takes them down a dark and dangerous path filled with secrets, where nobody can be trusted.

As they work to find his killer, Julie falls for Eddie. Funny, smart, and sexy, Eddie is the guy of her dreams—and he doesn’t look or act the least bit dead. To her surprise, Eddie discovers a clever way they can be together, and they begin an ethereal romance.

When Lou’s investigation brings him too close to the killer, his life and Julie’s are put in danger—and Eddie may be the only one who can save them.

Order your copy here:

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09R11STRN

All other platforms: https://books2read.com/u/bpw16g

Read reviews here: https://www.kelliwilkins.com/in-another-world

You can catch up on all of my romances here: https://www.kelliwilkins.com/romance and if you like to be scared, don’t miss my horror fiction: https://www.kelliwilkins.com/horror

Happy Haunting,

Kelli A. Wilkins

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelli A Wilkins

Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 20+ romance novels, 7 non-fiction books, and 5 horror ebooks. Her romances span many genres and settings, and she likes to scare readers with her horror stories.

Her latest novel, In Another World, was released in early 2022. This contemporary mystery/romance is set in the world of the paranormal.

She also released two horror shorts, More Than I Bargained For and Silent Sentinel in 2021.

In 2021, Kelli published Journaling Every Week: 52 Topics to Get You Writing. This fun and innovative guide to journaling is filled with hundreds of thought-provoking prompts designed to get you writing about your feelings and emotions.

Kelli posts on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins and Twitter: www.Twitter.com/KWilkinsauthor.

Visit her website/blog www.KelliWilkins.com for a full title list and to find all her social media links.

#BookTour “Invest Yourself: A Guidebook for Spiritual Mentoring” by Stephanie Ziebarth

Invest Yourself A Guidebook for Spiritual Mentoring by Stephanie Ziebarth Banner

Invest Yourself: A Guidebook for Spiritual Mentoring

by Stephanie Ziebarth

on Tour October 3-28, 2022

 

Synopsis:

Invest Yourself: A Guidebook for Spiritual Mentoring by Stephanie Ziebarth

Spiritual mentorship-what is it, and what does it involve? Does spiritual mentorship matter today? How can spiritual mentorship help those who come after you?

In Invest Yourself: A Guidebook for Spiritual Mentoring, Stephanie Ziebarth tackles these questions and explains the dramatic impact of spiritual mentorship in her own life. Starting with the basics, she addresses several key topics, including

 

  • spiritual multiplication
  • approaches to spiritual mentorship
  • one-on-one meetings
  • effectively helping your mentee
  • and much more

In addition to the solid content, the appendices include sample lessons, guidance for writing lesson plans, suggestions for how to mentor high school students, and recommended books . If you are looking for ways to make a lasting impact in the lives of others, this is just the book for you.

 

Invest Yourself is a rich, how-to book for life-on-life ministry, and it is a resource I’ll both use and recommend.”

Matt Cox, Executive Director of Miracle Mountain Ranch Home of the School of Discipleship

“If you are a new mentor looking for a place to start or a seasoned one in need of refreshing and new resources, you will find yourself encouraged and equipped in these pages.”

Diana Gruver, Author of Companions in the Darkness

Book Details

Genre: Christian Living

Published by: Mercy & Moxie

Publication Date: May 2022

Number of Pages: 88

ISBN: 1945169745 (ISBN-13:‎ 978-1945169748)

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ThriftBooks | BookShop.org | Goodreads

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Author Bio:

Stephanie Ziebarth

With a degree in journalism and religious studies, Stephanie Ziebarth believed writing was her main gift until she experienced the life-changing impact of spiritual mentoring during college. She has been spiritually investing in teens and adults ever since. Whether in her own home, through discipleship and camping ministries, or through the regional mentoring program she coordinates for Joy El Generation, Stephanie finds great satisfaction in leading people closer to Jesus so they will positively impact the world around them. Stephanie and her husband, Aaron, live in south-central Pennsylvania where they enjoy connecting with God and each other in the great outdoors, reading good books, and ministering together. Their three young adult children along with their spouses bring them great joy.

Connect with Stephanie Online:

Goodreads

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Tour Host Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews and giveaway entries!

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Thank you for your interest in this tour!

Find Your Next Great Read at Providence Book Promotions!

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#BookTour “Isle of Dragons” by L.A. Thompson

Welcome to the book tour for Isle of Dragons by L.A. Thompson! Would you just look at this cover?!

B_N_ebook

Isle of Dragons (Isle of Dragons #1)

Publication Date: February 2021

Genre: YA Fantasy

Watch steampunk technology and high fantasy witchcraft clash in this heroine’s fast-paced, epic journey to rescue her father and reveal the secrets of the noble court.

On the run from the royal army in a giant mechanical centipede, sixteen-year-old Jade Sol embarks on a dangerous adventure to help her father escape from the Isle of Dragons—a land of untamed magic that some believe only exists in myth.

When Jade is cornered by soldiers, a mysterious witch named Miria Atkins rescues her, calling on ancient spirits from a magical realm to channel their mystical energy into light and matter. Jade begs Miria and the sorceress’s mechanist brother, Dan, to join her quest. The siblings resist at first, but their hearts soften when they hear of her father’s fate. Their own parents had attempted an expedition from Vansh to the Isle of Dragons years ago and never returned. Together, the trio journey across the feudal countryside and trek across the sea to become the first humans to reach the elusive Isle of Dragons… or so they think.

Die-hard readers of Angelique S. Anderson’s Dracosinum Tales and Jessica Drake’s Dragon Riders of Elantia series will find L. A. Thompson’s writing magnetic, impassioned, and clever in this novel’s twisting plot.

Add to Goodreads

Available on Amazon & Barnes & Noble

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The Hidden Library (Isle of Dragons #2) is Now Available!

L.A. Thompson’s iconic steampunk heroine is back in this richly imaginative quest to find a mysterious magic library that holds the key to winning the war against the corrupt King Jarrod.
Jade and Kaylen, childhood friends turned rivals, now race to find a portal located in an ancient library hidden from mankind for years that will either doom or save their world. To follow the king’s orders and regain all she’s lost, Kaylen must decide what, and who, she is willing to sacrifice. Can Jade, the dragon-taming witch Miria, and the pragmatic pod inventor Dan race against the clock and stop Kaylen from opening the gateway between realms before it’s too late?

Packed with fast-paced action, Jade’s newest adventure introduces new friends and enemies, and magic obstacles beyond anything Jade has seen before. Hang on tight as mysterious revelations unfold about the Isle of Dragons and its inhabitants.

Fans of Jeff Gunzel’s The Legend of the Gate Keeper series and Cecilia Dominic’s The Art of Piracy will be enthralled with L.A. Thompson’s brilliant and magnetic storytelling.

Amazon

About the Author

Author-Image-Updated

L. A. Thompson always wanted to be a writer who created different worlds and characters that would draw people in and take them into a time and space where they can forget their worries for some time. Combining her love for fantasy and witchcraft, she writes about historical periods and creates a world that is a mix of both technology and magic. L. A. Thompson is a freelance writer and resides on the coast of Australia.

L. A. Thompson

Book Tour Organized By:

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R&R Book Tours

#GuestBlogger “In Another World A Paranormal Mystery/Romance” by Kelli A. Wilkins

Love Paranormal Romances? Don’t miss In Another World A Paranormal Mystery/Romance!

Hi everyone,

It’s November, the perfect month to curl up with a paranormal romance. Today I’m sharing a look at the making of In Another World. This contemporary romance novel blends a murder mystery with the world of the paranormal. Here’s the book summary and links…

book cover

In Another World

A Paranormal Mystery/Romance Novel

Disgraced psychic medium Julie Kershaw has finally met her soul mate. The problem is he’s dead… and his spirit haunts the car she just bought.

The spirit of Detective Eddie Mahoney is determined to find his killer and needs Julie’s help. At first, she refuses. She’s tired of being called crazy and swore she’d never use her abilities to speak to the dead again—even if Eddie is handsome and charming.

Eddie persuades Julie to contact his former partner, Lou Kaplonski, to ask him to reopen his case. Skeptical, Lou dismisses Julie as a fake—until she proves she can communicate with the dead—and he finds out Eddie has a lot to say.

Julie channels Eddie’s spirit and together with Lou, the unusual trio tracks down leads and follows clues to solve Eddie’s murder. The case takes them down a dark and dangerous path filled with secrets, where nobody can be trusted.

As they work to find his killer, Julie falls for Eddie. Funny, smart, and sexy, Eddie is the guy of her dreams—and he doesn’t look or act the least bit dead. To her surprise, Eddie discovers a clever way they can be together, and they begin an ethereal romance.

When Lou’s investigation brings him too close to the killer, his life and Julie’s are put in danger—and Eddie may be the only one who can save them.

Order your copy here:

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09R11STRN

All other platforms: https://books2read.com/u/bpw16g

In Another World has been a labor of love for many years. I’m thrilled that I finally finished the book, and now readers can enjoy the story and meet these very unusual characters I’ve created.

The book opens with Detective Eddie Mahoney, an undercover police officer, in a jam. His cover has been blown and he’s in the middle of nowhere with two criminals. Things don’t end well for Eddie, and although he doesn’t make it out of his predicament alive, his role in the book is just beginning.

Yes, you read that right. I killed off my main character—and the hero of the book—in the first few pages. Why? Because this isn’t your typical romance. Eddie is dead right from the start, but that doesn’t mean he can’t fall in love.

Next, readers are introduced to a headstrong woman named Julie Kershaw. She’s arguing with an unscrupulous used car dealer named Big Al. He sells her a car for cheap, and Julie is suspicious. Naturally, she wonders if there’s a catch, and there is. The car is haunted by… you guessed it—Eddie.

Eddie has been trying to communicate with the car’s previous owners, but never had any luck until Julie bought the car. At first, Eddie doesn’t realize that Julie is a psychic medium and can communicate with spirits. Once he knows she can see and hear him, Eddie uses his charms and persuades her to help him find his killer.

And so begins this unusual romance.

Most people would think this is a bit absurd. And maybe some readers will. But once you get drawn into the story and see that Eddie is pretty much like any other romantic hero (he just happens to be dead), the story flows along.

Eddie and Julie visit Eddie’s former partner, Lou Kaplonski, to persuade him to reopen Eddie’s case. Lou thinks Julie is crazy and can’t possibly be talking to Eddie. When Julie tells Lou things only Eddie knows, Lou is convinced Julie is telling the truth. Lou and Eddie start working the case just like old times. (Sorta.)

Lou is a great guy, and I loved writing for him. On the outside he appears to be a tough, no-nonsense detective who takes his job seriously. When he first meets (and interrogates) Julie, he acts like a typical “bad cop” and is very rough with her.

Lou doesn’t believe in ghosts and thinks all psychics are fakes. He’s also taken Eddie’s death personally. He feels like a failure because he couldn’t find his partner’s killer, and he is still working through his grief. Once Lou starts investigating with Eddie and Julie, his true personality comes out, and he’s more determined than ever to catch Eddie’s killer.

When I wrote the book, I had to make sure readers were able to follow the investigation along with Lou, even when Julie and Eddie weren’t present. I’ve never written a full-fledged mystery or detective story before, but I’ve watched enough mysteries and police dramas, so I think I got it right. I also had the good fortune to be related to a police captain and was able to ask his advice on the “police stuff” in the story. The book is a hybrid of romance and mystery. Sometimes it takes on more of a police procedural/mystery feel than a romance, and then in other scenes with Eddie and Julie, it’s a traditional romance.

I hope mystery, romance, and paranormal readers will enjoy this unique novel. It’s got something for everyone: danger, humor, love, ghosts, and quirky characters. I had fun writing this book and stepping into another world, blending the living and the dead.  (I’m also happy to report that the book has received several excellent reviews. You can read some of them here: https://www.kelliwilkins.com/in-another-world)

Happy Reading,

Kelli A. Wilkins

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelli A Wilkins

Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 20+ romance novels, 7 non-fiction books, and 5 horror ebooks. Her romances span many genres and settings, and she likes to scare readers with her horror stories.

Her latest novel, In Another World, was released in early 2022. This contemporary mystery/romance is set in the world of the paranormal.

She also released two horror shorts, More Than I Bargained For and Silent Sentinel in 2021.

In 2021, Kelli published Journaling Every Week: 52 Topics to Get You Writing. This fun and innovative guide to journaling is filled with hundreds of thought-provoking prompts designed to get you writing about your feelings and emotions.

Kelli posts on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins and Twitter: www.Twitter.com/KWilkinsauthor.

Visit her website/blog www.KelliWilkins.com for a full title list and to find all her social media links.

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