#BookTour “Intergalactic Exterminators Inc” by Ash Bishop

Intergalactic Exterminators Inc by Ash Bishop BannerSeptember 1-30, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

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Synopsis:

Finding work is easy. Staying alive is a little bit harder.

Intergalactic Exterminators Inc by Ash Bishop
When Russ Wesley finds an unusual artifact in his grandfather’s collection of rare antiquities, the last thing he expects is for it to draw the attention of a ferocious alien from a distant planet. Equally surprising is the adventurous team of intergalactic exterminators dispatched to deal with the alien threat. They’re a little wild, and a little reckless. Worse yet, they’re so impressed with Russ’s marksmanship that they insist he join their squad . . . whether he wants to or not.

Praise for Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc:

“This book is so much fun it ought to be illegal in all known galaxies. Ash Bishop has written a wildly imagined, deeply felt, swashbuckling page turner. I loved it.”

Jesse Kellerman, New York Times bestselling author of The Burning

Book Details

Genre: Science Fiction

Published by: Camcat Books

Publication Date: September 6th 2022

Number of Pages: 416

ISBN: 0744305616 (ISBN13: 9780744305616)

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound.Org | CamCat Books

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Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

RUSS

Russ woke up lying flat on the ground, his mind foggy as hell. He could smell blood. When he reached forward as gingerly as possible, his muscles screamed at the movement.

He was on his back. The forest trees waved down at him, blocking out the faint moonlight. He took a couple of deep breaths and reached forward again, groping around in the darkness. His hand came back slick with blood and fur and leaves.

And then he heard voices.

“. . . do you want to do this, then?”

“I just wouldn’t call this tracking, is all. The blood trail’s three feet across. A tiny baby could follow this trail.”

“Show me that baby.”

“Shhh. Both of you, quiet. Something’s registering on the heat index.”

The confusion and pain made it hard to think. Are these locals . . .? he thought. He fumbled in his pocket, looking for his flashlight but also testing for further damage. His hand found the light. It illuminated the small clearing.

The deer’s corpse was just a few feet away, right where he’d shot it, but it wasn’t whole. Something had torn off its back legs, shearing straight through the muscle and bone.

Russ took a deep breath but didn’t let his body or mind react to the sight of the carnage.

Seconds later, the strangers’ flashlights found him.

“He’s over here. To our left.”

Russ heard three or four people hurrying through the brush. A woman in all black stepped into the clearing. Her brown hair was tied back in a bun, and she had a long steel shotgun in her hands. An odd earring twinkled in her ear.

“You okay, son?” she asked, crouching down to place her hands on his chest. She stared into his eyes, examining him. “Looks like you’re going into shock. Just stay on your back and concentrate on breathing.”

A man followed shortly after her. He glanced around, holding up a funny-looking flashlight to cast out the darkness. “He’s alone,” the man confirmed. “Are you from around here?” he asked Russ.

“I’m from California,” Russ groaned.

“I don’t know what that means,” the man said.

“Just hold still,” the woman said. She pulled a gadget from her pack. The end telescoped out like an antenna.

Russ watched as an aqua blue light shone down from the device, running across his entire body. He flinched as it reached his face, and even that small movement caused his lungs to burst with pain.

“He’s got four broken ribs, a hairline fracture in the left wrist and a torn hamstring. Did you see what hit you?” the woman asked him.

Russ tried to think. “No.” The word was as much a groan as anything else.

“Tell us what you remember.”

Russ rolled over onto his side. It hurt badly. Now that she’d pointed out the injuries, everything was localized. His ribs throbbed. His wrist felt hollow. His left leg was pierced with pain. “I was driving down Route Eighty-Nine, and a deer . . .” Russ pointed to the half deer corpse beside him. “. . . this deer dashed in front of my car. I knew I’d injured it by the sound it made when it hit the bumper, but I didn’t think I’d have to chase it this far into the woods to put it out of its misery.”

Russ took a moment to swallow. “After I shot it, I—I was kneeling, jacking out the leftover rifle shells. But then . . . I was flipping through the air. I think I hit that tree right behind me.”

The woman looked back at the tree. “It’s pretty splintered up.”

“I was flying upside down. Backwards.”

“Can you walk?” the man asked.

Two more women, dressed in the same black combat gear, entered the clearing. They both had long rifles slung over their backs.

Russ glanced at the newcomers, his eyes lingering on the guns. They weren’t locals. He could tell that much. “Who are you guys?”

“Just local hunters,” one of the newcomers said.

“Sure,” Russ said.

“Tell me what hit you,” the first woman said firmly.

“’I don’t know. A meteor? A buffalo? Maybe . . . a . . . rig?”

The woman pulled a roll of pills from a MOLLE strap on her backpack. “Swallow two of these. They’re going to kill the pain.”

Russ chewed the pills. Their chalky taste filled his mouth and crept up his nose.

“They won’t cure any of the damage. You’re going to feel fine, but you’re not fine. Move carefully until you can get proper medical treatment. The road is two miles north. Can you reach it without help?”

Russ nodded. Whatever she gave him was blazing through his bloodstream, kicking the fog and ache off every organ that it passed.

“What’d I just eat?”

“Two miles north. Don’t stop for any reason.”

One of the newcomers, a well-muscled young woman with close-cropped brown hair, glanced at the half deer corpse lying next to Russ. Its blood had sprayed a pattern across the splintered tree. “Look at the animal, Kendren,” she said.

The guy, Kendren, shone his flashlight over the deer corpse. “Whoa,” he said. “We definitely found what we’re looking for.”

“You really chummed the water with this stag,” the short-haired woman told Russ.

“Kendren, Starland, mouths shut,” the first woman said, making a slashing gesture. She pulled Russ to his feet. He gritted his teeth against the pain, but it was gone.

Kendren and Starland stayed huddled around the deer, crouched low, inspecting where the hindquarters had been sheared off the bone. Kendren looked at the deer’s head and saw where Russ had shot it.

“You make this shot?” he asked Russ. “In the dark?”

“Yeah.”

“Was the deer already dead? Were you a foot away? Point blank?”

“No. I was up on a ledge over by the river. Forty feet in that direction.” Russ pointed up the gradual incline.

Kendren was still looking at the dead deer. “You shot it between the eyes, from forty feet, in the dark?”

“Yeah. I guess.”

“Head on back to the highway,” the woman said firmly. “You should start now. It might be dangerous to stay here.”

The way she was looking at him, Russ kind of figured she meant that she was what was dangerous. If he didn’t do what she said.

“I just need to find my grandpa’s rifle first,” Russ told her.

She grabbed him by the arm. Her grip was incredibly strong. In the light from her flashlight her eyes seemed almost purple. “Start walking toward—”

Before she could finish her sentence, the third woman, who’d melted back into the darkness, stepped forward again. “Cut the light,” she hissed. “It’s here.”

Something came crashing through the brush, making a howling sound. It wasn’t a sound Russ had ever heard before. It was a deep rumbling growl, followed by a pitched screech that made the hair on his arms stand up. Branches were snapping, and he could hear claws scraping on rock. It was still thirty feet south, but it scared the hell out of him.

“‘El Toreador.’ You’re up,” the woman hissed.

The girl they called El Toreador had been on lookout. She was far enough into the darkness that Russ could barely see her, just a wisp of thick brown hair bobbing in the darkness—that is, until she pounded her chest with her fist. The vest lit up red, casting shadows across the trees. “My real name’s Atara,” she told Russ quickly. Then: “Don’t look so worried. We’re professionals.”

“Starland, hit her with the hormone.”

“The vest is enough,” Atara growled.

Starland slipped back into the light. She was carrying some kind of tube that looked like a pool toy. She pushed hard against the end, blasting thick goo all over the other woman.

“Hurry up. It’s almost here.”

Russ was scrambling around in the brush, looking everywhere for his rifle when the creature burst through the perimeter glow of his tiny flashlight. Atara’s vest reflected off its face, bathing it in red light. It was all fangs and claws, huge, twice the size of a grizzly bear and full of rippling muscles stretched out in terrifying feline grace. It leaped at Atara, but midflight it caught the scent of the goo and reoriented to the left, bumping her off her feet but not harming her.

The huge cat-thing landed softly, immediately turning toward the fallen woman, sniffing the air, growling, and bobbing its head.

“It’s got the scent. The big kitty’s feeling amorous,” Kendren yelled. He, Starland, and the other woman all had their rifles raised. They were tracking the cat, ready to fire. Atara looked pissed, sprawled on the ground with her legs splayed.

“Knock it down. We’re authorized for lethal. What are you waiting for?” she shouted.

The creature was fully in the light now. It looked a lot like a tiger, but it was at least six times the size, with wavy, shaggy hair.

“What the hell is it?” Russ shouted.

The feline was practically straddling Atara. “I don’t like how it’s looking at me. Come on, shoot!” she demanded.

The creature batted a paw, claws extended, and tore the glowing vest off her chest. It drew the vest up to its nose, sniffed, and started to growl again.

Then the huge beast paused, slowly turning away from Atara. It sniffed the air, shoulders hunched, fur on the scruff of its neck rising. As it turned, its deep onyx eyes looked squarely at Russ.

It growled and took a step toward him.

Russ thought his heart had been beating hard before, but as the huge cat glided toward him, the thudding in his chest was so loud it drowned out every other sound. He didn’t even hear the discharge of Starland’s shotgun, two feet away from the monster. The wad of pellets sprayed against the creature’s flank and it howled, tearing away into the darkness so fast Russ didn’t even see it move.

Atara scrambled to her feet and dropped her rifle. “Did you see that? A direct hit and no penetration. I told you Earth tech was garbage. What is this? The thirteenth century? I’m powering up.”

The first woman—the one with the purple eyes—glanced at Russ. She was short, wiry, with the powerful shoulders of a linebacker. Russ realized she was the leader of . . . whoever these people were.

“When are you going to learn to keep your mouth shut?” she barked at Atara.

“You already used the CRC wand on him.”

“Two hours of mandatory training videos. The second this is over.”

“I’d rather be cat food than watch those again,” Atara said.

“You skip the videos and I’ll send you back through CERT training.”

Atara wasn’t really listening. She crashed off through the brush in the direction of the big cat.

Nodding toward Russ, the woman shouted, “Kendren, you’ve got containment.” Then she disappeared into the darkness. Starland drew a pistol from her belt and followed.

“Containment? More like babysitting,” Kendren grumbled. “I should be the one doing the good stuff.” He glanced in the direction they’d gone. Russ kind of agreed. Kendren was huge, at least six-five, and covered from head to toe with what Russ’s cousin had always called beach muscles. He had thick, wavy hair down to his shoulders.

Out in the darkness, Russ could see the others’ flashlights bobbing up and down. They were headed up an incline, probably straight toward the bank of the river.

“Was it my imagination, or was the cat more interested in you than the vest covered in mating hormone?” Kendren asked.

At first, Russ didn’t answer. Finally, he said, “What would make it do that?”

“No idea. It’s supposed to follow the hormone. What’s better than sex?” Kendren shook his head, seemingly unable to answer his own question. He frowned slightly. “The only thing I’ve seen them more interested in is an Obinz stone. You ever seen an Obinz stone? They’re about this big”—Kendren held his hands six inches apart—“usually green, with yellow veins running all along the edges? I don’t think they’re native to . . . this area.” Kendren looked around in distaste. “But I’ve seen these cats jump planets just to get near one if it’s in an unrefined state. An Obinz stone is basically intergalactic catnip.”

“I’ve never seen one,” Russ told him. His voice wavered slightly, but Kendren didn’t seem to notice.

“Then we better shut this vest down,” Kendren said. He stepped up onto a boulder and reached high into a tree, grabbing the vest from where the cat had tossed it. He folded the vest up and tucked it under his arm. “I’m not even sure how to turn it off,” he said.

“That was a saber-toothed tiger, right? You guys cloning stuff? Is this Jurassic World or something?” Russ rubbed his temple. His questions were coming so fast, they were jumbled in his mouth. Kendren had just said intergalactic, and something about jumping planets, but here in the dark Wyoming forest, six miles from his grandmother’s house, he wasn’t yet ready to face those pieces of information.

Kendren threw the vest on the ground and raised his rifle, pumping a slug into it. It kept glowing. “Damn. It’s pretty important I get this thing turned off.”

Starland’s discarded rifle was just a few feet away. While Kendren kicked at the vest with his boot heel, Russ inched toward it.

“Touch the weapon and I’ll shoot you in the face,” Kendren said. He stomped on the vest again.

The flashlights were way north now, probably on the other side of the river. Russ could hear the distant voices arguing about which way the big cat went.

The voices were so loud, neither Kendren nor Russ heard the cat until it was right in front of them, growling, hissing, and spitting. It stalked into the circumference of the faint red light from the vest.

Kendren was still standing on the vest, his rifle slung over his shoulder. Beside him, the cat was enormous, twice as tall as a man. It crouched down, looking him straight in the eye.

“I’m dead,” he said quietly.

The creature coiled back on its powerful flanks and threw itself forward like a bullet. Its wicked claws stretched out, razored edges slashing at Kendren’s neck and chest.

Russ kicked Starland’s gun off the ground, caught it, leveled it, and fired. The bullet split the cat’s eye socket, ripping through its optic nerve and straight into its brain.

Momentum carried the dead body forward on its trajectory, smashing into Kendren and pinning him to the earth.

A few moments later, the rest of the team returned, clambering through the thick brush. The leader approached the enormous beast and nudged it with her boot.

“Is it dead, Bah’ren?” Atara asked, her gun still pointed at the fallen creature.

“Sure is,” the leader, Bah’ren, responded.

The wind was starting to pick up, blowing the branches of the trees, shaking off a few dead leaves.

“How about Kendren?”

“Negative,” Bah’ren said.

“Get it off me,” Kendren demanded. “It’s gotta weigh nine hundred pounds.”

“How many intergalactic laws do you think we’ve broken here?” Atara asked. She moved next to Bah’ren, looking down at Kendren with an expression that was half pity and half amusement.

He had managed to sit up, but his legs were still wedged under the huge carcass.

“Including the law about referencing intergalactic law on a tier-nine planet?” Bah’ren asked.

“You guys are being a little careless,” Starland said.

“Not our fault this thing was a hundred miles off course. The MUPmap promised there wouldn’t be any tier-nine bios in the vicinity.”

“What are we supposed to do now?” Atara said, nodding toward Russ.

“Oh, we’re conscripting him, for sure.” Bah’ren said.

“Really?” Atara said. “We’re getting another human?”

“Who? Who do you mean?” Russ asked. He glanced back in the direction of the highway. His eyes were starting to adjust to the dark again, and he could make out a thick copse of trees just a dozen or so yards away.

“Get the huge beast off me,” Kendren insisted.

Bah’ren moved to one side of the big cat and dug her powerful shoulders into it. Starland ran over to join her, wedging one arm against the creature’s flank, but putting her other arm around the waist of the woman giving the orders. “Atara, come on. You, new guy, we could use your help too. It’s heavy as hell.”

Russ half ran over to them and dug his side into the creature. Its hairy skin sloshed around against the pressure, but the four of them eventually got it moving.

“Roll it the other way!” Kendren demanded. “Its penis is right next to my face.”

They kept rolling, and Kendren kept protesting, as the great shaggy cat slowly grinded over his shoulders and face. Gravity finally caught hold of its weight and the corpse flopped to the ground. The three in black all chuckled as Kendren spit out the taste of cat testicle.

“Oh, that’s what you meant. Sorry about that,” Starland said, laughing.

Kendren crawled onto his knees, still hacking and spitting. He stopped for a minute and looked at the cat’s face, poking a finger in the thing’s empty eye socket and wiggling it around. “Another hell of a shot.”

“The debriefing wasn’t just wrong about location,” Atara said. “The creature’s fur is like steel mesh. Our bullets were doing jackshit.”

Kendren rolled up onto his knees, both hands propped on his thighs. “You saved my life,” he told Russ.

“No problem,” Russ said.

It was the last thing Russ said before he dropped the rifle and sprinted full speed back toward the safety of the trees. He was running as fast as he could, pumping his arms, banging his shins on rocks, bumping past pines, carelessly plunging through the dark.

He’d only gotten about twenty yards, running full speed, when something metal slapped around his ankle. It tipped him off balance and, for the second time that night, he could feel himself careening head over heels.

He hit a tree, again, then slowly slipped out of consciousness.

Excerpt from Intergalactic Exterminators Inc by Ash Bishop. Copyright © 2022 by Ash Bishop. Reproduced with permission from Ash Bishop. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

Ash BishopAsh Bishop is a lifetime reader and a lifetime nerd, loving all things science fiction and fantasy. He has been a high school English teacher, and worked in the video game industry, as well as in educational app development. He even used to fetch coffee for Quentin Tarantino during the production of the film Jackie Brown. Bishop currently produces script coverage for a major Hollywood studio, but he spends his best days at home in Southern California with his wonderful wife and two wonderful children. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing from San Diego State University. This is his debut novel.

Find Our Ash Bishop Online:

AshBishop.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @Ashlbishop
Instagram – @ashlbishop
Twitter – @AshLBishop
Facebook
TikTok – @ashlbishop

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#Excerpt “Nightmasters Book 2: Change of Engagement” by Loran Holt

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Nightmasters, Book 2

 

Fantasy

Date Published: June 4 (Hardcover Release August 11)

Publisher: Acorn Publishing

Kelgan Defthand and his rather motley crew continue on their quest to defeat an unknown and terrible malevolence. They are expecting the same places, faces, and traces of evil, but an enormous surprise awaits them. A mysterious ship takes them to an even more mysterious destination, and “Others” seem to have intruded.

Who are they? What do they want? Can they be trusted?

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EXCERPT

Neroma di Nerrill! Her name was like an aria—he could have written an opera with music soaring and soaring until . . . .

“Aaaargh!”

A sharp pain in his hand brought him up short. Raising his head in bewilderment he found himself lying, face down, fully clothed, on barren earth while clutching a sharp rock. The little rill which had run so merrily by, was a channel of cracked mud alongside a forlorn stand of lifeless, barren tree trunks with fallen branches.

Finding his feet, he ran in horror back to the campsite. Nothing! There was no sign of a camp—no people, no wagon, just a scraggly bush or two and a rutted dirt road stretching both directions into the no-longer-seen distance.

Like a madman he ran—back and forth, back and forth—until, exhausted, his chest heaving with painful unhs, he gave way to sobbing despair.

No! It’s not real! That’s what they want! I’ve got to laugh—laugh!

Calming his breath, he ventured a short attempt at laughter. No discernable alteration of his surroundings.

Again, and again, he forced out laughs of every type—shrill giggles, amused chortles, booming guffaws—the barren empty landscape was unchanging.

The desperate nature of his predicament was rapidly dawning on him.

Noting that his hand hurt and was bleeding, from where the rock had actually pierced the skin, he almost soundlessly mouthed a small healing spell. The bleeding continued, unabated.

Thoroughly terrified now, he strove for a semblance, at least outwardly, of rationality. Making what he knew was a pathetic try at steeling himself, he poured, or hoped, additional strength into his wards.

That was probably it, he told himself, I got carried away and just forgot . . . .

He repeated the healing spell in a low voice, enunciating the words with careful attention to the way they rolled off his tongue, and with just the right cadence—not too fast, not too slow, a measured beat.

The bleeding continued. It was drying up a bit, but that was only the result of the moistureless air and the passage of time.

For the first time he noticed he was without either sword or even the small dagger he concealed in his boot. One doesn’t wear piercing instruments of that sort to a rendezvous, was his sourly sardonic thought.

He sat on a fallen branch and tried to think like a man without power or armament. A measure of sanity had returned but was of little comfort. He kept his thoughts carefully away from Neroma—that way lay madness. He knew that for a certainty.

There is a road with ruts—that means someone comes by on occasion. So, there must be a town somewhere down the road. I just have to find it, and hope they don’t immediately execute every stranger who comes their way.

He sat a little longer, practicing his meditation exercises, until he felt he could behave like any traveler who had gotten a little lost. Then he rose, brushed off his tunic, and tried to look as though the dishevel­ment came from the result of walking rather than hysteria.

He walked until he was footsore and the sun was low the sky. Just about to give up and try for a hollow in the dirt he could roll up in; coming over a low rise, he at last saw signs of a town.

Well, at least there seems to be inhabitants of this Phosphene deserted place.

Although it didn’t appear to be a prosperous community, there was some hope for a bed—even in a stable—and possibly a crust of bread, if they could spare any. He had some doubts on that score. From the vantage point of the rise, he surveyed the village, which by all rights could not rise even to that description. Most of the scantly scattered cottages—Cow sheds more like—were already dark. The villagers undoubtedly too impoverished to waste candles on relieving the darkness, and the meager wisps of smoke rising from the chimneys spoke of frugality to the point of privation. Nonetheless, he kept on walking for want of a better solution.

Arriving at the outskirts, and suddenly conscious of a blister on his right heel, he caught sight of a Blacksmith establishment which still showed signs of life.

Hobbling in that direction, he was hailed by a burly, bearded man who looked as though he was chosen by a Mummer’s troupe to play a Blacksmith. The man held a glowing rod of iron, which passed very well for a weapon.

Answering the hail, and showing both hands, Kelgan asserted, “I have lost my way, it seems, and have walked for hours in what must be a wrong direction.”

“And where was that you was headed, pray.”

“The house of my cousin, who lives alone outside of a town—I hope this is the one. I have come from Asquita (Kelgan hoped there might have been such a place), do you know it?”

“Heard the name somehow. Don’t know it more than that.”

Kelgan blew out a breath of relief.

“My cousin was never much for people, and lives off the road, so I must have walked right past, or gone the opposite direction from the one needed. Do you have an inn, or anything of that sort? If I could shelter for the night, I could retrace my steps.”

A scornful snort followed his inquiry. “An inn? You are a stranger.”

“I’m not too proud to sleep in a stable. I’m good with mules.”

“Them, we got. I have a shed out back for my mule, if you want to share.” The Blacksmith sniggered.

“More than kind. Anyplace off the road, and under a roof.”

The Smith looked him over with something like a sneer. “Looks like you’ve already been sleepin’ rough.”

Kelgan nodded, hoping he looked sincere, “Yes, it was farther than I was aware, and the towns were farther apart. I’m afraid I’m a bit travel-worn,” he added, with a touch of rue thrown in.

“If you’ve got any money, I’ll warm you some water to splash in. Won’t be a real bath, but it’ll be somethin’.”

Kelgan’s heart sank. Money! He felt at his belt, and was over­joyed to find that his small purse was still attached to his belt.

“Well, I’ve got a little. I think I could pay you for the water and maybe a bit of bread.”

The Smith appraised him again, shrewdly. Kelgan’s gangly frame and lack of armament must have reassured him. “Said you were good with mules?”

“Uh, yes, I am. A goodly bit of experience, actually.” He wondered what unpleasant task the Smith had in mind.

“My old jenny’s been limpin.’ Maybe you could see what’s wrong. She’s not in a mood to let me close.”

Kelgan gulped, “I’ll see what I can do.”

The Smith pointed the way to the shed. “I’d take you back there, but I gotta warm this rod up again.” “It’s fine, my thanks.”

Feeling his way in the rapidly darkening evening, Kelgan nearly ran right into the shed.

Not much room for the jenny and me. He gave a short chuckle, then rubbed his eyes.

Guess I misestimated in the dark. The shed was larger than he had first thought.

Sliding the barn door to one side, he peered into the gloom. The mule, startled at his appearance, brayed nervously and shuffled side­ways.

Not even a stall. Oh well, if she doesn’t object to strange fellows sharing her bed. A little titter escaped him.

He eased in, keeping to the wall. Uttering noises meant to be soothing, he inched a little closer, keeping both hands out in front of him.

“Good evening, Madame, what seems to be the problem?”

The mule, puzzled, backed away, but without signs of hostility.

He inched just a tad closer. “I hear you’ve been having a little trouble with your hoof? Or is it the shin? A touch of rheumatics in the hip?” He kept his voice even and cheerful.

“What if I just give you a little grooming session before I look at your limbs?”

He cast around for a brush. The only thing he could see was a broom that was styled so that it could be pushed.

“Uh, hold on just a moment, Madame. This calls for a little improvisation.”

Looking the push-broom over, he determined that it probably wouldn’t scrape the hide off Her Majesty if he brushed carefully. The handle presented a larger problem. He couldn’t see a way to separate it from the brush outside of brute force, which would scare the already skittish animal half to death.

Maybe if I just hold the Dark-frakking thing over my shoulder I can brush without breaking any of her ribs. He gave another little chuckle at the image in his mind, then frowned. Did the handle seem looser than he had thought? He wiggled it experimentally. Yes! He pulled it free and sidled up to the mule.

Has anyone told you Madame, that you are a splendid example of muleocity? Indeed, I believe you are the most mulish mule of my acquaintance.”

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About the Author

Recently retired from a job as a University Professor, and looking for diversion in sunny Southern California, Loran Holt did what any Southern Californian does – took up writing, of course. Feeling that sword-and-sorcery suited her personality admirably, she set her sights on that genre. Nightmasters is the result and her first published work of fiction, but she is already the published author of two books on silent film costume design under the Author name Lora Ann Sigler.

Contact Link

Website

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Purchase Link

Amazon

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RABT Book Tours & PR

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#BookTour “All the Broken Girls” by Linda Hurtado Bond

August 22 – September 16, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

book cover

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Synopsis:

 

When one falls

Crime reporter Mari Alvarez was never able to solve her mother’s murder ten years ago. But when a woman is gunned down on the doorstep of her West Tampa neighborhood, Mari can’t shake the eerie sense of connection.

The others will break

Now there have been two murders in two days. Each crime scene awash with arcane clues―and without a trace of DNA from the killer. And for each victim, a doll. The first is missing an eye. The second is missing a heart. But are these clues leading to the killer…or messages for Mari?

Unless she plays the game…

Caught up in a maelstrom of Old-World superstition, secrets, and ties to her own past, Mari has only one option. Put the puzzle together before someone else dies―even if it destroys her career. But there’s no escaping the hungry spider’s web when it’s been made just for you…

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller

Published by: Entangled Publishing, LLC

Publication Date: August 23rd 2022

Number of Pages: 368

ISBN: 1649372140 (ISBN13: 9781649372147)

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

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Read an excerpt:

I’m running fifteen minutes late after driving my Abuela Bonita to her doctor’s appointment. But that’s not bad, actually, for Cuban time. Of course my statement high heels click on the uncarpeted floor like my abuela’s disapproving tongue and all I can think of is that silly commercial with the tagline “Wanna get away?” Except I can’t escape. It’s my first day back at the TV station after two weeks at home with no work and no pay. I’m still on probation, and I need this job like I need water and air.

Speaking of which, the thought makes me notice how parched my throat is and I’m afraid my voice will crack when I talk. My lungs are so empty I’m not sure I can deliver any story pitches, even if my job depends on it.

Which, it does.

Reporting is in my blood.

But my paycheck—also a necessity.

I rub my right wrist. The red rope bracelet is there. The pea-sized, black gemstone dangles from it. I roll the azabache charm between my fingers, silently going through my routine: twist the stone three times to the right, three to the left. Six times in all. My lucky number. I swear I’ll never go to a crime scene again without the charm. I’ve learned my lesson. Asi es. Truth. That’s how it is.

I pull out the chair across from Mr. Payton and accidentally scrape the floor. It’s loud. Que escandalo!

More stares cut my way. The air conditioning kicks up a notch, but that means nothing to the sweat rolling down my back, sliding into the most inconvenient places. I ignore the wet tickle and stand even taller before taking a seat.

My boss drills me with that intense stare that says everything he’s not allowed to vocalize for fear Human Resources will reprimand him. “Thanks for joining us, Ms. Alvarez.”

“Had to drop off my grandmother at her doctor’s office. She doesn’t drive.” I sit and twist the water bottle on the table until the label faces me. I look at El Jefe and force the corners of my mouth up. Abuela Bonita always told me, no matter what’s going on inside, you can win over the world with a warm smile.

“Let’s continue.” Mr. Payton looks at Paul Johnson, our political reporter.

Paul clears his throat. “As I was saying, the governor is going to hold a press conference on the opioid crisis at a local…”

I cross my ankles to keep my leg from bouncing. It’s clear my boss doesn’t trust me anymore. Not since my serial killer story got the station sued.

I catch the ambitious, crime reporter wannabe eyeing me from the right corner of the room. Bet she’s dying to know what happened to warrant my suspension. She probably already knows. Secrets don’t stay secrets for long in a newsroom.

What the hell had gone wrong?

Abuela Bonita calls it mala suerte. She insisted I wear the azabache bracelet today to ward off the bad
luck following me. I find the charm again and twist.

I will fix this. Don’t know how. But I will repair my damaged reputation.

“Alvarez?”

I flinch in my seat.

“You have anything to add to the meeting?” El Jefe taps his engraved pen on the table in a slow, rhythmic pattern.

“Well, Mr. Payton.” He likes it when we use his last name. “I thought I’d do a feature on a young girl in New Tampa Hospital who needs a kidney transplant.”

“That from the crime beat reporter?” I hear the words he isn’t speaking.

“I know.” I answer in my head. “Eleven Emmys, and I still messed up that last crime story, didn’t I?” Out loud I say, “She’s an artist—truly amazing gift— and she’s willing to auction off her paintings to raise money so people can get tested to see if they’re a match. We could save her life by sharing her story.”

My boss nods but says, “Busch Gardens is showing off a new baby sloth this evening.”

My cheeks burn. I sit back. The heat floods down into my chest. “A baby sloth?” I’m pretty sure this is what a public castration feels like.

“We have enough crime, corruption, death, and destruction today. We need something positive after Weather. Sloth baby it is. Can’t go wrong with baby animals,” he says.

Can’t get the station sued again, you mean.

“You’re on that, Alvarez.”

“Gracias.” I close my eyes and visualize a sloth picking at El Jefe’s bushy, needs-to-be-cut eyebrows
with those two big claw-like toes. In slow motion, of course. “If our viewers see what I’m envisioning, they’re going to love it.” I smile. Warmly.

Whatever. It will keep me employed for at least one more day. My sister Izzy and Abuela are counting on me.

My phone goes off. I look down, fumbling it as I try to flip off the ringer. “Sorry. Sorry.” It’s not someone calling. It’s my home RING security camera alerting me. My pulse takes off like an F-16. Someone is at our front door. My heart stalls. And falls.

“An important source?” El Jefe asks.

A scoff from the right corner of the room. “Baby sloth police calling?” Crime reporter wannabe gets the room laughing.

Wannabe must have missed her café con leche this morning. I join the laughter and wink at her, despite the slow scalding heat I’m feeling. Abuela Bonita also taught me you get more with honey than vinegar. “No. No. Sorry.” Just my sister’s boyfriend of the week, who is not supposed to be at our house. I shake my head.

“Alvarez?”

My spine straightens. “Yes?”

“You can take the new photographer, Chris Jensen.”

That pulls me back to the moment. “But I always work with Orlando.” A big eyeball fills the RING camera at the front door, but it isn’t Izzy’s new boyfriend. His eyes are as blue as the Florida sky. Isabella’s are dark brown, so dark you can’t tell where the pupil ends, and the iris begins. Izzy pulls back and yells at the RING camera, “Stop spying on me! De conseguir una vida!

My younger sister is telling me to get a life of my own.

Snickers flicker across the room.

Every hair on the back of my neck rises. The audio on my iPhone is still on. Wanna get away?

I glance at my friend Kiara. She smiles and shakes her head. I appreciate her support. Time to turn the sound off my iPhone.

“Everything okay?” El Jefe’s features remain constant. He doesn’t chastise me for my sister’s outburst, even though she interrupted his busy news meeting.

“Yes sir, I’m fine.” Wait till I get home, Isabella Alvarez! “I’m fine.”

He nods, but his eyes narrow.

I sit through one of his nerve-wracking, wish-I-knew-what-he’s thinking pauses.

He says, “You can take Orlando.”

I exhale.

El Jefe is throwing me a peace offering, I think. Or maybe he believes I can’t even handle an animal story with the newbie photog, so giving me Orlando is like tossing out a safety vest.

Wow.

Two weeks ago, I would have rolled my eyes at the insult of such an easy, nonrelevant assignment. I would have been deeply offended by the shade of making sure I had a veteran babysitter with me.

Tonight, I’m grateful for it.

Even though I know I can’t possibly screw up a baby sloth story, right?

***

Excerpt from All the Broken Girls by Linda Bond. Copyright 2022 by Linda Bond. Reproduced with permission from Entangled Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

Linda Bond

By day, Linda Hurtado Bond is an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. By night, she’s an author of James Bond like adventures and heart-stopping thrillers. Linda met her husband Jorge on assignment in Cuba, twenty-some years later they’ve raised a doctor, a nurse, a pilot, a paramedic firefighter, and an aspiring psychologist. A breast cancer survivor, she’s active in the Tampa community raising money and awareness. When not working she finds time for her passions, her husband Jorge, world travel, classic movies, and solving a good mystery. Visit Linda at lindabond.com.

Catch Up With Linda Bond:
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#BlogTour “Meet Me on Platform 3” by Zara Stoneley

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Two people. One journey…

Millie loves her city life, her city friends and writing her true(ish) confessions column – but she’s starting to wonder if the grass really is greener on the other side, or if her heart really belongs back in Northumberland, with her mum who is struggling after the death of Millie’s dad.

Joe is happy doing what he does, writing games. He could do it anywhere, but since leaving home he’s lived believing that looking back means you’ve failed, and life is about taking chances and seeing the world.

So, when the two meet up surely it can never work, their lives are moving in opposite directions. On different tracks…

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Zara StoneleyAuthor Bio

USA Today bestselling author Zara Stoneley was born in a small village in the UK. She wanted to be a female James Herriot, a spy, or an author when she grew up.

After many (many) years, and many different jobs, her dream of writing a bestseller came true, and more than half a million copies of her books have now been sold worldwide.

She writes about friendship, dreams, love, and happy ever afters, and hopes that her tales make you laugh a lot, cry a little, and occasionally say ‘ahhh’.

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#BookTour “At the Gate” by Trey Stone

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The perfect book to get you in the fall mood! Check out At the Gate by Trey Stone and pre-order a copy today!

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At the Gate

Expected Publication Date: September 6th, 2022

Genre: Psychological Thriller/ Paranormal/ Novella

Publisher: Inked in Gray

Length: 170 Pages

Checking out isn’t an option

Joseph can’t live with the fact that he’s responsible for his daughter’s death. He checks into The Gate as his final destination, but after the disappearance of a guest everything begins to unravel. Days go missing, people are acting strange, and nothing is what it should be. At every turn, he’s reminded of this most painful mistake.

Joseph disappears down a rabbit hole of mysterious events, all the while keeping up the battle against his own inner demons. Now he is trapped inside a haunted hotel trying to find a guest that may not even exist.

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“Checking In”

Joseph rang the bell for the fifth time. The loud, dreadful chime echoed throughout the sparsely decorated lobby. The room had a reception desk on one side, a doorway to a dining lounge directly opposite, and a big old stairwell at the end.

“Hello?” he called into the dark room behind the desk. It was eerily quiet in the hotel, but he thought he heard people moving around in that back room: shuffling around, feet dragging across the moldy carpet, as if they’d heard him come in but couldn’t be bothered to get up.

Turning in a half-circle, Joseph wondered if he was even at the right place. It didn’t look like there was anyone in the lobby. It was so quiet, so empty. But when Joseph had mentioned The Gate, the driver who brought him there hadn’t even questioned him. This had to be it.

This is the place where I’ll end it all. It’s perfect.

“Hello, is there anyone—?”

“Yes?” a hard voice asked from behind him.

Joseph startled and smashed his hip into the side of the reception desk with a painful groan. “Holy hell, you scared me. Do you work here?”

“Of course I do.”

The man—or boy, rather—looked too young to work there. His clothes were too big for his arms, his shirt too long at the sleeves, his jacket too wide across the shoulders. He had thin, black hair that fell into his eyes.

“Hi, I’ve booked a room. Joseph P—”

“Of course, Mr. Podwall. We’ve been expecting you.”

When the boy spoke his name, Joseph’s stomach sank. The way Bryan said it, with familiar melancholy—or was it disdain?—made Joseph uneasy.

“Good, you got my booking then, I wasn’t sure if—” “Frank told us. Like I said, we’ve been expecting you.”

“Frank? The driver?” hasn’t that what the cab driver had said his name was? Joseph couldn’t quite remember, and he didn’t recall giving the driver his own.

“Sure, why not,” the boy behind the desk said. He turned a few pages in a large book, making an entry here and there.

Joseph heard movement behind the boy again, in the office

—or whatever the hell it was—and leaned over to see a figure glide past on the dirty, red carpet. Must have been who the boy was referring to when he said ‘us.’

“There you go, Mr. Podwall. Welcome to The Gate.” The boy handed him a metal key. It was large and cold, ornate like the rest of the hotel. It felt heavy in Joseph’s hand.

“You’re in room 704. Top floor. The elevator isn’t in working order I’m afraid.” The boy smiled a far too toothy smile, giggling as he did so.

Joseph didn’t get the joke and wasn’t about to ask what was so funny.

“Leave your luggage here. I’ll have someone bring it up to your room.”

“It’s not that heavy. I can grab it myself,” Joseph said as he reached for his suitcase, but with a sharp movement, the boy cut his hand in front of him as if to say Stop!

“Leave it, Joe!”

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About the Author

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Trey Stone has studied archaeology in England, lived on an Arctic island for two years, and has more guitars than he has room for (the real problem is that his home is too small). He grew up on a farm in rural, western Norway, and has a bunch of siblings, half-siblings, and in-laws, and is uncle to–oh, I don’t know–twenty or so kids. They’re all pretty awesome, he thinks. It’s difficult to remember who’s who anymore.

Trey has been telling stories for as long as he can remember. He used to create “books” when he was little by folding and stapling a bunch of paper together to write and draw scenes on the pages. He wrote a bunch of short stories when he was younger and tried his hand at a fantasy novel as a teen (but hardly any of that got anywhere). Then he finally wrote his first thriller five years ago and just never stopped. Trey Stone is the author of A State of Despair and The Consequences of Loyalty.

Trey Stone | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

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#BookTour “The Last Daughter” by Alexis L. Menard

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Welcome to the highly anticipated book tour for Alexis L. Menard’s brand-new adult fantasy, The Last Daughter! Read on for more info and don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end!

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The Last Daughter

Publication Date: August 24th, 2022

Genre: Adult Fantasy/ Norse Mythology

She’s cursed with a dead witch’s power over fate, he’s a heartless demigod born for revenge and redemption. Once her enemy, now a conflict of interest. The fate of the Nine Realms dangles on a dangerously thin thread.

Fate was cruel enough by dealing Ailsa with a fatal illness. But when her father and sisters are killed at war, she becomes the Last Daughter in a long line of shieldmages. This power comes with a price, however, coincidentally getting her kidnapped by an elfin she’s only heard of through legends.

Vali’s realm is dying, inflicted by the black magic, sedir, and the only way to heal his land is by delivering the Tether to Odin, king of the gods. When he finds this power bound inside a mortal woman, he is forced to bring her and her shapeshifting wolven back to his home in Alfheim.

But their journey across the Tree of Life is perilous, and betrayal is imminent. Vali and Ailsa must depend on each other for survival, a mutual dependency that turns into a passionate love affair. With Odin waiting on this promised power, a kindred spirit found in her enemy, and a dark threat neither Ailsa nor Vali intended to find in the bright lands of Alfheim, what started as a simple quest has turned into a fight to save all gods, mortals, and fae alike. Vikings meet magic in this fresh retelling of Norse Mythology.

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About the Author

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Alexis is a registered nurse based out of Louisiana where she lives with her husband, toddler, and two oversized dogs. She enjoys long walks through the Renaissance Fair, reading smutty romance into the dark hours of the night, and wine nights with her “Finer Things Club.” She hopes to enrich the lives of her readers with worlds they can both escape in and take with them long after the final chapter.

Alexis L. Menard | Instagram | TikTok | Twitter

Click the link below for a chance to win either a paperback copy of The Last Daughter (US/ Canada) or a digital edition of the book (International)

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#BookTour “My Thirty-First Year (And Other Calamities)” by Emily Wolf

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Welcome to the book tour for My Thirty-First Years (And Other Calamities) by Emily Wolf!

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My Thirty-First Year

Publication Date: August 2, 2022

Genre: Women’s Fiction/ Modern Contemporary/ Family Fiction

12 April 2022… Zoe Greene is approaching her 30th birthday not with celebrations in mind, but by recovering from an abortion, planning a divorce, negotiating family drama, and later, reentering the modern dating pool. Using humor and unfiltered truth (and Zoe’s favorite rock band, U2), Houston-based author Emily Wolf’s debut, My Thirty-First Year (And Other Calamities), illuminates the realities of womanhood, and connects to them through shared challenges, resilience, and hope.

“Years ago, I benefited from a safe and legal abortion. I didn’t need the abortion to save my life. I needed it to live my life—fully and freely. I want my women readers to reflect on or anticipate their twenties and thirties and be able to say something out loud, mourn something, laugh at it, or release it,” said Emily.

“Bad romance, messy divorce, traumatic abortion … and rock and roll. There’s a ring of authentic experience in Emily Wolf’s surprisingly light-hearted novel about some very heavy topics.”
~ Neil McCormick (author of Killing Bono)

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About the Author

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Emily is an ardent feminist, U2 fan, and native Chicagoan. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Emily now lives in Houston with her husband, children, and dogs. She volunteers with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and with her synagogue’s Board of Trustees and Social Justice Core Team. Emily has published several essays in the Houston Chronicle and regularly shares new writing at emilyvwolf.medium.com.

Emily Wolf | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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August 31st

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#BookTour “Year Zero (Revolution’s Children Book 1)” by David Dean Lugo

Welcome to the book tour for the first installment in David Dean Lugo’s Revolution’s Children series, Year Zero! Read on for more info!

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Year Zero (Revolution’s Children Book 1)

Publication Date: May 24th, 2022

Genre: YA Dystopian

A thrilling new YA dystopian novel has dark parallels to a conceivable future America.

It’s been two years since the establishment of the brutal dictatorship The Incorporated Precincts of America and its governing Board and CEO, as well as the death of the old America. Sixteen-year-old Joey Cryer has two missions: to keep their six-year-old sister, Julia, safe, and to not die.

America first. America last. America always. This is the vow that the CEO leader of the IPA—The Incorporated Precincts of America—pledges to his suffering citizens. With violent protests breaking out in every city, attacks against immigrants, and the national crisis of the Capitol Event, young Joey must keep their vigilance in staying clear of the IPA’s ever-watching Sons of Liberty—its ruthless police force—to avoid becoming “disappeared” with his little sister. This means not maligning the governing body, The Corporation, with any thought, word, or action, or else suffer the consequence. One such sanction for disobeying citizens is being forced on to the required viewing television show “Manhunt,” where they fight for their lives against the Sons, upholding The Corporation’s domination over society.

Two years earlier, before the Second Revolution ended and before the election, Joey’s biggest concern was sitting at the right cafeteria table at his high school or if the girl they liked liked them back. Avoiding the school bully, Harlan Grundy, was always a plus, and so was not getting pummeled. So, it was no big surprise that Harlan became a Son, loyal to The Corporation and carrying out their dirty deeds to keep citizens in check and in fear. The only correct response to a Son? Everything is goodly.

Having lost everything in the revolution’s aftermath, Joey takes an unfathomable risk by helping the near-dead leader of the rebellion, John Doe. Having anything to do with Doe will skip you right past penalties and sanctions all the way to the death penalty, not only for you, but for anyone you love. And yet Joey’s sole mission is keep Julia safe until they can secretly escape to freedom. To do so, they finds they have an unlikely partner in a recently betrayed Harlan. Trusting their former enemy may be the only way to ensure their future—but is it worth the risk for Joey, Julia, and his community?

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Excerpt

No law respecting the established religion, prohibiting its free and compulsory practice, may be passed. All citizens free or otherwise are responsible for their speech, as is the press. The Board may sanction the people or the press should they choose to malign The Corporation or its representatives in print, thought, word, or action.

—First Amendment, Constitution Incorporated Precincts of America

A hand grabs my shoulder, and I know I’m screwed. The flickering light from the Jumbotron across the street dispels the concealing darkness. What was I thinking trying to sneak my way across town square after dark? I pull my hat lower, hoping that he won’t recognize me.

Especially if curfew has started.

Dan and Katie are starting the Manhunt preshow on the Jumbotron, which isn’t a good sign. Manhunt rarely starts before seven.

My mouth is dry, and my heart’s hammering fills my ears. It’s the fight-or-flight response kicking in big time. Except in my case, it’s the flight-and-still-get-pommeled response.

Even knowing how it will end, I still think about running.

Just for a second.

Old habits die hard.

I move my eyes to the hand, hoping it’s not covered by a white glove. Crap. It is. So, the he attached to the hand isn’t a regular cop. A cop will just shake me down and let me go. But not this guy.

He’s a Son of Liberty.

I’m surprised he hasn’t shot me yet. They usually do. I mean, it’s kinda their go-to move. I glance from his glove to his face.

I silence a scream. This guy isn’t any old Son. He’s Harlan Grundy. That name alone makes most kids cry. Always has.

Harlan’s been bullying kids since the old days, back when we still lived in a place called the USA. By the time The Corporation ran things and changed the name to The Incorporated Precincts of America, or IPA, Harlan had transformed bullying into an art form. I mean, watching him terrorize a kid is like watching Michelangelo turn a hunk of stone into a statue. Pure artistry.

Unless you’re the rock.

All the Sons are big, but Harlan’s bigger. Not like Schwarzenegger big. It’s more natural. Like a gorilla. Most let his stocky form, with its squashed nose, thick fingers, and stubby legs, fool them. But he possessed a speed unheard of, even among Olympic athletes.

And I, underneath this big ass coat, am just a scrawny sixteen-year-old. Exercise and me are not the best of friends. I mean, we wave when we pass by in the halls. Unless running from Harlan counts. Because if it does, I’m a gold medalist.

Okay, maybe a bronze because he always catches me.

“Hold it, citizen,” he says loud enough for me to hear over the Jumbotron’s droning voices. That is quite a feat since they always have it turned up to like a million.

Wait. Citizen?

He doesn’t recognize me.

He says something, but Dan speaks over him from the Jumbotron. “We’ll be back after this message.”

A second later, tolling bells replace his smug voice, sounding out the half hour. I glance at the screen, hoping it says six thirty. Instead, a robotic voice says, “The time is now seven thirty. Curfew is in effect.”

I’m doubly screwed.

After curfew, you get arrested or worse, unless you’re on official IPA business. It won’t take anyone more than one look to know I’m not. And Harlan’s fists and I have known each other since I was eight, and he was eleven. It’s only a matter of time until his dim brain dusts off the cobwebs and the first faint itch of recognition dawns on him.

If he doesn’t shoot me, which I doubt, I have two simple choices left. But I won’t get to choose. Instead, an Inquisitor will decide between sending me to a Liberty Camp or inducting me into the army.

The second is most likely. They’re drafting more people every day. Younger and younger too. I mean, except for like Ward Commanders, Inquisitors, and Auditors, the whole Corporation is getting younger. I guess they figure the young don’t have as much attachment to the way things were.

The CEO says we’re winning the war, and the extra troops are for the last push into Ottawa. But I’ve heard the rumors. Who hasn’t?

Some say Mexico, Canada’s ally, has won ground in the Southwest. Others say the early winter weather has paralyzed our troops in Ontario and Alaska. What’s happening in Europe is anyone’s guess.

So, whatever the Inquisitor decides, it’s better if Harlan shoots me.

Usually, I’m home before curfew, but I had forgotten it’s earlier now. That’s thanks to the Does—John and Jane Doe—and their rebels blowing up stuff. Last Tuesday, the day most Sons get their rations, they blew up the rationing center. Now, the rest of us are still living off our last pitiful portion.

Movies make rebellion seem exciting and heroic. I guess it is, fighting oppression or whatever. But from where I sit, trying to get by and staying off The Corporation’s radar, it’s terrifying. It doesn’t help people like me. Maybe it will someday, but I’m not holding my breath.

I burrow deeper into my father’s coat, trying to avoid eye contact. The coat must be the only reason Harlan hasn’t recognized me. There’s no point in trying to hide the bag of contraband I’m holding.

I mean, it’s right there.

Besides, it’s just dumb cans of stupid beef stew I bought at the black market. E-rations don’t hardly give anyone enough food. So, most people, leastways those who can afford it, turn to the black market. Even Block Watch Commanders like Harlan.

It’s not totally the Does fault, though. Food, at least the unpowdered kind, was scarce even before they blew up the rationing center. The troops passing through on their way north to the wall, took most of what we had. They didn’t bother leaving much for us citizens.

I’m not sweating the stew, though. I expect he’ll “impound” it. I’m more worried that what’s stuffed into my belt will spill out. If it does, he’ll definitely shoot me.

He’s eyeing the bag though. His mouth might even be watering. We both stand there, playing our weird freeze tag while waiting for the stupid bell to stop tolling.

As soon as it does, Harlan says, “You’re behind curfew, citizen. Slice me the stew, and I won’t donate a one.”

Ugh. Slanguage.

It takes me a moment to translate his words to regular English. If I give him the stew, he won’t give me a class one penalty. I can’t speak because he’ll recognize my voice, so I nod. Kneeling, I set the bag down and take off.

I don’t look back.

You never look back.

If you do, they might see your face, connect it to a list of subversives, rebels, or whatever list you didn’t know you were on.

I’m two blocks away before a grin spreads across my face. Dumbass Harlan was so preoccupied by the bag that he didn’t notice the cans crammed in my pockets.

I decide to go home through the woods. It’s longer and a thousand percent spookier, but it has more cover. Plus, The Corporation hasn’t put cameras in the forest. At least not yet anyway. That might change if they suspect the squirrels of treason.

Plus, Harlan lives two houses away from me. If he’s heading home, it’s worth the extra twenty-minute walk to avoid him.

I trudge along. I can’t see a thing in the inky blackness. Everything is a muddied silhouette, and I don’t want to trip on something and break my neck. I used to find the sounds of leaves crunching under my feet satisfying. But I don’t anymore.

They just tell the Sons or the rebel squirrels where you are.

My breath comes quick now. Heart racing. It’s my anxiety getting the better of me. I don’t bother fighting it because I’m too busy cursing myself. If Harlan is out on patrol, he’s nowhere near his house. Then again, it might be dumb luck that we ran into each other.

Either way, I don’t really care right now because I’m sure Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers has spotted my dumbass alone in the woods. I stop for a second, but the sound of crunching leaves doesn’t.

A twig snaps.

I turn.

A half-naked figure lunges from the darkness, falling to the ground.

I almost scream.

A man lies motionless. I get a little closer and notice he’s covered in blood. Against my better judgment, I turn him over. A few holes leak his blood.

Someone shot him.

The only people with guns these days are Sons or rebels. Which means they’re probably out searching for him. That thought alone makes me nope my sorry ass out of the woods as fast as I can.

I emerge, unharassed by either rebel squirrels or a fictional slasher, near the non-Harlan end of my block. My breath comes in short, panicked gasps. I’m more than a little embarrassed by how fast I’m moving down the block.

I turn the corner. My house blazes bright in the frigid night. It’s almost enough to chase away the harsh twilight glow from the screens on the telephone poles.

Julia, my little sister hates being alone, but she isn’t right now. Unless Winnie’s wandered off again. She has turned on every light, which means he probably did. The Sons don’t pay him much mind, so he’ll be okay. Hopefully, she hasn’t used up our electricity ration for the month.

I linger in the driveway, eyes darting. I need to make sure I wasn’t followed.

An angry orange flower of fire blooms over the nearby hills. Must be the rebels blowing something up or being blown up themselves. Either way, a bunch of people are dead. A tenth of a second later, a dull roar reaches my ears, and everything shakes.

Every porch light in the neighborhood blinks on, and people spill out from their houses, scurrying around like angry ants. A few have wide eyes, their O-shaped mouths gulping the chilly night air. Which reminds me of the fish that Dad and I used to catch. Others just sigh, wringing their hands. A few look furious.

I’ve lived here for like forever and recognize everyone.

That is everyone except the young man with the neat dark hair walking along the walkway in front of the house next door. His hands are in his pockets, posture crisp but relaxed.

I do a double take because I didn’t expect to see anyone coming from there. It and the house across the street have stood vacant since the Perrys and the Youngs disappeared a year ago. He might be a zig though.

Zig is short for zigzag. They’re the people who refuse to go along with The Corporation but won’t join the resistance either. So, they zigzag between the two opposing forces that shape the IPA. They usually come in small groups, no more than four. There’s not a lot of them. At least as far as anyone can tell. Anyway, neither side likes them much, and both will see them wiped out just as soon. Which is why, if he is a zig, he certainly wouldn’t be so careless and let everyone know where he lives.

He might be a rebel. They sometimes hunker down in vacant buildings. That thought both excites and frightens me.

As he draws closer, there’s no mistaking this man for a zig or a rebel. He wears a suit, but the distant flames give everything a crimson tone, so I can’t tell what color it is. Something on his jacket flickers. He reaches the end of the walkway, and I notice that the light glints off a bunch of Corporation commendation pins on his lapel.

At first, he acknowledges no one as he crosses his arms and stares straight ahead. He appears calm, but his breath comes in peculiar fits like he’s out of breath but doesn’t want anyone to know. Maybe he’s asthmatic? I don’t know. His eyes don’t watch the distant flames like everyone else; they’re watching the streetlights.

Something glistens on his forehead like sweat, but the night is cold, so that’s impossible. He appears to sense me gawking and gives me a nod.

By reflex, I wave.

Another fireball blossoms, this one almost bright enough to read by. The windows rattle from the blast. The neighborhood lights blink a few times before going out. Someone screams as we’re plunged into a weird twilight of flickering screens since those never stop.

I swear Pinman smirks.

A second later, old Doc Salazar asks, “Do you think it’s the Canadians?”

That isn’t as silly as it sounds, since if you’re lucky enough to own a car, it’s like three hours to the border.

“Nah. I bet it’s the Does and the rebels,” Mr. Taylor replies.

Everyone stares at him for a moment. Calling the Does rebels is against the law.

“You mean terrorists,” a throaty unfamiliar voice—my new neighbor—says.

“Yes, y-yes,” Mr. Taylor stammers. He probably noticed every commendation on Pinman’s jacket. He chuckles nervously, running a hand across the back of his neck.

I don’t want to call attention to myself, but Taylor was my dad’s fishing buddy. I can’t count the number of times that the Taylors shared a meal with us after a good day on the lake.

A familiar voice breaks the uncomfortable silence. “Mr. Taylor is scaredly is all. He’s not trying to be outside the box.”

I look around, trying to find who spoke. For some reason, everyone’s staring at me like I punched a nun or something.

Well, everyone except Taylor. He’s got a grateful smile pasted on his stupid round face. The looks confirm my growing suspicion. The voice was familiar because it’s mine.

Pinman doesn’t reply, just cocks his head.

“Well, um, good night, sir,” Mr. Taylor croaks as he scurries back inside his house.

A second later, the loudspeakers atop every telephone pole on the block crackle to life. On the screens, a severe looking yet appealing middle-aged woman appears with her hair wrapped tight around her head. Everything can go dark but not PR Polly, the voice of The Corporation.

There’s a whine of feedback, and Polly stares with a Mona Lisa smile on her lips, waiting for it to pass. It fades to a crackling static and clears.

Her familiar, faintly British voice sounds out. “Return to your homes. All is goodly. We have the situation under control.” As always, she adds the Corporate slogan. “America first. America last. America always.”

Another squeal of feedback sounds out. Dan and Katie return to the screens, laughing about the ratings bonanza it’ll be when the real Does are caught and put on Manhunt. But since Manhunt is required viewing, ratings are a bonanza every day anyway. I’m also not sure how we’d know if they’re the real Does. I mean, every time they think they’ve got them, it turns out they’re regular rebels.

No one even knows what the Does look like.

A weird sensation tingles my leg. It’s my phone vibrating in my pocket. I put aside my stray thoughts for now as I fish it out.

“What did you think of this Realnews brief” flashes on the screen. Underneath, like always, are two emoji:

a smiley one,

and a frowning one.

I tap the smiley face to show that I loved it. No one clicks the other one anymore. Well, no one without a death wish.

Soft clicking echoes around me as my neighbors do the same. By the time I’m done, they’re scurrying back into their homes. I guess they’ve all realized it’s after curfew, so we are all technically criminals right now.

Pinman still stands there with his arms crossed, staring at me. I try not to meet his gaze and mumble something about how my little sister is waiting for dinner inside.

In the distance, sirens blare. A lot of them. All isn’t goodly. I sense the stranger watching me as I walk into my house.

I don’t look back.

You never look back.

Available on Amazon

Kindle Unlimited

About the Author

authorpic

Author David Dean Lugo often gets ideas for his stories by wondering what if? In his new young adult dystopian novel, Year Zero, he probed this when writing about a future fascist America run by a governing body called The Corporation and its CEO. Lugo believes that today’s trend of people judging one another too harshly—whether based on their political party, gender identity, or something else—is causing people to drift too far away from one another. His story explores potential extreme ramifications of this.

Lugo believes a great book is one that has believable characters that readers can identify with and relate to. He hopes his stories evoke emotion and thinking from his readers long after the book is closed.

When he isn’t writing thought-provoking YA novels, Lugo enjoys playing guitar, watching movies, playing video/board games, and hanging out with his amazing family. He lives in southwest New Hampshire with his wife Meredith, son Jacob, and their rascally Labrador/Collie mix named Astrid. Year Zero is the first volume in his The Revolution’s Children trilogy.

David Dean Lugo | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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August 29th

R&R Book Tours (Kick-Off) http://rrbooktours.com

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August 30th

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September 1st

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#BookTour “The Damned Lovely” by Adam Frost

August 29 – September 23, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

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Synopsis:

 

“She wasn’t pretty but she was ours…”

Sandwiched between seedy businesses in the scorching east LA suburb of Glendale, The Damned Lovely dive bar is as scarred as its regulars: ex-cops, misfits and loners. And for Sam Goss, it’s a refuge from the promising life he’s walked away from, a place to write and a hole to hide in.

But when a beautiful and mysterious new patron to the bar turns up murdered, Sam can’t stop himself from getting involved. Despite their fleeting interaction, or perhaps because of it, something about her ghost won’t let go…

Armed with the playbook from the burned-out ex-cops, Sam challenges the police’s theory on the killing, butting heads with hardened detectives and asking questions nobody wants to answer. As his obsession takes hold so does his sense of purpose—as if uncovering the truth about the killer might heal some part of his own broken life. But the chase sets him on a collision course with a crooked charity, violent fundamentalists, corrupt cops, brazen embezzlers and someone dangerously close to home—all who want to make sure the truth never comes out.

Praise for The Damned Lovely:

The Damned Lovely is the LA crime story born anew, an addictive mystery and a love letter to the careworn and forgotten places of Los Angeles—Los Angeles as it is right now. Adam Frost is a crime writer with a sharp new voice, telling a tale about the one thing everyone in Los Angeles has: desire. Desire for truth, for justice, for love, or maybe just a place to call home. Highly recommended.”

Jordan Harper, Edgar Award-winning author of She Rides Shotgun

“Frost’s crackling debut novel belongs on the shelf right next to Joseph Wambaugh and Michael Connelly. Crisp prose. An intricate plot worthy of Raymond Chandler, packed with scruffy, lovable, and lived-in characters that leap off the page. Frost brings a fresh voice and much-needed new blood to LA crime fiction.”

Will Beall, author of L.A. Rex and creator of CBS’s Training Day

“An unputdownable and suspenseful whodunnit: anchored in the quandary of manifesting destiny in grief and lost opportunity.”

Blake Howard, producer and host of the One Heat Minute podcast and Film Critic

“Every bourbon-soaked sentence in this endlessly entertaining first novel proves Joseph Wambaugh dipped Adam Frost by his ankle into the L.A. river. Roll over Michael Connelly, tell Raymond Chandler the news.”

Adam Novak, author of Rat Park and Take Fountain

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Crime

Published by: Down & Out Books

Publication Date:

Number of Pages:

ISBN: 1643962531 (ISBN-13: 978-1643962535)

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | The Down & Out Bookstore

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Read an excerpt:

I took a sip and checked my phone. Waiting for the screen to siiiing. Praying. Hoping.

She held her ground and I lost the fight.

The empty telephone. Reminding me, I had no excuses. To be in a better place. To be successful.

I was an American.

I was white.

I grew up safe and surrounded by love.

There was money for birthday parties and proper schools.

I had a college degree in communications.

I’d traveled to Southeast Asia. Seen Europe. Touched down in South Africa. I had a sweet girl who liked to cook and wanted a ring. We had an apartment in West Hollywood with good light.

I’d found a marketing gig early and wrote ad copy for seven years. Logos. Corporate promos. Internet ribbons. Microcopy drawl. Quippy garbage that paid the rent and then some.

I was on the right track.

Until I broke. Crashed the cart and pulled the plug on my world of California lies.

Staring into those smiling faces across a Doheny dinner table one night.

The masquerade of happiness.

The Instagram sham.

There was no substance. No truth. No intent for anything more than gain.

I had sealed the truth for years. Locked and bottled that depression south, convinced I could kick it. Convinced the gnaw would pass.

Things are great, I kept saying. Things are great.

But something about those faces on that very Doheny night popped the cork and shattered the glass. I called it out. I let it rip ugly. These weren’t my friends. They were assets. Nothing more.

This wasn’t love. This was compliance on rails.

I needed something pure. Something with purpose and mine all mine. That I truly adored.

So I quit the girl who liked to cook. Lost the apartment with the light and moved to Glendale. Where it was cheaper. Where there was no good light.

And worst of all. I was compelled by a force inside my bones to write something real. Something long and from the heart. Something maybe even wise.

This, more and more it seemed, may have been a grave mistake.

It was in no way working out.

Still, I refused to believe in misery. An honest rut is all. It’ll turn around soon. It has to. Because when you’re going through hell in Glendale, keep going. Right?

So. Soldier on. Live with intent and drown those voices out.

Drown. Them. Out. Soldier!

Swish. Swish.

A red Trojan alpha bro was swipin’ right at the bar. Americana run off sipping a sea breezer with a skinny lime. Slice and I shared a healthy glare of disdain when Jewels crossed behind me and nodded to stool 9.

“She’s baaaack,” Jewels cooed.

And there she was. Hiding her green eyes under a black felt fedora and a worn-out paperback of To the Lighthouse. She had dark brown hair pinned low at the back. Wore a simple tight white V-neck tee exposing that soft skin around her collarbones. She sat straight. With her legs crossed in black jeans that pinched in at her waist and exposing a band of flawless smooth lower back. She kept her face down. Never spoke to a soul beyond ordering a drink. And never looked at her phone. Not once. Not once had I seen her look at her phone. Instead, she just buried her eyes in that book. Drowning out the world with a Negroni and Woolf’s words like some kinda mystery from a different era. She’d been in four times now by my count. And it was consistent. Early in the afternoon. Same drink. Same book. Alone. Like an oasis in this godforsaken Glendale desert.

***

Excerpt from The Damned Lovely by Adam Frost. Copyright 2022 by Adam Frost. Reproduced with permission from Adam Frost. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

 

ADAM FROST was born and raised in Vancouver. He began as an actor, and now works as a television writer and producer, best known for the crime shows Tribal and Castle. He lives on the east side of Los Angeles. He’s also one helluva T-ball coach.

Catch Up With Adam Frost:
www.AdamFrostWrites.com
Instagram – @thedamnedlovely
Twitter – @Afrostbite23
Facebook – @adam.frost.9655

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#BookTour “Fire & Ice (A Mauzzy & Me Mystery, Book 2)” by B.T. Polcari

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 A Mauzzy & Me Mystery, Book 2

Cozy Mystery, Young Adult Mystery, Mystery

Date Published: 08-15-2022

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

 

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After encountering a brief power outage at work, college student Sara Donovan might be allowing her imagination to run wild. The main vault in the Carlton Museum holds the Fire and Ice Exhibit, a collection of rare gems, including the Star of Midnight, a 175-carat diamond. Although all the stones are accounted for, Sara suspects the Star of Midnight was stolen and replaced with a fake.

While conducting her own investigation, what Sara uncovers is beyond even her wildest imagination: a coded message, papers with strange characters, and a mysterious set of numbers carved into an office wall. Despite dismissive historians and other experts, she is certain these clues point to a mysterious centuries-old legend.

Unfortunately, her colorful history of usually being right, but always being wrong, means she must solve the mystery to prove her theory.

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Mrs. Majelski

I navigated my way through the grody garage in search of my car, a daily routine for me. Parking garages always mess with me because everything looks the same. Not to mention the stench and filth. Just a fricking maze of concrete pillars and walls, with signs and arrows pointing every which way. Except the right direction for finding your car and the way out of the dang place.

After several futile minutes of searching, I hit the panic button on my key fob in hopes of my car signaling its presence. Multiple blasts of a car horn reverberated off the walls. On the other side of a stairwell, flashing lights danced on the low ceiling in perfect time with the blaring horn.

Score.

I hurried toward the flashing display of—

A sturdy voice called out from the inner recesses of the stairwell. “Hello, dear.”

I jumped sideways, stopped, and spun toward the opening. I recognized that voice.

A scratching sound followed by a metallic click and more scratching emanated from the dark void. A walker emerged from the black, a head of snowy white hair floating above it.

Peering at the ghostly image in the gloom, I called out, “Mrs. Majelski?”

The walker pushed further into the garage, and the jowly image of a very short, very old lady came into focus. Like a four-foot-eight, eighty-five-year-old lady. It was Mrs. Majelski. What the heck was she doing here? I knew her from Tuscaloosa. We met at the gym at the beginning of freshman year, where her iron-pumping, treadmill-dashing, and elliptical-cranking routines put me to shame. Zoe has always been suspicious of the mysterious octogenarian, and she’s never missed an opportunity to remind me. Never. And now Mrs. Majelski is up here? When Zoe finds out, she’ll go ballistic.

“In the flesh,” she declared.

“What…what are you…doing here?”

Mrs. Majelski flipped a hand toward my car. “Shut that racket off.”

I fumbled with the fob, and after two failed punches on the button, turned off the alarm. “What are you doing here?”

“Visiting my twin sister. The old girl is getting on in years,” she cackled.

“You never mentioned you were a twin.”

“I didn’t?” She flicked a thick, gnarly hand. “Pish posh. Not important. What’s important is you think a robbery occurred at the museum?”

My head jerked back. “How do you know that?”

She wheeled forward two steps. A crooked smile appeared beneath soft white curls and a droopy nose. “Let’s say a little birdie told me.”

“Who called you?”

The old lady’s gaze swept the garage before turning back to me. “Again, not important.” Another step forward. “What’s important is why do you think there was a heist? Nothing was out of place. No alarms went off. So…”

Mrs. M was freaking me out, although it’s not the first time she’s done that to me. “How do you know all this?”

She stared up at me, her slate-gray eyes boring into me. “Just answer the question, dear.”

“I had Mauzzy with me in the vault when the power went out. It set him off and when the lights came back on, he was barking and scratching at the wall of the valuables vault. Pretty sure he heard something going on inside it.”

Mrs. Majelski arched an eyebrow and chuckled. “That’s it? Because your little dog was scratching and barking? Like a dog?”

“He’s never wrong.”

She snickered. “Didn’t realize he’s an expert on museum heists.”

I winced. “He has very good hearing.”

Her dubious smile vanished, replaced by a stern visage. “Anybody else with you in the vault during that outage?”

“Just Tony Carlucci.”

“Who is…”

“He’s the evening security supervisor.”

She hesitated. “That his normal post, inside the vault?”

“No, he’s usually upstairs. He stayed behind after they locked the exhibit away to clear everybody out and close the main vault at five.”

The squealing of tires echoed through the garage.

Mrs. Majelski scanned the area, then made a break for my hatchback.

“What are you doing?”

“Let’s get in your car.”

I hit the fob’s unlock button and headed for the car. By the time I got there, she was sitting in the passenger seat, the walker folded and stored behind her.

“Man, you move fast,” I said.

“That’s why I work out.” She looked at the floorboard, then into the back seat. “Looks like you live in here, dear.”

I grimaced. “Commuting two hours a day does it.”

“Mmmm hmmm.”

“Why did you find me?” I shuddered. “Here, in the garage of all places.”

She checked her side mirror, then fixed on me with an unwavering gaze. “Because I need to tell you a few things. Look, I know I can’t stop you from doing what you’re going to do. Lord knows I learned that about you back in Tuscaloosa. So, you need to know this. If that diamond was stolen, and that’s a mighty big if, dear. But if it was stolen like you say, then there are only a few crews in the world who could get past the security measures and into the vault in the short time available and pull that job off.”

“You gotta believe me. The Star of Midnight on display is not the same one I saw in the vault yesterday.”

Mrs. Majelski put out a hand. “I believe that you believe it. I’m just not convinced. However, two crews jump to mind when I think of sophisticated high-value heists.”

“Like who?”

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About the Author

B.T. Polcari is a graduate of Rutgers College of Rutgers University, an award-winning mystery author, and a proud father of two wonderful children.

He’s a champion of rescue pups (Mauzzy is a rescue), craves watching football and basketball, and, of course, loves reading mysteries.

Among his favorite authors are D.P. Lyle, Robert B. Parker, and Michael Connelly. He is also an unapologetic fantasy football addict.

He lives with his wife in scenic Chattanooga, Tennessee.

 

Contact Links

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Blog

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Purchase Link

Amazon

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