#Featured “Shadows in the Water: A Lou Thorne Thriller (Shadows in the Water Series Book 1)” by Kory M. Shrum

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An original new series, with heart-pounding suspense and surprising twists.

Meet Louie Thorne. They didn’t kill her–and they’ll soon regret it.

When DEA agent Jack Thorne’s house is stormed by vengeful drug lords, both he and his wife are shot dead. Only his daughter Louie survives–by using a terrifying power that defies reason.

Piecing together a life in his absence, Louie embraces her gift and her rage under the force of a single need: revenge.

She will destroy the men that took her family. No matter the cost, no matter how many bullets, she won’t stop until justice has been well and truly served.

Praise for Shadows in the Water

★★★★★ “An amazing book with a unique premise!”

★★★★★ “Dark and suspenseful, Shadows in the Water sends tingles down your spine!”

★★★★★ “The main character is a serial killer, but it’s cool. She only kills the bad guys.”

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#FREE “THE SUITCASE: Family Intrigue and Blackmail Mystery Thriller (Hansen Files Book 1)” by Mike Dixon



David didn’t see himself as a toy boy and he didn’t see Sue Lynne as a cougar. That was his first mistake. His second came when he agreed to collect a suitcase from Hong Kong and take it to Australia. His third mistake was to open the case.

Sue Lynne said it contained family memorabilia: old photographs and that sort of thing. David thought they were too old to be threatening and he was hopelessly wrong. The case contained dark secrets. From the moment he lifted the lid there was no escape. The past rushed out like an evil genie from a bottle and David was propelled through the vastness of Australia fighting for his life.

A multi-layered story, masterfully written with historical fact and imagination. A tale of political power, seduction, blackmail and family liaisons. Throw in secret service agents, hitmen and a treasure map and it takes wings. Mike Dixon has created a great novel.” (Wendy O’Hanlon, Acres Australia).

The Suitcase is Book 1 in the Hansen Files Series. Humphrey Hansen has lost his job as a university lecturer and is working as a junior officer in the Narcotics Bureau. David is a university dropout struggling to make a living in the diving industry. They are thrown together and become good friends.

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#Spotlight “Tennessee’s Whiskey (The Whiskey Collection Book 1)” by L. Loren

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Grad student, Patricia Woods finds herself on the brink of homelessness. Needing a job that pays immediately, she reluctantly sets her sights on the local redneck bar where the bikers are notorious, and the tips are flowing.

All she wants is to make a little cash to pay her way through school, but what she finds is so much more. Her dream of finally having a family to call her own is just beyond her reach.

Single father, Weston Daniels, has built a nice life for him and his five-year old son. After escaping the “family business” all he wants is the peace and quiet of the south, and an occasional romp with a nameless woman.

He has a change of heart, when a beautiful African American woman dressed in orange bombards his bar. When his past catches up with him, he is faced with choosing between her life and the happiness he desires.

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The Heroine

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The Hero

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About L. Loren

Bestselling author, L. Loren holds a Business Management Degree from the University of Mount Olive. As a former call center supervisor, her desire to write lay dormant for years, until she found the courage to live her dream. She is currently based in Birmingham, AL with her loving and supportive husband.

L. Loren created her own brand of erotic romance that she dubbed LoveRotica – Love stories with an edge of sexy. Her catalog of sexy stories is self-published and available on Amazon.

Her stories and poems have appeared in various anthologies, publications and literary journals. L. is also the curator of the Love is Color Anthology, available for free on Smashwords.

Follow her on Social Media

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Blog  |  Pinterest 

  Goodreads  |  Amazon Author Page

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Happy Hour

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#GuestPost “Anarchy of the Mice” by Jeff Bond

Anarchy Of The Mice by Jeff Bond Banneron Tour July 1 – August 31, 2020

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Making an Audiobook

by Jeff Bond

Audiobooks are fantastic. They’re the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry, and they’re an absolute lifesaver for someone like me, who—between parenting and cooking and an aggressive writing schedule—doesn’t have time to read with his eyes. What I do have is a nice juicy forty-five minutes early each morning when I’m walking the dog, and audiobooks allow me to spend that time in Diane Gabaldon’s eighteenth-century Scotland, John Updike’s suburbia, or Tana French’s Dublin.

When I released my first book two years ago, I knew I wanted to produce an audiobook version. I had no clue how to go about it, but naturally everyone’s favorite ten-ton gorilla was there to help: Amazon. Amazon has an entire audiobook ecosystem—creation, distribution, marketing, etc.—called ACX, Audiobook Creation Exchange. The system works quite well despite some quirks, like a messaging system the narrators all say stinks and a rigid workflow sequence that blows up if you accidentally push a project to its next phase before it’s ready. Using ACX, you can create an audiobook without having a Rolodex of professional narrators or cold calling Scott Brick. (If you don’t know the name, you must not be an audiobook person.)

You begin the process by uploading a sample of your book and instructions for potential narrators. Male or female, smooth or forceful, accented or not—those types of things. Then ACX opens up an audition, and narrated audio clips of your sample start rolling in. I received dozens my first day and even more the second. Each one is thrilling, the chance at finding that perfect voice for your story. Most will have some disqualifying mark against them. A weird cadence, or wrong mood, or a voice that just doesn’t fit your concept of the protagonist. Some you’ll nod along to and think, “Yeah, that could be my book.” But these don’t last long because soon enough you’ll run into that reader who just nails it—in whose voice every line sounds like notes from a symphony. And you’ve got your narrator.

Okay, not really; that was the streamlined, romanticized version. Auditions are exhausting. Beyond the sheer number of clips you need to consider and polite emails you’ll need to write, there’s the mental toll of saying no to all these supremely talented people. Authors are fairly conditioned to the shoe being on the other foot. We’re the ones giving out samples, scrapping for a chance to show our stuff, hoping to be picked over all the other creators in the marketplace. I listened to voice authors who’d been public radio anchors, classically trained singers, who had IMDB bios five pages long. I struck up email conversations with a few, and heard that most ACX jobs are industrial voiceovers from overseas—dry commercial work. The narrators generally don’t even get a note acknowledging their audition clips, which surely take hours to produce. So many of them would’ve given me an excellent audiobook, but I could only say yes to two.

Two?

Among the decisions I had to make was whether to have a single narrator voice all chapters or have separate male and female voices. Because The Winner Maker, my first book, had two roughly equal protagonists, one male and one female, I decided to use separate. Beyond that, there was the decision to do the narration “duet style,” where the two actors can trade off within the same chapter, or stick to one voice per chapter. I chose the latter, which simplified things.

From there, my narrators took the manuscript and did their thing—reading ten hours of my debut novel. I then had to listen to every last second of it and jot edits along the way. This was fine-grained, tedious work, made more complicated by the fact that I did it using those aforementioned forty-five dog-walking minutes each morning. Imagine tapping out a note on your phone about stressing the second syllable of “Rivard” rather than the first while 120 pounds of shaggy Newfoundland dog lurches after a squirrel, and you’ll know my struggle. Hopefully my neighbors got a laugh or two out of it.

My narrators, Natalie Duke and Brandon Paul Eells, are extraordinarily professional and did a great job. I found only minor fixes, one or two per chapter. Some were personal preference, how to pronounce a particular name or street. Other times I started to correct a pronunciation only to Google it and find I’d been saying the word wrong in my head all along—my narrator had actually gotten it right.

For all this, it was truly wonderful hearing my story come to life as an audiobook. I recorded one for Blackquest 40 and The Pinebox Vendetta as well, and my two releases in June—Anarchy of the Mice and Dear Durwood—will also be audiobooks. Audible has a long quality-check process; I expect them to pop up in late July or early August. If you’re looking for an introduction to my stories, I’d highly recommend trying an audiobook. They were hard work, but the end result was a lot of fun.

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Synopsis:

Anarchy of the Mice by Jeff Bond From Jeff Bond, author of Blackquest 40 and The Pinebox Vendetta, comes Anarchy of the Mice, book one in an epic new series starring Quaid Rafferty, Durwood Oak Jones, and Molly McGill: the trio of freelance operatives known collectively as Third Chance Enterprises. How far could society fall without data? Account balances, property lines, government ID records — if it all vanished, if everyone’s scorecard reset to zero, how might the world look? The Blind Mice are going to show us. Molly McGill is fighting it. Her teenage son has come downstairs in a T-shirt from these “hacktivists” dominating the news. Her daughter’s bus is canceled — too many stoplights out — and school is in the opposite direction of the temp job she’s supposed to be starting this morning. She is twice-divorced; her P.I. business, McGill Investigators, is on the rocks; what kind of life is this for a woman a mere twelve credit-hours shy of her PhD? Then the doorbell rings. It’s Quaid Rafferty, the charming — but disgraced — former governor of Massachusetts, and his plainspoken partner, Durwood Oak Jones. The guys have an assignment for Molly. It sounds risky, but the pay sure beats switchboard work. They need her to infiltrate the Blind Mice. Danger, romance, intrigue, action for miles — whatever you read, Anarchy of the Mice is coming for you.

Book Details:

Genre: Action-Adventure

Published by: Jeff Bond books

Publication Date: June 15, 2020

Number of Pages: 445

ISBN: 173225527X (978-1732255272)

Series: Third Chance Enterprises, #1

Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

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Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE The first I ever heard of the Blind Mice was from my fourteen-year-old son, Zach. I was scrambling to get him and his sister ready for school, stepping over dolls and skater magazines, thinking ahead to the temp job I was starting in about an hour, when Zach came slumping downstairs in a suspiciously plain T-shirt. “Turn around,” I said. “Let’s see the back.” He scowled but did comply. The clothing check was mandatory after that vomiting-skull sweatshirt he’d slipped out the door in last month. Okay. No drugs, profanity, or bodily fluids being expelled. But there was something. An abstract computer-ish symbol. A mouse? Possibly the nose, eyes, and whiskers of a mouse? Printed underneath was, Nibble, nibble. Until the whole sick scam rots through. I checked the clock: 7:38. Seven minutes before we absolutely had to be out the door, and I still hadn’t cleaned up the grape juice spill, dealt with my Frizz City hair, or checked the furnace. For twenty minutes, I’d been hearing ker-klacks, which my heart said was construction outside but my head worried could be the failing heater. How bad did I want to let Zach’s shirt slide? Bad. “Is that supposed to be a mouse?” I said. “Like an angry mouse?” “The Blind Mice,” my son replied. “Maybe you’ve heard, they’re overthrowing the corporatocracy?” His eyes bulged teen sarcasm underneath those bangs he refuses to get cut. “Wait,” I said, “that group that’s attacking big companies’ websites and factories?” “Government too.” He drew his face back ominously. “Anyone who’s part of the scam.” “And you’re wearing their shirt?” He shrugged. I would’ve dearly loved to engage Zach in a serious discussion of socioeconomic justice—I did my master’s thesis on the psychology of labor devaluation in communities—except we needed to go. In five minutes. “What if Principal Broadhead sees that?” I said. “Go change.” “No.” “Zach McGill, that shirt promotes domestic terrorism. You’ll get kicked out of school.” “Like half my friends wear it, Mom.” He thrust his hands into his pockets. Ugh. I had stepped in parenting quicksand. I’d issued a rash order and Zach had refused, and now I could either make him change, starting a blow-out fight and virtually guaranteeing I’d be late my first day on the job at First Mutual, or back down and erode my authority. “Wear a jacket,” I said—a poor attempt to limit the erosion, but the best I could do. “And don’t let your great-grandmother see that shirt.” Speaking of, I could hear Granny’s slippers padding around upstairs. She was into her morning routine, and would shortly—at the denture-rinsing phase—be shouting down that her sink was draining slow again; why hadn’t the damn plumber come yet? Because I hadn’t paid one. McGill Investigators, the PI business of which I was the founder and sole employee (yes, I realized the plural name was misleading), had just gone belly-up. Hence the temp job. Karen, my six-year-old, was seated cheerily beside her doll in front of orange juice and an Eggo Waffle. “Mommy!” she announced. “I get to ride to school with you today!” The doll’s lips looked sticky—OJ?—and the cat was eyeing Karen’s waffle across the table. “Honey, weren’t you going to ride the bus today?” I asked, shooing the cat, wiping the doll with a dishrag. Karen shook her head. “Bus isn’t running. I get to ride in the Prius, in Mommy’s Prius!” I felt simultaneous joy that Karen loved our new car—well, new to us: 120K miles as a rental, but it was a hybrid—and despair because I really couldn’t take her. School was in the complete opposite direction of New Jersey Transit. Even if I took the turnpike, which I loathed, I would miss my train. Fighting to address Karen calmly in a time crunch, I said, “Are you sure the bus isn’t running?” She nodded. I asked how she knew. “Bus driver said, ‘If the stoplights are blinking again in the morning, I ain’t taking you.’” She walked to the window and pointed. “See?” I joined her at the window, ignoring the driver’s grammatical example for the moment. Up and down my street, traffic lights flashed yellow. “Blind Mice, playa!” Zach puffed his chest. “Nibble, nibble. The lights had gone out every morning this week at rush hour. On Monday, the news had reported a bald eagle flew into a substation. On Tuesday, they’d said the outages were lingering for unknown reasons. I hadn’t seen the news yesterday. Did Zach know the Blind Mice were involved? Or was he just being obnoxious? “Great,” I muttered. “Bus won’t run because stoplights are out, but I’m free to risk our lives driving to school.” Karen gazed up at me, her eyes green like mine and trembling. A mirror of my stress. Pull it together, Molly. “Don’t worry,” I corrected myself. “I’ll take you. I will. Let me just figure a few things out.” Trying not to visualize myself walking into First Mutual forty-five minutes late, I took a breath. I patted through my purse for keys, sifting through rumpled Kleenex and receipts and granola-bar halves. Granny had made her way downstairs and was reading aloud from a bill-collection notice. Zach was texting, undoubtedly to friends about his lame mom. I felt air on my toes and looked down: a hole in my hose. Fantastic. I’d picked out my cutest work sandals, but somehow I doubted the look would hold up with toes poking out like mini-wieners. I wished I could shut my eyes, whisper some spell, and wake up in a different universe. Then the doorbell rang. CHAPTER TWO Quaid Rafferty waited on the McGills’ front porch with a winning smile. It had been ten months since he’d seen Molly, and he was eager to reconnect. Inside, there sounded a crash (pulled-over coatrack?), a smack (skateboard hitting wall?), and muffled cross-voices. Quaid fixed the lay of his sport coat lapels and kept waiting. His partner, Durwood Oak Jones, stood two paces back with his dog. Durwood wasn’t saying anything, but Quaid could feel the West Virginian’s disapproval—it pulsed from his blue jeans and cowboy hat. Quaid twisted from the door. “School morning, right? I’m sure she’ll be out shortly.” Durwood remained silent. He was on record saying they’d be better off with a more accomplished operative like Kitty Ravensdale or Sigrada the Serpent, but Quaid believed in Molly. He’d argued that McGill, a relative amateur, was just what they needed: a fresh-faced idealist. Now he focused on the door—and was pleased to hear the dead bolt turn within. He was less pleased when he saw the face that appeared in the door glass. The grandmother. “Why, color me damned!” began the septuagenarian, yanking open the screen door. “The louse returns. Whorehouses all kick you out?” Quaid strained to keep smiling. “How are you this fine morning, Eunice?” Her face stormed over. “What’re you here for?” “We’re hoping for a word with Molly if she’s around.” He opened his shoulders to give her a full view of his party, which included Durwood and Sue-Ann, his aged bluetick coonhound. They made for an admittedly odd sight. Quaid and Durwood shared the same vital stats, six one and 180-something pounds, but God himself couldn’t have created two more different molds. Quaid in a sport coat with suntanned wrists and mussed-just-so blond hair. Durwood removing his hat and casting steel-colored eyes humbly about, jeans pulled down over his boots’ piping. And Sue with her mottled coat, rasping like any breath could be her last. Eunice stabbed a finger toward Durwood. “He can come in—him I respect. But you need to turn right around. My granddaughter wants nothing to do with cads like you.” Behind her, a voice called, “Granny, I can handle this. Eunice ignored this. “You’re a no-good man. I know it, my granddaughter knows it.” Veins showed through the chicken-y skin of her neck. “Go on, hop a flight back to Vegas and all your whores!” Before Quaid could counter these aspersions, Molly appeared. His heart chirped in his chest. Molly was a little discombobulated, bending to put on a sandal, a kid’s jacket tucked under one elbow—but those dimples, that curvy body…even in the worst domestic throes, she could’ve charmed slime off a senator. He said, “Can’t you beat a seventy-four-year-old woman to the door?” Molly slipped on the second sandal. “Can we please just not? It’s been a crazy morning.” “I know the type.” Quaid smacked his hands together. “So hey, we have a job for you.” “You’re a little late—McGill Investigators went out of business. I have a real job starting in less than an hour.” “What kind?” “Reception,” she said. “Three months with First Mutual.” “Temp work?” Quaid asked. “I was supposed to start with the board of psychological examiners, but the position fell through.” “How come?” “Funding ran out. The governor disbanded the board.” “So First Mutual…?” Molly’s eyes, big and leprechaun green, fell. “It’s temp work, yeah.” “You’re criminally overqualified for that, McGill,” Quaid said. “Hear us out. Please.” She snapped her arms over her chest but didn’t stop Quaid as he breezed into the living room followed by Durwood and Sue-Ann, who wore no leash but kept a perfect twenty-inch heel by her master. Two kids poked their heads around the kitchen doorframe. Quaid waggled his fingers playfully at the girl. Molly said, “Zach, Karen—please wait upstairs. I’m speaking with these men.” The boy argued he should be able to stay; upstairs sucked; wasn’t she the one who said they had to leave, like, immedia— “This is not a negotiation,” Molly said in a new tone. They went upstairs. She sighed. “Now they’ll be late for school. I’m officially the worst mother ever.” Quaid glanced around the living room. The floor was clutter free, but toys jammed the shelves of the coffee table. Stray fibers stuck up from the carpet, which had faded beige from its original yellow or ivory. “No, you’re an excellent mother,” Quaid said. “You do what you believe is best for your children, which is why you’re going to accept our proposition.” The most effective means of winning a person over, Quaid had learned as governor of Massachusetts and in prior political capacities, was to identify their objective and articulate how your proposal brought it closer. Part two was always trickier. He continued, “American Dynamics is the client, and they have deep pockets. If you help us pull this off, all your money troubles go poof.” A glint pierced Molly’s skepticism. “Okay. I’m listening.” “You’ve heard of the Blind Mice, these anarchist hackers?” “I—well, yes, a little. Zach has their T-shirt.” Quaid, having met the boy on a few occasions, wasn’t shocked by the information. “Here’s the deal. We need someone to infiltrate them.” Molly blinked twice. Durwood spoke up, “You’d be great, Moll. You’re young. Personable. People trust you.” Molly’s eyes were grapefruits. “What did you call them, ‘anarchist hackers’? How would I infiltrate them? I just started paying bills online.” “No tech knowledge required,” Quaid said. “We have a plan.” He gave her the nickel summary. The Blind Mice had singled out twelve corporate targets, “the Despicable Dozen,” and American Dynamics topped the list. In recent months, AmDye had seen its websites crashed, its factories slowed by computer glitches, internal documents leaked, the CEO’s home egged repeatedly. Government agencies from the FBI to NYPD were pursuing the Mice, but the company was troubled by the lack of progress and so had hired Third Chance Enterprises to take them down. “Now if I accept,” Molly said, narrowing her eyes, “does that mean I’m officially part of Third Chance Enterprises?” Quaid exhaled at length. Durwood shook his head with an irked air—he hated the name, and considered Quaid’s branding efforts foolish. “Oh, Durwood and I have been at this freelance operative thing awhile.” Quaid smoothed his sport coat lapels. “Most cases we can handle between the two of us.” “But not this one.” “Right. Durwood’s a whiz with prosthetics, but even he can’t bring this”—Quaid indicated his own ruggedly handsome but undeniably middle-aged face—“back to twenty-five.” Molly’s eyes turned inward. Quaid’s instincts told him she was thinking of her children. She said, “Sounds dangerous.” “Nah.” He spread his arms, wide and forthright. “You’re working with the best here: the top small-force, private-arms outfit in the Western world. Very minimal danger.” Like the politician he’d once been, Quaid delivered this line of questionable veracity with full sincerity. Then he turned to his partner. “Right, Wood? She won’t have a thing to worry about. We’d limit her involvement to safe situations.” Durwood thinned his lips. “Do the best we could.” This response, typical of the soldier he’d once been, was unhelpful. Molly said, “Who takes care of my kids if something happens, if the Blind Mice sniff me out? Would I have to commit actual crimes?” “Unlikely.” Unlikely? I’ll tell you what’s unlikely, getting hired someplace, anyplace, with a felony conviction on your application…” As she thundered away, Quaid wondered if Durwood might not have been right in preferring a pro. The few times they’d used Molly McGill before had been secondary: posing as a gate agent during the foiled Delta hijacking, later as an archivist for the American embassy in Rome. They’d only pulled her into Rome because of her language skills—she spoke six fluently. “…also, I have to say,” she continued, and from the edge in her voice, Quaid knew just where they were headed, “I find it curious that I don’t hear from you for ten months, and then you need my help, and all of a sudden, I matter. All of a sudden, you’re on my doorstep.” “I apologize,” Quaid said. “The Dubai job ran long, then that Guadeloupean resort got hit by a second hurricane. We got busy. I should’ve called.” Molly’s face cooled a shade, and Quaid saw that he hadn’t lost her. Yet. Before either could say more, a heavy ker-klack sounded outside. “What’s the racket?” Quaid asked. He peeked out the window at his and Durwood’s Vanagon, which looked no more beat-up than usual. “It’s been going on all morning,” Molly said. “I figured it was construction.” Quaid said, “Construction in this economy?” He looked to Durwood. “I’ll check ’er out.” The ex-soldier turned for the door. Sue-Ann, heaving herself laboriously off the carpet, scuffled after. Alone now with Molly, Quaid walked several paces in. He doubled his sport coat over his forearm and passed a hand through his hair, using a foyer mirror to confirm the curlicues that graced his temples on his best days. This was where it had to happen. Quaid’s behavior toward Molly had been less than gallant, and that was an issue. Still, there were sound arguments at his disposal. He could play the money angle. He could talk about making the world safer for Molly’s children. He could point out that she was meant for greater things, appealing to her sense of adventure, framing the job as an escape from the hamster wheel and entrée to a bright world of heroes and villains. He believed in the job. Now he just needed her to believe too. CHAPTER THREE Durwood walked north. Sue-Ann gimped along after, favoring her bum hip. Paws echoed bootheels like sparrows answering blackbirds. They found their noise at the sixth house on the left. A crew of three men was working outside a small home. Two-story like Molly’s. The owner had tacked an addition onto one side, prefab sunroom. The men were working where the sunroom met the main structure. Dislodging nails, jackhammering between fiberglass and brick. Tossing panels onto a stack. “Pardon,” Durwood called. “Who you boys working for?” One man pointed to his earmuffs. The others paid Durwood no mind whatsoever. Heavyset men. Big stomachs and muscles. Durwood walked closer. “Those corner boards’re getting beat up. Y’all got a permit I could see?” The three continued to ignore him. The addition was poorly done to begin with, the cornice already sagging. Shoddy craftsmanship. That didn’t mean the owners deserved to have it stolen for scrap. The jackhammer was plugged into an outside GFI. Durwood caught its cord with his bootheel. “The hell?” said the operator as his juice cut. Durwood said, “You’re thieves. You’re stealing fiberglass.” The men denied nothing. One said, “Call the cops. See if they come.” Sue-Ann bared her gums. Durwood said, “I don’t believe we need to involve law enforcement,” and turned back south for the Vanagon. Crime like this—callous, brash—was a sign of the times.  People were sore about this “new economy,” how well the rich were making out. Groups like the Blind Mice thought it gave them a right to practice lawlessness.   Lawlessness, Durwood knew, was like a plague. Left unchecked, it spread. Even now, besides this sunroom dismantling, Durwood saw a half dozen offenses in plain sight. Low-stakes gambling on a porch. Coaxials looped across half the neighborhood roofs: cable splicing. A Rottweiler roaming off leash. Each stuck in Durwood’s craw. He walked a half block to the Vanagon. He hunted around inside, boots clattering the bare metal floor. Pushed aside Stinger missiles in titanium casings. Squinted past crates of frag grenades in the bulkhead he’d jiggered himself from ponderosa pine. Here she was—a pressurized tin of black ops epoxy. Set quick enough to repel a flash air strike, strong enough to hold a bridge. Durwood had purchased it for the Dubai job. According to his supplier, Yakov, the stuff smelled like cinnamon when it dried. Something to do with chemistry. Durwood removed the tin from its box and brushed off the pink Styrofoam packing Yakov favored. Then allowed Sue a moment to ease herself down to the curb before they started back north. Passing Molly’s house, Durwood glimpsed her through the living room window. She was listening to Quaid, fingers pressed to her forehead. Quaid was lying. Which was nothing new, Quaid stretching the truth to a woman. But these lies involved Molly’s safety. Fact was, they knew very little of the Blind Mice. Their capabilities, their willingness to harm innocents. The leader, Josiah, was a reckless troublemaker. He spewed his nonsense on Twitter, announcing targets ahead of time, talking about his own penis. The heavyset men were back at it. One on the roof. The other two around back of the sunroom, digging up the slab. Durwood set down the epoxy. The men glanced over but kept jackhammering. They would not be the first, nor last, to underestimate this son of an Appalachian coal miner. The air compressor was set up on the lawn. Durwood found the main pressure valve and cranked its throat full open. The man on the roof had his ratchet come roaring out of his hands. He slid down the grade, nose rubbing vinyl shingles, and landed in petunias. Back on his feet, the man swore. “Mind your language,” Durwood said. “There’s families in the neighborhood.” The other two hustled over, shovels at their shoulders. The widest of the three circled to Durwood’s backside. Sue-Ann coiled her old bones to strike. Ugliness roiled Durwood’s gut. Big Man punched first. Durwood caught his fist, torqued his arm behind his back. The next man swung his shovel. Durwood charged underneath and speared his chest. The man wheezed sharply, his lung likely punctured. The third man got hold of Durwood’s bootheel, smashed his elbow into the hollow of Durwood’s knee. Durwood scissored the opposite leg across the man’s throat. He gritted his teeth and clenched. He felt the man’s Adam’s apple wriggling between his legs. A black core in Durwood yearned to squeeze. He resisted. The hostiles came again, and Durwood whipped them again. Automatically, in a series of beats as natural to him as chirping to a katydid. The men’s faces changed from angry to scared to incredulous. Finally, they stayed down. “Now y’all are helping fix that sunroom.” Durwood nodded to the epoxy tin. “Mix six to one, then paste ’er on quick.” Luckily, he’d caught the thieves early, and the repair was uncomplicated. Clamp, glue, drill. The epoxy should increase the R-value on the sunroom ten, fifteen, units. Good for a few bucks off the gas bill in winter, anyhow. Durwood did much of the work himself. He enjoyed the panels’ weight, the strength of a well-formed joint. His muscles felt free and easy as if he were home ridding the sorghum fields of johnsongrass. Done, he let the thieves go. He turned back south toward Molly’s house. Sue-Ann scrabbled alongside. “Well, ole girl?” he said. “Let’s see how Quaid made out.” CHAPTER FOUR I stood on my front porch watching the Vanagon rumble down Sycamore. My toes tingled, my heart was tossing itself against the walls of my chest, and I was pretty sure my nose had gone berserk. How else could I be smelling cinnamon? Quaid Rafferty’s last words played over and over in my head: We need you. For twenty minutes, after Durwood had taken his dog to investigate ker-klacks, Quaid had given me the hard sell. The money would be big-time. I had the perfect skills for the assignment: guts, grace under fire, that youthful je ne sais quoi. Wasn’t I always saying I ought to be putting my psychology skills to better use? Well, here it was: understanding these young people’s outrage would be a major component of the job. Some people will anticipate your words and mumble along. Quaid did something similar but with feelings, cringing at my credit issues, brightening with whole-face joy at Karen’s reading progress—which I was afraid would suffer if I got busy and didn’t keep up her nightly practice. He was pitching me, yes. But he genuinely cared what was happening in my life. I didn’t know how to think about Quaid, how to even fix him in my brain. He and Durwood were so far outside any normal frame of reference. Were they even real? Did I imagine them? Their biographies were epic. Quaid the twice-elected (once-impeached) governor of Massachusetts who now battled villains across the globe and lived at Caesars Palace. Durwood a legend of the Marine Corps, discharged after defying his commanding officer and wiping out an entire Qaeda cell to avenge the death of his wife. I’d met them during my own unreal adventure—the end of my second marriage, which had unraveled in tragedy in the backwoods of West Virginia. They’d recruited me for three missions since. Each was like a huge, brilliant dream—the kind that’s so vital and packed with life that you hang on after you wake up, clutching backward into sleep to stay inside. Granny said, “That man’s trouble. If you have any sense in that stubborn head of yours, you’ll steer clear.” I stepped back into the living room, the Vanagon long gone, and allowed my eyes to close. Granny didn’t know the half of it. She had huffed off to watch her judge shows on TV before the guys had even mentioned the Blind Mice. No, she meant a more conventional trouble. “I’ve learned,” I said. “If I take this job, it won’t be for romance. I’d be doing it for me. For the family.” As if cued by the word “family,” a peal of laughter sounded upstairs. Children! My eyes zoomed to the clock. It was 8:20. Zach would be lucky to make first hour, let alone homeroom. In a single swipe, I scooped up the Prius keys and both jackets. My purse whorled off my shoulder like some supermom prop. “Leaving now!” I called up the stairwell. “Here we go, kids—laces tied, backpacks zipped.” Zach trudged down, leaning his weight into the rail. Karen followed with sunny-careful steps. I sped through the last items on my list—tossed a towel over the grape juice, sloshed water onto the roast, considered my appearance in the microwave door, and just frowned, beyond caring. Halfway across the porch, Granny’s fingers closed around my wrist. “Promise me,” she said, “that you will not associate with Quaid Rafferty. Promise me you won’t have one single thing to do with that lowlife.” I looked past her to the kitchen, where the cat was kinking herself to retch Eggo Waffle onto the linoleum. “I’m sorry, Granny.” I patted her hand, freeing myself. “It’s something I have to do.” *** Excerpt from Anarchy of the Mice by Jeff Bond. Copyright 2020 by Jeff Bond. Reproduced with permission from Jeff Bond. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

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

Catch Up With Jeff Bond On: JeffBondBooks.com BookBub Goodreads Instagram Twitter Facebook!

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Tour Participants:

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

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jeff Bond. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on July 1, 2020 and runs through September 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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#Featured “The Hathor Legacy Series” by Deborah A. Bailey

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Hathor Legacy: Outcast, Book 1

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On the planet, Hathor, a powerful group called the Guardians serves as the security force for Novacorp, the corporation that runs Hathor with its ruthless monopoly. Nadira, as one of the most powerful Guardians, is expected to use her psychic and telekinetic powers to keep the capital city safe from thieves and intruders.

Jonathan Keel, son of a mine CEO on the nearby planet, Astarte, is wealthy, privileged and used to getting what he wants. When his father goes missing after a robbery and explosion at the mine, he defies the authorities and heads to Hathor to search for him and for the robbers.

Security is on high alert and Nadira is charged with protecting Jon. She rescues him from an vicious attack and discovers that the Guardians have another agenda that has nothing to do with solving the crime.

Jonathan finds evidence of his father’s possible involvement, while his attraction to Nadira forces her to confront all she has known about being a Guardian, especially the rule to put duty before her personal feelings.

Struggling with their growing desires, and chased by company security, Jon and Nadira flee the city. But solving the crime leads them to endure betrayals from the people closest to them, as secrets are revealed that not only link their pasts but also threaten to destroy Jon’s family and separate him from Nadira forever.

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Hathor Legacy: Burn, Book 2

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On the planet, Hathor: A powerful corporation, a psychic security force & a conspiracy.

An old threat re-emerges that may permanently sever the already precarious alliance between Novacorp and the Guardians, the psychic security force the corporation has gone far and beyond to put completely under their own directive…
Sentry Leader and Elder Nadira is called to investigate a rash of fires throughout the city and uncovers the shocking truth about the Deshtu, another group with PSI powers like the Guardians, who’ve been purposely kept in the shadows. The Deshtu are being kidnapped for their abilities and forced into services far from basic skills like predicting the future and healing minor illnesses. The underground human trafficking of psychics she exposes is in direct violation of corporate rules.

But those horrors are just the tip of the iceberg: Nadira learns the brutal truth about the origin of the Guardians along with the Guardian Elders’ nefarious plans to make her abilities even more powerful. In the process, the psychic connection she shares with the man she loves, Jonathan Keel, will be terminated while another unwanted link is established in its place.

The final clash between the Guardians and Novacorp threatens to plunge the planet into utter chaos as Nadira risks everything to save herself and those she loves from the final, unforgivable betrayal.

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Hathor Legacy: Revelations, Book 3

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With tensions reaching the breaking point between the Guardians and Novacorp, an enemy returns and the most powerful Guardian learns the truth about her parents that will not only destroy her loyalty to the security force she’s given her life to serving but also to the man she loves.

While Sentry Leader and Elder Nadira searches for answers, her lover Jonathan Keel is enticed into the hedonistic world of the Novacorp executive class. His entertainment club,Secrets, attracts the elite of Hathor, providing the kind of popularity he never imagined. But this notoriety comes with a soul-stealing price…

With the worlds the Guardians and Novacorp rule put on a collision course, only one can come out victorious while the other is enslaved. The only way to salvage the legacy of the First Families, the original settlers of Hathor, is by making the ultimate sacrifice. But is no choice better than a bad choice when the three PSI groups–the Guardians, the Deshtu, and the healing Kasema–either have to unite or risk being brought completely under Novacorp’s ruthlessly oppressive dominion?

With old scores to settle and long-hidden truths thrust into the spotlight, Nadira and Jonathan…and their love…may never be the same.

Book Three of the Hathor Legacy Series combining elements of suspense, science fiction, paranormal with BWWM multicultural romance.

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#AudioTour “Deep Roots (The Deep Series Bk 3)” by Nick Sullivan

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Author: Nick Sullivan

Narrator: Nick Sullivan

Length: 7 hours 11 minutes

Publisher: Wild Yonder Press⎮2018

Genre: Action-Adventure

Series: The Deep, Book 3

Release date: May 12, 2020

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Synopsis: In the mangroves of Belize, something ancient lies hidden beneath the roots. And when it surfaces, so too will one of man’s baser inclinations. The root of all evil: greed.

Boone Fischer and Emily Durand have enjoyed months of quiet on the tiny island of Caye Caulker. After surviving Hurricane Irma and a mountaintop madman, the two divemasters have finally begun to relax. Big mistake.

Following on the fins of the best-selling thrillers Deep Shadow and Deep Cut, this third Caribbean action-adventure thriller in The Deep Series takes the listener on a whirlwind tour of Belize. From the offshore cayes to distant lagoons, from tropical rivers to jungle ruins lost in time, Boone and Emily race to untangle themselves from a deadly plot that threatens to shatter their lives.

 

Audio Excerpt

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Nick SullivanBorn in East Tennessee, NICK SULLIVAN has spent most of his adult life as an actor in New York City, working in theater, television, film, and audiobooks. After narrating hundreds of books over the last twenty years, he decided to write his own. Nick has been an avid scuba diver for many years and his travels to numerous Caribbean islands have inspired this series. His first novel, “Zombie Bigfoot”, hit #1 in Horror Comedy on Amazon.

NICK SULLIVAN has been narrating audiobooks for over twenty years, recording over four hundred titles and receiving numerous AudioFile Earphones and Audie nominations and awards. He has worked extensively on Broadway and at many U.S. theaters. His TV credits include The Good Wife, The Affair, Divorce, Younger, Bull, Madam Secretary, Boardwalk Empire, 30 Rock, Elementary, and all three Law and Order series. Film credits include Our Idiot Brother and Private Life. Proud member of SAG-AFTRA.

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Q & A with Author/Narrator Nick Sullivan

How did you wind up narrating audiobooks? Was it always your goal or was it something you stumbled into by chance?

It was a random stroke of luck. I was doing a film shoot and the woman playing my wife had been narrating for Talking Books in New York City. And just a few days before, I happened to have taken an ad from a bulletin board: the Jewish Braille Institute was looking for actors to narrate books for the blind for free. I called them… set up a time… then called Talking Books and let them know I had experience recording books (or would, by the time I showed up!)

A lot of narrators seem to have a background in theatre. Is that something you think is essential to a successful narration career?

I used to think so… but there are some truly excellent narrators who don’t have an acting background, so I stand corrected. In general, I DO think a person who has made their living as an actor is going to be better suited to delivering dialogue… but that doesn’t mean they will always be a better storyteller!

What type of training have you undergone?

I studied theater in undergrad and grad school and went to London to train at the British American Dramatic Academy. I had the good fortune to work with a number of teachers who specialized in dialects.

What are your favorite and least favorite parts of narrating an audiobook?

Favorite: high octane dialogue scenes where I can have a ball with the pacing and emotional content. Least favorite: Saying the word “sixths”.

What would you say are your strongest narration abilities?

I pride myself on dialogue and character distinction. I’m good with a number of accents and have a decent ear for picking up new ones. Not like P.J. Ochlan, though… his dialect work is off the charts!

Is there a particular genre you feel unsuited for? Have you ever declined a project because you didn’t think you were right for it?

I’m actually quite comfortable in all genres… and I’ve recorded titles across the board. I have turned jobs down where I disagreed in the choice to use a male narrator, when a book seemed better suited to a female voice. And I turned down a few books that were first-person narrative from Chicagoans and Bostonians… wasn’t comfortable laying on an accent that isn’t in my comfort zone for an entire book.

How does audiobook narration differ from other types of voiceover work you’ve done? Long form narration requires an entirely different skill-set.

The peaks and valleys in pacing and intensity are something you spread out over minutes or hours, instead of the short bursts you’ll find in commercials, animation, or video games.

Do you read reviews for your audiobooks? If so, which ones stand out to you most, positive or negative? What type of the review comments do you find most constructive?

Amusingly enough, I read a self-help book on mindfulness and meditation. It quoted a study that a negative event will carry about four times the weight as an equivalent positive event. Makes sense, in my experience. Yes, I read reviews. A lot of negative reviews are “trolly”, and most narrators know to dismiss those, but some will have some little nugget that you read and go “Oh… um… yeah. I see that.” For instance, I based my Emily character on an actual Brit I met and decided to pump her up to a full South London accent. Well, after reading some reviews from some Brits, I decided to pull her back a bit in Deep Cut. She’s still a bit more “street” than your usual Thames dialect, but I figured I might’ve picked an overly strong dialect for her.

Who is your “dream author” that you would like to record for?

I was fortunate enough to narrate an early version of Sick Puppy for Carl Hiaasen. I still consider it to be one of my favorite experiences of all time. I’d love to do another. His characters are so wonderfully “out there”, that there’s literally a feast of possibilities laid out before the narrator.

What bits of advice would you give to aspiring audiobook narrators?

Okay, here’s a freebie trick. Are you good at impressions? Yes? Well, then sorry, can’t help you. But if you’re like most folks, and you’ve got maybe one or two in you, but most of your impressions are terrible… great!! Because, if you want to craft a unique voice for a character… do an impression that you’re no good at, that doesn’t really sound like the famous person you are failing to impersonate. What you get instead is… a unique voice. One that you’ll be able to repeat over and over in the book… by simply firing up your miserable attempt at that impression.

 

 

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#AudioTour “Deep Cut (The Deep Series Bk 2)” by Nick Sullivan

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Author: Nick Sullivan

Narrator: Nick Sullivan

Length: 7 hours 35 minutes

Publisher: Wild Yonder Press⎮2019

Genre: Action-Adventure

Series: The Deep, Book 2

Release date: April 30, 2019

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Synopsis: Sometimes, the brightest corners of the world can hold the darkest shadows.

Rising steeply from the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, the Dutch island of Saba is a sleepy paradise, the mountainous slopes dotted with little red-and-white cottages and the seas teeming with life. But this little oasis has a less tranquil history, many of its inhabitants having descended from smugglers and pirates.

Boone Fischer and Emily Durand are eager to explore their new home, but their peaceful lives are about to be shattered, as one of history’s most powerful hurricanes begins to form – and, as if that weren’t enough, a savage evil has made its way ashore. In this sequel to the best seller Deep Shadow, Nick Sullivan brings listeners to another fascinating corner of the world and sends them into a swirl of action and adventure.

 

Audio Excerpt

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Nick SullivanBorn in East Tennessee, NICK SULLIVAN has spent most of his adult life as an actor in New York City, working in theater, television, film, and audiobooks. After narrating hundreds of books over the last twenty years, he decided to write his own. Nick has been an avid scuba diver for many years and his travels to numerous Caribbean islands have inspired this series. His first novel, “Zombie Bigfoot”, hit #1 in Horror Comedy on Amazon.

NICK SULLIVAN has been narrating audiobooks for over twenty years, recording over four hundred titles and receiving numerous AudioFile Earphones and Audie nominations and awards. He has worked extensively on Broadway and at many U.S. theaters. His TV credits include The Good Wife, The Affair, Divorce, Younger, Bull, Madam Secretary, Boardwalk Empire, 30 Rock, Elementary, and all three Law and Order series. Film credits include Our Idiot Brother and Private Life. Proud member of SAG-AFTRA.

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Q & A with Author/Narrator Nick Sullivan

Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.

I’ve been narrating for so long, I think and write in a manner that is conducive to the audiobook format… much to the chagrin of my editor, as I often would opt for a sentence structure that was more in line with how a person would actually say the sentence. The Chicago Manual of Style would not always concur with my decisions!

Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?

Since I came into writing by-way-of narrating, I absolutely have the audiobook in mind throughout the writing process. I will make character choices based on what dialects I can be comfortable with. You’ll likely never have a Bostonian in my books. That’s my kryptonite.

Were there any real-life inspirations behind your writing?

I set the books of my Deep Series in places I’ve dived, so there are numerous occasions when I will base plot points on things I’ve experienced or create characters who are inspired by the people I’ve met in the islands. Emily is based on one such person… and that individual was even goofier than my fictional recreation.

What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing? What gets you out of a writing slump?

I’m afraid I’m not that good at getting out of them. Once I get on a roll, I can churn out the words at a dizzying pace… but if I do hit a slump, the longer it goes on the harder it is to get rolling again. Because I spend a lot of time narrating for other authors, my own writing sometimes ends up on the back-burner while I hit their due dates. The enthusiasm returns once I have two solid days of uninterrupted writing; that’s usually all it takes.

Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?

I have been listening to audiobooks since childhood, starting with The Radio Reader with Dick Estell on my local NPR station back in Tennessee. I still listen to them on any drive longer than two hours. I’m an actor in stage and screen, and I really enjoy listening to a narrator perform the interplay between characters. The heavier a book is with dialogue, the more I enjoy it!

What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”? It’s not “cheating”, it’s just different. I don’t think people should replace reading with audiobooks, since reading for yourself allows you to put your own mental interpretation on the book… and that’s a magical thing. But sometimes, sitting back and letting a storyteller spin the tale for you is the way to go. Plus, you can multitask!

How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?

I made a margarita and then called up my scuba buddies and asked where we were gonna dive this summer.

In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a series vs. a stand-alone novel?

PRO: You end up with some very well-established, fleshed out characters… and you can continue to build on them, filling in the gaps. CON: You have to figure out how to bring in essential information from past books without beating folks over the head with exposition.

Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?

Yes… first, make sure the sample that is chosen to audition narrators is one YOU chose, one that contains your primary characters. If you leave that to the company, they may just use the first chapter, and if it’s a prologue, it may not adequately “test” your potential narrators. Find a narrator you like? Great… ask them what microphone they use. Then look it up. Is it a USB mic, under 100 bucks? Don’t use that narrator. They are a hobbyist.

What’s next for you?

I have to decide where to set the next book! And maybe take a trip there. I also have the sequel to my horror comedy, Zombie Bigfoot, to finish. And, in the immediate future, I’ve got six books to narrate for other authors.

 

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#AudioTour “Deep Shadow (The Deep Series Bk 1)” by Nick Sullivan

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Author: Nick Sullivan

Narrator: Nick Sullivan

Length: 8 hours 9 minutes

Publisher: Wild Yonder Press⎮2018

Genre: Action-Adventure

Series: The Deep, Book 1

Release date: May 1, 2018

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Synopsis: In the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, something lethal is on the move.

Scuba divers travel from all over the world to visit the little island of Bonaire, with its crystal-clear waters and a host of beautiful marine life. After three years in the “Divers Paradise”, divemaster Boone Fischer thought he’d seen it all; but on a routine afternoon dive, he spots something that will turn his tranquil life upside down.

From the arid shores of the ABC Islands to the tropical jungles of Venezuela—from the ocean depths of the Southern Caribbean, to the lush islands of the Northern Leewards, Deep Shadow takes Boone and the reader on an action-packed adventure filled with danger and suspense.

“The age-old adage of ‘write what you know’ becomes very important when you write about a technical subject like scuba diving. When you get all the details right, and throw in just the right amounts of action, humor, romance, and suspense, you have a novel like this.”Wayne Stinnett, bestselling author of Fallen Out.

 

Audio Excerpt

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Nick SullivanBorn in East Tennessee, NICK SULLIVAN has spent most of his adult life as an actor in New York City, working in theater, television, film, and audiobooks. After narrating hundreds of books over the last twenty years, he decided to write his own. Nick has been an avid scuba diver for many years and his travels to numerous Caribbean islands have inspired this series. His first novel, “Zombie Bigfoot”, hit #1 in Horror Comedy on Amazon.

NICK SULLIVAN has been narrating audiobooks for over twenty years, recording over four hundred titles and receiving numerous AudioFile Earphones and Audie nominations and awards. He has worked extensively on Broadway and at many U.S. theaters. His TV credits include The Good Wife, The Affair, Divorce, Younger, Bull, Madam Secretary, Boardwalk Empire, 30 Rock, Elementary, and all three Law and Order series. Film credits include Our Idiot Brother and Private Life. Proud member of SAG-AFTRA.

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#BookTour “Death and Conspiracy” by Seeley James

Death and Conspiracy by Seeley James Banner

on Tour November 11 – December 6, 2019

Synopsis:

Death and Conspiracy by Seeley JamesIs Jacob Stearne a terrorist or a hero?

After fabled Ranger Jacob Stearne kills two terrorists before they can shoot hundreds of worshippers, he’s sent undercover to disrupt their neo-Nazi group’s plans for a global religious war. But the CIA agent who sends him on his mission may not be who he claims.

In his search for the dangerous terrorists, Jacob finds himself manipulated by international agencies, used gods, potential lovers, and racists alike. Everyone wants him to believe something he doesn’t. While infiltrating a neo-Nazi gathering, he must handle both warring factions and authorities who believe he’s the real terrorist.

Death & Conspiracy poses the question: Could you befriend white supremacists to stop mass-shootings?

Book Details:

Genre: Action/Adventure

Published by: Machined Media

Publication Date: September 24th 2019

Number of Pages: 303

ISBN: 9781732238886

Series: Sabel Security Book 7

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads

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Read an excerpt:

SOMETHING WENT WRONG WITH MY girlfriend. I trudged along the stone-paved streets at dawn wearing my blue jeans and black leather jacket over a t-shirt that read, “That which does not kill me—should run.” I was thinking things over. There were no real indicators I could put my finger on, but when I said we should step out for coffee, she offered to join me “later.” Something in her tone of voice. Something in her distant gaze. What happened? Last night we were thirsty for each other. I did my Julius Caesar impression, Vini, Vidi, Vici. She channeled the Whore of Babylon. Laughter and romping ensued. This morning, she was different. A shop lady dragged a stand filled with bouquets onto the sidewalk in front of her store. Figuring flowers might perk Jenny up, I picked one. The lady took one look at my face, smiled, and told me they were free for lovers. At least, I think that’s what she said. I studied Arabic and Pashto to get me through my eight tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. French never came up. I thanked her, sniffed the bouquet, and kept strolling. We’d had a whirlwind romance, the kind you read about in books. If you read that kind of book. Which I don’t. So, I guess it was how I imagined a storybook romance goes. I’d saved her mother’s life, which led to Jenny getting a pardon. As soon as she got out of prison, she came to my house to say thank you in person. Come to think of it, that doesn’t sound like a storybook romance at all. Anyway. One thing led to another. Two weeks later, I invited her for a getaway weekend. I was thinking something like a bed-and-breakfast in the Shenandoah Valley. Cozy and affordable and nearby. Then I made the mistake of telling my boss, Pia Sabel, about my plans. She thought Jenny Jenkins would prefer Paris. After all, Jenny’s the daughter of Bobby Jenkins, the billionaire drug lord—I mean, founder of Jenkins Pharmaceuticals. Since no one can say no to Ms. Sabel, especially when she insists on paying and providing a private jet, the next thing I knew we were in Paris, staying in the Hotel Lutetia on the Left Bank. It turned out Jenny had been to Paris so many times it was like going to Walgreens. Her dad rented out Napoleon’s Tomb for her ninth birthday. For my ninth, Dad filled a barn bin with dried soybeans so we could jump in them. Things are different for farm boys in Iowa. There was an upside. Instead of going to see the fire damage at Notre Dame or visiting the Louvre, she wanted to spend the entire trip in bed. I was fine with that. Then this morning happened. My brain came back to the street in front of me. Two men hauled tables and chairs out of a café and placed them on the sidewalk. I put my flowers on a table and dropped into a wicker chair. One of the men said something about not being open yet, but the other guy pulled him away. I said, What did I do wrong? I made sure she was satisfied several times over. Wait. She wasn’t faking it, was she? Mercury, winged messenger of the Roman gods, pulled up a chair next to me. If she be faking an orgasm when you’re going downtown like a Detroit rapper, who is she cheating? Sometimes it’s nice to have a god you can chat with. Most of them are invisible and mute. I enjoy our little chats. Sometimes. But every now and then, the diagnosis of my Army psychiatrists rolls through my head like a thunderstorm. “PTSD-induced schizophrenia,” they said. Yeah. Well. What do they know? The guys who served with me in combat considered me divinely inspired. Mercury first came to my aid in a battle where a company of Iraqi Republican Guards had pinned down a Marine platoon. I’d been separated from my Army Ranger unit and snuck through the combat zone lost, scared, and confused. With Mercury whispering in my ear, telling me where to aim, I took out half the Iraqis attacking the Marines and scattered the rest. The Marines loved me. I got medals. From then on, my heavenly powers on the battlefield made me the soldier’s soldier. Everybody wanted to transfer to my platoon. All Mercury wanted was a return to his former glory. Just kick Christianity to the curb and reinstate the whole Roman pantheon. No problem. After fifteen hundred years, he and his buddies were done with living on food stamps and desperate for a reunion tour. I said, Is it me? Too much of a socio-economic divide? Mercury leaned in. You want a woman like that, brutha? Really want a woman like that? Then you gotta think like a Caesar. I said, I’m her master and commander in the bedroom. Sheeyit, dawg. Mercury rolled his eyes and leaned back. (Did I mention he’s black? He cites the Judeo-Christian Bible, where it says God made man in His image. Mercury points out that the Great Leap Forward happened in Southern Africa. There were no white people in Southern Africa in the days of Adam and Eve. Therefore, all gods are black. Yeah, took me a while too.) I’m talking real Caesar, not just another white dude whipping out some cheap leather gear in a hotel room. I’m talking invading nations, burning villages, raping, pillaging… And that’s where I tune him out. Certain aspects of civilized behavior have changed a good deal since he whispered in the ears of the rich and powerful. I texted Jenny that I was waiting for her at the Café de la Mairie. She didn’t reply. Ever listen to some old guy go on about winning the state championship back in high school? Try spending an hour listening to a used god talk about the good ol’ days when Julius Caesar defeated the official Roman Army under Pompey—not because he should but because he could. Mercury said, And that’s how Julius Caesar became emperor. The lesson here is: Kill everyone who defies you. I said, How’d that work out for ol’ Julius in the end? The streets began to fill with enough vehicles to start the rhythmic honking cycles peculiar to big cities. It sounded a lot like that Broadway tune by George Gershwin. What was it called? “An American in …” somewhere. There were no texts from Jenny on my phone when I checked for the three hundredth time. I sent her a picture of the menu and asked if she wanted me to order for her. No response. Mercury said, There they go again. Those two clowns been circling the block all morning, dressed like Siberians. I had a croissant with jam and a coffee. Alone. Are you listening to me, homie? Mercury’s supposed to be the god of eloquence, but tutoring William Shakespeare five hundred years ago didn’t work out for his resurrection, so he tried channeling inner-city kids. He thinks he sounds like Dr. Dre, but he comes off more like Eminem will in forty years. Desperately dated. I’m telling you, Mercury said, those two are your ticket to fame. You kill them, and the press will love you. Glory will be ours! Having lost track of which two people he wanted me to kill, I said, Jenny doesn’t care about glory. The sun rose higher in the sky. The waiter brought more coffee. People going places began to fill the sidewalk. Singles, couples, families. It was Sunday, and many of them were filing into one big-ass church across the street. Mercury said, What’s the big deal about this here girl has you so distracted, brutha? I said, Remember when I rescued her mom from the assassins? Before her mom was VP, she was an admiral. And brass tends to expect a concierge rescue. But not Admiral Wilkes. She fought and ran and knocked out bad guys like a superhero. That woman was determined to get out of there. I was impressed. When Jenny showed up, I realized the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. She was just as determined and driven as her mom. A woman like that, you can build a life together. A real partnership. The two of us working out family, friends, and careers together. We could grow old without the flame dying out. Mercury said, Determined? Driven? You really want a woman like that, dude? Nothing but trouble if you ask me. In my day, women didn’t read, they didn’t vote, they didn’t talk back. We had a good thing going and y’all messed it up. My phone’s screen was blank. Still no word from Jenny. I said, Maybe she needs something more than just sex? Mercury said, What else is there? I dunno, I said. Like therapy or something. She had a traumatic year. Maybe she needs help with her mental health. Mercury said, What would you know about mental health? The waiter brought a vase for my bouquet. It was wilting. I gave him a nod. “Merci.” Pretty much the extent of my French vocabulary. I was stuck. If I went back now, I’d look insecure, worried. If I kept my cool, acted unconcerned, maybe she’d come around. Maybe she’d text me back. I hate playing games like that. Unless I win. See here now, bro. You need to take down those terrorists with the two coats. Mercury nodded at the men he’d pointed out earlier. You can be a hero again. I said, What makes you think they’re terrorists? Mercury said, They radiate hate. Across the lane was a large, open plaza. In the center stood a massive chunk of marble with statues of ancient Frenchmen in niches surrounded by water splashing from a central fountain. The Frenchmen were probably important at some point in the history of the area, but now they were just a backdrop for selfies. Two guys stood next to the fountain. They stole glances at the cathedral doors. They had jet black hair and beards. One had a swarthy, Mediterranean look. The other looked distinctly American. They kept their heads down, their hands shoved in their coat pockets. Their overcoats were heavy enough for winter, but it was a sunny spring day. Maybe Jenny was worried about the paparazzi. We’d been swarmed outside the hotel. Again later when we went out to dinner. Neither of us is a celebrity, but her divorced parents are minor tabloid material. Jenkins Pharma sold a questionable number of opiates, and her mom is the Vice President of the United States. Which is why there’d been plenty of controversy over Jenny’s pardon. The paparazzi couldn’t be it. I’d shared Ms. Sabel’s advice for dealing with tabloid photographers with Jenny. Ms. Sabel told me to smile for the cameras because (a) they hate that, and (b) they’ll print it anyway so you may as well look good. Jenny still hated them. I thought about going to church. I checked the name of the one across the street. Église Saint-Sulpice. I invited Jenny in a text. We hadn’t discussed religion, and she didn’t seem the type, but if she was mad at me, where better to work things out? She was the kind of woman worth working things out for. The kind worth having an intimate relationship with. Someone you could tell all your secrets to. Or is it, someone to whom you could tell all your secrets? I never get that stuff right. Maybe she didn’t like my grammar. Mercury grabbed my hair and pulled my head up out of my phone. He pointed at the two guys. Quit thinking about getting laid and ask yourself the million-dollar question: why two coats? Shoplifters wear overcoats. It gives them room for all their stolen merchandise. So do mass shooters. Coats cover weapons. The shorter guy fiddled with a string of beads. Sweat dripped from his forehead. He mumbled to himself. The American looked calmer, yet significantly more agitated than your average churchgoer. My military training included a good deal about recognizing terrorists. They often say prayers. They’re often quite nervous. They often sulk to avoid notice. Either these two were sinners in desperate need of redemption … or they were terrorists. I found myself crossing the street, heading for the fountain. At the same time, the two men headed for the church. As he pushed off, the short guy tossed his beads into the water. It was a wide plaza, and they had a shorter distance. I changed course to intercept them. Being unarmed put me at a disadvantage. But they had the terrorist’s tunnel vision. Their eyes remained glued to the entrance. Nothing around them mattered anymore. A few people in nice clothes funneled up the steps and filed through the massive front door, each taking a bulletin from the greeters. None of them wore more than a light sport coat. The overcoat guys slowed and hung back. When the funnel cleared, the greeters at the door waited. The overcoat guys trotted up the steps and entered without taking the offered bulletin. Without a bulletin, they would have no idea which hymns to sing. Definitely terrorists. I bounded up the steps, full throttle. *** Excerpt from Death and Conspiracy by Seeley James. Copyright 2019 by Seeley James. Reproduced with permission from Machined Media. All rights reserved.

 

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Author Bio:

Seeley James His near-death experiences range from talking a jealous husband into putting the gun down to spinning out on an icy freeway in heavy traffic without touching anything. His resume ranges from washing dishes to global technology management. His personal life ranges from homeless at 17, adopting a 3-year-old at 19, getting married at 37, fathering his last child at 43, hiking the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim at 59, and taking the occasional nap. Seeley’s love of creativity began at an early age, growing up at Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture in Arizona and Wisconsin. He carried his imagination first into a successful career in sales and marketing, and then to his real love: fiction. His writing career ranges from humble beginnings with short stories in The Battered Suitcase, to being awarded a Medallion from the Book Readers Appreciation Group. Seeley is best known for his Sabel Security series of thrillers featuring athlete and heiress Pia Sabel and her bodyguard, veteran Jacob Stearne. One of them kicks ass and the other talks to the wrong god.

Catch Up With Seeley James On: SeeleyJames.com, Goodreads, BookBub, & Facebook!

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