Finding Secrets Blog Tour

Book Excerpt

‘Welcome to Mallow Court,’ I say, my smile a little forced. It’s a week since the Churchley-Thursley wedding debacle, and I’ve yet to put it fully behind me. Though Mrs Fairchild has made no noises about sacking me, I have an irritating gnaw inside me that won’t go away. Have I put everything into my job at Mallow Court to avoid focusing on my own future? Is my life nothing more than a house of cards waiting to topple over?

‘I hope you’ll enjoy today’s tour through one of the loveliest Elizabethan houses in the South East.’ I make eye contact with a few members of the American tour group. ‘The house was built in 1604 by a wealthy wool merchant who was also—’

Someone’s phone goes off. I stop my spiel, waiting patiently (if a little pained) for a short bald man in a green bowling shirt to dig around his pocket, find his phone, take it out, squint at the name on the screen – and then, instead of muting it, answer it with a loud southern drawl: ‘Hi honey, how are the kids?’

A few people scowl in his direction, and someone has the nerve to laugh.

He keeps on talking. ‘Yeah, we’re seeing some old house now.’

I clear my throat, glowering at him. He raises a pudgy hand like he’ll only be a second.

When I first started working at Mallow Court, I wrote the script for the tours and gave them all myself. Now, however, there are two other full time guides. Usually for me, giving tours is a welcome break from admin and management, and I enjoy meeting people who are interested in the house. But lately, I’ve been struggling to maintain my enthusiasm.

‘Before I continue,’ I say as I wave the others forward into the library, ‘I’d like to get a few ground rules straight. First, can I ask that you please put your phones on mute…’

Thus follows a good thirty seconds of grumbling, rustling, digging, and beeping.

The man on the phone finally hangs up and rejoins the group. ‘Sorry folks,’ he says.

I ignore his apology while the last of the phones go back into pockets and handbags. An elderly man in a Red Sox baseball cap takes advantage of the chaos to remove his chewing gum from his mouth, and stick it firmly to the bottom of a carved oak table.

‘Also,’ I say, my voice unnaturally high, ‘I’d like to remind you that there’s no eating or drinking inside the house.’

The old man grins at me through gapped front teeth, and pops another tab of Orbit into his mouth. I sigh. Next to him, a pear-shaped lady in a ‘Go ahead, make my day’ T-shirt raises her hand.

‘Yes?’

‘But there’s a tea room, right? That’s what the bus driver said. I want to buy some of that organic marmalade stuff for my daughter-in-law. And some artistic beer for me!’

‘Of course. The tour will end at the tearoom and gift shop. Now, if we—’

Another woman raises her hand. ‘And where’s the ladies room? The bathroom on the bus was just so stinky…’ She shifts from side to side, managing to look desperate.

‘Outside to the left. And now, please can you hold your questions so we can start the tour? I promise I’ll answer them as we go along.’

Another hand shoots up.

‘Or at the end,’ I say pointedly. ‘Now, as I was saying…’

I gloss over the dates and identities of pale-faced subjects of old portraits. Lots of people who come to visit the house are interested in those things, but there’s no use pretending that everyone is. Instead, I skip to the fun part.

‘You might be interested to know about the current owner of the house – Mrs Catherine Fairchild. Her father, Frank Bolton, was known as “the Knicker King”.’ I smile as a few people whisper amongst themselves. ‘His company was famous for British-made ladies underwear in the 1950s and 60s.’

There are a few sniggers now. It’s the same with most groups, even the erudite ones.

‘He was the first man in Britain to mass-produce the double gusset.’ I say. ‘For those of you who don’t know what that is…’ I raise my eyebrows mischievously, ‘it’s the business end of the knicker.’

Full on laughter now as this new information is considered and underwear jokes are ‘cracked’.

The ice now broken, I move the group along to the billiard room. As I’m doing so, I come face to face with a tall, light-brown-haired man that I didn’t notice before who must have been standing at the back. He’s much younger than the rest – early-thirties, maybe. Instead of passing, he stops and looks me in the eye. His are the most delicious shade of chocolate brown that I’ve ever seen. An unexpected rush of heat shoots down my body.

‘Umm,’ I gabble, ‘the next room is the billiard room.’ Like that’s not completely obvious (given the enormous green baize billiard table that’s taking up pretty much the entire room).

I stumble through my description of how the game differs from pool, all the while aware of him watching me and listening intently. As I’m about ready to move the group on, he raises his hand.

About Lauren Westwood

Originally from California, Lauren relocated to England in 2000. She works as a lawyer for a renewable energy company. Laure’s first novel, ‘Finding Home’ was inspired by her family’s 3-year search for a house that made them the bane of home county estate agents. She currently resides in a pernickety 400-year old house in Surrey with her partner and their three daughters. She enjoys travel, visiting old houses, baking with her daughters, dance, playing piano, and hates tennis.

Follow Lauren

Twitter: @LWestwoodWriter

Website: www.laurenwestwoodwriter.com

 

About Finding Secrets

A country house, a precious jeweled locket, and a puzzle dating back to the London Blitz and Imperial Russia. Utterly captivating, a fantastic romance from beginning to end. Perfect for the fans of Carole Matthews and Milly Johnson.

Alex Hart loves her dream job as manager of Mallow Court, a historic Elizabethan house, even if her friends think she needs to get out more. But a discovery in the pocket of an old coat – a jewelled mechanical locket shaped like a bird – changes everything, and Alex discovers that things are not as they seem.

From an old diary, to a handsome barrister, a mysterious clockmaker, and the darkest hours of the London Blitz, Alex must follow the trail of the jewelled bird to uncover the truth about the things she holds dearest – and someone is determined not to let sleeping dogs lie!

Only by finding the secrets of the past can Alex find the keys to her future – and her heart.

 

 

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Book Excerpt Poisoned Iris

Book Excerpt

Difference Is Not a Crime

Five words above a painting. Nothing more, nothing less. It shouldn’t have that much impact on my life, yet this sentence had been in the back of my head since the first time I’d seen it in my fourteenth year. That was the day I finally had been brave enough to go on our building’s roof, which my brother had made me discover on my birthday several weeks earlier.

“Welcome to our little corner of freedom, lil’ sister,” Memphis had told me before laughing, as he rarely did, when he’d seen my more than enthusiastic reaction.

I’d believed with all my heart that it was true while we were lying down and enjoying the sun before the sky had gotten cloudy and it’d begun to rain.

Even though this place was always synonymous with freedom, something inside me had changed after discovering these words on a Penia 37 building, written in red capitals by one person, then barred in black by another.

“Difference is not a crime.”

A statement. A cry in the world. A truth.

A lie to me. Because I’d realized at this very moment that, in reality, although our apartment and this roof had no bars, if I were in theory free to leave whenever I wanted, I was indeed in a prison and sentenced to stay in it until the end of my life.

Because I was different from those who lived outdoors, and this difference would get me executed if anyone saw me outside.

It was as if I’d committed the most abominable acts when I’d never asked to be born as I was. When I’d never asked to be born on this side of the Styx Sea, far from the city of Elysion where the Non-Infecteds like me were living. When I’d never asked for skin that wasn’t like the Infecteds of Tartaros.

I might not know who the person hidden behind those words was, if they’d lived before or after mankind had entered in this new era, if that sentence had been inspired by their color, their religion, their origin, their sexual orientation, or even because they were born without the Red Plague, like me, but I knew they were wrong.

About the Book

Athens was once the cradle of civilization. Now it’s slowly but surely becoming the tomb of humanity.

The Red Plague, a violent virus which had run rampant decades ago, left its imprint on the planet and the flesh of men. All that remains of the modern world is an endless wasteland of ruins—Erebos—and two cities—Elysion, the obscure island of the Non-Infecteds about which no one knows a thing, and, Tartaros, the crumbling town of the Infecteds where despair, hatred, violence and poverty are the operative words.

And at the heart of this universe lives Irisya, a sixteen-year-old Non-Infected girl, staying recluse in her home to be safe and relying on her brother, Memphis, for everything.

But then, one day, he disappears without a trace.

Irisya has no choice. To save him, to survive, she will have to brave all the dangers of the outside world.

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Book Excerpt Third Party

Book Excerpt

51jrqg90tdl“So, the confluence of my thinking is this: I plan to take the majority of my personal wealth and use it to support third-party activities. In fact, I plan to start a new political party.”

There was a stunned silence.

“I don’t mean to burst your bubble,” K.C. finally said, shaking her head, “but this has been tried before, and rather unsuccessfully, I may add. Teddy Roosevelt couldn’t pull it off and he was beloved. Ross Perot couldn’t pull it off. He had more money than even you.”

“You’re right,” Atlas responded calmly. “This has been tried and there have been many failures. Roosevelt got just over twenty-seven percent of the vote and Perot, nineteen. Not much to write home about. If you look throughout history you will see hundreds of political parties, yet very few have achieved any significant success. Even in today’s world, there are dozens of parties across America that are lucky to hit a bunt single every cycle or two. The few successes, like Jesse Ventura winning the governorship in Minnesota, or Joe Lieberman’s recent run as an independent in Connecticut, have been about individuals. They could not, and did not, translate to party continuity.

“Listen,” said Atlas, holding his hands as if about to catch a pass, “I know how this sounds. But, I have spent the better part of the past eighteen months contemplating this idea and it is my hope that, by the end of our time here, you will all join me in this effort.

“Lauren, you have more experience than anyone I know in I.T. General, you’ve spent your entire life organizing and leading troops and then workers. K.C., you’ve dedicated your life to the advancement of critical social issues, some of which are more mainstream today than ever before. And, Tom, if you will indulge me for the time being, you are my secret weapon.”

Tom looked puzzled, but said nothing.
“It will all be revealed in time, Tom, I promise.

 “Each of you has impeccable reputations for honesty and the highest ethical standards; above all else, our research shows these to be the most important qualities that Americans covet in government.”

After a brief pause, Atlas stood and stretched a bit. “Whaddaya say we break here? I know you will need time to digest, literally and figuratively. You can resume tearing me apart over dinner. Assuming you don’t pick the carcass too clean, there should be adequate time to forge a third party plan.”

Atlas mentally stepped back and surveyed his guests. He wasn’t sure if they were inspired, in shock, or maybe some of each—but he knew they were totally engaged. In the case of K.C. and the General, it was certainly not the first time he had caught either off guard with a revolutionary idea.

About the Book

Why doesn’t the United States have an effective, competitive third political party? What would it take to get one off the ground? To what lengths would the Democrats and Republicans go to prevent this from happening? Most importantly, could a new third political party really make a difference? Third Party: Volume I: Starting in the Middle provides answers to these and other relevant questions regularly contemplated and discussed across America by a disgruntled and disconnected electorate. Volume I also serves as a primer for those who lack knowledge of the “behind the scenes” maneuvering that makes American politics the ultimate contact sport.

Author Bio

STEVEN NEMEROVSKI is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University with the School of International and Public Affairs. He was the Parliamentarian for the Illinois House of Representatives, Special Counsel to The Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, Special Counsel to the Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Public Schools, and outside general counsel to various state agencies in Illinois.  He hosts the “None of The Above” television programming on Grassroots TV in Aspen, Colorado. Learn more at ThirdParty.today and NoneOfTheAbove.us.
Third Party: Volume I: Starting in the Middle
Is THIRD PARTY fact or fiction? It is an intriguing story that could become reality in the hands and hearts of the right people. No matter how passionate or well intended America’s third party proponents have been to-date, the current “system” is designed to defeat them. In THIRD PARTY, one visionary man shows how it can be accomplished in the face of insurmountable odds.Vol. I “Starting in the Middle”  is the story of Alex “Atlas” Stein, a self-made billionaire, who risks wealth and reputation to create a viable third political party in America. It follows the resourceful efforts of Atlas and his loyal team from the conception of the E Party through two election cycles and the intervening legislative session. Volume I is filled with the “behind the scenes” cut-throat political maneuvering that makes American politics the ultimate contact sport.
Third Party: Volume II: Strange Bedfellows
Volume II, Strange Bedfellows, examines the twisted thinking of modern day Democrats and Republicans that it is more important to get elected than it is to govern responsibly. Focusing on the evils of win-at-all-costs elections and the role decennial redistricting plays in protecting incumbency, the story sheds light on the legislative process and how policy goals take a back seat to political dynasties.This political thriller is again cloaked in suspense revolving around the diabolical DNC Chairman, Eddie Cobb. As the E Party fights for its’ survival, in consort with Republican leaders and others, Cobb outdoes his hostility from Volume I by unleashing a series of relentless,subversive attacks in the spirit of America’s many unprincipled, cutthroat politicians.

Promo Post Blood of Stars and Gods

About the Book

blood-of-stars-and-gods-v2Forever does not go on unchanged.

Caitriona Hayden’s destiny as the Dracopraesi dragon’s North Star is no clearer to her than it was weeks ago. However, Cait’s eternal future seems a minor concern while the vengeful elves continue taunting the dragons, now using violence against the human population in their desire for war.

Battles of war aren’t the only ones fought.

King Corrin struggles to make peace with his coming end, and as his family bonds heal, stronger relationships and alliances form among Cait and her dragons. Theo may have won her heart, but Oliver fills a void long left by the passing of her uncle, and each dragon is a part of Cait’s family.

But a darkness bleeds through to change their world.

When faced with decisions of life and death, Cait, Theo, and demigod Dante must choose unpredictable paths, chance outcomes of eternal consequences, and make dubious promises. As Cait displays unexpected abilities, complications arise, more details of her destiny are revealed, and she discovers the inherent risks of fearing change.

Every era has a beginning and an end. There are things in the world no one is meant to stop.

BLOOD OF STARS AND GODS is book two in the exciting Stars and Souls trilogy, sequel to Amazon #1 Contemporary Fantasy: FIRE OF STARS AND DRAGONS!

Author Bio

melissa-a-petreshock-author-photo-2016-smallerMelissa A. Petreshock is a full-time wife, mom, and writer returned to her home state of Kentucky after a number of years spent living in Massachusetts. She spends quiet days writing, while her evenings and weekends are often spent involved with her children’s extracurricular activities.

When not busy with her family or writing, she indulges in too much coffee, loud music, random dancing, and lots of fandoms. Melissa favors causes demanding social change such as mental health awareness and teen suicide prevention.

BLOOD OF STARS AND GODS is the sequel to her debut NA Fantasy Romance novel FIRE OF STARS AND DRAGONS, and the second book in the Stars and Souls Trilogy. To learn more about the series, check out her website.

Find Melissa online:

melissapetreshock.com

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Promo Post Graham and Giveaway

Book Excerpt

Graham.v6I’m coasting through town and hit the red light right beside the damn grocery store. Off in the distance, I spot a girl getting out of a powder-blue car. “Son of a …” Beeep! Yeah, some asshole behind me is honking because the light’s green. I flip him off and turn into the one place I should probably avoid for life.

Zooming into a spot next to her car, I park and get out. She hasn’t noticed me. She’s hunched over, digging out something from inside her trunk.

“Why are you still here?” I ask.

She flinches. I watch as her back stiffens, and then she turns those baby blues that I swear possess the sea onto me. “I … had to. Why are you here?” Her tone is defensive.

“We’re not talking about me right now. We’re talking about you. Did you not get your trust fund or something?”

She lowers her lashes. “That’s my business.” She shuts her trunk, slings a backpack over her shoulder, then turns away from me. I grip her arm to stop her from leaving. With a fiery glare, she snaps, “I’ve got to go to work.”

I don’t loosen my grip but, instead, snort. “Been working here long then?”

“I don’t have time for pop quizzes. I have to clock in.” She jerks herself from my grip and begins to walk. “Good-bye, Graham.”

“I’m not finished.”

She pins me with a piercing stare. “Well, I am.” Then she stomps off into the store.

I run my fingers through my hair. That damn girl. I want to kiss her and bend her over her car. I want to nail her to the wall and make her scream my name. And why the hell do I also want her to be in that ugly-ass cashier uniform? I’ve got no idea, except that she makes it look hot as hell.

I check the time on my phone. Shit. I need to be at my appointment in twenty minutes. Guess I’ll have to talk to her later.

About the Book

Graham Nichols’s main goal in life is to forget. Getting high, completely wasted, and running through a string of sexy blonds daily helps him achieve this task. But one night of partying lands him in a heap of trouble and sent back to the confinements of his hometown. Things can’t possibly get worse, right?

Sarah Morris can’t seem to run fast enough away from her past. She’s spent months trying to amend her ways, and is doing a pretty good job. She’s getting good grades, isn’t acting like a spoiled brat, and even works at the local grocery store. The last thing she needs is a distraction.

Enter Graham Nichols, the one mistake Sarah can’t escape.

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Author Bio

Natalie Decker is the author of the bestselling YA series RIVAL LOVE. She loves oceans, sunsets, sand between her toes, and carefree days. Her imagination is always going, which some find odd. But she believes in seeing the world in a different light at all times. Her first passion for writing started at age twelve when she had to write a poem for English class. However, seventh grade wasn’t her favorite time and books were her source of comfort. She took all college prep classes in High school, and attended the University of Akron. Although she studied Mathematics she never lost her passion for writing or her comfort in books. She’s a huge Denver Broncos fan, loves football, a mean cook in the kitchen, loves her family and friends and misses her dog infinity times infinity. If she’s not writing, reading, traveling, hanging out with her family and friends, then she’s off having an adventure. Because Natalie believes in a saying: Your life is your own journey, so make it amazing!

 

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Author Interview Pigeon-Blood Red

  • BOOK COVERHow long have you been writing?

I’ve wanted to write for years but as a practicing lawyer, I never had the time except occasionally after work and on weekends.  I started working on Pigeon-Blood Red sometime in the mid-90’s.  In 2008 I wrote a legal text called Ohio Insurance Coverage, which is a reference work for lawyers and judges.  I did annual updates for that book through 2012, which is when I retired.

  • What is your favorite genre to write?

My favorite genre to write in is crime fiction, which is the genre that fits Pigeon-Blood Red.  One of my favorite novels, and the one that got me started writing crime fiction, is The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett.  The 1941 movie version of the novel is also a fine example of film noir, one of my favorite movie genres.  It should be said that that version was the third and best adaptation of the novel, one reason being that much of the dialogue was taken directly from the novel.

  • Which genre have you never tried before, but would you like to try out?

I think I’d like to try literary fiction one day.  Some of the most memorable novels I’ve read fall into that category.  Some that come to mind include From Here to Eternity, An American Tragedy, Of Human Bondage, The Naked and the Dead, For Whom the Bell Tolls (or practically anything else by Hemingway).  One of the better known contemporary mystery writers, Walter Mosley, tried his hand at literary fiction in R.L.’s Dream, which was generally well received by critics.

  • Please tell us about your book.

 

Pigeon-Blood Red tells the story of an underworld enforcer who is in pursuit of a small time businessman who stole a pigeon-blood red ruby necklace worth millions.  He trails the thief from Chicago to Honolulu, but the chase goes sideways after the hardened hit man develops a grudging respect for a couple of innocent bystanders who accidentally become embroiled in the crime:  the thief’s unsuspecting wife and an old flame who comes to her rescue as the enforcer closes in.  The hit man must decide whether to follow orders and kill them or spare them and endanger the life of the woman he loves.

“In a novel with as much action as love, it is sure to be a story that will fulfill the desires of readers of all ages, genders, and areas of interest.” – Red City Review

  • Which character was your favorite, and why? Which character was your least favorite, and why?

 

For selfish reasons my favorite character is Paul, the old flame who tries to protect Evelyn, the unsuspecting wife, who by this time has decided to leave her husband Robert (who she knows is a philanderer but doesn’t know is also a thief.)  Paul is a black lawyer who represents a highly idealized version of myself.  (Evelyn and Robert are also African-Americans.)  He’s taller, smarter, more handsome, younger, and more athletic, but he still has the essence of my personality, my ethics, and my values.

I hasten to add that readers’ favorite will probably be Rico, the hit man, who is a killer with a conscience who has his own set of values.

My least favorite is Robert, the lying, cheating husband who is a scoundrel in every sense of the word.  As was true of all of the characters, though, he was a pleasure to write.

  • What was the hardest part about writing your book?

As I imagined the novel, the main character would be Paul, my alter ego.  I set out to make Rico an engaging foil for Paul’s character, but a foil nevertheless.  The hardest thing about the novel was to write his character in such a way that he remained intriguing but not so intriguing that he completely overshadowed Paul.  I wanted him to be a ruthlessly efficient hit man, but one with a code of his own, i.e., there is a line he won’t cross despite his vocation.  And I wanted him to have a dry sense of humor.  I think I succeeded in making him a compelling character, but he fought me at every turn when I tried to prevent his character from overshadowing Paul’s.  I fought back but I’m certain he won.

  • What is your writing routine? Are there things you absolutely need to start writing?

 

There is nothing I absolutely need to start writing.  Since I’m retired, I have the luxury of writing at my leisure, so I don’t write every day.  I hate to waste beautiful weather sitting behind a desk, so when the weather is nice, I usually don’t start writing until sometime in the evening and if the words are flowing, I keep going until the early morning.  When it’s not so nice outside, e.g., in the winter or when it’s raining, I sometimes start in the early afternoon.

 

  • How long did it take you to write your book from start to finish?

 

It’s difficult to estimate how long it took me to write Pigeon-Blood Red.  I started and stopped for weeks or even months over several years, writing only on weekends or in the evenings.  Also, the novel went through many iterations during the drafting and redrafting periods.  Incidentally, the original title was Murder in Paradise.

 

  • Can you tell us about your editing process?

 

As to the actual writing process, I do the first draft in longhand on a legal pad.  Generally, I then revise that draft on the same legal pad.  After I’ve accumulated several pages, I transfer what I’ve written to the computer and then I make additional revisions there.  Whether I’m writing in longhand or typing on a keyboard, I always review and revise the prior day’s work before writing anything new.

 

  • Is this book part of a series? If so, how many installments do you have planned?

 

Pigeon-Blood Red is the first in a trilogy.  I’ve completed a draft of the second installment and I’m revising that now.  The third installment began as a screenplay.  I plan to adapt it into a novel.  I’m working with a media company in L.A. to try to interest producers in making a movie version of Pigeon-Blood Red. That is a long shot, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed nevertheless.

 

  • Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

 

If an established author offers advice, don’t hesitate to accept it.

  • What inspired you to write your book?

 

It was inspired by a trip a made to Honolulu about two decades ago.  I was attending a legal seminar when, during an evening stroll around the hotel grounds, the idea for the novel came to me.  At that point the premise was inchoate and barely an idea.  I saw in my mind’s eye a mysterious, alluring woman in danger and on the run from someone or something, and I saw a stranger (a lawyer, of course) coming to her rescue (or trying to).  That was it.   Over the ensuing months and years the stranger I envisioned was transformed into an old college classmate of the woman who had a crush on her when both were students almost two decades earlier.  Before their chance meeting in Honolulu, they hadn’t seen each other since college.

 

  • Are you working on something at the moment? If so, can you tell us more about it?

I’m working on the second novel in the trilogy that began with Pigeon-Blood Red.  Originally it was titled Red Autumn but I’m working on trying to come up with a new title.

 

About the Book

For underworld enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss’s priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime.

As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?

Praise for Pigeon-Blood Red

“Fast-paced and full of surprises. Will keep you on the edge of your seat!” – Amazon Customer

“Pigeon Blood Red has a dramatic and satisfying conclusion, leaving the reader nodding his head with approval.” – Readers’ Favorite

“In a novel with as much action as love, it is sure to be a story that will fulfill the desires of readers of all ages, genders, and areas of interest.” – Red City Review

About Ed Duncan

ED DUNCANEd Duncan is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years. He currently lives outside of Cleveland, OH and is at work on the second installment in the Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy. To learn more, go to http://eduncan.net/

Readers can connect with Ed on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Book Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter 1

When Rico knocked on Jean’s door he was happy to hear the sound of footsteps. At least she was there. Maybe it was a good omen. Jean, a stunning redhead with a figure that made the heart leap, looked through the peephole, opened the door, and greeted him wrapped in a towel. She was even more tantalizing than she’d been in the car earlier that day. She wasn’t completely dry, and here and there tiny droplets of water glistened on her arms and shoulders. Rico inhaled the subtle fragrance of her shower gel, but before it could distract him, a voice in his head reminded him, “Point one percent.”

“I wasn’t expecting you back so soon,” she began, a playful, sultry smile on her face.

From the doorway Rico scanned the living room and saw nothing amiss. He walked in and closed the door behind him. Too bad. He only knew how to do this one way. “Jean, how long have you known me?” he asked stoically.

She was baffled. “You know as well as I do. What kind of a question is that?”

“I never tried to hide from you how I make my living, true?” They stood face to face, inches apart, before she took a few halting steps backward. “So you know what happens to people who don’t tell me what I want to know, don’t you?”

“Rico,” she stammered, her voice trembling, “you aren’t making any sense. What’s this all about? I don’t know what you’re accusing me of, but I haven’t done anything, I swear.”

He took a straight razor from his coat pocket and opened it. As he walked toward her, she covered her face with her hands. He stepped behind her, thrust his left arm through the triangle formed by her hands pressing against her face, and grabbed her right shoulder. With his right hand he held the blunt side of the open razor against her right cheek.

“Where is it?”

“Please, Rico,” she sobbed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He pressed harder and tightened his grip on her shoulder. “Please, please!”

“I don’t believe you.” He turned the sharp side to her cheek.

“Rico, not my face, please! I swear I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Her tears puddled where the razor met her skin.

“Sorry, baby.”

As Jean cried out he let the razor fall from his hand and, in one uninterrupted motion, expertly muzzled her scream with the same hand before the razor hit the floor. She fainted.

When she came to, she was lying on the couch where Rico had carried her. He stood with his back to her, talking to Jerry on the phone. Jerry hadn’t been able to get past lobby security in Robert’s building.

“He palmed it, right?” Jerry asked.

Rico glanced over his shoulder at Jean. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.” He hung up. “I had to be sure,” he said unapologetically.

She shivered in her towel and glared at him, anger roiling in her eyes. He went to the bedroom and returned with a blanket, which she allowed him to drape around her shoulders.

“Sorry, baby. It was just business.”

Still too furious to speak, she defiantly turned her back to him and silently dared him to say anything about it. A small victory but it was something. Ignoring the gesture, Rico walked out and closed the door softly behind him.

She was enraged, as much at herself as at him, because she knew that the next time he called she would answer. She tried to justify her emotions by telling herself that he’d stopped short of actually harming her and that he never would have. But who was she kidding? She could hope but she could never know for sure.

When the cab pulled up in front of Robert’s building, Jerry was standing outside smoking a cigarette. It was an expensive high rise on the city’s Gold Coast along Lake Michigan’s north shore, with a security guard on duty twenty- four hours a day. There was no way around it; if they wanted to get into Robert’s apartment, one way or another they’d have to deal with him. This was admittedly a minor detail, more of an annoyance than anything else.

Jerry knew Rico hated cigarette smoke. An icy stare from him whenever Jerry lit up was as effective a deterrent as a punch in the gut, so he put the fag out as Rico left the cab. Rico kept his body rock solid by lifting weights at a neighborhood gym, jogging regularly, and minimizing his intake of junk food. He didn’t like the idea of second-hand smoke undoing any of his hard work.

“So what happened?” Jerry asked.

“She didn’t have it.”

“I could’ve told you that. She’s good people.”

“Don’t start with me.”

“But—”

“But nothing. Anybody can cross the line.”

“Including me?” Jerry hoped Rico might exempt him

but didn’t expect it.

“Yeah, including you.” The two men stared at each

other for a long moment before Rico smiled. “No, not including you.” The smile vanished as quickly as it had appeared and his eyes narrowed. “You know better.”

The comment stung and Jerry hung his head a little, but it was true and he knew it. It wasn’t easy to get close to Rico and not many people did. He was loyal to a fault, yet distant and brooding. Deadly as a cobra but with a dry, sometimes biting sense of humor. Brutally honest, he lacked guile. Hated hypocrisy. Loathed arrogance. If you were in a fight for your life against hopeless odds and could pick just one person to help even them out, he would be your choice every time. But if you needed a shoulder to cry on or even a pat on the back, you’d have to think long and hard before you settled on Rico.

“Now, about this guy…” Rico said, ignoring Jerry’s reaction.

Jerry snapped out of it. “You have to tell the security guard who you want to see. He rings the apartment. If the person answers, the guard buzzes you in.”

“High-class joint.”

“No wonder he’s always out of money.”

“How much traffic in and out?”

“Not too bad so far.”

Taking in as many details as his eyes could process in one sweep of the area, Rico slowly turned in a circle, looking for anything out of the ordinary, anything that counseled against getting on with the business at hand. Outside, there were pedestrians and cars passing everywhere, but it was a busy street, so there was nothing unusual about that. Inside, the foyer was empty except for the security guard. Nothing looked menacing. Nothing looked out of place. He nodded. “Okay?” Jerry nodded back. “Let’s go and talk to the man.”

They walked briskly to the entrance, donning sunglasses almost in unison, then glanced behind them one last time before opening the door. Rico nodded to a spot inside. Jerry planted himself there. Without slowing, Rico continued toward an oak-paneled counter facing the door, behind which sat an unarmed security guard casually reading a newspaper. He was about forty, with a gaunt face and stringy hair reaching below his collar. He was the kind of guy who went through life trying to keep from stepping on anyone’s toes and hoping everyone would try to avoid stepping on his. He looked up in time to see Rico, advancing quickly in his direction, throw open his coat and jerk a .45 out of a powder-blue shoulder holster. He leaped to his feet and raised his hands above his head. Rico slammed the gun on the counter.

“Put ’em down,” Rico said. Eyes bulging and hands shaking, the guard complied and his face took on the look of a condemned man who had just received word of a reprieve. “That’s right. Relax,” Rico said. “Now buzz Robert McDuffie’s apartment.” There was no answer. “Try again.” Still no answer. “Get the key and take me up there,” he ordered, then nodded in the direction of the .45 resting on the counter under his hand. “This’ll be pointed at the back of your head on the way. Any questions?” The guard shook his head. “Then let’s go.”

 

Book Spotlight Rarity From The Hollow

13603677Book Excerpt

Jenny (the mother) walked up the hill to Roundabend. She called Lacy Dawn’s name every few yards. Her muddy tennis shoes slipped and slid.

            I hear her voice. Why won’t she answer me? 

            “Sounds like she’s talking to someone,” Jenny said to the Woods.

            Nobody responded. The trees weren’t supposed to since Jenny was no longer a child. Her former best friends had made no long-term commitment beyond childhood victimization. They had not agreed to help her deal with domestic violence in adulthood. She hugged the closest tree.

            I will always love you guys. 

Jenny quickened her pace, stopped, and listened for human voices. A few yards later, she stopped again.

            Now it sounds like she’s behind me instead of in front. 

            Jenny looked to the left of the path.

            There ain’t no cave Roundabend, but there it is. 

            She walked toward the entrance. The voices grew louder and she looked inside. Lacy Dawn sat on a bright orange recliner. Tears streamed down her face.  Jenny ran to her daughter through a cave that didn’t exit and into a blue light that did.

            “All right, you mother f**ker!”

            “Mom!” Lacy Dawn yelled. “You didn’t say, ‘It’s me’ like you’re supposed to (a traditional announcement mentioned earlier in the story).”

            DotCom (the android) sat naked in a lotus position on the floor in front of the recliner.  Jenny covered Lacy Dawn with her body and glared at him.

            “Grrrrr,” emanated from Jenny.  It was a sound similar to the one that Brownie (Lacy Dawn’s dog) made the entire time the food stamp woman was at their house.  It was a sound that filled the atmosphere with hate.  No one moved.  The spaceship’s door slid shut.

            “Mommmmmy, I can’t breathe. Get up.”

            “You make one move you sonofabitch and I’ll tear your heart out,” Jenny repositioned to take her weight off Lacy Dawn.

            Stay between them.

            “Mommy, he’s my friend. More than my friend, we’re going to get married when I’m old enough — like when I turn fourteen. He’s my boyfriend — what you call it — my fiancé.”

            “You been messin’ with my little girl you pervert!” Jenny readied to pounce.

            “MOM!  Take a chill pill! He ain’t been messing with me. He’s a good person, or whatever. Anyway, he’s not a pervert. You need to just calm down and get off me.”

            Jenny stood up. DotCom stood up. Jenny’s jaw dropped.

            He ain’t got no private parts, not even a little bump.   

            “DotCom, I’d like to introduce you to my mommy, Mrs. Jenny Hickman. Mommy, I’d like to introduce you to my fiancé, DotCom.”

            Jenny sat down on the recliner. Her face was less than a foot from DotCom’s crotch and she stared straight at it. It was smooth, hairless, and odor free.

            “Mrs. Hickman, I apologize for any inconvenience that this misunderstanding has caused. It is very nice to meet you after having heard so much. You arrived earlier than expected. I did not have time to properly prepare and receive. Again, I apologize.”

            I will need much more training if I’m ever assigned to a more formal setting than a cave, such as to the United Nations.

            “Come on, Mommy. Give him a hug or something.”

            Jenny’s left eye twitched.

            DotCom put on clothing that Lacy Dawn had bought him at Goodwill. It hung a little loose until he modified his body. Lacy Dawn hugged her mother…

            …(scene of Dwayne, the father, overheard by those in the spaceship while talking to himself)… “Besides, the transmitter was part of Daddy’s treatment. There’re a lot of other things that he did to help fix Daddy. DotCom is like a doctor. You can see that Daddy has gotten better every day. And no, there ain’t no transmitter in you. DotCom figured you out like a good doctor and the only things wrong are a lack of opportunity and rotten teeth that poison your body. You don’t need no transmitter. He just gave you a few shots of ego boost. I don’t know what medicine that is, but I trust him. You ain’t complained since the shots started — not even with an upset stomach.”

            “He’s a doctor?” Jenny asked.

            “What’s your problem anyway?” Lacy Dawn asked. “I know.  You’re prejudiced. You told me that people have much more in common than they do that’s different — even if someone is a different color or religion, or from a different state than us. You told me to try to become friends because sometimes that person may need a good friend. Now, here you are acting like a butt hole about my boyfriend. You’re prejudiced because he’s different than us.”

            “Honey, he’s not even a person – that’s about as different as a boyfriend can get,” Jenny said.

            “So?”

            Mommy’s right. Maybe I need a different argument.

            A fast clicking sound, a blur of motion, and a familiar smell assaulted them.

            “What’s that?” Jenny asked.

            She moved to protect her daughter from whatever threat loomed. Brownie, who had been granted 27 / 7 access to the ship, bounded over the orange recliner, knocked DotCom to the floor, licked DotCom’s face, and rubbed his head on Jenny’s leg. He then jumped onto the recliner and lay down. His tail wagged throughout. Jenny sat down on the recliner beside Brownie and looked at Lacy Dawn.

            “But, you were crying when I first came in. That thing was hurting you.” Jenny shook her finger at DotCom to emphasize a different argument against him.

            “Mommy, I’m so happy that I couldn’t help but cry. My man just came home from an out-of-state job. I didn’t talk to him for a whole year. Before he left, he told me that he wasn’t even sure if he’d be able to come home. I still don’t know what happened while he was gone. We ain’t had no chance to talk. All I know is that he’s home and I’m sooooo happy.”

            “Your man came home from an out-of-state job?” Jenny patted Brownie on his head, some more and some more….

            It’s unusual for a man to promise to come back home and ever be seen again. Brownie likes him and that’s a good sign. Maybe she’s right about him helping Dwayne. Something sure did and it wasn’t me. It is a nice living room. They’ve been together for a while and I ain’t seen a mark on her. That’s unusual too. He ain’t got no private parts and that’s another good thing. Hell, if I get in the middle, she’d just run off with him anyway. Id better play it smart. I don’t want to lose my baby.

            “What about his stupid name?” Jenny asked.

            “I’ve got a stupid name, too. All the kids at school call me hick because my last name is Hickman.”

            “My name was given to me by my manager a very long time ago. It represents a respected tradition — the persistent marketing of that which is not necessarily the most needed. I spam…,” DotCom said.

            They both glared at him.

            “Dwayne is sure to be home. I don’t want him to worry. Let’s go,” Jenny said.

            “Okay, Mommy.”

            “I love you, DotCom,” Lacy Dawn stepped out the ship’s door, which had slid open. Brownie and Jenny were right behind her.

            “I love you too,” DotCom said.

            Lacy Dawn and Jenny held hands and walked down the path toward home. The trees didn’t smile — at least not so Jenny would notice. On the other hand, no living thing obstructed, intruded, or interfered with the rite.

            Jenny sang to the Woods, “My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows up.  My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows up….”

About the Book

Lacy Dawn is a true daughter of Appalachia, and then some. She lives in a hollow with her worn-out mom, her Iraq War disabled dad, and her mutt Brownie, a dog who’s becoming very skilled at laying fiber optic cable. Lacy Dawn’s android boyfriend has come to the hollow with a mission. His equipment includes infomercial videos of Earth’s earliest proto-humans from millennia ago. He was sent by the Manager of the Mall on planet Shptiludrp (Shop ’till You Drop): he must recruit Lacy Dawn to save the Universe in exchange for the designation of Earth as a planet which is eligible for continued existence within a universal economic structure that exploits underdeveloped planets for their mineral content. Lacy Dawn’s magic enables her to save the universe, Earth, and, most importantly, her own family.

Buy the book on:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Dog Horn Publishing

About Robert

Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997. Today, he is a recently retired psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia.  http://www.childhswv.org/

Public Author Contacts:

http://www.lacydawnadventures.com

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13603677-rarity-from-the-hollow 

https://www.facebook.com/robert.eggleton2 

https://www.facebook.com/Lacy-Dawn-Adventures-573354432693864/

Book Excerpt The Virgin of the Wind Rose

Virgin Front CoverSopped in sweat, the ten-year-old Ethiopian boy prayed to St. Georgis the
Dragonslayer for protection as he wormed his way toward the tomb of
the first man on Earth.

The tunnel’s gritty sandstone, stained red from the blood of Satan’s serpents,
punished his hands and knees. To preserve the precious air, he slowed his breaths
as he crawled. The settling night had cooled the mountain village above him,
but here, sixty meters below the surface, the trapped midday heat could roast
a chicken. Faint from hunger, he stopped and pulled a crust of bread from his
pocket. He chewed the morsel slowly, taking care to muzzle its aroma with his
tunic’s sleeve to avoid being swarmed by the bees that hived in the crevices.

His dizziness eased, and he resumed his quest, groping blindly on all fours
along the narrowing walls. At last, he came to the Armory of the Shining Ones,
the long notch in the floor where the angels had once stored their lances.

“Mäqäraräb,” he whispered. Not far now.

He knew every bend and cranny in this secret passage by memory, having
accompanied the priests on their daily inspections of the subterranean churches.
That was the only godsend from his miserable duties. His father, the High Priest
of Lalibela, had marked him at birth for religious service by tattooing a blue
cross on his right temple. As a result, he was forbidden to play football or chase
tourists for candy, and he would have to slave six more years carrying sandals
just to become a deacon. Everyone said he should be grateful for the honor,
but he had no desire to waste away his life mumbling incantations. Tomorrow
he planned to stow away in the cargo bin of the bus to Addis Ababa, where he
would find prosperous construction work and a beautiful girlfriend.

Before leaving home, however, he craved an even more exciting escape,
one that promised a glimpse of Paradise. In a few hours, at dawn, his fellow
villagers would celebrate Timkat, the holiest of their many religious festivals.
The elders of the monastery had retired early to their cloisters to fast and prepare
themselves with chants. This night, the tenth of Terr, was the only time of the
year that Bet Golgota—the underground church of the Crucifixion—was left
unguarded. It would also be his last chance to pierce the veil that shrouded
Heaven’s wisdom and delights.

He came hovering over the yawning trench that protected the entrance to
the nave, and ran a finger across an inscription on a stone carved in Ge’ez:

The opening verse of Genesis.


The Virgin of the Wind Rose: A Christopher Columbus Mystery-Thriller

Rookie State Department lawyer Jaqueline Quartermane was never much good at puzzles–but now she must unlock an ancient magical palindrome to expose a global conspiracy spanning five centuries.

While investigating the murder of an American missionary in Ethiopia, Jaqueline discovers the mysterious Latin word square carved into an underground church near the tomb of the biblical Adam. Obsessed with solving its coded message, she is drawn into a desperate race with an elusive Middle Eastern mastermind to find the last relic needed to resurrect Solomon’s Temple. A trail of cabalistic clues leads her to the catacombs of Rome, the crypt below Chartres Cathedral, a Masonic shaft in Nova Scotia, a Portuguese shipwreck off Sumatra, and the caverns under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Intertwined in a time shift with this modern relic hunt, a parallel duel is waged:

The year is 1452, and one of the most secretive societies in history, Portugal’s Order of Christ, is led by a reclusive visionary. Prince Henry the Navigator and his medieval version of NASA plot to foil their archenemies, the Inquisitor Torquemada and Queen Isabella of Castile, who scheme to bring back Christ for the Last Judgment by ridding the world of Jews, heretics, and unbelievers.

Separated by half a millennium, two conspiracies dovetail in this fast-paced historical thriller to expose the world’s most explosive secret: The real identity of Christopher Columbus.

Editorial praise:

“An impeccably researched, high-velocity historical thriller…. If you love Steve Berry, Dan Brown or Umberto Eco, you may have a new author favorite in Glen Craney.” — Best Thrillers
(http://bestthrillers.com/the-virgin-of-the-wind-rose-a-christopher-columbus-mystery-thriller/)

“An exciting journey across time, with  more twists and turns than a strawberry Twizzler. Craney has produced a page-turning adventure, with crisp, clean and measured prose… The research behind the stories is massive, lending credence to the cast of characters and authenticity to the historic periods. This is a highly recommended historical thriller in the manner of Dan Brown.” — Quarterdeck magazine (Full print review: http://www.glencraney.com/QuarterdeckReview.html)

“Grips you in its teeth and whirls you through history… Naturally this novel will be compared to the books of Dan Brown but the quality of writing in The Virgin of the Wind Rose has the edge for me.” — Rosie Amber Reviews (https://rosieamber.wordpress.com/2016/02/09/rosies-bookreview-team-rbrt-the-virgin-of-the-wind-rose-by-glencraney-tuesdaybookblog/)

“Five stars. Move over, Dan Brown, you’ve got competition.” — Sweet Mystery Books (http://bit.ly/1OcjAA3)

“Occasionally I encounter a contemporary historical novelist who provokes me to ask almost the identical question: How can the person whose book I am reading have acquired in a single lifespan the knowledge required to have written it?” — Linda Root, The Review Group UK (https://thereview2014.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-virgin-of-wind-rose-and-genius-of.html)

Links

Amazon: myBook.to/Wind
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-virgin-of-the-wind-rose-glen-craney
Itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-virgin-of-the-wind-rose/id1012780966
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-virgin-of-the-wind-rose

Social Media

Website: www.glencraney.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GlenCraneyAuthor
Twitter: @glencraney
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1516207.Glen_Craney

Book Excerpt from Masquerade

February Fiesta artwork

Introducing… Hannah Fielding

Portrait of Hannah Fielding and photos of where she writes.

Portrait of Hannah Fielding and photos of where she writes.

Hannah Fielding is an incurable romantic. The seeds for her writing career were sown in early childhood, spent in Egypt, when she came to an agreement with her governess Zula: for each fairy story Zula told, Hannah would invent and relate one of her own. Years later – following a degree in French literature, several years of travelling in Europe, falling in love with an Englishman, the arrival of two beautiful children and a career in property development – Hannah decided after so many years of yearning to write that the time was now. Today, she lives the dream: writing full time at her homes in Kent, England, and the South of France, where she dreams up romances overlooking breath-taking views of the Mediterranean.
To date, Hannah has published four passionate, evocative novels: Burning Embers, a ‘romance like Hollywood used to make’, set in Kenya; the award-winning Echoes of Love, ‘an epic love story that is beautifully told’, set in Italy; and books 1 and 2 of the Andalusian Nights trilogy, set in sultry Spain, entitled Indiscretion and Masquerade. She is currently working on her fifth book, Legacy, which will publish this spring.

A glimpse of Masquerade

The loud noise of shrill klaxons and roaring motors brought them down to earth again with a bang, their breathing fast and uneven as they drew back from each other in alarm. Leandro looked at Luz enquiringly, still exhaling heavily.

‘Oh, no,’ she protested, her hand to her mouth, ‘it must be one o’clock. The guests will be leaving. You must go, Leandro! I have to get back to the hacienda before I’m missed.’

A faint smile crossed his handsome face as his eyes stroked her mouth but it was edged with frustration. ‘Pity, querida. We were getting on so well.’

‘Will I see you again?’ A shadow darkened her eyes. Why was he suddenly looking so desolate? ‘Where can I find you? Where can we meet?’ she asked desperately. Luz surprised herself, realizing only too well how forward she must sound and how far she had wanted – and still wanted – to go with this man who had so bewitched her.

Leandro’s eyes slid away as he stood up, a strange figure, sombre as his own shadow. Then he looked back at her with an intense, absorbing stare that held her in its spell.

‘I am forgetting myself, querida.’ He pulled the scarf back over his face so only the glimmer of his green eyes was visible once more. ‘Flowers in the darkness of night have an intoxicating scent,’ he murmured. ‘Are you sure that in the cold light of day you won’t turn away from it?’ But he didn’t wait for a reply. He looked her over with hooded eyes, bowed and then was gone, sucked up by the black hole of the night.

As his shadow disappeared behind the trees Luz blinked, disorientated. She sat for a moment, looking after him uneasily, biting her lower lip. Then she turned her attention back to the lake. The evening had ended a little too abruptly and she had the vague impression that Leandro’s mood had darkened. Had he been hurt by the fact that she had asked him to go? His parting words had undertones of bitterness, somehow intimating that Luz might be one of those society belles who got a kick out of flirting with gypsies. How wrong he was; she had lost her heart to him, she knew that now. Whenever he was there, everything else was eclipsed. She was twenty-four and had never fallen in love. If he wanted, she would follow him anywhere.

She shivered. The air had turned cold and a gentle wind sighed through the trees, penetrating her flimsy garments. She started back to the hacienda, a little heavy-hearted.

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Book Excerpt Becoming Famous

Becoming Famous CoverMy name is Bebe Barkley. I’ve never released a sex tape. I’ve I’m not America’s Next Top Model. I didn’t get pregnant at sixteen and I’ve never auditioned for American Idol. In fact I’m holed up at the Waldorf totally depressed. But, even though I don’t know it yet, I’m about to become famous. This is my story and how it all went down.

Let’s face it: At the moment I’m a hot mess. How do I know this? I haven’t showered or gotten out of bed for three days. I’ve been watching reruns of Keeping Up with the Kardashians and a lifetime marathon about women who kill. I know how they feel. Thank God for room service or I would’ve starved to death by now!

In order to figure out my screwed up life, my mother’s best friend Georgie is letting me use her suite while she’s in London. But without her here getting on my case, and her eccentric husband Harry walking around half-naked, it just doesn’t seem like home.

I guess the best thing about modern technology is that you don’t actually have to talk to anyone. Unfortunately, the worst thing about modern technology is that you don’t actually have to talk to anyone! I’m so damn lonely I could cry. Still, I keep texting everyone back home, telling them I’m just fine.

My life wasn’t always like this. I was a champion equestrian rider with a bright future, before tragedy struck. If only they hadn’t shot king—things might have turned out differently. He was my horse, and I loved him more than life itself. I don’t know how to move forward, but I can’t go back.

Thinking about it, I can’t breathe. I feel like I’m having a major anxiety attack. Maybe I need to go outside and get some air. I throw on a white tank and some jeans. I’m about to leave when a card falls out of my pocket.

The last time I was in New York, I met this hairdresser, Antonio. Thank god for small mercies—his number’s still in the pocket of my jeans. After I’m fully dressed, I walk outside, pull out my cell phone and call him.

It goes straight to voicemail, story of my life! But as I start walking, my cell phone rings.

“Hey there,” Antonio says, “who is this?”

 “Hi, it’s Bebe,” I say. “Remember me? Georgie Astor’s friend?”

 “Hey sweetie! How are you? What can I do for you?”

 “I’m holed up at the Waldorf and Georgie’s gone back to London. I don’t know what to do with myself.

 “Oh my God! White girl problems! You know what, doll? You’re probably just lonely! You need some company.”

 “Hey Antonio?” I ask, “I was wondering—do you know if anyone needs a roommate?”

 “Well, I’d let you stay with me, but I have this really jealous boyfriend. You know how that goes.”

 I smile to myself. “Only too well.”

 “Wait a minute,” he says, “I have an idea. I finish work at around six tonight. Can you meet me?”

I laugh. “Let me check my hectic schedule. Sure!”

“Girl, you’re so crazy!” he says. “I’m not working at the salon on Fifth Avenue anymore. I’m at Frederick Fekkai in Soho between Bloom and Spring.”

“No worries, I’ll Google it!”

######

I meet Antonio at the salon at six o’clock on the dot. I’d forgotten how handsome he is. He looks like a coffee-colored genie from the Mr. Clean commercial.

“So, where are you taking me?” I ask.

“It’s a surprise!” he says, smiling. “You’ll see.”

We walk a few blocks till we reach the building. I flashback to the party with Georgie and the night I’d met Luis—my drug-dealer ex-boyfriend who convinced me to go to Puerto Rico and then tried to kill me. God, my life sucks!

Antonio looks concerned. “Are you okay, Sweetie?”

“I’m fine,” I say, trying to feign enthusiasm.

“Well, come on then, girl! You’ll love Blue. Everybody does.”

We take the elevator to the top floor. The door’s open, so we walk in. Immediately, I’m assaulted by the beautiful paintings displayed on the wall. The last time I met Blue I fainted. How embarrassing! Today, he has his back to us while he furiously works on a large white canvas in the middle of the living room.

“Hey Blue, we’re here!” he calls out.

When Blue turns around, I’m once again facing the spitting image of my dead brother. Except he smiles at me this time—the kind of smile that lights up a room. It’s both comforting and disturbing—my brother hardly ever smiled.

“Hi,” he says, walking over, “Blue Benson. We met briefly at my party just before you passed out.”

“Oh my God I’m sorry,” I say, averting my eyes. “It’s just that you remind me of someone I used to know.”

Antonio cuts in, taking charge of the situation as usual.

“Bebe’s looking for a place to stay; I instantly thought of you.”

“That’s great,” Blue says. “I’ve got plenty of room. Stay as long as you like.”

“Just like that?” I ask.

“Just like that,” he says.

About the Book

Natalie Scott’s latest novel Becoming Famous was published in July 2015. It is available for sale on Amazon.

Genres: Young Adult / Contemporary Romance

Bebe Barkley has never released a sex tape. She’s not America’s Next Top Model. She didn’t get pregnant at 16, and has never auditioned for American Idol. In fact, she’s holed up in a hotel room at the Waldorf in New York City, totally depressed. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s about to become famous. A former equestrian rider, Bebe had a bright future until a tragic accident changed everything. Now she’s unable to return to her old life, yet incapable of moving forward.

Follow her as she ventures from New York to LA, the City of Broken Dreams, where she will find everything she’s ever wanted, only to risk losing the things she truly loves. Join Bebe in her heart-stopping journey in Becoming Famous.

About the Author

Natalie Headshot - Becoming FamousNatalie Scott enjoys writing young adult contemporary romance novels. She published her debut novel Rules for Riders in August 2014. Rules for Riders is a fast paced coming-of-age novel set in the competitive world of equestrian riding. Becoming Famous, the long anticipated sequel to Rules for Riders, was released in July 2015.

Natalie is originally from Australia and has lived in New York and Los Angeles. She currently resides in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Connect with Natalie on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

To learn more, go to http://www.nataliescott.com/