19 May, 2022

Read an Excerpt from Upon a Mistake (Il Cuore #1) by Shilpa Suraj - @shilpaauthor #Contemporary #Romance #SecondChance


There are no second chances, only missed ones...

Five years ago, an accident changed Maya's life forever. From an engaged, MBA graduate with her entire life in front of her, she'd ended up dumped, bedridden, and in enough debt to drown her and her family.
Five years ago, Yash had been looking forward to marrying the woman of his dreams. Then his father died, he lost his job and his fiancee dumped him over a text.
Neither have forgiven each other and neither has forgotten the other. When their paths cross at Il Couer, a vineyard owned by common friends, sparks fly, past hurts are stoked and present dreams are destroyed.
And that is just the beginning. As their lives get entangled, both professionally and personally, they find themselves fighting familial disapproval, professional jealousy, and a mutual attraction that threatens to burn them down.
Can Maya and Yash ever unravel their tangled past? And will the truth of their past define or destroy them? Can you build a future on a posioned past? They're about to find out...

Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon.in * Amazon.com

Read an Excerpt from Once Upon A Mistake

Maya didn’t stop walking. Nor did she turn or give him any indication that she’d heard him. She just kept moving, as fast as she could, away from him. 

“Maya.” Irritated, Yash caught her arm at the elbow, halting her headlong rush just as they turned a corner of the house and out of sight of the bonfire crowd. 

The sudden jerk of his hand caused her weak leg to give out under her and she stumbled, hissing in pain. 

Shit! Yash pulled his hand back immediately, feeling like the ass he’d behaved like. 

“I am so sorry,” he said, leaning forward to help her regain her balance. 

Maya swatted his hand away and got to her feet on her own steam. Her cheeks flushed, her chest heaving with the force of her emotions, she tossed her hair away from her face and looked at him. 

All these years later, her beauty still took his breath away. Yash rubbed his chest, a silent gesture to try and soothe his aching heart. 

“What do you want?” she asked, crossing her arms in front of her. If he knew her, she was probably suppressing the urge to flip him off again. 

“I want to talk to you,” he said, leaning against the wall of the house behind him. From the distance, muted laughter floated back to them but here, in this moment, they were in a secluded bubble of their own. 

“We don’t have anything to say to each other,” she tossed back, her angry eyes spitting darts at him. 

Yash wasn’t so sure about that. He thought they had a lot to say to each other. She especially had a lot to answer for. She’d called off their engagement without even an explanation! 

He shook it off. This wasn’t about them. This was about his friend. This was about Yash being a good friend. 

“I don’t know what the hell you and your friends are planning but please let the Thakkar family mourn in peace. For the duration of this weekend, just keep your heads down, don’t create any scenes and leave peacefully the minute this is over.” 

Maya stared at him, an inscrutable look on her face. And then she started to laugh. She clutched her stomach, tears streaming down her face as she laughed and laughed. Yash’s confusion grew as he watched, as did his anger. 

“What’s so funny?” he asked. “I’m not joking. Aakash told me all about you lot and the kind of shit you get up to. Keep all of that out of this weekend and away from any member of their family. They don’t need it, alright? You’ve already taken one family member from them. Let’s not ruin another.” 
Even before the last word escaped his lips, shame swamped Yash in a tidal wave. What had he said? Shit! 

Vikram’s death had been an accident. Everyone knew that. The car’s tyre had burst. A freak accident that no one could have predicted. And no matter what their group had gotten up to earlier that night, there was no doubt that Vikram had been a full and willing participant. Aakash may find it hard to think beyond his grief but surely Yash was better than that? 

Maya’s laughter stopped like he’d slapped her. And in some ways, he supposed he had. He opened his mouth to apologise but nothing came out. 

They stared at each other in the enveloping darkness of the night. The only light, a dim yellow glow from the rear verandah of the house. 

“So no orgies then?” she asked, huskily. 

The word sent a jolt of desire through him as he stared at her lovely profile encased in that soft, faded yellow light.

“Not funny,” he said, his voice hoarse. 

“Who’s joking?” She lifted her delicate shoulders in a tiny shrug. “We weren’t planning to invite any of you fuddy duddies of course.” She wrinkled her nose at him. “It’s not like you lot would be any fun in bed.” 

His eyes dipped to her lips as she spoke, her words painting painfully arousing images in his head. 

“Stop it, Maya.” 

She pouted, one long finger reaching up to trace the low v neck of his soft, white kurta. Her nail scraped through the hair peeking out, sending arrows of heat shooting through him. 

She brought her mouth close to his ear and whispered, “What if we promise to be very, very quiet?” 

The hair on the back of Yash’s neck stood up even as his eyes fluttered close without volition. 

“So quiet, that you wouldn’t even know that in my head I would be screaming as I came, as orgasm after orgasm rolled through me…” 

About the Author:

Shilpa Suraj wears many hats - corporate drone, homemaker, mother to a fabulous toddler and author.

An avid reader with an overactive imagination, Shilpa has weaved stories in her head since she was a child. Her previous stints at Google, in an ad agency and as an entrepreneur provide colour to her present day stories, both fiction and non-fiction.

Contact the Author:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Newsletter

16 May, 2022

An #Interview with Dane Cobain, #Author of Meat - #Horror #Thriller @danecobain


Dane Cobain (High Wycombe, UK) is a published author, freelance writer and (occasional) poet and musician with a passion for language and learning. When he’s not working on his next release, he can be found reading and reviewing books while trying not to be distracted by Wikipedia.

His releases include No Rest for the Wicked (supernatural thriller), Eyes Like Lighthouses When the Boats Come Home (poetry) Former.ly (literary fiction), Social Paranoia (non-fiction), Come On Up to the House (horror), Subject Verb Object (anthology), Driven (crime/detective), The Tower Hill Terror (crime/detective), Meat (horror), Scarlet Sins (short stories), The Lexicologist’s Handbook (non-fiction) and The Leipfold Files (crime/detective).

His short stories have also been anthologised in Local Haunts (ed. R. Saint Clare), We’re Not Home (ed. Cam Wolfe), Served Cold (ed. R. Saint Clare and Steve Donoghue) and Eccentric Circles (ed. Cynthia Brackett-Vincent).

Dane on the Web:
Website * Facebook * Instagram * Twitter * Youtube * TikTok

Interview with the Author

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?

For me, it was a slow realisation. When I was five years old, I used to write songs (I still have some recordings), and I learned to play guitar when I was fourteen or so. I started out by writing song lyrics and then it was a natural progression from lyrics to poetry and then to journals and eventually short stories.
I think I first realised that I wanted to take it seriously when I was studying computing at college, which is roughly similar to being a senior at high school in America. I’d been planning on going to university to study web design, but I was sitting in my college classes and working on a novel instead of listening to what the teacher was saying. That gave me the push I needed to switch to studying creative writing instead.

What inspires you to write?

It’s like having an itch that needs to be scratched. I write because it feels good and I have a bunch of stories that are waiting to get out. I’m one of those people who never relaxes and doesn’t ever stop. I can’t just sit there and watch a movie; I have to do it while sitting at my computer and working on a book. 

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?

It depends which one! But at the moment, I’m mostly promoting my horror novel, Meat, so let’s go with that. I’ve noticed that a lot of horror writers begin by taking things that a lot of people are already afraid of and then amplifying that, and so I thought I’d do something similar. 
I spent a lot of time trying to decide on the most horrifying setting I could think of, and I ended up settling on a factory farm. I was a vegetarian at the time, but I was aware that even people who eat a lot of meat try not to think about where it comes from because they know that factory farms are unpleasant places.
After carrying out a bunch of research on factory farming, I realised that dairy cows and layer hens are treated horribly too, and so I decided that I couldn’t morally remain as a vegetarian. So I went vegan.

Are there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?

Yeah. I think most writers have these.
In my case, any physical stories are up in my mum’s loft. I used to write by hand a lot, but I also typed everything up, and so I have most of them also saved in my Dropbox somewhere. 

Tell us about your writing process.

I’m a plotter, and so I tend to start by jotting down all of my ideas into a Word document before putting them all into order. By the time that I sit down and start writing, I pretty much know what I need to do and so it’s just a case of bashing away at the keyboard until I get the work done.
I use a system that I call “The Schedule”, which is basically a variant of the Pomodoro Method that I came up with independently. I work in 45 minute bursts, splitting that between writing, computer stuff and tidying my house. When I’m working, I do five minutes of each and then half an hour of freelance work. Then I have a quick break for five minutes and read my book for a while before restarting. 

What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?

There’s a scene where one of the characters gets his hand stuck in the chicken shredder that I’m particularly fond of. It’s delightfully gory and there’s also a sense of justice there that a human being gets his comeuppance for the way that the animals are treated. When factory farms are breeding chickens to lay eggs, they often just throw newborn male chicks straight into a meat grinder while they’re still alive, so it seemed fair that one of the workers had an accident with it.

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?

Not in this particular book, but that’s definitely something that’s happened in my other books.

What is your most interesting writing quirk?

There’s almost always some sort of technology involved somewhere. I’m fascinated by new technology like artificial intelligence and blockchain and like to explore the way that humans use (and misuse) it.

Do you read? Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?

Yeah, I read a lot. I also review everything that I read on my blog, my Goodreads page and my YouTube channel. In no particular order, my favourite authors are Agatha Christie, Philip Pullman, Stephen King, Charles Bukowski and Graham Greene. It’s hard to identify specifics of how they’ve influenced me, but I think I pick up things from pretty much everything that I read.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, till date?

I’m a big fan of the basic, “Write what you know.”

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?

Don’t expect it to be easy and be prepared to sacrifice your social life. It’s rewarding, but it’s also consuming. And the odds are stacked heavily against you. 

What would be the Dream Cast for you book if it was to be turned into a movie?

I can imagine Paddy Considine playing Tom Copeland. I don’t watch too many movies though and so I haven’t thought about this too much.

If you were to be stranded on the famous deserted island, what three things would you carry?

A water purification tool, a copy of The Stand by Stephen King and my cat.

How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?

Free time? What’s that?
I pretty much constantly work either on my freelance clients or my own writing, but I do like to spend time outside in my garden, where I’m trying to grow my own vegetables. I also like to play with my band, The Ilk, and to go to open mic nights.

Can you share with us something off your bucket list?

I don’t really have one. I guess my main goal in life is to make enough money from book royalties for me to not need to freelance. I suppose I’d quite like to see the Aurora Borealis at some point.

Tell us three fun facts about yourself.

- I once appeared on the British TV quiz show Pointless. Host Richard Osman recently broke a bunch of records with his first novel, The Tuesday Murder Club.
- I memorised all 101 poems in my poetry collection, Eyes Like Lighthouses When the Boats Come Home, so that I could perform them at open mic nights.
- I have a bunch of bookish tattoos and I’m looking forward to getting some more.

What do you have in store next for your readers?

The next big thing will be the release of The Leipfold Files, which is book #3 in my Leipfold series of quirky cosy mysteries. It’s set before the first two novels and is a collection of short stories that shares Leipfold’s back story and shows what he got up to before he founded his detective agency.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?

Just a general plea to buy my books to help me to live my dream!

Veterinarian Tom Copeland takes a job at a factory farm called Sunnyvale after a scandal at his suburban practice. His job is to keep the animals alive for long enough to get them to slaughter.But there are rumours of a strange creature living beneath the complex, accidents waiting to happen on brutal production lines and the threat of zoonotic disease from the pigs, sheep, cows, chickens and fish that the complex houses.Suddenly, disaster rocks Sunnyvale and cleaners, butchers, security guards and clerical staff alike must come together under the ruthless leadership of CEO John MacDonald. Together, they’ll learn what happens when there’s a sudden change to the food chain. Bon appétit.

Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon.in * Amazon.com

Read an #Excerpt from Dead Man's Leap by Tina deBellegarde - #Mystery @tdbwrites @partnersincr1me

Dead Man's Leap by Tina deBellegarde Banner

Dead Man's Leap

by Tina deBellegarde

May 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


Dead Man's Leap by Tina deBellegarde

DEAD MAN’S LEAP revisits Bianca St. Denis in Batavia-on-Hudson, New York

Rushing waters…dead bodies…secrets…

As Bianca St. Denis and her neighbors scour their attics for donations to the charity rummage sale, they unearth secrets as well as prized possessions. Leonard Marshall’s historic inn hosts the sale each year, but it is his basement that houses the key to his past. When an enigmatic antiques dealer arrives in town, he upends Leonard’s carefully reconstructed life with an impossible choice that harkens back to the past.

Meanwhile, when a storm forces the villagers of Batavia-on-Hudson to seek shelter, the river rises and so do tempers. Close quarters fuel simmering disputes, and Sheriff Mike Riley has his work cut out for him. When the floods wash up a corpse, Bianca once again finds herself teaming up with Sheriff Riley to solve a mystery. Are they investigating an accidental drowning or something more nefarious?

Dead Man’s Leap explores the burden of secrets, the relief of renunciation, and the danger of believing we can outpace our past.

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: April 5, 2022
Number of Pages: 254
ISBN: 1685120849 (ISBN-13: 978-1685120849)
Series: A Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery, #2
Purchase Links: Amazon

Read an excerpt:


He inched toward the precipice, his toes gripping the stone ledge as if they had a will of their own. He lifted his head and squinted into the sunlight still streaming through the blackening clouds. He took in the expanse of rushing water below. In all his eighteen years, Trevor had never seen the creek roil so ferociously.

A clap of thunder startled him. His toes relaxed, and he felt as if the slightest wind could take him over the edge. Lightheaded for a second, he regained his footing and his purpose.

He had no choice if he wanted all this to stop.

He needed to do it.

And do it now.

The downpour would break again soon. But for now, all he could hear was the rushing of Horseshoe Falls beneath him, the roar drowning out the noise of his past.

Of his father.

Of his mother.

Yes, his mother. He had expected his father to be weak, and wasn’t surprised at all after he left. But his mother? A mother’s love is supposed to be unconditional. At least that’s what she had always said before she had turned their world upside down. It was bad enough when she had played at being the sexiest woman in town. At least when his friends teased him then, it was meant to be fun. But this was worse, far worse. Now they wanted nothing to do with him. Now they used him as a punching bag.

His gang no longer looked to him as their leader. They ridiculed him for what his mother had done. From the beginning, he knew those kids were bad news. What choice did he have? In grade school he’d been bullied. Well, he had put a stop to that in high school. Can’t be bullied if you’re the biggest bully.

His mother was gone. His father was gone. And now his posse. First, it was the cold shoulder, and a few snide remarks. Then he was cornered in the locker room after the game one day. That was the hardest. He hadn’t taken a beating like that since the fifth grade. But the tables had been turned on him so fast that he never saw it coming. Trevor realized now that they were never friends. They were just a group of trouble makers who hung out together. Good riddance to them. He didn’t need them anymore.

Another thunderclap reminded him where he was. On the edge. Right on the edge. He either had to do this properly or he would be going over anyway.

Trevor looked over his shoulder one last time and heard a faint commotion in the background. Once they rounded the path, he closed his eyes and jumped.

* * *

Bianca St. Denis stretched to grab the cord just out of reach above her head and yanked on it with all her force to bring down the attic staircase. She tilted her head to avoid being struck as it made its way down. She unfolded the retractable stairs and put one foot on the first rung. But there she stopped, not sure she could take the next few steps. At forty-two the issue wasn’t her physical ability to climb the steps, she was active, even fairly athletic. The old saying went “the mind was willing but the body was not.” Well, in her case “the body was willing but the mind was not.”

She had stayed out of the attic all these months since Richard’s death. She had made do without her ski parka this past winter, and used Richard’s barn jacket she’d found in the mudroom instead. She had made do without the spring curtains she would normally switch out in the living room each March. The winter ones still hung heavy and foreboding. And she made do without the patio cushions she had sewn two seasons ago. She simply sat on the raw wood when she wanted to read or eat in the backyard. She hadn’t realized the number of things she had been doing without by avoiding the attic, not until the town started buzzing about the rummage sale. She pretended it was because she hadn’t had time to search for the items, but she knew better.

She took her foot off the rung, bent and picked up the stairs again, refolded them, and let them float to the ceiling. The hatch closed with a neat click.

* * *

Once Trevor hit the water, his tension disappeared. He welcomed the release and let himself drop. Slowly he was pulled down into the chaos of the rushing water, but his mind had floated above it all. He didn’t feel a thing, he observed it instead. He watched as his body sank, as it swirled in the vortex of the overfull creek. He watched as his body escaped the current and floated peacefully in the murky water. And he watched as he gave in to full renunciation and allowed the water to decide what was to become of him.

His thoughts slowed, as muddy as the water surrounding him.

They slowed, but he could not make them disappear.

He had managed to avoid jumping off Dead Man’s Leap every summer, but this year he knew he couldn’t get away with it. They had already threatened to make sure he jumped this year. That was only part of what the summer had in store for him. Who could he turn to? His grandparents had no idea what he was going through. They always hid their heads in the sand anyway. There was nothing they could do for him. So, he had taken matters into his own hands.

He was shocked when his head broke the surface, and despite himself he gasped for air in enormous mouthfuls until he gagged. He bobbed there, undecided, until he finally attempted the few strides to reach the cove. It took him longer than he expected, like swimming in molasses. A cross between his fatigue, his indifference, and the strong current kept him from reaching the bank in the three strokes it would normally require. On his knees, he crawled out of the pull of rushing water and dropped on the shore.

* * *

Leonard Marshall picked up the package, the paper crinkling in his hand. He carefully unwrapped one layer, then another. Layer after layer until he held the smooth tiny statuette in his hand. He trembled, and smiled, attracted and repulsed at the same time. How could such a tiny thing hold so many emotions for him? So much power over him? It was so small he could cradle it in the palm of his hand. He closed his fingers around it. It disappeared. He opened them again, and there it was. With it came a flood of memories. Exhilarating. His heart raced with a quick pat, pat, pat.

The basement door creaked. He took in a breath.

Time slowed and his heart with it.


The light clicked on.

Another creak. Above him a step, a pause, another step. The door ached on its hinges as it opened wider. The light flicked off. The door closed. The steps faded. He let out his breath.

* * *

Trevor had never experienced fatigue like this. He crawled onto shore in the shadow of the cliff and collapsed. He never expected to make it out of the water, and now that he had, he lay there drawing in large mouthfuls of air, as if his lungs would never get enough. He stayed there, staring up at the sky, watching the dark clouds shapeshift. The rain would be there any moment, and to his surprise, he welcomed it.

As his breathing relaxed, he realized that the pain he felt was a sharp object stabbing his back. He rolled over, removed it, and threw it off to the side. As he turned to lay back down, his blurry eyes focused on the object. It was a bone. A human bone? He scrambled onto his knees and slowly made his way over to it. He was repulsed and fascinated, but mostly he was frightened by the sight of a bone and what that could mean. What had happened here, right here in this cove?

In the distance, he heard their drunken voices again. He knelt and grabbed handfuls of dirt to cover the bone. He heard them approach the edge of the cliff.

“He came this way. I saw him jump.”

“He’s too chicken, he didn’t jump. But when I find him, he’ll jump alright. He’ll jump or I’ll send him flying.”

“He jumped, I tell ya. Leave him alone. You wanted him to jump, and he did. I saw him. Let it go, already.”

“Yeah, well if he jumped, where is he?”

“You think he’s still under? You think he hit his head like that kid a while back?”

“I’m telling you, he didn’t jump.”

“There’s nowhere else to go but down. Of course, he jumped.”

“I’m going in. If he did jump, we’ll find him down there. He’s probably hiding under the cliff.”

Trevor carefully picked his way out of the cove. Scraping up against the cliff as close as his body would allow, he followed the contours until he came out on the other side of the falls. With his last bit of strength, he climbed up the rocky trail alongside Horseshoe Falls.


Excerpt from Dead Man's Leap by Tina deBellegarde. Copyright 2022 by Tina deBellegarde. Reproduced with permission from Tina deBellegarde. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Tina deBellegarde

Tina deBellegarde has been called “the Louise Penny of the Catskills.” Winter Witness, the first book in her Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery series, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel, a Silver Falchion Award and a Chanticleer Mystery and Mayhem Award. Her story “Tokyo Stranger” which appears in the Mystery Writers of America anthology When a Stranger Comes to Town edited by Michael Koryta has been nominated for a Derringer Award. Tina’s short fiction also appears in The Best New England Crime Stories anthologies. She is the vice-president of the Upper Hudson Chapter of Sisters in Crime, a member of Mystery Writers of America and Writers in Kyoto. She lives in Catskill, New York, with her husband Denis and their cat Shelby where they tend to their beehives, harvest shiitake mushrooms, and cultivate their vegetable garden. She winters in Florida and travels to Japan regularly to visit her son Alessandro.

Catch Up With Tina deBellegarde:
BookBub - @tinadebellegarde
Instagram - @tdb_writes
Twitter - @tdbwrites
Facebook - @tinadebellegardeauthor



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09 May, 2022

Read an #Excerpt from The Orientation of Dylan Woodger by Chiuba E Obele - #Mystery @ChiubaE @partnersincr1me


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The Orientation of Dylan Woodger

by Chiuba E Obele

April 18 - May 13, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


The Orientation of Dylan Woodger by Chiuba E Obele

Solving mysteries is never easy. Dealing with an infuriated mob boss and acute amnesia only makes it worse.

Dylan Woodger is a college student who is captured and tortured by the mafia. After amnesia obscures the last three years of his life, Dylan learns that he has stolen three million dollars from a ruthless mafia boss. When, how, and why – he doesn’t remember. But someone betrayed him and gave him a drug that erased his memory. He was then given over to be tortured.

Determined to recover his memory, Dylan begins delving into the events of the past. As he struggles to put the pieces of his past back together, Dylan finds himself wrapped up in a path of vengeance made even more perilous by the presence of assassins, gangsters, and detectives. But as each new piece of the puzzle falls into place, Dylan realizes that no one is who they seem, especially himself. He now has links to rapists, white supremacists, and murders. People who claim to be his friends are hiding secrets from him. And his girlfriend is beautiful, but that’s all he knows about her. Who are these people? And who is Dylan? Even he doesn’t know!

The Orientation of Dylan Woodger is the story of a young man who is torn between his capacity to do evil and his desire to do what’s right. This book explores racism and feminism, and addresses controversial topics such as male rape, hate crimes, and misogyny toward women. The characters are disturbing, but the book aspires to be hopeful, as these characters ultimately succeed in finding some measure of humanity.

There are so many unanswered questions . . . But first, Dylan must survive the torture.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Fischer House Publications
Publication Date: April 19, 2022
Number of Pages: 377
ISBN: 9798985146400
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:


WHO WAS I? Dylan J. Woodger

Where was I? I wasn’t sure.
What time was it? I had no clue.
Why was I here? I didn’t know

What I did know, was that it was fucking cold. I could feel undergrowth beneath me. My eyes darted around. There were trees as far as the eye could see. I had a raging headache. I couldn’t move my hands or feet. I looked down at my prone body and saw rope wrapped tightly around my ankles. I couldn’t move my hands — they were tied behind my back. My wrists hurt, and whatever bound them also cut into my arms. I had a pain in my shoulder. It hurt bad. But it was nothing compared to the pain that I would suffer once I fell into the hands of the Utica Mafia.

But we’re not there yet.

In my mind, it was yesterday that my mother dropped me off at Hamilton College. I went to sleep, then woke up in the woods. It was warm and sunny when Mom left me. But now, I woke up in the freezing cold. I thought it was August and I couldn’t figure out how it could get so cold. And why was I tied up? And could the pain in my shoulder be…a bullet wound? But how could it be a bullet wound? I’d never been shot at!

I knew I had to get outta there, or else I’d freeze to death. Most people aren’t experts in rope tying. Usually, the average person without formal training doesn’t know how to do a good job. And this rope tying definitely wasn’t the work of a professional. So I felt confident I could escape. I managed to free my arms with some wriggling though it took more skin off my wrists. Then I focused on freeing my legs. I kicked off my shoes and pulled my feet out of the rope. Once my feet were free, I used my hands to pull the leg bonds down. I was now free, but still clueless. Who had done this to me? One thing I knew for sure: this was the work of an amateur who didn’t know how to properly tie someone up.

Oh, and I noticed something strange about myself. I grew facial hair and had put on some muscle. But when did that happen? I hadn’t looked in a mirror, but I doubted I was the same baby-faced boy my mom had dropped off that morning.

Just then, I heard a group of men shouting out of sync. “Hello, is anybody here? Hello?”

I felt relieved. Did the police send out a search party for me?

I was eager to get out of the cold, and my first instinct was to shout, “Over here!”

That was my first mistake.

As the men approached, their boots crunching on twigs and fallen branches, I rushed over to them. I kept my left arm still — the pain of

moving it alone caused my vision to flash white and my ears to ring. I stumbled a bit, but soon I could see them clear enough. The men wore plain clothes, just any random winter jacket and jeans someone might get at the nearest Walmart. They weren’t uniformed as you would normally expect police to be.

“Thank goodness you’re here. I thought I would freeze to death.”

The men looked at each other in confusion, until one of them finally said, “Are you here with anyone?”

“No,” I replied. “I found myself tied up and managed to escape, just before you got here.”

“This guy is lying to us,” one of them said. “This must be an ambush.”

“An ambush? What are you talking about?” I struggled to keep my voice even. “I just woke up, and I haven’t seen another person until you guys showed up. I’m glad you got here, though. Can you please take me home?”

Just at that moment, one of the men pulled out a gun and pointed it at me. My hands flew out in front of me, and my blood ran cold when I saw the barrel. “Wait, hold on! What are you doing?”

“You better tell us right now. Is this an ambush? ’Cause if bullets start flying, you’ll be the first one to die.”

“No, sir. I promise, this isn’t an ambush.”

“So where’s our money?” he demanded.

I was confused. Then I thought I had pieced it together. “Yeah, okay. You guys obviously want money for going through the trouble of finding me. That’s fair. My mother’s pretty well off, and she probably offered a reward to find me. I’ll make sure you get it. That’s how these things work, right? So can you please take me home now?”

The man kept the gun pointed at me. I heard a click and knew he had cocked it. I realized then, that this was no ordinary search party.

“What’s going on here?” I asked, with fear creeping in.

The man with the gun shouted at me. “Stop playing games and tell us where our money is!”

I furrowed my eyebrows at him. He was an olive-skinned man. I pegged his age at around forty. He was bigger than average with shaggy black hair and unkempt facial hair.

“You’ve got me confused with someone else,” I said. “I don’t have anybody’s money.”

“Nice try, kid, but I’m not a babbeo. Whatever tricks you’re trying to pull, they won’t work. Stop acting like we’re suckers and tell us where our money is! I’m not gonna ask you again.”

Babbeo? I wondered. What language is that? Could it be Italian?

“Look, I already told you that if you take me home, my mom will be glad to help you with some money. Now can we please—”

Before I could finish speaking, the man with the gun slapped me with it. I grabbed my jaw and fell backward. My head exploded with pain.

One of the men said, “Shit, Tony. This guy is useless. Let’s finish him off and get outta here.”

Another man replied, “Wait, Tony. The boss sent us to collect the money. We can’t kill him. We have to make this kid talk.”

“All right,” Tony said. “Let’s take him back to the warehouse. And then we can really start having fun.”

I knew what he meant by “fun.” They were going to torture me. “Help!” I screamed. “Somebody help me!”

A loud bang rang out. Before my ears could even begin ringing, the bullet ripped into my thigh, stopping like red hot steel somewhere inside of me. My vision flashed white, and I fell to the ground. Pain pulsed out from the wound. I wasn’t aware of myself at that moment. Maybe I cried out, or maybe it was more of a scream. What I knew, though, was that Tony had shot me in the leg.

“Shut the fuck up!” he said, waving the gun around. “I better not hear one more word outta you, or the next bullet is going straight through your head. Don’t test me!”

The men grabbed the ropes I had untied and started binding me. All the while, I felt my pants getting soaked with warm blood. My temples pounded with my racing heart as I begged for my life. “Please, you have

to believe me. I haven’t taken anyone’s money!”

One of the men said, “Well, if you didn’t rob us, then explain how you got that bullet wound in your shoulder. Huh?”

The men paused and waited for me to answer. For a moment, I forgot about the pain in my leg. I looked over my shoulder, and I could see someone had bandaged me up.

“I don’t know where I got this from,” I said.

“Don’t lie! I specifically remember shooting someone in the shoulder when the guys who robbed us were running away. You mean to tell me that’s a coincidence?”

“Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Please let me go.”

Tony went into a rage and began kicking me relentlessly in the gut. I tried to curl into a ball to protect my stomach which was near impossible thanks to the rope bonds. “Stop pretending to be dumb!” he said. “You’re getting on my fucking nerves!”

“Tony, relax!” one of the men said. “Remember, we gotta keep this guy alive until we know where our money is.”

The men gagged my mouth with a dry kitchen cloth and carried me into their van. Then the van drove off. The windows were tinted black. I tried kicking. I tried screaming. But none of it worked. After they placed me into the van, one of the men pulled a bag over my head. I couldn’t see a thing, but I could still hear them speak. One of them sounded like Tony—a baritone smoker. He was apparently speaking on the phone.

“Yeah, Vinny,” he said. “Tell the boss we found someone…I don’t know who it is…I already told you, I don’t know who he is! It’s just some kid who’s putting on an act.”

I heard Vinny shouting on the other end of the call. “You didn’t even ask him his for fucking name, Tony?”

Tony jerked the bag off my head and yanked the gag from my mouth. “What’s your name, kid?” he asked.

I scrambled for a plan. Should I give him a fake name? What if they catch me in a lie? That wouldn’t be so smart. I thought about whether I should cooperate. Then I simply said, “I’m not saying a damn word.”

At that point, Tony pulled a knife from his pocket and repeatedly stabbed my leg wound. White-hot pain seared through my mind. I nearly passed out from the pain and the sight of blood pouring out of me.

“Stop! Please, stop!” I cried out.

One of the men said, “You could make this a lot easier, kid, if you just tell us your name.”

“Dylan!” I screamed. “My name is Dylan!” “Dylan who?” Tony asked.

“Dylan J. Woodger!”

The pain in my leg was so bad I could barely breathe. I trembled uncontrollably. Soon, I felt lightheaded. “Can you please wrap my leg?” I

begged. “I’m bleeding badly. And I—”

Before I could finish speaking, Tony gagged me again and pulled the bag over my head. He continued talking on the phone.

“Okay, Vinny. He said his name is Dylan…Dylan Woodger…Yeah, we’re on our way to the warehouse, and—”

At that moment, I heard the shriek of a police siren. “Shit!” the driver muttered.

“What is it?” Tony asked

“It’s a cop! We’re being pulled over.”

A wave of obscenities reverberated throughout the van. “Everyone, calm the fuck down!” Tony yelled.

I felt something hard being shoved against my crotch. It was the familiar feel of a gun.

“You better not say a word, kid,” Tony said, “or I’ll shoot you in the balls.”

The van halted abruptly. A minute passed. I heard footsteps outside on the road, the glide of shoes on gravel.

“Hello, Officer,” the driver said calmly, “What seems to be the problem?”

“License and registration,” said the cop.

“Sure. Not a problem.” The driver gave the cop his license and registration.

“Do you know why you’re being stopped?” “Was I speeding?”

“No. Your van has tinted windows. Tinted windows are illegal in the state of New York.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know that,” the driver said. “I just bought this vehicle last week, and the car dealer failed to mention that. I’ll be sure to get the windows changed.” The driver laughed nervously. “So, I guess I’ll take that ticket and be on my way.”

“Not so fast,” the cop said. “I still have a couple of questions to ask you…Where are you coming from?”

“Oh umm…We’re just a few fellas going out hunting in the woods.

We just got finished not too long ago, and now we’re heading home.” “And where’s home?” the officer asked.

“Utica, sir.”

“Well, you’re only allowed to hunt animals between November first and December twentieth. Hunting season ended last week.”

“Yeah, sorry about that.”

“I’d like to check your vehicle.”

“Sure Officer. Go right ahead. I’ll unlock it for you.”

When I heard the rear door unlock, I nearly let out a cheer. It was as if the officer could hear my heart pounding its way through my chest. But as soon as I heard the rear door of the van creak open, a barrage of bullets tore open the air. I heard a body drop to the ground.

One of the men inside the van hissed, “Shit, he’s still moving. He’s probably got a vest on.”

Another man said, “I’ll go finish him off.”

“No! Hold on.” Tony stopped him. He pulled the bag off my head and said to me, “I want you to see what happens to those who get in our way.”

Tony stepped out of the van. Through the open door, I could see the officer on the ground, writhing in pain and begging for his life. “Please,” he said, “Don’t do this…I have three kids and a wife.”

At that point, Tony fired two gunshots straight into the officer’s head. Blood splattered onto the pavement. Tony got back into the van and said to me, “I wanted you to see that, so you know we’re capable of killing anyone. If you fuck with us, you’ll end up joining this guy here.”


Excerpt from The Orientation of Dylan Woodger by Chiuba E Obele. Copyright 2022 by Chiuba E Obele. Reproduced with permission from Chiuba E Obele. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Chiuba E Obele

CHIUBA EUGENE OBELE is a poet, writer, and author of The Orientation of Dylan Woodger: A Central New York Crime Story. He can usually be found reading a book, and that book will more likely than not be a crime fiction novel. Chiuba lives and works out of his home in Boston, Massachusetts. When not absorbed in the latest page-turner, Chiuba enjoys spending his summers vacationing with his parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews.

Catch Up With Chiuba E Obele:
Twitter - @ChiubaE
Facebook - @chiubaobele7



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05 May, 2022

#BookSpotlight :: Midnight and Bex by Heather Van Fleet - #Suspense #YoungAdult @HLVanFleet @XpressoTours


Midnight and Bex
Heather Van Fleet
Publication date: October 18th 2022
Genres: Suspense, Young Adult

Trauma and intrigue bring an unlikely couple together in a sleepy Illinois suburb…

Bex Mahoney knows all too well what it’s like to be a loner. As a girl who’d much rather get lost in books and Netflix than makeup and school dances, it’s taken her all of six months to adjust to a new high school and the friends who come with it. But as much as she wants to find some peace following the death of her father, she can’t seem to grasp hold of it like she should. That is until she’s partnered up with a boy in chem who seems to carry more weight on his shoulders than Bex ever has.

Midnight Turner is lost in a dark world that Bex can’t even come close to touching. It’s because of his mysterious persona, though, that her intrigue with him grows stronger by the day. But when a flashback into Midnight’s past has him yanking Bex under chem tables and crying in Latin against her neck, Bex makes it her new life goal to figure him out.

When Bex’s closest friend tells her to steer clear of Midnight, an already insatiable curiosity in Bex grows deeper. But with this curiosity blooms new love. The kind that neither of them ever saw coming. Torn between a past he can’t change and a future she desires, both Midnight and Bex must learn to live in the present where the demons from Midnight’s prior life return to either haunt them…or worse.

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Author Bio:

Heather Van Fleet is a stay-at-home-mom turned book boyfriend connoisseur. She’s married to her high school sweetheart, a mom to three girls, and in her spare time you can find her with her head buried in her Kindle, guzzling down copious amounts of coffee.

Heather graduated from Black Hawk College in 2003 and currently writes Adult contemporary romance. She is published through Sourcebooks Casablanca with her Reckless Hearts series and Bookouture with her Red Dragon series.

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Read an Excerpt from Liquid Foundations (Hell in a Handbag #3) by Lisa Acerbo - #PostApocalyptic #Supernatural #UrbanFantasy @Apocalipstick_ @XpressoTours


Liquid Foundations
Lisa Acerbo
(Hell in a Handbag, #3)
Publication date: April 13th 2022
Genres: New Adult, Post-Apocalyptic, Supernatural, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult, Zombies

Even the most solid foundation can be shaken.

No place is safe anymore, and I’m on the run from something new.

The putrid stink of zombies has been replaced by sulfur, feces, and wet dog. The High Point Inn has been abandoned, the landscape plagued by the unimaginable, animal-hybrids. Wolves and bears rise from the grave or maybe they never died. Sure, the hordes of undead humans are diminishing, but whatever lies in wait is faster, smarter, and spurned by the devil himself.

With Caleb, Lilly, and Eric at my side, I search for friends and suFictiorvivors. But the new evil has arrived.

I can’t run quick enough.

The wolves are here, and they’re hungry, not to mention cunning and cruel. Endless rains force my group underground and into a cave system. Lost in the interminable, pitch-black subterranean tunnels, I struggle to keep my sanity and my life. There’s only one place in the world that makes sense anymore, and that’s where my friends are.

If I can survive the dark and the zombie wolves, Hopewell, Maine, here I come.

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Her eyes found the offending window, and the Streaker who launched through it. What had once been a squat man in a flannel shirt and jeans had turned into a distended corpse in blood-crusted rags, its bloated stomach exposed for all. The Streaker wore a wrinkled face with the consistency of a peach left too long in the sun. One arm hung limp, fingers gnawed away.

Did something do that to the Streaker, or did it eat away at its own flesh?

The monster staggered to the curb and stopped, pointing its chin to the sky, and taking in a breath through black, decayed nostrils. Its next meal had arrived, served up and ready to be consumed. Patches of skin had been torn away, exposing the rot that lived underneath. With a mewl, it lumbered at Jenna. The Streaker’s stare met her with singular intent. Eyes dead and unblinking, it closed the distance between them. She equaled food, and the risen dead was hungry.

In a practiced motion, Jenna released her bowie knife from the sheath on her belt. The monster stumbled over a garbage can in its path. Moving close, it reached out.

“What’s that smell?” Jenna ducked and swung low and hard. “Step back, foul one. God, you reek. Haven’t bathed in forever I’d guess. Personal hygiene not a priority these days?”

The Streaker growled in response and stretched a mottled, pus-clotted arm to grab her camo jacket.

“They’re slower than they used to be, Jenna, but don’t get too smug. The bite might not kill you, but the infection can.” Lilly tilted her head. “Need help?”

Eric moved closer, a similar knife in his hand. “Don’t worry. I got you covered.”

Jenna kicked at the creature. “Eric and I can handle this.”

The Streaker staggered back, but then surged forward again. “I’ll keep watch.” Lilly surveyed their surroundings. “Where there’s one, more to come.”

“Did you just make that up?” Eric asked.

“I like to rhyme,” Lilly said. “Appears clear.”

“One of your many talents.” Eric sent a smile her way and turned back to face the enemy.

“Come here, big boy.” Jenna took a step back into the center of the road where less debris meant less to trip over.

“Me or the monster?” Eric joked.

The Streaker trailed Jenna, the remains of its ragged flannel shirt fluttering open. Guts leaked out of its sliced chest cavity and slipped out of the tattered remains of clothing.

Jenna gagged. “There’s something no girl ever wants to see. Put it away and be a gentleman.”

“The gentlemanly thing to do would be to find dinner somewhere else.” Eric moved behind the creature. The undead mewled.

“That’s all you got for me?” She stepped back, hoisted the bowie blade, and slashed. The knife embedded itself between the creature’s eyes. She sliced higher. The blade released with a pucker. She stepped back. The zombie closed in. “Guess I missed my mark.” Jenna dodged the lumbering monster.

Eric’s knife slashed the Streaker’s back with a repeated, steady swing. Strips of skin and black goo melted to the ground.

Jenna sliced across the creature’s neck, stabbed, and drew her knife away, hearing the suck of release. She skidded back. “Why won’t it die?” Jenna eyed the creature for a weakness.

“Maybe you have bad aim.” Eric carved out new wounds, but the monster stretched its arm making it impossible to get close.

“Could be that it’s already dead.” Jenna frowned. “I have great aim and practice a lot more than you to make sure I never lose it.”

“I’m younger and more fit.”

“We’ll see about that.” Jenna moved behind the writhing creature. She hoped to catch it unaware, but the monster spun, its lifeless eyes meeting hers. Jenna jumped back and huffed out a breath. “So much for the element of surprise.” She’d better practice those battle skills a few more hours a day.

“What’s the plan?” Eric sidestepped to refocus the Streaker’s attention on him. “More firepower? Bring out the big guns?”

“Don’t want to attract more.”

Eric scooted close and then backed away. “I’ll draw its attention. You finish it from the rear.”

“Sounds like a firm plan.”

“Not in this case.”

Jenna eyed the undead. “True. Very saggy from this view.”

“Get on with it, you two.” Lilly waved a hand at them. “I don’t want to hang around here any longer than I have to.”

Author Bio:

Lisa Acerbo is a high school teacher and adjunct faculty at a local community college. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, daughters, two dogs, and horse. When not writing, she mountain bikes, hikes, and fosters dogs.

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03 May, 2022

Read an #Excerpt from In the Middle by Carin Fahr Shulusky - #Fiction #Memoir @shulusky @ProvidenceBks


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In the Middle

by Carin Fahr Shulusky

May 3, 2022 Book Blast


In the Middle by Carin Fahr Shulusky
Carrie Young had it all. She was a successful account executive for a small advertising agency and still managed to be a loving wife and dutiful mother until her mother fell suddenly ill. As the middle child, Carrie was never that close to her mother, but now she was needed to help with the overwhelming task of taking care of her seriously ill mother. The demands of hospitalization, doctors' appointments and daily care throw her once prefect life in near chaos. Disagreements with her siblings, her boss and her mother make her resentful of this new responsibility. The one bright spot is the chance to know her mother's stories of the depression and post war struggle as she never had before. Even as her once perfect life falls apart, she finds a purpose in it all.

Book Details

Genre: Fictional Memoir Published by: Fossil Creek Press Publication Date: January 18, 2021 Number of Pages: 198 ISBN: '9781736241707 Purchase Your Copy Today: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

By this time, Mom was mobile enough to get to the doctor, or at least so the insurance company determined. This meant we could no longer get home visits paid by insurance, so Maria, John, and I had to find a way to get Mom through the gauntlet of doctors. Each organ of Mom’s body had its own doctor: cardiologist, neurologist, urologist, gynecologist, optometrist, dermatologist, podiatrist, and dentist. Everything was failing and in need of repair. I actually think we could take Mom to a different doctor every day of the week. As it was, we managed the most urgent needs and hoped for the best with the rest. Maria took Mom to the cardiologist, who was managing her medications and needed to take regular blood levels. I took Mom to the urologist because she was having urinary tract troubles, possibly caused by the medications prescribed by the cardiologist. John took Mom to the physical therapist, who could also no longer make home visits on insurance. Physical therapy was prescribed by the cardiologist to help her get more mobile. Each trip out required us to call her multiple times to remind her of the appointment, then we had to arrive nearly an hour early because she would invariably not be ready. Getting Mom ready for a doctor visit required finding clean clothes, inserting hearing aids, and getting her false teeth in place—and making sure she made a bathroom visit. Before leaving we would have to locate her insurance card, her checkbook, her purse, scarf, and coat. I’d pull my car up to her front porch through the lawn so Mom would have the least number of steps from house to car. Getting into the car was difficult to the extreme. Once I had Mom in the car, I’d load her walker and cane in the trunk. When we got to the doctor, we would have to reverse the process: get the walker out of the trunk and Mom in the door and find a place for her to sit while I parked the car. I’d run back in before Mom decided to try to find her own way up the elevator to the doctor’s office or some thoughtful person decided to help and I’d lose her. I thought it would be easier when we were finally in the doctor’s office until the nurse said she’d need a urine sample and handed Mom a cup. The idea of this eighty-two-year-old lady, who could hardly use the toilet herself and missed it most of the time, managing to actually get urine in a cup was so ludicrous I just burst out laughing. The nurse was not amused. She gave me an incriminating look, put the cup back and held up a “hat” that fit over the whole toilet seat. Still chuckling despite my best efforts to stop, I shook my head in agreement and lead Mom to the bathroom. The rest of the visit went fairly normal. Before I could go in with my mom, the nurse had to ask her if it was okay that this person—me—could come into the exam room. Mom looked puzzled. The nurse muttered something about privacy laws and we went in. No one noticed that I was holding my breath. I was terrified that Mom would say no. No one knew what would come out of her mouth next. If I didn’t go in, the doctor would surely get incorrect information and whatever the doctor told Mom would be lost. She could hardly remember having a doctor visit, much less what he said. But I couldn’t argue the point. What was I supposed to say? Hey guys, she’s half crazy. Why are you asking her? Not only would that get me nowhere, it would hurt Mom’s feelings. Whoever proposed the privacy laws surely doesn’t have aging parents. Fortunately, she said yes, so I could enter. The doctor discussed why she was having frequent urinary tract infections, which I’m sure went right over her head. Then he said, “We should see you back next month.” I want to shout, No, please no, but I said, “Is it necessary? I have to take a day off work to get her here,” I pleaded. Mom caught that too well and said, “I’m sure Maria will be glad to bring me.” Now, the thing I was trying so hard to avoid was out. I made a great effort to hide from Mom my frustration and anxiety over losing a day’s work. I didn’t want her to think my work was more important than her. I didn’t want to think that either, but there it was, always under the surface, in the deep dark places of my ambition. I had taken a half day off, left at noon, and didn’t plan to return to work. My boss would never understand this. Shopping with Mom on the Internet didn’t work out too well. Visualizing an item in one dimension just wasn’t working for her, so I thought we would try the old fashion way. I knew Mom wanted to go to Penney’s so I thought we would start there. I told Mom the mall had wheelchairs we could borrow, but she was so negative on that idea that I quickly let it drop. Even with Mom’s handicap parking pass, we couldn’t get close enough to the store, so I pulled right in front, got the walker from my trunk, and helped her in the store. It would have worked well if the store had any place to sit, but there was nothing. I told Mom to go on in the store and I’d catch up with her. By the time I had parked and caught up, she had already found two items she wanted: one for Maria and one for Katie. She next wanted to buy John a pair of shoes, so I helped her to the shoe department and she quickly found a pair of work shoes that she wanted. I made sure we had all the receipts tucked neatly in her purse. She wanted to find a new blouse for Christmas, so we made our way to an elevator and up to the next floor. She walked a small way and suddenly stopped. “I don’t think I can go any further,” Mom said. “I’m just worn out.” I knew this was a stretch, but I was hopeful. I asked the sales lady if there were any chairs in the store. To my surprise, she found a folding chair from the storeroom and brought it out for Mom. While Mom rested comfortably—more or less—in the chair, I brought her several styles and colors of shirts. She picked one and I purchased it for her. “We could go to another store if you would let me get a wheelchair,” I offered. “No,” she said firmly. “It’s not time for a wheelchair yet. I’ll get Maria to take me another day. I think I need to go home.” On the way home, we passed our favorite soft-serve ice cream store. “How about an ice cream cone?” I asked. “That sounds lovely,” Mom said. We could always agree on ice cream. We had a wonderful time eating our ice cream. I suppose I inherited my passion for the stuff from Mom. With the happy ice-cream high, we parted cheerfully. I carried all her purchases to her bedroom as directed and promised to return to help with Christmas decoration. --- Excerpt from In the Middle by Carin Fahr Shulusky. Copyright 2021 by Carin Fahr Shulusky. Reproduced with permission from Carin Fahr Shulusky. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Carin Fahr Shulusky
Carin Fahr Shulusky was born and raised in west St. Louis County. She attended the University of Missouri, Columbia, where she received a B.J (Bachelor of Journalism). After college she worked in advertising for GE and Monsanto. She was the first professional woman in her division of each. After 25 years in Marketing, she created her own firm, Marketing Alliance. She was president of Marketing Alliance, from 2002 – 2014. She is a past-president of the Business Marketing Association of St. Louis. Carin Fahr is married to Richard Shulusky. They have two grown children and one marvelous granddaughter. Grandma Carin has a life long love of cooking, even writing her own cookbook. In 2014 Carin retired to devote full time to writing. Her first book, In the Middle was inspired by her own battle to care for her beloved mother, Dorothy Fahr. Many of the stories Carrie Young’s mother tells her in In the Middle came from Carin’s mother. Carin is a lifelong member of, Pathfinder Church in Ellisville, Missouri, where she volunteers in early childhood.

Find Carin Online:

carinshulusky.com Goodreads Instagram - @cshulusky Twitter - @shulusky Facebook

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02 May, 2022

Read an #Excerpt from Canary In the Coal Mine by Charles Salzberg - #Crime #Noir @partnersincr1me @CharlesSalzberg


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Canary In the Coal Mine

by Charles Salzberg

April 18 - May 13, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


Canary In the Coal Mine by Charles Salzberg

PI Pete Fortunato, half-Italian, half-Jewish, who suffers from anger management issues and insomnia, wakes up one morning with a bad taste in his mouth. This is never a good sign. Working out of a friend’s downtown real estate office, Fortunato, who spent a mysteriously short, forgettable stint as a cop in a small upstate New York town, lives from paycheck to paycheck. So, when a beautiful woman wants to hire him to find her husband, he doesn’t hesitate to say yes. Within a day, Fortunato finds the husband in the apartment of his client’s young, stud lover. He’s been shot once in the head. Case closed. But when his client’s check bounces, and a couple of Albanian gangsters show up outside his building and kidnap him, hoping he’ll lead them to a large sum of money supposedly stolen by the dead man, he begins to realize there’s a good chance he’s been set up to take the fall for the murder and the theft of the money.

In an attempt to get himself out of a jam, Fortunato winds up on a wild ride that takes him down to Texas where he searches for his client’s lover who he suspects has the money and holds the key to solving the murder.

Praise for Canary In the Coal Mine:

“Salzberg has hit it out of the park. Love the writing style, and the story really draws you in. As with Salzberg’s prior works, he has a knack for making his heroes real, which makes their jeopardy real, too. So, say hello to Pete Fortunato, a modern PI who thinks on his feet and has moves that read like the noir version of Midnight Run.”
—Tom Straw, author of the Richard Castle series (from the ABC show) and Buzz Killer

“Salzberg writes hardboiled prose from a gritty stream of conscious. Peter Fortunato is an old school PI to be reckoned with.”
—Sam Wiebe, award-winning author of Invisible Dead and Never Going Back

“Charles Salzberg’s Canary in the Coal Mine is everything a reader wants in a great crime novel, and then some. The rat-a-tat cadence of the noir masters, seamlessly blended with the contemporary sensibilities of an author thoroughly in control of his craft. I liked this book so much I read it twice. No kidding. It’s that good.”
—Baron R. Birtcher, multi-award winning and Los Angeles Times bestselling author

“Charles Salzberg has created a fantastic literary PI: Pete Fortunato. Rash, blunt and prone to violence, you can’t help but turn the page to see what Fortunato will do next. Canary in the Coal Mine is great!” —James O. Born, New York Times bestselling author

Book Details:

Genre: Crime/Noir
Published by: Down & Out Books
Publication Date: April 18, 2022
Number of Pages: 276
ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-1-64396-251-1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Down & Out Books

Read an excerpt:

Part One

New York City

“Doubt, of whatever kind, can be ended by action alone.”
—Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present


This Could Be the Start of Something Big

I wake up with a bad taste in my mouth.

It’s not the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last. I like to think of it as my personal canary in the coal mine. That taste usually means trouble on the horizon. Sometimes it’s someone else’s trouble. Sometimes it’s mine. Sometimes it’s both. Those are the times I have to watch out for.

Once I rouse myself from bed—it’s never easy when I’ve had a rough night—I launch into my usual routine. Shower, shave, brush my teeth, my pride and joy, especially the two phony teeth implanted on the upper left side replacing those knocked out in a particularly vicious fight I didn’t start, at least that’s the way I see it. The way I usually see it. It was a pickup softball game. A guy came into second hard and late and spiked my shortstop in the leg. It was bad. So bad, it took eleven stitches to close the wound. Someone had to do something and as usual I was the first one out there and the one who threw the first punch. That’s the drill for most of my fights. I never start them, well, hardly ever because being provoked doesn’t count. But when I do throw a punch I always have good reason. The fights usually end with me bloodied but unbowed. You might say I have a temper but I prefer to think of it as a short fuse and an obsession with justice. No one gets away with anything on my watch. I win a few. I lose a few. There’s always a price to pay and I always make my point. But let’s face it there are no real winners when it comes to violence. Everyone, even the winner, loses something. That’s just the way it goes.

These phony teeth of mine match the others perfectly. A dentist who owed me a favor—I provided him with all the information he needed to divorce his cheating wife and avoid being taken to the cleaners—planted them and swore no one could tell the difference. So far, he’s been right. I like to think those are the only phony things about me. Everything else, for better or worse, is me, all me. I don’t apologize for it. Take me or leave me. I don’t care.

Lately, I’ve had to curb the physical stuff. Now that I’m well into my forties, things are starting to fall apart. They say it’s the legs that go first, but in my case, it’s my shoulder. I displaced it throwing a punch at someone who deserved it, someone who’d had a little too much to drink and insulted a woman I was with. The embarrassing thing is I missed. Turns out that’s what did the damage. Missing my target. I had my arm in a sling for almost a month. It’s pretty much healed now though I sometimes feel it in damp weather. The doc warned me it could go out again any time. “Try to stay out of fights, Pete,” he said, then added, “though knowing you that’s not very likely.”

He was right. I’m combative. It’s my nature. I’ve never run away from a fight and I probably never will. If you don’t stand up for yourself, who will? I just have to be a little more careful now, which means choosing my battles more wisely.

I stop at the local diner for my usual breakfast: two cups of black coffee—neither of which take that bad taste out of my mouth—then head downtown to my office in Greenwich Village. Well, let’s be honest here. It’s not really my office. It’s the office of a friend who runs a small real estate firm here in the city. He has an extra desk he rents me for only a couple hundred bucks a month, which includes phone service and a receptionist, if you call the person who takes up space at a desk up front a receptionist. I mean, shouldn’t a receptionist be able to take a proper message? Shouldn’t they be able to direct someone to your desk, even if it’s in back, half hidden behind a pillar? But there’s a hitch—there always is. When business picks up and they have to hire another broker, it’s arrivederci, Pete. Fortunately, in the two years I’ve been here that’s only happened once, and then just for a couple months.

New York City real estate is like having a license to print money, but the competition for listings is fierce and how anyone but the crème de la crème makes a living is beyond me. But I can’t say being without an office puts much of a dent in my business, since it’s always been pretty much touch and go. Thank goodness for that bank overdraft protection thing which has kept the wolves from my door more times than I’d like to admit.

I’m a PI. I have a license that says so. I take it out and look at it every so often, just to remind myself I actually have a profession. Profession. I say the word aloud. It’s a strange word. It makes me think of the “world’s oldest.” I’ve done pretty much everything in my life except for that, though some might not make much of a distinction between what I do and what they do. They do it on their back. I do it on my feet. That’s pretty much what sets us apart. It’s like that Sinatra song. You know the one. Puppet, pauper, pirate, poet, pawn and king. Only with me substitute menial jobs like shoe salesman, night watchman, doorman—one summer the year after I graduated college—hot dog vendor, dog walker, even a short stint as a waiter. I was the world’s worst. Half my salary went for broken glassware and plates. Once, I actually had to pay for a guy’s meal out of my own pocket to keep him from ratting me out to the owner and getting me fired. Turned out it wasn’t a very good investment. The next day I got canned anyway. I also spent a short time as a cop. More on that later.

This job as a PI stuck by process of elimination. The only real talent I have for anything was as a ballplayer, and after I washed out of the game because of injuries that pretty much made it impossible to throw or swing a bat, then trashed my way through that bunch of other jobs, I realized I was suited to do little else. My new profession meets a laundry list of criteria.

  • I do not have to wear a suit and tie.
  • I do not have anyone telling me what to do, where to be, and when to be there.
  • It gives me an opportunity to use my brain, brawn (not that I’m brawny, but even now I’m still pretty solid, topping out at 170 pounds on my five-foot-ten-inch frame, but I’ve always been a physical guy willing to use what muscle I had), and ingenuity. But not too much of any of the three.
  • It doesn’t take too much concentration since like half the population of the world, I’ve got ADHD issues. In other words, I lose interest very quickly.
  • I make my own hours.
  • I mind someone else’s business while I can ignore my own.
  • The job fits my cynical, paranoid personality which makes me suspicious of everyone and supports a strong belief in Clare Boothe Luce’s claim that no good deed goes unpunished. I believe there is evil lurking in everyone’s soul, especially mine, though I do my best to fight against those darker urges. Other traits I own up to include being lazy, combative, argumentative, and stubborn. I love getting up in everyone else’s business, which gives me the perfect excuse to avoid mine.

I didn’t grow up watching cops and robber shows. My drug of choice was sports, especially baseball. I loved the game not only because I was good at it but because although it appears that for long stretches of time nothing is happening there’s always something going on. Even if it isn’t discernible to the eye. Baseball is not just a game of physical skill. It’s a game of thought, analysis, contemplation, and anticipation. Unlike other team sports, there is no time limit. It takes as long as it takes, and in this sense, it mimics life. No one knows when it’s going to end. Theoretically, a game can go on forever, ending only when one team has scored more runs than the other. It is a game of nuance. It is a game that can be won with power, or speed, or defense, or a combination of these attributes. It can be won on the mound, at the plate, or in the field. It can be won by a score of one nothing or twelve to eleven. It can end as a result of a timely hit or an untimely error. It is a game of ebb and flow. It is unpredictable. Just like life.

I’ll take a thinking player over a naturally talented one any day of the week. Baseball is a game like chess. The best ballplayers are always several steps ahead of the game. They’re thinking about what they’ll do long before they actually do it. “If it’s hit to me I’ll fake the runner back to second then go to first.” That sort of thing does not show up on the TV screen nor does it appear in the box score. But that’s what wins and loses games.

Baseball imitates life: Long stretches of nothingness, then short bursts of action, which comes as a logical conclusion of those stretches of nothingness. This is much how our lives unfold. At least it’s the way mine does.

I thought I’d make it as a major league ballplayer, but I never got the chance to prove it. I was a pretty good high school pitcher and when I wasn’t pitching, I played shortstop with middling range, a good arm, and a better than average bat, although I lacked power. I told myself I’d grow into it, though I never did. I threw the ball in the mid-eighties, not very fast by today’s standards, when young players can now flirt with a hundred on the gun. But I had a decent curve and was working on what I hoped would be a better than average changeup. I figured by the time I got to the minors I’d ramp it up, adding a few miles per hour to the fastball. I was good enough to earn a partial scholarship to a small upstate New York college.

But before I got halfway through my first college season, I developed arm trouble. In those days, more than a quarter century ago, Tommy John surgery wasn’t what it is today and it certainly wasn’t for college kids without a buck to their name. Even if I wanted it, who was going to pay for it? My father was lucky to make the rent each month and if it hadn’t been for that athletic scholarship, I would have wound up working some soul-sucking civil service job.

Once I accepted the fact I’d never pitch again, I had to shift gears, away from the idea of becoming a professional athlete. They let me keep the scholarship so long as I maintained my grade point average. I was certainly no A student, but when I put my mind to it, I can do almost anything, no matter how unlikely. I sure as hell wasn’t the best student in the world, but I wasn’t the worst either, and somehow, I made it through to graduation. The first to do so in the Fortunato line. My mother’s family was a bunch of brainiacs. She went to college and might have gone further if she hadn’t met my father. That was the first thing he screwed up in her life. It wouldn’t be the last.

I’d like to say I’m choosey about the kinds of cases I take, but that would be a lie. It’s not that I don’t lie, by the way, it’s just that I don’t lie frivolously, which makes it difficult to know whether what comes out of my mouth is the truth or a lie. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, in my business it probably qualifies as a plus.

It’s that time in New York when the city isn’t quite sure what season it wants to be. A few days before Halloween, people are already gearing up for Thanksgiving, then Christmas. Always one, sometimes two holidays ahead of itself. One day in late August, I was shocked to see plastic pumpkins lined up on display in a CVS pharmacy. As if life isn’t disorienting enough.

The weather doesn’t help. Today, when I look out my window, the sky is cloudless and that shade of deep blue so beautiful it makes you want to cry. But it’s deceiving because when I get outside the temperature is hovering in the low forties. But like the city itself, the weather can break your heart by promising something it just can’t seem to deliver. Tomorrow it’s supposed to be pushing seventy, at least that’s what the weather people are forecasting. And as if that isn’t disorienting enough, the next day it’s supposed to drop back to the fifties with overcast skies and intermittent showers. It’s that schizo time of year when you never quite know what to wear. As a result, I always seem to be dressed one or two days ahead or behind the weather.

I usually roll into my office around ten, which I think is a pretty decent time considering the erratic hours I keep. Sometimes it’s because I’m on a job, sometimes it’s because I suffer from debilitating bouts of insomnia. When that strikes either I lie in bed thinking about all the things I could have done different in my life, and there are plenty, or I get up, get dressed, and roam the streets. In this city, there’s always plenty to keep things interesting. So yeah, New York really is the city that never sleeps. At least that’s true for some of its citizens. No matter how late or early it is I’m never the only one walking the streets. But I’m probably the only one who has no idea where he’s going.

Obviously, not everyone is in agreement about arriving at a decent hour thing, because half a dozen other desks in the office are already filled with folks either working the phones or staring blankly into their computer. I park myself at my desk way in the back, near the bathroom, and as soon as I do, Philly, my friend and boss man of the real estate firm, appears in front of me.

“I wasn’t sure you were coming in today, Petey,” he cracks. He flashes a goofy grin after the words tumble out of his mouth like a waterfall. He’s a born and bred New Yorker so he talks as if he’s in a race to finish a sentence so he can move on to the next one. Sometimes, he speaks so quick the words stick to each other and he is this close to being unintelligible. Unlike others who have to ask him to slow the fuck down, I, being a born and bred New Yorker, too, can understand him without much effort.

When he speaks, he bares his teeth, which are a dull yellow and seem to be in a life-or-death struggle for room in his mouth. But his nose, well, that’s another story. Unlike mine, which has been broken too many times to count, his is straight and in perfect harmony with the rest of his face. You might suspect he’s had work done on it, but no, Philly was born this way. He is, no doubt about it, a handsome man—except for those teeth, which I keep advising him he ought to get fixed—and he knows it. He’s been married three times, each one of them a stunner, and if he ever gets divorced from his present wife, Marnie, I have no doubt there’ll be a fourth waiting in the wings. He can afford it, though.

“What are you talking about?” I say, tapping my watch for emphasis. “This is fucking early for me.”

“I’ve been here since eight, my friend. That’s early.”

“You’re not going to tell me about the damn bird, are you?”

“What bird?”

“The one who gets the worm.”

“I don’t need any bird to tell me when to get to work, Petey.”

“What can I say, Philly, other than you’re a better man than me.”

“Damn straight. You’d give everything in your bank account to change places with me, Petey, and you know it.”

“That wouldn’t be much, Philly, and you know it.”

He shrugs. “Maybe that’ll change. There was a broad in here earlier looking for you.”


“That’s right.”

“She actually asked for me?”

“Yeah. By name, not the usual ‘where’s that scumbag owes me money?’”

“What’d she look like?”

“That’s the first thing you ask?”

“I yam who I yam.”

He smiles. There are those teeth again. I want to give him the name of my dentist but I know it won’t do any good, so why bother?

“You and Popeye. She looks like you’d want to get to know her and spend a lot of time with her. If I weren’t so blissfully married, she’d be at the top of my list for number four.”

I resist asking, how long’s that gonna be for? and say instead, “That good, huh?”

“Yeah. That good.”

“I hope you didn’t try to sell her an apartment.”

“She didn’t look like she needed one.”

“Did she tell you why she wanted to see me?”

“Nope. But she did give me this.” He pulls a business card out of his pocket and tosses it on my desk. “Said you should call her. If I were you, I’d do it ASAP. She reeked of money and folks with money don’t like to be made to wait.”

I look at the card then bring it up close to my nose. It smells like lemons. The name on it is Lila Alston. I like the sound of that. And the smell of lemons. Her name reminds me of those in one of those pulp crime novels. Like Velma. Or Bubbles.

As soon as Philly dismisses himself, I dial the number. A woman’s voice answers. I take a shot.

“I believe you were looking for me, Ms. Alston.”

“If you’re Peter Fortunato that would be correct. But it’s Mrs. Not Ms. At least for the moment.”

“Then I’ll take a wild guess and say this has something to do with your husband.”

She laughs. It’s short and it’s raspy and it’s sexy. Very sexy. “That’s correct. And it appears I may have found the right man…for a change.”

“Would you like to meet in person or continue this over the phone, Lila?”

“I liked it better when you were more formal, Mr. Fortunato. At least until we get to know each other a little better.”

I can’t wait. I’m already getting the beginnings of a hard-on.

“Got it. So, phone or meet up, Mrs. Alston?” I’m hoping she’ll agree to the latter. I have to see for myself what this chick looks like because Philly is only prone to exaggeration when it comes to real estate.

“I suppose a face-to-face meeting would be more advantageous. This is a rather…odd situation and it might take some explaining.”

“I specialize in odd situations, Mrs. Alston.”

“I suspected as much.”

“By the way, how did you come to get in touch with me?”

“I went down a list of private investigators until I found a name I liked. It happened to be yours. Fortunato. It has a rather nice ring to it.”

“Yeah, just like the sound of a cash register. So, you know nothing else about me?”

“I didn’t say that, Mr. Fortunato. I didn’t say that at all.”


Excerpt from Canary In the Coal Mine by Charles Salzberg. Copyright 2022 by Charles Salzberg. Reproduced with permission from Charles Salzberg. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Charles Salzberg

Charles Salzberg is a former magazine journalist and nonfiction book writer. His novels Swann's Last Song (the first of the five Henry Swann novels) and Second Story Man were nominated for Shamus Awards and the latter was the winner of the Beverly Hills Book Award. Devil in the Hole was named one of the best crime novels of 2013 by Suspense Magazine. His work has also appeared in several anthologies as well as Mystery Tribune. He is a former professor of magazine at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University, and he teaches writing in New York City. He is one of the Founding Members of New York Writers Workshop, and is a member of the Board of PrisonWrites and formerly a board member for MWA-NY.

Catch Up With Charles:
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Twitter - @CharlesSalzberg



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