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Wednesday, August 31, 2022

PROMO: The Glass Tree

 



Historical/Suspense ; Suspense/Thriller ; Adult Literary

Date Published: 09-01-2022

Publisher: Endicott Street Press


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Paris, 1954. Eli Cole, American attaché, wants only one thing: to avenge his wife’s murder. But the trail has gone cold. After two years, drinking to his beloved Liana’s memory is all he has left — until the secrets she took to the grave come back to shatter them all. A hidden photo, a Gestapo file, an unsent letter: these are some of the clues Eli must piece together if he is to understand Liana’s secret life, and her mysterious mission. But the clock is ticking. Powerful new enemies are out to give Eli a one-way ticket back to the United States — in a pinewood box.

With the help of Liana’s father and sister, an old war buddy come abroad, and a cunning teenage girl, Eli unravels the events that led to his wife’s death. But getting justice won’t be easy. The more Eli reveals of Liana’s secret past, the more his devotion to her is tested by her deceit. Can Eli allow himself to recognize the entirety of the woman he married? Will Liana’s last art piece, a spectacular glass tree, give Eli the assurance he needs to continue believing in the sanctity of love?

The Glass Tree is a fast-paced, unpredictable mystery, and it is also the story of one man’s attempt to untangle the complexities of betrayal, love and forgiveness.



About the Author

Michael J. Manz lives in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley and is a rare bookseller by trade. Except for a few years spent in Chicago, he is a lifelong New Englander. The only place he’d rather be, at least some of the time, is Paris, where he has been known to wander the streets in search of old bookshops, great cafes and forgotten bars. He is the past organizer of the Protagonists and Procrastinators writers’ group and has from childhood been scratching away at some kind of story or another. Michael holds a BA in English from Keene State College. The Glass Tree is his first novel.


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PROMO: The Canadian Beaver Lodge Assassins Association

 

 


Action/Adventure

Date Published: November 30, 2022

Publisher: Acorn Publishing


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On a routine delivery, courier Jaxy Thrie must ferry a priceless item—a Fabergé guardian angel once worn by the Empress Maria Feodorovna—to a Russian heiress in British Columbia. Things get out of hand when Jaxy loses the valuable medallion. He finds himself in fast trouble with the Romanov Guild, who accuses him of theft. It falls on Jaxy to restore the national treasure to the Royal Museum while dodging bullets from a greedy band of robbers, the Mounties, and the Canadian Beaver Lodge Assassins Association.


About the Author

A lifetime resident of California, Jerry moved to Santa Barbara after graduating from USC to work in the aerospace industry. Today, he designs night-vision cameras for everyday use. In his free time, Jerry likes to write and use his musical talent to compose original scores for piano and guitar. After his first loves—song and storytelling—Jerry enjoys hiking, spending time in the garden, and baking sourdough bread.

 

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Blog Tour: Fire & Ice

 


 A Mauzzy & Me Mystery, Book 2


Cozy Mystery, Young Adult Mystery, Mystery

Date Published: 08-15-2022

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

 

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

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

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



Excerpt

An eerie silence filled the air in the windowless, pitch-black vault. No humming from the air conditioning. No buzzing from office equipment. No noise whatsoever. And with my phone securely stowed in my purse back on the desk, I had no flashlight during a power failure. Talk about a recipe for disaster. I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face. 

With hands out front, I felt my way out of Boss Lad’s office, only cracking a shin once on what I believe was a guest chair.

Just as I made it to the doorway, Mauzzy began pitching a fit off in the distance, yelping hysterically. Something was wrong. Horribly wrong. I needed to get to my phone. Fast.

I picked up the pace, perspiration working its magic in all the wrong places as the air grew stagnant. Hugging the wall, I pushed through the suffocating black toward the faraway hyperventilating Mauzzy.  My brain issued the alert to slow down because there was a—

Oof.

—copier coming up along the wall. That I was now draped over, hugging it like an overindulged sorority girl clinging to the porcelain throne.

Sliding to the ground, I crawled on hands and aching knees toward what I prayed were the cubicles. As I inched across the filthy tile floor, I debated what was more important. Getting my phone and using its flashlight to find Mauzzy, or grabbing the hand sanitizer in my purse and saturating my hands with the lifesaving gel.

Oh my God, what the heck did I touch? Anything that’s slimy under your hand as you’re crawling along a floor can’t be good.

The debate was over. Hand sanitizer shot to the top of the list. Mauzzy’s yelps became frantic screeches, so I scooted across the floor, mimicking an ambitious infant making a break for it. Sweet Handsome maniacally scratched away at something, and this time, it wasn’t his butt. He was pawing at some kind of hard surface. Like a wall. His screeching became more of a—

Crack.

I found the cubicles.

With my head.


About the Author

B.T. Polcari is a graduate of Rutgers College of Rutgers University, an award-winning mystery author, and a proud father of two wonderful children. He’s a champion of rescue pups (Mauzzy is a rescue), craves watching football and basketball, and, of course, loves reading mysteries. Among his favorite authors are D.P. Lyle, Robert B. Parker, and Michael Connelly. He is also an unapologetic fantasy football addict. He lives with his wife in scenic Chattanooga, Tennessee.

 

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Tuesday, August 30, 2022

PROMO: The Inspector's Daughter and the Maid

 

 

Women's fiction, Historical romance fiction

Date Published: August 30, 2022

 

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The Inspector's Daughter and The Maid is a moving and delightful blend of historical and speculative romance fiction.

The foundations of traditional structures reveal themselves to be no longer stone, but sand, and in the hearts of the Inspector's Daughter and the Maid some natural ease gets broken, and their trust in a promising future loses its innocence.

In the severance of winds, beyond their wildest dreams, possibilities are awakened.

Which one will win the heart of the wealthy merchant's son - the Music Teacher?

 



Excerpt

It’s the city of Delft, the capital of the Dutch Republic, sometime in the mid-17th century. Nowhere in Delft is far from water. It’s a small city of canals, overflowing with humanity that ripples over a few acres and out the city gates into the low-lying farmland and to Oospoort, the city’s opening to the North Sea and to the world. To place it, a brisk morning’s walk will get you north to Hague, the centre of the Netherland’s government and courts. It’s a carriage ride to Amsterdam. The Reformation and a changed Christian practice may have been the instigator. But the foundations of traditional structures, of not only religion, but consequently, also of community and family, revealed themselves to be no longer stone, but sand. If this crumbling and the confusion it caused wasn’t happening, the Inspector’s Daughter and the Maid’s story may never have been told. The society, however, was not infrangible, and these juffrouwen were ripe. The social changes that were birthing, sprung from mindfulness towards humanity. Small incremental steps. No giant leaps. That’s what was best for the greater good. Seeds that consequence stories can be planted by previous generations, and, indeed, such is the case here. The mother of one of the girls was the progenitor. Thus, the story begins with he r.

 

About the Author

Marlene Cheng is a Maincrest Media and a Book Excellence award-winning author of women's fiction. Her books are about the relationships that define women's lives--romance, friendship, and family. Marlene is a keen observer of how people think and feel, and she writes lyrical, uplifting, and emotionally rich stories.

What is being said: "Today's best up-and-coming fiction writer."--Publishers Daily Reviews. "Marlene writes with great facility. Her writing is intelligent: her prose is poetic."--Dr. David Yeung MBBS FRCPC (certified psychiatrist). "A fantastic journey that takes readers to the innermost corners of the human heart."--Reader's Favorites.

Marlene was prairie-born, farm-raised, and now lives among the old-growth pine and cedar, overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the West Coast of Canada


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Blog Tour: The Silent Count

 



Thriller, Climate Change Fiction

Date Published: July 19, 2022

Publisher: Solstice Publishing


She’s determined to stop climate change before it’s too late…

Nuclear engineer Dara Bouldin’s life is a mess. She’s paying off her dad’s gambling debts, reeling from a broken engagement, and practically invisible at the energy research agency where she works. Meanwhile, her ex Jericho’s latest single is racing up the charts and her handsome new colleague Dmitri is friendly with everyone but her.

All around them, wildfires, floods, and other natural disasters have become the norm. But Dara has an audacious plan to reverse climate change, if only someone would listen.

Little does she know, someone at the CIA has been paying attention. And when the public demands action, Dara gets the chance to turn her dream into reality, with the blessings of Congress and the President. Things are looking up.

That is until she discovers a secret that thrusts her into the center of a global conflict that could rewrite history, in dire ways she never intended. Things are going to change, big time. And the countdown has already begun.

Be careful what you wish for, Dara.




Excerpt

T-minus Ten

 

“Some said the world would end in fire. Others said it would end in ice. We know better now.”

Brigadier

General

Alexander

Fallsworth

acknowledged his audience in the windowless room lit with PowerPoint slides and the words ‘Top Secret-SCI’ (for

‘Sensitive Compartmented Information’) in red LED letters on each wall. His presentation to the Intergovernmental Committee on Climate Affairs beamed from a laptop that normally resided in a padlocked Class 6 file cabinet. Both the cabinet and the computer were nearing capacity.

The meeting participants had come to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, from several other agencies — the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy. They gathered around a large conference table, all furrowed brows, crossed arms and pointed features.

Alexander, silver-blue irises shifting,  felt adrenaline course through him as words shot past his tongue.

“Colleagues, the world hasn't ended at all. It’s left us the task of dealing with the consequences. That’s why I’ve gathered you here today. I’d like to talk about Project Plowshares.”

A few in the audience fidgeted, coughed.

Afghanistan was a walk in the park compared to an afternoon with this crowd.  He pressed on, quoting from the Bible’s Book of Isaiah: “‘…they shall… beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up their sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.’”

The PowerPoint transmitted a video of a nuclear explosion, ending in a mushroom cloud of fission products.

Pacing himself with a few sips of water, Alexander delved into the history of the program.

Most of the audience members had been students of nuclear history at one time or other, so they were familiar with Project Plowshares, at least the version of the program envisioned during the Cold War era. Alexander explained that Plowshares resulted after President Eisenhower’s

‘Atoms for Peace’ speech before the United Nations in 1953, when the president said of the atomic bomb, “It is not enough to take this weapon out of the hands of the soldiers.

It must be put into the hands of those who will know how to strip its military casing and adapt it to the arts of peace.”

He took a breath, hoping his listeners couldn’t see the perspiration beading where his blond crew cut ended and his forehead began. “The brass at the U.S. Atomic Energy Agency took the Atoms for Peace ball and ran with it, funding programs to find peaceful uses for atomic bombs. Beyond the obvious nuclear energy applications, Plowshares included large-scale civil engineering projects that harnessed the power of nuclear explosives.” He advanced to the next slide, willing himself to keep talking.

“The Soviets ran a similar ‘peaceful uses’ program during the Cold War era. Some would argue that India was able to develop atomic weapons due to this program by exploiting gaps in the Treaty on Nuclear Non-Proliferation, since it originally referenced ‘nuclear weapons’ rather than

‘nuclear explosives,’ as it does today. We’re aware that India consulted with the Russians on using nuclear explosives to create artificial lakes. Unlike us, the Soviets actually tested and implemented infrastructure projects under their version of Plowshares, including a dam in Kazakhstan.

“Now here’s a blast from the past for many of you,”

Alexander said, stifling a chuckle as he drew circles on the next slide with his laser pointer. “Nearly every undergraduate nuclear engineering student in the United States uses the classic textbook Introduction to Nuclear Engineering, by the late John Lamarsh. Perhaps you remember this book from your college days. Early editions of the book contained the following excerpt:

‘…there are a number of ways in which nuclear explosives may be used for peaceful purposes…natural gas trapped in underground formations can be released by the detonation of a nuclear explosive…New harbors, canals, and mountain passes can be excavated with nuclear explosives at a fraction of the cost of conventional methods.’”

He paused, looked around the table, and clicked to the next slide that contained the rest of the Lamarsh quote:

“‘It should even be possible to alter unfavorable weather patterns in many parts of the world by removing mountain ranges which obstruct the flow of air.’”

Alexander swallowed, his mouth dry. “Do we have any questions so far?”

One of the meeting participants, a man in a U.S. Air Force uniform,  spoke up. “General Fallsworth, what are you suggesting?”

Alexander attempted to modulate his breathing, which grew at a clip to keep up with his heart rate. “I’m proposing what Lamarsh said was possible, the one thing no one has tried. I propose that we use nuclear explosives to eliminate targeted mountain ranges in order to reposition the Jet Stream, create more favorable weather patterns and heat sinks, and reverse the impacts of climate change.”

Silence and stillness now. Every eye in the room bored through him. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to speak plainly. Fire, drought, floods, and extreme weather have rendered swaths of our country uninhabitable and burdened other areas due to countless citizens who’ve been displaced. Agriculture is in ruins, insurance premiums have skyrocketed, and the chasm between rich and poor continues to grow. Besides the obvious financial impacts, these problems threaten our national security. Our enemies are well aware of our weaknesses, and, domestically, civil unrest is on the rise. Worst of all, people have died.”

Alexander’s voice caught in his throat. “Thousands of people have died,” he continued, “and all we have done is react.”   

He paused, pressing his lips together, then added,

“This has gone on far too long. We carry on as if everything is fine, letting the years slip through our fingers.

Well, time has run out for conventional methods, and now we must explore the desperate measures I’ve discussed.

These measures could save us, not to mention future generations.”

Moments later, a woman in the corner, eyes focused on the birch table’s grain, broke the silence. “Is this even legal?” she asked.

“The U.S. never ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and we’re not planning to do anything outside our own territory. The general counsel reviewed my proposal and, technically, it’s completely legal.”

She nodded, her tight expression easing. “I lost several family members when Cheniak flooded. My niece was only three months old when she…” The woman hesitated, adjusted her glasses. “…when she drowned. The water rose so fast, there was nothing anyone could do.”

The representative from the Joint Chiefs of Staff piped up. “What do you recommend as a path forward?”

Alexander felt his shoulders lighten. Steady, Fallsworth, he said to himself. “I plan to reach out to the Chair of the Nuclear Engineering Department at Chambers University. One of her Ph.D. students, the ‘Bouldin, D.’ on the journal articles I’ve handed out, developed software that simulates nuclear detonations and removal of geological obstructions for geo-engineering purposes. The dissertation examines how technical parameters related to nuclear explosions can impact weather patterns and long-term climate outcomes. As far as I can tell, a model already exists and would only need to be adapted and beta-tested, then implemented.”

The committee members exchanged looks across the table. “What about radioactive fallout?” asked the woman from the Department of Energy.

“We can conduct the detonations underground,”

replied Alexander, his voice firm.

Then the man in the Air Force uniform spoke for the group. “I think we owe it to ourselves and our nation to at least consider geo-engineering as a way out of our difficulties. Let’s think about it. If we agree, authorizing a black fund shouldn’t be hard.”  

Alexander studied the participants, mentally beseeching each one to please, please accept the proposal.

Thank them for their time, Fallsworth. You’ve got this.  

It was all he could do to keep from calling out, “So who’s with me?”

 


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Monday, August 29, 2022

PROMO: Someone Knows

 



Thriller

Date Published: 7/1/2022

Publisher: Acorn Publishing LLC


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Meet Jason Vincent, a good man doing a bad thing. A school principal, he has allowed himself to slip into an affair with one of his teachers. Now, haunted by guilt, he decides to end it and get back to being the husband his wife deserves. But this is only the beginning of Jason’s problem. It seems that his secret wasn’t a secret after all. Someone knows what he’s been up to and that someone is ready to make him pay. Jason has gotten to know guilt. Now he is going to meet terror.



About the Author

 Mark Atteberry’s life has been spent working with words. He has been a teacher, counselor, and speaker; high-impact roles where every word matters. In 2020, Mark retired and devoted himself fully to writing. While still penning his own books, he has dedicated the majority of his time to ghostwriting. His body of work now sits at fourteen books, including the multiple award-winning suspense novel, Dream. Currently, Mark lives in Florida with his wife, Marilyn.

 

 

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PROMO: The Unforgettable Summer

 

 

The Unforgettable Series, Book 1

(Standalone)

 

New Adult Romance

Date Published: August 25, 2022 (2nd Edition)

Publisher: Frey Dreams


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It's the summer before her senior year of high school and Bree Summers wants nothing more than to spend it with her friends and get to know her new crush a little better. Unfortunately, things don't always go as planned. Bree's parents send her to her grandmother's house on a lake in Maine for the whole summer. Although she's not happy, Bree loves spending time with her grandmother and tries to make the best of it.

One morning, when she gets ready to take her kayak out, she stumbles upon one of her neighbors, meeting gorgeous, active and playful Christian Emory. The two soon find they want to spend as much time together as possible, cherishing every moment before their unforgettable summer comes to an end.

What will happen at the end of the summer when Christian leaves for College and Bree has to return home for one more year of high school to find her world has turned completely upside down? Will unforeseen circumstances keep them apart or will they be able to find their way back to each other?

 

About the Author

Nikki A Lamers has always had a passion for reading and writing, especially romance. She grew up in Wisconsin with her sister, mom, and dad. She always loved reading romance books and watching romance movies with her dad, something they both enjoyed. After college she lived in Florida for a few years working at the “Happiest Place on Earth,” where she met her husband. She now lives on Long Island in New York with her husband and two kids. When she’s not working on her books, she also works with scripts, on and off set. She spends her free time reading or hanging out with friends and family. She would love to spend more time traveling, visiting new places and meeting new people as well as continue creating stories, each of her characters becoming part of her family.


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PROMO: The Shade Under the Mango Tree

 


Literary, Contemporary Fiction, Multicultural

 

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Gold Medal, Contemporary Fiction, 2021 Global Book Awards (formerly New York City Book Awards)

Finalist, 2021 SPR (Self Publishing Review) Book Awards

Finalist, Multicultural Fiction, 2021 International Book Awards

 

After two heartbreaking losses, Luna wants adventure. Something and somewhere very different from the affluent, sheltered home where she grew up. An adventure in which she can make some difference.

Lucien, a worldly, well-traveled young architect, finds a stranger’s journal at a café. He has qualms and pangs of guilt about reading it. But they don’t stop him. His decision to go on reading changes his life.

Meeting later at a bookstore, Luna is fascinated by Lucien's stories and adventurous spirit. She goes to a rice-growing village in a country steeped in an ancient culture and a deadly history. What she finds there defies anything she could have imagined. Will she leave this world unscathed?

An epistolary tale of courage, resilience, and the bonds that bring diverse people together.

 




Excerpt

Prologue


Luna: February, 2016

 

Ov’s thin upper body is slumped over his crossed legs, his forehead resting on the platform. His brown, wiry arms lie limp, the right one extended forward, hand dangling over the edge of the platform. Dried blood is splattered on his head, and on the collar, right shoulder, and back of his old short-sleeved white shirt.

It seems fitting that he died where he used to spend most of his time when he wasn’t on the rice fields—sitting on a corner of the bamboo platform in the ceiling-high open space under the house. It’s where you get refreshing breezes most afternoons, after a long day of work.

The policeman looks down at Ov’s body as if he’s unsure what to do next. He lays down his camera and the gun in a plastic bag at one end of the platform untainted by splatters of gelled blood.

He steps closer to the body, anchors himself with one knee on top of the platform, and bends over the body. Hooking his arms underneath Ov’s shoulders and upper arms, he pulls the body up, and carefully lays it on its back. He straightens the legs.

He steps off the platform. Stands still for a few seconds to catch his breath. He turns to us and says, “It’s clear what has happened. I have all the pictures I need.”

 He points to his camera, maybe to make sure we understand. We have watched him in silence, three zombies still in shock. Me, standing across the bamboo platform from him. Mae and Jorani sitting, tense and quiet, on the hammock to my left.

Is that it? Done already? I want to ask him: Will he have the body taken away for an autopsy? I suppose that’s what is routinely done everywhere in cases like this. But I don’t know enough Khmer.

As if he sensed my unspoken question, he glances at me. A quick glance that comes with a frown. He seems perplexed and chooses to ignore me.

He addresses the three of us, like a captain addressing his troop. “You can clean up.”

The lingering frown on his brow softens into sympathy. He’s gazing at Jorani, whose mournful eyes remain downcast. He looks away and turns toward Mae. Pressing his hands together, he bows to her. A deeper one than the first he gave her when she and Jorani arrived.

He utters Khmer words too many and too fast for me to understand. From the furrowed brow and the look in his eyes, I assume they are words of sympathy. He bows a third time, and turns to go back to where he placed the gun and camera. He picks them up and walks away.

For a moment or two, I stare at the figure of the policeman walking away. Then I turn to Jorani. Call him back. Don’t we have questions? I can ask and you can translate, if you prefer. But seeing her and Mae sitting as still and silent as rocks, hands on their laps, and eyes glazed as if to block out what’s in front of them, the words get trapped in my brain. Their bodies, rigid just moments before, have gone slack, as if to say: What else can anyone do? What’s done cannot be undone. All that’s left is to clean up, as the policeman said. Get on with our lives.

My gaze wanders again toward the receding figure of the policeman on the dirt road, the plastic bag with the gun dangling in his right hand. Does it really matter how Cambodian police handles Ov’s suicide? I witnessed it. I know the facts. And didn’t I read a while back how Buddhism frowns upon violations on the human body? The family might object against cutting up Ov—the way I’ve seen on TV crime shows—just to declare with certainty what caused his death.

I take in a long breath. I have done all I can and must defer to Cambodian beliefs and customs.

But I can’t let it go yet. Ov chose to end his life in a violent way and I’m curious: Do the agonies of his last moments show on his face? I steal another look.

All I could gather, from where I stand, is life has definitely gone out of every part of him. His eyes are closed and immobile. The tic on his inanimate cheeks hasn’t left a trace. The tic that many times was the only way I could tell he had feelings. Feelings he tried to control or hide. Now, his face is just an expressionless brown mask. Maybe everyone really has a spirit, a soul that rises out of the body when one dies, leaving a mansize mass of clay.

I stare at Ov’s body, lying in a darkened, dried pool of his own blood, bits of his skull and brain scattered next to his feet where his head had been. At that moment, it hits me that this would be the image of Ov I will always remember. I shudder.

My legs begin to buckle underneath me and I turn around, regretting that last look. With outstretched hands, I take a step toward the hammock. Jorani rises to grab my hands, and she helps me sit down next to Mae.

Could I ever forget? Could Mae and Jorani? Would the image of Ov in a pool of blood linger in their memories like it would in mine?

I know I could never tell my parents what happened here this afternoon. But could I tell Lucien? The terrible shock of watching someone, in whose home I found a family, fire a gun to his head? And the almost as horrifying realization—looking back—that I knew what he was going to do, but I hesitated for a few seconds to stop him.

 

About the Author

Evy Journey writes. Stories. Blogs (three sites). Cross-genre novels. She’s also a wannabe artist, and a flâneuse (an ambler).

Evy studied psychology ( Ph.D. University of Illinois) initially to help her understand herself and Dostoevsky. Now, she spins tales about multicultural characters dealing with the problems and issues of contemporary life. She believes in love and its many faces.

Just as she has crossed genres in writing fiction, she has also crossed cultures, having lived and traveled in various cities in different countries. Find her thoughts on travel, art, and food at Artsy Rambler (https://eveonalimb2.com).


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Saturday, August 27, 2022

PROMO: Out of Performance Into Identity

 

 


Self-Help/Spiritual

Date Published: 8.28.2022

Publisher: Help from 100X Publishing

 

 

This is my story of how I went from fighting for the love, belonging, and acceptance my heart yearned for in finding my place in this world, to laying down my sword and allowing God’s love to find me.

 

 

 


About the Author

Angela Yarborough has a passion to see women set free from the lies of their pasts and begin living in the love and freedom of Christ. Having accomplished this in her own life, she regularly speaks to women and gives them hope for a love story of their own.

Combining her business knowledge, creative gifting, and love for the women she is called to serve, Angela has built an online jewelry business that employs women coming from the prison system or sex trade industry. AmadeaDesigns.com equips women with the skills they need to obtain a long-term job that fits their God-given talents.

Living in a small town in North Louisiana with her husband, Jerry, along with their last 2 kids at home, daily adventures in nature bring a smile to her face. Picnics by the lake, kayaking on the river, and playing with her pet goats and sassy chickens are just a few things you might find Angela doing when she is not designing jewelry, writing books, or ministering to women.


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Friday, August 26, 2022

Blog Tour: The Glass Tree

 

 

Historical/Suspense ; Suspense/Thriller ; Adult Literary

Date Published: 09-01-2022

Publisher: Endicott Street Press


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Paris, 1954. Eli Cole, American attaché, wants only one thing: to avenge his wife’s murder. But the trail has gone cold. After two years, drinking to his beloved Liana’s memory is all he has left — until the secrets she took to the grave come back to shatter them all. A hidden photo, a Gestapo file, an unsent letter: these are some of the clues Eli must piece together if he is to understand Liana’s secret life, and her mysterious mission. But the clock is ticking. Powerful new enemies are out to give Eli a one-way ticket back to the United States — in a pinewood box.

With the help of Liana’s father and sister, an old war buddy come abroad, and a cunning teenage girl, Eli unravels the events that led to his wife’s death. But getting justice won’t be easy. The more Eli reveals of Liana’s secret past, the more his devotion to her is tested by her deceit. Can Eli allow himself to recognize the entirety of the woman he married? Will Liana’s last art piece, a spectacular glass tree, give Eli the assurance he needs to continue believing in the sanctity of love?

The Glass Tree is a fast-paced, unpredictable mystery, and it is also the story of one man’s attempt to untangle the complexities of betrayal, love and forgiveness.




Excerpt

I grabbed a pack of Lucky Strikes from my stash in the dresser and went back to Le Carre Rouge. Parisians always stick to the same café. I had one with Liana, where I never go. This place was more fitting. It was strictly bottom shelf. The regulars rolled their own cigarettes and there was always a table with a view of the traffic circle.

I knew what JP wanted. I remembered how I felt that first year. Living on hate, living for vengeance. When I wasn’t drunk, I was bothering the police, calling in favors with the French services. I had been with the Sûreté when they questioned suspects. I skulked around Communist meetings, trying to pass myself off as an American comrade. But I was always suspect, and nobody opened up to me more than the usual propaganda line. I followed the men the Sûreté took in for questioning. Some for weeks at a time. Nothing out of the ordinary. No hatchet men. They were family men, working men, functionaries of the party. Rallies, meetings, strikes, canvassing, campaigning. Nothing violent. No one told any stories over drinks. They were dedicated to their cause but did nothing to make me think they had killed one of the opposition and my wife.

There had been no doubt about what I would do when I figured out who had killed Liana. Unintended bystander or not, they would pay with their own life. I had my Colt 1911 wrapped in an oiled cloth in the closet.

The fire that burned inside me never went out, but after that first year of disappointment and false leads, after fellow attachés reported to me that they figured it for the work of Russian agents on orders from the Kremlin, my blood lust began to seep away, like rain on a bridge drying in the sun.

Liana became one of the many senseless deaths. She might have been in a car accident, she might have choked or fallen down the stairs. Undignified. Unlucky. Like so many GIs, she had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And now — had JP found a string to pull?

Even if he had it probably didn’t matter. I’d be shipped back to the States and debriefed any day now.

But maybe there was a way I could stay on, at least long enough to settle this.

I found JP at the same bar where he used to hang out when I was married to his daughter. He was sitting at a table playing la belote with friends or maybe enemies. I didn’t know. They looked like mechanics. The bar was in the Eleventh, not far from Pere Lachaise, a working-class neighborhood. No professors here. Or immigrants. Natives only. Some Algerians had been beaten on the street only a week ago. Where were all those loyal colonized subjects of France supposed to go?

When he saw me he got up and went to the bar. He ordered Suze. The barman poured two cloudy glasses of the yellow liquor. Besides being one of the cheapest drinks, it was disgusting. I sometimes ordered it despite the taste of bitter orange peels.

“What do you want?”

“To kill someone,” I said.

He looked into my eyes. His were red and puffy. “I don’t believe you,” he said, taking a drink. “But I’m going to need you. This time we finish it.”

I took a drink and waited for him to tell me what he had found out.

“Philippe — that is his name — is a professor at the Sorbonne and also a communist. And, it seems, so was Liana.”

I scoffed. “Don’t you think I’d know that?”

“No,” he replied bluntly. “I don’t. As an American there are things you couldn’t understand. The motives of a French woman are not the same as in your country. She couldn’t sacrifice who she was for promises.”

“She wasn’t like that.”

“But she was, wasn’t she? You’ll need to accept that. Accept she was not the perfect wife you thought she was. She was independent, she had a life she didn’t share with you. Maybe she would have…” He stopped.

This was more than he’d said to me all at once the whole time I’d been his son-in-law.

He went back to his table and recovered his cigarette from the ashtray.

“Osval had a 15-year-old daughter. The police report has nothing about her.”

“Police report?”

“I have a friend on the force. She’ll be seventeen now, an adult. Maybe she knows something.”

“And if she doesn’t?” I asked. “Do we break her arm?”

JP smiled. “We’ll see.”

“Let me do it. Just stay in the car with your tool kit.”

JP shrugged. “The downstairs neighbor in her building knows me anyways. I’ll pick you up at noon. I’ve watched her. She never leaves the apartment before two. She’s a dancer at Le Coq Gaulois, or maybe a putain.”

I nodded and finished my drink without coughing.

“She should be alone, the mother leaves with the husband, or whatever he is, around ten. They part ways at the corner. I think she works for the post.”

“And him?”

“I don’t know. Wears a cheap suit and hangs around Les Halles market.”

“Maybe it would be better to talk to the daughter at work.”

“Who knows who’ll be watching there. Better alone.”

I left the bar and walked toward the metro. It was the kind of day I might have strolled through the flea market at Porte de Clignancourt, or the bookstalls along the Seine on the Left Bank. Maybe afterwards a drink with Liana on St. Germain or over the bridge to the Ile Saint Louis for a café. Someone at the Embassy said they’d seen Picasso and Hemingway there. What it must have been like in Paris before the war.

When I got to the metro stairs I changed my mind and headed toward the Sorbonne. I hadn’t been there in a long time. It was a lively part of Paris. Busy with students, those born just before the war.

I walked into the building where Liana had her classroom. I hadn’t spent much time here. Occasionally I came in to meet her after class. It was always so bustling, so alive. Maybe it had too much, too much temptation. It occurred to me that I might find him here. The professor Liana found more exciting than me, who fit her academic mind better. Maybe she even loved him more. I pushed the thought away.

I found her old classroom and cracked the door. It was full of kids listening to a lecture. I went in and took a seat at the back.

It took me a few minutes to figure out the subject. Someone’s textbook read Abstract Expressionism. Liana was part of this. Part of the new wave of art. The museums were full of Jackson Pollock and Helen Frankenthaler now. Liana painted and sculpted in experimental ways; the work resembled nothing of the subject. This was the future. I had encouraged her to turn tradition on its head, even if I preferred the old stuff. Giant paintings of battles, dogs with pheasants in their teeth and stags hung for dressing. I didn’t understand the canvases of colorful blotches. It was lost on me. But Liana was passionate about it. The old stuff was overdone, belonged to the past, she’d say. Maybe that’s what I was. 

If she hadn’t been killed, would we still be together? Or would she have left me?  How long would I have played the sap? Maybe she would have come back to me on her own. Maybe I would never have needed to know about Philippe.

I left the class. Her office was in another building, a half block away. I took the stairs to the fourth floor. They had given me the little name plaque with her things. There had also been a memorial for her at the school’s graduation that year. All the students had stood, there was a chorus who sang La Mer. The professors all shook my hand afterwards. Including, I supposed, Philippe. I didn’t remember. Maybe he’d had the decency not to. I doubted it, the fucking douche.

I knocked on the door. Her office was occupied by “Prof. Alois Courtemanche” now.

An older gentlemen answered in a tweed jacket. How stereotypical.

“I’m sorry to disrupt you.”

“Come in, come in,” he said. “You are Liana’s husband.”

“Yes.”

“I remember seeing you now and then. I was so sorry,” he said shaking my hand.  “Someone with so much vitality, so much energy. And the way she understood art. What it could do, could mean.”

I just looked down, nodding.

“She is missed here,” he went on. “By everyone. It is an honor to have her office.”

“Thank you. I feel like I didn’t know this part of her very well.”

“Please, sit down.”

I sat and he pulled out a bottle of schnapps from his desk drawer and took down two teacups from the shelf behind him. After pouring in a dash, he handed me one.

“This place, to me, was just where I lost her every day,” I started. “I should have been… I wish I had been a bigger part of her art.”

Alois watched me over his teacup, a strange look on his face. His eyes were blue and a little watery.

“But I think you were. I think you were a big part of her art. The school has a permanent collection you know. Can I show you something? Do you have time?”

“Yes, of course.”

He finished his drink and smacked his lips. I set my cup on the desk and noticed a small bronze sculpture of a man sitting with a book. The sculpture had been there when this was Liana’s desk.

“That sculpture...”

“Done by a professor who died during the war. It kind of lives here. This was also his office.”

“What happened?”

“A dark chapter for France. The Gestapo came and took him one day. He was never seen again. I understand you were in the army?”

“The Tenth. The occupying force her father used to say.”

The man chuckled. “Yes, we French are very patriotic. And for some, even when it was Vichy.”

We took the stairs to a courtyard and crossed it to another gray stone building. In the basement he unlocked a room and flipped on the lights. It was a gallery of sorts. Objects under glass or freestanding and an array of paintings. I followed him to the far wall.

“Did Liana ever show this to you?”

“No,” I said, mesmerized.

On a white table stood a glass tree, maybe three or four feet tall, on a wooden base with a drawer. I was sure it was meant to be a Black Walnut. They were Liana’s favorite. Something to do with a place her parents had taken her as a child and the tree had become her solace. 

There were two trunks at the base that twisted into one. The branches were hollow, with the tips of each branch open, like the end of a straw. The glass reflected different colors, muted but noticeable, hints of green, rust, light blue and beige. They felt familiar somehow.

Alois pulled out the drawer. Inside was a flat reel-to-reel recorder. He pressed a button and the tapes turned. Liana’s voice came out of the speakers. At first I thought she may have been reading a book. But the sentences didn’t make sense. It was a jumble of words.

“What is she reading?” I asked.

Alois just shook his head slightly.

I recognized the words somehow. The intonation of her voice. She wasn’t reading random words. They came from somewhere else, someplace meaningful to her.

He pushed the drawer in and the words became a hum, echoes, musical almost, escaping through the branches.

Alois said nothing but looked at the piece with me another minute. I was awestruck.

“I wanted you to see it,” he said, opening the drawer and turning off the tape.

I followed him out and he locked the door.

“Thank you,” I said. “I’m really at a loss for words.”

“Come back anytime,” he said, shaking my hand.

I had the feeling he didn’t want to talk anymore. Something had changed and he was uncomfortable now. 

At the front steps he gave me another tight-lipped smile and walked away.

What didn’t he want to say? What, I wondered, was he doing during the war? Probably teaching here. Life went on in Paris despite shortages and hardships. 

At the corner of the building, I turned and walked deeper into campus. I used to feel out of place here. It was such a different world. Everyone was young and hopelessly pessimistic.

Now I felt like everyone’s father. Not jealous anymore. They didn’t have Liana. None of us did. Instead, I could look at them for what they were. Hadn’t I brought the light back into the world for them? That’s what they told us anyways. Our sacrifice was for their generation. And here they were. 

I sat down on a bench and watched the students. I smoked a cigarette and pictured Liana’s glass sculpture and the sound it made. What did it mean? Why had she never shown me? 

I finished the cigarette but didn’t get up. To move from this spot was to rejoin the world outside. To get back to the black tunnel leading… where?

 


About the Author

Michael J. Manz lives in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley and is a rare bookseller by trade. Except for a few years spent in Chicago, he is a lifelong New Englander. The only place he’d rather be, at least some of the time, is Paris, where he has been known to wander the streets in search of old bookshops, great cafes and forgotten bars. He is the past organizer of the Protagonists and Procrastinators writers’ group and has from childhood been scratching away at some kind of story or another. Michael holds a BA in English from Keene State College. The Glass Tree is his first novel.


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