Thursday teaser: Gray Retribution

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Book 4 in the Tom Gray series

By Alan McDermott

“Heads up.  We’ve got movement to the north.”

Simon ‘Sonny’ Baines lay on the roof of the farm building and listened to the approaching band of guerrillas make a beeline for the building.  Below,
Len Smart, Carl Levine and Jeff Campbell took up defensive positions against the low wall that ran around the perimeter of the house.  Their movement was silent in comparison to that of the attacking force, which announced its presence by crashing through the undergrowth like a herd of elephants headed for a waterhole.

The three men on the ground trained their sights on the tree line that bordered the eastern edge of the smallholding, remaining silent as they
waited for the bandits to make an appearance.  The noise grew louder as the attackers approached, then suddenly stopped dead.

Silence covered the area as the nocturnal orchestra took a time out.  It seemed as if even the animals and insects wanted to watch the action unfold.

Len Smart slowly wiped a bead of sweat from his brow, careful not to make too quick a movement in case it was seen by the enemy.  Mosquitoes danced around his head, kept at bay by the insect repellent, but their incessant buzzing told him that he wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

As if the oppressive humidity weren’t reminder enough.

Without warning, muzzle flashes lit up the edge of the forest.  None of the defensive team returned fire, preferring to lull the enemy into advancing
out of the trees and into the kill zone.  The small-arms fire continued for a few seconds before petering out, allowing silence to return.

All remained still for over a minute, then Sonny’s voice came over the comms.  “Got people in the grass at your ten and two.  Looks like they’re
trying to flank us.”

Len Smart was on the right of the trio and he saw his target a hundred yards away.  Rather, he saw the top of the three-foot tall grass sway gently as
the unseen assailant crawled slowly through it.  Night-vision goggles would have come in handy, but he would have to make do with the sliver of
moonlight that cast a dull shine over the African plantation.  Besides, there were four of them and an estimated enemy strength of around fifty, so
in Smart’s mind they easily had the locals outnumbered.

“Got him,” he said, and Levine on the other end of the line confirmed that he also had a bead on his man.

The AK-47s opened up once more, but the three men continued to save their ammunition and keep their locations hidden.  They spotted a couple of armed men advancing slowly from the trees but held their fire, preferring them to get a little closer before engaging. From the rooftop, Sonny watched the scene unfolding below him, oblivious to the wraith-like figure scaling the rear wall.

Sergeant Nwankwo Okeke was clad in an ancient British Army smock and trousers, the disruptive-pattern material a throwback to the late seventies.
His features, like those of the four Englishmen, were obscured by the black and tan camouflage face-paint.  The exception was that underneath the
disguise, his skin was the colour of night, the war paint applied more for effect than concealment.

The chatter of gunfire from the trees intensified, and the occasional grenade came arcing towards the defences.  They landed pitifully short, but
the noise they generated helped to mask Okeke’s approach.  He reached the lip of the roof and peered over.  Sonny lay five yards away with his back
towards him. Okeke eased himself up on powerful forearms and quietly swung a leg over the edge.  He waited, hand over his holster, but Sonny continued to focus on the battle beneath him.

Okeke eased forward, one hushed step at a time, silently drawing his nine-inch knife from its leather sheath.

Two yards.

One.

He fell on Sonny’s back and yanked his head backwards, drawing the blade across his victim’s throat.  With Sonny down, Okeke made an animal call that signalled his friends below.  They broke from the cover of the building and raked the trio’s positions with AK-47 fire.

Smart, Levine and Campbell, all facing the other way, realised too late that they’d fallen for a feint.

They never stood a chance.

About Gray Retribution

Tom Gray is enjoying time with his family after the birth of his daughter, now three months old, and just wants an easy home life. However, trouble has a way of finding him. While he is visiting his uncle’s new grocery store, thugs arrive demanding protection money, and in the ensuing fight, Gray is hurt. As he recuperates, Gray learns that a team of friends is facing grave danger on a mission in a tiny war-torn African nation, where an evil warlord is kidnapping boy soldiers to do his work in his bid for supremacy. Gray sets off on a rescue mission, but with his attention now divided between two continents, events are spiraling out of control, and Gray must fight to save all that is dear to him.

In Gray Retribution, the fourth book of the popular, action-packed Tom Gray series, suspense builds to an unforgettable ending.

Find it on Amazon.

About the author

Alan McDermott lives in the south of England,  and is married with beautiful twin daughters. He recently gave up his job of creating critical applications for the NHS to write action thrillers full time.

His debut novel, Gray Justice, was very well received and earned him bestseller status. The next two books in the series — Gray Resurrection and Gray Redemption — were enough to attract the attention of a major publisher, and he has since added Gray RetributionGray Vengeance and Gray Salvation to the list.  Alan’s seventh title, Trojan,
is a spinoff featuring MI5 agent Andrew Harvey. It will be released in early 2017.

You can find more information on Alan’s:

BestSelling Reads author page  |  Amazon Author page  |   Website and blog  |  Facebook page

And follow him on Twitter @jambalian.

 

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Monday musing: Inspiration from nature

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Many artists found inspiration in the natural world: Beethoven, Tom Thomson, Bedrich Smetana, Jean Sibelius, the list goes on. And writers do, to.

I am one, and I thought I’d share some pictures with you from a whitewater canoe trip down the Dumoine River I took a couple of years ago, along with my younger son, Super Nicolas.

The Dumoine runs more or less directly south from western Quebec into the Ottawa River, and was part of the fur-trading route that opened up North America for Europeans. It has a number of rapids, which required portaging — until the invention of memory-polymer canoes that could flex and spring back into shape, which made it possible, and fun, to run the rapids.

It’s an inspiring landscape, evoking thoughts not only of the early days of European exploration of North America and the founding of Canada, but also of far older civilizations (Algonquin, Ojibwa, etc.), and of the deep power of the Earth itself. 

This trip gave me an idea for a short story called Teri and the River, which I plan—one day, probably far in the future—to incorporate into novel called Dark Clouds.

Running the rapids, then eddying out into a calm spot, helped me solidify the concept of each river having a personality, which also nicely fits into the cosmology of my first novel, The Bones of the Earth.

A typical “Canadian sunset” picture.
I find these pictures spark ideas for stories and essays. What about you? Can you attach a story, or at least the beginning of a story to any of these pictures? Share in the Comments section if you can.
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Thursday teaser: Flame Road

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Scorch series book 5

By Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman

CHAPTER ONE

Woman

Panic fluttered at the edges of the woman’s mind. How did she get here?

Nothing would come.

She simply was, and it all hurt.

Throbbing pain radiated from her forehead as she drew her knees up to lie on her side. She blinked as bright light filtering through pine boughs stung her eyes. She raised a heavy white arm. Whose arm was it? She had no idea.

She touched the sore spot on her head. A shock of pain thundered through her skull, down her neck, vibrating through her entire body, clenching her stomach.

She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, letting the pain pass.

Where was she?

The woman rolled onto her knees and wet brown leaves squished beneath her. Her gaze fell to hands riddled with scratches and scrapes and traveled up her arms to her chest. She wore a long-sleeved, ripped white top, mottled with dirt and dried blood, probably from the wound on her head. A jagged, sharp rock marked with an oily dark stain of blood lay directly in front of her.

She must have fallen and hit her head.

The insight was a clue to what was going on. She could solve this mystery. Hope gave her the energy to push herself up, clinging to a nearby sapling. She rose to stand, her pulse pounding as her head swam.

Alone with amnesia in the middle of a forest.

Another insight, but this one brought fresh terror. She looked down and around her, searching for more clues.

The shirt was actually a dress. The garment’s ankle-length skirt was pockmarked with small tears, as if she’d run through the woods, the loose material catching and ripping on underbrush. Towering trees surrounding her were almost bare: late fall.

The woman looked down at her body again, but no spark of recognition ignited as she examined the full breasts and wide hips straining her ill-fitting dress. She turned her head, feeling stinging at the crown of it.

Raising her hand, the woman gently probed shorn hair to find a large scab, tender but healing. She traced the lines of it on the back of her head. Some kind of symbol.

Her head had recently been shaved and something carved into her scalp.

Why?

The woman looked around the forest, scanning the trees, hearing birds and the scuffling of small creatures in the leaves. The sound of bubbling water filtered through the air.

She was thirsty. Very thirsty.

The woman’s legs quivered, and placing weight on her left ankle made her wince. She pulled up the skirt and looked down at the milky skin of her legs, slashed with scratches that must’ve happened as she ran through the woods.

Sturdy hiking boots covered her feet. They didn’t make sense with the dress.

None of it made sense.

Thirst drove her forward. She headed toward the sound of the water, leaning on trees to support her wobbly steps.

Glimmers of light twinkled on a river glimpsed through the trees. She hurried forward and broke from the forest onto a pebbly shore. Water rushed over colored pebbles under a blue sky. She stumbled to the stream’s edge, dropping to her knees and scooping the crystal clear liquid up in her hands.

It might not be safe to drink. She should boil it first.

How did she know that? No clue.

But she didn’t have the luxury of worrying about parasites.

She drank deeply, bringing the cold water to her parched mouth until it filled her stomach. She was hungry, but hunger was nothing compared to the thirst and pain in her head.

The woman pushed the sleeves of the dress up and splashed to her elbows, rinsing away the dirt and blood. She washed her face and unknown scratches stung. Dipping the hem of her skirt into the water, she gently dabbed at the wound on her forehead, hissing between her teeth at the sharp pain.

She must’ve been running from something or someone. Five dark spots marked where someone had grabbed her forearm.

She unbuttoned the dress. Large breasts were cradled in a matronly bra. She pulled the garment aside and examined the full, creamy white round with its pink nipple. Why didn’t she recognize her own body?

She lifted her skirt, exposing pale, fleshy thighs. Clearly, she had not spent much time in the sun but it felt good now, warming her as the chill water refreshed her.

The woman couldn’t see through the fog of lost memory to the clear peaks of who she was and how she got to this place, but the information existed somewhere in her mind, as solid and real as a mountain range hidden in cloud.

She scooped up another handful of sweet water, but a low growl jerked her attention up.

On the other side of the shallow river, less than twenty yards away, stood a gray wolf. Lean, long-legged, shaggy and rough, standing as tall as the woman’s waist, the predator’s black lip lifted above razor teeth. Menace emanated from its chest.

Fear and adrenaline surged through her and froze the woman as cold as the crystal-clear water rushing over the bright stones.

The wolf’s head lowered and its ruff raised. The animal stalked toward her, entering the water.

She had fled from something terrible, and now she was about to die.

About Flame Road

From award-winning, bestselling authors whose writing Kirkus Reviews calls “persistently riveting,” comes the Scorch Series, romantic action adventure for fans of romance thrillers, apocalyptic and family romance sagas.

The Scorch Flu pandemic sweeps through Colorado, forcing commitment-phobic firefighter and sports adrenaline junkie Cosimo “Cash” Luciano to begin hiking his way through the wilderness toward his family’s survival compound in Idaho, the Haven.

A traumatized woman awakens in the woods with no idea who she is or how she got there, and no way to survive. Lost and vulnerable, she is easy prey until Cash and his giant bear dog, Tiny, offer her protection . . . and a nickname, Sunshine.

Together, they must forge a way through the wilderness and unravel the mystery of who she is, and why a band of deadly skinheads are relentlessly hunting her.

Can Cash and Sunshine make it through the peril that pursues them and find a way to each other’s hearts?

About the authors

Emily Kimelman is the author of the best selling Sydney Rye Series, which feature a strong female protagonist and her canine best friend, Blue. It is recommended for the 18+ who enjoy some violence, don’t mind dirty language, and are up for a dash of sex. Not to mention an awesome, rollicking good mystery!

Emily can be found:

Website   |   Facebook    |   Twitter

Toby Neal is the author of the bestselling Lei Crime series featuring Maui police detective Lei Texeira, the Paradise Crime series featuring security specialist Sophie Ang, the Michaels Family Romance series, and the new Scorch Series romantic thrillers with Emily Kimelman.

Visit her:

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Thursday teaser: Honor Among Thieves

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The newest Dewey Webb Historical Mystery is now out!

By Renée Pawlish

As I sat at my table at a restaurant on Grant Street, I wasn’t thinking about murder. My mind had been on how I was going to pay the stack of bills piled on my office desk. I hadn’t had a lot of work in the last couple of months, and money was tight. It had been wearing on me, and Clara and I had even had an argument about it this morning.

I crushed out my cigarette in an ashtray and started toward the cashier near the restaurant entrance. That’s when I saw a tall man rise from a table near the door. He was vaguely familiar. Then he lit a match by flicking the tip of it off his thumbnail, and I remembered him. Roy Jefferson.

We’d been in the same outfit in the war, in Germany, but once we’d come back stateside, I hadn’t seen him again. I recalled that he was arrogant and a hardhead, quick to anger, and always pushing his superiors. But in the end, he got the job done. He lit his cigarette, blew out the match, and tossed it into an ashtray. As I neared the register, he glanced up and saw me.

“Dewey Webb?” he asked, his brow furrowed.

I nodded. “Roy Jefferson.”

“That’s right.”

He offered his hand. His grip was firm, and he looked dapper in a well-tailored blue pinstripe suit, but his brown eyes were guarded.

“I didn’t know you lived in Denver,” I said.

“I moved here a while back. What’re you doing?”

I pulled some ones from my wallet and handed them to the cashier. “I’m a private detective.”

“No kidding?” He nodded appreciatively. “You were a good guy in the war, and you could handle situations and people. I can see how you’d be a good investigator.”

“It’s a living.”

He waited, and after I’d paid my bill, he paid his, and we walked outside. It was a chilly November Monday, and I was between jobs and didn’t have anywhere to be. He pulled his fedora down over his brown hair.

“It’s been a while since the war,” he said as he smoked.

That was a topic I didn’t want to discuss. I motioned toward Twelfth Avenue. “I’m parked over there.”

“I’ll walk with you, if that’s okay.” He hesitated, then glanced around nervously. “There’s something I’d like to talk to you about. You being a private eye.”

I gave him the slightest of once-overs, suddenly wondering if our chance encounter wasn’t by chance at all. “All right, why don’t you come to my office and we can talk.”

He stared across the street, bit his lip, then shook his head. “I’ve got to get back to work. How about you come over to my place tonight, say five o’clock?”

I gave him a hard look. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing. It’s just … something I need from you, okay?” He pulled an envelope from his pocket. “What’s your retainer?”

I named my daily fee.

“Good.” He held out the envelope. “That should more than cover it. Come over and hear what I have to say. If you don’t want to help, the money’s yours just for your trouble.”

His eyes darted around nervously. I contemplated him for a moment, then took the envelope and opened it. The money was enough to pay me for a week. I looked at him.

“Are you up to something illegal?” I finally asked.

He held up a hand. “Not at all. Hey, you were a solid guy during the war, and I think you’ll want to hear this deal.” He glanced at his watch. “I’ve got to go. Tonight. Five o’clock. The address is on the envelope.” With that, he spun around and hurried down the street. He turned the corner and was gone.

About Honor Among Thieves

It’s 1949, and Denver private investigator Dewey Webb isn’t thinking about murder, he’s pondering the stack of bills he can’t pay. Then he runs into an old army acquaintance, Roy Jefferson, who is well-dressed, flashing cash, and wanting Dewey’s help. Dewey has his suspicions, however, Roy pays him substantially just to meet him later and hear his problem. Dewey agrees, but before they can talk, Roy dies, an apparent suicide. But is that the case?

Since Dewey has taken Roy’s money, he feels honor-bound to look into Roy’s death. What Dewey discovers leads him to believe someone from Roy’s sordid past may have murdered him. And that same someone may now be after Dewey as well. As Dewey works to find a possible killer, he’s forced to question many things, including his own sense of honor.

Honor Among Thieves is a hard-boiled, historical mystery that’s great for fans who love a traditional detective crime story with a noir flavor, but without a lot of sex or swearing.

Dewey Webb first appeared in the Reed Ferguson mystery, Back Story. Pick up a copy of to find out more about this classic hard-boiled detective.

About the author

Renée Pawlish is the award-winning author of the bestselling Reed Ferguson mystery series, horror bestseller Nephilim Genesis of Evil, The Noah Winters YA Adventure series, middle-grade historical novel This War We’re In, Take Five, a short story collection, and The Sallie House: Exposing the Beast Within, a nonfiction account of a haunted house investigation.

Renée has been called “a promising new voice to the comic murder mystery genre” and “a powerful storyteller.” Nephilim Genesis of Evil has been compared to Stephen King and Frank Peretti.

Renée was born in California, but has lived most of her life in Colorado.

Find more about Renée and her books on

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Monday musing: Writing fiction is different from writing non-fiction. It’s harder.

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Writers of non-fiction often set out to answer a need: “How to hammer nails straight,” or “How to deceive yourself into believing that this diet will actually work next week.”

In fiction, however, it’s completely up to the writer to make the reader need to read the content. And as I read fiction lately, I find myself trying to deconstruct the appeal some writers hold for me.

First, I want a story that pulls me along. I have to want to find out what happens next. While this strikes me as obvious, some writers apparently need to be told: don’t bore me.

I also appreciate originality. Many writers, particularly of cop or spy stories, seem to be trying to write an episode of their favourite TV show, rather than making up their own stories. Another tip: don’t make everyone beautiful. I’ve said it before: if you look around you, you won’t see a lot of beautiful people. A few, sure. But most humans are tolerable-looking, maybe attractive.

There’s also the depth of characterization, the writer’s ability to make a character or a situation real. Dialogue has a lot to do with this, but writing believable dialogue is very tricky. If you were to write down exactly what people actually say, it would make for very boring and incomprehensible prose — people make up what they say as they go along, and there are a lot of false starts and changes in tense and tone in ordinary speech. And then there’s all the information conveyed by tone of voice and body language. It takes an extraordinarily skilled writer to capture all of that.

How a writer writes

Writing style has a lot of impact on my enjoyment. There’s word choice, and sentence structure, but I don’t have patience for writers who are trying to impress me with their vocabulary. TELL THE STORY.

Many have said: “Show me, don’t tell me.” The writers I like best are those who, simply and clearly, bring me right into the situation.

Here’s a great example from the independent novelist, BestSelling Reads member Gae-Lynn Woods in her novel, The Devil of Light.

Cass Elliot drew a deep breath and slowly released it. Her irritation wasn’t directed at Mitch. She’d been lost in a black funk during the hours they’d spent on the road today. Wondering again why Sheriff Hoffner had bothered to hire and promote her, the first woman detective in Forney County, only to look right through her even when she was standing in front of him. As Mitch settled against the passenger door and began to snore, her thoughts had whirled farther back in time, searching the events of that night long ago, seeking clues to the identity of the man who had changed the course of her life. She was sucked again into an ugly pit of anger and helplessness. The dreams had been worse lately; they jolted her awake with the phantom sensation of fire streaking across her breast and a scream frozen in her throat.

She glanced in the rearview mirror and caught the fury in the flat line of her mouth and the contraction of her brow. Again she breathed deeply, forced the tension from her body and felt exhaustion ooze in to fill the void. When she checked her reflection again, her violet eyes were still weary and her creamy skin too pale, but the imprint of anger and fear on her features was gone. Cass looked at her sleeping partner and snorted in reluctant amusement, resisting the urge to lower his window. Instead, she raised Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” into audible range on the radio.

One blue eye stuttered open. “Are we home yet?”

“Almost.” Her stomach gurgled. “Is Darla there?”

Mitch straightened his long form, gently rocking his head from side to side and swiping at his chin. Stifling a yawn, he checked his watch. “She should be by now. Probably have Zeus with her. Which one of your brothers is cooking?”

“Bruce. Harry’ll be there and want to cook, but Bruce will have control. He always does in the Elliot kitchen. Harry has the girls this weekend so he’ll be wrapped up with them anyway. If Daddy’s home, he’ll stay out of their way.” She grinned, a movement that brought mischievousness to her delicate features. “We’re pretty dysfunctional, aren’t we?”

This example gives the reader a lot of information, but not too much. It tells you about a character and makes you want to read more, without overwhelming you with the dreaded “information dump.”

What not to do:

Here’s an example of an information dump (details altered to protect the guilty):

Michael Chapman stood wearily in line at the ferry’s bar. It had been a long trip, but he was nearing its end. Four years ago Michael was a twenty-eight-year-old investment counselor with a corner office in one of the gleaming glass towers of Atlanta. He thought he had it all — until his marriage disintegrated in a messy divorce in which his wife got the house, the kids, and everything else important to him. After eight more months of pointless activity, he walked away from his job, cashed in what remained of his investments, and bought a ticket to England.

Not only does that use a lot of clichés (“gleaming glass towers,” “marriage disintegrated,” “messy divorce,” “walked away from his job”), there’s no reason to dump all this here. Get on with the story: he’s in line at the bar — does he get his drink? Or does something get in the way? Where is the ferry going? How long has the journey been?

As a reader, I want to read the back-story as it’s needed. Show me the pain of the divorce when Michael meets another potential romantic partner, or some other situation that calls for it. Writing all this in an early chapter forces me to try to remember it all later, which gets harder with a longer book, especially one I might be reading in instalments, day after day, on a commute.

The good example puts the reader right into the situation. It’s personal. Readers can identify with the character. If it were a movie, the director would be starting with a very close focus. Context comes later, naturally as the story rolls out.

What do you think, as a reader?

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Thursday teaser: Back Side of a Blue Moon

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By Caleb Pirtle III

This week’s Thursday teaser is from a brand-new title now available on Amazon.

THE CROWDED GROUNDS of Eudora’s farm was a circus. A freak show. A dance at the gates of hell. Heaven on earth. And Doc had already stolen the pearly gates. Wind whipped up dust devils, and she could not take a step between the house and the rig platform without bumping shoulders against somebody, and, more often than not, the wayfarers had faces she had never seen before.

What were they doing milling around in her yard? Betting on oil? Trying to get rich? Looking for a meal, a job, a home, a place to spend the night, or had they just come down the road to see the free show?  For a town that had dwindled down to a few hundred lost and wretched souls, Ashland was certainly turning out a lot of people on the day Doc had promised to strike oil.

Well, Doc hadn’t really promised to find anything today or any other day. He was nothing but a vaudeville magician trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat, and the straw boater might be packed with raccoons, squirrels, and possums, but there was nary a rabbit in sight. Eudora chuckled at the thought.

But Charlie Ferguson’s wife Mildred, she knew, had told Ira Sylvester that her husband had smelled oil on the drill bit. Couldn’t mistake it. He was afraid to strike a match, afraid the whole thing might blast him to kingdom come.

Ira told the Reverend Shanks Warren that the drill bit was dripping with black crude. Filled up at least one bucket, maybe two. One rumor was for certain. Doc was running out of buckets. Or so the gossip said, and gossip was running amuck like a horse that had shed his shoes and all of his morals.

Shanks Warren preached it from the pulpit: God has put oil in the ground below us, and he has sent his prophet Doc Bannister to draw it up in buckets from the well. Glory, hallelujah, and amen on us all.

After the last amen had reached the ceiling and fallen flat, his congregation scattered like lost geese flying wild in a blue norther. Too high for the rain. Too slow for the lightning.

Tell another soul.

Tell the world.

It didn’t matter.

About Back Side of a Blue Moon

Times are hard along the Sabine River, and the little East Texas town of Ashland is crumbling under the weight of the Great Depression. Families are broke and hungry. For many, their last meal may well have been their last meal. Families are giving up and leaving town. Everyone knows the fate that awaits the scattered farms. No one can save Ashland. It is as isolated as the back side of a blue moon.

Into town comes Doc Bannister wearing a straw boater and a white suit. He is the miracle man. He has a homemade doodlebug machine that, he says, can find oil and make them all rich. Oil, he swears, lies beneath the blistered farmstead of Eudora Durant. She thinks Doc is a flim flam man. The Sheriff believes he is a con artist. Both are convinced that Doc has come to town to swindle every dime he can get before hitting the road again. Ashland knows Doc may be crooked, but he has brought hope to a town that had no hope.

Eudora has everything Doc wants. She is a beautiful woman who owns cheap land. In Ashland, she is known as the scarlet woman. Whispers say she murdered her husband. No one has seen him since the night they heard a shotgun blast on her farm. The town wants oil. Doc wants Eudora. But Eudora is too independent and stubborn to fall for the charms of a silver-tongued charlatan.

She holds the fate of Ashland in her hands. Will she let Doc drill? Is there really oil lying deep beneath her sunbaked land? Can Doc find it? Or is he more interested in finding love than oil? What happens when a man with a checkered past comes face to face with a woman whose past is as mysterious as his?

About the author

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than seventy books, including three noir thrillers in the Ambrose Lincoln series: Secrets of the Dead, Conspiracy of Lies, and Night Side of Dark.

A graduate of The University of Texas in Austin, Caleb became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

 

He was a newspaper reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and served ten years as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine. He was editorial director for a Dallas custom publisher for more than twenty-five years.

You can find more about Caleb on his BestSelling Reads author page or his Amazon Author page. Also visit his new site, Caleb and Linda Pirtle.

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Writers want to hear from readers

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Next to writing, the thing writers love to do most is . . .  talk with readers about books, writing and what makes reading great.

This week, BestSelling Reads authors share the question they most want to ask readers, as well as the question they most want to answer — the question they’d like readers to ask them.  We’re looking for your responses in the Comments.

Samreen Ahsan, author of award-winning paranormal romances, asks readers whether she should continue writing romance or should try a new genre.

 

Fred Brooke would like to ask readers two different things.

  • How have your reading habits changed over the years—how much you read, what you read, what medium you use to read?
  • Do you read mostly one single genre, or multiple genres? Which ones do you read? Do you read authors who write in two or more different genres?

 

Scott Bury wonders which tropes—those common themes and ideas that authors repeat in a genre—readers would like to say goodbye to. Smart poor girl meets handsome billionaire? Sassy cop can’t work within the rules of the police department? Disillusioned Special Ops soldier’s heart melts for brilliant doctor/scientist of the opposite sex?

He would like to talk to readers about why we love certain characters.

 

Seb Kirby asks readers, “Do you prefer to read a book as part of a series (involving mainly the same characters) or do you prefer each book to be a standalone story?”

And Seb would like to discuss with readers why he writes.

 

Alan McDermott, author of espionage and action thrillers, asks how long should a series be? Three books? Twenty? When should the author say enough is enough for this character? He also asks whether you would be more likely to buy your favorite author’s book for a friend or loved one if it was a signed, personalized paperback?

 

Toby Neal also has two questions:

  • What is your favorite setting to escape to?
  • How has reading helped you deal with stress?

 

Caleb Pirtle III, author of historical mysteries and thrillers, asks two questions:

  • Would you rather read thrillers set in the present or the past?
  • Do you prefer reading 300-page novels or 125-page novellas?

 

Raine Thomas asks readers what draws them to a new book. How do they find new authors? What makes them click that purchase button? And on the flip side, what turns them away from giving a book a try?

 

D.J. Torrens wonders whether you prefer stand-alone stories or a series. She would also ask what has been your favorite twist in a story you have read, in any genre.

 

Gae-Lynn Woods asks

  • How often do you genre-hop?
  • What makes you rush to pick up the next book in a series?

 

What do you say? Relieve us of our suspense in the Comments!

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Thursday teaser: Unsteady Rhythm

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This week’s Thursday teaser is a special one: a peek at an as-yet-unreleased, upcoming new book, the newest House of Archer rock star romance by Raine Thomas!

House of Archer, Book 2

By Raine Thomas

Sydney saw that Keith was about to argue further about Lily’s story ideas. She just couldn’t sit there and watch him flounder anymore. She caught his eye with a quick wave of her hand. Since everyone else was now focused on discussing the songs, dates, and timing, she used ASL to communicate with Keith.

I’ll help you, she signed.

He frowned and shook his head as though he didn’t understand.

With reading, she clarified.

She wasn’t at all surprised by the flicker of shock that crossed his features, nor was she surprised to see the emotional wall that immediately slammed into place, leaving his gaze frosted and hostile.
She may have expected both reactions, but having them directed at her as he rose and stepped closer made her swallow hard. He stopped less than a foot from her, prompting her to rise. His broad shoulders filled the space, blocking her from view of anyone in the seating area.

What are you talking about? he signed.

You know, she replied, keeping her expression contained and praying he couldn’t see her heart attempting to bash through her chest.

You think I can’t read?

She gave him a knowing look that had his glower deepening. I’m a teacher, she reminded him. I’m trained to notice.

God, could he look any more threatening? She felt her knees wobble and locked her stance.

Who have you told? he asked.

No one, she assured him. And no one needs to know. I can meet with you privately.

Just keep your mouth shut and mind your own business.

Geez. He could even freeze the blood with sign language.

Unwilling to let it go, she signed, Don’t you want to help the band succeed?

His eyebrows drew together. I don’t need scripts to do that.

She sensed the hesitation behind the words, though. Much as she had suspected, Keith’s biggest strength—loyalty to those he cared about—was also his weakness.

What about Lex? she persisted.

His gaze moved from her hands to her eyes. She immediately regretted bringing up his sister. He moved so close to her that she couldn’t move her hands without touching him.

“What about her?” he asked in such a soft voice that it raised the hairs on the back of her neck.

“Don’t you want to set a positive example for her?” she whispered back. Then, guessing he wouldn’t appreciate learning about her relationship with his sister, she added, “Lily has told me how much she looks up to you.”

Keith’s strong jaw flexed as he considered her words. Eventually, he nodded once, so subtly that Sydney wasn’t sure she saw it.

“Is everything all right?”

Sydney jumped when Nikki spoke from over her shoulder. Her hand brushed against Keith’s midsection, making contact with his taught ab muscles. She took a guilty step back, nearly colliding with Nikki.

“It’s fine,” Keith said, still looking at Sydney. “Just got up to wash my hands.”

“Then you can spare a moment for me,” Nikki responded, pushing past Sydney to pull Keith down for a kiss.

With nowhere else to go, Sydney stood there and watched them, wondering what in the world she had against her heart that she would sentence it to such a tortuous end.

About the House of Archer, Book 2: Unsteady Rhythm

A rock band. A reality show. A recipe for disaster.

Falling in love with your best friend is one thing. Falling in love with a rock star is entirely another. Put those two things together, add in airing your new relationship on reality TV, and you’ve got one volatile mix just waiting to explode.

Lily Montgomery’s life has veered in a direction she never expected. She’s struggling to find her balance after her romance with rock star Dane Archer propelled her into the latest headlines. Her dreams of a successful writing career are fading in the bright lights of unwanted fame. She needs to figure out how to help Dane and his band achieve their goals without losing sight of her own.

Easier said than done . . .

As The Void’s tour continues, Lily faces family drama, relationship trials, dangerously dedicated fans, and zealous paparazzi. Between that and figuring out how to spin the tabloid-worthy relationship developing between the band’s brooding bassist, Keith Connors, and her conservative roommate, Sydney Ward, Lily has more weight on her shoulders than she ever imagined.

But her choice has been made. For the sake of love and her own reputation, she will have to find her rhythm and rise to each challenge. If she doesn’t, she’ll lose everything . . . and the whole world will be watching.

About the author

Raine Thomas is the award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine has signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen. She’s a proud indie author who is living the dream.

Raine is a hopeless romantic with a background in the fields of mental health and wedding planning…two areas that intersect far more than one would think. Her years working with children and young adults with emotional and behavioral challenges inspired her to create protagonists who overcome their own conflicts. When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Where to find her

BestSelling Reads author page   |   Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Pinterest  |  Tumblr  |  Instagram  |  YouTube  |  Goodreads  |Linkedin  |  Tsu

 

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Meet the Author Monday: Gae-Lynn Woods

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This week, BestSelling Reads presents Gae-Lynn Woods, an author who lives in East Texas.

Tell the readers about the books you’ve written.

I have written three books, and I’m hard at work on novel number four.

All my books are mysteries set in a small town in East Texas. The first two, The Devil of Light and Avengers of Blood, are part of the Cass Elliot Crime Series. The third, A Case of Sour Grapes, is a companion novel to the series, featuring Cass’s best friend, Maxine Leverman. My fourth book is a return to the Cass Elliot series.

How have the main characters developed or changed over the course of the series?

I had the vaguest idea of the characters who would inhabit Forney County when I started writing The Devil of Light and have loved getting to know them. Cass grows considerably over the series, from a damaged woman unsure of her place in the world, to a confident detective hunting for the man who hurt her, and perhaps many other women. I try to highlight a character in each book, because I love learning about them. In Avengers of Blood, we find out how Officer Ernie Munk lost his daughter years ago, and how that event continues to impact his career and his life.

How has your style changed over that same period?

I am a fan of long books with twisty plots. Greg Iles, Stephen King, Elizabeth George, Justin Cronin—I love the way their books allow for character and story development. My first two novels are long, with Avengers of Blood running to almost 600 pages, and the stories themselves are dark and twisty. I decided I wanted a different feel to Maxine Leverman’s first novel, so it’s written in the first person and is a much tighter and lighter read. The mystery is still intense, but Maxine’s approach to it is impulsive and at times, comical. The next novel in the Cass Elliot series is headed right back to those intertwined plots and original length, but I’m looking forward to writing another novel from Maxine’s perspective.

Has the way your write, or the process, evolved?

I’m a complete pantser and as much as I would like to o-u-t-l-i-n-e, even thinking the “o” word shuts my creativity down. I start a story with a general idea of the conflict and a glimpse of how the story ends, then write and see where events and my characters take me.

What about the way you create characters or build worlds?

Because my novels are set in in the same small town, many of the characters overlap from one novel to the next. That’s the way it is in small towns: everybody knows everybody else, and all their business! I know very little about my characters when they show up during the course of a book, and learning about them as I write is part of the fun. I keep notes about almost all characters, even the most minor, updating them as the books develop. I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to many countries, and meeting so many people gives me great ideas for character traits and development.

Is there a particular place or time you like to write?

My preference is to write first thing in the morning, before the day has a chance to interrupt me. But life is a bit unpredictable right now, so I write whenever I find time.

I do most of my writing at home in our study, but I spend a lot of time at gigs and rehearsals with my husband. Earphones and music are crucial to my writing process. I’ve written in coffee shops and restaurants, stuffed in dusty backstage corners or dressing rooms, and sitting cross-legged in airport hallways. I’m outside a music store now, waiting in the car for my husband to pick up a guitar. I’ve got a mobile desk on my lap and Freddie Mercury in my ears. Life is good.

Get to know Gae-Lynn Woods

Gae-Lynn Woods is a Texan who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

When she’s not playing the roadie, tending to cows, fixing fence, or digging post holes, Gae-Lynn is working on the next Cass Elliot novel and the next Companion Novel featuring Maxine Leverman, Cass’ best friend.

Gae-Lynn can be found:

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Thursday teaser: Femme Fatale

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Vigilante, Book 7 by Claude Bouchard

The remainder of the evening with Monique and Henri had turned into a pleasant one once the shock of Louie’s murder had been absorbed. Henri had recounted anecdotes of his security work at the Louvre, ranging from idiocies performed by tourists around priceless pieces of art to several attempted thefts over the years. Monique told childhood stories about her daughters which would have embarrassed them had they been present. Leslie, for her part, described how she and Dominique had met and become attracted to each other, already well aware of the Petits’ comfort and liberal minding regarding their daughter’s sexual orientation.

By ten o’clock, all three were yawning, weary from the long, emotional day they had been through and knowing those coming would be just as demanding. They agreed to calling it a night and following a polite argument with Henri insisting Leslie sleep over while she refused, she bade them good night and headed back to Dominique’s apartment.

Her ride back in the relatively light traffic along the now familiar route was uneventful and she was soon parking the scooter in the deserted courtyard at Dominique’s. A light automatically came on as she entered the building, illuminating the empty hallway as she made her way to the elevator which seconds later was whisking her upwards. The doors slid open at the fourth floor and Leslie exited, turning towards the door to her temporary home immediately to her right. With key in hand, she unlocked the door and entered the apartment, flicking on the ceiling light in the entranceway as she went.

The sun had shone through the windows all afternoon, leaving the apartment feeling warm and stuffy. Wishing to let in some fresh air, Leslie crossed the living room to the French doors which opened to a faux balcony overlooking the tiny side street below. She turned the latch and as she placed her hands on the knobs, she raised her eyes and froze for an instant.

The contrast between the darkness outside and the dim light within was sufficient to turn the panes of the French doors into mirrors and coming towards her at an increasing pace was the man she had seen in the elevator that afternoon.

Turning the knobs, she pulled both doors open and dropped into a crouch at precisely the moment he reached her. Grasping only open air in surprise as he lunged, the man toppled forward as he tripped over Leslie, his shins on her back, his ribs crashing hard against the railing outside. At the same moment, Leslie pushed upward, rising from her crouched position and effectively catapulting the man’s legs into the air… and out the open doors and over the railing.

She heard the dull thud a second before clutching the railing and looking down. Even from her fourth floor viewpoint, she was convinced the man had not survived the fall. The peculiar angle of his neck was a dead giveaway.

About Femme Fatale

Doesn’t everyone fantasize a bit about vigilante justice? Haven’t you ever read or heard of some despicable act of violence and secretly wished you could have the opportunity to make the predator pay? Welcome to the VIGILANTE Series, a growing collection of suspense best sellers best described as thrillers and mysteries which will have you cheering for the assassin as justice is delivered in a clandestine fashion. But remember, this is fiction so it’s not a crime.

Book 7 of the VIGILANTE Series

Less than two years ago, Leslie Robb, an accountant working for the Imperial National Bank, had seen her life-partner and co-worker, Gina, shot to death during a bank heist. Taken as a hostage along with millionaire and Discreet Activities operative, Chris Barry, Leslie had played an integral role in helping the DA team bring the offenders down.

As a result of her sang-froid, sense of moral justice and martial arts affinities, Leslie left the world of finance to join the elite clandestine agency to fight crime… Now, she has a new partner in life, Dominique Petit, who suggests Leslie visit with her while she is in Paris on business.

Less than twenty-four hours after Leslie arrives, Dominique and her sister, Corinne, disappear, turning Leslie’s vacation into her own business trip of justice and revenge…

Get it on Amazon.

About the author

Claude was born in Montreal, Canada, at a very young age, where he still resides with his spouse, Joanne, under the watchful eye of Krystalle and Midnight, two black females of the feline persuasion. In a former life, he completed his studies at McGill University and worked in various management capacities for a handful of firms over countless years. From there, considering his extensive background in human resources and finance, it was a logical leap in his career path to stay home and write crime thrillers.

Get to know Claude on his:

And follow him on Twitter @ceebee308.

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