Thanksgiving giveaway: A Case of Sour Grapes #excerpt

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This week’s excerpt comes from

Gae-Lynn Woods

Keep reading to see how you could win a free copy this Thanksgiving.

THE SHADOWS

IT’S A HELPLESS FEELING knowing it’s nearly midnight and your best friend is roaming the streets in pursuit of someone who might want to hurt you both, and you can do nothing to help her.

Except exactly what she tells you to do.

So I did. As I snatched up the phone on Aunt Kay’s desk and dialed, the conference room window exploded. A chorus of screams sounded and my heart jumped into overdrive. Despite the fear, I surprised myself by dropping the phone and squatting to duck walk into the conference room.

Kay and Babby hissed behind me like a pair of spitting cobras, but I stayed low and ignored them. If our intruder was throwing things, he might be armed. That was bad for Cass. I crunched across the conference room floor, bits of glass glittering in the sparse light filtering through the blinds. As had been the case for months now, there was absolutely no breeze, but the humid air rushed to invade our cool offices. The wooden slat blinds were ajar and through the slit I could see into the street. Lights were on around the square and I realized why Cass had reacted so quickly. From the conference room, she would’ve seen the glow of street lights even against the closed blinds. There was no logical reason for our power to go out.

Smart cookie.

Arcadia has a beautiful old courthouse in the middle of a grass lawn wrapped by the one way street that goes around the square. Seconds had passed since the window shattered, but nothing moved. I stayed low and waited, watching. Cass rounded the corner of the block at a full sprint. A sliver of shadow separated from the base of a giant oak on the courthouse lawn and scurried east.

I shouted through the empty window frame, “That way, Cass. He’s on foot.” I pointed and watched as she ran after him. Moments later sirens filled the night air, still heavy with a heat that would keep us in the eighties through the night.

My knees were protesting and I was ready to stand when a second shadow moved. I wasn’t sure what I was seeing at first, but a dark mass peeled away from the tall war memorial and morphed into the blackness beneath another live oak. I couldn’t decide what to do. Cass was out of earshot and I couldn’t see clearly where this figure was headed. I kept my eyes on the lawn and whispered for cousin Cindy to join me.

“There’s glass everywhere, Maxine. I’m not coming in there.”

I resisted the urge to snap at her. “Call 911 again. There’s a second man on the courthouse lawn. He was hiding — wait. There he goes again. South. Call now, Cindy.”

She backed away and I heard a phone being uncradled and a voice murmuring. More sirens wailed into the night but they were too late. I’d lose this second man if I didn’t hit street level.

I think that’s when I realized just how badly I wanted to be a detective. Maybe even needed it. I was utterly helpless while my best friend was out risking her life for a case I’d stumbled into. In those minutes when Cass was out of my sight, before I heard the gunshots, a tiny piece of me grew up.

But the rest of me was still impulsively immature.

Then a gunshot cracked and an image of Cass unconscious in a hospital bed those few weeks ago hit my brain. Icy fear flooded my body.

A second gunshot sounded.

I ran for the agency’s front door.

About A Case of Sour Grapes

Wine, women, and song. What could possibly go wrong?

Meet Maxine Leverman, lover of expensive shoes, beautiful handbags, and her lingerie wearing ex-husband’s hush money. When she pleads her way into a job at family run Lost and Found Investigations, Maxine’s only goal is to gain the concealed carry license and PI skills she needs to find the man who attacked her, and then kill him. (Or maybe just put him in jail, that decision can wait.)

But when she secretly takes a missing husband case on her first day at the agency, she stumbles into a high-stakes game of blackmail and murder. Maxine must unravel the links between a forgotten folk punk band, an international drug cartel, and the tangled history of the missing husband to keep the women in his life alive.

Fans of the early Stephanie Plum novels and Stuart Woods’ Holly Barker series will love Maxine’s tenacity, grit, and lust for life.

Get it on Amazon.

How to win a free copy

For a free book, answer: If you were Maxine’s best friend Cass, would Maxine’s bravery/impulsiveness inspire you or drive you crazy?

Leave your answers in the comments.

Happy Thanksgiving!

About the author

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.

Visit Gae-Lynn’s

BestSelling Reads page   |   Amazon author page   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Google+   |   Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website   |    Blog

 

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Monday musings: Can you ever please a literary agent?

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By Samreen Ahsan

I’m an indie author and I published my first book, A Silent Prayer, in February 2014. Before publishing, I tried to pitch many literary agents, but unfortunately received only rejections because (obviously) no one cares for an unknown author. I was advised that I should self-publish, get some reviews and accolades and then come back again with another query letter.

So, I accepted the criticism as their wisdom words and published through an independent publisher―a lot of cost was also involved. Of course, nothing comes free. Writing and publishing a book is a tedious business, which requires lots of effort, unwavering dedication and money.

Success grabbed my hand and I kept winning awards and recognition one after another, receiving five-star reviews by readers and appreciative feedback from some editorial critics. I kept sending query letters to agents. I received nothing but rejection. I’ve even lost count now.

Then, I read some blogs where authors discussed: you need to work on the query letter. Again, I took this advice and worked on my query letter. I thought maybe my query letter was not good enough. I hired professionals who helped me make query letters. I got a few responses. The positive ones from agents asked me to send the first few chapters and a detailed synopsis.

Again, after three months of waiting, I was still let down by the agents. I don’t care how much money I’d earn after selling my booksall I want my book is to be available in every bookstore, broadening my readership. And this won’t be possible without coming under the umbrella of a large publishing house, which is

not possible without pleasing an agent.

So how do you do that? Honestlyno answer.

They read your first three chapters and decide the book is not good enough for the mass market. I’ve read some crappy books that became NYT bestsellers―whose initial chapters did not gain my attention as a reader, and whose reviews were also not worth discussing.

I don’t know exactly what intrigues the agent. Is it the writing style, the story, the character depth―I don’t know. I’ve seen books with skyrocketing sales that have no plot, no depth in the characters and a very predictable story-line with abundant sex scenes that sound ridiculously impossible in reality. Sex in an elevator, on a kitchen counter, over an office deskreally? I want to meet those couples in real life.

So I thought maybe I have issues with my story. It doesn’t matter if it has more than fifty five-star reviews or seven awardsmaybe the story is not fit for the mass market. For a test, I uploaded my book for free on Wattpad to see how readers would take my story. The response was unbelievable. Within two months, more than hundred thousand subscribers read my book, liked it, voted it and purchased the second book of the series from either Amazon, B&N, Smashwords or Kobo. My sales increased―my readership increased. Still, everyday I receive messages through Wattpad how amazing the book is, people begging me to upload the second book of the series since, in some countries, the ebook is not available and it is not available in their bookstores where they could just go and buy it.

That is why I wanted to publish through a large publishing house: to make it available for readers, bringing my story to the shelves of all bookstores. I know: not everyone carries a tablet or e-reader. There are people on this planet who still like to feel the book and prefer a paperback.

Interestingly, I still receive rejections after tremendous support and positive feedback of my readers. First agents say: you need to get reviews and recognition (which is not possible without publishing a book) and then they say…oh! we see you’ve already published it. Come back later with a new unpublished manuscript. (Huh! What a nice approach to reject!) And it seems like a recursive process.

Apparently, one of the agents told me that despite being good reviews, they want to see if I’ve good sales as well. It made me chuckle when they said they’d only pick my book if the Amazon sales is at least 50K per year. Really? If I were making this much amount of money from my one book, why would I need an agent to take all my book rights and give me only 2% of the sale?

And all they say is: it just needs one agent to like your book. So, I’m waiting for the right agent to like it. If you’re writing a book or planning to query the agents―be prepared for rejections but don’t think your work is bad. Every author has a different voice―you can’t compare apples and oranges―likewise, you can’t compare Nora Roberts and Dan Brown.

So, just be patient, keep querying agents and hope for the best.

After all, you need only to please one!

Samreen Ahsan is the author of the multi-award winning Prayer series.

History, art and literature are my passions. I love digging out information about prophecies, divine miracles and paranormal events that are mentioned in history and holy books, that don’t sound possible in today’s modern world.

Since childhood, I have been into reading and writing–and yes, it can’t happen without imagination, which luckily has no boundaries. Dance and music are also pastimes I enjoy, as well as reading romance fiction. I love to travel and explore historical cities. I live in Toronto, Canada.

The Prayer series, comprising A Silent Prayer and A Prayer Heeded, is my first story about paranormal events based on Islamic concepts. My new series begins with Once Upon a [Stolen] Time.

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Thursday teaser: The Oblivious Girl’s Handbook

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This week’s excerpt is courtesy of bestselling DelSheree Gladden

“Joseph and I are very independent,” I said. Then I remembered Monroe having to hold my hand through the crowd and felt the need to clarify. “What I mean is, because he’s gone so often, we know how to get along without each other when we have to. Clingy would not work for us, not with his job. I wouldn’t want him hanging all over me all the time, either. Maybe it’s not how every relationship goes, but it works for us. See?”

I took my phone from my purse and had Joseph’s Facebook profile up in a few taps. One more tap brought up all his pictures. They were what I’d wanted to show him before. Sliding it across the table, I gestured at the pictures.

Monroe took the phone, scrolling through the pictures, but his frown only deepened. “What am I supposed to be seeing? It just looks like Joseph hangs out in a lot of bars, with a lot of other women…all over the state.”

Frustrated by his negativity, I held back on snapping at him only by reminding myself that he was a cop and it was likely a habit to always think the worst of people. I turned the phone so I could see the pictures and tapped on one of Joseph at dinner with a brunette woman at least a decade his senior. Maybe if you just looked at the pictures his behavior seemed odd, but the comment that went along with the post clearly identified the woman as a client. It was a business dinner.

I pushed the phone back at Monroe. “Joseph is so good at his job because he’s friendly and makes people feel like they’re the center of his attention when he’s with them.”

Still skeptical, Monroe navigated to anther picture. One of him and a group of friends out at a club, drinking, laughing, enjoying each other’s company. I still didn’t see the problem. “He goes out with friends when he’s in town. So? He went to college with the guy on his left. They usually hang out when Joseph is in San Diego. The blonde is his girlfriend.”

“And the other blonde? The one Joseph has his arm around?” Monroe asked.

I rolled my eyes. “Probably one of Caleb’s friends. Like the four other people in the picture with their arms around each other’s shoulders. They’re all just posing for the picture. Besides, if it was anything more than that, why would Joseph post it publicly?”

Monroe shrugged, not backing off but not pushing it either. He went back to his sandwich. I spooned soup into my mouth, annoyed he would judge Joseph when he barely knew him. It was a mystery to me why Joseph was on his bad side. Everyone who met my boyfriend loved him. Except Monroe, apparently.

That bothered me more than I wanted to admit, though I wasn’t sure why. What did his opinion matter? I barely knew the guy. Joseph and I had been together for almost three years. No doubt Monroe’s instincts were fabulous for police work, but my relationship with Joseph wasn’t a case in need of solving.

Did you like that excerpt? Check out The Oblivious Girl’s Handbook 

Being oblivious to all the signs that your life is about to fall apart doesn’t stop it from happening to Sara Taylor.

Alone except for the Siamese cat her boyfriend—ex-boyfriend—Joseph left behind to teach her a lesson, Sara has no clue how to survive on her own. She hasn’t handled her own bills in years, can’t meet a deadline without someone else programming alarms into her phone, and is constantly either losing important things or getting herself hopelessly lost. Sara has no idea how she’s supposed to move out of her university apartment and start her first real job without someone there to hold her hand.

Although she knows her new friend Monroe would step in to help, she’s not about to call him after having thrown him out of her apartment when his suspicions about Joseph prove true and Sara is left angry and mortified. It doesn’t take long before she is desperate to lean on someone else’s strength, even for just a few minutes, as real life begins to overwhelm her. Pride forces her to either sink or swim, even when sinking seems the most likely outcome.

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About the author

DelShereeGladden4DelSheree Gladden was one of those shy, quiet kids who spent more time reading than talking. Literally. She didn’t speak a single word for the first three months of preschool, but she had already taught herself to read. Her fascination with reading led to many hours spent in the library and bookstores, and eventually to writing. She wrote her first novel when she was sixteen years old, but spent ten years rewriting and perfecting it before having it published.Native to New Mexico, DelSheree and her husband spent several years in Colorado for college and work before moving back home to be near family again. Their two children love having their seventeen cousins close by. When not writing, you can find DelSheree reading, painting, sewing and trying not to get bitten by small children in her work as a dental hygienist.
Check out her latest books, get updates and sneak peeks of new projects at
And find her on social media
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Monday musings: The co-authoring experience, part 2

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This week, we continue and conclude last week’s conversation with Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman, co-authors of the bestselling Scorch Romance-Thriller series about what it’s like to be co-authors. This week focuses on characters and the development of the author.

Sometimes the behavior or reaction of a character surprises the author. Which characters in the Scorch series surprised you?

Emily Kimelman: All of the characters surprised me at one point or another, but Luca (the lead brother in Smoke Road) really surprised me. I was having trouble connecting with him, figuring out what made him tick, and then I found out he was a practicing Catholic and after that I understood him a lot better. His faith and its connection to his family history really affected Luca a lot.

The other character who surprised me the most was Avital, from Cinder Road. I wrote a scene that left her and Dolf in a position that, um, how do I put this… left them in a hot situation and I told Toby that they couldn’t get it on, but I had no idea how she was going to keep them apart. But she did. When I read her scene the next day I was like, “Oh crap, that’s good.” Avital is a badass with an iron will—I already knew that about Avital but I didn’t expect her to act the way that Toby wrote it, which was spot-on. 

That’s one of the great joys about co-authoring: your character in the other author’s hands, acting in ways that surprise and delight. 

Toby Neal: Yes, I agree. Our characters often surprise us in our work alone, too, and sometimes we have to sit with it and decide if that was really something that a character would do—and edit if necessary. Most of the time, once Emily and I were past the first fourth or so of a book, we really “knew” each other’s characters and were able to nail it, surprises and all.

But we sometimes had to cut things that didn’t ring true, and usually in they happened in that first third or so of the book when we didn’t yet really know our partner’s concept for their character.

For instance, in the scene with Dolf and Avital that kicks off the second book, we broke all the romance trope rules. We had a forbidden love thing going on with a widow and her husband’s twin (not an unfamiliar trope), but we broke the rules by having them sleep together in the first chapter.

We agreed that that would kick things off—contrary to most romances, which build to a climax (so to speak), but I took it further than our agreed upon love scene and … well. Let’s just say Dolf and Avital ended up all over the house in compromising positions. Damn, it was hot. I’m good at sex scenes! I patted myself on the back and went on with my day.

Emily disagreed, and cut my scene. 

To the bone, so to speak (everything becomes an innuendo as soon as we talk sex.)

I was upset and offended at first, but came to agree with Emily eventually that the ensuing sex around the house was out of character for Avital (though Dolf, being a guy who’d been in love with this woman for years, would have been happy to get whatever he could!) And through the challenge we experienced during that editing process (her having an instinctive NO and cutting, me recoiling in hurt and frustration, us having to hash it out) we added to our Process Document: if either of us has a hard no to something big, we have to highlight and discuss before just chucking in the Recycle bin.

Now, let me pause a moment to talk about sex.

Sex is a huge element in most stories because it’s a basic human drive, and in romance it’s a pillar of the genre. But what “floats your boat” in a love scene is hugely individual to the reader, hence the plethora of genres and heat levels within romance. As we proceeded, we discussed what we wanted our sexy times to be like. Emily told me she was eclectic; she liked a variety of writers and styles, and was not easily offended by certain words and whatnot. 

I however, was super specific. I wanted sex to be lyrically written with exceptional prose, no clichés, no jarring expletives or use of crude words. Those things pinged my brain to fall out of the story as a reader, and I wanted to write what I liked to read. Emily was amenable to this, so I gave her several books by authors whose work in this area I admired (and I have to say, there aren’t many of them. If you like Diana Gabaldon’s style with sex or Laura Florand’s, you will know how I like to read/write sex) and thus we proceeded. 

I wrote many of the first few books’ scenes as Emily was learning my particular bent with this, but by the second book she was going strong and we were able to massage the scenes into a unified style that effectively created romantic, emotional but hot mood we had agreed upon.

So that was probably TMI, but it was also a surprise to discover in setting out, that there are many many ways to “do it” and one or the other partner may be as fussy as I was.

Okay, last question: You have written and published the last of the Scorch Romance Thriller series – at least for now, as you’ve stated. But since Book 6, you’ve both released new titles in your own individual series, and say you’re working on new titles. Toby, you’ve also announced you’re working on your autobiography, and Emily, you’re working on Sydney Rye #10.

What do you think you are each taking from your co-authoring experience into your own series? In terms of process, style, understanding of characters, plotting? In other words, do you think your experience or the stories of the Scorch series themselves have affected your other writing in the future?

Emily Kimelman: I think writing with Toby has affected my writing style for sure. I can’t imagine how you could write six books with another person and walk away without having gleamed a lot of insights. One of the big difference between our styles was that I write a fast and sloppy first draft and enjoy what we started calling the “franken” edit (after Frankenstein). Toby and I had to outline for obvious reasons, but we did get a lot looser with it as we moved toward the end of the series.

 

I have returned to my no outline ways, except I keep “Take off Your Pants” by Libby Hawker close at hand and I make notes about future scenes rather than just running at the thing full bore until it’s over.

I think both of us got really good at delving into our characters motivations—we had to explain them to each other, which was totally surprising at first but came to be a key to the style we developed. I think I spend more time questioning myself than I used to … or more to the point, questioning my characters. Why did you do that? And their answers always open up new paths and interesting plot twists.

Also, mixing up our points of view and changing our tense throughout the series kept it super fresh and was really eye opening to me. I’d never thought to do that in one series and loved it. So, now I use multiple POVs in my other work. And I have plans to change up my tense in future series.

I also think that spending a year kicking skinhead butt and exploring romance has made it possible for me to return to my own work with more excitement. Although, after Charlottesville I did think I want to kill some Nazis in my next book. And then I laughed at myself because I’d spent a year taking down white supremacists. So, I’ll continue destroying ISIS in my Sydney Rye series for now … but fictional Nazis better watch out because I’m not done with them yet!

Toby Neal: Great answer Emily!

I was already doing a lot of the things Emily mentions as far as POV and tense shifts, but now I’ve begun to dictate the majority of my first draft as a result of working with Emily.

Reading our prose to each other was something we came up with about two-thirds of the way into the books to circumvent the tendency to waste our writing energy editing each other’s work. Doing so has opened a whole new area for me. I not only compose verbally now, but plan to read my own books for audiobook distribution.

I have literally discovered my voice as a result of working with Emily!

I also have begun using Scrivener, which Emily uses but I hadn’t liked. Now I dictate and put my rough prose into my nice clean Scrivener outline and I can manipulate scenes in new ways. My newest book has five points of view, and very short chapters of a page or two. I think it’s added to the intensity of the book and will appeal to the modern reader. Experimenting is what keeps us growing!

Many of the ways Emily and I benefited from co-authoring are intangible and still being revealed, but Emily’s innovation with tech also inspired me to try a lot of new things with marketing.
I miss the excitement we generated together and the fun and immediacy of sharing good work. Now, by the time my book gets to readers, I’m “over it” and never got to share the joy of a great scene with a peer. Though I like the freedom of my solo writing, I miss the fun of co-authoring. I highly recommend it as a way to learn, grow, and break out of ruts!

Thanks very much to you both.

Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman are the co-authors of the Scorch Romance Thriller series, six post-apocalyptic stories revolving around six Luciano brothers, a sister and their mother, and the others who come into and change their lives.

About the series

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.

About the authors

Born in Philadelphia and having lived in many places around the world, Emily Kimelman is the author of nine books in her bestselling Sydney Rye series (with a tenth coming soon) and two Kindle World novellas in addition to the Scorch series.

Find out all about Emily on her BestSelling Reads author page.

Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. Her career as a mental health therapist has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her books.

She is the author of 27 books in addition to the Scorch series: 12 Lei Crime series books, two companion books to the series, two Kindle World novellas, four “Somewhere in” romances, a young adult fantasy novel and five in her new Wired series, with a six soon to come.

Learn more about her on her BestSelling Reads author page.

 

 

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Thursday teaser: 6 Hours 42 Minutes

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Vigilante series, book 5

By Claude Bouchard

Claude Bouchard

Gina Tomasso had remained speechless with fear ever since the little man, the one they called Sparks, had ushered her and Leslie out of the kitchenette at ten that morning. The most communication she had managed since was to shake her head twice, once when asked if she needed to use the bathroom and once when Sara and Leslie had tried to coax her to eat a slice of pizza.

She could not understand how the others could just sit there as the minutes dragged by, one leading to the next, and seem relatively calm. Some, like Simon Chase and Leslie, maybe, because they thrived on conflict, nothing ever seemed to faze them, but even Annette and Erin didn’t seem too concerned, under the circumstances.

In comparison, she was certain that the terror, the panic she felt, was slowly ripping bite after ragged bite within her, an accelerated form of psychological cancer which would actually kill her if this nightmare did not end soon.

She had almost screamed, in fact, she had tried to, when Sara had been selected to be set free a little earlier but had found herself unable to, as if the relentless, evil dread within her had left even her vocal chords paralysed.

She watched with dead eyes as the head robber, Bull, closed the phone and approached the hostages once again.

“Here’s the deal,” he announced. “I’m sure, positive, in fact, that the captain out there is stalling with bringing in the helicopter he promised me but I’ve decided to give him another hostage, just to show him the kind of guy I am.”

Gina felt her heart lurch at those words and prayed, “Me! Please! Please choose me!”

As before, Bull scanned the group, his eyes roaming past the faces, past hers and onwards then back to her.

“How about you?” he asked, his tone almost kind as he gazed at her.

“Oh My God,” thought Gina as she frantically nodded and scrambled to her feet, almost falling back down in her haste.

“Just wait there for a second,” said Bull as he pulled his phone back out and placed a call. “Leblanc, just to show you that I’m a man of my word, I’m sending you another hostage. You tell your guys to stay back.”

He closed the phone, looked at Gina and smiled. “Let’s go.”

Juice took a step forward and Bull stopped him. “I’ll let her out. You keep an eye on our other guests.”

He motioned Gina towards the front door with an almost gallant gesture then followed her. Once there, he looked through a gap in the vertical blinds to ensure that the coast was clear then pulled out a key and unlocked the door.

“Thanks for being so brave,” he said to Gina as he pulled the door open for her. “Don’t run, just walk.”

She smiled with relief and walked quickly down the pathway leading to the street crowded with cops and their cars. Bull watched her go from the partially open door and  when she was ten feet or so down the path, he raised his gun and shot her twice in the back then closed and relocked the door.

About 6 Hours 42 Minutes

Though most of them dabbled in a variety of criminal activities, they weren’t experienced in this particular field and had never been involved in a job like this before. However, with proper planning, careful organization and the inside information available to them, they were certain that this bank heist would be a piece of cake. Ten minutes, in and out, was all it would take and they’d be sharing 2.5 million dollars. Nothing could go wrong as they had thought of everything … how could they possibly know a new member of the board was visiting the bank that morning? And how could they know that new board member was Chris Barry?

Get it on Amazon.

Win a free copy from the author

You could WIN a free copy of 6 Hours 42 Minutes from the author, Claude Bouchard. All you have to do is leave a comment telling us the title of the sixth book in the Vigilante series.

About the author

USA Today bestselling author Claude Bouchard was born in Montreal, Canada, at a very young age, where he still resides with his spouse, Joanne, under the watchful eyes of two black females of the feline persuasion.

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.

His first novel, Vigilante, was published in 2009.  Since then, besides writing Asylum, a stand-alone, the Vigilante Series has grown to thirteen thrilling installments with his latest release, Make It Happen.

Claude has also penned Something’s Cooking, a faux-erotica parody and cookbook under the pseudonyms Réal E. Hotte and Dasha Sugah, as well as Nasty in Nice, his contribution to Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World. His books have topped the chart in the Vigilante Justice category on Amazon and some 600,000 copies have been distributed to date.

Claude’s other interests include reading, playing guitar, painting, cooking, traveling and trying to stay in reasonable shape.

Visit his:

And follow him on Twitter @ceebee308.

 

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A talk with bestselling co-authors Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman

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Emily Kimelman (left) and Toby Neal.

Last winter, BSR members Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman surprised the reading world by launching a co-authored series of six books, the Scorch Romance Thriller series. The first volume, Scorch Road, instantly hit the bestseller list. They followed it up with more books in the series roughly every three weeks, except for the last in the series.

Even though there was a two-and-a-half month break between the fifth and the final books in the series, Smolder Road, this publishing schedule speaks to a strong professional ethic on the part of both co-authors, a strong planning and development process and a dedication to getting things done right.

The series crosses genre boundaries. It’s about a family of six brothers and a sister from South Philadelphia, and how they respond when a pandemic, the Scorch Flu, sweeps across the United States. (Unfortunately, the authors did not explore what happens in Canada or Mexico.) Each book focuses on the experiences of one of the Luciano brothers in the pandemic, and how in the hell that ensues, they find love.

We spoke to Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman about their writing and publishing process, and what they learned through this ambitious and gruelling process.

The Scorch Romance Thriller series

  1. Scorch Road (JT) — published January 31, 2017
  2. Cinder Road (Dolf) — published February 21, 2017
  3. Smoke Road (Luca) — published March 14, 2017
  4. Burnt Road (Dante) — published April 4, 2017
  5. Flame Road (Cash) — published May 9, 2017
  6. Smolder Road (Lucy) — published July 21, 2017

Who came up with the idea for a family of six brothers and a sister from Philly? Why seven kids?

Toby Neal: What I remember is that, in January of 2016, after my first ever fallow spell of not being able to write, I called Emily with the idea of co-authoring, hoping the fun and energy generated by working on a project with someone I enjoyed and liked, whose writing was in the same vein as mine, would jump start me again. 

Emily was also coming off a fallow writing spell, but from recent maternity for her first child, and immediately said yes. I told her I wanted to do something that was primarily romance, but with thrills and action and something to do with the worries I had about the end of the world, a not uncommon concern.

We began brainstorming and came up with pandemic as the problem, and then a family compound they escape to, and then I threw in Italians because I LOVE Italians and Italy and the culture and everything about it, and Emily threw in Philly because she’s from there and understands the folks and culture there, and then I did character bios for the guys, Emily did character bios for the girls, and we began plotting the whole series and the progress of the pandemic’s arc, and the events and themes of the books. Unlike either of our other work heretofore, neither of us had ever plotted a series ahead of time. 

Emily Kimelman: Toby approached me to co-author in January 2016 and I was hugely flattered. Toby is a powerhouse author and we’d written for each others Kindle Worlds and gone on a writing retreat together so I already had mad respect for her. The fact that she wanted to work with me totally boosted my confidence and made me feel awesome.

But we couldn’t start working together until June because I wanted to enjoy my maternity leave.  My daughter, Juniper, was only three months old in January 2016 and I was not back at work except to respond to emails. Plus, I needed to write another Sydney Rye book before starting a new series. Not only did I owe it to my fans but the story was trying to claw it’s way out of my brain, lol. So, yeah, I had to attend to that beast.

But both of us were interested in writing a romance series with action adventure elements. We wanted to make it a big family so that we could write a lot of books. We both felt that six was a nice number for a series… we basically bit off way more than we could chew. That is one of the many things we have in common. We also both wanted to try releasing a series all at once. Our process really evolved over the course of the books. We came to realize that the collaboration had to be super intimate and equal. It didn’t work for one of us to create the outline and the other just follow it. We had to discuss every step but still leave room to surprise each other. We really hit our stride with the second book, Cinder Road, and by the time we finished Smolder Road (the sixth and final book of the series),  we were a well oiled writing machine. 

Tell us about the process of co-writing. You said you agreed on the outline after much discussion. Did you outline the whole series in detail before you began writing, or did you outline each book one at a time? And how did you decide who would do the first draft of which section?

Emily Kimelman: We outlined the entire series in about a week but each book changed quite a bit once we got going. I’ve always been a pantser and Toby is more of a plotter but we figured out a way to make it work for both of us by the end.

We divided up the characters in the beginning. Toby had the idea for the original brothers and then I added all the women, including Lucy. The only book we switched was for Luca and Nani. I came up with the idea of a badass Hawaiian woman who would be Luca’s boss and suggested that Toby write her since I’ve been to Hawaii once in my life. Of course, Toby has never been to Philly so I ended up editing her scenes for appropriate slang etc. I also had to constantly be taking porches and picket fences out of her Philly scenes. Lol. 

Toby Neal: This is a good spot to mention our process document.

This central doc where we kept track of our writing and editing process was a living, breathing tool that kept us sane from book to book, because it evolved with us and we learned new things and overcame new challenges. As we went, after the initial outlining in general and handwritten timeline on a big paper with the timeline of the books (beginning of pandemic, middle of pandemic, aftermath, seasons and months), we had new problems to solve with each book. 

For instance, Smoke Road, which was heavy on military action, needed a consult with retired Army sergeant and fellow writer Mary Doyle to have the realistic flair we wanted. She ripped huge holes in our imaginary military plot and battles, but we’d already written the book, so then a giant structural edit was in order. We learned from that and put in our process doc that any consult had to then take place before the book was written.

We also learned that the outlines were important and needed to keep us on track (after galloping off into ad-libbing in the first book and it being really bad), but also that we needed to keep the last third open for twists, turns and reveals that the characters seemed to generate themselves … so we would only stick with outline until the two-thirds or so point, then let the characters dictate the action. 

We also captured in the process document the hard-learned process of editing, which we had down to a science by the end.

We divided the editing according to our strengths: Emily would do our first big edit after a long phone convo with me talking through all of the scenes and making comments in the draft, a process we called the “Frankenedit,” after Frankenstein and because the book really lurched at that point.

Then, I did a line edit of the whole manuscript, and tightened and tweaked and tucked. Then Emily did another line edit, familiarizing herself with my changes and tweaks, and then I did a final line edit, then it went to the copyeditor.

By then the voice of the writing was consistent throughout, even though we’d originally written different characters: me the guys, and she the gals, as Emily has already mentioned.

Early on, we discovered that Google Docs, where we’d set everything up and stored all our mutual descriptions of the characters and world and outlines, was actually corrupting Word every time we downloaded, and embedding our copy with random “unicode” which drove us and our copyeditors totally nuts (not Emily, who was on Mac, and never saw it, lucky girl) 

So here’s our tip: whatever you do, don’t use Google Docs to coordinate your project!

In future, we’re talking about using Dropbox Paper or Microsoft Office.

In case you thought co-authoring was easier than writing your own book alone … I would have to say no, it’s not. But I still miss the fun and surprises of having my characters do new stuff every day in the hands of another talented writer!

You’re both dog authors—that is, the main characters in your original series, the ones that made you bestsellers have dogs, which are major characters in themselves. All the heroes in the Scorch series have dogs, and Melody has two. 

What does a dog bring to a novel?

Toby Neal: Dogs. They add so much extra dimension to a book. Dogs are comic relief; they are smelly sidekicks, they are furry friends who are always there for the hero(ine) when they are down. They tug at the heartstrings and provide opportunities for heroic acts, either by them or for them. Dogs are great to create new paths for our hero(ine) to go down, literally following a scent, and they always guard and bark, warning of danger.

Cinder Road‘s hard billionaire hero, Dolf, has an ugly old tomcat. I chose a cat because that more reflected Dolf’s aloof but loyal personality, and cats, while not as easy to integrate into a story because of their independent nature, are lovely pets too. We felt having that ugly old cat and lugging it everywhere said a lot about Dolf’s character that was not immediately apparent in his smooth operator persona.

Burnt Road‘s hero, Dante, obtains a horse he incongruously (for an autistic person, thus revealing his inner marshmallow nature) names Sweetie. Horses are also fabulous story enhancers, and their emotions are easily read and greatly affect the characters and their ability to navigate. Both Emily and I ride and enjoy horses whenever we can get our legs around them!

Pets in a story hook the reader’s emotions…and our emotions, too. I am a pet-loving person; Emily is too, and we plan to continue our trademark choice to include pets (dogs usually) in our stories.

Emily Kimelman: I agree with everything Toby said. Having a pet in any book helps readers instantly connect with the story and as the author it gives us a great way to reveal traits of our characters without having to point them out. Melody running through a mob, holding her two foster puppies to her chest, tells us a lot about the kind of person she is: compassionate, brave, loving, without having to show that through a more complicated and nuanced relationship with a human. Obviously, we show that side of her within her relationship with Dante, but the two puppies let us put it all into the opening scene… plus they are so cute!

Many readers who don’t have dogs can enjoy spending time with a fictional puppy. (No clean-up is always a good thing.) Also, for me, it’s part of what makes a story real. I don’t want to spend time in a world without heroic pets. It just feels fake without them.

Coming next week: BestSelling Reads find out about writing sex scenes and how characters can surprise the authors who created them.

Toby Neal is the author of 27 books in addition to being the co-author of the Scorch series.

Learn more about Toby.

Emily Kimelman is the author of X books in addition to the Scorch series

Learn more about Emily.

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Thursday teaser: For Everly

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By Raine Thomas

Thirty minutes later, Everly finally arrived at the restaurant. Between traffic and the unfamiliar area of town, it took her longer than she expected to get there. She thought she had given herself extra time, but she was still five minutes late. When she pulled up, she found herself at a valet stand. Rolling down her window, she flagged the valet who eyed her car as though it had just broken down at his feet. He approached with notable reluctance.

Waving at the twenty-dollar valet fee posted on a nearby folding sign, she asked, “Is there self-parking?”

“No, ma’am,” he replied stiffly.

She swallowed and nodded, getting out of her car so he could park it. She only had twenty dollars in cash, and she had intended to pay for her lunch with it. She knew the bank account was low until she got paid again on Friday, but she’d have to risk debiting her meal. Why hadn’t she thought to set some parameters when Cole suggested the restaurant?

Her headache ballooned as she hurried through the front door of the restaurant and looked around without spotting Cole. Frowning, she approached the maître d.

“Miss Wallace?” he greeted her.

Surprised, she nodded.

“Welcome. Mr. Parker is waiting at your table. It would be my pleasure to escort you there. May I take your coat?”

Damn. She probably couldn’t even afford the free bread at this place.

Giving the maître d a wan smile, she shrugged out of her coat, putting her gloves in the pockets and wrapping her scarf around one of her purse straps. She was sure she was imagining it, but she swore the maître d held her Target-brand garment a few inches away from his body as he turned to hand it off to whoever guarded the coat room.

Shifting uncomfortably when he gave her a quick once-over and lingered disapprovingly on her jeans, she took a deep breath and followed him into the dining room. There wasn’t anything she could do about how she was dressed, was there?

Lord, what a hot mess this was.

As she spotted Cole across the dining room at a table with a beautiful view of the outside terrace, another thought occurred to her. How should she greet him? Should she shake his hand since this was a business meeting? Go in for the awkward hug since she was good friends with his brother?

Bow because he looked like a god in his simple black V-neck sweater and gray pants?

She caught his gaze when she was still about ten feet from the table. A variety of expressions crossed his features, so many that she couldn’t read them all. She definitely caught irritation, though, and was puzzled when he ended up smiling.

OhGodOhGodOhGod…

He stood up. The maître d deposited her with a slight bow, so she ruled out that form of greeting. Then it was just her and Cole.

“Hello, Everly,” he said, his voice as smooth as a buttered biscuit.

“Hi.”

Had that been her voice that came out all breathy? She prayed it hadn’t sounded as ridiculous as she thought.

She started to lift her right hand for a shake, then realized he was tilting in for the awkward hug. To avoid hitting him in the crotch, she adjusted her trajectory. He smoothly used his left hand to continue her forward motion so that her hand ended up encircling his neck.

Then before she knew what was happening, her lips were pressed against his.

About For Everly

Determined to overcome a dark and tragic past, college student Everly Wallace is only months away from earning her degree in physical therapy. She’s consumed with school, caring for her ailing grandfather, and figuring out how to pay the next bill. The last thing she wants is a relationship, but it just might be the one thing she needs.

Major League pitcher Cole Parker hasn’t fought for anything in his life. He went from a privileged upbringing to a multimillion dollar All-Star career. But when his pitching shoulder starts to give him trouble at only twenty-four years old, he faces the possibility of his injury becoming public knowledge and costing him everything.

In a desperate bid to save his career, Cole decides to hire someone to treat his injury, someone who will keep things off the record and out of the media. He finds the perfect solution in Everly. As mysterious as she is beautiful, she provides an enticing distraction from his pain. Soon, physical therapy is the last thing on his mind.

When an act of betrayal brings the truths they both fear to light, Cole will have to fight for the first time in his life…not just for his career, but for Everly’s love.

Where to get it

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. 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.

Find Raine on social media

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When Chandler was rejected, he fought back.

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By Caleb Pirtle III

He could handle the truth. He didn’t like being left to dangle in some literary wind.

Raymond Chandler’s literary put-downs were classic.

Every author has faced rejection, and every author thinks that his or her rejection letter, or note, is the only one that has ever accounted or amounted to anything.

We put our writing on a pedestal and wait for somebody to knock it off. Somebody always does.

Even the great writers had their words stepped on, stomped on, wadded up, and thrown in the garbage.

You write?

It happens.

I have always loved the way Raymond Chandler strung his words together. He was seldom taken seriously because his crime fiction, featuring Philip Marlowe, was almost always regarded as pulp fiction.

Only later did anyone realize that his writing had style and grace and elegance. He wrote the way others wanted to write but couldn’t.

Chandler received a rejection letter from The Atlantic Monthly, and he promptly mailed a rejection letter back to his editor at the magazine, Charles Morton.

If the publication didn’t want his story, fine.

If the publication didn’t like his writing, fine.

But he was both irate and frustrated. He didn’t write for money. He wrote for the love of writing. He didn’t like the way he was being treated. Tell him yes, or tell him no, but tell him something. He could handle the truth. He didn’t like being left to dangle in some literary wind.

His literary put down of the publication is a classic.

Chandler wrote:

I have one complaint to make, and it is an old one – the cold silence and the stalling that goes on when something comes in that is not right or is not timely. This I resent and always shall. It does not take weeks to tell a man (by pony express) that his piece is wrong when he can be told in a matter of days that it is right.

Editors do not make enemies by rejecting manuscripts, but by the way they do it, by the change of atmosphere; the delay, the impersonal note that creeps in. I am a hater of power and of trading, and yet I live in a world where I have to trade brutally and exploit every item of power I may possess. But in dealing with the Atlantic, there is none of this.

I do not write for you for money or for prestige, but for love, the strange lingering love of a world wherein men may think in cool subtleties and talk in the language of almost forgotten cultures … I like that world and I would on occasion sacrifice my sleep and my rest and quite a bit of money to enter it gracefully. That is not appreciated. It is something you cannot buy. It is something, which, even when the gesture is imperfect, deserves respect.

I can make $5,000 in two days (sometimes), but I spend weeks trying to please the Atlantic for $250 or whatever it is. Do you think I want money? As for prestige, what is it? What greater prestige can a man like me (not too greatly gifted but understanding) have than to have taken a cheap, shockly, and utterly lost kind of writing and have made of it something that intellectuals claw each other about?

What more could I ask except the leisure and skill to write a couple of novels of the sort I want to write and to have waiting for them a public I have made myself?  Certainly, the Atlantic cannot give that to me.

Raymond Chandler wrote pure poetry, heavy with the metaphors of literary fiction while bleeding the veins of hardboiled detective stories. Consider these unforgettable lines:

  1. Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that, you take the girl’s clothes off.
  2. I do a great deal of research – particularly in the apartments of tall blondes.
  3. She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.
  4. From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away, she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away.
  5. The streets were dark with something more than the night.
  6. I guess God made Boston on a wet Monday.

He had his own style. He had his own way of coining a phrase. And after one of his stories was heavily edited, he sat down and wrote a letter to Edward Weeks, who ran The Atlantic Monthly:

By the way, would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split, and when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of barroom vernacular, this is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed but attentive. The method may not be perfect, but it is all I have.

He had plenty.

I don’t know who inherited Chandler’s money if he had any.

But we inherited his words.

We got the best part of the deal.

This blog post originally appeared on Caleb and Linda Pirtle’s I Love a Mystery blog on October 27.

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 DeadConspiracy of Lies, and Night Side of Dark.

Pirtle is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and 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.

Caleb can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page    |   Amazon Author page   |   Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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Thursday teaser: New books from your favorite BestSelling authors

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Fall always feels like the start of a new year, a good time for new initiatives and launching new books—as well as for pumpkin spiced everything.

Your favorite BestSelling authors have been hard at work, and have a tasty selection of new books for you. Take a look, follow the links and think about which titles belong on your gift list—because the holiday season is approaching faster than you want to think.

Barb Drozdowich

The Author’s On-Line Presence: How to Find Readers

Authors: Stop wasting valuable writing time and let Barb break down dry, complex subjects into easy to learn bites without the technobabble.

Get it on

Emily Kimelman

In Sheep’s Clothing: Sydney Rye #9

Sydney Rye is missing, and the Islamic State has a mysterious new enemy. Join the ruthless Robert Maxim and Sydney’s mother in the hunt!

Get it on

Toby Neal

Wired Dark : Paradise Crime #4

Tech security specialist Sophie Ang returns to Maui to solve a series of bizarre threats against a rock star, where she’s tested by a deadly enemy out to destroy everything she loves.

Get it on

Renée Pawlish

The Damned Don’t Die: A Reed Ferguson Mystery #16

A murdered woman’s shy granddaughter hires Reed to clear her name and find the real killer. To complicate matters, romantic sparks fly between her and Cal, Reed’s computer-geek best friend.

Get it on Amazon.

Caleb Pirtle III

Lovely Night to Die: A Special Forces Operation Alpha Kindle World novella.

A deadly assassin must carry out the assignment to assassinate the President of the United States—a mission sanctioned from inside the United States government. If he doesn’t do it, the woman he loves will die.

Get it on Caleb Pirtle III’s Amazon Author page.

 

Last Deadly Lie

The chilling, fearful tale of a small town that has smoldered in the fires of jealousy and selfish greed, then is finally blown apart by lies, gossip and violent death.

Get it on Caleb Pirtle III’s Amazon Author page.

 

Coming in 2018

Toby Neal

Wired Dawn — Paradise Crime Book 5

Security specialist Sophie Ang goes off the grid on Kaua’I to save a young boy, uncovering dark secrets of the jungle as she does so. FBI Special Agent Marcella Scott straps on her Manolos and wades into help, but will they be in time?

Read more about it on the author’s website.

Emily Kimelman

Flock of Wolves — Sydney Rye Book 10

Continue the adventure with Sydney Rye and Blue.

Read more about it on the author’s website.

 

Raine Thomas

Driving Tempo — House of Archer Book 3

A New Adult contemporary rockin’ romance that follows the pulse-pounding Imperfect Harmony and Unsteady Rhythm.

Read more about this on the author’s website.

 

Alan McDermott

A new thriller that will feature readers’ favorite characters from the Tom Gray series and Trojan.

Read more about it on the author’s website.

BestSelling Reads authors are all hard at work on more books that are sure to join your favorites list. Keep coming back to this blog for new announcements about titles, release dates and free previews.

Better yet, subscribe to get these updates in your email.

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Gord Downie: A poet America needs to get to know

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Canadian Press

Last week, an iconic performer and poet passed away.

And about a year ago, one of BestSelling Reads’ founders, the multi-talented Kathleen Valentine passed away suddenly.

Kathleen was in charge of the Monday Musings for a long time, and she was known to publish the words of significant poets on this blog — like Bob Dylan, for example.

Gord Downie, the front man and the principal lyricist for the Canadian band, The Tragically Hip, passed away after a long battle with brain cancer. It was something every Canadian knew was coming, and yet something, in the words of our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, that we all wished would not happen and that still hurt deeply when it did.

One of the unfortunate aspects of the career of Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip was that they never really broke through in the U.S. market, unlike many Canadian musicians like Céline Dion, Bryan Adams, Jonie Mitchell or Shania Twain. And yet, perhaps it’s Downie’s poetry that citizens of the U.S. need to hear.

In the spirit of Kathleen Valentine, then I’d like to present some words of Gord Downie that perhaps American (that is, citizens and denizens of the U.S.A. — after all, I’m and American, too, as are Mexican President Peña Nieto and Brazilian poet Braulio Tavares).

At The Hundredth Meridian

Me debunk an american myth?
And take my life in my hands?
Where the great plains begin
At the hundredth meridian
At the hundredth meridian
Where the great plains beginDriving down a corduroy road
Weeds standing shoulder high
Ferris wheel is rusting
Off in the distance

At the hundredth meridian
At the hundredth meridian
At the hundredth meridian
Where the great plains begin

Left alone to get gigantic
Hard, huge and haunted
A generation so much dumber than it’s parents
Came crashing through the window

A raven strains along the line of the road
carrying muddy old skull
The wires whistle their approval
Off down the distance

At the hundredth meridian (hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (you’re going to miss me)
At the hundredth meridian (trust me)
Where the great plains begin (at the hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (at the hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (you’re going to miss me)
At the hundredth meridian (trust me)
Where the great plains begin

I remember, I remember Buffalo
And I remember Hengelo
It would seem to me
I remember every single fucking thing I know

If I die of vanity, promise me, promise me
If they bury me some place I don’t want to be
You’ll dig me up and transport me, unceremoniously
Away from the swollen city breeze, garbage bag trees
Whispers of disease and the acts of enormity
And lower me slowly and sadly and properly
Get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy

At the hundredth meridian (hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (you’re going to miss me)
At the hundredth meridian (trust me)
Where the great plains begin (at the hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (at the hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (baby, you’re going to miss me)
At the hundredth meridian (trust me)
Where the great plains begin.

Do you know some poets that Americans need to learn about? Leave a comment.
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