Thursday teaser: Sugar for Sugar — an excerpt

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Excerpt from Seb Kirby

This week’s excerpt comes from Seb Kirby’s latest novel.

A sound from somewhere far off, getting closer all the time.

I open my eyes. The phone is ringing.

I pick it up and look at the image on the screen.

The bearded man again, the one with the name Colin Tempest next to his photo. Someone I must know. I have to answer.

I take the call.

A male voice. “Issy, I’ve been trying to reach you but you haven’t been answering.”

I can’t concentrate on what he’s saying. I say the only thing that comes to me. “Who are you?”

“Don’t be foolish, Issy. It’s Colin. We need to talk.”

It’s a voice I’ve heard before.

“I can’t talk now.”

He’s insistent. “I can come over. Where are you?”

I look around the room. It doesn’t look familiar. I say the only thing I can. “I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever been in this place before.”

There’s a new note of concern in his voice. “I’ll find a way to help you, to make amends if you just tell me where you are.”

Make amends? So he’s done something to me. He thinks the reason I’m not talking to him is because of that.

“Tell me what you did to me.”

“I’m sorry, Issy. I’m really sorry but he left me no choice. You were the only one I could turn to, the only one who might have convinced him to change his mind.”

“What happened to Mike?”

“You know what happened to him, Issy. He died. A heart attack. You must know that. Why are you trying to pretend that none of this has happened?”

Mike is dead. I must have known that.

Is this the reason for these feelings of guilt I can’t control?

“I’m not pretending.”

He pauses for longer than he should. “The police have been here. What if they start interviewing everyone? It won’t be long before they get round to you and me. Whatever else is said, I need you to promise you won’t reveal our secret. You know it would ruin me and my family.”

I don’t know any secret. Why would he think I did?

“If anyone asks it’s not going to be a problem for me to tell them I don’t know.”

“Thank you, Issy. I knew I could depend on you.”

I stare again at the profile picture of the bearded man.

He wants me to trust him again but I know I can’t.

His voice breaks into my thoughts once more. “Look, Issy. I’ve got to go. Something urgent. Thanks for your help. Thanks for being so understanding. Thanks for everything.”

He closes the line.

I know that what’s been said won’t last long in my mind. I make a note on the phone.

Mike is dead.

Why do I feel so guilty?

Colin behaves like he owes me.

What is Sugar for Sugar?

Did you like this excerpt? Leave a comment.

Issy Cunningham has made a new life for herself but that’s all about to come crashing down. If only she could recall what happened that Valentine’s Eve, she would be able to tell the police what really took place.

But those memories won’t come because there’s too much in the past that troubles her.

How can she set the record straight when her past won’t let her be?

What a great book. It hooked me immediately and I did not want to put it down.—J L Edwards

This book kept me guessing … books are always best when you don’t see things coming!—Dawn

A super read. One of the things I really like about books by Seb Kirby is the obvious attention to detail that he has in his writing, it is quite outstanding.—Susan Hampson, Books From Dusk ‘Til Dawn

If you liked this excerpt, get the whole book from Amazon.

About the author

Seb Kirby was literally raised with books: his grandfather ran a mobile library in Birmingham, UK and his parents inherited a random selection of the books. Once he discovered a trove of well-used titles from Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to more obscure stuff, he was hooked.

He is author of the James Blake thriller series, Take No More, Regret No More and Forgive No More, and the science-fiction thriller, Double Bind.

Visit his

And follow him on Twitter @Seb_Kirby

 

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Thursday teaser: Trojan

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By Alan McDermott

At 3 a.m. precisely, Wahid gave the signal for his men to make their move.

The chemical-weapons storage facility, a huge, one-storey building surrounded by a ten-foot wall made of reinforced concrete, was situated near a village on the outskirts of Homs.

Wahid’s men had been making their way towards the compound for the last four hours, crawling slowly on their bellies while covered with sand-coloured sheets. He had traced their painstaking progress, moving inches at a time to preserve the advantage of a surprise attack. A Syrian military unit was based less than three miles away, giving them minutes to carry out their mission before reinforcements arrived.

Wahid had been sweeping the walls of the compound for hours with his night-vision glasses, but there were no signs of CCTV cameras and no-one had stuck their heads up.

Still, he wasn’t taking any chances.

Seven of his soldiers were now ten feet from the wall, and he watched from 600 yards away as they prepared rappelling ropes with rubber-coated hooks on the end. The first man swung his towards the top of the wall and Wahid saw it come tumbling back down. The man tried again, and this time the hook caught. Three of his people were already halfway up the wall, and he’d heard nothing from inside the facility to suggest they’d been compromised.

He watched as the men disappeared over the wall, then ordered his reserve to move up. His own driver was the first to crank his engine and gun the truck towards the gates. In the darkness, Wahid could see flashes of light dancing off the top of the wall.

By the time he reached the gate, it was already open, with two of his men standing guard. The bodies of four Syrian soldiers lay on the ground. Wahid walked over to one of the dead and removed a plastic card from a chain on the corpse’s waist, then jogged to the glass double doors and swiped it. A click signified that they had entry, and he stepped aside as his men poured into the building.

Gunfire erupted as Wahid’s soldiers pushed forward, then subsided as he entered the building. Three more guards lay dead, leaving another three to contend with. He jogged down the hallway to the junction and looked both ways. The right was clear, and he ordered two men to cover it. To the left, his people were already working to open the door he’d ordered them to look for. He ran to join them just as it burst inwards.

Wahid let the soldiers check the room for guards, then walked inside and looked at the bank of large refrigerated cabinets. Third from the left on the top shelf, he’d been told, and when he looked at the labels, he confirmed that the intelligence his master had paid for was accurate. The cabinet door was locked, so he used the grip of his pistol to shatter the glass and carefully lifted the tray of phials off the shelf. He placed it on a workbench and extracted a leather case from inside his combat jacket.

He’d been instructed to take five phials, no fewer. He stole a look at his watch and saw that it had been two minutes since the first gunshots. The army would have been alerted by now: he had to get his men out of here.

With the small bag now full of glass tubes, Wahid told his men to follow him, and he ran back out into the night.

‘They’re coming,’ his driver told him as he jumped into the passenger seat of the truck. Wahid snatched up the NVGs and saw the army convoy in the distance. He stuck his head out of the window and shouted to his lieutenant. ‘I must get this safely to Karim. You know what to do.’

Without waiting for a response, Wahid told the driver to floor it, and he left the scene trailing a cloud of dust in his wake.

His men would fight until he was well clear of the area, and many of them would die before sunrise. Whatever he was carrying in his small bag, he hoped it was worth the price they would pay tonight.

About Trojan

When MI5 learns that a horrifying new weapon is in enemy hands, agent Andrew Harvey is called in to track it down before it reaches British soil.

The clock is ticking. Andrew and his girlfriend, Sarah, also a secret service operative, have only one lead: a beautiful refugee, desperate not to lose her son. But is she desperate enough to betray everything she believes in? And will she do it in time to help them prevent a terrifying attack?

As Andrew and Sarah race to unravel a convoluted web of subterfuge and exploitation, they discover there is more at stake than even they knew. And somewhere, at the heart of it, lurks a faceless enemy, who is prepared to use everything—and everyone—at his disposal.

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, released in 2017, is a spinoff featuring MI5 agent Andrew Harvey.

Alan can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page     |     Amazon Author Page     |    Facebook     |    Twitter

|  Website and blog  |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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Thursday teaser: The Wife Line

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By Scott Bury

“Drink more wine,” a woman in a white micro-dress said to the nervous blond. “Try to relax.” She also spoke Czech, and had short red hair. Irina was glad she had not opted to dye her own hair. She touched the glass of wine in her hand to her lips, barely tasting it. Thin and sour. She tried to remember the last time she had eaten. Pavel was generous with pills and bad wine, but not so much with food. 

“Pavel said this would be a high-class party. We’re supposed to meet men who could be our husbands,” said the blond. 

Little fool, Irina thought. She took another tiny sip of wine. Stay sober tonight, she reminded herself. “I don’t think these men will be interested in wives,” she said in Ukrainian.  

“The husband option ended last week,” said the redhead, in Czech. “You had one month to become a mail-order bride. Tonight, men are going to select from us to be mistresses.” 

The blond girl’s eyes widened and her mouth fell open. “You had better smarten up and catch one of the men who are coming here tonight,” the redhead continued. “Because if you don’t, the next step is porn.” 

Irina stepped between them. “Stop it,” she said, voice flat. “You’re upsetting her more.” 

“Do you think lying will help her?” the redhead retorted in flawless Ukrainian. “It’s time she faced reality.”

Pavel came in then, short but powerful looking. His hair had been cut to stubble over his scalp, making him look even more dangerous than before. He carried two open bottles of his awful wine and started refilling glasses. “Speak English, ladies!” he boomed. “You are in England now.” He stopped in front of the redhead and refilled her glass. “Why are you not drinking? This is a party,” he said to Irina.” He turned to fill the blond’s glass. She was on the edge of tears. “If you cry I will break your arm.”

The blond girl impressed Irina by sniffling only once, turning her mouth into something like a smile and then drinking half her wine without coughing. Pavel turned to the redhead. “Make trouble again and I will kill you.” 

He left the room and as the door swung shut, Irina heard him booming a greeting. His guests had begun to arrive. 

The blond stepped closer to Irina. “Is she right?” she said in English.  

Irina stepped back and drank her own wine, suppressing a shudder. She wished Pavel had given her some pills instead. “It’s time to grow up, sweetie. Smile and be nice, and maybe you’ll get a man who isn’t too bad.”  

Pavel threw the door open again and shouted “Come in, ladies!” 

Twenty thin, beautiful young women in cheap but revealing party dresses filed from the hallway into the party room filled with middle-aged, fat and bald men in expensive suits. Every one of them had a drink in his hand. They cheered and ogled the women. At each corner of the room was one of Pavel’s men: young, muscular and grim, wearing cheap suits that did a poor job of concealing their guns.

Irina went in last. When she reached the doorway, she heard a low voice beside her say, in American-accented English, “Don’t you want to get out of this?” 

She turned, shocked. The door to the front room closed and in front of her stood a tall young man. There was no way he was one of Pavel’s “gentlemen”—he was far too young, and he wore tattered, cheap blue jeans and a t-shirt with a picture of a cat on it. His blond hair hung past his shoulders as if he had not brushed it in a week and yellow stubble softened his hard jawline. 

She just looked for a few moments, wondering where he had come from. “Where else would I go?” 

“Back home,” said the blond man.

Irina snorted through her nose. “Back to what? Lousy job, good-for-nothing boyfriend, drunk parents, little apartment? Besides, Pavel would find me and kill me.”

“Not if all of you get out of here.” He looked at the door. “We don’t have much time. You’re the smartest one here. When the fire starts, get the girls out. Hide. There are empty buildings used by squatters two blocks west of here.” He pressed a piece of paper into her hand. “Memorize this phone number. It’s a government agency that helps trafficked women. Tell them Van sent you. Be ready to leave in five minutes.”

“What will happen in five minutes?”

“The security alarms will go off and all the doors will unlock because of a gas leak and fire.” 

“How will that happen?”

“I’ll make it happen.”

The door swung open again. “There you are!” Pavel shouted in Russian. She turned toward the mysterious blond man, but where he had stood was only empty space.

About The Wife Line

Human traffickers are selling young women from eastern Europe as sex slaves and killing them when they become inconvenient. Sydney Rye’s job is only to protect her client, until a mysterious, aggravating and irresistible young crusader pulls her and Blue on a far more dangerous path: taking down the whole slaving ring.

If you like Emily Kimelman’s Sydney Rye series featuring a strong female character, her canine best friend, Blue, tons of action and a dash of sex, you won’t be able to put The Wife Line down.

Start following Sydney, Blue and Van across the seamiest part of Europe right now.

About the author

Scott Bury can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has written in the Lei Crime (Torn Roots, Palm Trees & Snowflakes, Dead Man Lying, Echoes), Jet (Jet: Stealth) and Sydney Rye (The Wife Line, The Three-Way) Kindle Worlds.

His latest work is the Eastern Front trilogy: Army of Worn Soles, Under the Nazi Heel and Walking Out of War.

Get to know Scott from his:

And follow him on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.

 

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Thursday teaser: Wired Dark

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Book 4 in the Paradise Crime series launches today!

By Toby Neal

 

Tech security specialist Sophie Ang walked through the velvet-dark night, patrolling a beachfront property in Wailea on Maui. She found comfort in the familiar weight of her Glock on one hip as her hand rested on it, but she kept her arms loose, ready for action, as she scanned the area. Rocker Shank Miller’s estate was as protected as Sophie and her Security Solutions partner, Jake Dunn, could make it—but something had set off one of the property’s perimeter motion detectors, and it was Sophie’s turn to check out the disturbance.

The hammered pewter gleam of moonlight reflected off a great swath of beach and rendered Miller’s manicured lawn in shades of gray, casting ornamental plantings into black shadow. Natural stone pavers, set into the grass, made an easy route around the clustered ferns, flowering trees, and birds of paradise that ringed the grounds.

Jake had wanted to cut all the plantings way back to improve visibility and monitoring, but Miller had refused. “I didn’t spend ten million on this getaway spot so I could hide out inside a cement bunker with no view,” the rock star had said. “I come here to relax. Growing green stuff helps me relax, and so does my view. Do the best you can with those challenges, but I won’t lose either.”

Her partner never did anything by half measures, and he took Shank Miller’s safety more seriously than the man did himself. Jake had supervised the installation of a Plexiglas wall to preserve that view, a bulletproof, impenetrable and almost invisible barrier on Sophie’s left.

Sophie headed toward the corner closest to the beach where the alarm had sounded. Motion detectors, buried and almost invisible in the plantings, created frequent disturbances for their team, and Sophie was still getting used to being part of that team.

Jake took up a lot of personal space. Sometimes he made it hard for her to breathe, and it was that need for space that had driven Sophie to ask for a guest room inside the main house so that they weren’t both occupying the small cottage that had become the team’s security headquarters. The computer monitoring station had been moved from the main house out there too, and Jake stayed out there with their two backup operatives, Jesse Kanaka and Ronnie Fellowes.

Sophie reached the corner of the grounds where the alarm had gone off. Jake had wanted to put in lights that responded to the motion detectors, but Shank had put his boot-clad foot down again. “I can’t have this place lit up like a stadium every time a gecko runs across the freakin’ fence.”

That meant that the corner Sophie approached, hidden on the beach side by a clump of native bushes, was inky-dark. Sophie pulled out a powerful flashlight and shone it over the area. Illumination played over the smooth grass and shadowy foliage.

Nothing. Probably just a gecko, one of those ubiquitous Hawaiian lizards that hunted insects at night.

Sophie was moving on when the beam caught a flash of color. She turned and lit up the item.

Lying beneath a cluster of bird of paradise were a plastic bride and groom, the toys rubber-banded together, wrapped in each other’s arms.

Sophie scanned for movement along the bushes of the public beach for any sign of who might have thrown the dolls into the compound, but the area was deserted.

Nothing to see but the gleam of the moon on the ocean, nothing to hear but the sound of the surf and the rustle of a gentle night wind in the palm trees overhead.

Sophie reached into her pocket and removed a small plastic bag. She used it to pick up the figures, shining the light over a Barbie and Ken doll. The Barbie was dressed in a wedding gown, her long blonde hair braided, a veil over her face. The groom’s molded plastic hair had been colored over with Sharpie, and squiggles of black ink trailed down inside the doll’s tuxedo, representing Shank Miller’s long dark locks—and the male doll’s right hand, Miller’s guitar hand, had been sawed off.

About Wired Dark

Paradise Crime, Book 4

Paradise can’t contain a thirst for revenge.

Tech security specialist Sophie Ang returns to Maui, working alongside dynamic partner Jake Dunn to solve a series of bizarre and escalating threats against a rocker with a beach mansion. But soon, catching a crazed stalker becomes the least of Sophie’s problems: a deadly enemy is hell-bent to take her down along with anyone she cares about. Sophie’s very identity is tested as she grapples with issues of conscience and survival in a struggle that takes her to the edge of heartbreak, and beyond.

About the author

Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. After a few “stretches of exile” to pursue education, the islands have been home for the last fifteen years.

Toby is a mental health therapist, a career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her books.

Outside of work and writing, Toby volunteers in a nonprofit for children and enjoys life in Hawaii through beach walking, body boarding, scuba diving, photography, and hiking.

 Visit her on:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.

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Monday musings: When characters surprise authors, part 2

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Gae-Lynn Woods continues the discussion about how characters in books sometimes seem to take over the direction of the story. 

It’s funny for me when authors talk about creating their characters, because only a few of mine are created by me; the rest simply appear when I need them. Most of the time I have no idea where they come from, but without fail, when I need a bad guy (or a good guy), one shows up with just the right attitudes and behaviors. Perhaps because I don’t plan most of my characters, they’re always surprising me by what I learn about them.

For example, one of the relatively minor characters in The Devil of Light, Ernie Munk, started off as just a regular police officer type, and I really didn’t expect much from him. In my second novel, Avangers of Blood, I found out that he physically lost his young daughter when he released her hand for only a moment in the middle of a crowded beach. That bit of his story, along with the depth of his grief and guilt and how they drive him, completely surprised me.

Surprises in a series

The character whose personal growth has surprised me most is Maxine Leverman. She turned up out of the blue in the middle of Avengers of Blood as Cass Elliot’s best friend through school. She’s flighty and moody and impetuous—the exact opposite of my main character, Cass—and I thought she might show up occasionally through the series as a minor character. Instead, I finished Avengers of Blood and ended up having to write a book featuring Maxine, just to get her to leave me alone!

Maxine grows a lot in A Case of Sour Grapes, learning to temper her impulsiveness (a little bit) and realizing that she might not know as much as she thinks she does. I really like her and hope she’ll grow into her own series.

Characters teach their author

The fact that my characters do show up when I need them and act of their own accord in ways that drive the story forward has given me confidence in the fact that I don’t (and in fact can’t) outline. It’s always worried me that I am so incapable of outlining, but I’m learning to trust that I’m writing stories that want to be told, set in a world inhabited by characters who actively want to participate. It’s a fabulous experience.

About 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.

Get to know Gae-Lynn better:

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

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Thursday teaser: A Second Chance with Death

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A short story

By Eden Baylee

The notion that a person might make a pact with Satan is not unheard of. It’s done in exchange for things such as eternal youth, wealth, or power. And the price? Selling one’s soul, of course.

Is this scary? Not to me. Personally, I’d never bargain with the devil. I go after what I want in this life guided by my own moral compass, not by fear of where my soul will end up in the afterlife.

I’m a pragmatist and an optimist. I’m not afraid to die, nor am I all that concerned with how I die, with one exception, that is, and that’s what brings me to the topic at hand—my conversations with death.

I’ve envisioned my own funeral hundreds of times. My body lying in an open casket—friends and family strolling by to pay their final respects, talking to one another in hushed tones, with  comments that go something like this:

Everything was going her way. What a shame.

I know, what a horrible thing to happen to such a vibrant woman. She was so happy too, actually looks like she still has a smile on her face.

Yeah, but I’d hate to die like that.

Yup, and that’s what brings me to my story about my little chats with Death himself. Yes, Death to me, is male. And as men don’t scare me, death doesn’t scare me either, that is, apart from the exception I alluded to earlier.

I know I have to die sometime, and that with each day, I move closer and closer to my grave, and yet, I fight it. I keep going, I keep being, I keep staving off the inevitable for as long as I can. I know Death will overcome me eventually, but it’s not like I think about him all the time. I’m the optimistic pragmatist, remember?

So why is it then , why is it that when I steal some intimate time, some time to engage in a private act that is so naturally human, why then is Death constantly lurking in the shadows, watching me, snickering, anticipating his nasty turn with me?  If this sounds cryptic, I apologize, perhaps it’s better if I show you what I mean.

Follow me to my bedroom, and you’ll see that he’s already there waiting for me.

I masturbate on a regular basis, so you might say, I have personal chats with Death on a  regular basis too. Unlike what most people think, Death is not cold. He’s hot, very, very hot. I feel his presence in the room as I undress. He lies next to me on the bed, and his heat immediately spreads to my body.

I tell him I’m not afraid of him, and he scoffs. I touch myself in the way that I know turns him on. I feel his face nearby as I shamelessly fondle my breasts, squeezing my nipples till they jut out and practically poke him in the eye.

About “A Second Chance with Death”

This story is included in Eden Baylee’s collection, Hot Flash. 

Flash fiction is defined as short written pieces. Twenty stories and poems with an erotic bent make up this collection.

The themes of love, lust, adultery, and regret are told in different voices, sometimes with an irreverent sense of humor.

Some pieces will touch you, others will seep into your subconscious. Don’t be surprised if you flinch from the heat.

WARNING: Contains two non-erotic entries. Pun intended.

About author Eden Baylee

Eden Baylee left a twenty-year banking career to write and is now a full-time author of multiple genres.

An introvert by nature and an extrovert by design, Eden is most comfortable at home with her laptop surrounded by books. She is an online Scrabble junkie and a social media enthusiast, but she really needs to get out more often! She loves talking to readers! Connect to her via all her networks.

her BestSelling Reads author page   |     Amazon Author page    |    website   |    Facebook   |   LinkedIn   |    goodreads

And follow her on Twitter @edenbaylee.

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Monday musings: When characters surprise the writers

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Photo by Helen Haden / Flickr. Creative Commons.

Writing is a surprising art form, often for the writers themselves. Often, characters seem to come up with their own dialog, or make decisions that the writer had not planned on.

For example, Mother Tiana, a character I created late in my first novel, surprised me toward the end of The Bones of the Earth by defying the main villain with a statement about people being under spells or enchantment: “Your mind cannot be dominated unless you consent to it.”

Huh.

Other BestSelling Reads authors have had similar experiences. Here is their virtual conversation.

How have the characters you created surprised you over the years?

Raine Thomas: Even though I create detailed character sketches before I write a book, my characters love to surprise me. My character Skye, in the Daughters of Saraqael Trilogy, for example, revealed that she could teleport in the midst of me writing her book, Foretold. That completely took me by surprise, and it took the book in a wonderful new direction!

Claude Bouchard: Of the various characters in my Vigilante Series, the one who has surprised me the most is Leslie Robb, who first appeared in book five, 6 Hours 42 Minutes. Leslie, a bright, attractive, redhead of the lesbian persuasion, was an accountant employed at a bank where a heist took place. As was the case with other bank employees, hers was supposed to be a passive role, limited to that particular story.

However, Leslie turned out to have much more drive than I originally believed and pushed to the forefront to become a central character.

DelSheree Gladden: I get to know my characters as I write their story, and I’ve had many times were what I originally planned simply did not work, because my beginning idea of who is character is turns out not to be who they are at all. When writing the Date Shark Series, in book one I had a side character that was flirty, arrogant, and bit of a player. As soon as I started the second book in the series, with Guy Saint-Laurent as the main character, my entire concept of him changed. When he meets Charlotte, the connection he feels with her brings up difficult memories, reasons behind his blasé attitude about relationships and self-centered viewpoints. Those surface qualities became just that, a façade rather than his true character. What I intended to be a light and funny story turned into a deeper exploration of the hurt and pain that shapes a person.

Raine Thomas: An example of something not going as planned pertains to the end of my book, Shift (Firstborn Trilogy #2). As I neared the book’s conclusion, I realized that I had to leave a big part of the storyline as a cliffhanger leading into book three. I actually hate cliffhanger endings and couldn’t believe the characters were leading me down that path, but that’s just what they did!

Over a series of books, has the personal growth of a character surprised you in any way?

Raine Thomas: I believe (and have been told by my readers) that my writing has developed over the course of the various series I’ve written. As I’ve grown more confident in my storytelling and gotten to know my audience, my writing has tightened up and developed right along with me. While this may not be surprising to other writers, it has been a surprising, positive outcome that even applies to my life outside of writing fiction.

Claude Bouchard: By the end of 6 Hours 42 Minutes, not only had Leslie firmly made her place, she had also guaranteed herself substantial spots in future works. Since, Leslie has been a solid member of the team in each of books six to thirteen. I never saw it coming.

DelSheree Gladden: Writing Guy’s character in Shark Out Of Water (the second book in the series) taught me how important it is not to force a character into a particular box. Their story will be so much better if they’re allowed to tell it themselves.

Have your characters taught you anything?

Raine Thomas: My characters have taught me that the stories are theirs, not mine. I like to plot my novels, but every time I have, the characters have taken the story in their own direction. They’ve also inspired me, as they’re all strong and remarkable in their own ways.

Scott Bury: Many writers refer to their books as their “babies,” but it seems that the characters are the children—we create them, but then they develop minds of their own and continue to surprise, exasperate and delight us.

Claude Bouchard is based in Montreal, Canada. Two of his Vigilante novels were included in the pair of blockbuster 9 Killer Thriller anthologies, the second of which made the USA Today Bestsellers list in March 2014.

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.

DelSheree Gladden lives in New Mexico. The Southwest is a big influence in her writing because of its culture, beauty, and mythology.

Scott Bury can’t stay in one genre—his books include historical fantasy, children’s stories, paranormal romance, thrillers, mysteries and memoir.

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Thursday teaser: Place of Skulls

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By Caleb Pirtle III

AMBROSE LINCOLN watched the ragged edges of night paint the streets below and waited for the dead man to step from the shadows. They were never together, he and the dead man.

They were seldom apart.

They had never spoken.

Their eyes had not yet met.

Death was the only thing they had in common.

Often Lincoln had wondered which of them had really survived and which was destined to roam the earth in search of an empty grave.

The air around him was always thick with the acrid smell of gun smoke when the dead man was near. It burned his throat. His chest hurt. He screamed the first time he saw the man whose chest had been torn away with a hollow point slug from a 9mm handgun, his 9mm handgun. The screaming was no longer necessary.

The past held its secrets in a tightly closed fist, and only on rare occasions did the fingers of another time, another place, loosen their grasp long enough to provide faint glimpses of what was, what might have been, and what did or did not happen on the landscape of a man’s faith or his memory.

On those rare occasions, his beliefs could be shaken, even shattered, and his hopes dimmed or perhaps darkened forever. Only these words echoed from a distant past: he was wounded for our transgressions. And he had no idea who had said them or what they meant or why only those six words had slipped past the ebony wall that separated time between then and now.

Ambrose Lincoln often thought a man was the most content when he was left in the dark, past and present. He might still fear the shadows. He just had no idea what secrets lay enclosed and mostly forgotten within them.

A man was better off, he reasoned, when he didn’t know. Knowledge could condemn him, convict him, and maybe even kill him. He was wounded for our transgressions. He thought he heard a woman’s voice speaking them. But she was so far away, whoever she was, wherever she had been.

Lincoln stood alone in his small, cluttered hotel room with a stranger who had no past, at least not one worth remembering, and a future just as dark and oblique. The stranger was a man he knew well and hardly at all.

The stranger was himself.

Lincoln’s memory programmed everything he saw and heard. Nothing escaped him.

Graveyards were full of men who ignored or overlooked the things, no matter how insignificant, that could get them killed.

Yet his memory had blown a circuit five years earlier, the night he awoke in a churchyard outside the battle-scarred, charcoal ruins of a crumbling little town in Poland – Ratibor he thought it was. He possessed no wallet, no papers, no passport, no name, no memory, no past. All of his yesterdays had become as vacant as the churchyard, his mind as pitch black as the night around him.

Lincoln had closed his eyes and felt himself falling beyond the crevice of sanity and into the black abyss of a deep sleep. He wondered if the grave would be as dark, if he would ever wake up again and why his frostbitten feet hurt worse than his chest.

When morning at last jarred him awake, he lay on a pile of blankets that served as a prison hospital bed and stared for a long time into a cracked mirror that hung crookedly on a green wall across the bare, sterile room.

The confused face of an unfamiliar, broken man with dark, sullen and hollow eyes stared back at him.
It was, he thought, an ugly face, unshaven and scarred, obviously belonging to some pitiful bastard who had been cast into the drunken innards of hades to cut cards with the devil himself. What troubled him most, however, then as now, was the stranger’s face had been his own.

Lincoln closed his eyes and tried to squeeze the blur that was Poland out of his mind. But the biting cold of the snow, the pain that threatened to rupture his lungs with each ragged breath, the smell of gunpowder, the stench of death all lay upon his psyche, as visible to him as the scar on his face.

The scars did not heal.

About Place of Skulls

A man with no known past and no name has been dispatched to the deserts, ghost towns, and underbelly of drug-infested Mexico to uncover a secret that could forever change the scope and teachings of Christianity.

A DEA agent has written that he possesses the unmistakable and undeniable proof that Christ did indeed return to earth again and walk the land of the Aztecs almost fifteen hundred years after his crucifixion on the cross. But has the agent found a relic? An artifact? A long lost manuscript of the written Word? No one knows, and the agent dies before he can smuggle the secret out of an empty grave.

Ambrose Lincoln can’t dig past the charred fragments of his memory, but he must unravel the legend of Quetzalcoatl, the white-skinned, blue-eyed, god figure whose sixteenth century ministry, death, resurrection, and mystical promise to return someday to gather up his people closely parallels the Biblical story of the man called Christ. Is Quetzalcoatl merely a myth, or was he Christ Himself?

Lincoln’s quest to find the answers, he becomes involved in a rogue CIA plot to invade Mexico and wage an unholy war on drugs, financed by operatives working for Hitler’s Germany. He finds himself pursued by the same mysterious assassin who struck down the DEA agent.

Does the artifact actually exist? Who possesses it now? Lincoln battles an unseen and unknown enemy in an effort to survive long enough to discover the truth. If he doesn’t, he knows that death awaits him on the desert sands of a land held sacred for centuries by the mysterious and holy ones.

Place of Skulls is the fourth noir thriller in the Ambrose Lincoln series, which also includes:

About the author

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than seventy books, including the Ambrose Lincoln series.

 

Prior to Place of Skulls, Pirtle’s most recent novel is Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever.

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.

Pirtle has written three teleplays, and wrote two novels for Berkeley based on the Gambler series: Dead Man’s Hand and Jokers Are Wild.

Pirtle’s narrative nonfiction, Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk is a true-life book about the fights and feuds during the founding of the controversial Giddings oilfield and From the Dark Side of the Rainbow, the story of a woman’s escape from the Nazis in Poland during World War II. His coffee-table quality book, XIT: The American Cowboy, became the publishing industry’s third best selling art book of all time.

Pirtle 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.

Learn more about Caleb on his:

And follow him on Twitter @CalebPirtle

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Thursday teaser: Firebrand

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The brand-new, second Eliza Carlisle Mystery

By DelSheree Gladden

I glared at the plates as they disappeared from the order window. Or, more accurately, I glared at the person who had removed them. Danielle flashed me a venom-laden smile before turning away. The temptation to throw something at the back of her head was so hard to resist.

“Let it go, Eliza,” Saul muttered.

That was his only advice ever offered up in dealing with Danielle. He called her a queen bee. Everyone else called her much worse. “She dumped those plates back through the window on purpose.”

Saul declined to comment.

“That’s the third time tonight I’ve had to remake an order because she accidentally knocked the plate back through the window. Not to mention the food that was on the grill which she also ruined,” I pointed out. “Don’t you care that she’s wasting food?”

He turned away shaking his head and muttering under his breath.

Clearly, Saul wasn’t going to do anything about Danielle. It was up to me, as usual.

“What’d you do that’s got her so pissed off anyway?” Saul asked.

“Who says I did anything?”

Giving me a knowing look, he waited for a response.

Grunting in annoyance, I turn my attention back to the burgers on the grill. “She found out Sean invited me to his uncle’s cabin along with a bunch of other people. She’s acting like the two of us are going away for some romantic weekend. Which is stupid. Sean’s made it perfectly clear that I’m way too much trouble for him. We are strictly friends.”

Saul shook his head. “Danielle used to be the one he invited to the cabin, and it was a romantic getaway for them.”

I scoffed. Romantic? First off, I couldn’t imagine Sean actually being romantic. Second, Puck was coming. That thought inspired all kinds of mixed up emotions. Puck was handsome and fun and into me. If anything remotely romantic was going to happen for me out in the woods, it wouldn’t be with Sean. That was almost certainly not going to be the case, regardless. Puck was a player. Sort of. A nice guy, sure, but a risk and not the kind of distraction I needed while trying to survive one of the country’s toughest culinary schools and avoid my dangerous past catching up with me.

“Danielle will cool off. Ignore her.” Saul said that last part a bit more firmly than usual. He knew I came up with creative ways to ruin the meal she took home after work each night, and had never objected before. I wondered why this time he was bothering to dip his toe into our ongoing battle.

Before I could puzzle it out, a crash sounded from the dining room. It was followed up by several gasps and one startled shriek of fear. Saul groaned. I held my breath, expecting the worst. Since coming to Manhattan, I had been accused of stealing evidence in a murder investigation by a corrupt cop and been dragged into a human trafficking case by one of my culinary school classmates. Life in the big city had been anything but calm or safe. I’d had more guns pointed at me in the last month and a half than most people would see in an entire lifetime. Even the smallest hint of danger or unwelcomed excitement put me on edge.

I held my spatula out in front of me, as though it had some shielding potential, as Saul grumbled his way toward the dining room to investigate. I didn’t move a muscle until he shouted, “Someone call 911!”

Damn it! What now?

About Firebrand

There’s always something worse for Eliza Carlisle…being forced to save her nemesis is just the beginning.

Coming out on all e-tailers on August 15:

Check out the other two Eliza Carlisle cozy mysteries:

About the author

USA Today bestselling young adult and romance author DelSheree Gladden loves books—reading them and writing them.

The Southwest is a big influence in her writing because of its culture, beauty, and mythology. Local folk lore is strongly rooted in her writing, particularly ideas of prophecy, destiny, and talents born from natural abilities.

DelSheree lives in New Mexico with her husband and two children. When she is not writing, DelSheree is usually reading, painting, sewing, or working as a Dental Hygienist.

Get to know DelSheree at:

And follow her on Twitter @Delsheree.

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Thursday teaser: Make It Happen

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The brand-new 13th book in the Vigilante series

By Claude Bouchard

Les Cèdres, Quebec, 8:59 p.m.

Mohammad had left the hotel almost immediately after Al-Tashid had departed, not wishing to spend any more time in the suite than necessary under the terrorist’s surveillance. He had taken a cab to Teterboro Airport where he had filed a flight plan, had his plane fuelled and contacted the Canadian Border Services Agency with the required information relating to his arrival. He had been airborne shortly after six-thirty and touching down in Les Cèdres as the sun was setting.

Upon landing, he had been informed no CBSA officer was waiting for him so, as a CANPASS Private Aircraft member, he was free to leave. Tired, frustrated and hungry, he was pleased to avoid any further delay. Once his plane was parked and secured, he headed to the parking lot, relieved the area was mostly deserted as he simply wanted to get home.

* * * *

“There he is,” Dave murmured from behind the wheel of the mini-van parked near the entrance to the airfield.

“Start moving,” said Chris from the back of the van, phone in hand. “Let’s find out if he’s Mohammad.”

* * * *

Mohammad reached his car and popped the trunk, tossing his overnight bag in just as the telltale ringtone of the secure network sounded.

“What now?” he muttered, slipping his phone from his pocket.

Scrolling to the proper page, he tapped the Solitaire icon, pressed his thumb to the digital reader then stared in numb shock at the identity of the caller – Farooq Qureshi, who had been found dead in his apartment the week before. There had to be an explanation. Perhaps some error had been made when the New York area recruits had been added to the network.

He tapped on the flashing phone icon and said, “Yes?”

“Mohammad?” asked an unfamiliar voice.

“Who is this?” he demanded as a dark minivan turn into the parking lot.

“Is this Mohammad?” the voice asked once again.

“Who is speaking?” Mohammad repeated as the minivan stopped behind his car, feet from where he stood.

The driver stepped out and said, “CBSA. Sorry I’m late.”

Mohammad glanced at the somewhat familiar looking man, vaguely noting that though his attire was professional, it was not the usual CBSA uniform.

“I will be with you in a moment,” he snapped before turning away to tend to the mysterious caller.

In doing so, he did not see the minivan driver pull out the dart-gun, aim and shoot though he did feel the sting as the dart pierced into his upper back. He swung around in surprise and felt himself teeter as his legs turned to jelly. His phone and keys fell from his hands as he began to topple but the driver was there to catch him.

“You can’t drive in this condition,” the blurry-faced driver told him as another fuzzy man magically appeared to help lift him into the mini-van.

He felt them lay him on a cloud as a comforting darkness engulfed him though his last thought was that something might be wrong.

* * * *

“That went well,” said Dave, sliding the door shut then casually scanning the area for potential onlookers.

“Like a charm,” Chris agreed, picking up Mohammad’s phone and keys. “Let’s get out of here. I’ll follow in his car.”

About Make It Happen

A lovely summer day turns to tragedy at the Quinte Air Show when a brutal terrorist attack leaves hundreds dead or injured. Enraged and horrified by this cowardly act, the Prime Minister secretly vows that when those responsible are captured, there will be no fanfare, no public announcements, no trials. They will pay with their lives and the Discreet Activities team is mandated to make it happen…

Book 13 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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