Thursday teaser: The Girl in the Window

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By Renée Pawlish

It was the same thing, five days a week.

Caleb McCormick backed out of his driveway in his Mercedes S-class sedan. The car was black and sleek, and it shimmered in the morning light. The engine rumbled and growled, but it was a comforting sound to me, like the purr of a cat – a big cat. It was the perfect car for the perfect man, the man I looked for each morning.

The Mercedes reached the street,turned, and drove slowly past my house. I slid to the side of the window. I didn’t want him to see me watching. Not again. But I peeked out anyway.

Caleb McCormick. Thirty-three years old, a financial advisor. His dark hair neatly trimmed, one lost dark curl falling down his forehead in a sexy way. I imagined his blue eyes sparkling as he quickly donned a pair of Oakley sunglasses to ward off the early morning April sun.

Gawd, he’s gorgeous.

The Mercedes neared the corner, slowed down and disappeared. I let out a lungful of air I hadn’t realized I was holding in. The last time he’d driven by – yesterday morning a little after seven – he’d glanced my way. He’d seen me watching – not for the first time –and waved, a half-smile on his baby face. I’d lifted a hand in return and smiled back. It was our morning connection, a treasured moment. At least for me.

What did he think when he saw me, each weekday morning at the same time, standing in the window in my pink silk robe, staring out at him? It must not have bothered him – after all, he always drove by and acknowledged me in a seemingly pleasant way.

With a sigh, I moved back in front of the window and gazed down the street, where the Mercedes had just been. Then I glanced in the other direction, toward his house, and frowned. After what had happened with his wife yesterday, I needed to be careful.

About The Girl in the Window

From the bestselling author of the Reed Ferguson mystery series and the Dewey Webb historical mystery series comes an enthralling story of psychological suspense.

Five days a week, Amber watches from her window as her handsome neighbor Caleb leaves for work. In the midst of a bitter divorce, Amber longs for the seemingly perfect life Caleb and his wife Erin have.

“I’d kill for that kind of life,” Amber says.

But would she?

Perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl.

What readers are saying:

Girl in the Window echoes psychological thrillers like Girl on the Train, which I am a true fan of. I loved the suspense Ms. Pawlish creates from a slow build to a fast paced shocking ending I didn’t see coming.”—MagnoliaBelle

“I love all Renee’s books but for some reason this was my favorite. I got hooked right from the start and read it all the way through!” — Jean

“If you like suspense with twists and turns in the plot, you will love this book. Did not see the ultimate outcome if this story. You will not be disappointed by this book.” — M.

“I found this psychological suspense novel intriguing and hard to put down before the end.” E.L.

Available now on Amazon.

About the author

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

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

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

Find more about Renée and her books on

 

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New Bestseller: The Girl in the Window

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By Renée Pawlish

Available today

The new psychological thriller from BestSelling Reads member Renée Pawlish is available TODAY from Amazon and other e-tailers.

What’s it about?

From the bestselling author of the Reed Ferguson mystery series and the Dewey Webb historical mystery series comes an enthralling story of psychological suspense.

Five days a week, Amber watches from her window as her handsome neighbor Caleb leaves for work. In the midst of a bitter divorce, Amber longs for the seemingly perfect life Caleb and his wife Erin have. “I’d kill for that kind of life,” Amber says.

But would she?

Perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl.

What readers are saying:

Girl in the Window echoes psychological thrillers like Girl on the Train, which I am a true fan of. I loved the suspense Ms. Pawlish creates from a slow build to a fast paced shocking ending I didn’t see coming.” — Magnolia Belle

Get it NOW on Amazon. Coming soon to other e-tailers.

About the author

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

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

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

Find more about Renée and her books on

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Monday musings: Share your summer reading list

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Summer. Forest fires and wildfires on one side of the continent, floods on the other. World conferences on terrorism and climate change.

It’s no wonder that in summer, readers like to choose lighter fare. Romances, mysteries, thrillers. At the beach or on the dock, in the backyard hammock or on the cottage porch, we’re supposed to be reading books that don’t tax our minds and souls too much. We’re supposed to be on vacation, taking things easy, enjoying the weather and the outdoors.

But is that trope really true? Sure, I remember seeing lots of mysteries held up by people on lounge chairs by the ocean. Clive Cussler, Lee Child, the awful E.L. James, David Baldacci — thrillers and romances and books that do not ask you to think too deeply. But also, I have seen people reading more serious books, like The Girl on the Train or The Couple Next Door.

Various newspapers and blogs also recommend a wider range of books, from The American War by Omar El Akkad (if that one doesn’t make you think about our modern world, I don’t know what will). And of course, The Handmaid’s Tale is playing on TV right now.

How heavy are these books?

The thing about serious books is that many of them could be classified into a genre, which some readers and critics—and writers—describe as not as serious. Not “literary.” But many genre books have also turned out to be serious, to have an impact on the culture. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road can be seen as part of the post-apocalyptic science fiction genre, but it’s a deep, meaningful story about a father and son. Margaret Atwood has written several books, including The Handmaid’s Tale, that definitely fit into the science fiction category.

Independent authors are usually seen as definitely working within genres, and from a marketing point of view, that makes sense. The romance genre, for example, by far outsells, as a whole, every other category of fiction, including “serious” literary fiction. So do mystery and action thrillers.

Blurred lines

The thing is, the high walls between genres are also breaking down. Writers are mixing up mysteries and science-fiction, thrillers and fantasy, and let’s not forget the burgeoning paranormal romance genre.

I myself like to blur the lines between genres. I have been working intermittently on a novel that combines the spy thriller with occult horror, called Dark Clouds. I have published one chapter, the introduction, as a short story. You can find it as Dark Clouds: The Mandrake Ruse.

BestSelling Reads members, independent authors, are not only skilled within their genres, but challenge the genre definitions with books that break the rules, cross genres and keep you from putting their books down before you get to the last page. Eden Baylee’s A Snake in Paradise and Charade At Sea, for example, combine mystery with adult-oriented romance. Renée Pawlish’s Reed Ferguson series moves the noir mystery into the current century, with a heaping helping of humor. Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman have teamed up with the Scorch Road series, combining the post-apocalyptic and serious romance genres. Samreen Ahsan has created a brand new genre, paranormal romances based on Muslim themes, in her Prayer series.

And there’s more.A Silent Prayer cover

Each of these books does more than combine genres: they create something new, something exciting. A new kind of adventure for the reader.

What’s on your summer reading list?

Are you sticking with the easy reads, the reiterations of the same stories, or are you on the lookout for something new, fresh and original? Share what you want to read through the hot and quiet months, and we’ll send you a free e-book.

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Thursday teaser: Unsteady Rhythm

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House of Archer Book 2

By Raine Thomas

It took Lily a moment to register the number of people lining both sides of the walkway from the base of the booth’s stairs to the tunnel leading to the green rooms.

Metal barricades had been set up to keep the people back. A couple of the venue’s security team members stood in the walkway to ensure the more eager fans didn’t attempt to scale the barriers. Lily figured the crowd was waiting for the band.

But that couldn’t be right, she thought. This wasn’t the passage leading backstage.

“Lily!” they cried. “Lily, can I have your autograph?”

“Can I get a photo, Lily?”

She tried to mask her disbelief as the fans spotted her and started shouting, holding phones, Sharpies, and all manner of things over the barricades towards her. The noise escalated the longer she stood there next to Barney without moving. She forced herself to smile.

The walkway looked endless. Anxiety had her rubbing a hand over her stomach. She saw Spence filming her from the far end of the walkway, capturing everything for the show.

“I guess I’ll be signing a few autographs?” Lily said to Barney.

She hadn’t meant for it to come out as much like a question as it did. She handed her notebook and pen to Barney.

“That isn’t a good idea,” he said. “There isn’t enough security. The venue team didn’t plan for this.”

“Neither did I,” she replied. “Just a few, okay? I can’t have people posting that I was too stuck-up to sign a couple of autographs.”

His mouth thinned in disapproval before he nodded. He followed only a foot behind her as she did her best to make her smile look more genuine and approached the first fan.

The next fifteen minutes were a blur of signing, taking photos, and shaking hands. The crowd wasn’t shy about getting right in her face, eager for her attention. Her head pounded from the strain of incessant smiling and worrying that someone might try to stab her in the eye with their pen because they thought she was going to break up The Void. It was a relief to discover that everyone seemed genuinely supportive of her and thrilled to meet her. She wasn’t sure that made this any easier.

When they were about halfway down the path, Barney brought a hand to his earpiece and moved his head to talk into the mic at his cuff. Lily glanced at him as she signed another autograph. She secretly hoped his conversation was a reason to get her out of this. She didn’t know how the band did it night after night.

In the next instant, someone hauled her off her feet.

A man’s mouth pressed against hers.

Knowing it couldn’t be Dane, she tried to struggle. Her arms were pinned to her sides. A tongue ran along the seam of her tightly sealed lips, making her want to gag. It felt like the shocking assault lasted forever.

Then she was abruptly released. She fell hard. Her left ankle twisted under her at an awkward angle that sent pain shooting up her calf. Her teeth clacked together as she hit the ground.

About Unsteady Rhythm

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

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

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

Easier said than done…

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

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

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.

Where to find Raine: 

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Monday musings: Coloring in the literary map

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Photo credit: Porsche Brosseau (Creative Commons)

The beginning of July is the opening of a season of national celebrations. For writers and readers, it’s both an opportunity and a danger.

July 1 last Saturday was Canada Day, the celebration of the establishment of Confederation in British North America in 1867. Of course, tomorrow is the Fourth of July, the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The 14th is Bastille Day in France, the observance of the beginning of the French Revolution that eventually would make France into the democracy it is today.

Wikimedia Commons

Around the world, there are national celebrations coming up in July: Rwanda, Armenia, Algeria, Venezuela, Argentina, South Sudan and South Korea are just some of the countries are celebrating some kind of national, independence or some kind of national creation event.

July is a busy month for patriots.

Opportunity

For writers and readers, the annual national celebration is an opportunity to explore what it means to be a Canadian, American, French, South Sudani or whatever you are. To examine what makes your country what it is, to look at the successes and failures of the past, the opportunities and threats. To connect with fellow citizens, and to engage with others around the world.

Danger

The danger is obvious: an orgy of embarrassing boosterism, of “we’re the best,” and disrespect and rejection of other countries, cultures and ways of life. Even more dangerous is the insistence of a particular definition of a single, narrow aspect of a culture as the only legitimate one.

When this becomes the basis of a story, book or movie, it’s embarrassing. When it becomes the basis of a political movement, it’s destructive.

So what’s the solution? To me, it’s always been to broaden my view, to learn more about as many different people, countries and cultures as I can, to seek the commonality and the constructive everywhere. It’s one reason I like to travel.

Photo: Wilerson S. Andrade Creative Commons License

The previous editor of this blog, Kathleen Valentine (RIP) had a project to read a book from a different country every week or month or so. It’s a great idea, and something I have been toying with for some time.

I have read books by authors from

  • Canada (well, duh)
  • the U.S.A. (hard to avoid)
  • Mexico (completing my North American coverage)
  • the U.K. (also hard to avoid)
  • France
  • Germany
  • Columbia
  • Russia
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Australia
  • Israel
  • Yemen
  • Spain
  • Sweden

Fifteen out of 196. Not a good proportion, so I am going to start trying to expand that.

How many countries can you color in on your literary map?

What about you, readers?

If we were to color in countries on a map where BestSelling Reads member authors live, we’d have four to shade. This is something we’re working on expanding.

But what about you? How many countries can you color in on your map of literary exploration?

Share in a Comment.

 

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Thursday teasers: Pick your summer beach reads

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The long weekend is coming up fast, with summer vacation season following immediately. And BestSelling Reads has perfect summer reads for to load onto your e-reader and take down to the beach, dock, hammock or patio for those long, lazy days.

Wine, women, and song — what could possibly go wrong?

A Cass Elliot companion mystery novel by Gae-Lynn Woods.

 

Discover how Cassidy Jones gains superpowers in her first action-packed adventure.

The first Cassidy Jones adventure by Elise Stokes.

 

A con man came to town to steal their money, but a beautiful woman stole his heart.

Book 1 in the Boom Town Saga by Caleb Pirtle III.

 

The past and the present collide with stunning results in the latest Reed Ferguson mystery.

A Reed Ferguson mystery by Renee Pawlish.

 

An artistic voyage in crime.

A James Blake art-crime mystery by Seb Kirby

 

A secret can tear you apart or bind you forever…

A love story by D.G. Torrens.

 

 

One of the boys of summer meets his match in this captivating baseball romance. 

A New Adult novel by Raine Thomas. 

 

Messing with Chris Barry’s crowd will result in dire consequences. 

A Vigilante series crime thriller by Claude Bouchard.

 

Maui is a perfect retirement home for a once-famous singer—until he’s found dead. But is it murder?

Dead Man Lying

A Lei Crime Kindle World mystery by Scott Bury.

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Seven characteristics of successful #writers that cannot be taught

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By Toby Neal

This post originally appeared on Toby Neal’s blog on September 21, 2016.

Seven characteristics of successful writers cannot be taught—but they can be learned and developed until they become the habits that are the bedrock of a successful artist practice in any field.

  • The successful writer is a keen observer of everything around him. Writers notice things: the way a closet smells of cedar, mothballs, and the unique stench of crumbling old photographs. They see the gilt hairs on a centipede, the gleam of a lost marble in the grass. They feel the chill of dried sweat on the inside of a parka—and everything, simply everything, is something that might be useful for story.
  • The successful writer is dangerously curious. Curiosity is a quality that cannot be faked or taught—but it can be cultivated. Curiosity drives the questioning mind to relentlessly ask: what if? Why? How does this work? Seeking answers is the stuff of story, legend, art and invention—and while not every question may be of interest, an inquiring mind can be nurtured (particularly in children. But that’s a topic for another day.)
  • The successful writer has talent plus passion. Talent cannot be faked. Some people just have an innate adeptness with words, with paint, with a musical instrument—they perform in their area of passion easily, gracefully, naturally. But those who succeed don’t just have talent—they can’t NOT do their art. Oh, the stories I could tell on this one. My early ambition to be a writer was actually crushed by the careless comment of an adult I respected at a party before I left for college. “What? You want to be a writer? You’ll never make a living doing that.” I was forty before I began to really put that all-to-common sound bite behind me, and for a while I grieved for all the time lost. Eventually, though, I could see all the ways that I was writing all of my life, and none of it was wasted. Even when a creative’s sublimating, their passion oozes out in that church newsletter, that nursery mural, that ditty on the trash can at the bus stop. They must, and they will, come what may—and eventually the universe shapes itself to support that unyielding passion.
  • The successful writer learns from criticism (but never gives up.) Rejection is inherent to any creative enterprise. As my editor Kristin Weber said, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” Creative fields are also filled with what Julia Cameron, in her groundbreaking The Artist’s Way, calls “shadow artists.” These are blocked creatives, who, instead of doing their own art, have instead become the tastemakers, the critics, the professors and teachers, the reviewers. That’s not to say everyone in these roles is a shadow artist—no, far from it! But you’ll know the shadow artist by the brutality and cruelty of their attack, the mean-spirited belittlement of their judginess. They cannot hide their bitter jealousy, and its toxic venom burns the tender young artist. Put on your armor, take your hits—and be humble. Learn from the criticism, do that next edit, go the extra mile to perfect the work with grace and thanks—but never let anyone’s bad review make you give up.
  • The successful writer is not afraid to be alone. Art is, and writing particularly, a solitary pursuit. Even co-writing, which I’m doing now, is still me on my side of the world writing my words alone, and my co-author on hers writing her words, both of us dumping them into a shared story (alone) and then trying to make it all hang together (which can definitely be harder than working alone!) A taste for one’s own company is very much a characteristic of the successful writer. You can learn to do this by taking small retreats and learning to sit with the silence, learning to build an inner self sufficiency—and the writing or other art will deepen as a result.

    My work area, surrounded by special objects.

  • The successful writer focuses and finishes. It’s not enough to flit through life, beginning novels, getting forty pages in, and abandoning them out of boredom (as I did.) It takes commitment to focus, persist, follow the rabbit-trail of an idea, capture and nurture it, weed, water and feed it, trim, groom, and harvest the fruit of it—even if that particular novel ends up in a drawer, becoming fertilizer for the next one. Focusing and finishing are important habits that separate the wannabes from the doing-its. Learn to focus and finish, even if it doesn’t come naturally—there are apps, books, techniques available. (Look up Pomodoro Method, and the book Steal Like an Artistby Austin Kleon, for ideas.)
  • The successful writer is persistent. The single greatest characteristic needed for success in any creative field is persistence. It can make up for a multitude of sins, including lack of talent, having no ideas, being a sellout, an idiot, a messed-up neurotic with a mental health disorder, a drunk or a dilettante. If you refuse to give up, and just keep coming to the page day after day after day, you will improve. You will succeed in becoming the best writer you can be.

As I write this, I am on vacation in the wilds of British Columbia, a location I chose because of its optimal writing opportunities and with which my family cooperated because they love nature too, and fishing, and trees and eagles and the sound of the tide turning. But today I am happily alone, delighted with the idea of a long stretch of uninterrupted writing before me, and amazed that its my writing paying for it all. I wish I’d known thirty years ago what I know now, and share with you freely. But only you can believe in yourself and your passion enough to make room for it to flourish. I hope you will.

Toby Neal was raised on Kauai in Hawaii and makes the Islands home after living elsewhere for “stretches of exile” to pursue education. Toby enjoys outdoor activities including bodyboarding, scuba diving, photography and hiking as well as writing. A mental health therapist, Toby credits that career with adding depth to the characters in the LeiCrime Series.

Get to know Toby on her:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.

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Thursday teaser: Tears of Endurance

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By D.G. Torrens

Ben felt his mobile phone vibrating. It was Arianna; he pressed the reject call button and turned his phone off. He couldn’t face anyone right now. He climbed out of the taxi and walked into his apartment building in a daze. He caught the lift to the top and let himself into his apartment. Charlie walked slowly over to Ben, not his usual bounding self. “You already know, don’t you, boy?” Ben slid down the side of the door and sat on the floor. Charlie lay beside him and rested his head on Ben’s lap, looking up at Ben with his big sad eyes and whimpering.

An hour passed by before Ben realised he was still sitting on the floor. Nothing seemed to matter anymore, time was inconsequential now. He went into the kitchen and reached for the whisky bottle sitting on the top shelf of the cupboard. Grabbing a glass, he walked out on to the balcony. He just wanted to forget the day, he wanted it to melt away like a bad dream. He gulped down the first glass in one go and then poured another, then another and then another. He wasn’t feeling much of anything by the time dusk was setting in. He felt numb and it felt good. Devoid of feeling for now, he walked back into the lounge and put a CD on, playing it full blast.

About Tears of Endurance

A secret can tear you apart … or bind you forever. For Arianna Ferria, a satisfying and challenging life as an art gallery owner takes an unexpected turn into burning romance when she falls for the handsome and successful Ben Fielding. Soon, their relationship blossoms into more than she could ever imagine. But when a black secret comes crashing down around them, their love faces the ultimate test as they come to grips with a tragic fate that will bring you to tears … Tears of Endurance.

Find it on Amazon.

About the author

D.G. Torrens is the author of 14 books, including the bestselling trilogy, Amelia’s Story #1, Amelia’s Destiny #2 and Amelia The Mother #3. This is an emotion-charged true story that the author wrote for her daughter.

Born in England, passionate about writing, D.G. Torrens is a mother, blogger and prolific writer. In 2013, her works were recognized by BBC Radio WM, where she has given several live interviews in the BBC studios in Birmingham, UK. Thereafter, D.G. became a regular Headline Reviewer for the radio show for the next 12 months.

Get to know Dawn on her:

and follow her on Twitter @torrenstp.

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Monday musing: Writing, like life, depends on which road you take

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By Caleb Pirtle III

This post originally appeared in Caleb and Linda Pirtle’s blog on February 22, 2017.

Writing is like life. You can take any road you want. Each has a different story.

Each choice has a consequence you have to live with for the rest of your life.

“WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?” I asked the old man sitting in the back chair at the back table of a writer’s conference.

He looked at me strangely, a puzzled expression on his face.

“Writing?” he asked.

“Writing a novel,” I said.

“Do you know anything about life?” he asked.

“Not a lot.”

He shrugged as though I was helpless, and he was probably right.

“Learn about life,” he said, sipping on a free cup of cold coffee. “Then you’ll know how to write a novel.”

He paused and watched a spider meander aimlessly across the ceiling.

The speaker droned on.

Hadn’t said anything yet.

Doubted if he would.

“It’s all about choices,” the old man said.

“Life?” I asked.

“Novels, too,” he said. “Stories are about the choices we make. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

“What kind of choices?” I wanted to know.

“When I was a young man,” he said, “I could go to work, or I could go to college. I had a choice to make.”

“What’d you do?”

“Went to work.” He shrugged again. “Couldn’t afford college.”

I forgot the speaker.

I gave the old man my full attention.

“If I hadn’t gone to work,” he said, “I would have never gone to Oklahoma City.”

He grinned.

“If I hadn’t gone to Oklahoma City,” he said, “I would have never gone into the Boots and Saddles bar.”

The old man leaned forward, his elbows on the table.

“If hadn’t gone in the bar,” he said, “I would have never met Mary Ann McClure.”

He was cleaning out the cellar of his memory now.

“If I had never met Mary Ann McClure,” he said, “I would have never quit my job and took the train to Omaha.”

“Why the train?” I asked.

“Didn’t have a car.”

“Why did you leave Oklahoma City?”

“Mary Ann McClure was a married woman.” He took another sip of his coffee. “I had a choice to make. I could stay, or I could run.”

“Was she worth fighting for?” I asked.

“She wasn’t worth dying for.”

“You think her husband would have killed you?” I wanted to know.

“He had a choice to make,” the old man said. “He could shoot me, or he could forget it, forgive Mary Ann, and let the whole sordid thing go.”

“He didn’t let it go, I guess.”

“Shot at me twice.”

“Did he hit you?”

“He wasn’t much of a lover, Mary Ann told me. He was an even worse shot.”

“What happened to Mary Ann?” I asked.

“She had a choice to make,” the old man said. “She could stay with him or leave.”

“Where would she go?”

“Certainly not with me.”

“How about divorce?”

“That was his choice.”

“What did he decide?”

“He and Mary Ann took a second honeymoon to Estes Park in the Rockies,” he said. “Love is a wonderful thing. So is forgiveness. They went hiking early one morning. She came back. He didn’t.”

“She kill him?”

“She said he fell.”

“Did they ever find the body?”

“The Ranger had a choice to make,” the old man said. “He could investigate a crime or spend the night with his primary suspect.”

“What’d he do?”

“Never found the body.”

“Anybody ever look for it?” I asked.

“No reason to.”

“Why not?”

“The missing man was never reported missing.”

The old man grinned.

The speaker was through.

And so was he.

I looked at him strangely, a puzzled expression on my face.

“Do you expect me to believe all of that?” I asked.

“Don’t care if you do,” he said. “Don’t care if you don’t.”

His grin grew wider.

He stood up and ambled toward the back of the room for another cup of coffee.

“That’s the choice you’ll have to make,” he said. “When you come to a crossroad, it’s all about choices.”

“How will I know which road to take?”

“Doesn’t matter,” he said. “There is no wrong choice, but each choice has a consequence you have to live with for the rest of your life.”

Those were the last words I heard him say.

I waited for him.

There were other questions I wanted to ask.

But he was like the man on the mountain.

He didn’t come back.

In my Ambrose Lincoln series, Ambrose never knows which road he took until it’s too late.

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than seventy books, including four noir thrillers in the Ambrose Lincoln series: Secrets of the Dead, Conspiracy of LiesNight Side of Dark and Place of Skulls. Secrets and Conspiracy are now audiobooks on audible.com. His 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 for major networks. His 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 in Texas. From the Dark Side of the Rainbow is the story of a woman’s escape from the Nazis in Poland during World War II. His coffee-table 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.

Get to know Caleb on his:

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Thursday teaser: Under the Nazi Heel

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Book 2 in the Eastern Front trilogy

By Scott Bury

Chapter 10: The heel grinds

Nastaciv, July 1942

Maurice woke at noon the day after the night raid. Hot air came in through the open window and he felt sticky with sweat. After washing, he found his mother in the sweltering barn, tending her still.

“Bad news from the villages around,” she said when he came in, without looking up at him. She put more fuel into the little furnace, her brow furrowed. A soft gurgle came from somewhere in the still, and she tapped the copper pipe that led to the first collecting barrel.

The heat from the furnace under the still made Maurice dizzy. “Come outside and tell me.” He stepped out and waited for Tekla to finish fussing over her vodka and follow him. Outside, a slight breeze relieved some of the heat of the summer sun.

“What did you hear?” he asked finally, lighting a cigarette.

“Young Yulia Evanyshyn from Yospivka went missing last night. And a man named Yurchik was killed. People buried him here in Nastaciv secretly at night.” As she looked up at him, Maurice felt like her eyes were drilling into his head. “You’re smoking too much lately.”

“Really? I hadn’t noticed.”

“Where were you all night?”

“It’s best if you don’t know that.” Maurice took one more drag, then threw the half-smoked cigarette to the ground and stomped it with his heel.

“They say the Germans in Seredynky are hopping mad,” Tekla said, closing the barn door.

Maurice helped her push it closed. “Who says?

“People.” She latched the door and walked toward her beet field.

“We better go to the village and find out what people are saying.”

“You go. I have work to do here.”

Vasyl was sitting at Komorski’s café as usual, but outside on the step. “Hey, Maurice,” he said as Maurice sat beside him. “Did you hear about Seredynky?”

“Not much. What did you hear?”

“The Germans have burned down five houses and executed three men. They sent their families away, to camps, they say.”

Despite the sun beating on the back of his neck, Maurice felt cold. “Why?” came out like a rasp.

“Partisans attacked last night, they say. They killed five German soldiers at the garrison there, so the commander ordered one house burned for each man killed. He shot the fathers of each house himself. One of them had a pretty, young wife and they say he has her in his quarters now, where he’s using her for his own sick pleasure.” Vasyl spat into the dirt. “Bastards.”

Maurice stood, feeling himself tremble from head to foot. He went into Komorski’s little house and found the café owner sitting at his own table, his head in his hands. A plain bottle of clear liquid sat on the table, beside a shot glass. “Is it true what they’re saying about Seredynky?” Maurice asked.

Komorski looked pale. He smoothed his hair and spoke to the table. “The Germans set the first house on fire at dawn. They didn’t even bother giving the people inside a warning to get out. They shot the father in front of his three children.”

“How do you know this?”

“The brother of one of the men shot came down here a few hours ago. His name was Loboda, and he was my cousin.” With shaking hands, Komorski poured a shot from the bottle, slopping some of the homemade whiskey onto the table. He threw the drink into his mouth and swallowed. He tried to pour another shot, but his hands could not keep the bottle’s mouth over the glass. Maurice took the bottle and poured for him.

“Yurchik was killed and buried secretly last night, too,” Komorski continued. “He lived here, in this village. He was my friend. It won’t take the Germans long to work out the connection.” He looked up, finally, at Maurice. “Are they going to come here, Maurice? How many houses will they burn in Nastaciv? How many men will they shoot? How many girls are they going to rape?”

About Under the Nazi Heel

For Ukrainians in 1942, the occupying Germans were not the only enemy.

Maurice Bury was drafted into the Red Army just in time to be thrown against the invading Germans in 1941. Captured and starved in a POW camp, he escaped and made his way home to western Ukraine, where the Nazi occupiers pursued a policy of starving the locals to make more “living space” for Germans.

To protect his family, Maurice joins the secret resistance. He soon finds the country faces multiple threats. Maurice and his men are up against Soviet spies, the Polish Home Army and enemies even closer to home.

Experience this seldom seen phase of World War 2 through the eyes of a man who fought and survived Under the Nazi Heel.

Get it on Amazon.

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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