Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Guest Author: Corey Lynn Fayman

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What inspired you to write Border Field Blues?

The inspiration for Border Field Blues happened many years ago, when my wife and I first stumbled on Border Field State Park while out for a Sunday drive. It’s a rarely visited California landmark along the San Diego-Tijuana border in the most southwesterly corner of the continental United States. It was a rare combination of place – beautiful and forlorn. There was only a single rusty fence separating the border at that time, a flimsy chain link structure, where separated families met to pass food, money, and conversation through the rusted links.

I originally set the climactic action of my first Rolly Waters mystery, Black’s Beach Shuffle, there, but the location didn’t really fit the scope of the book, so I dropped it. I found a way to build the second book around the park, although the plot of Border Field Blues ended up a long way from where it originally began. I had the title figured out at least a year before I started writing it.

2. Border Field Blues is the second novel in the Rolly Waters mystery series. What can you tell us about the first Rolly Waters mystery, Black’s Beach Shuffle

Believe it or not, my first idea was to write a dark, detective/noir musical. I’d been a musician for many years and had also worked in professional theatre as a sound designer. That was my background. Fortunately, I gave up on the musical idea pretty quickly. I knew it had to be a novel.

Black’s Beach Shuffle came out of my time working for MP3.com, a famous (or infamous, depending on your view) internet start-up that had the biggest technology IPO in history at the time it went public. Two years later, it lost one of the biggest copyright suits in history and about a year later was sold to Vivendi/Universal. I started outlining the book while I was still working there.

Many of the details of EyeBitz.com, the internet start-up in the book, were based directly on my experience at MP3.com and the whole environment of a well-funded tech start-up. We were a legitimate business, however. The inspiration for the criminal chicanery in the book came from a start-up called Pixelon. You can read about the company on Wikipedia – a complete disaster, and scam, from start to finish.

3. When Border Field Blues begins, Rolly’s friend Max asks him for help finding the eco-vandals who destroy a local bird preserve. Rolly is reluctant to begin this investigation, which turns out to be much more than eco-vandalism. How would you characterize Rolly as a private investigator and as a person?

There were two choices I made right away about Rolly. He was an over-the-hill musician, a guy with solid guitar skills, who didn’t quite make it to the big leagues due to personal problems and just plain bad luck. I suppose this is partly my own story (although I play keyboards), but I wanted his character to be a tribute to all the people I played with over the years, some great, great musicians who, for a variety of reasons, didn’t continue on as professionals. And also for those who have continued on, scraping by, but still playing professionally.

My second choice was that Rolly would not be “hard-boiled.” He’ll never carry a gun. He’s soft around the middle. A high-school friend of mine who’d become a private investigator was really the inspiration for this character. He was one of the last people you’d imagine as a tough private-eye, at least according to classic noir and “Hollywood” versions. My friend explained to me that if he had a case that became threatening to him personally in any way, he was basically done – time to quit and turn it over to the police. But Rolly can’t do that. He’s too stubborn and prideful. And he hates it when somebody tells him he can’t do something.

Also, Rolly doesn’t surf. Tried it once; never again for him.

4. Both Black’s Beach Shuffle and Border Field Blues take place in San Diego. How integral is San Diego to the Rolly Waters mysteries and what made you choose it as the setting for the series?

I was born in San Diego and I’ve lived here most of my life. I wanted to capture some of the “other” side of San Diego, the part that’s never in the tourist brochures, to give a feel for what it’s like to live in America’s Finest City. It’s a great place. I love living here, but we’re not just a bunch of beach bums and surfers. I came across a contest recently, sponsored by one of the local publications, asking people to describe San Diego in three words. I came up with these: beautiful, intelligent, constipated.

5. Can you describe some of the research you did when you were writing Border Field Blues?

I drove down to South County and the border a lot. I also drove and hiked through parts of the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park. It’s really an amazing place, so many different “streams” if you will, flowing into it.

The largest border crossing in the world is at the Tijuana-San Diego. It’s packed with traffic every single day, yet only a mile or two away is a natural bird preserve and a place where you can ride horses on the beach. But even at the border, the political issues are ever present, with its big iron fence that goes all the way out into the ocean. There are also many farms in the area. You can get some of the best strawberries you’ve ever tasted.

I also did a lot of research on the history of Border Field State Park. The story that Max tells about Pat Nixon’s visit is completely true. It’s amazing to think that a Republican first lady was extolling the virtues of “getting rid of this fence” forty years ago, especially compared to where we are now.

The last important piece of research I did was about the international trade in human smuggling. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but it’s mind-boggling how international the underground slave trade and sex trafficking has become and how many girls and young women are victims of it. A good place to learn more about this (and do something about it) is The Polaris Project (http://www.polarisproject.org/).

6. Are you working on another Rolly Waters mystery? If so, what can you tell us about it?

The working title for my next book is Slab City Rockers. It plays off the desert area to the east of San Diego, taking for its inspiration the real-life, off-the-grid community of Slab City, which has its own concert stage, 24-hour library, and churches located in the Anza-Borrego desert.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 30, 2013

San Diego Musician and Multimedia Designer 
Corey Lynn Fayman Releases 
Border Field Blues, Second Novel in 
Rolly Waters Mystery Series

San Diego, CA – Award-winning author and multimedia designer, Corey Lynn Fayman, announces the release of Border Field Blues (ISBN 9781477600023), the second mystery in the crime series featuring San Diego private investigator, Rolly Waters. Border Field Blues, winner of the 2013 Hollywood Book Festival Award for Genre-Based Fiction, follows the 2006 release of Fayman’s critically-acclaimed first novel, Black’s Beach Shuffle (ISBN 9780595402670). 

When eco-vandals destroy the bird nesting grounds at San Diego’s Border Field Park preserve, Rolly Waters’ friend, Max, hires him to follow the tracks left behind. Feeling uncertain about nabbing the perpetrators, Rolly begins his due diligence, crossing paths with a hostile border vigilante, a tormented vaquero, and an aging rock groupie. A menacing house call from a scalpel-wielding orderly in pursuit of a prostitute confounds Rolly’s case even further. When police detective Bonnie Hammond hands him a coroner’s report and photos of the nude corpse of a teenage girl, he knows his case has turned deadly. Rolly and Bonnie team up to locate the killer in an investigation that takes them through the seedy night clubs of San Diego and the dangerous underworld of Mexican border smugglers and sex traffickers.

A rollicking Southern California crime novel, Border Field Blues merges old-school detective story-telling with the modern underworld of illegal immigration, nativist extremists, and downtown blues clubs in the Caba region of San Diego. Honest and unassuming, Rolly Waters struggles with his identity as a former musician, while he attempts to recover from his alcohol-fueled rock and roll past. A colorful cast of local characters fleshes out this engaging mystery, which takes Rolly and the reader on a fast-paced ride through back roads filled with prostitution, murder, and record label intrigue. 

“Border Field Blues was inspired by a Sunday drive with my wife, Maria,” said Fayman. “We came upon Border Field State Park, a run-down area on the California – Mexico border directly across from the famous Tijuana Bull Ring. At that time, a flimsy chain link fence delineated the border line, where separated families stood on either side exchanging news, food, and money. The area is now reinforced with two gigantic fences and high-tech camera equipment, but I knew when I first saw it that Rolly’s next investigation would happen there.” 

Corey Lynn Fayman has been a professional musician, songwriter, sound designer, educational technologist, and multimedia developer. He holds a B.A. in English, with a specialization in creative writing and poetry, from UCLA and an M.A. in Educational Technology from San Diego State University. Fayman spent three years as a sound technician and designer at the nationally lauded Old Globe Theater, where he received several nominations and a Drama-Logue Award for his theatrical sound design work. He has worked as the multimedia group manager at MP3.com, which provided the setting for the nefarious activities among the high-tech industrial parks of San Diego’s Golden Triangle in his first novel, Black’s Beach Shuffle.  He currently lives with his wife in San Diego, where he teaches college-level interactive design and multimedia and is writing the third novel in the Rolly Waters mystery series. 

For more information on Corey Lynn Fayman or Border Field Blues, please visit: www.coreylynnfayman.com or www.amazon.com.

For further information, please contact:
Paula Margulies Communications
8145 Borzoi Way
San Diego, CA 92129
T: 858-538-2047
paula@paulamargulies.com
www.paulamargulies.com

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Book Spotlight: Stargazing from Nowhere (Stargazing from Nowhere Series) by Isabel Thomas and Marilyn Thomas

Stargazing from Nowhere Series

Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Do Art Publishing; 1 edition
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0988044803
ISBN-13: 978-0988044807
Amazon Link

Synopsis:

Kristen Morgan’s blog is about to get her into trouble.  Deep trouble.

Online, she is known as “Stargazer” from the popular Stargazing from Nowhere blog, while in real life she is a regular sixteen-year-old high school student.  This online anonymity is quite liberating, allowing her to be completely honest, and to not worry about whether or not her mother would make her shut it down (she would). 

Kristen’s favorite topic to blog about is popular culture.  Through a twist of fate, Rising Tide, the band she has bashed the most online, ends up in her small town, which sends Kristen into an excited panic.

To continue gathering fresh material for her blog, she poses as a fan.  After sneaking into Rising Tide’s private party, she comes face to face with the band’s drummer, Michael Stevens, who happens to be even more gorgeous in person than she cares to admit.  Something unexpected also happens to her when she meets him: she becomes giddy, nervous, and inarticulate.  

Kristen realizes that her interest in Michael has nothing to do with her blog, and everything to do with her heart.  

As Kristen and Michael grow closer, does she have to make a choice between blog or boyfriend?  Which will she choose...or is the choice made for her?

Visit www.stargazingfromnowhere.com

Excerpt:

How many rules would you break to meet the rock star of your dreams?

And would it be enough to make him notice you?


The breath caught in my throat, and I couldn’t move nor breathe. All of a sudden, he was in my line of vision.

Sitting.

Talking.

Looking like a regular guy, but an incredibly hot one, the kind of guy you don’t see very often, and when you do, you go weak in the knees for. He looked healthy and lean, and his face was even more stunningly beautiful up close. When the band first appeared on the music scene, I had developed a really big crush on him, but it seemed to have fizzled out over time. If I had any doubt as to whether or not my crush on him had totally left me, tonight I knew for sure that it hadn’t. It was surprisingly overpowering, multiplied by a million times what it once had been.

I stood motionless, knees still too weak to take another step. I felt like a fly on the wall, but I just couldn’t turn away from hearing what Michael had to say.

“If we like The Doors, it means that I think that I’m like Jim Morrison. My fans won’t like it,” Bryce complained.

Michael stood as if to leave and I felt my face get very red. If this was how I was going to handle being in the same room with him, then I certainly couldn’t handle talking to him. Maybe all the adults in my life were right, and having a blog was a bad idea: good thing I had never told them that I had one. Maybe I would stop my blog altogether now because I was clearly a fake, buckling under the pressure of being at a party like this.

Ronnie passed by me without so much as a glance my way. He went up to where Bryce was sitting, and patted him on the back, “Jim Morrison, ah man, that was one cool dude. Do you think he’s really dead?”

I knew I needed to glance away from Michael and the others from time to time so that I wouldn’t get caught eavesdropping, but I found it hard to pull my attention away from them. Occasionally, I did manage to force myself to look away so that it didn’t look like I was spying, which I totally was.

“Every night, it’s me out there,” Bryce continued, getting up. “You can’t understand the kind of pressure I’m always under. It’s easier for you, you’ve got your drums to hide behind.”

“I’m not hiding,” Michael said walking towards him, stopping mere inches away. It looked like they were about to push and shove each other.

“Not again, you two. Seriously, you need to start getting along like before. We don’t have time for fighting,” Dave said, appearing from nowhere and coming between them.

Could their music be a reflection of this fractured relationship? Or could their recent lack of musical success be putting a strain on their friendship? Maybe I would take a poll on my blog to see what my readers thought. So far, I, myself, had no clue, but I was getting closer to finding out.

Michael sat back down again, across from Dave and Ronnie. Bryce stormed off, taking his pride, and his drink with him. Still obviously agitated, he barely noticed bumping into me while making his escape, completely unaware of the fact that he almost spilled his drink on me.

I looked back up, and the weird thing was, nobody else had noticed either. I was completely invisible to these people. For some reason, this made me feel discouraged, and I felt momentarily sorry for myself.

“Have you met anyone yet?” Maggie’s voice startled me.

When I turned to see her, she was beaming.

“Not exactly,” I said, returning towards the safety of the caterer’s table, Maggie trailing behind.

“Have you or haven’t you met any of them yet?” Maggie asked, a little too loudly. I noticed people near us quizzically stare at me. So I wasn’t invisible. What a perfect time to find out.

“Are you trying to blow my cover?” I whispered.

“Try the turnips,” the caterer suggested, turning a corner of the table to approach us. “It took me years to learn how to design them like this. I’m trying to do the same with potatoes.”

“Neat. Thank you,” Maggie said, helping herself to a turnip. “What are you waiting for?”

“Give me a minute,” I pleaded, but I actually felt that I needed many more minutes.

“I didn’t expect you to be so nervous,” she said, watching me intently.

“I’m not in the least bit nervous,” I countered.

“You have your questions planned out, right? I mean, that is why we came here, isn’t it?”

“I do, but I’m getting a lot from eavesdropping.”

“You can’t be serious,” Maggie said, looking kind of irritated, before moving her focus to the corner where Michael was sitting, across from Ronnie and Dave. She nudged her head in his direction. “Hey, isn’t that Michael Stevens?”

Of course it was. Only one guy looked like that. Acted like that. Was like that.

Surely, she wasn’t expecting me to walk over to him. “So?”

She took my arm and pulled me alongside her as she made a beeline for Michael. I tried to protest as quietly as I could in order to avoid drawing any further attention to us. Sometimes, she could really be forceful, especially when you least expected her to be.

“Three of the guys are sitting right there. It’s perfect,” she reminded me as she kept a firm hold on my arm. “What are you waiting for?”

“I already told you. The right moment,” I whispered, managing to pull away.

“Which is now,” Maggie said quietly, stepping behind me.

“Right,” I said, totally trying to convince myself that I could do this. Michael was a mere few feet away, but his attention was focused in another direction, and he was completely oblivious to me. I could leave, and he wouldn’t even know I had been there. I was secretly in favor of turning back around because I didn’t think I had the nerve to go right up to him and introduce myself. I was much too shy, which was one reason why my blog had been so good for me.

Maggie had her hands on my shoulders, as if I were a boxer and she was my trainer, and we were about to begin the most important fight of our career. “You’re behaving so awkwardly that they’ll buy it. You’re totally acting like a jittery fan with a huge crush on one of them.”

“Oh, no,” I said, horrified.

“Oh, yes,” Maggie said, her hands gripping my shoulders.

Suddenly, her hands moved to my upper back, where she gave me a slight shove, which was enough to knock me off balance because I was already so jittery, and it was so unexpected. As I stumbled forward, I tried to regain my balance, moving awkwardly forward, straight towards Michael. When he saw me wobbling towards him, he only had time to watch as I continued stumbling awkwardly towards him. When our eyes met for a moment, we both knew where I was heading, but it was like everything was moving in slow motion, and we were powerless to stop it.

He broke my fall, or more accurately, his lap did. I lay face up spread across his lap.

“Whoa!” Michael said, looking down at me in bewilderment. “Are you okay?”

I smiled at him. “I’m great!”

We both looked at one another for what felt like a long moment. I couldn’t help but admire his chiseled face, and the warm brown shade of his eyes. He smelled nice too. I inhaled deeply, but discreetly, I’d hoped.

His lap was really comfortable, but he began trying to move me off it. Oh, yeah. I knew there was something I had forgotten to do—get off of him.

“Sorry,” I murmured, awkwardly trying to sit up.

While I tried getting off his lap gracefully, it was more like I was a calf stuck in the mud because no matter which way I moved, I seemed unable to get up, sinking instead, back into his lap again.

Each failed attempt brought more awkwardness, as I grew aware of several heads turning to watch us. I’ve found that a solution for an awkward situation is to break it with a distraction, so I started talking. “I have all your records. And your videos, too.”

As soon as the words had escaped me, I knew that I was sounding like an overly-devoted fan. Even if this had been true at one point, now I was a mature fifteen-year-old, too sophisticated to be merely a fan. I suddenly wanted Michael to see me as a girl, someone on equal footing with him, but I feared that I looked and sounded adoringly pathetic.

“Thank you,” Michael said, lifting up his hands, allowing me full freedom to maneuver myself off his lap.

“You look the same up close,” I thought out loud. Some thoughts are better left in your head. Although he looked at me with kindness, he couldn’t hide his disinterest. Was he bored of me? Seriously though, what did he expect me to say to him in such a brief exchange? Was I supposed to be discussing serious matters or offer my insights into meaningful things after having fallen onto his lap, and while struggling to get back up?

I guess he lost faith in my ability or willingness to move off him because he tucked an arm under my knees, and placed another one around my waist, carefully sliding me off his lap, and onto the couch next to him. I sat back, and faced Ronnie and Dave, who had been sitting on the couch opposite us, watching curiously.

“Hi,” I said, smiling across at them.

They nodded back.

“Do I know you?” Ronnie asked, his brows drawn together as he stared at me.

Oh no. Had he remembered me from the TV taping when I’d ask Michael about Evangeline? I had thought that the studio lighting had helped conceal me, but maybe it hadn’t. Or maybe he had seen me and my beauty mask on TV when I’d won the tickets to the taping?

I had managed to make a fool out of myself more in the last 24 hours than I had in my entire life. I needed to be more careful not to look so uncool around Rising Tide from now on.

“I don’t think so,” I replied, forcing myself to sound casual. Dread washed over me as I realized that Michael might think that I had fallen onto his lap on purpose.

“I don’t remember from where though, but you look familiar,” Ronnie insisted.

“Oh, yeah?” I said, averting my eyes from his. It was the eyes that always gave people away.

“Maybe not, then,” he said, shrugging, then he and Dave got up and moved from the sitting area.

I turned to face Michael. You’re so gorgeous! I thought again as I admired him from up close.

“Are you all right?”

I realized that he had been watching me admiring him.

How embarrassing.

“I’m fine.” Being this close to him was making me incredibly excited. “You’re taller. Not that you look short in your videos because you don’t. I can’t tell exactly how tall you are because you’re sitting, but earlier I saw you standing and you looked really tall,” I couldn’t stop, although by now, even I knew that I should. “Exactly how tall are you?”

“I’m 6′,” he said, looking a little stunned at the turn our conversation was taking.

“Cool. I’m 5′ 5″,” I offered, even though he hadn’t asked.

He stared back at me in silence as if he were trying to look for answers as to why I was behaving so abnormally. I caught a glimpse of Maggie gesturing encouragement. She probably thought I was having an intelligent conversation. I wished I could make out what she was trying to say. Maybe she had a suggestion. “What?” Had I asked that out loud?
From the way Michael was looking at me, I definitely had. “What?” he asked in total confusion.

“‘Say What.’ That’s my favorite song of yours,” I said, barely recovering. The last thing I wanted him to think was that I was talking to Maggie about him. He would think it was immature—not at all the type of image I wanted to project. It was better that he think I really loved that song of his, which, by the way, I totally did, than think I was crushing on him and was talking about him to my best friend.

There was a hint of a smile. “Oh, you like it?”

“Uh-huh.”

“I wrote it for our second record.”

I already knew that. It was actually the only good song on that terrible album, but people had barely paid it any attention. It sometimes happens that a really good song on a really bad album gets overlooked.

“What do you like about it?” he asked.

I couldn’t believe he was asking me for details. “Well…It speaks to me about our need to connect with others.”

“That’s right,” he said, nodding.

“Yeah,” I agreed, trying to sound cool. “It’s probably even more than that.”

“How so?”

I had read a million different things into this song, but now I found myself unable to articulate them. In my defense, it’s really hard to concentrate when you come face to face with a real live rock star, and he turns out to be really, really super hot. Like the hottest guy you’re ever likely to see in your life. He was also much more personable than I had expected him to be. I knew then that I was failing miserably in my duties to my blog, because the questions I really needed to ask him just wouldn’t come out. Maybe if we talked a little longer…

“You’re the artist; I’d rather hear your interpretation of it.”

He smiled modestly, as if unaware of his role in creating culture. “It’s about someone who wants someone else to keep talking, even though what they’re saying may be hurtful, and 
really different from what that person hopes to hear. It’s about reaching out, forgiveness, and our undeniable human need for validation…”

“And love,” I added.

He nodded. “Yeah. That too.”

Wow. We got each other.

Could it be possible that we were, what do they say? Simpatico. That’s what they call it in some language I can’t remember when two people see things eye to eye, are on the same page, or maybe even crushing on each other. I was suddenly so glad that I had come here tonight.

“I’m Michael Stevens. What’s your name?”

“Kristen Morgan.”

“Hi.”

My heart hammered against my chest. “Hi.”

He studied me curiously. “Have we met before?”

I shook my head.

“You do look a little familiar…” he said, examining my face.

Now was not the time to remind him about my earlier TV appearance, or my probing questions about his relationship with Evangeline.

“Nope, we’ve never met before.”

“Well, it’s always great to meet a fan,” he said, rising.

What? Was he leaving already? I got to my feet too, and smiled back as I nodded stupidly. I wanted to tell him that there was so much more to me than being a fan, and that in fact, I was actually a critic who had once been a fan, but how would I begin? Not only that, but I also wanted to ask questions, get him talking, so that I would have something insightful to write on my blog. I’d completely wasted my chance.

“Thanks for coming, Kristen,” he said, turning to leave.

My heart sank to the floor with the weight of disappointment. Through my forced smile, I managed to say, “Bye.” I didn’t know exactly what I had wanted to have happen, but it certainly didn’t involve being dismissed.

I left the seating area too, and headed in the opposite direction from where Michael had gone.

In no time at all, Maggie was at my side. “That was so embarrassing. I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”

“Yeah. Just a little mortified.”

“At least you were memorable,” she giggled. She ogled Michael, who was by now, standing on the other side of the room, surrounded by Evangeline and her friends. “You’ve got to admit, he’s pretty hot.”

“He’s okay,” I said, as nonchalantly as I could.

“Are you kidding me? He’s like the hottest guy ever, although Bryce is even hotter.”

I looked at Maggie in surprise. She was usually not the least bit superficial, but she was human. Besides, she was right about the guys being really good looking, although totally wrong about Bryce being hotter than Michael.

If I told her the truth, I would break down crying with disappointment, so instead, I said, “If you like self-absorbed people who don’t remember you from one hour to the next. Come on, let’s go home.”

“Don’t you want to talk to the other guys?”

“I have all the info that I need,” I said, turning to go.

It wasn’t yet midnight, but I felt like my fairy godmother had retired early for the evening, and left me stranded at the party, well before the clock struck midnight, just as I normally was: a regular girl from a small town, who had no business getting wrapped up in the glitz and glam of show business. It was time to go. It was also probably time for a reality check.
Although I hadn’t totally seen it coming, the reality of my situation became crystal clear as a wave of understanding washed over me. My interest in Rising Tide, my jealousy of Evangeline, my preoccupation with the band’s future, and my desperation to meet them, had all stemmed from one thing: my feelings for Michael Stevens, which until landing on his lap, had safely been kept at bay.

I liked him so very much, and I didn’t have the first clue as to what, if anything, I could do about it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Blog Tour/First Chapter Reveal: She Ain't Heavy by Arnine Cumsky Weiss

She Ain't Heavy

Author: Arnine Cumsky Weiss
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Academy Chicago Publishers; 1st Edition edition (June 15, 2013)

Kindle Edition
File Size: 407 KB
Print Length: 259 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 089733681X
Publisher: Academy Chicago Publishers; 1st Edition edition (December 28, 2012)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

About the Book:

Just when counter clerk Teddy Warner is about to be evicted from her Scranton apartment, she bumps into beautiful, brilliant, blond Rachel – her estranged childhood friend whose mother forbid their friendship thinking Teddy was beneath them.

Teddy and Rachel reconnect over hot chocolate and under New Year’s Eve fireworks.  Their discussion leads to an invitation. Soon, Teddy’s on her way to Philadelphia, where Rachel is a student, to share an apartment and begin an exciting new life in the City.

Teddy views Rachel as perfect.  Rachel can’t bring herself to shatter the image by letting on that she is having an affair with a married man. Just when Teddy is starting to feel at home, Rachel insists on some privacy.  Acting out her anger at being asked to stay away, Teddy indulges in a one-night stand.

When Teddy returns to their apartment the next morning, Rachel is being carried out on a stretcher – the victim of carbon monoxide poisoning. This unforeseen tragedy leaves Teddy alone in a strange city, with no money, no friends, and no connections.

As Teddy struggles to find her way, she meets a mentor at the same university Rachel previously attended who takes an interest in her, but with strings attached. She also develops a unique bond with the firefighter who rescued Rachel.  And yet, Teddy remains committed to helping Rachel get back on her feet, at a time when no one else who supposedly loves her can accept her in this diminished way.  Along the way, Teddy discovers her own strength in the roles of caretaker, lover, and friend.

Purchase your copy at AMAZON

First Chapter:

Teddy’s boots hit the pavement with an odd pecking sound as she hurried down the sidewalk. The rubber tip on the bottom of one heel had completely worn down, so as plastic hit the pavement, it sounded like the rat-at-tat of a machine gun. Lost in her own thoughts, she was oblivious to the noise. If I sell some of my furniture, she thought, maybe I could scrape together a few dollars. Who was she kidding? Everything she had was a cast off from someone else. She took things nobody else wanted: a one armed futon, a television that got only three channels, and a kitchen table with four unmatched chairs. The only thing she had ever bought new for herself was a queen-sized mattress and box spring on a metal frame. She drew the line at sleeping in a used bed.

I could sell my blood, she thought, but then she realized that with the sum she needed, she’d have to let them drain her whole body and replace it with what? Formaldehyde? The thought made her cringe. “Think!” she yelled into the cold night air as she continued walking. How much do I need? First month, last month, security. $500. $500. $500. $1,500. It might as well be a million! Where was she going to come up with that kind of money? Think!

Damn that landlord! He had sold the building to a high-priced developer, and all of the tenants had to be out January 5th. Five days from now. Lots of warning, right? Goodbye, you have to leave. Merry Christmas! In all fairness, there were announcements and official notices of the upcoming sale since September, but she just kept hoping it wouldn’t happen. Even with four month’s notice, she couldn’t raise enough money to move.

She worked. She paid her bills on time. She didn’t owe money to anyone. But living paycheck to paycheck didn’t leave room for extras. Extras? This was a roof over her head! What do they call it, “gainfully employed?” She had been gainfully employed since she was 15, and what did she have to show for it? A one-armed futon?

She wrapped her scarf tighter around her neck, and hiked up her over size bag. A bunch of teenage boys yelled something obscene out their car window. “In your dreams, buddy!” she yelled back.  The courthouse square was brightly lit with festive holiday lights. A crowd was gathering for the midnight fireworks. They called it the “First Night” celebration;  Teddy couldn’t help thinking, yeah, right, this is the first night of the rest of my life. Hah! Maybe an apartment will drop out of the sky.

She opened her phone to check the time, but saw only a black screen and remembered the service had been canceled. Worthless hunk of metal she thought, as she tossed it back into her bag. Just then the clock tower bonged once, 11:30 p.m. She was freezing and there was a half an hour before the fireworks. Her short, form-fitting jacket that had looked so good in the store provided little warmth and no protection against the wind.

She looked up and down the brightly lit street. There were vendors selling blow-up plastic toys, balloons, glittery glasses molded to look likes the year “2010,” and soft pretzels, but nothing hot to drink.  The Coffee Bean was open across the street and, although she had the feeling of being a traitor since she worked for their competitor, self-preservation and the desire for warmth won out. She went in.

There was a line, not surprising since it was freezing and this was the only business that remained open for the celebration. She took her place and watched a young mother balance two steaming cups of hot chocolate as she pushed her stroller. Couples, hand-in-hand, palmed their warm cups as they made their way to the small marble tables. When it was her turn, she ordered a small regular and took it to a tall stool in the window.  She heard the click-click-click as her boots hit the floor. When she put her coffee cup down, she examined the bottom of her now rubber-less heel. She squatted down onto the floor, pretending to get something out of her bag, and tried to remove the black rubber bottom of a neighboring stool.

“Teddy?”

She looked up startled and embarrassed.

“Teddy.”

“Rachel?”

The two young women stared at each other for a long second of awkward silence while a hundred conflicting thoughts careened through Teddy’s head. What do I say? How long has it been? Leave me alone? You look great? I hate you? Run!! But her natural inclinations kicked in and she jumped up and leaned forward to give Rachel a hug. They held each other at arm’s length for a moment. Finally Rachel said, “Hey, how are you?”

Swallowing the lump in her throat, Teddy answered overly enthusiastically, “Great! You?”

“Fine. Wow. I haven’t seen you in ages. I didn’t think I’d see anyone I know here. It’s nice to see a familiar face.”

Teddy was tempted to say, you grew up here! Of course you would see familiar faces at a New Year’s celebration. But she answered, “It’s nice to see you, too. Wow! What brings you back to Scranton? I heard you moved to Philly, or something?”

“Just for graduate school. My parents still have the house here, so I came home for the holidays. You still live here?”

“Yup. Somebody’s got to stay here, right? Graduate School? Big time. What are you studying?”

“Biology,” answered Rachel, looking past Teddy through the window. Teddy assumed she was in search of more familiar faces. Feeling uncomfortable, she moved back toward the stool to finish her coffee. People don’t change, she thought.

“Hey, do you mind if I join you?”

“Join me?” Teddy repeated. Used to working late and going out by herself, Teddy was completely unself-conscious about being out on New Year’s Eve alone. But girls like Rachel traveled in packs.

“Yeah, I’ll just get a cup of coffee.” But instead of moving, she blurted out as if reading Teddy’s thoughts, “I have a boyfriend.”

Taken aback by this blunt admission, Teddy just nodded and looking around added, “Great, is he here?”

“No, uh, uh, he’s with his family.”

“Oh. Have you met them?”

“Uh, no, Not yet. I’ve seen pictures.”

“Nice,” said Teddy, while thinking we haven’t seen each other in five years and she has to make sure she tells me about her phantom boyfriend. If he’s so great, where is he? “Must be pretty new.”

“We’ve been together since September. Well, actually we met in September, but we’ve been a couple since October. He’s great. But, wait, tell me about you. The last time I saw you was, when? High school graduation?”

Was this girl on crack? Did she not remember anything? I didn’t go to graduation. I didn’t graduate! Do I tell her I got a G.E.D? “I went to some of the after parties. But I don’t think we went to the same ones.” Yeah, you were with the preppy high school girls and I was with who; girls most likely to sell donuts for the rest of their lives?”

“Well, anyway, it’s been ages. What have you been doing?” But, before Teddy could answer, Rachel walked toward the counter. “Wait! Hold that thought. Let me just grab some coffee. You want something?”

Teddy held up her full cup in response and thought for the second time that night, people don’t change. She asks me a question and doesn’t wait for the answer. The last time we saw each other was in English class junior year. She didn’t wait for any answers back then, either. Who knows what she thought, but she never asked me what was going on. She just assumed. They all just assumed. Ah, what’s the point? It’s over now. It’s been over for a long time.

They had been childhood friends, best friends, and then Rachel moved away. Not far, just to a better part of town, but far enough away that they went to different schools. They re-met in high school, got close again for a short time, and then it was over. Just like everyone else, Rachel had made assumptions. It was easier that way than finding out the truth and Teddy never bothered to straighten them out. Any of them. She had heard the rumors, too. Let them think what they want. The hell with them. And at that time she thought, the hell with Rachel, too.

“OK, sorry. I’m freezing. I needed this,” Rachel said holding her coffee cup with two hands. “Tell me everything. What do you do? Where do you live?”

“Not much to tell. I have a small apartment on Prescott and I work at Dunkin’ Donuts. That’s pretty much it.”

“You’re still there?” asked Rachel holding the paper cup against her cheek.

“It’s not bad. Benefits, sick days,” and with a shrug, “I’ve got seniority. It’s a job.”

Rachel smiled then took a sip of her coffee and wrinkled her nose. “I forget how provincial this town is. For most of the people who work at Dunkin’ Donuts in Philadelphia or any big city, English is not their first language.”

Teddy didn’t know what provincial meant, but she felt insulted anyway and thought Rachel may be smart, but not smart enough to be nice.

Seeing the wounded look on Teddy’s face, Rachel added quickly, “I love DD. There’s a shop right near school. I start almost every day with their coffee.”

Not wanting to give Rachel the opportunity to further offend her, Teddy changed the subject. “So, tell me about your boyfriend. What’s his name?”

“Huh…his name? Ah, his name is John. John.”

“John John?”

Rachel blushed. “No. John… Lawrence. He’s with his family.”

“Right, so you said. You must miss him. It’s New Year’s Eve.”

Rachel picked at the corrugated sleeve on her cup. “He’s very devoted to his family. I understand. What about you? Anyone special in your life?”

“Nah. No good guys left in this town.” There was a commotion on the other side of the restaurant as the kid in the stroller spilled his hot chocolate all over the floor and himself. He screamed as hot liquid soaked his clothes. His mother tried to pull him free from the stroller, but she forgot that he was still strapped in. She lifted the boy and the stroller, knocking everything over in its wake. The father yelled, “For God’s sake!” and roughly took the child and the stroller out of her hands. He slammed the stroller back onto the floor which made the child scream louder, but unbuckled him deftly and hoisted the boy up further spreading the offending brown liquid.

“It’s almost time,” Teddy said. “You want to go outside?” They readjusted coats, hats, and scarves and Teddy pushed her stool in. They both grabbed their coffee cups. “That’s a pretty scarf,” Rachel said fingering the multi-colored wool that fell to Teddy’s knees.

“Thanks. My Mother made it.”

“Your Mother? I didn’t know she could knit.”

“Yup. She made it.”

Normally, the streets of this small downtown section were dead once the clock tower struck six. There was something exciting and almost enchanting standing with a crowd around the well-lit courthouse square. Rachel and Teddy stood next to a tall war monument and looked up as it started to snow lightly. Someone cued up music and the fireworks began.

They were beautiful. Teddy had to admit that as much as she would have enjoyed them by herself, there was something nice about watching them with someone. She could have ooohed and ahhed all she wanted, but it was more fun to do it in unison. She felt a let down when the grand finale was over.

“That was great!” Rachel offered first. “I was just going to watch the ball drop at home. I’m glad I came out tonight.”

Not wanting to sound pathetic and needy, Teddy agreed. “Yeah, it was great. Well, Happy New Year!”

“Where’d you park?”

“Park? I walked down. Locked up at work and came straight here.”

Pulling her car keys out of her pocket, Rachel said, “But that must be more than a mile!  And it’s more than a mile to your apartment. How were you planning on getting home?”

Wrapping her scarf tighter around her neck, Teddy said, “I’m fine. I walk. I’ll be fine. I do it all the time.”

“Well isn’t it a good thing that I came along? Come on, I’ll give you a ride home.”

The two young women walked the few blocks to the car, and when they got there Rachel opened the passenger side first and began moving posters and papers to make room for Teddy. “Sorry this is my Dad’s car for work.”

“No problem. It’s got four wheels and a motor. That works for me. How is your Dad? Still working at the printing company?”

“Yeah. He says they’re going to take him out of there feet first. He’s been there over thirty years,” Rachel added getting behind the wheel.

“I always liked your Dad,” Teddy said looking ahead, thinking she would keep her thoughts about Rachel’s mother to herself.

When they got to Teddy’s apartment, she felt awkward. This is like a bad first date, she thought. Do I invite her in? Lean over and give her a hug and jump out? We hardly even caught up. Do I want to catch up with her? “Do you want to come in?”

Rachel threw the car into park and said, “Sure. My parents were asleep before I left. I’d just be going back to a quiet house.”

Teddy put the key into the door and flicked on the light, an overhead fixture that cast weird shadows. She had been living here for two years and always thought it was kind of cozy. But, in that instant she saw the apartment as Rachel was seeing it. There was a tiny sink with a drain board filled with dishes and a toaster oven whose cord was wrapped with duct tape. The kitchen table was adorned with a set of salt and pepper shakers in the shape of Santa’s boots and a napkin holder and was surrounded by four unmatched chairs. There was one small carpet on the linoleum floor in front of the futon and perched on pilfered milk crates, courtesy of Dunkin’ Donuts, was a television that required pliers to change the channel. It looked pathetic. Cold and un-homey-like. The early Salvation Army d├ęcor screamed, “I’m not doing well here, am I?” Even her sad attempt at decorating, the colorful valances that crowned the Venetian blinds, looked cheap.

“Nice place. I like these,” Rachel said as she picked up the Santa boots and did Rockette-like high kicks with them. “How long have you been here?”

Teddy had walked the few steps to the fridge and held up two green bottles. “You want a beer?” When she had seated herself across from Rachel and handed her a bottle, she said, “I’ve been here for two years.”

“Did you move here from the house on Mineral Street?”

Teddy shook her head as if trying to shake off a thought. “I haven’t thought about that place in a long time. No, I’ve lived in a few apartments before this. Always with other people. This was my first apartment by myself. I was excited to find it.”

Rachel opened her beer and took a sip. “I know what you mean. I lived in the dorm all four years of college. My mother made me crazy about the “dangers of living off campus,” so I was a little nervous about getting my first apartment. I thought I might be lonely. But, it’s nice.”

Teddy took a long pull on her beer and said, “It’ll be nice for five more days.”

“Why? What’s happening in five days?”

“I’m being evicted.”

“Why? Didn’t you pay your rent?”

Why do people always assume it’s my fault? That I did something wrong. “No, I pay my rent on time,” Teddy said with more force than she intended. “Actually I pay early. My landlord is selling the building. All of the tenants have to move in five days.”

Rachel looked around. “In five days. You haven’t even started packing.”

“That’s because I have nowhere to go.”

“In this economy, I’m sure there are apartments for rent all over the place.”

Not wanting to admit that she couldn’t come up with the necessary three month’s rent to move, she said, “I’ll work it out. I always do.”

“Where’s your computer? There’re probably lots of listings for apartments. Everything’s online now,” Rachel said, getting up and looking around.

Teddy got up, too, and put her empty bottle on the table. “Don’t worry about it,” she told Rachel who was standing across the table. “I’ll be fine.”

“Do you have any friends you can live with temporarily? We can go to Price Chopper and get boxes. They’re open all night. I can help you pack.”

Teddy wanted to scream, WHAT IS WITH THIS SHOW OF CONCERN? Where have you been all these years? I’ve been doing fine by myself and now you want to man up for a marathon packing session. I bet you just want to go through my things. See if I’ve got anything left over from my Mother. “PLEASE don’t worry about it. I’ll work something out.”

“I know you. You wouldn’t have said anything if you weren’t worried,” Rachel said as she walked toward the drain board to stack the clean dishes.

Teddy whirled around. “YOU KNOW ME! You know me? You don’t know anything about me. Not anymore. You don’t get to waltz back here and offer help that I don’t want and announce that you know me.”

Rachel put down a cup and said self-righteously, “I was just trying to help.”

“Why is it always that when people want to help you, they offer what they think you need, or what they want to give you. Not what you really need,” Teddy said before she could stop the words from coming out of her mouth. She thought Rachel would turn and walk out the door and was surprised when she said quietly, “So, what do you need?”

Teddy raked her fingers through her hair and blew her bangs out her eyes. “I need a place to live. You don’t think I’ve done all the searches; on-line, the newspapers, bulletin boards. I just need a place to live.” And as if suddenly very tired, she sat down with a thump.

Rachel walked over and stood in front of Teddy. Her voice sounded high and strident. “What are you suggesting? That you move in with me?”

Teddy looked up and saw that Rachel had her hands on her hips. She actually was standing there in the flesh with her hands on her hips! What am I? Five?  Until this moment, she had not even remotely considered moving to Philadelphia to live with Rachel. She had never been out of the city limits of Scranton, PA. She felt a lot like the early explorers, that if she ventured out past the county line, she’d fall off the face of the earth. But, what did she have here? This sad little apartment. A job with little or no future. No family.

She didn’t know why she had said it. Maybe it was more of a dare. Maybe it was to see if she would come up with the goods. Maybe she just wanted to see how far she could push her. “Sure. Why not? I don’t have much going on here. Although, there is talk of making me a manager. But, why not make a clean break. A new start. Sure, I’d love to come to Philadelphia. How do I get there?”

Rachel’s hands dropped quickly from her sides and she began wringing them. “But, but…that’s not what I meant. I only thought that’s what you were suggesting. I couldn’t possibly…It’s only a one bedroom. I HAVE A BOYFRIEND!”

“Right, so you said. I don’t mind. I can lay low when he comes over. God knows I’ve got a lot of experience doing that.” Teddy seemed to be enjoying herself now.

“But we hardly know each other any more.”

“You just told me ‘you know me’.”

“That was rhetoric. I just don’t know if this would work. You wouldn’t know anyone. Once school starts, I’m in the lab 24/7. You couldn’t depend on me.”

Tiring of this game, Teddy thought, when was the last time I ‘depended’ on anyone? I’ve always taken care of myself. “You’re right. This probably wouldn’t work.”

Rachel seemed to be staring off into space. “Well. Maybe for a little while. Just until you get on your feet. It might be fun. You and me, again.”

“You mean it?”

“Yeah,” Rachel said swallowing hard. “I could probably help you find a job on campus. Maybe even in the lab.” Looking Teddy straight in the eyes, now, “But, it’ll just be for a little while.”

Teddy jumped up and put her hand out. “Deal!” she said, and they shook on it.

About the Author:


Arnine Cumsky Weiss is a nationally certified sign language interpreter and a teacher of English as a second language. She has worked in the field of Deafness for over thirty years. She is the author of six books. BECOMING A BAR MITVAH: A TREASURY OF STORIES, BECOMING A BAT MITZVAH: A TREASURY OF STORIES (University of Scranton Press), THE JEWS OF SCRANTON (Arcadia Publishing), and THE UNDEFEATED (RID Press) and  THE CHOICE: CONVERTS TO JUDAISM SHARE THEIR STORIES (University of Scranton Press). Her second novel, SHE AIN’T HEAVY (Academy Chicago)was published in June, 2013. She is married to Dr. Jeffrey Weiss and is the mother of Matt, Allie, and Ben.

Visit Arnine’s website at www.ArnineWeiss.com.

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Book Review: Gameboard of the Gods (Age of X) by Richelle Mead

Gameboard of the Gods (Age of X)

Author: Richelle Mead
Paperback
Publisher: Berkley

Kindle Edition
File Size: 783 KB
Print Length: 462 pages
Publisher: Dutton Adult (June 4, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

My ratings: ★ ★ 

My thoughts:

'Gameboard of the Gods, the first installment of Richelle Mead’s Age of X series, will have all the elements that have made her YA Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series such megasuccesses: sexy, irresistible characters; romantic and mythological intrigue; and relentless action and suspense.'

In love with Richelle Mead's VA and Geogie's world? Yikes! Stay away from this book! When I first read the excerpt in RM's blog, I thought this will be another hit like her VA and GK, instantly loved Mae and Justin, extremely excited to have a copy! 

HOWEVER! During my 'stay' in RUNA's world, *sobbing* it was nowhere near VA and GK, oh I kept on ignoring the signs --- (1) too many distractions: coffee, internet surfing, tv, kids, etc. (2) only reading 2-3 pages per day (!) and the worst (3) talking to a friend and when asked about the main characters, waaa I forgot their names! I kept on reading because this is Richelle Mead's work. Uh, seriously, I can't put together the story and the characters. Dialogue - waaaah long paragraphs as dialogue??? RUNA's world - weirdest world ever! Hah! Of course, DNF!!! 

About the book:

In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). Raised in an aristocratic caste, Mae is now a member of the military’s most elite and terrifying tier, a soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills.

When Justin and Mae are assigned to work together to solve a string of ritualistic murders, they soon realize that their discoveries have exposed them to terrible danger. As their investigation races forward, unknown enemies and powers greater than they can imagine are gathering in the shadows, ready to reclaim the world in which humans are merely game pieces on their board.


Gameboard of the Gods, the first installment of Richelle Mead’s Age of X series, will have all the elements that have made her YA Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series such megasuccesses: sexy, irresistible characters; romantic and mythological intrigue; and relentless action and suspense.


About the author:


Richelle Mead is an international bestselling author of fantasy books for both adults and teens. Her Georgina Kincaid series follows a reluctant succubus, while her Dark Swan series features a shamanic mercenary caught up in fairy affairs. Over on the young adult side, Richelle writes the much-acclaimed Vampire Academy series and its spin-off, Bloodlines, about a secret society keeping the vampire world hidden from humans.

Richelle's books have been on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists and received honors from the American Library Association. Her books have been translated into over two dozen languages, as well as transformed into graphic novels. A lifelong reader, Richelle loves mythology and wacky humor. When not writing, she can be found spending time with her family, buying dresses, and watching bad reality TV. More at: www.richellemead.com
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