Sunday, September 28, 2014

Book Review: Cerulean Sins (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter) by Laurell K. Hamilton

Cerulean Sins (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter) 
by Laurell K. Hamilton 

Series: Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter

Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Orbit; New Ed edition (December 4, 2003)
Amazon Paperback Link

Kindle Edition

File Size: 766 KB
Print Length: 560 pages
Publisher: Jove (April 1, 2010)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.'
Amazon Kindle Link

Ratings: ★ ★

My thoughts:

It has been a month since I started this, had to DNF, can't stand Anita's kinky sex life. It was cool at first. Anita went back to being a normal human - Anita as an animator/necromancer and a private investigator. Had fun reading about the investigation involving the RPIT gang but once in a while, sh*t like ardeur would happen and I'd skip. I was halfway thru the book when I realized I've been skipping too many pages, so I decided to DNF. 

As you can see, I have these two more Anita books which I bought years ago when I was sooooo addicted to the series. The last Anita books I read were  Blue Moon (Jan 2011) and Obsidian Butterfly (Oct 2011), followed by Narcissus in Chains just last month (August 2014). I guess it's time to say goodbye to this once-awesome-series. ;(

About the book:

Cerulean Sins, the eleventh entry in the hugely-popular Anita Blake series, finds everyone’s favorite vampire hunter keeping house and kicking butt.

Anita Blake is trying to get her life back to “normal” after a break-up with her werewolf lover. She has settled into a pattern of domesticity, which means that the new man in her life, the leopard shapeshifter Micah, has no problem sharing her with Jean-Claude, Master Vampire of the City. Things are as peaceful as they ever get for someone who raises the dead, when Jean-Claude receives an unexpected and unwelcome visitor: Musette, the very beautiful, very twisted representative of the European Council of Vampires. Anita soon finds herself caught up in a dangerous game of vampire power politics.

To add to her troubles, she is asked to consult on a series of brutal killings, which seem to be the work of something un-human. The investigation leads her to Cerulean Sins, a vampire-run establishment that deals in erotic videos, videos that cater to very specific tastes. Anita knows one creature of the night who has such interests — Jean-Claude’s visitor. But if Anita brings Musette down, the repercussions could cost her everything she holds dear.

Once a sworn enemy of all monsters, Anita is now the human consort of both Master Vampire Jean Claude and leopard shapeshifter Micah. When a centuries-old vampire hits St. Louis, Anita finds herself needing all the dark forces her passion can muster to save the ones she loves.

Anita Blake returns to find hell hath no fury like a vampire scorned.

About the author

Laurell K. Hamilton is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of two series that mix mystery, fantasy, magic, horror and romance. Her Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter novels from Berkley Books began with GUILTY PLEASURES (now a hugely successful graphic novel from Marvel - the first sexy paranormal comic ever!) and continues with the SKIN TRADE, number seventeen in the series, in which Anita's complex personal and professional relationships with a master vampire and an alpha werewolf continue to evolve. There are now more than 6 million copies of Anita in print worldwide, in 16 languages. Hamilton's Ballantine series features Fey princess and private investigator, Merry Gentry and there are now six novels exceeding one million copies in print. Divine Misdemeanors, the eighth in the series will debut Octobe 29, 2009. She lives in St. Louis County Missouri with her husband Jonathon Green, daughter, one pug dog and one boxer/pug dog.

Book Spotlight with Chapter 1 : Imperfect Paradise by Dan Dembiczak

Imperfect Paradise
by Dan Dembiczak

Paperback: 192 pages

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (February 16, 2014)
Amazon Paperback Link

Kindle Edition

File Size: 3472 KB
Print Length: 193 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1493742590
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Amazon Kindle Link


Imperfect Paradise tells a story of internal awakening and delivers a powerful message about hope, happiness, and finding your place in the world. A classic romance with a contemporary twist, it is sure to appeal to fans of modern, liberating fiction.

For thirty-two-year-old Sarah Chizeck, marriage was not an option, but an expectation. She was raised to believe that a woman’s main focus is to get married and start a family, and she put everything on hold to accomplish this goal.

When she finally marries her boyfriend of five years, Michael—a smart, successful and charismatic dream—her family is ecstatic; but is Sarah? Underneath Sarah’s smiles, feelings begin to surface.

Sarah’s career and personal interests were not all she put on hold to pursue marriage. She also put her feelings on the backburner and buried her emotions. When she reluctantly goes to Hawai’i for her honeymoon, the raw beauty of where she is and who she is surrounded by drudges up passions, and she is both pleased and alarmed by the sensory experiences she encounters.

Terrified by her attraction to a handsome young concierge, Sarah is forced to confront her emotional state, as well as emotions she previously ignored, and she ultimately comes to surprising revelations about her upbringing, marriage, and future.

Chapter 1

This is a beautiful room, I think—one that I’m sure has been filled many times over with passion and promise. I especially love this writing desk by the television— simple, stately, sophisticated. I look down at the hotel stationery and consider writing it all down instead. It would be easier, but only in the short term. Instead, I rip a sheet off and fold it twice before tucking it in the pocket of my shirt. Souvenir.

With the exception of recent events, it can honestly be said that I always do the right thing. I mail my taxes in early March. I never put tampons in the toilet. I even tip my dry cleaner. It’s this history of perfect behavior that led me to this island. But now the cranks and wheels that once kept me moving in the right direction are broken. I am veering off to the roads of frightening exposure. The skin on my face is raw—the plaster dried and chiseled away.

There is a nice breeze reminding me where I still am, this place of dolphins and dreams. He’ll be here soon; I know it. Just hold on a few more minutes. I think about the lotion in the bathroom. Should I go get it? Then, I could sit at this perfect vanity and moisturize to make the moment more pleasant. Pleasant. There’s nothing wrong with the word, really. Who wouldn’t want a pleasant cup of tea or a pleasant weekend in the mountains? Or pleasant conversation?

I want to call my sister to tell her what’s going on, about my decision. This needs to be mine, though. I open the drawer of the desk, expecting to see a Bible radiating judgment. Instead, there are flyers for exciting activities like scuba diving, swimming with manta rays, zip line tours, botanical gardens, even lunch at a vanilla farm. I see the faces of beaming children and their loving parents. The cruise with the water slide and cocktails might be fun, I think. I close the drawer and wait.

Where the hell is he? He said only nine holes. Maybe the train isn’t working. Yes, there is a train in our hotel. It’s a theme park, actually. For the rich and responsible. It’s not like I’m not used to waiting. I’d order a tray of pastries if my craving for sugar hadn’t suddenly disappeared. I bet, if I do something ridiculous, he’ll fly right through the door. I could change into my bikini and attempt the hula. Or I could order an adult movie. Or empty the minibar. I can see his face. His gleaming white teeth, that smart smile. I feel his stubble against my shoulder when we embrace. I taste the sweat on his neck. Suddenly, I long for the familiar. I want to be in my frayed pajamas and Berkeley sweatshirt watching Home & Garden Television and not talking. I want to look up and notice something new about him.

I smell pancakes coated in coconut. Breakfast is served late into the afternoon at the resort. I wonder what I’ll have tomorrow for breakfast. Or the next day. What will it taste like? Will I prepare it myself? Or maybe I’ll skip it entirely again.

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Read more HERE

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Guest Author: Justin Forest

She and I On The Beachfront 

I often teach Sherman Alexie’s video interview where he says that writing is a very self-conscious profession, and I know all too well that feeling. I was told that if you think of a story that was never told, either you hit the jackpot or there is a reason why the story was never told.  In my case, I hope for about fifty percent of each. 

No matter what one writes, truly great writers write with passion not with mechanics. After studying taboo subjects of children and sexuality, I decided that there was a story never told.  I read Lolita. I read Tiger, Tiger, and I read The End of Alice. I listened to many songs while growing up that make sexual references to young girls, but the offenders of these books seemed mostly the worst kind. Yet we adore Lewis Carroll, who adored little girls, and we have a culture that sexualizes young girls and teaches them to be noticed at all costs. Maybe part of us is the monster we are terrified of, and we are actually more afraid of the truth. No, my book would be different.  I would tell the story of a boy trapped in the world of victim-offender. He would say exactly what he thought in unflinching detail. 
I thought I had the perfect story, but then the attacks came. The book became about me, the pariah. I was attacked from every angle, and I gave up writing nearly ten times. Somehow, I returned.  I brought the book to agents, and the ones that read it said, “Hey this is good, poetic; it has strong voice, but I am not sure of audience.”  Hey, who is going to like it?   Then I learned that if I did publish traditionally, everyone else would be messing with my “baby” and my art, and my vision.  I decided to go Indy. 

I was going to cast the book as the enigma. It is what it is not and that is truer to life than anything else. It will defy category, as the devil would not serve; but its message would be altruistic. I was going to tell the story of a boy who was a victim of abuse that watched those he knew get compromised by abuse. But that is not the politically correct story, for Glen has attraction toward girls as well as women. He lives in fear every moment and that fear makes him angry and a bit over the top. You love him, hate him, and cry for him. If anyone can understand what would help our girls avoid danger, Glen would. 

But great stories have to be written well, and I worked with many editors and looked at over ten Galleys before clicking “publish.” But I had to say “no” to some editors and stick to my guns.  If you want convention, go elsewhere. If you want a ride, then fasten your seatbelts. Morality depends on how hungry you are. Then the true work began.

Books don’t sell themselves, and I had given birth to a child that was warring with every possible would-be reader. She was a lone soldier storming the stormy beachhead of Normandy with only a snake as her weapon. She was the nameless child model carrying the world of adult taboo. She, like I, broke all the rules.

Publicists rejected her, media outlets ignored her, and Facebook all but shut her down. For every step she took, she was hit even further backwards, but passion is passion. Her greatest fans would be silent, hiding in secret to avoid discovery and her critics the loudest. 

Yet, I found a publicist who believed in my art as much as I believed in it, and together helped the book fight through. As Winston Churchill said, “If you are in hell, walk through it.”  As one solder said to the others in the Normandy invasion. You can either die here on the beach or die further up. 

I choose dying further up. That’s progress.

 Then something happened, people started to notice. Of all the people who read my book, most say that Glen is likeable. My test readers, some of which were victims of sex abuse said that the book is “serious literature on sex abuse,” and some of my readers who are past offenders say exactly the same thing.  Past victim and abuser agree. Is this a spot for healing?  I don’t know, but I and she will die further up the beach trying.

About the author:

Justin Forest has five college degrees, including a MLSt in taboo studies and a PhD in literature and criticism. He has compiled information for the United Nations on the anti-child sex trafficking movement and has since transitioned to sexuality research. He's a member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality and the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and teaches themes of girlhood and sexuality. His debut novel, Lolita in the Lion's Den, was published in September 2014. 

For more info, visit:

Lolita in the Lion's Den or Pre-Tween
From Sexual Abuse to Empowerment 
by Justin Forest

Kindle Edition
File Size: 3019 KB
Print Length: 186 pages
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Amazon Kindle Link

About the book:

A young man must overcome a horrific past in order to release his inner demons in Justin Forest’s shocking new novel, Lolita in the Lion’s Den or Pre-Tween Juxtaposition.

Glen has fought for years to escape a brutal home life, one in which he acts as his mother’s only friend and to accept that his father has been molesting his sister for over a decade.

But after dropping out of high school and spending years working aimless jobs, Glen finally turns a new chapter when he enters the thrill of college life.

But with that freedom comes disturbing sexual desires and inclinations. Having become increasingly reliant on his own fantasy world, Glen soon finds himself mired in the world of adult pornography and struggling with his attraction to both women and girls.

Haunted by the damage his father’s actions wrought on his family and other victims, Glen must come to terms with his admiration for the exact thing his father so actively destroyed.

More relevant than ever in today’s hypersexualized world, Lolita in the Lion’s Den or Pre-Tween Juxtaposition is an emotionally provocative read that gets to the heart of some of society’s most pressing issues.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Blitz: Miracle Man by William R. Leibowitz

We're happy to be hosting William R. Leibowitz and his Miracle Man Book Blitz today!

About the Book:

Miracle Man

Author: William Leibowitz
Publisher: Manifesto Media Group
Pages: 428
Genre: Cross-genre Thriller
Format: Paper/Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON


The victim of an unspeakable crime, an infant rises to become a new type of superhero. 

Unlike any that have come before him, he is not a fanciful creation of animators, he is real. 

So begins the saga of Robert James Austin, the greatest genius in human history.  But where did his extraordinary intelligence come from?

As agents of corporate greed vie with rabid anti-Western radicals to destroy him, an obsessive government leader launches a bizarre covert mission to exploit his intellect.  Yet Austin’s greatest fear is not of this world.

Aided by two exceptional women, one of whom will become his unlikely lover, Austin struggles against abandonment and betrayal.  But the forces that oppose him are more powerful than even he can understand.  

Book Excerpt:

  A tall figure wearing a black-hooded slicker walked quickly through the night carrying a large garbage bag.  His pale face was wet with rain.  He had picked a deserted part of town.  Old warehouse buildings were being gutted so they could be converted into apartments for non-existent buyers.  There were no stores, no restaurants and no people. 

  “Who’d wanna live in this shit place?”  he muttered to himself.  Even the nice neighborhoods of this dismal city had more “For Sale” signs than you could count.

  He was disgusted with himself and disgusted with her, but they were too young to be burdened.  Life was already hard enough.    He shook his head incredulously.  She had been so damn sexy, funny, full of life.   Why the hell couldn’t she leave well enough alone?    She should have had some control. 

 He wanted to scream-out down the ugly street, “It’s her fucking fault that I’m in the rain in this crap neighborhood trying to evade the police.” 

  But he knew he hadn’t tried to slow her down either.   He kept giving her the drugs and she kept getting kinkier and kinkier and more dependent on him and that’s how he liked it.   She was adventurous and creative beyond her years.  Freaky and bizarre.  He had been enthralled, amazed.  The higher she got, the wilder she was.  Nothing was out of bounds.  Everything was in the game. 

  And so, they went farther and farther out there.  Together.  With the help of the chemicals.  They were co-conspirators, co-sponsors of their mutual dissipation.  How far they had traveled without ever leaving their cruddy little city.  They were so far ahead of all the other kids. 

  He squinted, and his mind reeled.  He tried to remember in what month of their senior year in high school the drugs became more important to her than he was.  And in what month did her face start looking so tired, her complexion prefacing the ravages to follow, her breath becoming foul as her teeth and gums deteriorated.  And in what month did her need for the drugs outstrip his and her cash resources. 

  He stopped walking and raised his hooded head to the sky so that the rain would pelt him full-on in the face.  He was hoping that somehow this would make him feel absolved.  It didn’t.  He shuddered as he clutched the shiny black bag, the increasingly cold wet wind blowing hard against him.  He didn’t even want to try to figure out how many guys she had sex with for the drugs. 

The puddle-ridden deserted street had three large dumpsters on it.   One was almost empty.  It seemed huge and metallic and didn’t appeal to him. The second was two-thirds full.  He peered into it, but was repulsed by the odor, and he was pretty sure he saw the quick moving figures of rodents foraging in the mess. The third was piled above the brim with construction debris.

  Holding the plastic bag, he climbed up on the rusty lip of the third dumpster.  Stretching forward, he placed the bag on top of some large garbage bags which were just a few feet inside of the dumpster’s rim.   As he climbed down, his body looked bent and crooked and his face was ashen. Tears streamed down his cheeks and bounced off his hands.  He barely could annunciate, “Please forgive me,” as he shuffled away, head bowed and snot dripping from his nose.

About the Author: 

William R. Leibowitz has been practicing entertainment/media law in New York City for a number of years.  He has represented numerous renowned recording artists, songwriters, producers and many of the leading record companies, talent managers, merchandisers and other notable entertainment businesses.  At one point, he was the Chief Operating Officer/General Counsel for the Sanctuary Group of Companies, a U.K. public company that was the largest ‘indie’ music company in the world (prior to its acquisition by the Universal Music Group). 

William has a Bachelor of Science degree from New York University (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and a law degree from Columbia University.  He lives in the village of Quogue, New York with his wife, Alexandria, and dog, George. 

William wrote Miracle Man because of its humanistic and spiritual messages and because he feels that in our current times – when meritless celebrity has eclipsed accomplishment and the only heroes are those based on comic books, the world needs a real hero –and that, of course, is Robert James Austin, the protagonist in Miracle Man.

For More Information

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Guest Author: Jessica Barksdale Inclan

This is a story surrounding the “Sugar Cookies” recipe in my new novel, How to Bake a Man, slated for release October 21 by Ghostwood Books.

Every time I eat one of my great grandmother’s sugar cookies, I think not of her but of her daughter, Vida, my grandmother. Lest you think this is some nostalgic view, let me be clear that my grandmother was not all kitted socks and hot cocoa. Frankly, she was often sharp, pointed, and downright mean. She had an unnerving way of telling me I looked or was either fat or unkempt. My grandmother was proper to a T, wearing skirts and hose and lipstick to her very last days.

But I loved her. She smelled tangy and soft, spice and baby powder. She loved to laugh and dish while she sipped the second of her after 5 pm cocktails. She was no nonsense. I always—even if I didn’t like what she had to say—knew where she stood.

One time, though, I saw how she didn’t want to hurt people. How she’d cherished each and every close encounter of her life. In the months before she died, my mother and I went to visit her in Florida. She’d been given a terminal diagnosis, but things were going slow, the cancer deadly, but progressing at a snail’s pace, giving us time to be together and take care of what needed taking care of. This visit, we were clearing out her apartment so she could move to the assisted care section of her complex, when she brought out a box of letters and mementos. As a writer and a lover of all things historical, I was overjoyed. I began going through the box, exclaiming and commenting and asking questions. But then I found a letter written by my youngest sister Rebecca well over thirty years before. My sister had died ten years prior to this, and I felt stabbed in the heart. Here was her six-year-old handwriting, asking her grandmother to allow her to come visit when my younger sister Sarah and I came to visit our grandparents, a big trip all by ourselves without our parents.

Rebecca wrote, “I’ll be good. I promise.”

The letter had worked. All three of us had come to visit.

With the letter in my hand, I burst into tears. Somehow, the box was taken away, lunch was served, and I went out on a walk in the Florida heat.

Later that afternoon, I asked my mother what happened to the box of letters.

“Your grandmother threw them away,” she said.

“What?” My heart seemed to stop.

“She didn’t want to make you sad.”

I asked my mother where the garbage was, but she didn’t know. My grandmother was napping, and I didn’t want to bother her. So I went outside and searched around the building, but there was a curious lack of Dumpsters. Gone. All those letters. All that memory. All that life.

And within months, my grandmother did die, and the stories I might have known were gone as well.

I do have a lot of her with me. Other boxes were not thrown away. My grandfather’s mementos and relics from WWII. My grandmother’s family lineage, all the way back to the early 1700s in the US. Her DAR membership certificate. And her recipes. Hundreds of them. Her entertaining journal, who came, what was served.

And the sugar cookies. This is one of the central recipes in my new novel How to Bake a Man. In fact, it is my idea of perfection, and my main character Becca (named for my sister) is able to parlay this recipe and many more of my grandmother’s favorites into a changed life.

I might not know all I could about my grandmother. And yes, she had some sparky personality quirks that kept us from being truly close. But she loved me how she could. One of those ways was through her cookies. The mixing, rolling, and baking. The sharing, too.

Jessica Barksdale Inclán is the author of the new novel, How to Bake a Man (Ghostwood Books/October 2014) as well as twelve critically acclaimed books, including the best-selling Her Daughter's Eyes (YALSA Award Nominee), The Matter of Grace, and When You Believe. Her work had been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Czech. Her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in Compose, Salt Hill Journal, The Coachella Review, Carve Magazine, Storyacious, Mason's Road, and So to Speak. She is the recipient of Californian Arts Council Fellowship in Literature and a professor of English at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California and teaches online novel writing for UCLA Extension. 

For more info, visit

How to Bake a Man
by Jessica Barksdale Inclan

Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Ghostwoods Books (October 21, 2014)

About the book:

When Becca Muchmore drops out of grad school, all she has left to fall back on is her baking. Ignoring her mother's usual barrage of disapproval and disappointment, she decides to start a small business hand-delivering her wares. A friend introduces her to an office of hungry lawyers, who agree to give her a try. Her lizard-booted neighbor Sal is happy to help out when he can, and almost before she knows it, Becca's Best is up and running.

Before she can settle into a routine, things get complicated. The office ogress could easily be Becca's sister and has absolutely no patience with cookies or other frivolities. Even worse, her boyfriend is the man of Becca's dreams--kind, funny, successful, and brain-meltingly gorgeous. As the dark undercurrents threaten to pull her down, Becca swiftly finds herself neck-deep in office politics, clandestine romance, and flour. Saving her business (and finding true love) is going to take everything she's got, and more.

Packed with charm, sparkling humor, and a genuinely unforgettable cast, this delicious tale of a woman struggling to find her path might just be Jessica Barksdale Inclán's finest novel to date.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Book Spotlight with Chapter 1: Stargazers (Sky: Book 2) by R.E. Palmer

Stargazers (Sky: Book 2)
by R.E. Palmer

Kindle Edition
File Size: 444 KB
Print Length: 212 pages
Publisher: FrontRunner Publications (April 19, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Amazon Kindle Link

About the book:

Two years have passed since Tomas was lost in the final confrontation with the Shriekers. But if Shelley hoped Tomas had defeated them, she was wrong. The dark dreams have returned, and once more, Shelley needs to find Carly or face the growing terror alone. But what had Tomas said? 'Look for me in the stars.' Could he come back? Shelley is tested to her limits as she strives to bring him back. Back to stop Selene taking form and inflicting a pain beyond belief upon every soul on the planet.

Chapter 1

“Carly!” Shelley woke with a start and sat bolt upright. 

“What’s up?” Justin stirred by her side. She breathed out, her heart pounding in her ears. She felt his hand on her shoulder. “Shell?” 

She turned, trying to sound calm. “Oh it’s nothing, go back to sleep.” But there was something, it had been nagging at the back of her mind for days. She hadn’t spoken to Carly in ages, and it had been almost a year since her last visit. Shelley lay back but kept her eyes open, staring into the blackness. She’d been so preoccupied with her new job and moving in with Justin, she hadn’t noticed the time passing. So why had she just dreamed for the first time about Carly? 

In her dream, they were back in the cavern, standing at the edge of the dark crater left by the disappearance of the underground lake. The black maw appeared to suck the air from around them, down to the bowels of the Earth – anyone foolish enough to venture close enough to the edge, risked imprisonment along with Drax. Carly had kicked a stone and they’d listened to it ricochet off the sides. But something had stirred in the depths. Shelley didn’t have to see it, to know it was coming for Carly.


“I have to go away for a few days.” Shelley placed the cup down and sat on the edge of the bed. The covers stirred and Justin emerged blurry-eyed. He rubbed his face and yawned.
He struggled to free himself from the clutches of the duvet and sat up. His eyes opened fully as he turned to Shelley. “What about your deadline? Doesn’t your piece have to be in by Friday?”

Shelley stroked his hair. “You worry too much. I’ll take my laptop, I can easily finish it while I’m there.” 

Justin picked up his coffee and took a sip. “Yeah, but you’ve got your reputation to think about.” He placed the cup down and put his arm around her and squeezed her shoulder. “I know you’re great, but you’ve got to prove it to… what’s her name at the magazine?” 

She wrapped her arms around him and let her head rest on his chest. “It’s Victoria to you, and don’t panic,” she put on her American accent, “everything is under control.” 

He stroked her shoulder. “So where you going, honey?” 

She tried to make it sound routine. “Just down the coast… to Sydney.” 

“To see Carly? Can I come? I’ve yet to meet your mysterious friend.” 

Shelley sat up and looked him in the eyes. She pursed her lips. “Not this time, I’d rather go alone. I think there’s something wrong.” Justin opened his mouth, but Shelley cut him short. “It’s… girl stuff, you really don’t want to know.” She jumped up, went to the window and pulled back the curtains. “Besides, you said you’d decorate this room and get some new pictures.” She glanced at the sci-fi movie posters lining the walls. “And please, something a little less… geeky.” 

Justin put his hands over his face and fell onto his back. “Arrgh, I thought you’d forgotten. You’re such a slave-driver.” 

Shelley attempted a laugh. “Yep, and you better have it done before I get back,” she glanced out at the blossom on the tree outside, “or there’ll be trouble.” She walked to the bathroom and turned; “Oh and Justin?” He looked up. She mocked an angry face and spoke through clenched teeth. “Don’t call me honey.” 


At last Shelley was on her way. She’d spent the day at the office thinking of nothing else but Carly and her dream. Why now? Was it just guilt? Carly had seemed fine the last time they’d met. She hoped Carly had finally accepted that Tomas wasn’t coming back so she could get on with her life. Part of Shelley had believed, or at least hoped, he would return… somehow. But after the first year following his disappearance she doubted it would happen. She’d been torn between comforting Carly, whilst trying to prepare her for the harsh reality that Tomas was dead. What else could he be? Shelley had left after her last trip, hopeful Carly had moved on - but why hadn’t she returned her calls of late? A shiver shot up her spine as a chink opened in the defences that shut out the memory of the cavern. She clenched her jaw and pushed down on the accelerator, hoping it wouldn’t be too late.


“Oh hi, Shell, not seen you in a while.” Anna stood back and opened the door wider. “Did Carly send you over to pick up her stuff?” 

Shelley’s heart sank. “Stuff? Err… no. Is she not here?” 

Anna’s mouth dropped open. “No way! She didn’t tell you?” Anna sighed. “You’d better come in.” She followed Anna into the kitchen and pulled a chair from under a table cluttered with books and stained coffee cups. Shelley sat as Anna filled the kettle - she spoke over her shoulder. “Can I get you a drink? I was about to make one.” Anna turned and spoke softly. “You might need it.” 

Shelley looked up from the table. “Thanks, coffee would be good.” She took a deep breath and asked the question. “So where is she?”

Anna sat opposite and cleared her throat. “She dropped out just before Christmas, but to be honest I’m surprised she lasted for as long as she did after—” 

“After what?” Shelley’s mind raced ahead. Were they back? 

Anna frowned. “Jesus, she didn’t mention him either?” 


“Ryan. She met him at the café. I can’t say I liked the guy. He seemed okay at first, but then he changed.” Shelley held her breath. Anna winced. “There’s something creepy about him, but Carly really fell for him.” 

A burst of loud music blasted from the other room. A girl’s voice called through as the music stopped. “Sorry, my headphones weren’t plugged in.” 

Anna nodded in the direction of the room. “Deb, my new roomy.” She made a face. 
Shelley tried to smile. “So what’s with this guy, Ryan?” 

Anna stuck her tongue out. “Urrgh. Not my type, you’d think Carly was punishing herself or something. I think he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.” The kettle whistled and Anna spun around. Shelley was confused. She wanted Carly to move on, but the knot in her stomach didn’t agree with her choice of companion. So, that’s why she hadn’t called. “I can’t remember, Shell. Do you take milk and sugar?” 

Shelley looked up, aware Anna had just asked her a question. “Sorry? What?”

“Sugar? Milk?”

“Oh. No thanks, just black.” 

Anna cleared a space and placed the drink in front of her. Shelley wrapped her hands around the cup. “Thanks.” She took a sip and held it next to her lip. “I don’t suppose you know where she is now?” 

Anna joined her at the table. “Can’t say, sorry. I think she’s moved in with Ryan. But you might catch her at the café, she still works the odd shift.” 

Shelley placed her cup back on the table. “Have you seen her recently?” 

Anna shook her head, “Not for ages. The last time I saw her she blew me off.” Anna placed her hand on Shelley’s arm. “She’s changed. I mean, she always was… you know, away with the fairies, but that’s what I liked about her. But now she’s… sort of… distant, and has a hard edge.” Anna bit her lip, “Look, I can’t say for sure, but I think she might be on something.” 
Shelley’s stomach churned again. “Carly? I can’t think she’d…” Shelley looked down into the black liquid in her cup, and for a moment saw the same emptiness she’d once seen in Tomas’s eyes. She shuddered and pushed the vision out of her mind. She sat up straight. “So where’s this café?”


She’d let her down. Just when Carly needed her most, she’d been with Justin, building a new life and having some much-needed fun. A car pulled up next to hers. Shelley peered through the dim light and could just make out the occupant – a large, middle-aged man. The manager had said Carly had a shift that evening, but he wasn’t confident that would mean she’d actually show. He’d let Shelley know her friend was one more missed shift away from being fired. Shelley didn’t want to stay in the café - it wasn’t the sort of place she could feel comfortable, and she wondered how Carly put up with it. 

Shelley looked down to her laptop and made another attempt to work on her assignment; but the words didn’t come. She’d broken her promise to Tomas. Look after her. But she’d failed. Sitting in her car in the growing gloom, she finally admitted to herself that she’d been running away from the events of that summer. She’d shut it out, immersing herself in getting on with her life. But who could blame her? She didn’t want to dwell on the moment she’d spent in their presence. She’d felt the hatred, heard their soul-sapping shrieks, and looked into the eyes of Selene through Tomas and was terrified of what lay behind them.

She jumped at the screech of tires and jerked towards the sound. An old, battered car still rocked on its springs after the rapid deceleration. A door opened and Shelley heard a man’s voice. “I’ll be back at ten. DON’T make me wait again.” The engine roared and the car sped off. Shelley waited for the dust to settle and watched as the woman turned to walk toward the café. Shelley groaned and dropped her head into her hand - it was Carly. She didn’t look as bad as when she’d first met her, but she didn’t look much better either. 

She dared to look again. Carly had lost weight, way too much, her hair clung to her head and she looked pale, almost ghostly under the streetlights. Shelley watched as Carly’s stooped figure reached the door and struggled to pull it open with her skinny arms. Shelley closed her mouth. She moved her hand to close her laptop, then paused. What would she say? She ran her fingers through her hair. Would Carly want to see her? Hadn’t she made it clear by not returning her calls? 

She flicked the lid shut, slid the computer under her seat and opened the car door. The gravel crunched under her foot and she stopped, one leg out and one leg inside the car. She peered through the café window and saw Carly putting on an apron - it didn’t flatter her. Shelley held her breath. She’d made a decision about Carly before, sitting in the same seat, knowing it would put her in danger. So why was this one harder to make? Look after her. But she’d made a promise and she detested people who broke them.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

e-ARC Give away: Escape from Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth

How far into the hollow would you go?

“After losing her parents in a terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria escapes New York City to Arnn—a farming town with more legends than residents, and a history of witchcraft and secrets best left buried.

Everyone in Arnn knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope when she should be afraid, and a past of missing children and broken promises.  To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness. How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?”

ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW is Jordan Elizabeth’s first novel.  This young adult fantasy will be published through Curiosity Quills Press on October 29, 2014.

Jordan Elizabeth, formally Jordan Elizabeth Mierek, can’t get enough of the woods, be it splashing through a stream, sitting beneath an ancient oak, or following a path up a hill.  Some of those adventures have led to abandoned foundations.  Exploring the rocks and crumbling bricks sparked Jordan to imagine who might have lived there before, and that train of thought carried her to a wicked legend and an enchanted hollow.  You can contact Jordan via her website,

You don’t have to wait for October 29th to explore Witchwood Hollow.  Jordan Elizabeth is offering up a free eArc.  To enter for your chance to win a copy of ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, you will need to share the cover.  This can be on your blog, Facebook, Twitter… Each time you share the cover image, log it into Rafflecoper to record it.  It will give you more chances to win.  The drawing for the winner will be held on October 20th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Spotlight with Excerpt: Extraordinary Rendition by Paul Batista

Extraordinary Rendition 
by Paul Batista

Publisher: Astor + Blue Editions
Pages: 314


When Ali Hussein, suspected terrorist and alleged banker for Al Qaeda, is finally transported from Guantanamo Bay to the US mainland to stand trial, many are stunned when Byron Carlos Johnson, a pre-eminent lawyer and son of a high-profile diplomat, volunteers to represent him. On principle, Johnson thought he was merely defending a man unjustly captured through rendition and water-boarded illegally. But Johnson soon learns that there is much more at stake than one man’s civil rights. Hussein’s intimate knowledge of key financial transactions could lead to the capture of—or the unabated funding of—the world’s most dangerous terror cells. This makes Hussein the target of corrupt US intelligence forces on one side, and ruthless international terrorists on the other, and puts Byron Carlos Johnson squarely in the crosshairs of both. Written by no-holds-barred attorney Paul Batista, Extraordinary Rendition excels not only as an action thriller, but as a sophisticated legal procedural as well. Smart. Fast. Heart-pounding. A legal thriller of the highest order.


When the guard left, the iron door resonated briefly as the magnetic lock engaged itself. Byron sat in a steel folding chair. Directly in front of him was a narrow ledge under a multi-layered, almost opaque plastic window, in the middle of which was a metal circle.

Ali Hussein seemed to just materialize in the small space behind the partition. Dressed in a yellow jumpsuit printed with the initials “FDC” for “Federal Detention Center,” Hussein, who had been described to Byron as an accountant trained at Seton Hall, in Newark, was a slender man who appeared far more mild-mannered than Byron expected. He wore cloth slippers with no shoelaces. The waistband of his jump suit was elasticized—not even a cloth belt. He had as little access to hard objects as possible.

He waited for Byron to speak first. Leaning toward the metal speaker in the partition and raising his voice, Byron said, “You are Mr. Hussein, aren’t you?”

The lawyers at the Civil Liberties Union who had first contacted Byron told him that, in their limited experience with accused terrorists, it sometimes wasn’t clear what their real names were. There were often no fingerprints or DNA samples that could confirm their identities. The name Ali Hussein was as common as a coin. It was as though genetic markers and their histories began only at the moment of their arrest. 

“I am.” He spoke perfect, unaccented English. “I don’t know what your name is.”

The circular speaker in the window, although it created a tinny sound, worked well. Byron lowered his voice. “I’m Byron Johnson. I’m a lawyer from New York. I met your brother. Did he tell you to expect me?”

“I haven’t heard from my brother in years. He has no idea how to reach me, I can’t reach him.”

“Has anyone told you why you’re here?”

“Someone on the airplane—I don’t know who he was, I was blind-folded—said I was being brought here because I’d been charged with a crime. He said I could have a lawyer. Are you that lawyer?”

“I am. If you want me, and if I want to do this.”

All that Ali’s more abrasive, more aggressive brother had told Byron was that Ali was born in Syria, moved as a child with his family to Lebanon during the civil war in the 1980s, and then came to the United States. Ali never became a United States citizen. Five months after the invasion of Iraq, he traveled to Germany to do freelance accounting work for an American corporation for what was scheduled to be a ten-day visit. While Ali was in Germany, his brother said, he had simply disappeared, as if waved out of existence. His family had written repeatedly to the State Department, the CIA, and the local congressman. They were letters sent into a vacuum. Nobody ever answered. 

Byron asked, “Do you know where you’ve come from?”

“How do I know who you are?”

Byron began to reach for his wallet, where he stored his business cards. He caught himself because of the absurdity of that: he could have any number of fake business cards. Engraved with gold lettering, his real business card had his name and the name of his law firm, one of the oldest and largest in the country. Ali Hussein was obviously too intelligent, too alert, and too suspicious to be convinced by a name on a business card or a license or a credit card. 

“I don’t have any way of proving who I am. I can just tell you that I’m Byron Johnson, I’ve been a lawyer for years, I live in New York, and I was asked by your brother and others to represent you.”

Almost unblinking, Ali just stared at Byron, who tried to hold his gaze, but failed. 

At last Ali asked, “And you want to know what’s happened to me?”

“We can start there. I’m only allowed thirty minutes to visit you this week. Tell me what you feel you want to tell me, or can tell me. And then we’ll see where we go. You don’t have to tell me everything about who you are, what you did before you were arrested, who you know in the outside world. Or you don’t have to tell me anything. I want nothing from you other than to help you.”

Ali leaned close to the metallic hole in the smoky window. The skin around his eyes was far darker than the rest of his face, almost as if he wore a Zorro-style mask. Byron took no notes, because to do so might make Ali Hussein even more mistrustful. 

“Today don’t ask me any questions. People have asked me lots of questions over the years. I’m sick of questions.” It was like listening to a voice from a world other than the one in which Byron lived. There was nothing angry or abusive in his tone: just a matter-of-fact directness, as though he was describing to Byron a computation he had made on one of Byron’s tax returns. “One morning five Americans in suits stopped me at a red light. I was in Bonn. I drove a rented Toyota. I had a briefcase. They got out of their cars. They had earpieces. Guns, too. They told me to get out of the car. I did. They told me to show them my hands. I did. They lifted me into an SUV, tied my hands, and put a blindfold on me. I asked who they were and what was happening.”

He paused. Byron, who had been in the business of asking questions since he graduated from law school at Harvard, couldn’t resist the embedded instinct to ask, “What did they say?”

“They said shut up.”

“Has anyone given you any papers since you’ve come here?”

“I haven’t had anything in my hands to read in years. Not a newspaper, not a magazine, not a book. Not even the Koran.”

“Has anyone told you what crimes you’re charged with?”

“Don’t you know?”

“No. All that I’ve been told is that you were moved to Miami from a foreign jail so that you could be indicted and tried in an American court.”

There was another pause. “How exactly did you come to me?” Even though he kept returning to the same subject—who exactly was Byron Johnson?—there was still no hostility or anger in Ali Hussein’s tone. “Why are you here?”

In the stifling room, Byron began to sweat almost as profusely as he had on the walk from the security gate to the prison entrance. He recognized that he was very tense. And he was certain that the thirty-minute rule would be enforced, that time was running out. He didn’t want to lose his chance to gain the confidence of this ghostly man who had just emerged into a semblance of life after years in solitary limbo. “A lawyer for a civil rights group called me. I had let people know that I wanted to represent a person arrested for terrorism. I was told that you were one of four prisoners being transferred out of some detention center, maybe at Guantanamo, to a mainland prison, and that you’d be charged by an American grand jury rather than held overseas indefinitely. When I got the call I said I would help, but only if you and I met, and only if you wanted me to help, and only if I thought I could do that.”
 “How do I know any of this is true?”

Byron Johnson prided himself on being a realist. Wealthy clients sought him out not to tell them what they wanted to hear but for advice about the facts, the law and the likely real-world outcomes of whatever problems they faced. But it hadn’t occurred to him that this man, imprisoned for years, would doubt him and would be direct enough to tell him that. Byron had become accustomed to deference, not to challenge. And this frail man was suggesting that Byron might be a stalking horse, a plant, a shill, a human recording device.

“I met your brother Khalid.”


“At a diner in Union City.”

“What diner?”

“He said it was his favorite, and that you used to eat there with him: the Plaza Diner on Kennedy Boulevard.”

Byron, who for years had practiced law in areas where a detailed memory was essential, was relieved that he remembered the name and location of the diner just across the Hudson River in New Jersey. He couldn’t assess whether the man behind the thick, scratched glass was now more persuaded to believe him. Byron asked, “How have you been treated?”
“I’ve been treated like an animal.”

“In what ways?”

As if briskly covering the topics on an agenda, Ali Hussein said, “Months in one room, no contact with other people. Shifted from place to place, never knowing what country or city I was in, never knowing what month of the year, day of the week. Punched. Kicked.”

“Do you have any marks on your body?”

“I’m not sure yet what your name really is, or who you really are, but you seem naive. Marks? Are you asking me if they’ve left bruises or scars on my body?”

Byron felt the rebuke. Over the years he’d learned that there was often value in saying nothing. Silence sometimes changed the direction of a conversation and revealed more. He waited. 

Hussein asked, “How much more time do we have?”

“Only a few minutes.”

“A few minutes? I’ve been locked away for years, never in touch for a second with anyone who meant to do kind things to me, and now I have a total of thirty minutes with you. Mr. Bush created a beautiful world.”

 “There’s another president.” Byron paused, and, with the silly thought of giving this man some hope, he said, “His name is Barack Hussein Obama.”

Ali Hussein almost smiled. “And I’m still here? How did that happen?”

Byron didn’t answer, feeling foolish that he’d thought the news that an American president’s middle name was Hussein would somehow brighten this man’s mind. Byron had pandered to him, and he hated pandering. 

Ali Hussein then asked, “My wife and children?”

No one—not the ACLU lawyer, not the CIA agent with whom Byron had briefly talked to arrange this visit, not even Hussein’s heavy-faced, brooding brother—had said a single thing about Hussein other than that he had been brought into the United States after years away and that he was an accountant. Nothing about a wife and children. 

“I don’t know. I didn’t know you had a wife and children. Nobody said anything about them. I should have asked.”

It was unsettling even to Byron, who had dealt under tense circumstances with thousands of people in courtrooms, that this man could stare at him for so long with no change of expression. Hussein finally asked, “Are you going to come back?”

“If you want me to.”

“I was an accountant, you know. I always liked numbers, and I believed in the American system that money moves everything, that he who pays the piper gets to call the tune. Who’s paying you?”

“No one, Mr. Hussein. Anything I do for you will be free. I won’t get paid by anybody.”

“Now I really wonder who you are.” There was just a trace of humor in his voice and his expression. 

As swiftly as Ali Hussein had appeared in the interview room, he disappeared when two guards in Army uniforms reached in from the rear door and literally yanked him from his chair. It was like watching a magician make a man disappear. 

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