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Book Spotlight – Killing the Rougarou

KILLING THE ROUGAROU by Shawn M. Beasley, Romantic Suspense, 492 pp., $22.88 (paperback) $3.99 (Kindle)

 

Title: KILLING THE ROUGAROU
Author: Shawn M. Beasley
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 492
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Author Shawn Beasley captivates readers with the enthralling saga of
two southern families-the Gauthiers from the South Louisiana bayou
country and the Thomases from rural Texas-and the nightmare that will
ultimately touch them both. In her sweeping and richly evocative novel,
Beasley unfolds two remarkable family histories, populated by
unforgettable, deeply human characters, and then rocks their worlds with
tragedy and true horror. A novel that succeeds brilliantly on many
levels, Killing the Rougarou is, at once, moving and terrifying, tense
and thrilling, while capturing the sights, sounds, and vibrant life of
Louisiana’s Cajun country and Brazos County, Texas.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon / iUniverse / B&N

 

Being from South Louisiana, you hear a lot of
folklore. You never actually believe the old tales. You pass the stories on
down to your babies and so on. You never quite believe in them until you meet a
monster. Maybe then, you wonder: Could these stories be true?
 It was the Louisiana State fair in Shreveport, October 13, 1972—Friday the thirteenth, for the
superstitious. The sky was cloudless and the weather perfect for a night out.
The lights from the rides twinkled and it seemed they competed with the stars
in the clear sky with their brightness. It was cool and crisp, the temperature
in the mid-sixties. All that was needed to keep warm tonight was a light
jacket.
 A handsome family of six were enjoying the sights and sounds of
the fair. They had driven up this morning from
Sulphur and would stay at
the Holiday Inn downtown. Matthew Robert Gauthier (pronounced “Go-shay”), the
father of the family, had chosen this hotel because it was rumored the king
himself, Elvis Presley, had stayed here during his Louisiana Hayride days. He
fancied himself to be “the coon-ass Elvis,” and was the only one who did. He
loved to sing and would often sing as loud as he could, mostly off-key. It
drove his family crazy. His wife often joked that Matthew couldn’t sing, so he
had to work in the oilfield. Music had always been in their home and was a big
part of their community.
 Matthew almost always had a big smile on his face and a song on
his lips and so if Matthew was singing, he was dancing. It didn’t matter to him
when or where he performed. He truly loved to dance and sing, and if it
embarrassed his kids, well, that made it even better.
  Matthew and his wife Jessie had been married for just over
sixteen years and he was still crazy about her. They had four children, three
boys and a girl. The baby girl was his world. He loved his boys with all his
heart, but “the Girl” as he called her, wrapped him around her little finger.
She had them all under her spell. As the baby and only girl child, she got away
with everything and usually all her requests were granted. In fact, the fair
had been her idea.
 Louisiana has two state
fairs: one in
Baton Rouge (which they always
went to), and this one in
Shreveport. She learned of the
fair in
Shreveport from school, and
wanted to go up north. As usual, what “the Girl” wanted “the Girl” got! So,
they loaded up the car and would spend their weekend here, in
Shreveport, before returning
south to Choupique Bayou.
 They had been to the exhibitions, looked at the livestock, and
finally made their way to the midway. Tomorrow they would go to the rodeo.
Matthew loved the rodeo: it was where he first met Jessie. A fleeting memory of
that meeting brought a smile to his face.
 Music played through the outdoor speakers that surrounded the
midway. The song playing was “Smoke on the Water” by the band Deep Purple and
was so loud it drowned out the noise from the rides. The smell of hot dogs and
cotton candy was strong near the food trucks parked in a row between the rides
and the games. The games were on both sides of the midway alley and the
carnival barkers yelled for the Gauthier family to try their luck and maybe win
a prize. As they passed through the games, Matthew could sense his boys’
excitement and could barely prevent them from running off to the nearby rides.
The boys were ready to break free from their parents’ supervision and he
enjoyed delaying them. He liked to tease them and it made his day to embarrass
them.
 After he dispensed the rules to his boys as to the when and where
of meeting back up, the boys ran off to enjoy themselves. Matthew called the
boys back to give them each some forgotten money.
 “Come see, boys!” he yelled to the fleeing trio.
 He smiled when he heard them groan. They were worried he might
begin dancing before they could get away. They looked back to see what he could
possibly want. When they turned around, they saw a smiling Matthew as he held
money up for them to see and waved the cash back and forth as if it were a fan.
They grinned back at their father when they realized in their haste to get away
they hadn’t remembered to get money for the rides. Their eyes lit up with
excitement as they each were given twenty dollars from Matthew, and he reminded
them not to be late when they met back up.
 “Don’t make me come and find you,” he warned with a serious look
on his face.
 They laughed at their father and ran off toward the rides,
thankful they missed his dance moves they knew were soon to begin.
 As Matthew, Jessie, and the Girl made their way to the rides for
younger children, Matthew began to dance. Elvis Presley’s hit, “Burning Love”
vibrated through the speakers now and he couldn’t be contained. He grabbed up
his baby girl and adapted his Cajun two-step to the fast beat of the music as
he held his daughter. She laughed while she danced with her daddy and a bright
smile spread across her little face.
 The lights from the rides caught the five-year-old girl’s
attention and twinkled back from her eyes. She was beautiful. She was tiny in
stature.
 “Tiny but mighty,” her daddy would say.
 Her hair was long, auburn, and pulled back in a ponytail. Her skin
was olive-colored and blemish-free. She also had a few light freckles sprinkled
across her nose. She had recently lost her upper-front tooth and lisped when
she talked. She was the spitting image of her mother with one exception: she
had her father’s unusual amber eyes. Amber eyes were also known as wolf eyes,
and as if nature wanted to increase their dramatic effect, they were fringed
with long, dark lashes. Her eyes sparkled brightly and when the dance ended,
she grabbed her daddy’s face and planted a big kiss on his cheek. He put her
down between himself and Jessie and they each grabbed one of her little hands.
 “Come on with your daddy, Girl, the frogs are laughing and time’s
a wasting!”
 They continued on to find the rides for her to enjoy. She was safe
and loved and right where she wanted to be, with her parents. This night at the
fair would be one of the last happy memories she would have with both of them.
This was the night “the music” died in their home. This was the night her
father lost his smile. This was the night she met the rougarou.
#
 He watched them and saw her smile. He knew she secretly smiled for
him. He grew hard as he thought about what he wanted to do to her. She was his.
He would bide his time and follow them. He would take her. They didn’t matter.
It was what she wanted. His breathing grew heavier and his heartbeat
accelerated in anticipation.

 

 

 

 

 

Author Shawn Beasley captivates readers with the enthralling saga of

two southern families-the Gauthiers from the South Louisiana bayou
country and the Thomases from rural Texas-and the nightmare that will
ultimately touch them both. In her sweeping and richly evocative novel,
Beasley unfolds two remarkable family histories, populated by
unforgettable, deeply human characters, and then rocks their worlds with
tragedy and true horror. A novel that succeeds brilliantly on many
levels, Killing the Rougarou is, at once, moving and terrifying, tense
and thrilling, while capturing the sights, sounds, and vibrant life of
Louisiana’s Cajun country and Brazos County, Texas.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon / iUniverse / B&N

 

 

 

 

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VBT – The Banished Lands

About the Author

Me

Benjamin Mester is native of San Diego but can often be found wandering the woods of northern Minnesota.  He fell in love with language at an early age – the eloquence of poetry or the grandeur of an epic story. Fantasy is his favorite genre, crafting new and magical places of heroism and adventure.  When he isn’t writing, he’s often taking long walks through nature or wondering about his place in the wide world.

Benjamin is the author of The Banished Lands series.

You can visit him on Goodreads.

About the Book:

The Banished Lands

Title: THE BANISHED LANDS (BOOK ONE)
Author: Benjamin Mester
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 384
Genre: Fantasy

BOOK BLURB:

A kingdom in danger. A prophecy that will change everything. But will they understand it in time? The old world is gone, and barely even histories remain. But something from that time is returning. The closing lines of a farewell poem, written centuries ago by the last great king of the age to his slain wife, might be more than just a poem:

The world and all its light shall fade,
I’ll stay with her beneath the shade
And wait until the world’s remade…

Join us in this epic fantasy adventure as three friends plunge into the great mystery of their age, twelve centuries in the making. A mysterious fog blankets the forest just outside the sleepy town of Suriya. A dark plot unfolds as Durian and his friends discover ties between a strange wanderer and the warlike barbarian kingdom far to the north. Are the mysterious things happening in the forest a prelude to invasion? What happens next will propel Durian and his curious friends into the middle of the oldest riddle in the history of their kingdom, a dozen centuries old.

The Banished Lands series

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Amazon

 

Book Excerpt:

Dismissing hours as they pass

Soft upon the windswept grass.

The hopes of men have come to naught.

Nothing fair for eyes or thought.

For Sheyla lies on golden plain,

Of Cavanah, the fairest slain;

Who met her last and final day

When all was brought to disarray.

Of gladful things now nevermore –

Now bitter wind, now salty shore.

The peaceful world bound to unrest

And darkness looming in the west.

The world and all its light shall fade.

I’ll stay with her beneath the shade

And wait until the world’s remade…

Suriya

The town of Suriya awoke in usual fashion, with thin bands of smoke appearing one by one over the scattered chimney tops, rising to a dawn still flecked with starlight.  Few were stirring this early hour, in this small town in the corner of the kingdom, at the edge of the known world. An autumn wind picked up, pulling at the gray smoke and signaling the discovery of each hidden crevice in the stone cottages with a shriek of cold.

Durian woke to the whistling wind, but his mind was still full of the dream of a woman lying slain in a field.  He thought she was only sleeping, but something kept him from drawing near her. A rider approached, dismounted, and took her into his arms.  The figure pressed her head against his chest, and even from a distance his despair was evident. Then carrying her to his horse, they rode for the horizon.  He’d had this dream once before, and every detail was the same: the woman, the rider, the lingering stab of loss when he woke.

Sleep had almost found him when he snapped back awake – a promise to his best friend, Baron, in mind.  Groaning, Durian pushed himself from bed. Baron was competing in the Sea Games this morning. Though why was beyond him. This was the worst time of year as far as Durian was concerned, with no reprieve from the roving wind that swept up from the south.  With winter at least came snow, piled like a warm blanket against the drafty cottages. But the first heavy snows hadn’t yet fallen and the wind moved as it willed.

Durian ambled to his fireplace and blew slow, hopeful breaths.  But clouds of ash were all that greeted him in return. Reaching for the woodpile beside him, he seized some kindling but hesitated, knowing he’d soon be leaving.  Thob Forest, a two day’s walk westbound, was Suriya’s only source for timber. Abundant as trees were, strange things had been happening there that were keeping the woodsmen at bay.

It brought images of the dream back to mind.  The first time he’d had the dream was just before things in the forest started changing.  Every morning for the last three months, a fog had gathered, remaining throughout the day.  And in the mist were faint hints of perfume and smoke. None knew what caused it.

He glanced to the book lying idle on the mantle, one he’d rummaged through his room to find when the fog first arrived.  Titled Tales of the Prosperous Age, among its grand histories and stories, it contained the farewell poem of King Euthor to his wife, Sheyla – a poem that always touched him.  He’d been struck then, how similar his dream was to the poem and how vivid the images were. It felt connected to the happenings of the forest, but he didn’t know how that could be.

He took the book in hand, remembering fondly how the stories had consumed his imagination as a boy.  All he had wanted then was to go to the capital city, Eulsiphion; wander the great hall and visit the archives to learn whatever he could of the old world.  

The Banished Lands banner

Spotlight – Snickety Dickety Doo

Snickety Dickety Doo banner

About the Author

Danica-Lea Larcombe 2

Danica-Lea Larcombe has a B.Sc (Environmental Health), a Grad.Dip in Education and has taken courses in Journalism, Travel Writing, and Photography. She is currently undertaking a thesis in Biodiversity and Human Health, and lives with her Japanese Spitz Bella.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

 

About the Book

Snickety Dickety Doo

Title: SNICKETY DICKETY DOO
Author: Danica-Lea Larcombe
Publisher: Blurb
Pages: 90
Genre: Children’s Fiction

BOOK BLURB:

George, Fiona and Marni find a tin of bubbles, not just any ordinary bubbles but planets. The planets shrink the children and take them to faraway lands. The children have many exciting adventures and try not to let their secret be discovered.  They learn about different cultures, currencies and languages, and are inspired at school.

In Series Two, George, Marni and Fiona continue their adventures around the world in the planet bubbles. They narrowly escape being killed by some monks in Turkey, find a little companion in Paris and visit royalty in Monaco.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

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Book Excerpt:

It wasn’t just a small piece of tin.  Curiosity got the better of her and Marni decided she better keep digging around.  She could see the edges now and it looked like it was a tin box of some sort. Marni suddenly forgot about her wish and dug frantically to get the box out.  It was quite a light box of about medium size. It was not painted and there was no writing on it.

“What on earth could be in it?” Marni wondered.

It had a small padlock but this was rusted and broke off easily.  She opened the lid carefully to find nine individually wrapped balls, or so she thought.  She unwrapped one of the balls to find it was not a ball. In her hand it shone like a bubble, and was soft and tender to touch.  It had little feet and hands and was the colour of the sun.

“Oh my”, Marni whispered, “It has got a face!”  

The bubble’s eyes were closed and the mouth still.  On the other side it had the shape of a door, but there was no door handle.  How odd.

Marni looked at her watch quickly. It was six o’clock which was tea time and her parents would be calling her any minute.  She hastily re-wrapped the ball and closed the tin. She put her secret wish down the hole and filled it up with the dark brown coloured soil.  

Somehow Marni made it back inside the house and into her bedroom without anyone seeing the box.  She could not wait to show it to George and Fiona but it would have to wait until after tea. Her hands and knees were filthy dirty now, and her father questioned her.  

“What have you been doing? You look like a gypsy”.  

“Oh, just helping Fiona in the garden” Marni lied.  

Dinner was always a silent occasion in the Dimond household, and you got your knuckles rapped if you spoke.  Which Fiona did quite often.

Marni wished tea time would hurry up and finish but she had to wait for the compulsory pudding first.  It would either be apple crumble or apple strudel with ice-cream. Her mother baked wonderfully, but never seemed to want to try new recipes.  Now they were all allowed to leave the table because everyone had finished but the dishes still had to be dried and put away after her mother had washed them.  It was the height of the summer and daylight savings time meant that sunset would not be until about 8.30pm.

“George, Fiona, come into my room.  I have something to show you” Marni said.  “Quickly then” grumbled George. “I want to finish my hut”.  

“Ooh what is it?” asked Fiona.  

Spotlight – Sugar and Spice and All Those Lies

Sugar and Spice and All Those Lies banner

About the Author

Evy Journey

Evy Journey, SPR (Self Publishing Review) Independent Woman Author awardee, is a writer, a wannabe artist, and a flâneuse who, wishes she lives in Paris where people have perfected the art of aimless roaming. Armed with a Ph.D., she used to research and help develop mental health programs.

She’s a writer because beautiful prose seduces her and existential angst continues to plague her despite such preoccupations having gone out of fashion. She takes occasional refuge by invoking the spirit of Jane Austen to spin tales of love, loss, and finding one’s way—stories into which she weaves mystery or intrigue.

Her latest book is Sugar and Spice and All Those Lies.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

 

About the Book

Sugar and Spice and All Those Lies

Title: SUGAR AND SPICE AND ALL THOSE LIES
Author: Evy Journey
Publisher: Sojourney Books
Pages: 200
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Crime

BOOK BLURB:

Cooking a wonderful meal is an art. An act of love. An act of grace. A gift that affirms and gives life—not only does it nurture those who partake of the meal; it also feeds the soul of the creator. These are lessons Gina learns from her mother, daughter of an unfortunate French chef.

Gina is a young woman born to poor parents, a nobody keen to taste life outside the world she was born into. A world that exposes her to fascinating people gripped by dark motives. Her passion for cooking is all she has to help her navigate it.

She gets lucky when she’s chosen to cook at a Michelin-starred restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area where customers belong to a privileged class with money to spare for a dinner of inventive dishes costing hundreds of dollars. In this heady, scintillating atmosphere, she meets new friends and new challenges—pastry chef Marcia, filthy rich client Leon, and Brent, a brooding homicide detective. This new world, it turns out, is also one of unexpected danger.

Can the lessons Gina learned from her mother about cooking and life help her survive and thrive in this other world of privilege, pleasure, and menace?

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Praise:

By Lee Broom on December 24, 2017

Format: Kindle Edition

Powerful book! I feel like this story was one that I will have on my mind for a while. Gina is a gourmet chef, and her life is centered around her food and her dreams of owning her own restaurant. She recently got out of a relationship, not wanting to commit because of her passion for her job. Then a charming rich playboy notices her and won’t stop sending her roses. It’s an interesting story that has some crazy twists when jealous women come out of the woodwork. Gina doesn’t want to have a relationship so she ignores Leon’s attentions. Then she meets an intense homicide detective named Brent who catches her heart, but numerous events keep them apart. It’s a compelling story with quite a few ups and downs and sometimes I wanted to say to these people, “What is wrong with you people? Can’t you just admit you love each other and live your life happy already?!” I highly recommend this book and can’t wait to read more by this author.

 

Book Excerpt:

Prologue

I’m alive. I’m dead. I’m in-between. In that limbo where my vital signs hover just above death. I rise above my body and look down on it, lying on a gurney. Hospital staff are rushing me along the brightly-lit hallway to the operating room. One of them holds an oxygen mask on my face. Another, a bag of intravenous fluid connected to my veins by a tube.

I’m not ready to die yet. These good people anxious to rescue me don’t know that my resolve is the only thing that is keeping me alive. No, I’m not ready to die—I’ve only just begun to live. I have yet to prove to myself, to the world, that I have what it takes to prevail.

My family—now on their way to the hospital—doesn’t know yet exactly what happened to me. And except for one detective, neither do the police. I see him now by the foot of the gurney, keeping pace with the nurses. He’s scowling, his lips pressed into a grim line.

A tall, taut, and solitary man, he has deep-set gray eyes clouded by too many images of violent death and a lower lip that hangs perpetually open in disgust or despair. So much darkness he has already seen in his thirty odd years in this world. He needs to piece together the facts that constitute the attempt on my life, events that may have led to it, and various fragments of my past to understand what brought me to this point.

The first time I met him, I fell in love with him. There was something primal about him, some paternal, animalistic instinct to save hurt or fallen victims. Like me, maybe. It gave him power and it made him irresistible to me.

But fate is fickle. It teases. It entices. One day, something quite ordinary happens to you. Yet, you sense that that ordinary something can change your life. Not necessarily for something better, but for something new. Fate is dangling before you the promise of a world that, before then, was totally out of your reach. How can you not seize it?

Now, of course, I see the end of that promise. And it’s not where I want to be.

It’s tragic, don’t you think, that the end of that promise should be right here on a gurney, with me fighting for my life? It certainly is not what I hoped for.

How could it end this way? I embraced life, took chances, but half-dead on this gurney, I wonder: Am I paying with my life? But, like I said. I’m not ready to die yet.

 

Spotlight – Love Hack

Love Hack banner

About the Author

Kimberly Dean

When taking the Myers-Briggs personality test in high school, Kimberly Dean was rated as an INFJ (Introverted-Intuitive-Feeling-Judging). This result sent her into a panic, because there were no career paths recommended for the personality type. Fortunately, it turned out to be well suited to a writing career. Since receiving that dismal outlook, Kimberly has become an award-winning author of romance and erotica. She enjoys the freedom and creativity allowed in writing romance, especially with all the interesting cross-genres that have been exploding on the scene.  When not writing, she enjoys movies, sports, traveling, music, and sunshine.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER

 

About the Book

Love Hack

Title: LOVE HACK
Author: Kimberly Dean
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 180
Genre: Romantic Suspense

BOOK BLURB:

Security analyst Spencer Weiler is excited when he lands a job at Afire Industries. The responsibility is daunting, but nowhere near as exhilarating as working with Josie Johnson, the pretty program manager in charge. Spencer lusts after her, but knows that she only sees him as a work friend. He needs to make himself over if he’s going to have a shot with her.

Josie is all too aware of the cute computer geek watching over her. He was tempting before, but with his newfound muscles and sexy haircut, he’s suddenly an irresistible stud. She makes the first move and is stunned to learn that her hot IT guy is just as studious in the sack. Their affair turns hot and heavy, but Josie has broken her rule about dating coworkers once before. It didn’t end well. When her ex returns and posts scandalous pictures of her on the Internet, it’s not Spencer’s muscles that she needs. She needs a hacker.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

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Book Excerpt:

Chapter One

As far as work settings went, Spencer supposed the place would do. Yeah, understatement of the year. He looked around the open bay of Afire Industries and tried not to drool. It was a developer’s dream: pods of desks for teams, comfy seating areas for private thinking, top-notch equipment, and cool technology on which to work. The downtown location in Seattle was prime, within walking distance of restaurants, bars, the waterfront, and even the Space Needle. Not that he was geeking out about the opportunity or anything…

Okay, he was geeking out, but it was only natural. He was a software geek. Hell, he was the King of Software Geeks.

“We’re glad to have you onboard,” his new boss, Luke McAllister, said. “Your background in software security is just what we need.”

No kidding. Afire was recovering from a major hack. It had been all over the news. From what Spencer knew about the situation, it hadn’t been a sophisticated attack. The hackers had come through the Internet of Things, which had been left unsecured. A total oversight and totally preventable. “I think I can help you guys out.”

A company this big and this advanced in the tech field? Heads had rolled as a result of the breach, but it had also opened up an opportunity for him to do what he did best. Security was Spencer’s game. What had impressed him most about the situation had been Afire’s response. Contrary to prevailing advice from government and law enforcement officials, Afire had not only closed the hole, they’d gone after their attackers—and they’d taken them down.

This was the kind of place where he wanted to work.

“We’re not ‘you guys’ anymore,” Luke said. “You’re one of us now, ‘a fireman.’ Come on. Let me show you around the place.”

Spencer hopped to his feet, automatically swiping up the MacBook he’d been assigned. He liked this guy, Luke. He wasn’t a normal software guy. In fact, he was pretty up-front about the fact that he was just learning the basics of coding. What McAllister did know, inside and out, was security in general: defensive measures, weakness analysis, perpetrator psychology… Rumor was that he’d worked for the Secret Service before turning to the private sector. What Spencer liked most, though, was that his new boss seemed to let people play to their strengths.

And he was cool as hell: tough, muscled, and badass.

“These three pods are where the security group is located.” Luke nodded, and the developers who weren’t heads-down coding nodded back.

Spencer recognized a few people from his interview and gave a wave.

“We have flexible hours, and you’re free to work from home when you feel the need. If things get hot, though, I’d prefer everyone be onsite so we can ‘war room’ the situation.”

“Not a problem,” Spencer said. That was pretty normal in the industry. He’d be working onsite until he got up to speed on everything.

He followed Luke when he turned down a hallway. The layout of the converted fish cannery was open and airy, but the security team was somewhat secluded around a corner. He was okay with that. Managers thought open-bay setups encouraged collaboration, but to Spencer, they just got loud. He preferred to work on his own when possible. As he’d often been told, he was a “deep thinker.”

“The restrooms are down there on the left. Here’s the grab ’n go area. Take whatever you want to eat or drink. The Green Team just prefers you use the recyclable bowl you were given. It should be on your desk.”

Recycled bowls for snacking, a T-shirt with the company fire emblem, plus a baseball hat, a mousepad, and a backpack to match. Afire didn’t skimp on the swag—although Spencer knew it was free advertising to have the company’s employees going around Seattle dressed like walking Afire billboards.

But shoot, they could dress him up and send him down the runway if this was what he got in return.

He tried not to smile too broadly as they continued their tour. He’d come from a company that specialized in security, but he felt like he’d just made it to the big leagues. It wasn’t just the perks. He was excited to get out on the front lines. The security firm’s customers had been other software companies. Here, he’d be protecting consumers directly. It was a challenge he looked forward to, because, honestly, he needed some new challenges. Things had been getting too easy for him at his old job. Easy and boring.

“Our customer success team is over there. They work with clients directly, helping them through any problems they might encounter. If you need someone who knows our applications inside and out, talk to them.” Luke kept moving until they were at the back of the building. “Down here is the gym.”

Spencer gave it a cursory glance. The assortment of workout machines looked shiny and top of the line, but what did he know? It wasn’t a perk he was likely to use.

“Towel service is provided. I can show you how to use the programmable locks on the lockers, if you’d like.”

“I think I can figure that out,” Spencer said dryly.

Luke sent him a sidelong look and laughed. “Yeah, I suppose you can.”

Clapping a heavy hand on his shoulder, Spencer’s boss turned him back in the direction they’d come. “The cafeteria is open for breakfast and lunch. The team is planning to eat as a group today to welcome you.”

“Cool,” Spencer said. He liked Christopher Chen, the guy who sat at the desk next to him, but he hadn’t gotten to spend much time with anyone else.

Not that he was a social butterfly, but those were his people. Luke was a bit intimidating. He was the kind of guy who probably knew all about working out in gyms, fishing, football, and women. Spencer suspected he’d have more things to talk about with Christopher and the other developers.

“Okay, this is really where I want to take you,” Luke said as he opened a door to a covered walkway leading out of the main Afire building. “This is the way to our small business accelerator. It’s managed by Afire, but space is rented by entrepreneurs trying to get new tech companies off the ground.”

“Sounds interesting.”

Spencer followed his boss to the smaller building next door, but stopped when Luke turned with his hand on the door’s push-bar.

“It’s also where the hack came in.”

Okay, now Spencer’s interest was piqued. “One of the entrepreneurs let them in?”

“No, we let them in. We own and manage the facilities and shared equipment. The small companies here just rent space. The hack came in through the Internet of Things, which we should have secured for everyone. The hacker was then able to breach the firewall between Start ’er Up and Afire’s networks. That’s top-secret info that nobody outside of our team needs to know.”

Spencer nodded. That little tidbit hadn’t been in any of the news reports. It also made it more understandable how such an infiltration had occurred.

Luke pushed open the glass door at the end of the walkway, and the hydraulic closer let out a whoosh. Soft chatter filtered through the air.

“Welcome to Start ’er Up,” Luke said.

Spencer looked around the place with interest. The tech world and startups went hand in hand, although he’d always worked in established businesses. Along with being a deep thinker, he was an old soul. The idea of going out on his own was tempting, but he knew the risks involved with that. Perks were one thing, but he wasn’t blinded by them. Company stability, health insurance, and a 401(k) match were more important to him.

Although this could be a cool way to keep tabs on cutting-edge stuff…

“I’m assigning this place to you,” Luke said.

What? Spencer stood a little straighter. Wow. Talk about a shot in the arm. “Okay.”

“I had a consultant go through everything. She assures me that everything is secure now, but I’d like a second opinion. I’d also like to bring the responsibility in house.”

“Yes, sir. I can do that.” Spencer nodded with confidence as he looked around the space. He spotted printers, routers, and even an old fax machine… all potential infiltration points if somebody wanted to get in via the Internet of Things, much less the Wi-Fi that all these companies no doubt shared.

His brain began churning. Damn, he was getting more and more excited about this job, but he didn’t want to come off like a goober.

Luke turned into one of the few offices in the smaller building. “First things first, I’d like to introduce you to Josie. She manages Start ’er Up. You two will be working closely.”

Spencer took one step in the room, and his brain jammed. Crumpled-paper-in-the-bowels-of-a-printer kind of jam. One moment his brain was firing on all cylinders, excited about the new assignment, and the next, it froze and his body went a little haywire. Girl. Beautiful girl. Strawberry blonde. Green eyes. Pretty smile. Pink lips… And a tight body. Oh, hell. Don’t look there.

“Josie, this is Spencer Weiler, our new security hire. He’s the one who’s going to take point on Start ’er Up’s security situation from here on out.”

The girl… woman… gorgeous woman looked at him and blinked those big green eyes. “Oh! Hi there. It’s nice to meet you.”

She looked at him expectantly, but that paper jam was in there good, gunking up any thought processes Spencer might have once had. “Hi-lo,” he said.

Oh, crap. That wasn’t right.

“Hell. I mean hell-o.” One of her eyebrows rose, and he thought he saw a dimple in her cheek deepen. Damn, this should not be that difficult. “Hi,” he said on a rough exhale.

“Hi, Spencer.” Okay, she was smiling at him. Laughing, really. No, not laughing. There was empathy there. “First days are tough, aren’t they?”

He nodded, his tongue feeling twice its size inside his mouth. Yeah, first day. They’d go with that. She did not need to know about the boner that he was suddenly sporting. She didn’t need to know that was why no blood or oxygen was making it to the head atop his neck.

She held out a hand. “I’m glad you’re here.”

Not as glad as he was. Not even close.

He took her hand and shifted the Mac he was still carrying so it hid the front of his jeans. Her skin felt like silk. Warm, smooth silk.

He couldn’t stop staring at her. Honest to God, she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen.

“I still feel so bad about the hack,” she said. “I didn’t even know you could hack equipment like that.”

“Josie,” Luke said. “We’ve talked about this.”

“I know,” she said, sighing heavily, “but I’m responsible for this place. I should have done something to stop it from happening.”

Spencer frowned. “You know how to change the password on a R-4200 router?”

“Uh… no,” she said with a blush. Her gaze went quickly to her desk, where he’d seen the piece of equipment. “But I should know that’s something that needs to be done.”

“It’s not even in the owner’s manual.” He shrugged, hoping the gesture showed reassurance.

Was it hot in here? He stuck his hand in his front jeans pocket to keep from fanning himself like a ninny, but winced. Tight. Jeans too tight. He pulled his hand back out quickly and wrapped his fingers around the shield of his Mac.

“Really?” The lines on the angel’s face smoothed. “Oh, that makes me feel better. I’m the program manager around here. There’s a lot to keep track of.”

“The rock star manager of all managers,” another female inserted.

Spencer glanced to the door. Okay, smoking-hot brunette at nine o’clock. Was there something in the water over here? His glance bounced off her right back to Josie.

“This the newb?” the visitor asked.

Luke nodded. “Spencer, this is Kylie Grant. Kylie, this is Spencer Weiler.”

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

The brunette looked at Luke. “I got this place locked down, you know.”

He sighed and crossed his arms over his chest. The guy’s forearms bulged like Popeye’s, and the woman took notice. Spencer caught the reaction and quickly let his gaze skim over Josie. She wasn’t eyeing his manly boss, so much as fighting a smile watching the other two people in the room squabble.

“Security over here is Afire’s responsibility,” Luke said.

“Uh huh.” Kylie pushed her hair over her shoulder and cocked her head.

“Now,” Luke said in resignation. “We’re watching it more closely now, and Spencer is in charge of that.”

Spencer felt the brunette’s gaze rake over him. Her brow furrowed when she noticed the way he was clutching his Mac. He forced his fingers to relax, but he didn’t move it. No way, no how.

“Where did you work before this?” she asked.

“Samson Security.”

“Nice.” She drummed her fingers against her thigh. “What do you think of facial-recognition authentication?”

“Not dependable enough.”

“Pattern recognition?”

He shook his head. “Better than alphanumeric, but still a pain. Fingerprints are the way to go for top-level security and ease of use.”

“Hm,” she muttered. She swung her hand out, gesturing like Vanna White. “What do you think of the place? From a developer’s point of view?”

“Good space, a little loud.” He squinted at the sunlight bouncing off Elliott Bay through the front windows. That was something to mark on the calendar. The sun was out in Seattle, and he’d met the most beautiful girl in the world. Whom he’d like to get back to… if he could communicate with her… Hell, why was his brain connecting to his mouth with this brunette bombshell but not the redhead?

“It’s nice, although a bit bright,” he said.

Kylie straightened as if he’d jabbed her with a stick. “He’ll do.”

“Nice to have your approval,” Luke said dryly.

She lifted an eyebrow. “You know you want it.”

Josie cleared her throat. “They date,” she said.

Good. That meant one less guy Spencer had to be concerned about. A scary thought hit him, and his gaze snapped to her desk. He was relieved when he didn’t see photographs of a husband or boyfriend.

“Are we still going to Ivar’s for dinner tonight?” Kylie asked.

“Yeah,” Luke said. “How late are you going to be?”

“I can go anytime. Just pick me up when you’re ready.”

Was that a gleam in his boss’s steely gaze? Spencer watched for hints, pointers even. The guy obviously had game, and he could use some help in that area. Like, pronto.

Spencer shot another glance at Josie. He knew he was staring, but he couldn’t help it. That paper jam in his head just wasn’t letting loose. Did he even have a shot? She seemed so normal—no, so outstanding—and he was a computer geek. His kind didn’t have the best track records with women. What was his next step? Was he going to make a play? How did one do that?

He didn’t even know what a play was, not with someone like her.

“Anyway,” Luke said. “Now that we have approval from the boss, I’d like you two to work together to map out a plan. Spencer, you know the security piece. Josie, you know how Start ’er Up works. We can’t lock it down too tightly, because we have a lot of small businesses and entrepreneurs using this place. We’re here to help them, not shut them out.”

Spencer nodded. “Got it.”

“Josie can introduce you around and get you situated.”

Spencer nodded again. It was the one form of communication he had that seemed to be working. His brain was now stuck on the fact that he’d be spending a lot of time with her. It thrilled him and terrified him all at once.

“Any questions?” Luke said.

So, so many. Spencer shook his head.

Josie walked to her desk and opened a day planner the size of War and Peace. “When would you like to start, Spencer?”

Oh, God. He was even turned on by the way she said his name.

“Nuuhhhh.” He cleared his throat. “Now?”

She blinked. “Uh, okay.”

She moved some papers aside on her desk, but Luke stepped forward. “Whoa, boy. Slow ’er down.”

Josie giggled, and Spencer nearly died.

“I thought we were supposed to Start ’er Up,” she teased.

Spencer snorted. Literally, the most ungraceful sound in the world came out of his mouth, and Josie laughed harder.

Luke looked back and forth between the two of them. “Geek humor. Great.”

He tilted his head toward the door. “We’re not finished with his onboarding,” he said. “Put something on his calendar for tomorrow or later. Whatever works for you.”

“Okay.” Josie trailed her finger down the open page. “If you don’t need me now, I guess I’ll head down to the gym.”

Heat washed through Spencer when she turned toward him and laced her fingers together. “See you tomorrow.”

He nodded roughly. “Tmrro.”

Damn it.

“All right. Sounds like a plan.” Luke started out the door. “Let’s go back to my office.”

Spencer somehow managed to put one foot in front of the other to follow him. Looking over his shoulder, he caught Josie’s green gaze one last time. “Buh.”

Oh, hell and tarnation.

“Bye,” she said with a little wave that made his erection nearly burst right through the zipper of his jeans.

Spencer hoped to God he wasn’t walking funny as he followed Luke back through the walkway into Afire. Once the door closed behind them, some of his brain function returned. It was a proximity affliction, apparently.

This was a problem.

The woman put his brain on the fritz. He liked her. One step inside that door, and he’d wanted her. At the very least, he had to work with her, but she wasn’t a typical tech female. Luke’s girlfriend, Kylie, wasn’t either, but he could talk to her. But Josie?

Spencer narrowed his eyes on Luke as he sank down into the chair behind his desk. Wait a minute. Luke had somehow made the crossover from normal guy to geek girl—although Kylie was unlike any geek girl Spencer had ever met. Surely, he could take hints from their relationship and reverse-engineer it.

His brain started to whir; he was onto something here. He could hack this.

“So… that’s the gist of the job. Now, for your development plan.” Luke swiveled in his chair toward his laptop. “Everybody hates coming up with these, but Afire likes to keep its employees learning. You don’t have to come up with a full-blown plan now, but start thinking about an area where you’d like to develop more skills.”

“You mean in security?”

Luke shrugged, his heavy shoulders bunching. “Not necessarily. It can be pretty much anything. Rafi is taking some public-speaking courses to help with his presentations. Christopher is shadowing our customer success people to learn how our customers approach things. So think about it. What’s something you’re interested in learning more about?”

That was easy—the redhead next door.

Although when Luke said “anything,” Spencer doubted she was included.

He tapped his fingers against the arm of his chair. There was more than one way to hack a password.

“Stress can be a problem for me,” he said. It was the truth. “Sometimes I can get too deep in a problem and forget to take care of myself.”

Honesty there.

“Okay,” Luke said.

“And not to brag or anything, but I could teach most of the courses on security.”

Luke’s chair squeaked when he sat back. An evaluating look had settled onto his face. It was all jagged corners and tough-guy handsome. Spencer tried not to squirm as Luke looked him over. He could afford to put on some muscle like McAllister.

“The gym,” he said. It came to him like the flash of a light bulb. “I’d like to get more comfortable there, maybe establish a workout routine. You know, to get out of my head.”

Luke’s eyes narrowed, and Spencer rushed to make sense of the request before Luke made it to the truth. Although with the way his mouth started to tug at the corners, it might already be too late.

“Would you be open to training me?” Spencer asked.

Luke’s chin snapped up a fraction of an inch. Okay, he hadn’t been expecting that.

“Well, I am down there usually once a day,” Luke said, “and I wouldn’t mind a training partner. What’s your normal workout routine now?”

Routine? “I play a lot of disc golf in the summer. Does that count?”

The frown he got in return didn’t help.

“What’s that?” Luke asked.

Spencer ran a hand through his hair. “Frisbee golf.”

Damn, that didn’t sound tough at all.

But Luke nodded in approval. “There’s cardio with that.”

“Yeah, and I can run.” Spencer flexed. “I just need to… you know… beef up.”

Women were into that, from what he’d heard.

He flinched when Luke leaned forward and braced his elbows against the desk. “Let me get this straight. One of my security guys wants to enter… the gym.”

Spencer swallowed hard. He might as well have said the Twilight Zone. Did he want to become a gym rat? No. But did he want a shot with Josie? “Yes.”

He fought to hold his ground as Luke watched him. The guy could read the truth. He had eyes like lasers and a brain that was nearly as sharp.

“Okay, strength training it is.” Luke turned to his computer and filled out the development form. “We’ll start tomorrow morning before you go over to help Josie with Start ’er Up.”

“Tomorrow,” Spencer agreed. Before his brain went wonky again.

Man, he hoped this worked.

* * *

“So what did you think of him?”

Josie glanced up from her gym bag to the door. Shoot, Kylie was back. Josie returned her attention to her bag and zipped the compartment shut. She should have just run to the locker room and checked to see if she’d remembered to bring shampoo. “Who? Spencer?”

“No, Luke,” her friend said dryly.

Josie sighed. “I don’t know. He’ll be fine, I’m sure.”

“That’s a ringing endorsement.”

Okay, that hadn’t been fair. The new guy was better than fine—and maybe he had the security chops, too. “If you and Luke feel he’s the right guy, I’m sure he is.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

Giving up, Josie dropped the strap of the bag and slumped down into her chair. “I just can’t help feeling like it’s punishment for screwing up, like he’s being assigned to watch over my shoulder.”

“Screwing up?” Kylie closed the door behind her and walked over to settle her hip against the desk. “What did you do wrong?”

Oh, just about everything. Josie had gone over the whole cycle of events in her head so many times, it was like it was on constant replay. “I should have noticed the change in the lighting. I missed that completely. Even when you told me, I didn’t dig into it.”

Kylie frowned. “But you let me. And how would you have known that was evidence of a hack? I didn’t until I started poking around in the smart building control system, which you gave me access to, following proper protocol. Have I thanked you for that, by the way? If you hadn’t added me as an administrator, Luke never would have listened to me. I’d probably still be talking with lawyers today.”

“Yes, but that was a security violation, in and of itself. You weren’t officially associated with Afire. I should have been fired for that alone.”

“Hey, I’m a consultant. I’ve even got a badge to show it.”

Josie hit her friend with a look. “After the fact.”

“You just beat Luke to the paperwork.”

Josie fiddled with the pen holder on her desk. Afire liked to promote itself as a paperless company, but there was just something about pen and paper that made her feel more organized. She had pens in every color under the sun, and her day planner was jammed with Post-it notes to expand on the rainbow. That was her strength—organization and communication. She kept this place running as its program manager. She helped people network and find collaborators. She put together training sessions for new businesses on how to keep their books, market their products, and find venture capital. She kept metrics on their member companies’ progress, she reviewed startup applications for membership, and she even made the coffee.

But with all that she did, she knew that the Start ’er Up program was not key to Afire’s success. It didn’t make money. Every once in a while, a technology company might have something her bosses would be interested in licensing or even outright purchasing, but Start ’er Up’s mission was to support the entrepreneurship culture in Seattle. It was a community service.

Yet that community service had nearly brought Afire down.

She banged her pen holder against her desk, and two pens jumped out. “Why did that hack have to come through this place?”

Kylie frowned. “Did you ever stop to think how lucky we were that it did?”

“Excuse me?” Another pen, a purple one, fell out when Josie tried to shove the other two back in. She rarely got angry. She was an upbeat person, but she didn’t need coddling.

“Do you think something like that ever would have been noticed or investigated over in Afire? A lighting glitch? Especially with Steven Ayers at the security helm?”

Josie winced. She hadn’t realized how self-centered she was being. Steven Ayers had been the top security guy on Luke’s team. Smug, misogynistic, and highly overrated, he’d been fired for not detecting the hack of Afire’s network—and he’d come after Kylie for revenge.

Reaching past her growing pile of spilled pens, Josie caught her friend’s hand. “I’m sorry. I didn’t even think of that.”

“Those hackers could have done a lot more damage if we hadn’t caught them when we did. Luke isn’t assigning Spencer to Start ’er Up because he doesn’t trust you. He’s giving you the support you’ve always needed.” Kylie pushed her hair back and gave a little sniff. “Even if I had it handled.”

Josie rolled her eyes. Okay, they both had some personal hang-ups with the new situation. “You’ve got enough on your plate with your web design company and… whatever else it is that you do.”

Her friend clammed up real quick at that.

Kylie leaned forward and changed the subject. “So, give me the truth. What did you think of Mr. Chatty Cat?”

Talk about turning the tables. The direct look in her friend’s eyes made Josie blush, but she pretended not to know what Kylie was talking about. “The two of you communicated just fine.”

“Yes, but I’m one of his kind. You aren’t.”

Josie busied herself with straightening up her pens. “I understood what he was trying to say.”

Kylie’s grin turned into a smile. “I bet you did.”

“We’ll know better tomorrow if we can work together.”

“Josie, the words he managed to get out around you weren’t even English.”

“So he’s a little shy.” Shy, observant, tall, and sexy, in an awkward sort of way. Those dark puppy-dog eyes had made Josie melt when she’d first locked gazes with him. She pointed a pen at the brunette interrogating her. Enough of this. “What did you think?”

Kylie shrugged. “He’s kinda cute, if you go for that type of thing.”

“I meant for the security job!”

She laughed. “He’s solid. Technically, he’s really good. I checked him out before Luke made the offer.”

Josie’s jaw dropped. “Then why are you asking me?”

“Because it’s what you think that matters. He can be a security genius, but if you don’t like working with him, just say the word.”

“Oh, come on. Give him a chance.”

“So you like him?”

Josie began fiddling with her gym bag again. Kylie just wasn’t going to let up on this. “He is kind of cute, I guess, with that shaggy hair and dark eyes.”

“Too wiry for my taste.”

“Lanky,” Josie said. In a Ramones T-shirt, he’d been like all the other tech guys walking around, but his backside had been rather nice as she’d watched him walk out the door. He was tall, too. She’d had to tilt her head back a little to talk to him. She’d kind of liked that. And he had shoulders to match, even if he didn’t fill out the T-shirt as well as the jeans.

“I guess he is at the opposite side of the spectrum from Nolan,” Kylie said. “That’s a plus.”

Nolan. At the mention of her ex-boyfriend, Josie’s stomach went from buoyant to a ball of lead. Okay, it was her turn to clam up. She looped the long strap of her gym bag over her shoulder and stood. “I just agreed that Spencer is cute. That doesn’t mean I’m going to date him.”

She wasn’t ready to get back into that scene yet.

The humor left Kylie’s eyes. “Is Nolan still giving you problems?”

“No. Just a late-night text here and there.” Josie rounded her desk. She really did need to get to the gym if she was going to get a workout in.

Kylie put her arm over the doorway. “What does he want?”

Josie ducked underneath the barrier and scooted through. “To get back together.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

Kylie followed her down the hallway. “You’re not—”

“No.” Absolutely not.

“Good.” Kylie’s fists relaxed at her sides. “Cute and lanky might be a good thing after all.”

“Spencer’s just for work.” They were in the covered walkway now, leading over to Afire. Josie swiped her badge through the reader at the door to the main building. Kylie didn’t have her consultant’s badge on her, so this was where Josie could make her great escape. When the reader’s light turned green, she put her shoulder into the door and pushed it open. “I’m too busy for another boyfriend right now.”

Busy trying to make sure Afire was still invested in Start ’er Up and her job was secure.

The door clanked shut behind her, ending the conversation and making the lead ball inside Josie’s stomach heavier. Maybe Spencer could help her understand security better, but anything beyond that was out of the question. She needed to concentrate on her career while she still had it.

 

Book Spotlight – The ABCs of Living Green

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About the Author

Theresa A. McKeown

Theresa McKeown spent over two decades in the entertainment arena before embracing her true passion of writing children’s books. After producing hundreds of hours of television for a host of cable and network outlets, Theresa is now on the path of what she considers her highest calling.

Theresa and her sisters have created “The ABC’s of Everything, LLC”, a family endeavor solely focused on publishing several series of children’s books, digital content, and educational curriculums.  All will be written and produced with an awareness of the true possibilities that children of the 21st century can realize.  

As an author, Theresa is dedicated to estimating rather than underestimating the wisdom of children. Her philosophy is that kids are fully adept at understanding nuance and meaning and it’s not necessary to talk down to them.  She is dedicated to creating a new paradigm in the children’s book world by introducing work that fully embraces the insightfulness, perception and unlimited intellectual potential of today’s youth.

Her books are meant to plant the seeds of education and awareness early in a child’s development, knowing full well that children will ultimately blossom into the best versions of who they are meant to be.

In her role as producer, Theresa traveled worldwide, filming from locations as diverse as the White House, NORAD, the Pentagon, FBI headquarters, maximum-security prisons and from the top of the World Trade Center.  Along the way she “tail-hooked” onto an aircraft carrier in the Pacific, yachted through South America with jet setters and chased bad guys with the LAPD in a helicopter. She survived both OJ Simpson trials, shot live from heart of the LA Riots and drove through a wall of flames during the Laguna fires.  Yet, with a background like this, building a community to celebrate children promises to be the most exciting adventure of all.

As George Elliot once said, “It’s never too late to become who you might have been”.

…Words this author has taken to heart.

 

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

 

About the Book

The ABCs of Living Green 2

Title: THE ABCS OF LIVING GREEN
Author: Theresa A McKeown
Publisher: The ABCs of Everything, LLC
Pages: 56
Genre: Picture/poetry book for children and tweens

BOOK BLURB:

“The ABCs of Living Green” completes the ABC trilogy of picture books focused on raising happy, healthy, conscious children in body, mind and spirit. Written from the voice of Mother Earth, every letter of the alphabet and corresponding word gives readers a multitude of fun ways to be mindful not only of the planet we all share, but of the people with whom we share it. A book that focuses on the beauty and fulfillment of stepping up and doing our part in taking care of the environment and each other, “The ABCs of Living Green” is truly a book for the enlightened child of the 21st century.

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Book Spotlight – Eating From The Cherry Tree

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Title: Eating From The Cherry Tree
Author: Vivien Ella Walden

Pages: 290

About The Book

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EATING FROM THE CHERRY TREE is a dynamic, unique and totally revealing memoir of one of the most notorious and successful ‘madams’ the UK has seen in recent years. The book is inspired by Vivien Ella Walden’s unique life experiences that lead up to and behind her brothel doors. Within a short time she becomes famous for her skills and able to afford whatever she desires within a world of scandal and naughtiness, corruption and suffering, sadness and exhilarating happiness. Images of a complex girl emerge from this incredibly frank account. An account of a girl raised in a loving working class Jewish family who ran from her heritage, bared her perfectly formed derriere and partied with the elite and famous. She takes on many guises and titles, while mixing with gangsters, politicians, film stars, musicians and artists. Names of the rich and famous sprinkle this book. They all knew of her industry, it was not unlike theirs. This is an amazing book, telling a story of prostitution that has never been told in such explicit detail before. It will reach inside the heart of all those who admire absolute honesty on a subject many consider taboo.

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Blurb:

“Good sex is the ultimate life experience. An orgasm felt deep inside that can be held on to until your quivering body and brain explode is an art in itself. Does this ultimate pleasure have a price?  Of course, but doesn’t everyone in some way pay it?

There are lessons I have learnt that I have a need to share.  Of how it is possible to descend into the abyss of sexual exploitation and emerge smelling of roses.

Reliving the truth has proved harder than I had thought, the flood of imagery amazing. I am swamped by visions, swept away and catapulted backwards into memories of childlike innocence. Did I delve into things I shouldn’t have as a child?  Indeed I did.

Images of a complex girl have emerged, who ran from her heritage, bared her perfectly formed derriere and partied with the elite and famous.  Gangsters, politicians, film stars, musicians and artists, they all knew of her industry.  Being a stripper, call girl, hooker, or madam, you have to know how to dance to the music, be a good actress, stand up to the toughest, deal with the law and paint your own picture for all to see.

Entering into a life of ‘commercial sex’, be it on the stage, a brothel or bedroom, the most important skills are learning the art of negotiation, self esteem, and know how to seduce a man completely, keeping him intrigued, before and after the clothes come off.

Every woman has different roles to play in pleasuring a man. But the ‘working girl’ who is skilled in her art is the one to be held on a pedestal.  For she is the one who makes it possible to keep those home fires burning.”

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The theory of the Cherry Tree:

  • Dreaming that you see a cherry, indicates that you are to find love.
  • To dream that you eat cherries, predicts that you have damages ahead or that you will be involved in intrigue and competition.
  • To dream of unripe cherries, is a sign of problems ahead.
  • To dream that you picked cherries, predicts that you have profits ahead, joy and happiness in the family will also come.
  • A cherry blossom is a sign of hopes realized.
  • The cherry blossom symbolism is a very significant symbol of power, typically it represents a feminine beauty and sexuality and often holds an idea of power or feminine dominance.

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About The Author:

Vivien Ella Walden was born in Salford Manchester UK. Raised in a loving working class Jewish family she ran from her heritage, bared her perfectly formed derriere and partied with the elite and famous while taking on many guises and titles.

With the death of her first husband she took on his mantle and grew to become one of the UK’s most successful ‘madams’ within a world of scandal and naughtiness, corruption and suffering, sadness and exhilarating happiness.

‘After all these years, I am still involved in the process of self-discovery. It’s better to explore life and make mistakes than to play it safe. Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life’.

Vivien Waxman.

Links:

Amazon.  MyBook.to/CherryTree
Visit Amazon’s Vivien Ella Walden Page.
Twitter. Vivien Ella Walden @vivienwalden
Goodreads Book Page
Goodreads Author Page

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VBT – Last Puffs

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About the Author

Harley Mazuk

Harley Mazuk was born in Cleveland, the last year that the Indians won the World Series. He majored in English literature at Hiram College in Ohio, and Elphinstone College, Bombay, India. Harley worked as a record salesman (vinyl) and later served the U.S. Government in Information Technology and in communications, where he honed his writing style as an editor and content provider for official web sites.

Retired now, he likes to write pulp fiction, mostly private eye stories, several of which have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. His first full length novel, White with Fish, Red with Murder, was released in 2017, and his newest, Last Puffs, just came out in January 2018.

Harley’s other passions are his wife Anastasia, their two children, reading, running, Italian cars, California wine and peace.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

 

About the Book

Last Puffs

Title: LAST PUFFS
Author: Harley Mazuk
Publisher: New Pulp Press
Pages: 293
Genre: Mystery/Crime/Private Eye

BOOK BLURB

Frank Swiver and his college pal, Max Rabinowitz, both fall in love with Amanda Zingaro, courageous Republican guerilla, in the Spanish civil war. But the local fascists murder her and her father.

Eleven years later in San Francisco in 1949, Frank, traumatized by the violence in Spain, has become a pacifist and makes a marginal living as a private eye. Max who lost an eye in Spain but owes his life to Frank, has pledged Frank eternal loyalty. He’s a loyal communist party member and successful criminal attorney.

Frank takes on a case for Joan Spring, half-Chinese wife of a wealthy banker. Joan seduces Frank to ensure his loyalty. But Frank busts up a prostitution/white slavery ring at the Lotus House a brothel in Chinatown, where Joan was keeping refugees from Nanking prisoners.

Then Max sees a woman working in a Fresno cigar factory, who is a dead ringer for Amanda, and brings in Frank, who learns it is Amanda. She has tracked the fascists who killed her father and left her for dead from her village in Spain to California. Amanda wants Frank to help her take revenge. And by the way, she says the ten-year-old boy with her is Frank’s son.

Joan Spring turns out to be a Red Chinese secret agent, and she’s drawn a line through Max’s name with a pencil. Can Frank save Max again? Can he help Amanda avenge her father when he’s sworn off violence? Can he protect her from her target’s daughter, the sadistic Veronica Rios-Ortega? Join Frank Swiver in the swift-moving story, Last Puffs.

Praise

.5 out of 5 stars Wonderful Read – Easy and Fun

February 10, 2018

Format: Kindle Edition| Verified Purchase

Frank Swiver is a detective. Murder investigations are his specialty. He likes wine, loose women and fast cars. Not necessarily in that order. Swiver inhabits an earlier world that is archaic and, without doubt, politically incorrect by today’s standards. Harley Mazuk recreates in Swiver a character from another era whose story is fun and entertaining. Mazuk has an impressive knowledge of wines and cars which permeate his narrative. As to his knowledge of women, I am not competent to judge. I do know that the geography and time period portrayed is well researched. There are many twists and turns to the plot as well as an injection of espionage that keeps the reader guessing. Fans of old fashion detective novels will enjoy this book. I know, I did.

— Amazon Reviewer

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Book Excerpt:

Aragón, Spain, March 1938

There’d been a dusting of fresh snow in the high ground during the night, and the captain wanted our squad, which was nine men, to relieve an outpost on the crest of a hill, just up above the tree line. Max Rabinowitz took point, and I followed, climbing steadily. It was a cold, quiet morning, and we talked between ourselves about the ’38 baseball season, and whether we’d be back in the States to see any games.

“I would like to see Hank Greenberg and the Tigers play DiMaggio and the Yanks,” said Max. Max was dark-haired and rangy, and I always thought he looked a bit like Cary Grant, though now after a year in the field, there was nothing suave nor dapper in his appearance.

“How about Ted Williams?” I said. “We’ve already seen DiMaggio play in San Francisco with the Seals.”

“We saw Williams play with the Padres. Besides, he isn’t in the big leagues yet,” said Max.

“Yeah, but the Red Sox signed him.” I walked along just off Max’s shoulder. I was about the same height as Max, six feet, six-one, a little thinner, and looked at least as scruffy that morning. I wore a burgundy scarf around my head and ears, under a dirty and battered grey fedora. I scanned the virgin snow ahead of us with heavy-lidded eyes. The wind was faint, just enough to pick up a feathery wisp of snow in spots and spin it around.  

“He’s only about 19. I think they’ll keep him down on the farm for ’38.”

“I would like to see Bob Feller pitch to your boy Greenberg,” I told Max.

Smitty came up between us. “Feller throws 100 miles an hour, and he strikes out more than one per inning.”

“They say,” said Max, “he walks almost one an inning,”

“Keeps ‘em loose up there,” said Smitty, who was from Cleveland. “Hundred mile an hour heat and nobody knows where it’s going.”

As the three of us stepped out of the cover of the tree line, Smitty kind of hopped up on one leg and threw his arms out. I wondered what sort of a weird little dance that was; then I heard the automatic weapons fire coming down at us off the hill. It was a mechanical chatter, rather than gunpowder explosions, and the wind had blown the sound around the hills so that the bullets cut Smitty down before it had reached us. Branches near us started to snap off and tumble earthwards. Max hit the snow on his belly and rolled downhill to his right to get to cover behind a rock. I motioned for the others to get back into the trees, and dove into a low spot in the ground.

When we could look up, we saw that the fascists had overrun the outpost we’d been climbing up to the ridge to relieve, and the firing was coming from there. We returned fire. I heard cries in Spanish from behind me, a curse in a low voice, then a high-pitched prayer.

A potato-masher grenade came flipping end-over-end down the hill toward me. It seemed like slow motion. It hit a rock and bounced up. I could say a Hail Mary in about four seconds flat in those days, and I said one then. The grenade sailed over my head; I heard it explode, and felt a shower of dirt on my back. In front of me, Max was popping up and firing one round with his Springfield, then dropping behind the rock. I popped up and fired when he dropped down. I thought we were doing pretty well taking turns, but grenades kept arcing over our heads and bullets pinged into Max’s rock and raked the dirt beside me. Max tried lobbing one of his grenades towards the machine gun, but his throw was uphill, and he didn’t have an arm like DiMaggio.

After a few minutes of this, I tried to aim and squeeze the trigger instead of popping off quick shots. Then I didn’t hear anyone behind us firing anymore. I looked around and saw Rocco and Pete sprawled in the grass. I called to a couple of the others.

“Comrades…anyone…sound off.” Nada.

“Frank, this is bad,” Max yelled to me.

“I’d rather be facing Feller’s fastballs,” I told him. “Maybe it’s time for us to dust.” Then we heard an airplane motor. It grew louder, and the first plane, a Heinkel, zoomed over the ridge seconds later. Max had risen to his feet and was scrambling down the slope. He looked back over his shoulder at the plane just as a cannon shot from the aircraft hit the rock he’d been behind. The explosion flipped Max in mid-air and tossed him towards me. The ground under him ripped up and clods of dirt flew towards us.

The scene faded to black, but for how long, I don’t know. When I opened my eyes, I was facing the sky but I smelled the forest floor, earth and leaves. Truffles, perhaps? Max was on top of me, limp, and it was quiet. No planes, no shooting. “Max,” I said, “we gotta get up. Get off me.” I felt my voice in my head, but couldn’t hear it in my ears. Max didn’t get up. I rolled him over next to me, and saw that his hat was gone.  The top of his head and the right side of his face were a collage of blood and dirt. I shook him, and he gasped for breath, earth falling out of his nostrils. He was still alive.

“Frank, Frank. I can’t see. I can’t see.” It didn’t sound like Max, but there was no one else there.

“Easy, Max.” I tried to rinse some of the dirt, debris and blood off Max’s head with my canteen, then I ripped open a compress from my pack and put it over his forehead and eyes. I wrapped more dressing around his head to keep the bandage in place “Hold this on your face, man. Don’t try to open your eyes.” I was afraid his right eyeball was going to fall out. “Hold it tight.” Using the slope, I maneuvered him across my shoulder, head down in front of me, and struggled to my feet. I took off at a trot along the tree line.

Our lines were behind us to the east but it looked like the whole damned fascist army was charging down from the outpost, headed that way, so I ran south. It was downhill and my momentum carried us. The going was easy, but I felt panic building in my gut so I tried to slow down. I slid on the snow, fell on my butt, and slammed into a tree and dropped Max.

“Frank, where are you? Am I dyin’?”

“I got you, Max. You caught some shrapnel in the head from that plane. Say an act of contrition or something.”

“I’m a Jew, you idiot.”

“Say it anyway.” I lifted the gauze off his forehead and looked under it. His wound didn’t appear to be deep, but the right eye was very bad, all blood and pulp, and the bone around it may have been shattered. “Press on this, Max.” I pressed the bandage back against his face and put his hand on it.  

I hoisted him over my shoulder again, and stepped off, forcing myself to keep my pace steady and not too fast. We went on till the sun was high in the sky. I didn’t fall again, but my ankles were burning, and my toes were pinched in my boots from going downhill. I stopped twice, and opened our bota. I washed my mouth out with the wine, a rustic red from Calatayud, then I cradled Max’s head and opened his mouth. I squirted the wine in, squeezing the leather skin, the way I’d squeezed the trigger of my rifle. Max coughed. He seemed only half-conscious.

I carried Max down the hill and to the south, parallel to our lines, until we were deep in some woods. I was scared and it wasn’t easy, but I would have done anything for Max. We had been roommates and run around together at Berkeley. We fell out of touch when he went to law school, and I started drinking, trying to forget Cicilia. When Max re-connected with me in ’36, he tried to help me sober up and get back on my feet. I’d come around for a while, but always, I’d slip back into the abyss.

Max was a red, even back in our student days. I hadn’t been serious about my politics then. One evening to keep me from drowning my demons, Max took me to a meeting about the Spanish Civil War and the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Before the night was over, we’d signed up to fight in Spain. Max didn’t have to. I think he did it to save me. Now I was going to save him.

When the sun dropped behind the hills, the woods quickly grew dark. There was a smell of pines, and the footing was better—no snow or ice on the ground, which was hard and covered with dry pine needles. Under the background din of war, the roar of artillery and airplanes, I heard water down to my left. I turned towards it and a few minutes later, came to a stream, probably flowing south to the Ebro. It wasn’t night yet, but it was so dark under the tall trees, I would have walked into the stream without seeing it if not for the sound of the water rushing over the rocks. I put Max down on his back, head and shoulders downhill toward the stream. The blood had dried; the gauze was stuck to his head. I scooped up water with my hat and poured it on his face. The icy cold shocked him into consciousness—and panic and pain.

“Morphine, Frank,” he moaned. “Gimme the morphine.” But I had used our morphine one night weeks ago on guard duty on a cold hillside. We did have a flask of Cardenal Mendoza Spanish Brandy, and I gave him some, then I drank. I rinsed his wound good and put a new bandage on it using Max’s kit this time. My legs felt weak and started to shake with cold or exhaustion. I don’t know if I could have stood up then if the Generalissimo had come down the hill waving his pistoles. We were down low, and there were some bare shrubs and young trees sheltering us on the uphill slope. I fought my exhaustion and tried to keep watch as long as I could. I had another swallow of brandy and pulled close to Max. My eyes closed, and I fell asleep.

 

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