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Read an excerpt of When Ash Remains from @DenaGarson #paranormalromance #giveaway

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Book title: When Ash Remains

Author: Dena Garson

Genre: Paranormal (Native American, historical) romance

Published: 3/2/2017

Synopsis

A warrior with a mission

There isn’t a buffalo or deer that Kajika cannot take down. So when his cousin is slaughtered he relishes the chance to track down the killer. The trail leads him to a woman with gifts he has trouble believing in. Despite their differences he cannot fight his instinct to protect her from all threats – even those he cannot see. That drive even rivals his desire to explore every inch of her body.

A woman with a destiny

Knowing the spirits will protect her, Ahyoka allows the handsome warrior to take her to be questioned by his chief about the unexplained deaths in their village. He may not believe in her abilities but he is one of the few who doesn’t treat her like something to be feared or shunned. He awakens feelings that make her yearn for things she thought she’d never have. Her biggest fear is that once he learns the full extent of her gifts he will reject her like most of her tribe did.

A killer twisted by hurt and anger

Kajika and Ahyoka must work together to find the one responsible for the string of deaths in and around their villages. Faith, trust, and even a little bit of love will be needed to defeat the killer and right the wrongs committed in the pursuit of power and revenge.

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Excerpt

Awake Spirit Talker.

A man.

He watches.

A man.

He comes.

A man.

He hunts.

Ahyoka listened to the sounds of the spirits around her. Even without their warning, she would have sensed the presence in the shadows.

She rolled to her side and looked to where she knew he crouched. The darkness hid his features from her eyes, but his spirit radiated from the fire that burned within him. Never before had she met someone with such a potent life force.

Even her brother’s wasn’t as intense as this man’s, and her family descended from a line of powerful shamans.

Did he mean her harm? Or was he just passing through?

Without taking her eyes off the place where he hid, she groped behind her for the knife she had been using before she dozed off. The apples she ate sat heavy in her belly as she contemplated whether she should run or just face whoever it was.

The crunch of leaves from her left drew her attention. No sooner had her vision shifted than a blur from the place the man had hid raced toward her. She rolled as her father had taught her to do in order to minimize the impact of the assault. At the same time, she pulled her knife and tried to put it between her and her attacker. The man grabbed her wrist and pinned it to the ground, rendering her weapon useless.

Her heart pounded in her chest and a roar sounded in her ears. Who was this man?

She fought to free herself from his hold but found he outmatched her in size, speed, and strength. In an alarmingly short span of time, she found herself pinned beneath one of the most handsome men she had ever seen. She pushed aside her shock and renewed her efforts. “Get off of me!” Even the attractiveness of his face didn’t deter her from ramming her head into his nose.

He loosened his grip on her and covered his face as he mumbled some expletive.

She used this distraction to her advantage and bucked him to one side so she could wiggle free. Before she could get to her feet and scamper away, he grabbed her by the ankle.

“Let go!” She kicked at his hand with her other foot, trying to break his hold.

As she struggled with the warrior, two more men appeared from out of the surrounding trees. “Do you need help, Kajika?” the taller of the two men asked. The laughter in his tone suggested their struggle amused him.

Ahyoka renewed her efforts to break free of the first man’s grip. “Who are you and what do you want?”

The warrior kept his hold of her even as he climbed to his feet. “Who are you and what were you doing in our village?”

Ahyoka stopped struggling. “In your village? What village?”

“Don’t play dumb with me. We tracked you here.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She pointed to the bank just behind them. “I’ve been following the river all day. I stopped to rest when I realized how far I’d come. Where is your village?”

Now that he had released her, she could see the rest of the man who had interrupted her peace and quiet. Her eyes traveled up the length of his legs. She skimmed over the short deer skin he wore about his waist and tried not to speculate about what might be hidden beneath. His bow hung across his broad chest, making her wonder how he managed to squeeze into such a narrow span. Every line of his chest and belly could be seen clearly. If she wanted, she could count each one even from where she sat.

Something stirred within her and made her heart skip a beat. That same something counteracted her impulse to escape.

About the Author

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Dena Garson is an award winning author of contemporary, paranormal, fantasy, and sci-fi romance. She holds a BBA and a MBA in Business and works in the wacky world of quality and process improvement. Making up her own reality on paper is what keeps her sane.

She is the mother of two rowdy boys, two rambunctious cats (AKA the fuzzy jerks), and a loving Labrador. When she isn’t writing you can find her at her at the sewing machine or stringing beads. She is also a devoted Whovian and Dallas Cowboys fan.

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Read the first chapter of Mineran Influence by @pnburows #scifi

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Title: Mineran Influence

Author: P N Burrows

Genre: Sci-Fi

Genre: Jan 2016

~ Synopsis ~

Sam, an ex-soldier who is trying to rediscover himself after twenty years of service, unwittingly stumbles upon a mysterious alien presence in rural Wales. He is drawn into a tangled web of intrigue, pitting him against forces bent on destruction and putting his life in peril. Feeling mentally eroded by his time in the army and having worked hard to overcome this, he is thrust upon an alien journey that will change his life and beliefs in a profound way.

Claims of benevolence are only the beginning of the mysteries he’ll have to unravel as doubt and mistrust haunt him. He will have to form unlikely alliances in order to fathom the mysteries at the secret Mineran enclave, where intrigue, deception and imminent danger reside.

His journey for answers will introduce him to pernicious enemies with hidden agendas, as a heinous plot to kill him unravels. Can he defeat his personal demons to secure justice and discover the truth of who or what is behind the nefarious machinations and why?

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Amazon

~ Excerpt ~

Sam could see rows of large stacked cubes. They were polished bright, reflecting the light from overhead. Sam cast a questioning glance at Reb.

‘Would it make sense if I said they are a by-product of the process? To be precise, they are two-metre tall cubes of solid steel or eight cubic metres of steel weighing over sixty-two thousand kilogrammes each. Does that help?’ The sarcastic tone failed to mask Reb’s amusement at Sam’s quandary.

Sam touched one of the cubes as he walked by. The sides were perfectly smooth, and he couldn’t see the top as it was above his head height. The edges and corners were rounded, giving the cubes a look of gigantic dice.

A subdued glow was faintly visible from the end of the conveyor. Sam calculated it to be a quarter of a mile away. He didn’t bother to figure out how many barrels were passing him on the conveyor. A steady stream of them, spaced six feet apart, were travelling lengthways, slightly faster than the pace they were walking at. They disappeared ahead, near the glow. Sam could not make out what was happening, it all seemed to be occurring in shadows, which didn’t make sense as it was also glowing.

He picked up his pace a bit, subconsciously eager to solve the mystery. ‘Do I need to wear a suit or anything?’ he enquired.

‘No, but do not and I stress DO NOT touch anything. In fact, put your hands in your pockets when you get there,’ Reb replied cryptically.

He could feel the heat; it was definitely getting warmer as he drew nearer to the glow. The air had the feel of a smithy he had once visited. It had a perceptible ferrous taste. He could partially see the end wall of the tunnel thirty or forty feet behind the glow, but something large and dark was obscuring the view.

The conveyor ended suddenly with a short downward section. The barrels seemed to enter a dark cave. Bastards, he thought, they are dumping the drums, after all, that bullshit and holier-than-thou crap he had been fed. The bright glow prevented him from seeing into the new cave or tunnel entrance. It seemed to be a set of ultra-bright strip lights. In his haste, Sam had gotten ahead of Reb at this point; he looked back with anger in his eyes.

‘You go ahead, I’ll catch you up. For your own safety, please do not go up the gantry steps or go into the red zone.’

Sam didn’t realise it, but he had broken out into a small jog as he strained to see clearly what was happening. What seemed to be a tunnel entrance from further back must be the opening of a large twenty-foot diameter pipe, whose opening was facing directly at him as the opening was floating in the centre of the tunnel.

He could see the barrels rise to the top of the conveyor’s apex and then descend, lost in the illumination from the bright strip lights. At thirty feet, his assumptions fell apart. He could see that the glowing strip lights were, in fact, a constant stream of bright luminescent liquid flowing into a grill in the floor. ‘None of this makes sense,’ he muttered to himself. ‘If the liquid was the toxic waste, what’s the pipe for?’ He looked back at Reb. ‘I don’t understand, you’re just dumping it all into the ground, but what’s the pipe for?’

‘Look closer, Sam, you not allowing yourself to see the truth.’

Sam paused at the railings which separated the danger zone from the walkway with the aid of red markings on the floor, defining a twenty-foot radius from the illicit dumping area. The whole area was brightly lit. The liquid wasn’t luminescent. It was white hot. He could feel the heat searing his skin even from this distance. The pipe was blacker than night. It was void of any reflection from the incandescent liquid that was pouring down. The barrels moved along the conveyor, and they should have fallen into the centre of the dark yearning chasm and rolled away. Instead, they seemed to hit a solid barrier. Where the metal met the beginning of the opening, it instantly became molten liquid, running down across an invisible surface and into the grate in the floor.

Sam walked around the railing to try and see the process from the side. He didn’t hear Reb as he eventually ambled alongside him. There was no pipe, there was no nothing. From his vantage point at the side, the barrels stopped their descent from the conveyor in mid-air. The metal simply melted as if it were merely chocolate touching a white hot skillet. It ran down and back towards the direction of the conveyor. A river of molten metal floated in the air as if it were on top of an invisible thin sheet of glass that was set at a thirty-five-degree angle. Sam walked further round to see if he could make sense of what he was seeing. All he could see was blackness, a huge disc of blackness.

‘I don’t understand.’

‘My ancient ancestors with their primitive minds called it “Dia Kuklos” because they could go through the circle. This is the cause of distortion here in Minera. This is what we guard, keep secret and safe. This is our primary duty.’

‘So is this a black hole? Shouldn’t all of our solar system be sucked into it?’

‘No, you’re not seeing what is in front of you, Sam. Come back to the front and watch.’ Sam and Reb walked back along the railing to view the barrels landing on the Dia Kuklos.

‘Think back to the balloon model we discussed. If two distortions happened to touch each other, they’d perforate the fabric of space and link together. You can literally step through one side to the other. Your scientists theorise about this and commonly call them wormholes. There’s no tunnel connecting them. Both openings occupy the same space at the same time. They have many names in different cultures throughout the universe such as spatial apertures or perforations, portals, Quantum eyelets, interstices.’

He looked at Sam, beaming. ‘Cool, eh? So we are using this cosmic abnormality to dump your toxic waste. Just not where you thought. The metal can’t get through the surface tension. The reaction is so volatile that it melts upon contact. We use this to allow the waste to escape and flow through while collecting the metal for recycling.’

‘So you’re saying I could step through to wherever you are dumping this stuff?’

‘Well, you could step through, Sam, but you wouldn’t last very long. The other side is in a fixed position near a star you call Canopus. Over the course of a year or so, the waste is gently drawn in by its gravitational pull and destroyed. The aperture itself is black because neither side opens facing the star. If you could pop your head through and look to the right…’ Reb shrugged and put his hand on Sam’s shoulder. ‘I was hoping to have thought of something witty to say by now, but, there you go. What else can I do to prove to you we are the good guys?’ He handed Sam the small stone from his pocket. ‘Go ahead and toss it in, watch it float away. Do it from the other side to get a better view.’

Sam walked to the rear side of the aperture and gently, with an underarm throw, tossed the stone through the portal. It physically slowed as it passed through what Reb had called the surface tension. It carried on into the darkness with its left-hand side clearly visible as it was being illuminated by the unseen sun.

‘Why are you guarding these, why the secrecy?’

‘Why? Well, that’s a long story, but I’ll keep it brief. My race evolved on planet Minera long before the Overseer arrived. As our population spread over the planet, legend says they found a portal and called it “Dia Kuklos”. It happened in the midst of the harshest winter in history. My primitive ancestors found a window to a sunny world; it saved thousands of lives. They sought refuge through it and others harvested food and brought it back. Over the centuries, we eventually learnt how to detect the distortions in the fabric of space and found thirty more on our planet. Because of the nature of their original creation, these portals were always located within spatial distortions like Minera, making them difficult to find unless you know what to look for. Not all distortions contained a portal and many, being like this one, open into empty space, or hundreds of feet above the ground. As our technology evolved and resources dwindled, we abused these portals to other worlds to carry out raids and wage war.’

‘We discovered one portal close to a black hole. The conflicting forces waged between the portal, and the event horizon of the black hole made it jittery. The other end wasn’t permanently fixed. It sporadically lashed across the universe, momentarily setting on other portals. We learnt how to manipulate it with gravitational and spatial distorting fields. We could lock onto other portals within its original range. It is, to this date, the only one we know of with this ability. History says we were ruthless, relentless and barbaric. To the unwary, we came out of nowhere. Whole armies massed secretly in the distorted areas, unseen by the local population. It was an era of terror that we waged covertly over the universe and a shame we still carry. The Overseer stopped this. Somehow he changed the surface tension on all of the portals. Nothing but light passed through; they became useless windows. In one fell swoop, he had isolated us. We had no long distance space travel technology as we had never needed to develop it. Our planet was over populated, and resources strained. He gave us an ultimatum, either we sign up and with our knowledge locate these portals throughout the universe and guard them against further abuse or he would cause our extinction.’

‘The elders in their vanity would not bow down to an unknown enemy, and millions died as ruthless factions fought amongst each other for the dwindling resources. After 225 years of planet-bound war, they realised no children had been born. We had been sterilised. The last generation to be born were now in charge, and the war machine had fizzled out long ago. The remaining populace had reverted to a simpler way of life. The preservation of life and the recovery of our planet became almost a religion. It was a hybrid of high technology and ecological, environmentally friendly living. On the eve of 250 years, the Overseer spoke again. The message was clear: police the portals for him or die out. The rest is history, as they say, they capitulated, and we have served him ever since. The Overseer returned to us the ability to reproduce and the use of the portals, though he has never allowed any metal to pass through since.’

‘Well, that’s not what I expected. I don’t know what to say.’

‘There is nothing to say, but you can see a similarity between our chequered history and how your civilisation’s developing. It took a long time for our planet to recover from our greed and negligence.’ Reb ushered Sam back around with his arms. ‘We try to keep the portals secret to make our life easier. There are only a few races out there that are partially aware of them. For some they are a thing of myth and legend, magic gateways to other worlds, but nothing more.’

Sam subconsciously switched the case to his left arm as he walked back around.

‘The process,’ swinging his arm at the conveyor, ‘should end in a few minutes, then we have a few people to see.’

~ About the Author ~

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Born in England and raised in Wales, I started my working life on a farm in the glorious rural Welsh countryside.  I retrained to become an IT Consultant and having spent thousands on Microsoft, CompTIA and Cisco qualifications; I also obtained a contract to run and teach at a Cisco Academy in England.  After this, I became a small business IT Advisor for WCBC and the Welsh Government.  As this funding dried up, I retrained as a Business Advisor and have since helped thousands of people start up their own businesses.

In my leisure time, I work my way through a comprehensive bucket list with my Fiancée, Cath. This has caused us great delight as we have attended various courses and fun days out, such as beekeeping, pottery making, stained glass making, painting course, cooking courses, hawk walks, animal experiences, quad biking, gorge walking and much more. Our favourite one is learning to dance. This activity has remained with us and will hopefully do so for the rest of our lives. We can do a reasonable Waltz, collapse in laughter trying the Viennese Waltz, but it is the 1920’s Lindy Hop that we have fallen in love with. After three years of dancing, we still attend regular dance classes and events.

Strangely, for an ex-geek, my favourite gadget is my Italian Marcato pasta machine. I love real, unprocessed food and my freshly made pasta with a home cooked sauce is amazing.

I have always enjoyed reading, and in my early teenage years, I read authors ranging from Harry Harrison to HG Wells. Later in life, I turned to thriller writers such as the 3 C’s; Clancy, Cussler and Child. Also, I will always have a Pratchett book on my phone for light reading. His imagination was and always will be, inspiring. I have wanted to write the Mineran Series for several years prior to actually starting and with the encouragement from Cath, who has suffered my many varied, imaginative pranks over the years, I have begun.

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Discover the idea behind Blogging is Murder by @GilianBaker #cozymystery

Gilian Baker, author of Blogging is Murder, is on the Readsalot blog today talking about how she came up with the idea for her book. She also shares an excerpt of the new release with us!

 The first book in the Jade Blackwell Mysteries series, Blogging is Murder, came about as a catharsis for my frustrations as a new blogger. The issues that arise in the book are ones that every blogger deals with, and cyber-theft is a blogger’s biggest nightmare.

The scene I want to share with you finds Jade, our protagonist, learning her friend and fellow blogger, Liz Collins, has been hacked. In fact, the hacker has taken over Liz’s blog and her social media profiles. The situation has quickly escalated, and Liz is scared. Jade meets her friend at the little tea shop in Aspen Falls, Wyoming, Tea & Sympathy, to offer comfort…and to satisfy her own curiosity.

“Well, last night we decided to bring the sheriff in because the hacker—Connie is her name, by the way—showed up on our doorstep.” Liz took a gigantic breath once she’d gotten the words out.

What?”

“Yeah, that’s why we’re so freaked out. But we didn’t want to make a scene in front of the kids, so we decided to go to the sheriff station today to see what he recommended.”

“So, what did he say?”

“First, we made an official complaint. I have to print out all the correspondence from my hosting and social media companies, so there’s proof in our file. Oh, my gosh, Jade. I have a file at the sheriff’s office.” She dropped her head into her hands as I grabbed for her tea cup before she tipped it over.

Reaching over the table, I patted her arm, making the usual comforting noises while she cried. Why would someone decide to invade her life like this? Why would someone go to the trouble of hacking to add to a blog and social media profiles? Were mine safe? I needed to take immediate action when I got home.

I stopped patting. “Wait a minute. This Connie woman showed up on your doorstep last night. How on earth did she find out where you lived?”

Liz’s red face looked up, her eyes peeking at me through her eyelashes. “My physical address is still on my accounts. You know that legally you have to have an address listed on the emails you send to your subscribers.”

I nodded, with a sinking feeling of what was coming next.

“I meant to get a P.O. Box, Jade, but it always got pushed back on the priority list. I mean, with all the other stuff you have to do as a blogger, it just didn’t seem that important, even though I’d read other peoples’ stories about similar situations. I guess in the back of my mind I just didn’t believe anyone would do it to me.”

She paused to blow her nose loud enough to make several patrons turn and look. “I’m not some huge celebrity, although the blog is gaining popularity.”

“Oh, Liz. Don’t blame yourself. I’ve been doing exactly the same thing. In fact, we’ve all heard those stories. But in every case, those savvy online entrepreneurs didn’t take action until someone came to their houses either.” I made a mental note to hit the post office PDQ to get the P.O. Box I’d been procrastinating.**

“Part of me knows that, but I keep thinking about the kids. I should have been protecting my family, Jade. But something else always seemed more urgent.”

“I know.” I patted her arm again. “What else did the sheriff suggest?”

“We started the process to get a restraining order against her so if she shows up again, they can do something. The cyber-crime stuff is less cut and dried.”

“Well, you know I’ll do whatever I can to help. Just give me a call.”

Liz blew her nose again, this time with barely a sound, and gave me a more genuine smile. “I know, Jade. I feel better just talking about it.” She looked at her watch and sniffed. “Oh, man. I’ve gotta get going. School lets out soon.” She looked up at me with wet, hazel eyes. “Thanks so much for dropping everything to meet me, Jade. I know you must have a hundred other things on your plate today.”

“Don’t be silly, Liz. Family and friends always come first.” As the words came out of my mouth, my mind went to my huge to-do list that had just gotten longer… now I needed to add “keep people from hacking my life” to it.

** The idea to add this part about the physical address vs. P.O. Box to the story occurred when I read about a blogging personality who had a fan show up at her house asking for advice one night.

Because of the pervasiveness of cyber-security scares, I decided it would be an interesting angle to use as part of the book plot. Everyone worries about their online security (or should) whether they are a blogger or not. The average person now uses the Internet to shop, bank and file their taxes. What must it be like to also have to worry about someone hacking into your blog—the way you make a living? How can bloggers protect the personal information of the fans who buy their products and services? How difficult is it to get into someone’s Facebook account and post as that person? These are the questions I wanted to utilize to add suspense and structure to the book.

Does the hacker go free? Is Liz able to save her livelihood? Who get murdered and why? The answer to these questions are answered in Blogging is Murder, now available for pre-order.

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Synopsis

Though she was certainly born with all the traits of a world-class private detective, blogger Jade Blackwell believed she would do nothing more than solve the murders in her latest favorite cozy mystery book. Set in mountainous south-eastern Wyoming, Jade Blackwell lives in a log home in the quaint village of Aspen Falls with her husband, Christian and daughter Penelope (Ellie). She left her life as a tenured college English professor at the University of Wyoming four years ago, sick of the bureaucracy, mounds of essays to grade and apathetic students. She turns to blogging and ghostwriting as her new career.

Jade’s promising career as a blogger halts abruptly when she learns of a hacker who is controlling her friend and fellow blogger Liz Collin’s business remotely. When the hacker is found dead in her home, Liz is thrown in jail. Determined to help her friend regain her life and livelihood, Jade teams up with Liz’s reluctant lawyer, Gabriel Langdon, to get Liz off the hook and out of jail. What she learns will break the case wide open, while unraveling her faith in humanity and the safety she feels living in the Rocky Mountain hamlet she calls home. An exciting thrill ride from the first page, to the last. Read Gilian Baker’s Blogging is Murder, the first book in the Jade Blackwell cozy mystery series!

Grab a copy!

BLOGGING IS MURDER on Amazon ~ BLOGGING IS MURDER on Goodreads

About the Author

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Gilian Baker is a former writing and literature professor who finally threw in the towel and decided to just show ‘em how it’s done. She has gone on to forge a life outside of academia by adding blogger & ghostwriter to her CV. She currently uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain cozy mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, knitting in front of the fire, snuggled up with her husband watching British mysteries or discussing literary theory with her daughter.

In her next life, she fervently hopes to come back as a cat, though she understands that would be going down the karmic ladder. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines.

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Read an excerpt of Oil & Water from @pjlazos #EcoThriller

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Title: Oil and Water

 Author: P. J. Lazos

Genre: Eco Thriller

Published: June 2016

Synopsis:

 

When inventor Martin Tirabi builds a machine that converts trash into oil it sends shockwaves through the corporate halls of the oil cognoscenti. Weeks later, Marty and his wife, Ruth are killed in a mysterious car accident. Their son, Gil, a 10-year old physics prodigy is the only one capable of finishing the machine that could solve the world’s energy problems.  Plagued with epilepsy from birth, Gil is also psychic, and through dreams and the occasional missive from his dead father he gets the push he needs to finish the job.

Meanwhile, Bicky Coleman, head of Akanabi Oil is doing his best to smear the planet in it. From a slow leak in the Gulf of Mexico to the most devastating oil spill the Delaware River has ever seen, Akanabi’s corporate practices are leaving oily imprints in their wake. To divert the tide of bad press, Bicky dispatches his son-in-law and Chief Engineer, David Hartos to clean up his mess.  A disillusioned Hart, reeling from the recent death of his wife and unborn child, travels to Philadelphia to fulfill his father-in-law’s wishes.

There’s no such thing as coincidence when Hart meets Gil and agrees to help him finish Marty’s dream machine. But how will he bring such a revolutionary invention to market in a world reliant on fossil fuels and awash in corporate greed?  To do so, Hart must confront those who would quash the project, including his own father-in-law.

 You’ll find murder, mystery, and humor as black as fine Arabian crude filling the pages of Oil and Water. The characters are fictional, but the technology is real. What will we do when the oil runs out?   Open up and see.

Grab a copy!

Amazon

Excerpt

Marty Tirabi sat on a stool aside his drafting table, an aluminum pie plate in each hand. His eyes were closed, his spine erect, his breathing slow and regular, his conscious mind sitting on the pinnacle of present awareness. At the exact moment Marty’s consciousness shifted, sliding across the threshold from beta to alpha to delta like a single-base hitter stealing home, Marty’s grip slackened, and the pie plates clattered to the floor. He woke with a start and stared, wide-eyed, at the back wall of the barn where It sat, all the while scanning his interior databases for a revelation that refused to be retrieved.

Marty rubbed his forehead. This was how Thomas Edison had done it, mining the gem-rich ground of his subconscious by bringing himself to the brink of sleep, then pulling back with a start for a third-party observer’s view. The results of Edison’s efforts were the light bulb and one thousand and ninety-two other patented inventions, but Marty’d be damned if he could get Edison’s process to work. For him it was just there, a vision that sometimes crept, sometimes hurtled from unconscious to conscious awareness — claircognizance some called it, a simple knowing — and suddenly Marty would know how to pull it all together.

But not tonight. Frustrated, Marty spun his stool around, laid the pie plates and his overtired brain on the drafting table, and stared at his father’s oil lamp, its soft, incandescent glow casting ectoplasmic shadows on the blueprints beneath his head. He started to fall — no aluminum pie plates to stop him this time — but was jarred back to wakefulness, halted again by a faint hum, a soft, deliberate noise like the whir of a refrigerator motor or the patter of a soft rain. He felt it in his feet first. It climbed up his legs as it grew in intensity, settled in his heart and then shot up to his forehead. His head vibrated. Marty rose slowly so as not to disturb the hum’s cadence and strolled across the barn floor toward the back wall, convinced that a nonchalant attitude was imperative to the hum’s survival. He tried not to smile, tried not to look directly at It until he had stopped in front of the thousands of pounds of steel assembled in six distinct units. He sniffed the air. Dozens of smells slid past the cilia in his nose and traveled along his olfactory nerve, stopping at the cerebral cortex to register: methane, plastic, burning rubber, decay, ash. Even in a closed-looped system, the vapors, like his dreams, always escaped.

And then, suspended in the air like dust motes lollygagging in a single ray of sun, the smell of oil, sweet and slightly acrid, pierced Marty’s nasal cavity, shattering his equilibrium.

“Hahahahaaaaaaaaaaaa!”

Marty clapped his hands and, because he was half-Greek, did the only dance he felt comfortable doing, a little hop/skip combo that was the backbone of most traditional ethnic dances. He repeated the steps over and over until he came full circle. He added a little jump to his combination.

Marty stopped and laid his face against the side of the metal grate. It was cool to the touch and not at all indicative of the fire raging inside. He shook his head and started his hop, skip and jump dance all over again, this time adding an ecstatic laugh to the mix. He’d done it. Just like Dr. Frankenstein, he’d brought the beast to life: his Thermo-Depolymerization Unit, or TDU, lived! Years in the making, like nothing the world had ever seen, and until five minutes ago only a theory.

Marty had envisioned that the TDU would take garbage, computers, old sneakers, last night’s dinner, yard waste, old fence posts, plastic Tupperware, with or without lids, old sweatshirts, used ball point pens, broken picture frames, old love letters, paint waste, empty cardboard boxes, broken refrigerators, busted telephone poles, wrecked car parts, or the whole car for that matter, old comic books, unwanted furniture, hell, this machine could take anything carbon-based, and do something magical with it, something that, to date, no one else had figured out how to do — take trash and convert it into oil — pure, unadulterated, car-starting, engine-revving, turbo-driving, eighteen-wheeler-moving oil. Marty figured that the TDU would mimic what Mother Nature did every day hundreds of miles below the earth’s surface — break down fossils into fuels. But Marty’s contraption would take about three hours instead of millions of years, combusting nothing, and leaving no waste. After twenty years of toil, Marty had his share of false starts. But now the whir and hum of booster pumps and coolant fan units was evidence: modern-day alchemy. Marty had called down the vision.

Yet the world had no template for it. Like the shaman of the first American Indian tribe to come into contact with Columbus, Marty had to mold the vision into a discernible shape, give the people something palpable that they could recognize. For even as Columbus’s ships approached the shores of the New World, the Native Americans couldn’t see them, not until their shaman provided them with a frame of reference.

But being a shaman was at times an exhausting, aching and lonely occupation. So Marty did what any man in his place would do when faced with a discovery of unrivaled proportions. He propped himself up on the hammock in the corner of the barn and took a nap.

About the Author

24-feb-2

Pam Lazos is an environmental lawyer and the author of the eco thriller, Oil and Water, about oil spills and green technology, and of a collection of novellas, Six Sisters, about family, dysfunction and the ties that bind us; creator of the literary and eco blog www.greenlifebluewater.wordpress.com; a blogger for the Global Water Alliance (GWA) in Philadelphia; on the Board of Advisors for the wH2O Journal, the Journal of Gender and Water (University of Pennsylvania); a former correspondent for her local newspaper (Lancaster Intelligencer Journal); a literary magazine contributor (Rapportage); an editor and ghostwriter; the author of a children’s book (Into the Land of the Loud); and, because it’s cool, a beekeeper’s apprentice. She practices laughter daily.

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Read an excerpt of Planted, a #cozymystery from @TompkinsFalls

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Title: Planted

Author: C. T. Collier

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Date Published: June 2016

Publisher: Asdee Press

~ Synopsis ~

It’s Monday of spring break when Professor Lyssa Pennington’s backyard garden project unearths a loaded revolver. With no record of violence at their address and no related cold case, the Tompkins Falls police have no interest. But the Penningtons and a friend with the State Police believe there’s a body somewhere. Whose? Where? And who pulled the trigger?

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~ Excerpt ~

Bree explored the outside of the pouch with her fingers. “It feels hard, like metal.” She fully loosened the drawstring and peered inside.

Her voice deepened. “Holy cannoli.”

“What?” Lyssa asked.

“What is it?” Dick said.

“What’d they bury?” Richie’s eager voice asked.

Bree drew out a handgun, gripping the wood handle with her thumb and two fingers.

“Oh my gosh.” Lyssa’s head and heart pounded. “Put it back. We’re done with this.” She started toward Bree, but Dick shifted on his feet and tightened the circle, blocking her access.

“Revolver,” Dick said. “It’s in good shape for something that’s been buried as long as that tree’s been there. Look at the gleam on parts of the barrel. Someone shined it up before they buried it.”

“Buried is right,” Bree said with a short laugh. “It was wrapped in—what? —three layers like a mummy inside that metal box.”

Lyssa shivered and sank onto the arm of the nearest chair. “How can you joke?”

“This is an old Smith and Wesson with a wooden grip,” Dick said. “My aunt lived way out in the country and got a gun like this for protection after her husband died.”

“Can I see, Dad?”

“Ask Mrs. Pennington.”

Dick and his son looked her way.

“No.” Lyssa scowled at Dick.

“I’ve shown Richie how to handle a firearm, and we’ve shot together at the rifle range.”

“Come on, Lyssa.” Bree rose to her feet and struck a pose, one fist on her hip, the gun resting on her other palm. “You’ll be very careful, right, Richie?”

“No worries.” Richie took the gun reverently from Bree, his eyes bright with curiosity.

“Son, remember it might be loaded.”

~ About the Author ~

ct-collier-author

T. Collier was born to solve logic puzzles, wear tweed, and drink Earl Grey tea. Her professional experience in cutthroat high tech and backstabbing higher education gave her endless opportunity to study intrigue. Add to that her longtime love of mysteries, and it’s no wonder she writes academic mysteries that draw inspiration from traditional whodunits. Her setting: entirely fictional, Tompkins College is no college and every college, and Tompkins Falls, is a blend of several Finger Lakes towns, including her hometown, Seneca Falls, NY (AKA Bedford Falls from It’s a Wonderful Life).

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From Phone-Hacking Crime Scene To Debut Novel, guest post from @nickripp, author of Crossing the Whitewash

Mystery Thriller Week concludes with a guest post from Nick Rippington, author of Crossing the Whitewash

FROM PHONE-HACKING CRIME SCENE TO DEBUT NOVEL

22-feb-1

AS I entered the gloomy car park on wasteland in the heart of East London’s docklands I felt an eerie chill spread through me. I wasn’t sure how I would recognise my contact: no arrangements had been made for flowers to be worn in buttonholes or a copy of that day’s Sun to be carried with the masthead facing forward.

I looked furtively around. The cry of a gull made me jump reflexively. In the shadows in a particularly dark area of the complex I thought I saw a figure and was ready to turn tail and run when the bronchial cough of a car engine ripped through the stillness of the evening air.

Twisting, I saw a familiar face come into view from between the parked cars, a black bin liner swinging carelessly at the new arrival’s side. It was Jonesy. When he reached me he held out a hand, as if presenting me with the ill-gotten gains from a multi-million pound bullion hoist or the evidence that would expose corruption on a grand scale among the powers-that-be in Welsh sport. “Here you go, Rippers,” my soon-to-be-ex colleague announced, using my well-worn alias. “I’ve emptied your drawer and it’s all in here.”

I opened the bag and scanned the array of defunct pens, paperclips, scrawled notes and unused desk calendars. Somewhere in there would be vital information my rivals would pay top dollar to get their hands on – the scrawled draft of my fantasy football team. This was goodbye and I knew I could never return to the scene of the crime: The News of the World offices in Wapping.

Inside the building, specially trained police officers were probing the contents of our computers, searching for the smoking gun that would seal the guilt of those accused of hacking celebrities phones in order to elicit stories. I had only worked there for two years – starting my dream job long after the alleged crimes had been committed. I hadn’t even had time to enrole on the phone-hacking courses I guess must have been popular inside 3 Thomas More Square.

I was the Welsh sports editor at the News of The World and on the fateful day Rupert Murdoch announced he would be closing down Europe’s biggest-selling Sunday newspaper I was spending a hard-earned holiday at home with my wife Liz and our one-year-old baby daughter Olivia.

With the world of newspapers shrinking at a rate of knots it occurred to me it might not be possible to stay in my chosen career. I was getting on a bit and the bright, shiny online world was the realm of budding young go-getters straight out of Uni. Brought up on clickbait, rather than going in search of need-to-know hard news stories they would be scanning Facebook and Twitter to re-post pictures of skateboarding dogs and dancing cats because, allegedly, that is the sort of ‘news’ people want these days.

I examined my alternatives. I’d heard plumbers made good money, but I couldn’t tell the difference between my U-bends and my Backflow preventers. Bus Driver? Ambulance Man? I realised I was running through the verses of that old Clash favourite Career Opportunities in the vain hope a light bulb would ignite in my brain.

For over 30 years all I had done was handle words: Write stories, correct reports, pen catchy headlines and design pages. Newspapers had been my life, and I couldn’t contemplate an existence without them.

Then came the Rugby World Cup in Australia and a glimmer of an idea flickered. Having honed my skills across the Severn Bridge I knew how big a deal this tournament would be in Wales. And having worked in London, I knew how the majority of hard-bitten hacks in the capital – many claiming to be born within earshot of Bow Bells – felt about it.

“Rugby? You’re ‘aving a giraffe mate. Only you Welsh care about that malarkey. It’s all about the Premier League up here, boyo.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell them I wasn’t even Welsh but Bristolian. I didn’t want to crush their illusions.

It got me thinking, though. What would happen if one of these cockney geezers, brought up on jellied eels, Chaz ‘n Dave, Del Boy and West ‘aaaam, found himself plying his trade in Taff territory, perhaps at a newspaper like Wales on Sunday, where I had first cut my teeth as a sports editor and, later, assistant editor?

The idea was the spark which now, four years later, has led to me publish my first novel Crossing The Whitewash, a thriller which pitches gangland London against rugby-crazy Wales in the build up to one of the sporting world’s biggest events.

The novel is available now in digital, paperback and audio format. I can’t describe how wonderful it feels to hold a physical copy of your book in your hands.

I timed its release perfectly to coincide with the 2015 Rugby World Cup in the UK and used that to help give it a publicity kick start with interviews in national and local papers, on website and on the radio.

22-feb-3

Crossing The Whitewash

Nick Rippington

You can leave the gang, but sometimes the gang won’t leave you Talented footballer Gary Marshall and his best mate Arnie Dolan are members of the Boxer Boys, a gang of boys from a rundown London council estate who fight adversity both on the streets and closer to home. Then a series of shattering events tear them apart. Eight years later Arnie is desperate to catch up with his former partner-in-crime, but Gary has disappeared. Where is he? And why is he so keen to let the past stay in the past? In a shocking finale all the secrets are about to come tumbling out…

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About the Author

22-feb-2

AWARD-WINNING author Nick Rippington wrote his debut novel, the Urban gangland thriller Crossing The Whitewash, in response to becoming a silent victim of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. As Welsh Sports Editor on Europe’s biggest-selling Sunday newspaper he was informed at 48-hours notice that it was closing, and had to collect the contents of his desk from a colleague in a car park in London’s docklands. Publishing the book in August 2015, it was recently given an honorable mention in the genre category of the 2016 self-published eBook Awards competition run by prestigious American magazine Writer’s Digest. The judges described it as “evocative, unique, unfailingly precise and often humorous”. Nick lives with wife Liz in London and has two daughters, Olivia and Jemma.

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mtw

#MTW continues w/an interview of @AuthorDMBarr author of Expired Listings #pyschologicalthriller

Today’s Mystery Thriller Week interview is of D.M. Barr, author of the psychological thriller Expired Listings

 What inspired you to write a psychological thriller? It seems a departure from your everyday life.

I originally started writing this book as a warning to fellow agents to be careful as they perform their daily duties—it’s a very dangerous profession. I also wanted to demystify the BDSM scene for people who think it’s something perverted or glamorous (it’s neither but 50 Shades of Grey made it look like something it’s not and the slew of books that followed also perpetuated that myth.) So anyway, as I was writing it, I wasn’t exactly sure what it was going to be when it grew up. It’s cross-genre but my editor pressed me to push on with the mystery aspect and so I did.

You write under a pseudonym. Can you explain your reason for that?

The book is about Realtors doing very unethical things. As a Realtor (and a goody-goody one at that—I walk away from listings rather than take them overpriced and thus be lying to a seller), I didn’t want anyone to confuse the Realtor with the Author or the Author’s characters.

Expired Listings includes – according to the synopsis – kink and BDSM. How do you explain writing kink to your friends and family?

The same way I explain writing a serial killer to my family and friends. It’s fiction. It’s also important to note that there is no on-page sex in Expired Listings. There is kinky foreplay as character development. This is not erotica. My husband actually became the biggest fan of the book—and he is very vocal about the point that he doesn’t read. My kids haven’t read it—no interest.

Describe Expired Listings in 140 characters (also known as a tweet).

Glengarry Glen Ross meets 50 Shades of Grey but with a body count. Kirkus Reviews: A buoyant, commendable mystery…an exhilarating ride.”

What’s the most amusing thing that happened to you while writing or researching Expired Listings?

In a writing class/critique group where I was reading some of the kink, the one man in the group told me, “You are a very brave woman.”

Plotter or Pantser? Explain.

Both. I was Pantser up the around the halfway point. Then I made an outline, listing each next chapter, the main plot point that I expected to happen, and the approximate number of words I expected to write for each. Then I wrote one chapter every day until the book was finished. But I couldn’t get to that point before really sitting down, writing whatever came out of my fingers and then seeing what I had.

How do you react to a bad review of your book?

Because it’s cross-genre and it’s very non-formulaic, I expected a ton of bad reviews. Romance readers who were annoyed by the amount of kink (got some, one woman claimed that as a Christian, she didn’t feel she should be reading it.) Erotica readers who were annoyed that there wasn’t any on-page sex (got some). Realtors who were upset at how they were portrayed (surprisingly none.) And so on. I was amazed that with 65 reviews the book is still holding strong at 4.4 out of 5 (but that can change at any time.) But when I see a 1-star or 2-star review, where the person says, “Not my type of book.” I know it’s not a writer. No writer would pan a book that was written well, just because they didn’t read the full blurb and purchased the wrong genre by mistake. But what I do know is that it gives authenticity to the book. Gone Girl is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time and 8% of the reviewers gave it one star. When you see a book with all five-star reviews, you figure the only reviewers were the writier’s family and friends.

What are the most important attributes for remaining sane as a writer?

Keep writing. Every day. Know that the first draft is going to suck but vomit it out anyway so you know what you’re working with. Market the book but don’t obsess over it (do what I say, not what I do!) You can’t force people to read your book, you can only hope that enough people give it a chance and talk about it and it takes off via word of mouth. And pray that someone picks up the move rights.

Tell us about your next release. And when can we expect it?

The next release is Slashing Mona Lisa, contemporary women’s fiction meshed with murder. I wish I could tell you when it will be out. My agent would like to know that too. I’ve been so busy with promoting Expired Listings, I haven’t had a chance to write much. But FOCUS is my mantra for 2017 and I hope to have it completed by late summer or early fall. Then I plan to write the sequel to Expired Listings.

Thanks for the opportunity of the interview!

 Happy to have you! I may just have to pick up a copy of this book!
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Book title: Expired Listings

Author: D.M. Barr

Genre: Psychological Thriller (with satiric, romantic and erotic elements—not erotica)

Published: 9/16/2016

Synopsis:

What if people were dying around you and you weren’t absolutely sure you weren’t their murderer? Someone is ‘deactivating’ the Realtors in Rock Canyon and almost no one seems to care. Not the surviving brokers, who consider the serial killings a competitive boon. Not the town’s residents, who see the murders as a public service. In fact, the only person who’s even somewhat alarmed is Dana Black, a kinky, sharp-witted yet emotionally skittish Realtor who has no alibi for the crimes because during each, she believes she was using her empty listings for games like Bondage Bingo with her sadistic lover, Dare. And yet, mysteriously, all clues are pointing her way.

Along with clearing her name and avoiding certain death at the hands of the ‘Realtor Retaliator,’ Dana has an even bigger problem: she’s inadvertently become a person of interest in more ways than one to Aidan Cummings, the sexy albeit vanilla detective investigating the case. While his attentions are tempting, Dana is torn–does she continue her ironically ‘safe’ but sterile BDSM relationship with Dare, or risk real intimacy with Aidan?

Kink, Suspense and Satire–Expired Listings masterfully combines all three while exploring the universal need for validation and the toxic nature of revenge.

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About the Author

WHO IS D.M. BARR?

By day, a mild-mannered salesperson, wife, mother, rescuer of senior shelter dogs, happily living just north of New York City. By night, an author of sex, suspense and satire.

My background includes stints in travel marketing, travel journalism, meeting planning, public relations and real estate. I was, for a long and happy time, an award-winning magazine writer and editor. Then kids happened. And I needed to actually make money. Now they’re off doing whatever it is they do (of which I have no idea since they won’t friend me on Facebook) and I can spend my spare time weaving tales of debauchery and whatever else tickles my fancy.

The main thing to remember about my work is that I am NOT one of my characters. For example, as a real estate broker, I’ve never played Bondage Bingo in one of my empty listings or offed one of my problem clients.

But that’s not to say I haven’t wanted to…

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