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Mark Twain

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A fresh look at 21st century terrorism - A Touch of Nerves by D.C. Hampton

Description:

New novel explores America’s role in the Middle East

When Army Captain Ben Hawkins discovers chemical weapons missing from a military research facility, he begins an investigation into preventing a possible terrorist attack. The suspects? Two rogue Iranian agents who blame the deaths of their family members on the United States. What Hawkins doesn’t expect is to find himself forced to decide whether to risk his career—and possible arrest—to stop the attack, even if it means working with a foreign agent.

D.C. Hampton’s debut novel, A Touch of Nerves, may be set on the battlefield of America’s “War on Terror,” but the book is a far cry from your typical action narrative. Inspired by his two sons who served in Iraq and the Persian Gulf during the Iraq War and his own time serving in the U.S. Army, Hampton brings depth and humanity to characters that might otherwise be painted in the two-dimensional “hero” or “villain” archetypes. With Hampton’s passion for history and global affairs, A Touch of Nerves brings a fresh perspective to the long history of tension between the United States and Iran.

I wanted to write a story that was worth telling, realistic and suspenseful,” says Hampton. “I believe the book is entertaining, but it also sheds light on the complex relationship between Iran and the United States and explores the complex emotions and issues that drive some individuals to commit terrible acts.

The story includes a wealth of details as Hampton weaves a complex plot,” writes Kirkus Reviews. “A conceivable threat and suspense-filled plot keep readers engaged until the end. Hampton eschews the genre’s typical plot holes and vague facts and his handle on international relations gives the terrorists credible motivations.

EXCERPT

Qazvin, Iran, 100 miles northwest of Tehran

Colonel Arash Kashani was sitting behind a desk in a small office located in an administration building at the Borj-e Milad Sharif University of Technology. He drank some of the strong tea he had brought in with him. Two other men sat in chairs in front of the desk. Kashani had arranged the meeting, and it was the first time the three of them had met together.

Colonel Kashani monitored the activities of a small group of Iranian agents within the Ministry of Intelligence. He also kept track of the intelligence activities of the Revolutionary Guards, although that could be a challenge. The Revolutionary Guards had a record of pursuing its own agenda, and often acted independently. Their independence and their recklessness often created serious problems for the Supreme Council, as each acted on its own agenda.

The two other men in the room were members of the Revolutionary Guards, intelligence agents attached to units of the Quds Force stationed in Qazvin. Kashani hadn’t met these agents before, and he had been sent to find out what they were up to. His boss had been getting some unexpected inquiries from some of his contacts in Europe. Unexpected and disturbing.

This was a particularly sensitive time, with the U.N. and especially Europe and the United States considering—once again—ratcheting up the trade sanctions against his country. Their own president, the belligerent Ahmadinejad, wasn’t exactly helping their cause with his threatening rhetoric and hostile challenges.

Kashani often wondered why the United States and its allies hadn’t taken stronger actions already. He knew that even their fellow Muslims in the Arab world across the Persian Gulf would be more than happy if the United States or Israel took military action against his country to prevent them from becoming a nuclear ­nation. Arab solidarity trumped Muslim brotherhood. The so-called Arab leaders just wouldn’t risk saying so in public.

“Tell me more about this group. What is their assignment?” the colonel asked the senior of the two men, a major by the name of Heidari.

“Our man is working with a female agent we placed in Spain. He has a plan to bring great harm and embarrassment to our enemies.”

“And what is it these agents of yours hope to do?”

Kashani knew it might take awhile to get the full story from the two men, but he would keep them here until he had it. Apparently there were some alarms going off in the U.S. and Europe, and that meant alarms had gone off within the Supreme Council.

Kashani himself wasn’t concerned about the European agencies or the nations they represented. In his experience, they would talk and talk and talk, but they wouldn’t do anything, not without the United States behind them. And the Americans wouldn’t do anything unless someone forced their hand.

The eight-year war with Iraq demonstrated how pivotal such weapons could be. Iraq had chemical weapons. Iran didn’t. And when Iraq used their chemical weapons in nerve gas attacks against Iran, against their armies, against their people, and against their cities, Iran had no response. Thousands of Iranians, both military and civilian, died from the chemical weapons Saddam used at places like Susangerd, al-Basrah, and the battle for the Al Faw peninsula—and the world was silent.

No, Iran had no response, and neither did Europe or the Great Satan. And even when the United Nations finally condemned Saddam for his massive use of chemical weapons, the United States voted against the resolution. Where were the Americans then with all their talk about outlawing such weapons?

Oh yes, the war with Iraq had made it very clear that those who didn’t possess the terrible weapons were at the mercy of those who did. And then the game had changed. The Americans and their allies invaded Iraq. With Saddam gone, and Iraq in chaos, there were many voices in the Supreme Council saying that it was time for the country to reclaim its historic role.

But how much more time did they have? The western powers might do something eventually, but Colonel Kashani was just as concerned about the pressures from within his own country. The counter-revolutionaries were getting stronger and stronger every year. The protests at Tehran University had gotten particularly ugly. These young students seemed more interested in western technology and western ideas than in the ideas he and his generation had struggled for. They didn’t get it—and neither did the religious zealots. It was Persia that counted, and this ancient nation could reclaim its rightful place in the Middle East and the rest of the world.

From what Kashani heard, the nuclear engineering people needed only another year or so to produce a low-yield nuclear device. After that, they wouldn’t have to worry about the Americans or the Europeans anymore. Even Israel would be a different story.

But what the high-ranking security officer heard in Qazvin during the next half hour took him by surprise. It was worse than he thought—much worse. These fools had started by helping the Iraqi insurgents with supplies and equipment for building more lethal IEDs. OK, one enemy fighting another enemy, and let the Iraqis do the dirty work. We would settle with the Iraqis later anyway. As far as Kashani was concerned, Iraq was supposed to be governed by his own people anyway, as it had been for centuries.

But these fools had gotten ambitious. They didn’t just want to damage a few Humvees around Baghdad or Fallujah, or kill a few American soldiers. They had an ambitious plan to make the Americans pack up and leave. Ambitious—and very dangerous.

“You see, Colonel,” Major Heidari, the senior Qods Force officer explained. “We’ll turn their own weapons against them. We’ll use their own WMDs, the kind of weapons they are so righteous about, to make them leave Iraq. Then we can do whatever we want there, not just smuggle in materials and equipment for a few insurgents.”

“What about deniability?” Kashani asked. “Can the Americans trace this back to us?”

“No, Colonel, that will not be a problem. When more than a dozen Saudis attacked the World Trade Center and their Pentagon, did the United States attack Saudi Arabia? No, because these were individuals who merely happened to be Saudis. They were acting on their own, or so it appears. They had no connections to the Kingdom or to the family of Saud, so why would the Americans attack Saudi Arabia? And they didn’t, of course.”

Kashani persisted. “But this man Najidad is connected to us. He’s connected to you and to the Revolutionary Guards. Surely the Americans are likely to discover that.”

“We took very careful steps to prevent that,” Major Heidari countered, but he was becoming uncomfortable with the challenging questions. He had expected the Revolutionary Council to be very pleased with the operation, and he was already thinking of the rewards that might be in store for him.

“Almost two years ago, after Najidad came to me with his plan, he and I worked on the details for several months. Only then, when we were completely satisfied that it could work, did I have him discharged from the Guards, with discipline. He left in disgrace, with an unsatisfactory record, discharged for stealing from his own men. He lost his position, his benefits. Even his family was ashamed of him.”

“He accepted this? How did he deal with it?” Colonel Kashani wondered, unable to imagine the hardship and disgrace of being discharged from your unit “with discipline”—the same as a dishonorable discharge.

“He accepted it as a true believer. Not in the religious sense, for he is not particularly religious. But as a soldier in the Revolution who is proud to do his duty,” Major Heidari answered proudly.

Colonel Kashani actually admired the plan and how well the group had done. A supposedly rogue agent placed in the United States, and the coerced co-operation of an American soldier to help them steal an American WMD, or at least a very lethal nerve agent from the Americans’ own chemical weapons. Carefully implemented steps so their own government could not be connected to the act. Impressive. It would be a shame to arrest these men for actions deemed dangerous to the Republic. He complimented them, and both agents looked pleased with themselves.

“Now tell me how you contact this Mahmoud Najidad and this Elena Saman in the United States,” he instructed Major Heidari.

Over the next few hours, Kashani learned the operational details of the plan, along with information about the types of facilities the agents would target. He also learned how Heidari contacted his senior agent, Mahmoud Najidad, in the United States.

Kashani had more tea and several light dishes brought into the room. He wanted to relax with Major Heidari and his assistant, Captain Ashkani. He listened to them talk excitedly about how well their plan was working. Once he felt there were no more details to learn, he got ready for the 100-mile drive back to the capitol.

Before leaving the university grounds, Kashani placed several calls, including one to the Iranian Embassy in Madrid. He also issued an order to Colonel Backhi, head of security for the Revolutionary Guards and a man he had worked with previously, reminding the Colonel that he, Colonel Kashani, was there on the authority of the Supreme Revolutionary Council.

“Alright, Ahmad,” he told his driver. “We’re heading back to Tehran.”

During the two-hour drive, the very concerned security officer worked out his travel plans. They were about halfway to Tehran when he looked out the window at the Elburz Mountains looming in the darkness to the north. On the other side was the Caspian Sea, an area Kashani and his family loved to visit. He wouldn’t return home for at least a week, if all went well. If it didn’t—well, he might not return at all.

Colonel Backhi was surprised at Kashani’s order. Major Heidari and Captain Ashkani were even more surprised on their return to the Revolutionary Guards base when Colonel Backhi and two guards escorted the two intelligence officers to secure officers’ quarters.

“Don’t be concerned, gentlemen, but for security reasons, I am placing you in protective custody, at least for the duration of this operation,” Backhi told them. He didn’t tell them that Colonel Kashani had said “house arrest,” not protective custody.

Minutes later, the Revolutionary Guards officer was back in his office. He had a second order from Colonel Kashani, one he didn’t understand either, but he was not about to question someone from the Supreme Council. He sat at his computer, composed a brief message, and pressed “Send.” His two agents in Seville would get their new instructions in a few seconds.


About the author:

D.C. Hampton holds an MA and PhD in Audiology from Columbia University and has been published extensively in the field. He has done graduate work in history and has always been interested in international relations. 
Though he has been extensively published in medical and trade publications, A Touch of Nerves is his first foray into fiction.

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Strength can be found even in the most horrific situations - Burnt Edges by Dana Leipold

Published: October 21st, 2014

Description: 18+

Abuse or an uncertain future.

This is Laurel Lee Page’s choice when she is faced with an unplanned pregnancy at 18.

Born into a broken family, all she has ever known is guilt and shame. No matter what she does or who she meets, Laurel appears to be living a condemned life but she is determined to find independence and freedom in spite of her family’s legacy of hatred and self-contempt. Can Laurel see that she is in a powerful position, poised to break the cycle of abuse?

Set in Southern California during the tumultuous 1960s era, Burnt Edges is based on true events and proves that strength can be found even in the most horrific situations.

This is a beautifully written story. There are so many lovely, poetic descriptions woven effortlessly into a story that is not always pretty. They stand out without jarring from the narrative or seeming forced. It makes some of the more unlovely aspects of Laurel's life easier to take. [...]
Raw yet beautiful language. Highly recommend. - Goodreads

EXCERPT

Laurel decided that Rusty was Mother’s favorite child. The afternoon in the garage had been proof. But because he often took the brunt of Father’s anger, she felt a bizarre kinship with him. She also loved the stories he would tell when they had nothing to do. He would make up tall tales like the one about spacemen who came to Earth to taste hamburgers because they had none on Mars. He described them as little green men with antennae.
“Whenever they come to visit, people find their hats miss-ing, because the Martians steal them to conceal their antennae,” Rusty said.
“That’s just silly,” Laurel said.
Gerry sat in the dirt, playing with rocks and half-listening. Laurel thought he’d rather be playing football or punching some kid, so he sometimes got bored of the stories.
“No, it’s true, really.”
“What did they do to hide their green skin?” Laurel asked.
“They also steal women’s pancake makeup and put it all over their faces. Helps them blend in.”
“Ew, they wear girl’s makeup?” Gerry said, sticking out his tongue.
Laurel giggled, imagining Martians wearing makeup and hats just to get a taste of a hamburger.
“Why don’t they just steal the recipe and learn how to make hamburgers on Mars?” Laurel thought she’d caught Rusty off guard with this question.
“They tried that once, and it was a disaster,” he said, pick-ing up rocks and throwing them against the fence in their backyard. “Yeah, it almost wiped out the whole Martian race.”
“What’d they do, get all sick and throw up?” Gerry laughed at his answer.
Rusty threw a rock at Gerry but missed him. “No, moron.”
He kept throwing rocks without saying anything. Laurel thought he was trying to come up with a good story. She wait-ed another moment.
“Well, what happened?” she asked.
“I’ll tell ya! Don’t rush me!”
He stopped throwing rocks and sat Indian style, his elbows resting on his legs, hands clasped together so he was leaning forward a bit.
“The explorer Martians who had just come back from Earth brought the hamburger recipe to the King of Mars. They told him about the most delicious food they’d ever tasted and that they had brought the secret to it. The king was excited and told his royal cook to make up a batch, but they don’t have meat on Mars.”
Rusty paused, and Gerry rolled his eyes, waved his hand, and climbed the rope up to the tree house. Rusty watched him, but Laurel was listening, waiting for Rusty to tell the rest of the story.
“Go on,” she said.
“Nah, no one cares about the dumb old story,” he said.
“I do! Tell me!”
“All right, but it’s horrible!”
“I don’t care. Tell me!”
“Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Rusty paused and then he began again. “So the cooks tried to figure out what to do. They didn’t want to tell the king that there was no meat. Once a cook had told the king he was all out of Martian mush-rooms and the king executed him. They thought and thought about what to do, and then they called in the royal jester.”
“The jester? What does he know about cooking?” Laurel asked.
“Exactly.”
Laurel looked confused.
“So the jester came in, and the cooks smashed him on the head and put him in a boiling pot. Once the Jester was done cooking, they ground him up into bits and fed him to the king.”
“Yuck!”
Gerry must have heard about the cannibalism. He peeked his head through the hole in the tree house. “That’s disgust-ing,” he said, loud enough for Rusty and Laurel to hear.
“The king loved it and ordered the cooks to make more. So they did. This time they called in the royal guard, bopped him on the head, boiled him up, and fed him to the king. The king couldn’t get enough of those hamburgers, so he made a royal decree stating that the official food of Mars was hamburgers.”
Gerry had the tree house door open and was sitting on the floor with his legs hanging out. Laurel shook her head.
“The cooks went through the whole Martian Royal Army, the royal court, and most of the Martian population before the king caught on. He ended up executing the cooks, but now the King of Mars comes to visit Earth himself, because he loves hamburgers.”
“That’s the dumbest story I ever heard,” Gerry said.
“If it’s so dumb why did you listen to it?” Rusty answered back.
“Hamburgers aren’t that good,” Laurel said. “Not as good as pizza.”

About the author:
Dana Leipold is a freelance writer, author, and member of the Association of Independent Authors and Creativity Coaching Association. She has self-published two books: a collection of limericks in Dr. Seuss-style for adults entitled, Stupid Poetry: The Ultimate Collection of Sublime and Ridiculous Poems, and a non-fiction book entitled, The Power of Writing Well: Write Well. Change the World, to help writers get their message heard, create stories that connect, and leverage the power of writing well. In addition, she coaches other writers on story structure, messaging, and writing skills so they can achieve their dreams to become published authors. 

Leipold lives with her husband and two children in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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What will devoted parents do for their child? - Beautiful Evil Winter by Kelly K. Lavender

Published: November 13th, 2013

Description: 18+

Beautiful Evil Winter is about an international adoption in one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

When Sophia and her husband Ethan set off to Russia to adopt a baby boy, little do they realize they are headed straight into the open arms of the Mafia. To make matters worse, an untrained, inexperienced adoption coordinator orchestrates the effort to complete the task and keep the American couple safe as they deal with ironfisted syndicate control of orphaned children.

Beautiful Evil Winter is a modern-day odyssey about the human capacity for hope, the traumas that shape our lives, and the hardship we’ll endure for love. What will devoted parents do for their child? Anything.

Awards and Honors for Beautiful Evil Winter: 
The Eric Hoffer Awards - Commercial Fiction - Honorable Mention. The Hoffer Awards spotlight "...writing of significant merit." 

The National Indie Excellence Awards - The New Fiction Finalist 

Dan Poytner's Global EBook Awards-Bronze Medalist Suspense 

Readers' Favorite International Book Awards-Triple Genre Finalist- Suspense, Thriller and Romance Sizzle 

Readers' Favorite International Book Awards-Honorable Mention Suspense 

Readers' Favorite International Book Awards contestants include New York Times Best-Selling Authors and celebrities, comedian Jim Carey won an award this year.

EXCERPT

Will it happen this time? The ban announced last night—will it ruin everything? Dad says Russian law takes effect the moment it’s ratified. I’m so worried, Ethan.”

I rub my eyes and lean my head back while the jet engines roar in the background. My head throbs and my hands sweat as we try to begin our 13-hour journey. We’ve been sitting on the tarmac for two hours due to a mechanical problem.

Ethan grabs my hand and squeezes it softly, leaning over to plant a kiss on my forehead. I gaze at his face, bags frame his red eyes. I look out the window to distract myself. It’s a sunny cold day, the sky clear of clouds and full of promise for flight.

“One step at a time, Sofia. We’re closer than we’ve ever been. Remember that,” he says soothingly.

Turning back to him, my body becomes rigid as anger spills over me like hot molten lava. “You’re thinking the same thing I am! We should be overjoyed at the prospect of meeting our son! This is a time for celebration, a time for effervescent bottles of uncorked champagne! But this do-it-yourself adoption is a nightmare! How much longer can we handle disappointment after disappointment? The closer we think we are—the farther away we are,” I vent.

The conversation with Natasha on the phone last night burns in my brain.

“Adoption very risky in Russia now. The ban make Mafia watch money very close.”

How could she say that on the eve of our trip?

I play back what Natasha said. “This trip big gamble for you. l work to keep adoption away from Mafia. If I do not, police arrest you for human trafficking or Mafia take you. Better to go to prison. My name not appear anywhere, only yours. Phone will be disconnected. And I never know you.”

“Hello, folks. This is your pilot I apologize for the delay. The maintenance crew is working diligently to insure the safety of our trip. Thanks again for your patience.”

I glance over at Ethan, who’s dozing now.

“Honey?” I place my hand on his arm, but he doesn’t stir. Guess the fatigue finally caught up with him. If he had a drink, he’d be comatose. I think I’ll go to the restroom before the plane takes off. “Be back in a minute.”

I carefully unclasp my seat belt and try to skitter by him without disturbing him. As I walk past the rows on either side, I glance at the tendrils of ear plugs reaching upward like small sun-seeking plants, and the hand-held devices, passengers attached to them like farmers admiring prized vegetables pulled from the fields.

As I reach the door, the occupied sign forces me to pause and begin to turn around.

Suddenly, I hear the click of the door unlocking.

What luck! I’ll just dash in and dash out. Hopefully, I won’t have to hold my breath to stay in there. My face twists in repulsion at the thought. A haggard looking middle ̶ aged man with a large paunch emerges and smiles too brightly at me.

That look—that look of recognition like I’m a favorite relative, but I’m not. His lids half close as he squeezes past me taking his slow sweet time. And he looks back at me before he stumbles down the aisle way.

Yuck.

I push the door open and inhale a shallow breath. The smell of pump soap greets me. All clear. I can breathe.

Ting, Ting. The strained voice of the stressed-out flight attendant echoes through the tiny bathroom cabin.

“Within the next twenty minutes, The Captain will be turning on the fasten seat belt sign. Until then, you can use your electronic devices. We apologize for the inconvenience”

Turning from the sink to the opposite side to grab paper towels, all 5’2” 115 pounds of me twists like a corkscrew to move around. A quick swipe of the towels, a glance at my nostrils, a push of the lever, and I’m free to escape into the main cabin.

As I near my seat, I notice that “Mr. Too Brightly” is sitting next to Ethan.

Damn! I have to sit next to him! Looks like comatose Ethan has just re-positioned himself to face the aisle way. Why doesn’t this plane offer two across seating instead of three?

My steps slow, but I don’t want to wake Ethan up to swap seats since he’s so tired.

As I stand next to our row of seats, Mr. Brightly realizes with a dazzling repugnant smile that I’ll be seated next to him.

“Don’t tell me you’re with that guy,” he says, gesturing at Ethan. “He’s out cold. Between the screaming baby and me trying to wedge past him, he hasn’t moved an inch.” He smirks, his smile now a beacon of light.

I grit my teeth and carefully squeeze by Ethan’s knees grabbing the headrest of the seat in front of me for support. Glancing back over my shoulder, I see him looking at Ethan. I focus on the seat space next to him, zeroing-in on the instructions on the pocket pouch for my seat. Someone scribbled in red pen, HELL A MILE HIGH. As I wiggle into my seat and grope for my seatbelt, he watches my every move.

About the author:
My fascination with fiction began in middle school when I entered a book-reading contest and won. As an ardent fan of the resonating narrative and the cliffhanger, I decided to dedicate myself to becoming a skilled writer. When college professors spotlighted my writing in the classroom, it anchored my interest in becoming a novelist. I continued to pursue my education at UCLA where my writing earned praise from an award-winning author. Of equal and enduring importance, in my life, is a passion for horses. As an avid, lifelong equestrian and horse owner,I now live on a ranch with my family,which we share with a menagerie of four-legged friends.

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Lies, uncertainty, and deception entangle with their plans - True North (Polairs Series #2) by M.E. Montgomery

Description:

Alex and Kayla have found in each other what they need to move moved beyond the tragedies of their pasts and are ready to embrace their future together. But the problem with the past is it doesn’t always agree to be left behind, and sometimes it follows, unwilling to let go.

Now everything they thought they knew to be true is suddenly turned up on end. Collisions between the past and the present challenge their happiness, and hiding in the shadows lurk more obstacles that threaten their future.

Alex and Kayla are determined not to let these twists and turns destroy their happiness. But is love enough? What happens when lies, uncertainty, and deception entangle with their plans? Will determination be enough when faced with disaster?

Plotting a course is easy; finding your True North and staying the course presents a greater challenge.

I had a whole new respect for the pure genius that is ME Montgomery!! While it's the second book in this series you'd never guess she was a new author! Gah! I really just can't even write a review because I want to gush about everything!! I'll leave you with this..... Once you read this book, message the author and tell her what a hell of a job she did with this!! - Goodreads

Is our fate in the stars…or in our hands?
Everyone who knew her wanted Mikayla Matthews as their friend. But in her love life, she never seemed to be good enough. After one betrayal too many, she packed up her shattered heart and moved across the state to start over. Losing herself in a new job, she is convinced no man will ever truly want her, not that she was willing to trust another to find out anyway.

Alex North found himself in the one role he never wanted - guardian of his nephew after his sister and best friend are killed. On unfamiliar territory as a dad, Alex gave up his bachelor lifestyle and worked to create a nurturing environment for five year old Aiden. Attempting to hold his new life together, he masked his pain and threw himself into being the rock for his family.

Brought together by fate on several occasions, Alex decides Mikayla is the key to heal not only Aiden, but himself. He recognizes that only she can offer him the kind of love he never thought he would find. Mikayla discovers she has the strength to give love a second chance as well as the courage to fight for it. Together they heal each other and begin to create a future together. 

But not everyone supports them, and outside forces threaten to destroy all the happiness they have worked for. Will Alex and Mikayla be strong enough to hold together the fledgling family they are building? 

Or will the past and the present work together to rip them apart?

EXCERPT



The woman finished placing her order and waited patiently at the bar, casting her long lashes down as if she were uncomfortable with all the people surrounding her, especially the drunken idiots sitting at the bar next to her. The guy closest to the end leaned backward as he laughed hard at something his buddy said. I watched in disgust as he lost his balance and began to fall sideways off his stool. In the process, he slammed into the beauty standing next to him, causing her to lose her balance. She reached out to try to grab onto something, but her flailing arms found nothing but air. Instinctively, I reached out and caught her around the waist and pulled her toward me and away from him. She was such a light little thing I inadvertently lifted her onto my lap. She landed on my thighs with a little ‘umph’ as she grabbed my waist for balance. Unable to help myself, I inhaled her sweet scent - almost like vanilla with a touch of cinnamon; not like that strong, sense-clogging perfume used by so many of the women I knew.

“Whoa, you okay there?” I asked her.

“Oh, my gosh! I’m so sorry…” She stopped talking as our eyes met for the first time. Or at least I didn’t hear anything else. Her voice was almost like honey, soothing and quiet, calming my tired soul like a comfortable blanket. My mind went blank when I looked into her beautiful hazel eyes. There was no hidden agenda in the green and gold specks that broke up a warm brown, just a genuine look of gratitude alongside a certain wariness. Wearing a dark blue pair of jeans and a white button down shirt, she was much more modestly dressed than the blonde I’d sized up of a few moments ago. A sparkly pink scarf decorated her neck hinting that beneath the conservative exterior there was a spark of playfulness. To me, she was much more attractive for leaving something to the imagination, although pressed against me as she was, I didn’t need to imagine the full curves underneath those clothes.

Her eyes darted across my face and she appeared to be appraising me as well. She focused on my eyes as though she could see into me if she looked hard enough. Her look drew me in. I wanted to pull her closer and go ahead and let her see inside, feeling as if she could soothe all the pain and anger I tried to keep locked up. At the same time, I wanted to hold and protect her from whatever caused that look of caution, almost fear, that abounded in her eyes.

What the hell just happened to me? I had never had these thoughts before. She noticed my intense gaze and her cheeks began to turn the cutest shade of pink. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen a woman blush; usually they were so forward I was the one who was embarrassed for them.

“Thank you for catching me,” she said. “That might have ended badly otherwise.”

My mind snapped back to attention when she began to push off of me. I doubt she noticed, but her second hand had settled on my crotch when she landed in my lap, and the gentle pressure she was asserting had it starting to rise and twitch in anticipation of more.

I grabbed her wrist gently. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you not to push too hard there.”

She tilted her head sideways, not immediately understanding my words until I gestured with my eyes at our hands. I knew the instant she figured it out because her pink cheeks turned bright red and she jerked her hand away.

“Oh,” she gasped. “I…I’m so, so sorry!” she said as she carefully crawled off me.

“Trust me, it was my pleasure,” I teased, glancing at my lap.

About the author:
M.E. Montgomery has been an avid reader her entire life, and her Amazon account will attest to that fact! Recently, several voices began telling their own stories in her head. After being assured she wasn’t crazy and this was the sign of an emerging novel, she decided to put her fingers to work and started typing, and with lots of encouragement, decided to share Alex, Kayla, and Aiden’s dramatic and heartwarming tale.

Her family considers her adept in most subjects, to include science, history, reading, spelling, and all mathematical studies, which loosely means she is the homework queen to her four school aged children. Fortunately, her biology and elementary school teaching background help her to keep up the expert fa├žade, at least for now.

Although born and raised in the Washington DC metro area, she has considered many places to be called home since she left to attend college in North Carolina. She is a proud Navy wife, setting up hearth and home wherever in the world the Navy sends her husband. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves to go camping with her family, drinking wine on the deck, and romantic getaways when her husband’s work permits.


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They had is coming - Happily (N)ever After

Published: November 25th, 2014

Description:

Sometimes you are lucky enough to dodge a bullet...but sometimes it strikes straight to the heart without an exit wound. It rattles around, leaks out our trust, and brings us to our knees making us wonder; why the %&$@ did I date you!?

From the darkness of emotional and/or physical pains we crawled out and eventually found a way to dust ourselves off and carry on with life.

So let these stories serve as a guide, that all that glitters is not always gold. That the felling of the hairs rising on the back of your neck is a warning, a primal scream to let us know that some things are not as they seem. Trust your gut. Yes, some people are worth fighting for but others have somehow tricked us into seeing a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

With hindsight fully engaged, we can now see the clarity of our past and appreciate the lessons we learned in our very own happily never after.



One Promise. The Lie. A Truth. - The Token 8: Kiki (The Token #8) by Marata Eros

Publication date: November 28th, 2014

Description: 18+

One Promise.
Kandace “Kiki” King lives a dream life. Rising above the ashes of a neglected childhood, she’s graduated from a prestigious Seattle university to obtain her pre-law degree. Her best friend, Faren, has overcome tragedy and found her happily ever after.

Kiki’s not looking for love.

The Lie.
Love has other plans. After Thorn’s revelation about the ties of their past, Kiki feels as though she’s been set adrift. When Mick McKenna’s billionaire friend shows interest, she dismisses him. Her exotic dancing paid for her lifestyle. What does Chet Sinclair know about sacrifice and hard work?

A Truth.
Until they discover a similar appetite. For the first time in her life, Kiki feels helpless against the pull of a sexuality she doesn’t understand, couldn’t anticipate, yet hungers for. Will she allow herself to succumb to what Chet Sinclair offers?

Or is the oath she made to herself in danger of being broken?

EXCERPT




Quote: I've seen a thousand tears and wiped away none.

His studies my expression and laughs. “What?”

“She has been punished.”

There is no one around to hear what I say. My staff understands discretion on an intimate level, but Mick's voice goes low regardless.

“God,” Mick plows his hand through his hair, “are you still doing the ka-ching!” Mick pantomimes snapping a whip.

“I don't use whips, though it's an excellent suggestion. Not that I need any help in the creative parts.”

Mick grunts. “I am not discussing your sex life.”

I raise an eyebrow. “Really?”

“Can't you just fuck normally?”

“That's discussing it.”

Mick stomps away, jamming his helmet back on his head. “I don't want Kiki messed with.”

I follow him like a prowling cat. “I am not messing with Kandace.”

Our gazes lock.

“That's what scars the shit out of me. I know how serious your are, driven. You get your sights on something and watch out.”

I cross my arms, the leather of my jacket making a crinkling sound. “True. So why do I feel like you're cautioning me.”

“Thorn--”

“Oh please. That thug?”

Mick leans forward, dangerously close to putting a finger in my chest.

Neither one of us want that. It cannot end well. We're almost like siblings, Mick and I. And we can sometimes fight like them too.

“Thorn is not a thug, he's a cop.”

I shrug and he frowns, going on. “And, you're the one who got into it with him at the Black Rose last year. Amazing Kiki will date you.”

“I wouldn't call it dating.”

“Fuck,” Mick says in dismay, his hands clenching into fists.

“That is more like it.”

“Oh my God. Don't tell me you're boning my wife's best friend. It will so have my ass in the dog house if you use Kiki.” His eyes search my face. “Screw over Chloe—now that bitch? She's deserving.”

I smirk, throwing up my palms in an inoffensive truce gesture. “She has already received much of what she deserves.”

Mick holds up a palm. “Don't. God, just don't tell me man.”


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About the author:
Marata Eros (a pen name for Tamara Rose Blodgett), is the NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author of A Terrible Love. Marata has more than thirty-five titles in multiple genres including Dark Fantasy, Dark Romance as well as her highly successful Dark Erotica series.

Marata lives in South Dakota with her husband, children and fur kids. She is an ardent reader of many genres. Tamara enjoys interacting with her readers via Twitter, blog and newsletter as often as possible. Please stop by and say hi :)


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Kids Moments - The Ultimate Treasure Quest 1: The Jewel of Peru by Sharon Skretting

Published: September 20th, 2014

Description: 8+ 

The Jewel of Peru is a magical adventure through time, taking young Captain Christopher and his loyal crew of orphaned stowaways on a perilous quest in search of Christopher's missing parents. 

After his father's ship is found abandoned at sea, Christopher makes an unexpected discovery on board—The Ultimate Treasure Chest! Inside is a message that beckons him to set sail after the treasure and his parents. When a savage pirate and a corrupt businessman join forces to steal the treasure for themselves, the gang gets caught up in pirate chases, time travel, and an underground network of spies. Will Christopher find the Jewel and his parents, or will all be lost for ever? 

The Buzz

"Jewel of Peru took me on an adventure from page one. Sharon Skretting has captured Peru and deftly woven elements of the culture and geography into a fast-paced treasure hunt. It was well written, entertaining and introduced me to new ideas. I loved making little discoveries along the way about the people and places. I found some of the features of Peru so interesting, I looked them up the Internet and was delighted to find things just as she described. Fact and fantasy blend seamlessly in this delightful tale." - Sara Marschand, Quiethouse Copy Editing

"Engaging and meaningful, the author does an excellent job crafting this story. I don’t usually read middle school novels but made an exception for this one and will be passing it on to all the children in my life." - 5 Star Review, Love Reading, Amazon

"The Jewel of Peru is a wonderful piece of educational fiction that blends fact and fantasy to create a literary journey that is both informative and exciting for young readers... It's every bit as much of a page turner as it is a learning experience..." - 5 Star Review, Kelley, Amazon

"Sharon Skretting has captured Peru and deftly woven elements of the culture and geography into a fast-paced treasure hunt. It was well written, entertaining and introduced me to new ideas... Fact and fantasy blend seamlessly in this delightful tale." - 5 Star Review, Sara M., Amazon

only 99 cents from Amazon for the duration of the blast, so grab your copy now!
About the author:
Sharon Skretting is the author of The Ultimate Treasure Quest I: The Jewel of Peru, and the founder of Quest Teaching.

She has been teaching elementary school for twenty years and lives with her husband and a cat, named Scat! Now that her three children have grown, she is spreading her wings into the realm of professional writing. Being able to use her love of writing to excite her students about learning is a dream come true for Sharon.

Her goal is to write fast paced, excellent literature —filled with interesting characters, intrigue, danger and intricate plots—that will hook readers aged nine to ninety nine and make them want to read more!

Teacher support materials to go along with the novel can be purchased at:


Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner's choice) Contest ends: December 25, 11:59 pm, 2014 Open: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Sharon Skretting and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions - feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Real life is complicated and real love is even worse - December Rain (August Fog, #2) by A.L. Goulden

Published: November 25th, 2014

Description:

Monica and Alex Waters have spent that last few months working to repair a broken marriage and rekindle their passion. Just as they start finding their spark, Quinn Matthews and his escalating career resurfaces, but this time Alex makes the decision to let Monica go.

The devastation of losing her high school sweetheart, her home, and even her dog twists Monica down a destructive path that alienates her from her closest friends and lands her on Quinn’s couch. Despite her efforts to resist jumping into his arms again, the spark between them reignites and sweeps her away on a whirlwind holiday adventure. She finds that falling in love with Quinn’s family and lifestyle is as easy as falling for his ocean colored eyes. The problem is that it’s all too easy, and when she sees that Quinn’s reinvented life has completely shifted towards her dreams, she starts to question whether he’s too good to be true.

Quinn has a secret that was never meant to be kept this long, but will Monica be able to trust another man who’s lied? And now that Quinn’s got his happily ever after in sight, he’s not about to let her go or share her with another man.

How the story come up

There is a little bit of real life in the story. I was laid up on the couch for a summer, forced to quit my job, because of three stress fractures in my ankle that wouldn't heal. I was reading a lot to pass the time and eventually started writing. There really was a sexy neighbor, he really is an artist, but there was never really an affair. Luckily I'm married to a man that finds my overactive imagination amusing and he never once thought it was autobiographic. 

So many of the books I was reading had a similar heroine who was "damaged" as well as the same alpha males. I wanted to build characters that were realistic and flawed to see if I could make them sexy as well. People you would know. Your best friend or coworker. Real life is complicated and real love is even worse. I knew Monica wasn't always going to be likable. As much as we'd like to deny it, most of us aren't when we're going through life changes or stressful events. But that wasn't a reason not to connect to her or even understand her. I didn't want a woman who just callously throws away her life-long commitment because she needs to have sex. Monica loves her husband. He's her best friend. But she realizes that she wants more than a friend and Quinn reminds her that she's more than just this wife. 

I struggled with the premise of an artist, because it's been done so many times and is a little cliche. But I know a lot of real artists, painters, sculptors, whose lives are very free and I wanted Quinn to have that. It's an element in Monica's past that she let go of and forgot about. So, I looked at it like another opportunity to take a cliche and make it more realistic. There are secrets behind him that will eventually test her ideas of freedom and trust. It's all about her growing into who she is supposed to be and finding out in her mid-thirties that she hasn't been honest with herself. 

I set out to create a story that touches on the complications of love and commitment. It's been an adventure and I've learned so much. I never thought it would be a finished novel, much less multiple, but once I got into it I didn't want to stop. I know I still have a ton to hone and learn, but I'm finding that the challenges of writing are so addictive that I can't imagine ever quitting now. It's become my vice I guess. The reality is that I have another career still as a Production Designer and Art Director in film and television so writing does tend to be crammed into my nights and weekends or between shows.

EXCERPT


The outdoor style shopping mall is bustling with tourist and local art lovers. Rows of art galleries surround the courtyard where a stage welcomes a local reggae band. Monica settles into a groove and starts dancing with the crowd. Alex tries to hang in for a couple of songs before he starts feeling claustrophobic and looks to the galleries and shops around them.

“Go ahead,” she says with a loving smile. “I’ll meet you down there… after one more song.”

He gives her a little kiss on the cheek and glides his hand across her behind before making his way out of the crowd. His attention is pulled by various pieces in gallery windows along the way. There’s a large glass sea turtle in shades of green and gold followed by a painting of an autumn forest with heavy texture. He stands daydreaming for a minute until he’s distracted by a reflection passing in the glass. It’s so brief he’s sure it’s his imagination. He barely catches a glimpse down the mall as the backside of the man disappears into another gallery.

Alex follows the ghost, dodging through happy couples and pushy salespeople trying to get his attention. Before he can see inside the gallery, a painting that’s prominently displayed on a front wall stops him. A cold washes over as he stands there staring at it. He slowly moves inside, mesmerized by the familiar vibrant paint strokes until he sees a few people gathered in the back. A man talking to two smiling women stills himself as Alex’s eyes freeze on the back of his shaved head. No words were needed as the tropical air takes a chill. Even the women sense a showdown, and step back to give Quinn room.

Quinn turns. What do I say? Fuck! I thought that was him. I hoped it wasn’t. Quinn moves very slowly towards Alex. Is he gonna hit me? I do deserve it. Might as well get it over with. “Hey.” Quinn pauses near the center of the room waiting.

Alex swallows hard, his nostrils flaring and fist clenched. His jaw flexes as his breathing grows heavier, but the emotions just start to turn to mush. His eyes fill as thoughts of his new friend’s betrayal wash over and the painting draws his eyes again.

“I’m sorry Alex,” Quinn says quietly.

Monica nearly passes the gallery on her way to see their friends when Alex’s shirt first catches her eye. She halts and shifts backwards until she sees the painting and stops. It’s a female figure bent forward reaching for her toes. The abstract form of her body in swirls of orange and reds is cradled by a man swathed in blues and purple. Oh my God! That’s me. That’s us, stretching. It can’t be. He’s...

She struggles for air as the tears swell, and she can already feel him. As she stands there, not crossing the threshold, the two men watch her. When her eyes finally land on Quinn, electricity fills the room. She can only see him and the deep tan that backdrops the pale oceany eyes reaching for her. A warm drop gently slides down her cheekbone as her breathing syncs with his. His lips move slightly hinting at words that he can’t find, and she struggles not to run into his arms.

Alex’s discomfort is audible as he clears his clogged throat to rattle her attention to his worried eyes. She steps in and touches his hand briefly. “I’ll be outside,” she says, turning without another glance at Quinn.

Her feet move quick as her thoughts try to keep up. What are they doing? Alex is gonna hit him. I can’t believe he’s here. What are the odds? Did he know we’d be here? No. Maybe he moved here. That painting was him and I together. Would Alex know that? It’s pretty abstract. Fuck! This can’t be happening. Before she knows it, she’s at the other end of the mall near the parking lot. She settles on a bench to wait for the world to stop crumbling around her.

About the author:
I'm a designer, author, wife and dog-lover living in the South Pasadena area of California. I got my BFA in Film Production from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, but my love of a good story came way before college. I remember writing my first full story in fifth grade on a typewriter. I cut and pasted it into a book, complete with cardboard cover and taped binding. Things have changed a lot since then. With the magnificent digital age I can produce books and give them to the world without a sticky mess.

In college numerous instructors and peers praised my dialogue pushed me to hone my storytelling skills. Of course the need to cut and paste was still there, so I went into the world of Production Design and Art Direction for films and television. It gave me the ability to connect design to storytelling in a way that no other career can. The past 18 years have spun a unique perspective on visually emotional tales of relationships and the thread that ties all things together. Now I'm shifting focus on the driving force that brought me here... stories. I hope that I can share a unique perspective on life, love and the pursuit in all of the above.


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