The Lizard’s Tale by Kurt Kamm – Q&A and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour. Kurt Kamm has stopped by to answer a few questions!

What are your favorite TV shows?

There is certainly nothing on network television worth watching. I watch the Bloomberg financial programs and like many of the BBC series, including Poldark and Downton. Ray Donovan and Homeland are also favorites. Now for a confession. If I am working out in my gym and need a distraction, I turn on Game of Thrones. What a crazy show. I have no idea what the plot is, but I can watch 15 – 20 minutes of any episode from any year and be entertained. None of it makes any sense, but there is always a great sword fight, a poisoning, people speaking strange languages, or a horde of warriors riding horses. Brainless entertainment, but entertainment for sure.

What is your favorite meal?

I’m big on carbohydrates because I exercise a lot. Every meal must have pasta, potatoes, or rice. Also, fresh/raw vegetables—snow peas, artichokes and avocados—are favorites. I don’t eat red meat, but seafood, fish or chicken is good. Barbequed lizard is not on the list for obvious reasons. Love desserts. Give me any dessert, I’ll eat it.

Is there a writer you idolize? If so who?

There is no author I idolize because of his/her personal life, but James Salter is my favorite author for his ability to write beautiful, simple but elegant prose and create haunting tales. He has been called “an author’s author,” and I fully agree. I think he’s underrated and under-read.

How did you come up for the title of this book?

Part of the book deals with Jorge’s (the Mexican orphan) obsession with geckoes. Geckoes and most other lizards can lose their tails and grow them back. This is a defense mechanism to distract predators—the reptile can release its tail, which keeps twitching and draws the predator’s attention while the creature escapes. The Guatemalan Beaded Lizard, a much larger reptile, is itself a predator and cannot release its tail. From the very beginning, I liked the tail—tale pun and for a long time the name of the novel was The Tale of the Lizard. My editor shortened it to The Lizard’s Tale and it is a perfect name.

What would you like to accomplish in your writing career next year?

I would like to have several major publishing houses bidding on my next book. After signing a seven-figure contract (excluding decimal points), the New York Times Book Review will devote not a single review, but an entire edition to my work. After that, Oprah will select my book and it will be a bigger seller than the Bible…..oh, sorry, I dozed off at my computer and just had a short dream. What would I like to accomplish next year? I have modest ambitions—start a new novel, have fun researching and writing it, and have at least one person tell me how much she liked it.

mediakit_bookcover_thelizardstaleKurt Kamm has written a novel that’s a literary crime novel, with a strong thread of non-fiction running through it. The Lizard’s Tale is a tale of crime—with an a wide-ranging cast of characters.

When the DEA goes up against the Sinaloa Cartel, an orphan and an endangered lizard are caught in the conflict. The action moves from Guatemala to Mexico to Catalina Island off the coast of California.

Alejandro, a middle class Guatemalan, wants his share, and makes a deal with the cartel. Now he’s risking his life to deliver the goods.

El Dedo, a brilliant financier, is the Sinaloa Cartel’s banker. He worries about what to do with the billions of dollars collecting dust in his underground vault.

Ryan, a DEA Special Agent, needs to make a high profile case to get a promotion. Is the big yacht headed for California carrying a Mexican drug shipment?

Kate, a wildlife officer on Catalina Island, smells smoke. When she heads out in the middle of the night to investigate a fire, she makes an astonishing discovery.

Jorge, an orphan from the streets of Mexico, is abandoned in the United States. Will he find his way back home and track down his mother’s killer?

Enjoy an Excerpt:

Dedo was one of the few outsiders at the top of the cartel hierarchy. He came from a different background than most of the drug lords, who had grown up in poor towns in the Sierra Madres where people suffered a hard existence living in hovels made of cinderblocks. Dedo had no poverty to escape. He grew up in Mexico City and lived a blessed childhood. His father owned a small Mexican chemical business that grew large when it began to supply the Cartels with the ingredients used to make methamphetamine. His mother was Swiss, and had worked for a chemical company in Basle when she met his father. Dedo inherited his intellect and business sense from his father. His grey eyes came from his mother.

When his father brought him to the State of Sinaloa for the first time, Dedo stood in the dust and blasting heat and felt the moisture evaporating from his skin. “Those mountain highlands,” his father had told him, pointing off into the distance, “are ideal for growing poppies. All they need is sunlight and moisture.” Then he turned and pointed in the direction of the Pacific Ocean, and continued, “And out in those valleys between the mountains and the coast, the climate is perfect for growing marijuana.” Finally, his father looked at Dedo and told him, “Fortunately for us, sunshine and water don’t produce methamphetamine. For that, they need chemicals—a lot of chemicals—and that’s why we’re here.”

About the Author: mediakit_authorphoto_thetaleofthelizardMalibu, California resident Kurt Kamm has written a series of firefighter mystery novels, which have won several literary awards. His newest novel, The Lizard’s Tale, provides a unique look inside the activities of the Mexican drug cartels and the men dedicated to stopping them.

Kurt has used his contact with CalFire, Los Angeles County and Ventura County Fire Departments, as well as the ATF and DEA to write fact-based (“faction”) novels. He has attended classes at El Camino Fire Academy and trained in wildland firefighting, arson investigation and hazardous materials response. He has also attended the ATF and DEA Citizen’s Academies. After graduating from the DEA Citizen’s Academy in 2014, he began work on The Lizard’s Tale.

Kurt has built an avid fan base among first responders and other readers. A graduate of Brown University and Columbia Law School, Kurt was previously a financial executive and semi-professional bicycle racer. He was also Chairman of the UCLA/Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Foundation for several years.

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The Fiduciary Delusion by John Molik – Spotlight and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. John will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

mediakit_bookcover_the-fiduciary-delusion An unambitious young man finally finds himself, only to nearly lose everything in an apparent web of international economic terrorism and intrigue. But, as his world begins to unravel, has he become genuinely delusional? Or is he really on to one of the most dangerous global conspiracies of all time? Against all odds, only love and a true friend’s faith can save both him and the world as we know it from the abusive power of evil.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

There was that strange odor again of sweet burnt beans and paint thinner. Jeremy Hughes had started noticing this strange aroma about a week ago. The location of his lecture hall at UC Davis was just a stone’s throw from the Coffee House, the local student dining hall and entertainment venue, so he was not immune to the unexpected food smells fit for starving students. But this odor was different. Hopefully, it wasn’t wafting down from the Chem lab. There were rumors going around that with the UC budget cuts, some of the filters at the lab were not being replaced regularly. Surely, these aren’t some sort of carcinogens, for heaven’s sake. Nevertheless, he made a mental note to ask around.

As Jeremy had only been a lecturer at UC Davis for just over a year, this placed him near the bottom of the academic employment hierarchy. He had little hope of surviving the next round of budget cuts. Last year had been a real drag too. The Department Chair had left after the second term to work in the private sector and Brigitte Sheen, his interim replacement, was a haughty cold bitch who had no qualms about showing who’s boss by playing mind games with her faculty. Brigitte Sheen was an imposing, solid, nearly six foot tall Korean American woman who, at first glance, looked like a cross between the gorgeous Moon Bloodgood and the Chinese Hercules. When Jeremy first met her, he looked carefully into her eyes. Someone had told him that if you could hold eye contact with her long enough, you could verify that she did in fact have horizontal pupils. Brigitte’s straw-thick, tea-colored bangs appeared to be cut with a 4 stroke line trimmer. Her solid, thick, musculature was formidable, and was built from 15 years of Olympic style weightlifting at the University of Washington, where she routinely lifted the equivalent of a completely loaded fridge/freezer over her head dozens of times per day.

Last year, on Jeremy’s first day, he received his first taste of venom.

‘You make a problem for me, I will make your life a living hell. If you are not prepared or call in sick to take day off to go Tahoe or something, it’s over. Just get in your car and drive away. Fast. I’ll do the paperwork,’ she had snarled. Brigitte was definitely a woman to avoid by strategically flying under her radar.

About the Author:mediakit_authorphoto_thefiduciarydelusionJohn grew up in Rancho Palos Verdes, California and graduated from UC Davis with a B.A. Degree in Economics and has worked in numerous corporate finance and project management jobs in the consumer electronics and IT industries. In 1990, after taking an extended backpacking trip of the South Pacific before attending graduate school, he met his would be wife and in 1991 was married. They settled back in Irvine and South Orange County area of California. In 2003, he and his family (now with two kids in tow) relocated to Christchurch, New Zealand.

John’s interest in writing began when he was a student at UC Davis, having worked as a Feature Writer for the California Aggie Newspaper. Possessing the desire to write again, and with a bucket list goal of eventually trying his hand at thriller novels, he took the plunge, and in 2014, began writing his first novel, The Fiduciary Delusion. John’s interests also include: science, existential philosophy, health, and both western and eastern holistic medicine. John also plays guitar, piano, sings and writes music. In addition, John is an admitted “gym rat” and can be regularly found lifting weights, trudging up hills, sea kayaking, and getting out and about enjoying the beautiful wild outdoors.

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An Interview With Rita Warren by Karen Randau – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Karen Randau will be awarding a $30 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

An Interview With Rita Warren
By Karen Randau

Deadly Deceit is told from the point of view of Rita Warren, a middle-aged woman whose mother receives only passing mention as a vegetarian hippie artist. In the book, Rita says that her mother schlepped her to a shelter for abused women during each of Rita’s father’s drug-induced rampages, then retreated to an artist commune after her husband’s overdose. While that’s the extent of the explanation, those childhood experiences had a major impact on Rita.

KR: Rita, tell us about your mother.

RW: Mom was beautiful and kind but all used up after the hippie revolution of the 1960s. Because she loved animals, she refused to eat them. My favorite photo of her shows a tall and slender woman with sleek, dark hair that hung down her back. In this photo, she held her hair back with a beaded headband, but I often saw her wearing a crown of flowers and a flowing, long dress made of handwoven cotton. Around the house, she sometimes wore nothing but a braided band around her hips. She rarely wore shoes, and I don’t think she owned a bra, even though she let me have one when I asked for it. Once my father died of a drug overdose, her anti-establishment rhetoric stopped, so I think that was more him than her. She retreated into her art after that, and I often felt ignored. When I disappointed her by marrying a bourgeois Marine, she moved to a nudist artist commune surrounded by a tall wall to protect residents from the world’s “bad vibes.” She seldom comes out.

KR: How did your mother influence who you are in Deadly Deceit?

RW: I didn’t want to be anything like my mother, but I now realize that I just managed to create my own flaws for myself. When I was growing up, we were poor and bought our clothes at a flea market. We moved a lot. After I married Jared, I started wearing only designer clothes. I embraced all that society had to offer me, including a big house with expensive furnishings, a luxury car, over-the-top vacations, and friendships with influential people. I love my children with all my heart and would never ignore them or their needs. I would do anything to protect my children, and nearly died in Deadly Deceit protecting my daughter.

In many ways, I am like my mother. I have a soft spot for dogs, pretty flowers, art that tells a story, and poetry. Everything I went through in Deadly Deceit helped me realize that my chaotic and unconventional upbringing made me stronger than I ever thought. I notice things because of the art and beauty my mother brought into my life. I always wondered why I chose a best friend like Gail Upton, who dresses tacky, speaks her mind, and loves to help me be me. Because of Deadly Deceit, I know it’s because Gail reminds me of all of the good in my mother, and of the simple life she tried to give me.

KR: Deadly Deceit has a scene where you’re in a shelter for abused women and children. How did that affect you?

RW: My mother took me to places like that when my father was out of control. I had blocked out those memories, and they flooded back during the few days I stayed at that shelter. But those days gave me a sense of purpose. I want to be part of the Abused Women’s Healing Network in my town of Rim Vista, Arizona. I want to help women and children to leave behind their days of abuse, to help set them on a path toward a bright and delightful future. I’m so glad I got a chance to do that in Deadly Deceit.

KR: And what about the detective who investigates your husband’s murder? How does Cliff Avery fit into your future?

RW: Cliff is a hunk of a man, that’s for sure. I started noticing his manliness fairly quickly in Deadly Deceit, but I was caught up in my grief over my husband’s death and finding out who was threatening my family. I lean on Cliff a lot to get through my various trauma situations. By the end of this first tale in the series, Cliff is much more than a treasured friend. He’ll be a big part of the stories I continue to tell in the Rim Country Mystery Series.

mediakit_bookcover_deadlydeceitA cocoon of naiveté shatters on Rita Warren’s thirtieth wedding anniversary, when a terrorist murders her ex-Marine husband Jared and thirteen other movie goers. Ensnarled in a cover-up that puts her in an assassin’s crosshairs, Rita must unravel a web of lies and connections that date back to Jared’s service in the Iraq war – before a mysterious kidnapper returns Rita’s daughter Zoe one body part at a time. This fast-paced story is one you won’t want to put down from beginning to end.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

Through a stunned haze, I saw him look down at me and disappear. He returned with Zoe over his shoulder and rushed down the hill toward a black pickup parked on a narrow side road.

At last, I gulped in air and jumped to my feet. I remembered my gun, and pulled it from my purse. While running toward him, I forced a bullet into the chamber and fired. Missed. I continued running until he turned Zoe toward me, and I lowered my gun. He dropped her into the bed of the truck, slipped a gun from under his shirt and pointed it at me.

“Take the antiquities certificates to the same park bench. No tricks this time. You have until noon tomorrow.”

“I’ll do whatever you want, but please don’t take my daughter. She needs a doctor. Take me instead if you think you need a hostage.”

Gunfire cracked behind me, and the man grabbed his left arm. Blood oozed from between his fingers. “If I see any cops, I’ll kill her. Then come after you.” He slid behind the steering wheel, and I turned to see Cliff at the top of the hill, his gun by his side.

I ran toward the dust stirred up by the truck as it sped away and shouted into the wind. “This is about my necklace?”

About the Author:mediakit_authorphoto_deadlydeceitA native of the southwestern U.S., Karen Randau has been writing and telling stories since elementary school. She holds a degree in journalism/public relations from The University of Texas at Austin and has enjoyed a long career in marketing communications. In her work with an international non-profit, she has traveled to numerous developing countries, witnessing famines, violence, and hopeful people working to overcome abject poverty. She loves fast-paced mysteries and thrillers, especially those with intricate plots, lots of action, and rollercoaster-like twists and turns.

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Recall by David McCaleb – Spotlight and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. David will be awarding a digital copy of Recall to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

MediaKit_BookCover_RecallMeet Red Harmon, a special ops veteran who learns he never left the call of duty . . .

To a trio of muggers, Red looks like just another suburban dad. But when they demand his wallet at knifepoint, something snaps. In the blink of an eye, two muggers are dead, the third severely injured, and Red doesn’t remember a thing. Once an elite member of the Det, a secret forces outfit whose existence is beyond classified, Red thought his active service was over.

But his memory is coming back—and a lethal killing machine is returning to duty . . .

Facing an unthinkable nuclear threat, a volatile international power play, and a personal attack against his family, Red has no choice. He must rejoin his old team, infiltrate the enemy camp, and complete the biggest mission of his life . . .

Enjoy an Excerpt:

Tony “Red” Harmon yawned as he rubbed burning, fatigued eyes with a palm. His cuff slipped back from his watch. 9:47 P.M. Too late for the family to be out. Nick dragged his feet on concrete, cheeks puffy, hand gripping Red’s index finger. So tired he didn’t even ask for a treat as they walked out of Walmart, past the candy machines. He looked up, snot glistening under a pink nose. Red winked at him, surprised yet again how his son looked like he’d cloned his mother’s eyes.

The shopping cart was full of things they needed, but didn’t want. School supplies and vegetables. A wheel with a flat spot clacked a steady cadence as Red pushed it under a rush of warm air blowing from above, into the January chill outside. How’d he always end up with the broken ones? He pushed with one hand, straining his wrist to keep the thing straight, pulling Nick with the other. He stepped slowly, careful not to slip on the frozen pavement. Just ahead, little Penny held Jackson’s hand so tight his fingers were turning blue. Her head was high. She was obviously pleased Dad thought she was mature enough to guide her younger brother through the perils of the parking lot.

Hope his fingers don’t go numb, Red thought.

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_RecallDavid McCaleb was raised on a rural farm on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. He attended Valley Forge Military College, graduated from the United States Air Force Academy, and served his country as a finance officer. He also founded a bullet manufacturing operation, patented his own invention, and established several businesses. He returned to the Eastern Shore where he currently resides with his wife and two children. Though he enjoys drawing, painting, and any project involving the work of hands, his chosen tool is the pen.

Recall is the first novel in the Red Ops series.

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A Killer’s Grace and My Name is Wonderful by Ronald Chapman – Spotlight and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour to announce the release of two new books from Ronald Chapman being released simultaneously by Terra Nova Publishing: A Killer’s Grace and My Name is Wonder. The publisher commented, ““It is remarkable that these two books can be so very different but somehow speak to the same messages.” Ronald will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

MediaKit_BookCover_AKillersGraceFrom the high desert of New Mexico comes a tale of mystery, murder and redemption. When journalist Kevin Pitcairn receives a disturbing letter from a serial killer, he is drawn into a compelling journey with profound psychological and spiritual implications, not just for the murderer, but for himself and society as a whole. As he tries to investigate and then tell the story, he finds himself battling his own inner demons and sordid history. Events conspire to propel an isolated matter to a national stage and audiences that are increasingly hostile. Forced to explore the roots of human psychology and sanity, Pitcairn must navigate moral and philosophical realms. What is the nature of evil? What powers of choice do humans actually possess? How may we be redeemed? And in the end, how do we reconcile with ourselves?

MediaKit_BookCover_MyNameIsWonderMy Name is Wonder chronicles the transcendent adventures of a little goat with big dreams. Join Wonder and his wisecracking guide, the mysterious crow Mac Craack, on a journey through the scenic landscapes of the American Southwest and into the heart of a mindful presence. Along the way, you’ll meet an unforgettable cast of creatures, each with an important lesson to teach.

Enjoy an excerpt from My Name is Wonder:

Oren turned back to Wonder and spoke gently. “First, little one, I must tell you that you are not Wonder.”

Wonder knew enough about Oren to know he spoke with the weight of the wisdom of generations. He had also heard that Oren was a philosopher. The gravity of the moment was not lost on the little goat as he considered this statement carefully. Somehow he knew that nothing but the truth would suffice.

“I don’t get it,” he said with a scrunched up face.

“Your name may be Wonder, but Wonder you are not.” He studied the kid, watching for any signs of dawning comprehension. Wonder cocked his head to one side, still puzzled, and the old buck continued. “The form you find yourself in is that of a goat, but you are not a goat. There is that which is, and then there is that which is truth. If you are to learn, you must learn to be absolutely clear about such matters.”

Oren fell silent, waiting.

Wonder blinked—once, twice—and then said, “Got it!”

The wise goat responded in an amused tone, “Do you now?”

“Yes, sir. My name is Wonder.” He grinned and then continued, “And I am not that.”

“Ha!” responded Oren. “I believe you do have it, young one, but let us see.” He almost, but not quite, grinned back at Wonder. It was hard to tell with the long, white beard. “What are you if not Wonder?”

The kid leapt at the answer. “Well sir, I don’t guess I know.”

“Indeed,” replied Oren, his yellow eyes dancing. “True wisdom is knowing that you know nothing.”

“Then I must be very wise indeed, sir.”

About the Author:MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_RonChapmanRonald Chapman is owner of an international speaking and consulting company, Magnetic North LLC. In addition to international accreditation as a speaker and national awards for radio commentary, he is the author of two novels, My Name is Wonder (Terra Nova Publishing, 2016) and A Killer’s Grace (Terra Nova Publishing, 2016 and 2012), two works of non-fiction, Seeing True: Ninety Contemplations in Ninety Days (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2008) and What a Wonderful World: Seeing Through New Eyes (Page Free Publishing, 2004) and the producer of three audio sets, Seeing True: The Way of Spirit (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2016, 2005), Breathing, Releasing and Breaking Through: Practices for Seeing True (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2015), and Seeing True – The Way of Success in Leadership (Magnetic North Audio, 2005).

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PRAISE

“…a book for the ages, with profound truths simply stated. First there was Jonathan Livingston Seagull and then Yoda—Now there is Wonder…”
-Beverly Molander, Minister and Radio Host of Activating the Power of Yes

“…an exploration of human nature and into the allegorical realm that shows us how to be wise teachers and guides…”
-Paula Renaye, Author of Living the Life You Love

“Clarity is an aspect of love, it is seeing clearly. Ron Chapman sees with those eyes. He pays attention as few do to the miracles around us.”
-Stephen Levine, Author and Teacher

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LASR Anniversary: M Pepper Langlinais

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This post is part of Long and Short Review’s 9th Anniversary Celebration. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win a $100 gift card or other prizes.

Books in Season: Summer – M Pepper Langlinais

I’ve always felt that books, like movies, have a season. For summer, I prefer lighter fare, the stuff I can speed through, the “popcorn” of books. If I want a mystery, I’ll reach for Agatha Christie (John Le Carré is strictly fall/winter reading). If I want a thriller it had better be Michael Crichton or Tom Clancy or some similarly plot-driven tome. And I have a very particular memory of reading The Godfather while in Cancun one June. I also very much enjoy indulging in Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series while sitting outside on my chaise lounge.

My sense of books having seasons began with my father who each fall would pick up The Hobbit and read it and The Lord of the Rings trilogy over winter. Then in the summer he would return to things like Stephen King or the Conan the Barbarian novels. On summer nights we would sit out on the deck together, and Dad would set up the telescope so we could search for planets. And while we did that, Dad would tell me the stories from his books. I first learned of Bilbo and Frodo and Galadriel—oh, how I was obsessed with her power and beauty!—from my dad’s oral history, and I first heard the terrifying story of the rabid dog Cujo that way, too. (I still have never read Cujo, though I’ve enjoyed many Stephen King stories since.)

One particular night when I was in fifth grade, Dad told me a mesmerizing story of time traveling Nazis and later slipped me his copy of Dean Koontz’s Lightning with the caution, “Don’t let your mother catch you with this.”

My parents were both readers, my mother leaning more toward torrid romance until the day she decided it was too sinful and she switched to what would be called “sweet” romances now. I did eventually develop my own taste for Regency romances, and those are also good summer reads, or most of them anyway. The Christmas ones are better for the holidays, naturally. Victoria Holt, however, is fine summer fare, as is Jane Austen.

In truth, summer books really are like summer movies. They move fast and don’t require too much work on the part of the reader (or viewer). Just like summer itself slipping past at an impossible speed, the long days getting shorter, the darkness closing in so slowly we pretend it will never come, summer books fly by like pages ruffled in a stiff breeze. And that breeze grows just a little bit cooler, day by day, as we rotate toward autumn. So enjoy summer now, and the books that go with it. Because there’s almost nothing worse than picking up a book and realizing it’s out of season and you can’t read it yet.*

*Of course you can read a book any time. I realize that. But, at least for me, the mood has to be right. Ripe. Hence my sense of books having a season.

The_Fall_and_Rise_of_Peter_Stoller_by_MPepper_Langinais-500In 1960’s London, British Intelligence agent Peter Stoller is next in line to run the Agency—until he falls in love with cab driver, Charles, and his life goes off the road. When Charles is accused of treason, Peter is guilty by association. Peter manages to extract them both, but the seeds of doubt have been planted, and Peter is compelled to find out whether his lover really is his enemy. Is ignorance truly bliss or merely deadly?

About the Author: M Pepper Langlinais is the author of several Sherlock Holmes stories as well as a produced playwright and screenwriter. Her latest project is the YA fantasy series CHANGERS. She lives with her husband, children, hamster, and cat in Livermore, CA. Find her at PepperWords.com.

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LASR Anniversary: Jaye Watson

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This post is part of Long and Short Review’s 9th Anniversary Celebration. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win a $100 gift card or other prizes.

Watson Cherries

Cherries are in season right now, so I baked a cherry pie, the first of several fruit pies I’ll bake this summer.

The recipe for traditional cherry pie is easy: fresh (or frozen) tart cherries, sugar, cornstarch, and butter, and a crust to put it in, another to cover it. Some recipes call for vanilla or almond extract to be added, because they enhance the cherry flavor.

But almonds are poison.

Well, actually, wild almonds are poison, but the tame variety, the ones we eat, aren’t. But the almond extract is derived from the bitter ones. Carefully. A handful of nuts from a bitter almond tree, ingested all at once, could kill you. If, that is, you actually ate them. They are reputed to be extremely bitter.

I needed a murder weapon for my first try at mystery writing and it had to be a plant poison. Because I detest the scent of almond extract/bitter almond oil, it was an easy choice. Every mystery fan knows the symptoms of arsenic poisoning, and most could probably tell you how to test for the presence of arsenic in a nearly empty coffee cup. But who would suspect a cherry pie?

After that the story’s title was obvious.

But back to almonds. And their relatives, all members of the rose family (which includes apples, prunes, almonds, and cherries and a bunch of other delicious summer fruits). Most of their seeds contain hydrogen cyanide (HCN). Cyanide, in other words. And it’s a pretty potent poison.

Since that first mystery I’ve learned a lot about plant poisons. Especially the unsuspected ones, the ones that hide in common fruits and vegetables, just waiting for someone to prepare them incorrectly, or perhaps add more than a recipe calls for. Summer, with its abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, offers all sorts of possibilities. Green rhubarb stalks, for instance. Potato sprouts in a salad. Hmmm.

Why don’t you come over for a snack one of these warm afternoons?

cansheba_epubEmaline has been taking care of her elderly, cranky grandfather for so long, she wonders if she’ll ever have a life again. When he demands a sumptuous meal, she obliges, even baking him his favorite pie. It’s Johnny Banister’s last meal, but the medical examiner finds nothing suspicious. So why does Emaline seek a way to dispose of the almond extract bottle? And why does she worry that Detective Harry Jordan wants more than the pleasure of her company when he asks her to dinner?

About the Author:Jaye Watson is the alter ego of a sweet little old lady who doesn’t want her grandchildren to know what dark and bloody thoughts she harbors in her heart of hearts. She would rather write about serial killers than romantic lovers, and much prefers a good treatise on deadly poisons to any collection of homestyle recipes. For amusement, Jaye plots new and different ways to kill off the people who cut in front of her in grocery lines and crowd her on the freeway.

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LASR Anniversary: Lesley A. Diehl

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This post is part of Long and Short Review’s 9th Anniversary Celebration. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win a $100 gift card or other prizes.

The Perfect Summer
By Lesley A. Diehl

Summer is my favorite time of year and always has been. As a kid, it was when school was out, although there was always Vacation Bible School which was less about studying the Bible and more about getting ice cream after the morning study let out. That was two weeks of trying out every flavor of ice cream provided by our local dairy store, and Mom let me have a cone every day. After those two weeks, the summer stretched ahead with seemingly endless possibilities of playing with my friends, wandering the pastures and fields of the farm or, when I was older, going to a local lake to swim. Fourth of July brought firework displays and a carnival to town. It seemed everyone in the area went to the carnival. As teenagers, my girlfriends and I would sneak peeks at the young men who worked the rides. And they ogled us in return.

When I was in college the summers meant working in the local printing plant to earn money to pay tuition. One summer I worked as a “stripper,” not the enticing job you might think. I stripped the covers off paperback books for a company who bought he books from vendors such as drugstores and department stores then sent the stripped covers back to the publishing for a percentage of the face value of the book. The books were taken to the dump and discarded, which seemed criminal to me, so although we were not supposed to take the books once the covers were removed, we all did. Aside from the pay check for the work, those books were the best thing about the job. The books weren’t always good literature, but they were great summer reading. I must have gone through over a hundred of them in those three months.

Those college summers began a transition from being connected to my hometown to becoming an adult with another place I called home. My friends from high school felt this too as friendships seemed to slip away to be replaced by new ones.. Graduate school meant classes continued through the summer months, and with my first position as a college professor, the summers from my hometown life became mere memories.

Yet I was lucky, able to recapture some of the nostalgia of the summers of my childhood and adolescence. My contract at the college was for teaching two semesters with the summers off. I taught summer sessions for several years, but soon the number of students attending decreased as tuition costs meant they were forced to seek summer employment. I didn’t mind having the summer months stretch before me. I lived on a small lake and spent the sunny days down on my dock, you guessed it, indulging my love of reading.

I switched positions late in my career and became a dean and vice president at the university level. The pay was substantial compared to that of a professor, but there were no summers off for administrators. I still can’t figure out why they needed to “administrate” for the three months when there were no students attending classes. I found I missed being in the classroom with students, couldn’t tolerate the politics of administration and, boy, did I miss those summers.

When I returned to the classroom, I began to spend my summers writing, so that when I finally retired, I had begun a career as a mystery writer. Again my summers stretch before me filled with reading as before, but now I get to create my own stories. It’s fun watching the fireworks and thinking about how I’m going to murder someone in my next book. This is indeed the perfect summer.

sporting_murderIt’s smooth sailing for Eve Appel and her friend Madeleine, owners of Second to None Consignment Shop in rural Florida’s Sabal Bay, land of swamps, cowboys, and lots and lots of ’gators. Eve and her detective boyfriend Alex have joined Madeleine and her new beau David Wilson for a pleasure cruise on his boat. But cloudy, dangerous waters lie ahead. A near fatal encounter with Blake Reed, David’s supremely nasty neighbor, is soon followed by a shooting death on the dividing line between David and Blake’s land. Both men run sport-hunting reserves, but Blake imports “exotics” from Africa and promotes gator killing, while David stays within the law, pointing clients toward the abundant quail and turkey as well as the wild pigs that ravage the landscape. Nevertheless, when a mutual client is killed, it is David who is arrested and charged with murder. Blake’s nastiness is only exceeded by that of his wife, Elvira, who forces Eve and Madeleine out of their shop, intending to replace it with a consignment shop of her own. It seems that bad luck looms over them all, even Eve’s brawny and hard-to-resist Miccosukee Indian friend Sammy, whose nephew has disappeared. As the case against David grows stronger and his friends’ misfortunes multiply, Eve and her strange and diverse group of friends, including her ex, a mobster, her grandma, and Sammy’s extended family, band together to take on the bad guys. But the waters are getting muddier and more troubled, and Eve and Madeleine may end up inundated in every sense of the word. Book 3 in the Eve Appel Mystery series, which began with A Secondhand Murder and continued with Dead in the Water.

About the Author: Lesley retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport. Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse. When not writing, she gardens, cooks and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work.

She is the author of a number of mystery series (Microbrewing Series, Big Lake Mystery Series, Eve Appel Mystery Series and the Laura Murphy Mysteries), a standalone mystery (Angel Sleuth) and numerous short stories.

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LASR Anniversary: Nikki Andrews

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This post is part of Long and Short Review’s 9th Anniversary Celebration. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win a $100 gift card or other prizes.

SUN TEA
Ah, summertime. Don’t you just love those long days, vacations, open windows? Not to mention the food. Sweet corn, tomatoes, peaches, strawberries. Cold beer, cream soda, and iced tea.

Delicious, real iced tea is so easy to make. You don’t even have to put a kettle on. Just dump 10-12 teabags in a gallon jug, fill it almost full with fresh, cold water, and set it out in the sun. In a few hours, when it turns a rich, deep reddish-brown, add sugar and lemon juice to taste and maybe a sprig of mint. Serve over ice. Heaven.

Nothing at all wrong with that recipe, but how about a few tips to make it even better? I’ve been making sun tea for twen–thir–fort…er, a long time, and I’m happy to pass along a thing or two I’ve learned.

First, use a glass jar. Plastic ones are cheap and easy to find, but they have a nasty tendency to develop an unpleasant aftertaste. Glass stays clean and unscented. Plastic heats up fast and cools down fast; glass coddles your tea, warming and cooling it gently, so the tannins don’t get overcooked and bitter. If you can find a jar without a spigot–like the ones old-fashioned deli pickles come in–so much the better. The spigots inevitably leak and they’re almost impossible to keep mildew-free. If all else fails, remove the spigot, take the jug to a good hardware store and find a seal that fits. Wash it well and use a little silicone to hold it in place.

Try different tea blends. If you like a tea hot, you’ll probably like it iced. Replace a couple of the black tea bags with herbal teas or fresh herbs. Mint, lavender, and rosemary make lovely tea. (If you use fresh herbs, start with small amounts until you learn how you like them.) Try sweeteners other than sugar. With the tea brewed so gently, you may find you need less or even no sugar. Stevia is very sweet and calorie-free. Some people like honey. Use a few berries or other fruit instead of sugar, but put them in each glass. They’ll get kind of goopy in the jug. Substitute orange or lime juice for all or part of the lemon; my favorite is about 1 part lime to 3 parts lemon.

One last thing. Try making moon tea. Start it before bed and it will be ready when you get up. Because it won’t get as warm as sun tea, it will have a delicate, subtle flavor. Use a light hand on the add-ins, and serve it to your sweetie for a little romance under the stars.

perf5.000x8.000.indd When a long-lost painting turns up at Brush & Bevel, a decade-old mystery is reawakened. What really happened to artist Jerry Berger and his model Abby Bingham? Was it a murder-suicide, as the police proclaim, or was it something far more sinister?

Gallery owner Ginny Brent and her loyal staffers, Sue Bradley and Elsie Kimball, each take a different path to unravel the mystery. Together, their discoveries start to form a cohesive whole. But as they get closer to the solution, they discover to their horror that art is not the only thing that can be framed.

About the Author: Nikki Andrews has worked as a picture framer, craft store clerk, and admin assistant, but in her real life she is a writer, editor, and songmaker. When she’s not at her desk, she may be releasing salmon fry on the Piscatquog River, making jams or sweaters, or exploring her surroundings on foot, bike, or snowshoe. She lives near a waterfall with her amazing husband, their persnickety cat, and assorted wildlife.

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LASR Anniversary: Julie B Cosgrove

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Waking and Walking
Julie B Cosgrove

In the first Bunco Biddies mystery I wrote, Dumpster Dicing, two of the retired citizens at Sunset Acres discover a body in the community dumpster on their daily morning power-walk! Walking in the early morning was one of the ways they stayed fit and healthy up into their sixties and seventies.

No matter your age, the more you can keep moving the better. Studies show just a brisk thirty-minute walk first thing in the morning can do wonders for your health, psyche and metabolism. So, recently, I decided to emulate my characters and get up, get out and get going.

Here in Texas, summer heat can be brutal by 11:00 a.m., so the earlier you can throw on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt and lace up your walking shoes the better. I have chosen to rise with the sun. I have my half hour of devotional and reflection time, down 16 ounces of water, then open my apartment door and greet the day. Here are a few of the benefits I have discovered during my early A.M. trek so far:

1. I am meeting more neighbors. I can offer a friendly wave or say, “Good morning” and help get their day started off on a positive note. That helps me do the same.

2. I hear birdsong, watch squirrels dashing across the branches, and even notice small insects going about their work.

3. I notice my stature is more erect. My shoulders slump less. My lungs fill with air. It always seems fresher in the morning.

4. I am sleeping better at night. Unless of course, one of the rafter-rumbling Texas summer storms roll through.

5. I have some nice conversations with my Maker as I stroll and enjoy His creation around me.

In my youth, I associated summers with sleeping in, being lazy and basking. Then life, work, raising a family and volunteering filled my days. Now, as I get older, I see I have missed out on a lot of the beautiful quiet times. True, we have to schedule them. But I am glad I decided to be more like my Bunco Biddies, Janie, Ethel and Betsy Ann, by getting out there daily and moving….hopefully I won’t find a body in my complex’s dumpster!

dumpsterdicing-w1000-oDid the newest resident of Sunset Acres have a dicey past? On their early morning power-walk, Bunco Biddies Janie and Betsy Ann discover him in their community dumpster…diced into pieces! They are determined to discover why, whether the local police want their help or not.

About the Author: Julie B Cosgrove is an award-winning novelist, freelance writer and public speaker. When she isn’t writing suspense romance and cozy mysteries she enjoys reading them. An avid word game player, Julie also writes regularly for eight faith-based publications and websites.

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