Congratulations to author Elizabeth Collums on the release of her epic family drama, Passengers! Read on for an excerpt and more book details!
Publication Date: November 12, 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
A mysterious letter arrives from America to the village of Highland Way, where Annie, the oldest daughter in the Ewing Family was left to care for her mother and younger sister after her father left to find work in Dublin. Soon, Annie, Lily, and Katy find themselves on a harrowing journey.
The hand-written note not only will expose deep secrets, it will also challenge the strength and fortitude of the Ewing women, leading each member into their own soul searching voyage.
Follow this extraordinary passage that begins in Ireland and leads each woman to uncover their own courage and truths in this new world.
As Annie was trying her best to capture and absorb all these extraordinary surroundings so she could accurately relay every detail to her daddy one day her ears picked up the sound of humming. Annie had never heard her mama sing much less hum but she knew it was a woman’s voice. Her visual recording would have to wait as she slowly pulled her arm out from underneath Lily’s head, got to her feet and followed the sound out of the big room they had spent the night in and down the long hallway. The woman’s voice was now on the other side of last door on the end. All her muscles tightened as her feet froze to the floor. She had dreams like this before. When she needed to run, when she was being chased and couldn’t see who was chasing her, but she still knew she needed to move. Her breathes became shallow and she could feel her heart pounding like her senses were telling her there was danger on the other side. “Oh God, please help me, I’m so tired, I’m scared, and this can’t be my fault. Lily and I need somebody. We need our mama”….then suddenly some invisible strength, not of her own making, lifted her hand as she pushed the hinged door open. There in the middle of this huge stark white kitchen was her mama swirling around. Katy had a long white apron tied to her waist with the bottom lifted like it was a ball gown and she was making her own music while dancing to a waltz. Annie saw her mama’s burn scarred face like she had never seen it before. She was smiling and having a whispered conversation with her imaginary dance partner. She had the most peaceful and contented expression that Annie had ever seen before. Annie was certain that this was somehow a miracle in the making. God had finally heard her prayers and her mama had been transformed.
About the Author
Ann C. Purvis, chose to publish her first novel under her birth name, Elizabeth Collums; this is her true roots and where she has drawn from many of the experiences she wrote about. She lives in Denham Springs, Louisiana and enjoys DIY projects. She has two daughters, a step daughter, son-in-law, two amazing granddaughters, and her dog Daisy.
Congratulations to author A.J. McCarthy on the release of her latest novel. By the Book! Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card!
By the Book
Publication Date: November 12th, 2020
Genre: Mystery/ Thriller/ Suspense
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
A clue is left at a murder scene: a page from a paperback novel. The title of the book is Murder by the Dozen, and local author, T.L. McGinnis, cannot provide any leads. Detectives Josh Riddell and Clint Weller of the Ottawa Police Service are worried about what lies ahead. It soon becomes evident their worst fears have been realized, and a serial killer is using the novel as a guide. It’s impossible to foresee and safeguard all the potential victims, and time is running out. But who is the killer’s real target?
The figure glided to the bed on soft-soled feet. The face of the intended victim was at ease, lashes dark against her pale cheeks. The curve of her lips suggested a pleasant dream.
Jennifer Danvers slept the sleep of the dead, the intruder thought. The pun provoked a smile; a hand stifled a chuckle.
Jennifer’s face was familiar, chosen with great care, and it inspired a sense of excitement; the adventure had begun at last. It had taken months of planning and hour upon hour of research.
A few hiccups were expected along the way, but the killer didn’t question the likelihood of accomplishing the goal.
Despite a sense of elation, the hands were steady as the person leaned over the bed and wrapped latex-covered fingers around Jennifer’s throat. Her lovely blue eyes opened, startled, and her hands grabbed her assailant’s wrists as she struggled to free herself, to no avail.
Training and preparation were on the killer’s side.
“You should be honored.” The words were spoken with a smile, even as the fingers
increased their pressure, and terror-filled eyes pleaded for mercy. “You’re perfect. The most
perfect I’ve found. We’ll go down together in history.”
It was over within minutes, too quick for the killer’s satisfaction, and the young woman’s body slumped, lifeless, on the bed. The act completed, the murderer took a few moments to relish the sight of her: the slack mouth, the bulbous eyes staring back, as if in wonder.
Exhilaration flowed through the killer’s veins. So powerful, so clever, so much in control. A laugh escaped, a brief staccato burst.
“No one will ever suspect me. They never do. I’m invisible.” The words were addressed to the body on the bed, as if expecting a response. “I may not come across as being special, but I can do whatever I want to, and I’ll prove it. You’ve been an enormous help. Thank you.”
The corpse received a bright grin as a reward. “Oh, I can’t forget. I have a few things to take care of, haven’t I?”
From a pocket, a pair of tweezers were removed. Unzipping a bag pinned to the front of the person’s white coveralls, a small, red plastic heart was extracted. Jennifer’s mouth was opened, and the heart was lodged against her tonsils. Thin lips curved into a smile of admiration
before closing the victim’s mouth and blocking the heart from view. Next, the tweezers were used to pull a crisp piece of paper from the bag. The killer squatted, placed it beneath the bed, and pushed it under as far as possible, taking care not to bend or tear it.
A.J. McCarthy grew up with a love for reading, and that love became stronger with the years. Having built a career in finance, she decided to try her hand at writing. To her surprise, she discovered a new passion, and is enjoying the excitement and the challenges which accompanied that discovery.
She tries to blog when the inspiration strikes her, and she continues to write novels.
She lives with her husband north of Québec City, Canada, and is the mother of two wonderful daughters.
The sun sets. The moon takes its place, illuminating the most evil corners of the planet. What twisted fear dwells in that blackness? What legends attach to those of sound mind and make them go crazy in the bright light of day? Only Suspense Magazine knows…
Teaming up with New York Times bestselling author Jeffery Deaver, Suspense Magazine offers up a nail-biting anthology titled: “Nothing Good Happens After Midnight.” This thrilling collection consists of thirteen original short stories representing the genres of suspense/thriller, mystery, sci-fi/fantasy, and more.
Readers’ favorites come together to explore the mystery of midnight. The ‘best of the best’ presenting these memorable tales include: Joseph Badal, Linwood Barclay, Rhys Bowen, Heather Graham, Alan Jacobson, Paul Kemprecos, Shannon Kirk, Jon Land, John Lescroart, D. P. Lyle, Kevin O’Brien, and Hank Phillippi Ryan.
Take their hands…walk into their worlds…but be prepared to leave the light on when you’re through. After all, this incredible gathering of authors, who will delight fans of all genres, not only utilized their award-winning imaginations to answer that age-old question of why “Nothing Good Happens After Midnight”—they also made sure to pen stories that will leave you…speechless.
“NOTHING GOOD HAPPENS AFTER MIDNIGHT is a treat—dark, chilling, and delicious. Grab it.” —Meg Gardiner, Edgar Award-Winning Author of The Dark Corners of the Night
“Something very good happens after midnight…just pick up this brilliant book and be transported—and very afraid!” —Peter James, UK #1 Bestselling Author of the Detective Superintendent Roy Grace Series
JEFFERY DEAVER is an international number-one bestselling author. His novels have appeared on bestseller lists around the world. His books are sold in 150 countries and translated into twenty-five languages. He has served two terms as president of Mystery Writers of America.
The author of forty-three novels, three collections of short stories and a nonfiction law book, and a lyricist of a country-western album, he’s received or been shortlisted for dozens of awards. His THE BODIES LEFT BEHIND was named Novel of the Year by the International Thriller Writers association, and his Lincoln Rhyme thriller THE BROKEN WINDOW and a stand-alone, EDGE, were also nominated for that prize. THE GARDEN OF BEASTS won the Steel Dagger from the Crime Writers Association in England. He’s been nominated for eight Edgar Awards.
Deaver has been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, the Strand Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Raymond Chandler Lifetime Achievement Award in Italy.
His book A MAIDEN’S GRAVE was made into an HBO movie starring James Garner and Marlee Matlin, and his novel THE BONE COLLECTOR was a feature release from Universal Pictures, starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. Lifetime aired an adaptation of his THE DEVIL’S TEARDROP. NBC television is airing the popular prime time series, Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector.
His latest novel is THE GOODBYE MAN, a Colter Shaw thriller.
JOSEPH BADAL grew up in a family where storytelling had been passed down from generation to generation.
Prior to a long business career, Joe served for six years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army in critical, highly classified positions in the U.S. and overseas, including tours of duty in Greece and Vietnam, and earned numerous military decorations.
Joe is an Amazon #1 bestselling author, with 16 published suspense novels. He has been recognized as “One of The 50 Best Writers You Should Be Reading.” His books have received two Tony Hillerman Awards for Best Fiction Book of the Year, been top prize winners on multiple occasions in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards competition, received gold medals from the Military Writers Society of America, the Eric Hoffer Award, and Finalist honors in the International Book Awards.
He writes a regular column titled “Inspired by Actual Events” in Suspense Magazine.
LINWOOD BARCLAY, a New York Times bestselling author and with nearly twenty novels to his credit, spent three decades in newspapers before turning full time to writing thrillers. His books have been translated into more than two dozen language, sold millions of copies, and he counts Stephen King among his fans. Many of his books have been optioned for film and TV, a series has been made in France, and he wrote the screenplay for the film based on his novel NEVER SAW IT COMING. Born in the US, his parents moved to Canada just as he was turning four, and he’s lived there ever since. He lives near Toronto with his wife, Neetha. They have two grown children.
RHYS BOWEN is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of two historical mystery series, as well as three internationally bestselling standalone novels. Her books have won multiple awards and been translated into over twenty languages. A transplanted Brit, Rhys now divides her time between California and Arizona, where she escapes from those harsh California winters.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, HEATHER GRAHAM, majored in theater arts at the University of South Florida. After a stint of several years in dinner theater, back-up vocals, and bartending, she stayed home after the birth of her third child and began to write. Her first book was with Dell, and since then, she has written over two hundred novels and novellas including category, suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, and Christmas family fare.
She is pleased to have been published in approximately twenty-five languages. She has written over 200 novels and has 60 million books in print. She has been honored with awards from booksellers and writers’ organizations for excellence in her work, and she is also proud to be a recipient of the Silver Bullet from Thriller Writers and was also awarded the prestigious Thriller Master in 2016. She is also a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from RWA. Heather has had books selected for the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild, and has been quoted, interviewed, or featured in such publications as The Nation, Redbook, Mystery Book Club, People and USA Today and appeared on many newscasts including Today, Entertainment Tonight and local television.
Heather loves travel and anything that has to do with the water, and is a certified scuba diver. She also loves ballroom dancing. Each year she hosts the Vampire Ball and Dinner theater at the RT convention, raising money for the Pediatric Aids Society, and in 2006 she hosted the first Writers for New Orleans Workshop to benefit the stricken Gulf Region. She is also the founder of “The Slush Pile Players,” presenting something that’s “almost like entertainment” for various conferences and benefits. Married since high school graduation and the mother of five, her greatest love in life remains her family, but she also believes her career has been an incredible gift, and she is grateful every day to be doing something that she loves so very much for a living.
ALAN JACOBSON is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of fourteen thrillers, including the FBI profiler Karen Vail series and the OPSIG Team Black novels. His books have been translated internationally and several have been optioned by Hollywood. Jacobson’s debut novel, FALSE ACCUSATIONS, was adapted to film by acclaimed Czech screenwriter Jirí Hubac.
Jacobson has spent over twenty-five years working with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, the DEA, the US Marshals Service, SWAT, the NYPD, Scotland Yard, local law enforcement, and the US military. This research and the breadth of his contacts help bring depth and realism to his characters and stories.
For video interviews and a free personal safety eBook co-authored by Alan Jacobson and FBI Profiler Mark Safarik, please visit http://www.AlanJacobson.com. You can also connect with Jacobson on Facebook (Facebook.com/AlanJacobsonFans), Instagram (alan.jacobson), Twitter (@JacobsonAlan), and Goodreads (alan-jacobson).
PAUL KEMPRECOS is the author of eight novels in the Aristotle “Soc” Socarides private detective series, including COOL BLUE TOMB, winner of a Shamus award from the Private Eye Writers of America for Best Paperback, and SHARK BAIT, nominated for a Shamus in the same category. Grandmaster of Adventure writer Clive Cussler blurbed: “There can be no better mystery writer in America than Paul Kemprecos.” Paul became the first fiction co-author to work with Cussler when they created and wrote the New York Times bestselling NUMA Files series. After collaborating with Cussler on the first eight books in the NUMA Files, Paul wrote two adventure novels including THE MINOAN CIPHER, nominated for a Thriller award by the International Thriller Writers. Paul lives on Cape Cod with his wife Christi, a financial advisor.
SHANNON KIRK is the international bestselling and award-winning author of METHOD 15/33, THE EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY OF VIVIENNE MARSHALL, IN THE VINES, GRETCHEN, VIEBURY GROVE, and short stories in four anthologies: THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD, NOTHING GOOD HAPPENS AFTER MIDNIGHT, and BORDER NOIR. Shannon is also a contributor to the International Thriller Writers’ Murderers’ Row. Growing up in New Hampshire, Shannon and her brothers were encouraged by their parents to pursue the arts, which instilled in her a love for writing at a young age. A graduate of Suffolk Law School in Massachusetts, Shannon is a practicing litigation attorney and former adjunct law professor, specializing in electronic-evidence law. When she isn’t writing or practicing law, Shannon spends time with her husband, son, and two cats. To learn more about her, visit www.shannonkirkbooks.com.
JON LAND is the USA Today bestselling author of more than 50 books, including the award-winning, critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong series, the most recent of which is STRONG FROM THE HEART. He has also penned six novels in the MURDER, SHE WROTE series and has recently taken over Margaret Truman’s CAPITAL CRIMES series as well. He’s a 1979 graduate of Brown University, lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and can be reached at jonlandbooks.com or on Twitter @jondland.
JOHN LESCROART is the author of twenty-nine novels, nineteen of which have been New York Times bestsellers. Libraries Unlimited places him among “The 100 Most Popular Thriller and Suspense Authors.” With sales of over twelve million copies, his books have been translated into twenty-two languages in more than seventy-five countries, and his short stories appear in many anthologies.
John’s first book, SUNBURN, won the Joseph Henry Jackson Award for Best Novel by a California author. DEAD IRISH, THE 13TH JUROR, and THE KEEPER were nominees for the Shamus, Anthony, and Silver Falchion Best Mystery Novel, respectively; additionally THE 13TH JUROR is included in the International Thriller Writers publication “100 Must-Read Thrillers of All Time.” HARD EVIDENCE made “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Ultimate Reading List.” THE SUSPECT was the American Author’s Association 2007 Book of the Year. THE MOTIVE was an Audie Finalist of the Audio Publishers Association. THE MERCY RULE, NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH, THE SUSPECT, THE FALL, and THE RULE OF LAW have been major market Book Club selections. John’s books have been Main Selections of one or more of the Literary Guild, Mystery Guild, and Book of the Month Club.
P. LYLE is the Amazon #1 Bestselling; Macavity and Benjamin Franklin Award-winning; and Edgar(2), Agatha, Anthony, Shamus, Scribe, and USA Today Best Book(2) Award-nominated author of 22 books, both non-fiction and fiction, including the Samantha Cody, Dub Walker, Jake Longly and Cain/Harper thriller series and the Royal Pains media tie-in novels. His essay on Jules Verne’s THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND appears in THRILLERS: 100 MUST READS, his short story “Even Steven” in ITW’s anthology THRILLER 3: LOVE IS MURDER, and his short story “Bottom Line” in FOR THE SAKE OF THE GAME. He served as editor for and contributed the short story “Splash” to SCWA’s anthology IT’S ALL IN THE STORY.
He hosts the Crime Fiction Writer’s Blog and the Criminal Mischief: The Art and Science of Crime Fiction podcast series. He has worked with many novelists and with the writers of popular television shows such as Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Peacemakers, Cold Case, House, Medium, Women’s Murder Club, 1-800-Missing, The Glades, and Pretty Little Liars.
Before his thrillers landed him on the New York Times bestseller list, KEVIN O’BRIEN was a railroad inspector. The author of 21 internationally-published thrillers, he won the Spotted Owl Award for Best Pacific Northwest Mystery, and is a core member of Seattle 7 Writers. Press & Guide said: “If Alfred Hitchcock were alive today and writing novels, his name would be Kevin O’Brien.” Kevin’s latest nail-biter is THE BAD SISTER.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s WHDH-TV, winning 37 EMMYs and dozens more journalism honors. A USA Today bestselling author of 12 thrillers, Ryan’s also an award-winner in her second profession—with five Agathas, three Anthonys, and the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. Critics call her “a master of suspense.” Her highly-acclaimed TRUST ME was an Agatha nominee and chosen for numerous prestigious “Best of 2018” lists. Hank’s book THE MURDER LIST is an Agatha, Anthony and Mary Higgins Clark Award nominee. Her newest standalone is THE FIRST TO LIE (Forge Books August 2020). The Publishers Weekly starred review calls it “Stellar.”
SUSPENSE MAGAZINE was founded in 2007 on the premise that every author in the genre needed a platform to have a voice. From that original concept, Suspense Publishing was born in 2010 to publish high quality books in the suspense/mystery/horror/thriller genre. Suspense Publishing’s goal is to be a leader in producing the highest quality books in the genre.
Welcome to the book tour for The Best of No Small Thing with its accompanying gratitude workbook, Practice Gratitude. This unique collection of blog posts is by author, Deborah Hawkins!
Read on for details and a chance to win a set of books!
The Best of No Small Thing
Publication Date: December 2019
Genre: Collection of Blog Posts/ Non-Fiction
No Small Thing – Mindful Meditations (NoSmallThing.net) was launched in 2010 with the intention of reflecting on experiences that generated feelings of gratitude in order to create a positive mood and orientation to life. As of fall of 2019, over 500 reflections (mindful meditations) have been published along with over 100 tips that can be employed in a gratitude practice.
This mindfulness process is detailed in a companion book, Practice Gratitude: Transform Your Life. It emphasizes the creation of personal gratitude themes, one’s Grateful Dozen, which can help a person see things that spark grateful feelings in new situations. This is a collection of favorite blog posts that came out of this process.
For several decades, studies have supported the idea that gratitude has many positive benefits. It boosts optimism, a sense of personal control, and even enhances relationships. Keeping a simple gratitude journal, where daily entries are made identifying things that spark gratitude, has become a very popular. Deborah Hawkins, originator of NoSmallThing.net, goes beyond listing little boons to generate good feelings. In this book, she teaches techniques for mindfulness, self-inquiry, and writing to build memories that activate strong positive emotions. This guide and workbook helps readers understand what kinds of personal experiences prompt uplifting feelings of gratitude in them, develop broad themes that apply to these experiences, and then use these themes to see and experience gratitude in new situations. This approach can empower anyone to begin each new day with confidence that things they love and value are already present. A companion book, Best of No Small Thing – Mindful Meditations provides examples of posts that were written using this process.
Since I started writing down my mindful meditations, I have tried to pay extra attention to things that affect me, things that change my mood or outlook, or simply things that I’m grateful for. Keeping an eye out for these kinds of things has brought up memories of my father and some paradoxical advice he tried to impart.
My father died when he was sixty-two. I was in my midtwenties and going through a divorce. He was not around often when I was growing up as he worked very long hours, but his presence was oh so constant. We didn’t go to many ballgames together or to the park. He didn’t teach me how to drive or mentor me in some important life skills, but I knew he loved me very much.
Starting when I was about thirteen, he used to pull me under his arm and repeat an odd phrase. “Don’t worry about the little
things. It’s the big things that are important.” Then he’d add, as if confiding something more profound to me, “Don’t worry about the big things. It’s the little things that are important.”
Returning to her hometown in 2008, after nearly one year spent, unsuccessfully, trying to create a new career in a new town, Deborah Hawkins found herself fighting depression and struggling to maintain solvency. In her early fifties, looking for financial help from her family was especially hard. A car accident, caused by an uninsured driver, kept her off her feet for months. She felt cursed.
She began blogging on gratitude in 2010 as a way to focus on positives and elevate her mood. Inspired by Eckhart Tolle’s words, “Acknowledging the good that is already in your life is the foundation for all abundance,” she developed a mindfulness orientation for her own gratitude practice. This practice led her to post weekly over the last decade; around 500 posts.
Beyond traditional gratitude journals and lists, Deborah’s approach focuses on understanding things that sparked gratitude in past experiences and using this understanding to identify similar qualities in new situations. She attributes her gratitude practice with bringing a sense of empowerment and contentment to her life.
She plans to make her process available as a tele-seminar in the near future. Deborah has a BA from Knox College and lives in Chicago.
As a science journalist, Jade has seen more than her fair share of peculiar oddities—none weirder than her socially inept fellow reporter Antigone. When the test of a teleporter using an electron collider goes awry, the two women find their world changed in subtle ways, with anomalies breaking out in their personal lives. Their increasingly unstable dimension gives Jadethe ability to shapeshift while Antigone can see portals into other worlds.
A fellow journalist who attended the experiment is trapped in another dimension and Jade and Antigone hold the key to saving him. Of course, their task is not just a simple rescue mission. Realizing they will continue to drift into increasingly stranger worlds until they straighten out the paradox, the women reluctantly agree to travel through the multiverse in search of a solution.
Welcome to the blog tour for action-packed thriller, The Failsafe Query by Michael Jenkins! Read on for an excerpt and a chance to win a print copy of the book!
The Failsafe Query
Publication Date: July 2018
The Failsafe Query is a gripping thriller set in the contemporary world of modern British espionage.
Sean Richardson, a disgraced former intelligence agent, is tasked to lead a team to search for Alfie Chapman, an Intelligence officer on the cusp of exposing thousands of secrets to the media. This includes a long lost list of Russian moles embedded since the Cold War, one of whom remains a public favourite in the British parliamentary system.
The action moves with absorbing pace and intrigue across Central Asia and Europe as the puzzle begins to unfold through a deep hidden legacy.
Tense, fast paced, and insightful, The Failsafe Query twists and turns to a satisfyingly dramatic finale.
I started climbing at 13, survived being lost in Snowdonia at 14, nearly drowned at 15, and then joined the Army at 16. Risk and adventure was built into my DNA and I feel very fortunate to have served the majority of my working career as an intelligence officer within Defence Intelligence, and as an explosive ordnance disposal officer and military surveyor within the Corps of Royal Engineers.
I feel privileged to have served for twenty-eight years in the British Army as a soldier and officer, working in Defence Intelligence and Counter-Terrorist Bomb Disposal operations, rising through the ranks to complete my service as a major. I served across the globe on numerous military operations as well as extensive travel and adventure on many major mountaineering and exploration expeditions that I led or was involved in.
I was awarded the Geographic Medal by the Royal Geographical Society for mountain exploration and served on the screening committee of the Mount Everest Foundation charity for many years. It was humbling after so many years of service when I was awarded the MBE for services to counter-terrorism in 2007
The Failsafe Query is my debut novel, and I hope you enjoy the follow up novel, The Kompromat Kill, and my third in an ongoing series, The Moscow Whisper. Each can be read as standalone novels.
This is a crucial scene that sets the backstory to the novel, and the duplicity that Sean, the main character, unravels later on in the book. Sean had very recently recruited General Yuri, a senior officer in the Uzbekistan Intelligence services. The scene take place on a train set amongst the magnificent vistas of the Uzbekistan deserts as they travel from Tashkent to Samarkand – two mystical cities on the great silk road. Sean is trying to find out who might be smuggling nuclear materials across the region.
Sean and General Yuri boarded the cranky old train bound for Bokhara via the great city of Samarkand – they were destined to spend twenty-four hours together in a small double-bunk compartment situated in the second-class carriages towards the front of the train.
Sean entered the compartment, placed his rucksack on the top bunk and sat at the small table next to the window. The carriage windows had an ancient set of curtains pulled back on an old wire hanging by its threads, and the musty smell of the compartment lingered deep in the nose. The table held two small Uzbek bowls for drinking green chai, and a blue, mosaic-patterned teapot.
It wasn’t long before the train had rolled out of Tashkent on its way to the historic Islamic cities of Samarkand and Bokhara. The wide landscape of the Karakum desert provided the mysterious backdrop for Sean to quiz Yuri on the criminal underworld activity of radiological smuggling that was happening across Central Asia.
Yuri didn’t stop talking.
‘There’s an extensive network of cross-border smuggling going on, Sean, radiological sources moving across the region, and I’ve been monitoring exactly how it works.’
‘Great. You’ve developed this operation well, and we’re pleased with your work Yuri.’
‘I’m glad it’s to your satisfaction,’ Yuri said, in his slightly strained, but very understandable, English.
‘We pay people here, Sean. They are poor and, in this country, we trade in whatever we can. It might be furs, sausages, illegal drugs, vodka or even special nuclear material. It’s our way of life and bargaining markets occur all across the land where buyers and sellers will come. The illicit trade in caesium and even uranium is managed by the Russian Mafia.’
Sean was fascinated at the extent of the knowledge Yuri had – what he had been relaying back to London for the last few months was chilling. He leant back into the sofa opposite the bunk beds, whilst Yuri sat cross-legged on a cushion near the table. Yuri continued.
‘The Mafia use normal traders, low-level workers and simple men to try and sell the stuff. You know, hustlers. Middlemen. If they sell, they give the largest cut back to the Mafia – they are shit-scared of them and know they will be hurt if they try to renege on any deal and run off with the items.’
‘So, who’s buying, Yuri? Where is it moving to? And who are the end buyers and where are they from?’ Sean asked the questions, remembering the classified intelligence he had read of 220 specific cases of smuggling of special nuclear material across Georgia, Turkey, the Caucasus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
‘We only have a handful of deals that we’ve managed to uncover here but it moves across our territory into the Caucasus and Turkey and onwards to wherever the end buyer is. The stuff comes from our old refineries and metallurgy processing plants: some here, some in Kazakhstan. Everyone is corrupt and it’s easy for the Mafia to buy the stuff from security, the workers or even the police. Money speaks here. They then use the hustlers to move it across the deserts into Turkmenistan and then across to Georgia and Ossetia.’
Sean knew the hunting ground for the buyers was in the broken Russian states of Ossetia and Abkhazia and often over into the black-market bazaars of Turkey. It was in these countries that you could buy anything from dried fish to gold, drugs and even weapons-grade uranium.
A bit gritty Rachel with some swearing – is this OK?
This is a favourite scene of mine where Sean meets up with an old friend for the first time after many months of severe trauma. He had just finished searching the flat of the intelligence officer he had been tasked to find. But before he continues with that job, he wants his mate, one-eyed Damon, to carry out a specific job for him on an old enemy. It sets the scene for some future shenanigans involving one eyed Damon as part of a mission to help Sean. One eyed Damon is based upon a friend of mine and I’ve adapted his character. He was shot through the eye in Iraq.
Sean left Baker Street, heading south towards Oxford Circus. The sun blinded him as he strode purposefully, but at a slow pace. A distant siren, merged with the heavy traffic, accompanied the persistent noises in his mind. His heartbeat rose. His thoughts became intense as he reminded himself of the trauma that people had inflicted on him.
He had one more thing to tend to before he left London. And it involved a kill.
He turned right onto Crawford Street, then back on himself, and made numerous turns down the quiet Marylebone back streets. He headed back towards the Edgware Road and made a deliberate U-turn, browsing occasionally at some of the antiques in shop windows. Finally, he turned left onto Enford Street and walked quietly into the Thornbury Castle pub. He made his way to the bar and ordered a pint of Rebellion beer. He paused, turned his back to the bar and cast his eye around the few local punters before making his way to the far corner of the pub, which provided an excellent view of the entrance.
Exactly twelve minutes later, ‘One-Eyed’ Damon walked through the entrance. A beast of a man, just shy of six foot seven inches of sheer bulk, he made his way to the bar with a white stick. No words were exchanged as the bearded barman slipped a pint of pale ale across the bar and indicated with a glance that Sean was sat on the higher deck in the corner.
One-Eyed Damon was a Northern Ireland and Iraq war veteran. A surveillance and weapons expert who, even with only one eye left, was still at the top of his game and who had contacts in the city who could do anything that was needed. Pick a lock, Damon was the man. Provide a weapon or plant some bugs, Damon was the man. He shuffled up the small steps and crouched over his pint next to Sean.
‘Long time, mate,’ Sean said.
‘You’re looking old and angry,’ One-Eyed Damon replied, smirking widely as his false eye glistened and twinkled in the low light. He was wearing a Union Flag lens.
‘Fuck off mate, you know I’m never angry. Just badly mad,’ Sean retorted. ‘And you can wipe that smile off your face, at least until you’ve paid me back for keeping your arse out of jail all those years ago.’ Sean had provided a glowing reference at Damon’s court martial in Colchester after Damon had ‘accidentally’ beaten up an RAF officer for touching up a woman in a Southend bar.
One-Eyed Damon broke into laughter. ‘Great days those, mate – he deserved it and you did indeed save my arse. But I hear it’s you who’s been in jail getting your arse pounded this time, Sean.’
‘Very fucking funny,’ Sean said. ‘Anyway, what’s the SP?’
‘No one is on your tail,’ Damon said, lifting his head from his beer and looking cautiously around the bar. ‘I followed you from that swanky hotel, all the way to Baker Street and then on your very obvious counter-surveillance route around Marylebone. You really need to sharpen up on your skills you know, mate.’
‘My mojo is coming back – don’t you worry about that.’
‘What’s next then, Sean?’
‘A kill,’ Sean said. ‘A slow one, but a purposeful one that I need you to look at. I’m going to be busy for a while with a job. Are you happy to do some stuff for me?’
‘Yep. Normal fees please though.’
‘Not a problem.’ Sean pulled out a small business card. ‘I need you to find this man. Find out everything about him, where he’s living, his pattern of life, who he’s shagging, what he loves, the lot.’ One-Eyed Damon turned the card over. The name on the card was Frazer, with a telephone number and a company address.
‘I assume this is the guy that got you shafted then?’
‘You could say that. Be careful though. He’s running Albanian gangs in the city as well as major drug-running operations across the continent. He takes pleasure in hurting his friends too.’
‘Fine. A real bastard then, who needs sorting out. I’ll find out everything about his movements and people. I look forward to hearing your plan on the kill.’
Sean stayed silent, smiled and stood up ready to leave.
‘Go via Samantha,’ he said. ‘She’s the conduit for this job. And feel free to leave a marker for him – just so he knows.’
This is an introduction to the dangerous and sadistic antagonist, Natalie. She is a highly trained Russian agent and part of Directorate S of the SVR (Russian foreign intelligence service). She is one of a number of ‘sleeper’ intelligence agents placed into western European countries to gather covert intelligence without official cover. Natalie has a cover story (a legend) that gives her access to parliamentarians but has now been given a task by Moscow to chase Sean down and find out what he is up to. Her plan isn’t going well at this stage and she is fuming with her inept Russian agents from the GRU (The Russian Military Intelligence branch).
Natalie’s frustrations and impatience had now become insidious, but she had a new plan. Her powerful and influential resolve meant she knew she had Gregory where she wanted him and that he would do whatever she wanted.
‘I don’t care what your normal procedures are on these tasks, Gregory – it’s a fucking shambles and won’t work.’
She knew he wouldn’t disagree, and it was now time to get him to bend his operational rules.
‘You lot haven’t been able to maintain surveillance on the farm, you don’t know what’s happening there, who has been coming and going and you can’t follow more than one vehicle at a time – so we’re blind to what the fuck they are doing.’
Natalie stood and looked out of the window into the moonlit gardens. She clutched her black hair and put it in a ponytail, adjusting it using the reflection. She was incensed. She was right and always right, and no one would stand in her way of doing things the way she wanted them to be done – even if she didn’t have experience of hard-core surveillance operations. She poured herself a glass of vodka and took her Arcus 94C high-power pistol from her bag. She loved the feel of the Bulgarian weapon in her hand and it eased her tensions when she gripped the walnut handle firmly.
‘We don’t have the resources I need,’ Gregory said.
‘Bullshit. You’re responsible for this and, in the words of the British, you need to get a fucking grip of it.’
‘I need better men to get this done properly.’
‘Properly? I’ll give you fucking properly,’ she said, raising the weapon. Solid and beautiful, she stroked the smooth stainless-steel barrel, feeling an urge to fire the first of its thirteen-shot capacity right into Gregory’s head. Natalie turned and walked towards Gregory, releasing the safety catch. ‘I’m dealing with a bunch of fuckwits and you need to get sharp quickly.’
‘We are sharp, and I’m not convinced we can do anything more than what we are doing. We’re all well trained in this you know.’
Natalie began to fume. ‘You idiots haven’t given me anything so far, I’ve had to do it all myself. I really ought to pump a bullet into you right now and get someone in who can do a better job of this for me.’
‘We haven’t had anything to go on though.’
Natalie took one stride and smashed the weapon into Gregory’s head with a sharp backhand swipe. Her ring cut his cheek with a sharp slice, and blood began to pour down his face.
‘Don’t make me fucking angry ever again,’ she growled.
This is an insightful and tense scene that could fully jeopardise Sean’s mission. He meets with the Natalie to carefully seal a deal on getting his escape and making some money from it too. Natalie, the sadistic Russian intelligence agent, thinks she has won her prize as Sean agrees the deal in a hotel room in the south of France. If it all goes well, they can both go their separate ways to the dreams they both have. If it goes wrong, as it does, mayhem will occur in both the British and Russian intelligence agencies, whilst nervous men await their fate.
Sean arrived at Natalie’s room at exactly 7.25pm.
‘Time to get down to business I think, Natalie,’ Sean said cheerily as he walked through the door, acting chirpily.
‘Why? What’s happened?’ she inquired, holding the door open.
‘Well, it’s all good. I have the files for you. It’s time to see you transfer that money into my account if you don’t mind. The files are all on a Dropbox site that Alfie uploaded them to. I also want to discuss the conditions under which we operate from here.’
Natalie closed the door, simultaneously responding with a large smile. ‘Great, let’s have a celebratory drink and get down to business then.’
Natalie, looking elegant in a red dress and black heels, walked behind Sean as he strode purposefully to the round table next to the balcony.
He sat adjacent to her laptop, the smell of Natalie’s perfume permeating the air. Sean placed his phone next to the laptop and gently aimed his covert live-feed camera, hidden in his jacket button, towards the keyboard.
The live feed went directly to one of Samantha’s operators sitting at his desk in London. Sean visualised the activity of Samantha and her operators back in MI5, who were watching as Natalie typed in her login name and password on the keyboard. Sean’s phone, issued by GCHQ, had a very powerful Wi-Fi encryption scanner inside it, and it began to lock onto the wireless ports within Natalie’s laptop. The technology had been designed by GCHQ and started to retrieve data via cyber vulnerabilities and to break through the encrypted firewalls of the laptop’s Wi-Fi system, creating a data tunnel. It then retrieved a series of files and operating system codes which were immediately uploaded across an encrypted point-to-point link, allowing an operator in Cheltenham to grab the files. The operator would soon be able to mimic the Wi-Fi and 4G connections that Natalie would link to, and then breach the established data security software to retrieve all elements of the operating system held on her laptop. He would effectively have full command and control. Once he had confirmed he had control, Samantha authorised him to embed a small application – and he began retrieving the files he wanted.
Sean asked Natalie to transfer the funds, so he could then hand over the files. Natalie opened up an HSBC online account, one of many she used, and Sean captured the keystrokes she made on the keyboard via the covert camera. Samantha was immediately able to penetrate the account using the apps that had been placed on the computer as well as the typing her operator had picked up from Sean’s still photographs. Natalie then transferred fifty per cent of the funds to two of his accounts. Sean sat back and passed the logins to Natalie for the cloud account holding the data. Sean passed the envelope to her and, before long, she had gained access to the site and files.
Natalie was in. Sean could see her elation, and sense her thoughts. She was joyous that she had succeeded and was thinking about the effect it would have on her Moscow overlords. She looked over her shoulder and smiled at Sean. She then began trawling through all the files. Sean felt pleased.
‘Look at the one called QUERY,’ Sean said wryly. ‘Quite a revelation if you ask me.’ He then stood up and made his way to the drinks bar.
As Sean leant over to lift his glass in Natalie’s hotel room, all hell broke loose. He heard the boom of a thunderous explosion as the door was smashed open and saw the black outlines of very large men, who pounced on him, smashing him to the ground.
He heard the crack and thump of a double-tap gunshot as he saw Natalie stand and fire two shots into the second attacker, who kept coming straight for her despite bullets hitting his chest. The body armour repelled the nine-millimetre shots Natalie had fired and she was pounced on by a huge man, who punched her straight in the face before turning her onto her chest, and then thrusting her head into the carpet. Sean was bundled to the ground, his arms and shoulders pinned down, and a set of plastic tie-wrap handcuffs violently strapped around his wrists. He felt the pain of his nose breaking as he was brutalised into submission.
‘What the fuck?’ Sean screamed, before being kicked firmly in the ribs. They pulled him to his feet as the shock of capture registered once more with him.
‘Right: get these two out of here, do a check for weapons and make sure you search them thoroughly before you get them into the wagons,’ the leader shouted, whilst gesturing to his team to get a move on.
Sean was frogmarched outside the hotel. All he saw was blue and white police tape and flashing blue lights everywhere. The hotel had been quietly evacuated and he caught the eyes of a crowd of people watching from a distance behind a cordon manned by the gendarmerie.
In the 1950s, in the aftermath of World War II, five American families moved to Ecuador, determined to take the Christian gospel to a pre-Neolithic Amazonian tribe they called “the Auca.” The Waorani (proper name) were just as determined to maintain their isolation, and killed the missionary men at their second meeting. Four of the wives remained in Ecuador and one, Elisabeth Elliot, went further into the rainforest with her three-year old daughter to live with the Waorani.
Joan Thomas’s fictional treatment of this incident explores themes that are both eternal and immediate: faith and ideology, autonomy and self-protection, cultural understanding and misunderstanding, grief and doubt, and isolation. Five Wives rises out of immaculate research, including a visit to the ruins of the Elliot house in Ecuador, and out of the author’s own experience with the thinking and imperatives of evangelical missions. The novel sinks into the points of view of characters who are bound by past choices, yet make their own personal bargains in the midst of a crisis.
“You know, Marj, I haven’t told you everything. I didn’t tell you exactly how it happened.” “Okay. So tell me.”
“Well, remember there was a really low ceiling on Tuesday? The clouds were rock-solid all day, they never broke. But when I was flying home, just as I was crossing the Napo, a hole opened to the southwest. It was shaped exactly like a keyhole, and it was low, close to the horizon, so the sun was streaming through at an angle—it was like one of those pictures you see of the Rapture. Everything was in 3-D. The big old kapok trees were throwing shade on the canopy, and I could see the shadow of the Piper skimming over the jungle ahead of me, almost as if it was leading me on. That was how I spied that dimple in the forest. The chagra. I would never normally have seen it. It was like I literally saw God’s hand. I saw God reach down and open the clouds with a finger. He was saying, Look, Nate. Look. There you go.” His eyes are fixed on her through this whole story. “If God’s calling me, Marjie, he’s calling you. You made a vow.”
He drops back on his pillow, and after a minute she lies down too.
He has never, ever pulled this before. Not once since the day she stood with a bunch of woody-stemmed lilacs in her hand and promised to obey him. The minister explained what the vow meant: Nate obeyed the Lord, and Marj obeyed Nate with the same respect. It struck Marj then as an efficient arrangement—and she knew she had more hope of dealing with Nate than she ever did with God.
She lies on her back and listens to the song of the crickets and frogs and cicadas, and to Nate’s breathing, which, now that he’s said his piece, quickly turns to a gentle snore. Possibly she sleeps, because the next time she opens her eyes, the room is bright and her thoughts are clear and Nate is lying on his side looking at her.
Who can find a virtuous woman, her children rise up and call her blessed.
“Listen,” she says, rolling over to face him full on. “I’ll stop fighting you on this. But Debbie is not going to boarding school in Quito. I’m not sending my little girl to an orphanage on the other side of the Andes.”
In the morning light, she sees a blink of assent so quick only a wife would catch it.
Joan Thomas’s fourth novel Five Wives won Canada’s prestigious Governor General’s Award for Fiction. Described by the Globe and Mail as “brilliant, eloquent, curious, far-seeing,” it is an immersive dive into a real event, the disastrous attempt by five American families to move into the territory of the reclusive Waorani people in Ecuador in 1956.
Joan’s three previous novels have been praised for their intimate and insightful depictions of characters in times of rapid social change. Reading by Lightning, set in World War 2, won the 2008 Amazon Prize and a Commonwealth Prize. Curiosity, based on the life of the preDarwinist fossilist Mary Anning, was nominated for the 2010 Giller Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Award. The Opening Sky, a novel about a family navigating contemporary crises, won the 2014 McNally Robinson Prize and was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award.
Joan lives in Winnipeg, a prairie city at the geographical center of North America. Before beginning to write fiction, she was a longtime book reviewer. In 2014, Joan was awarded the Writers Trust of Canada’s prize for mid-career achievement.
What a perfect read for the spooky season! Congratulations to T.J. Eckhart on the release of her magical Urban Fantasy novel, True You 101!
Read on for an exclusive excerpt and book details!
True You 101
Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Liminal Press
If one class during high school could help you become the person you were meant to be, would you take it? At the Reinholdt Institute of Sortilege Arts, sophomores are required to take True You 101 no matter whether they live in the mortal or magical realm. Over the course of a year, each student must confront all possibilities until their outer form matches their inner self. Blake Trudeau has always just wanted to be normal and hopes the class will make that a reality, but will the final spell conjure Blake’s fondest wishes or worst nightmares?
In the mundane world of Collegiate Academy, where everyone in New York City thinks I go to school, Professor Russo’s course would be called Human Sexuality. Here at the Reinholdt Institute of Sortilege Arts, the course is called True You 101. It’s the most loved and hated course of the sophomore year.
I look at the textbook, similar to the school journals, because each copy will be blood-bound to one student. The magics we’ll be working with can track our progress, our changes, and our reactions on physical, emotional, and mystical levels. However, professors, tutors, and even administration can read it at any time. At the end of the course, the books erase and reset for the next year.
How do I know? I read all the materials my uncle gave me about this place at the end of eighth grade, when Grandmother informed me that I needed to leave the private school in Brooklyn and attend a magic school in Manhattan. My family taught me that the best way to keep a secret from the mortal world is to learn everything about it. I read, watch, and listen to everything I can get my hands on. I study things that not even my family knows about, and certainly not anyone at school. I once thought about telling Seb, but I’m worried that he’ll be afraid of me, as I am of myself most days. I’m grateful when the professor speaks up again, because it disrupts this distressing line of thought.
Since 1995, TJ Eckhart’s fiction and non-fiction work has been challenging readers to look at themselves and their world through a different lens. True You 101 continues Eckhart’s challenge to reimagine a magic world colliding with the mortal one in regard to our true nature, one that rejects either a reversal or continuation of our everyday biases in favor of the more realistic complexities of what such a realm might be like. If you’re willing to risk opening up your mind, you may find Eckhart’s worlds opening up your heart as well. You may find her via her email (firstname.lastname@example.org), on her main website (https://www.tammyjoeckhart.com/), or join her adventures on Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/tammyjoeckhart).
To celebrate the release of the next exciting book in the Botanic Hill Detectives mystery series, Eucalyptus Street: Green Curse is going on tour!
We have an excerpt for you to read and a chance to win a signed, personalized paperback copy of the book, and some matching book swag!
Eucalyptus Street: Green Curse
Publication Date: October 20th
Genre: MG Mystery/ Middle Grade – 9 to 12 years old (For fans of Nancy Drew type mysteries)
In 1945, Isabela de Cordoba’s great-grandfather, the famous silent movie actor Lorenzo de Cordoba, mysteriously hid a legendary, multimillion-dollar emerald somewhere on the family’s sprawling Eucalyptus Street estate. Seventy years later, the gem remains concealed. Nicknamed the “Green Curse,” the emerald is blamed for the Southern California familia’s numerous, untimely deaths.
On her twenty-first birthday, Isabela receives a secret letter with a cryptic poem. These documents from the long-deceased Lorenzo invite her to hunt for the gemstone. But first, she must decipher the poem’s eight stanzas for clues.
To assist, Isabela hires her thirteen-year-old neighbors, the four Botanic Hill Detectives—twins Lanny and Lexi Wyatt, and their best friends, Moki Kalani and Rani Kumar. Eerie footsteps inside the mansion, unexplained occurrences in the adjacent cemetery, and the mysterious tenant in the backyard casita challenge them. But they ingeniously make progress on the poem’s meaning with startling discoveries. Sliding wall panels, a secret room, and hidden passages reveal much. The detectives aren’t the only ones looking for the emerald. The perilous race for the de Cordoba treasure is on!
Sherrill Joseph will be forever inspired by her beautiful students in the San Diego public schools where she taught for thirty-five years before retiring and becoming a published author.
She has peopled and themed the Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries with children and adult characters of various abilities, races, cultures, and interests. Sherrill strongly believes that children need to find not only themselves in books but others from different races and social situations if all are to become tolerant, anti-racist world citizens. She also feels that kids are amazing human beings who don’t tend to get enough credit from some adults for their blossoming insights and intelligence.
The author created her detectives—patterned after her own fifth-grade students and twelve-year-old twin cousins—to be mature, smart, polite role models that will appeal to parents, teachers, but especially to kids who seek the courage and self-respect needed to realize their greatest potential.
Sherrill is the recent recipient of the Gold Award from Mom’s Choice Awards, and the Gold Award for Children’s Fiction in Mystery from Moonbeams Children’s Book Awards, both for Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets, Book 1 in her Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries series. She is a member of SCBWI and the Authors Guild and promises many more adventures with the squad to come.
GRIPPING GLOBE-TROTTING THRILLER WITH SURPRISES AND UNEXPECTED EVENTS
It’s 1992 and during a routine layover in Anchorage Alaska, Greg Wilton (a First Officer with British World Airways) disappears without trace.
Back at airline HQ near Heathrow, Mr Halford, Head of Security, is tasked with finding someone to investigate Greg’s case. His team are working to capacity and no one can be spared. So he scrapes the bottom of the barrel and assigns recent recruit, Terry Jackson to the investigation.
Fresh out of training school and awaiting his first posting, Terry flies to Alaska, brimming with enthusiasm at being trusted with such a mission. There he discovers Wilton rented a small plane while on his layover and both are now missing. His last contact appeared to be with Coral, a waitress at the crew watering hole, The Golden Nugget, so with her help Terry sets out to find the missing airman.
Their quest appears to be hopeless, because Alaska is huge, but they do not give up. The action moves to Hong Kong, Miami, Oxford (England) and finally St. Petersburg for Tea with Rasputin, a ten year globe-trotting saga with many twists and turns.
Join Terry in his investigation, where intrigue, suspense, mystery, humour and even a little romance lie in wait.
ROLF RICHARDSON is a mongrel English/Norwegian who loves to travel, starting with service in the RAF, flying Britain’s first jet fighter, the Meteor; thereafter 25 years as a British Airways pilot on Argonauts, Britannias, VC10s and 747s.
He then became a roaming photographer, visiting around 110 countries, with over 15,000 photos now sold. He has worked his passage on cruise ships by giving lectures. Taken 3 months to drive round Australia.
A few years ago he set out to put his experiences to further use by writing a series of ‘Easy Read’ books: thrillers with a dash of history, romance and humour.