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.
Congrats to author Sherrill Joseph on the release of the next exciting book in her Botanic Hill Detectives mystery series, Eucalyptus Street: Green Curse!
I 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 2020
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.
Today marks the release of searing satire, Being Alert, and I have a sneak peek for you as well as a chance to win a digital copy of the book!
Publication Date: August 21st, 2020
The book, which begins in January 2020, follows in a long tradition of British satire, as the British prime minister, Winston Spragg, first learns about a new virus that seems to be centred in a city in China that nobody has heard of.
The book populates Downing Street and Whitehall with an inept prime minister presiding over a dysfunctional government as it deals with an existential threat that rapidly becomes a national crisis.
It remains true to the timeline of Covid-19 and the government’s response to it, including its failure to lock down sooner, secure adequate supplies of protective equipment or protect the care sector.
Like satires before it, the book uses humour to paint an uncomfortable picture of a government in crisis, and seemingly as concerned about justifying itself as working to suppress the virus.
As the book progresses, with a mounting death toll, I hope the book strikes a changing balance as both a month-by-month narrative about the virus and a comedy to mirror unfolding events.
As the country emerges into a new normal, the country will inevitably want to know why, per head of population, we have suffered worse than any other European country. Being Alert! provides the perfect outlet, not just to ask very real questions of government but to use humour as a satirical and healing tool.
I was born in Paisley, central Scotland, which wasn’t my fault. That week, Eddie Calvert with Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra were Top of the Pops, with Oh, Mein Papa, as sung by a young German woman remembering her once-famous clown father. That gives a clue to my age, not my musical taste.
I was brought up in the west of Scotland and graduated from the University of Edinburgh. I still have the scroll, but it’s in Latin, so it could say anything.
I then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody before becoming a journalist. I started in Glasgow and ended up in London, covering news, features and politics. I interviewed motorbike ace Barry Sheene, Noel Edmonds threatened me with legal action and, because of a bureaucratic muddle, I was ordered out of Greece.
I then took a year to travel round the world, visiting 19 countries. Highlights included being threatened by a man with a gun in Dubai, being given an armed bodyguard by the PLO in Beirut (not the same person with a gun), and visiting Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave in Samoa. What I did for the rest of the year I can’t quite remember
Surprisingly, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence, which just shows how shoddy government recruitment was back then. However, it turned out to be very boring and I don’t like vodka martini.
Craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize, and I’ve still to listen to Oh, Mein Papa.
I am married with two grown-up children and live in central Scotland. And that’s about it.
Welcome to the blog tour for Winning the Game of Work, by Terry Boyle McDougall! Today I have an excerpt from the book, and a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!
Winning the Game of Work: Career Happiness and Success on Your Own Terms
Publication Date: April 10, 2020
Genre: Non-Fiction/ Career Coaching Guide
You can be happier and more successful when you learn to play the game of work. If you’re not currently satisfied in your career, it could be because you’re playing by the wrong rules.
In Winning the Game of Work, Terry Boyle McDougall shares the rules she learned from wise mentors and coaches, as well as the lessons she learned the hard way. She entered the workplace as an ambitious “go-getter” and was confused about why she wasn’t advancing at the pace she expected. She learned that being smart and working hard aren’t enough. The reward for developing a strategy for the game of work is success and happiness with less stress and duress.
This book will help you:
* Get recognized for your value on the job
* Develop and appreciate your unique “superpowers” at work
* Cope with a bad boss without burning out or getting fired
* Get the promotion you deserve
* Deliver more impact on the job with some simple hacks
* And more…
Winning the Game of Work is the essential guidebook to help you develop your unique skills as a “player.” Now is the time to see the whole field, make the savvy moves and win the game of work on your own terms!
Terry Boyle McDougall is an executive coach, speaker and best-selling author of Winning the Game of Work: Career Happiness and Success on Your Own Terms. She works with managers, executives and professionals who want to draw upon their greatest, most authentic abilities to positively impact their organizations. She supports clients who are creating change, driving innovation, and navigating transitions.
Terry relies on both her formal training as a coach and firsthand experience as a corporate leader to support her clients as they work towards their goals. In coaching engagements, Terry serves her clients as a partner and encourager as they break new ground; as a sounding board, supporting them as an objective listener; as a scout, who sees the larger context, their possibilities and potential; and, as a catalyst, helping to spark their commitment and action.
After 30 years of corporate business experience, 15 of which were in senior managerial roles, Terry chose to become a coach to concentrate on helping leaders step fully into their potential to lead satisfying careers. Though the majority of Terry’s professional experience is in financial services and marketing, her work exposed her to a wide variety of industries, business climates and corporate transitions such as mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and restructures.
Areas of leadership skills development include: Goal setting Prioritization Staff management Delegation Strategic thinking Decision making Project management Facilitating meetings
EDUCATION CERTIFICATIONS University of Maryland, MBA College of William & Mary, BA, Economics iPEC, Coach Certification Training ICF, Professional Certified Coach iPEC, Master Practitioner, Energy Leadership Predictive Index, Talent Optimization Partner
“This ain’t your world. You don’t have any friends out here. Not real ones. No one out here cares about nothin’ but where their next drink or fix is comin’ from. That, or they were born too messed up in the head to even understand what friendship is. Remember that. You can’t trust anybody. You can’t rely on no one but yourself.”
Fourteen-year-old Sean Pennington never thought he’d find himself riding on an open train car in the middle of the night. He never thought he’d find himself alone. He never thought he’d be running for his life.In the spring of 2015 Sean Pennington’s world of comfort and privilege is shattered and he becomes a ward of the state. Thrust into a broken foster care system, he discovers the harsh realities of orphanhood. Lonely, confused, and tormented by his peers, he runs away, intending to locate his only living relative; a grandfather he’s never met, who his only connection with is a return address on a crumpled envelope. Enter Andrea, a modern day hobo Sean meets at a California homeless encampment. Andrea travels the country by rail, stowing away on shipping container cars with other transients calling themselves traveling kids. Though battling her own demons, road-savvy Andrea promises to help Sean on his quest, but can she protect him from the unpredictable and often violent world she lives in?
Add to Goodreads Excerpt“Listen, what I told you before…you know, about my parents? It wasn’t true. My parents are the most wonderful people you’d ever want to meet. I’m the problem, not them. I’ve always been the problem. I met someone at the beginning of my junior year. She came from a bad family—drugs. I started drinking with her. Then I started using with her. Meth, mostly, but I ended up taking pretty much anything I could get my hands on. I failed my junior year and never went back to high school. Anyway, my parents tried to help me—a lot. I put them through hell but they just kept trying. Finally they sent me to this really expensive rehab. I only made it three days before I ran away and used. My dad ended up finding me and he talked me into going back. I did better the second time. I completed the six months, graduated, and went back to live with my mom and dad. Everything was cool for awhile. I got a job at a thrift store and enrolled in Adult Ed to get my high school equivalency. After awhile—a couple of months—I started using again. I think I always knew I would. It was like, in my mind I was just taking a break, and only because it was what my parents wanted.”“Are you ever going to go home?” “I think about it now and then. Mostly I don’t—think about it I mean. Not until I met you, anyway. I feel even more guilty now, seeing what you’ve had to go through. You lost both of your parents, by no fault of yours…and I just left mine behind.”“Why did you tell me they were…mean.”“Because the truth makes me look like a bad person. I am a bad person.”“I don’t think so.” He paused, absently fiddling with sandwich wrapper. “Does it bother you…when people…say stuff to you?”“You mean like those idiots who yelled at me from their cars?”“Yeah.”She took a long pull from her bottle of beer. “I don’t know. I try not to think about it. I guess it does, sometimes. When I was growing up I would’ve looked at someone like me the same way people always look at me. It’s all a matter of perspective. Now I try not to judge.” She smiled ruefully and drank more. “I try not to judge even when I’m being judged.”
Now Available on Amazon! Giveaway: For a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card, click the link below!
About the AuthorMichael’s love of books began with Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle when he was seven-years-old. Later influenced by the works of John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Stephen King, James Baldwin, and Cormac McCarthy, Michael developed his style of storytelling. A self-proclaimed blue-collar writer, he draws on his experiences and observations to bring relevant and compelling topics to life.Michael lives in Northern California and when he’s not writing, he can usually be found wandering around the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges.His body of work includes the 2014 novel After and Again, the 2015 novel American Flowers, and the 2017 novel, In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree, as well as various shorts and essays.Michael McLellan | Goodreads| Twitter