Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Interview with J. Richman, author A MAN'S LATE NIGHT THOUGHTS

Richman is the author of A MAN’S LATE NIGHT THOUGHTS, a collection of thoughts about life, relationships, and humanity.
Richman’s work history includes his service as an undercover intelligence officer in the US Air Force; later, he established a thriving business in real estate investment. For 16 years, Richman owned and operated Modify My Mortgage, a company that worked with homeowners to prevent foreclosures. His business success allowed Richman the time to pursue his passions, which included serving as the president of Nova, a workshop that provided work and life skills training for clients with disabilities; cofounding A Way Across, a drop-in center for teenagers with emotional and substance abuse problems; and fundraising for several more public service groups.
Richman enjoys writing and editing at night after allowing his ideas to blossom and expand during the day. The author is married with three sons and five grandsons.


A MAN’S LATE NIGHT THOUGHTS by J. Richman is a creative and life-affirming collection of ponderings that expose the deep thoughts and feelings of a man who has lived a life full of diverse experiences and challenges. This uniquely constructed compilation of more than 300 reflections focuses on several areas of living, including intimate relationships and acceptance of human frailty, as well as the author’s internal conflicts.

A MAN’S LATE NIGHT THOUGHTS homes in on the complications inherent in intimate relationships from the opening pages of the book: “Problems accrue when we confuse how a woman looks with who she is.” Richman brings the perspective of a mature man to the lessons on love presented in the book, including, “Exploitation of another depreciates both parties,” and “The reason we fall in love with flawed people is that that’s the only kind of people there are.”

In addition to offering a brief study of intimate relationships, A MAN’S LATE NIGHT THOUGHTS probes human frailty and offers readers guidance in accepting this fact. “We must learn to be strong enough to be gentle,” brings into focus the need to deliberately work at treating people well. The author also encourages readers to show self-compassion when dealing with their own baggage: “Sometimes it’s difficult to see beyond the wreckage of our lives, but we must! Take heart! We are more than our mistakes.”

In A MAN’S LATE NIGHT THOUGHTS, Richman further challenges readers to take the reins of their lives when he says, “Name those things that you would do if you had no fear then do something about it.” He offers words of caution regarding political rhetoric: “Beware of politicians who whip up emotions to make us suspicious of others unlike us.” And rounds the book out by sharing his internal conflicts: “The world has bent me more than I have bent it”; “too often my logical mind and my emotional mind are hostile enemies”; “every time I look in the mirror, I expect to see a younger man.”

A MAN’S LATE NIGHT THOUGHTS began as a series of notes that Richman wrote to himself. “I found that if I do not write out my true, and often painful, thoughts and feelings, I do not deal with them.” Richman wishes a book like this one had been available when he was a boy because the knowledge enclosed could have assisted him in navigating his teenage and young adult years. He hopes A MAN’S LATE NIGHT THOUGHTS will assure men that they are not alone in their quiet musings. For women, Richman believes the book will provide a window into men’s unexpressed emotions.

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Amazon → https://amzn.to/2RVEoqX

 Barnes & Noble → https://bit.ly/3b7HaRo

 

When did you come up with the idea to write your book?

This book was not a book for over 10 years as it beginnings was a journal of my daily thoughts that over time became more interesting as I found I had a talent reducing long meaningful thoughts into very a short concise thoughts. I included these thoughts in my commutations to friends and they responded that they caused them  to rethink some of reactions to their errors and those of their family members.

A better understanding of our human frailties and add self-compassion relieve a lot of stress and reduce self anger and anger for others.

As the numbers of thoughts added one on another to over 200 and the idea of a book was born.

Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

My publisher is Dorrance Publishing has a 100 year history helping author self publish.

Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Everything was a surprise. They had never seen a book of 344 short concise original thoughts by one author and it turns out no one had---Having a completely different soon caught interest of some radio shows and the title of  A Man’s Later Night Thoughts piqued the interest of women.

Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?

The book cover must catch the eye and my cover shows a park at night with the title and a thoughts.

How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

Problems occur when we confuse how a women looks for who she is----

What’s one fact about your book that would surprise people?

To understand we are all prone to errors and self compassion for our self and other leads to less self anger and anger for others.

Finally, what message are you trying to get across with your book?

Holding on to anger is like holding a rope pulling you to oblivionsave yourselflet go !!!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Interview with MaryAnn Kempher Author of Mocha, Moonlight, and Murder


“The prospect of seeing him so often filled Katherine with both dread and excitement - dread, because she wasn’t sure she even liked him, and excitement because his baritone voice made her unwilling heart flutter, and his mahogany eyes made her blush. He’s right, though, she thought, if I’m serious about getting a good grade, this project will need a lot of attention.”

-- From Mocha, Moonlight and Murder by MaryAnn Kempher

Book Description:

One night, 28-year-old, Katherine O’Brian, decides to walk to an all-night diner. The only problem? It’s midnight, but Katherine

And now, she’s in trouble. She outran the man that night, and while she has no idea who he is, he knows who she is. And he wants her dead.

As if attempts on her life weren’t stressful enough, Katherine has gone back to college. She’s determined to finally finish her degree, but her lab partner is driving her crazy. He’s hot, but annoying. And she’s not sure which she wants more—a night of mad, passionate sex or a new lab partner. It varies from day to day.

Will Katherine give in to her lust for her partner or will she give in to her desire to throttle him? If she’s in the ground before graduation, it won’t matter.

Not your typical romance, not your typical mystery.
lives in Reno Nevada, a city that never sleeps; she can clearly see the diner’s lights in the distance. It’s no big deal, until she passes someone’s garage where a man is loading a dead body into the trunk of his car.

What is it that drew you to writing romance?
MaryAnn: My first book is considered romantic suspense, but it’s more accurate to describe it as a romantic comedy with a mystery sub-plot. What drew me to the romance aspect was writing the dialogue between the two main characters; sarcastic, flirty, and friendly. I don’t have a lot of sex in my books which is why books two through seven are mysteries vs romances.

Can you tell us a little about the main characters?
MaryAnn:
Katherine O’Brian and Scott Mitchell are both in their late twenties. Until now, they’ve both put off finishing college, so that’s where they meet. They’re both in the last class they need for their degree. Scott moved down from Carson City after a break up. Katherine’s circumstances are similar; she moved back to Reno after her marriage ended and because she needs to pack up her childhood home after her father’s recent death. They’re both guarded, so resolve to keep romance off the table.

They say all books of fiction have at least one pivotal point where the reader just can’t put the book down. Can you tell give us one of the pivotal points in your book?
MaryAnn: I imagine that place is different for each reader. Pivotal points? When Katherine sees a killer disposing of his victim, or maybe when she and Scott meet for the first time.


Can you explain to us why it was important for you to write your story?

MaryAnn: At first, it was important because I wanted to finish what I’d started. Now, it’s important because I love to write and once I start a book, I’m hooked.

What are you working on now?

Since my seventh book was just published in January 2020, I’m taking a break from writing. Once my break is over, I’ll be starting a new series with two beloved characters from the first seven books, sort of a spin-off.

MaryAnn:

Final question: do you have any advice for the yet-to-be-published writers?
My advice would depend on which route they go: traditional or self-publishing. In either case, it’s important to have realistic expectations. With whichever route, there are no guarantees. 
Ensure your book is professionally edited and proofread. Ensure it has a professional looking cover. Promote as much as you can afford and then cross your fingers. There really is an element of luck in this business.
Author's Website & Social Media Links:


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Monday, May 4, 2020

Read the First Chapter of THE EARL NOT TAKEN by A.S. Fenichel


Title: THE EARL NOT TAKEN
Author: A.S. Fenichel
Publisher: Kensington Books
Pages: 236
Genre: Historical Fiction

BOOK BLURB:
Left standing on the side while their contemporaries marry into society, four young ladies forge a bond to guard each other from a similar fate . . .
 
Finishing school failed to make a proper lady of Penelope Arrington. But as a Wallflower of West Lane, Poppy has a far more vital role—she and her three best friends have made a pact to protect each other from the clutches of dangerous, disreputable men. So when one of them is about to be married off to a duke sight unseen, Poppy makes it her mission to divine the prospective husband’s true character. If only she didn’t require the aid of
London’s most unsuitable rake. 
 
Rhys Draper, Earl of Marsden, has known the headstrong Poppy since she was a young girl, na├»ve to the ways of men. To her eternal chagrin—and to his vague amusement—they have been at odds over the memory of their embarrassing first encounter all these years. Now, with his services in need, Rhys sees a chance to finally clear the air between them. Instead, he is surprised by the heat of their feelings. If the two do not tread carefully, they may end up in a most agreeably compromising position . . .

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Chapter 1
Six Years Later

“I’m sorry if I offend anyone, but I am glad he’s dead.” Poppy hated funerals, but as she walked into Aurora’s home on West Lane, she was happy her friend was free of that monster. The Earl of Radcliff had deserved what he’d gotten, and her friend’s three-year marriage had been too long. Poppy had behaved herself all morning. Now with only her three closest friends and Aurora’s brother, Rhys, to hear her, she had to let it out.
Rhys Draper, recently elevated to the Earl of Marsden after his father’s passing, frowned at her. “Really, Penelope. Must you say such things?” He stood with his arms crossed over his wide chest leaning against the wall near the window, and his blond hair touched his collar. All remnants of the skinny boy had been replaced by muscle over the last few years, but Poppy was determined not to notice. His roguish behavior far outweighed any pleasure she might take from his good looks.
The lady’s parlor of Aurora’s townhouse on West Lane was their gathering place. The Earl of Radcliff’s death was the only reason Rhys had tagged along after the funeral. It was the only room in the house with a feminine flair, cream-colored walls and a buttery rug. The overstuffed furniture was covered in a similar fabric, and lace curtains shielded them from the street.
Aurora pulled the black veil off her face and over the brim of her hat before removing the pins and tossing the hat on the table near the door. It bumped a vase of flowers sent by someone with condolences and slid to the floor. Her golden hair was coiled at the back of her head in tiny braids, and her pale blue eyes were clear. All the fear, which had marred them for three years, had died with Bertram Sherbourn, Earl of Radcliff. “You’ll get no argument from me, Poppy.”
Faith picked up the hat and placed it more firmly on the table. Taking a deep breath accentuated her full curves as she tucked her wild brown hair behind her ear. She took Aurora’s hand, and the two sat on the divan. “He was a miserable sod and none of us are sorry he’s gone. Still, Poppy, it’s not nice to speak ill of the dead.” Her sweet voice was in direct contrast with her words.
Holding back a chuckle at the double standard Faith set, Poppy shared a knowing look with Mercy, who shrugged and smiled. “I suppose I must say nothing at all then. I certainly won’t say anything nice about him.” Poppy sat on the chair to Aurora’s left.
Curling up on the chaise, her long legs bending until she took up little space despite her tall stature, Mercy pushed her spectacles up on her nose. Her strawberry blond waves pulled up to expose an elegant neck and shoulders. “Then we shall find another subject or sit in silence. What do you want to talk about, Aurora?”
“I think I’d just like to call for tea and sit here. Can we do that? Can we forget I was ever married and act as if we were just getting home from Lucerne, four wallflowers hell-bent on embarrassing our families?”
Patting her hand, Faith narrowed her eyes on Poppy as if daring her to continue the unwanted conversation. “Of course we can.”
Poppy stifled a chuckle and held her hands up in defeat. Faith rarely put her foot down, and it was clear this was one of those times.
“Should I leave you ladies?” Rhys asked, still manning his post against the wall.
Aurora smiled. “No. Come and sit with us, Rhys.”
“Ring for tea before you sit,” Poppy added with a smile. She had never gotten along with Aurora’s older brother. Her experience with him as a child had colored her opinion, and from the stories she’d heard over the years, he’d changed little.
There was that frown again. A typical man, he couldn’t bear one small order from a woman. Still, he pulled the cord and a maid ran in a moment later.
Aurora sent the girl for their tea.
The frown lines around Rhys’s mouth deepened, and his brows drew together. “I know Radcliff was a difficult man, but does he deserve so little respect in death? He did leave you a living, a title, and this house.”
All focus was on Aurora. She had kept her situation a secret from her brother because there was nothing he could have done about it. Their father had made the contract with the Earl of Radcliff while the girls were sill away at Miss Agatha Wormbattle’s School for Young Ladies in Switzerland. They had all been excited about the first of their misguided group to get married and about coming home after a three-year exile for bad behavior. The reality was far different and had kept the rest of them from accepting any proposals since.
“I don’t know if I can tell him.” Aurora looked at Mercy and Poppy with eyes filled with tears, not for her dead husband but for the pain she was about to inflict on her brother.
“Shall I do it?” Poppy would open a vein for any of the Wallflowers. Telling a horror story to an arrogant earl was nothing.
Aurora nodded and wiped her eyes.
Arms once again crossed over his broad chest and his mass of blond hair hiding one eye, Rhys peered across the coffee table at Poppy. Awkward in the ornate French country–style chair, he waited. “Well?”
Where he had been gentle with Aurora, his tone was harsh when he addressed Poppy.
For her friend’s sake, she would be as kind as possible. “Demon’s breath. Bertram Sherbourn was a monster. He abused your sister on a daily basis when he bothered to come home.”
“Poppy?” Mercy pushed her glasses up on her nose, her eyes holding a warning.
Poppy glanced in Mercy’s direction before returning her attention to Rhys and continuing. “It’s best to tell him the truth at this point. Besides calling her all manner of names and forcing his attentions on her, he beat her so badly that on several occasions, we had to call a doctor. Once she lay unconscious for two days....”
“Penelope…” Faith’s tawny eyes widened with alarm, and she shook her head.
Rhys flinched as if he’d been struck in the stomach with a bludgeon. “This cannot be true.”
“Of course it’s true,” Poppy said. “Your father married her to an earl because that was all he cared about. He did not bother to check to make sure she would be safe with a villain.”
White faced, his eyes begged for someone to contradict her. “Rora?”
Poppy felt a pang of remorse for her lack of grace with words.
“I’m sorry, Rhys. I’m afraid it’s true.” Aurora looked at her brother and then at her own hands twisting in her lap.
Faith patted Aurora’s hands and finally fought through her grip so she could hold one. “We would not lie to you, Rhys.”
He jumped up, and the chair fell backward, crashing to the floor. Staring into the corner of the room, his face burned bright red and his chest rose and fell in sharp breaths. His strong jaw ticked with strain before he picked up the chair and stood, gripping the wooden frame. “Why did you never tell me this while he was alive?”
Mercy said in a level voice, “There was nothing you could do. Aurora did not want you to harm yourself in some vain effort to save her.”
“You had no right to keep this from me. After Father died, I became the head of this family. I would have helped you. You could have come home this last year, Rora.” He clung to the chair as if he wanted to hurl it across the room, but he held his temper.
Poppy had to admit, she was impressed with his restraint. Though she would never tell him that.
Standing, Aurora’s smile was weak. She went to her brother and kissed his cheek. “He would have come after me. I was his property. There is no law to keep me away from him. He would have been even angrier and more violent and one of us would have died. Either me, because Bertram would have gone too far, or you because you came after him and he killed you. I couldn’t live with the possibility.”
“I can take care of myself. I would have bested Radcliff and you might have been free of him sooner.” Pain etched lines around Rhys’s mouth. His full and maddeningly interesting lips pulled taught. He ran his hand through his hair.
Cocking her head and pressing her palm to his cheek, she sighed. “And then what of you? You think you could have killed an earl and not endured some consequence? As it turns out, he took care of it himself.”
“Well, with the help of the owner of the gaming hell he tried to cheat.” Poppy couldn’t stop herself.
Faith gave her a stern look.
Mercy hid a chuckle behind her hand.
“I should have known.” He hugged her tight. “I’m sorry, Rora. Father should have judged his character before allowing you to be betrothed.”
With a last pat on his back, Aurora eased away from him. Always the most elegant of their quartet, she glided back to the divan. Aurora’s figure was slim but stronger now that the fear of her husband was gone. “Yes. Well, Father was only interested in my becoming a countess, and he got that before he died. I was no longer an embarrassment to the Draper name and well married. I’m sure he thought he’d done right by me. Not to mention, the piece of land somewhere in the north he received in trade for my hand and dowry.”
“I wondered where that Cheshire property came from.” He paced the rug. “I would give that property to you, if you want, Rora. It seems the least the family can do.”
Tipping her head, she put her pinky on her lip. It was what she always did when considering something. “That is very generous, Rhys. Let me think about it.”
The maid brought tea and some sweets. Once they were all served, Faith cleared her throat. It meant she had news but she was uncomfortable sharing. Another polite ahem and she sipped her tea.
“What is it, Faith?” Mercy asked, her amusement clear behind her spectacles. Mercy’s keen sense of all that was ridiculous in their lives had gotten Poppy through many hard days at school. She only wished she had shared some of her grace. While Poppy was clumsy, Mercy was lithe and agile like the goddess Diana.
“What? Oh, it’s nothing.” She took a large bite of biscuit and had to work to chew such a mouthful. It would take her a moment to decide she was going to tell whatever was on her mind.
There was little doubt she would eventually open a discussion. They just had to be patient.
Rhys sat in the chair, sipping tea and watching with interest. He had a knack for keeping quiet and observing. Poppy had seen him sit in the background on several occasions over the last six years of their acquaintance. He was quite young when Poppy stopped at Helmsbury Manor, his family estate, on the way to school, but even then, he took everything in and if possible would use the information later. Even though they always bickered when they met, she admired his patience and wished more young men were as mindful.
Putting her cup and saucer on the table, Faith plastered a fake smile on her face. It was a most annoying expression. “I’m to be married to the Duke of Breckenridge.”
“What?” Aurora’s eyes widened.
“When?” Mercy’s hand flew to her chest.
“How?” Poppy’s heart dropped.
The simultaneous questions didn’t seem to faze Faith. She folded her hands in her lap and tipped her pert chin up. The effect was meant to make her look as if she had leaner elegant figure, but it did nothing to hide the voluptuous curves that more than one man noticed each time they attended a ball. “Mother arranged it. I haven’t met him yet. He’s been in France for some months and only arrived back in England last week. I thought he might come to call but he hasn’t. Not yet.”
“Has your mother met him?” Poppy jumped up, hands flying in the air. She already guessed the answer but hoped for better.
Faith sniffed. “No. It was all arranged through letters. I read the letters when Mother informed me last week, and he seems quite…intelligent.”
Coming out of her skin, Poppy paced the room. She stumbled on the edge of the rug but righted herself. While her friends had become nimble young ladies, Poppy remained the clumsy oaf she’d always been. “We are not going through this again. You cannot marry a man we don’t know. I don’t care if he’s a duke or the prince himself.”
“I don’t see that I have a choice. It would be nice to meet him and perhaps for you three to get a look at him. Maybe then we’d know what I was getting into.” Another sniff and she pulled her handkerchief out of her sleeve and dabbed her eyes.
Mercy turned to Rhys. “Do you know him, my lord?”
“I think you can call me Rhys in this setting, Mercedes. I’ve known all of you since you were girls just shipped off to Switzerland to be turned into fine young ladies.” His gaze settled on Poppy before he continued. “Unfortunately, I have never met the Duke of Breckenridge. All I know is he’s well respected in the House of Lords and has a massive estate in Hertfordshire. Supposed to be one of the nicest homes in all of England.”
“What’s he been doing in France?” Aurora also abandoned her tea with the troubling news.
Rhys shrugged. “I’m sorry. I have no idea. It could be he has property or business in France, and he is checking how it all fared after Napoleon. Perhaps he just likes to travel, and it is safe to visit the Continent once again.”
Poppy didn’t like the way Rhys seemed fine with not knowing. “Well that’s not good enough. I’m not watching another of my dearest friends walk into the arms of a monster. I need to know who he is and what kind of character he has. I say we do some investigating and ferret him out.”
“You’re mad.” Rhys stood to face her. “You intend to spy on a duke. And just how will you go about it, Penelope? Will you slink by his home at night, listen at doors, break into White’s?”
Fury heated her cheeks and neck. “I’ll do whatever is necessary, and so will the rest of the Wallflowers of West Lane. We are all we have to protect ourselves.”
They had been called wallflowers when still at school. Instead of letting mean girls offend them, the foursome had adopted the name as their own. Once Aurora was married and they were meeting at her West Lane townhouse for tea on Tuesdays, they had let the address become part of the moniker.
Faith clapped and smiled. “I feel much better.”
“Do you have any idea when you will meet him, Faith?” Usually smiling and laughing, Mercy’s expression was drawn and serious as she uncurled herself and faced the divan fully.
“Mother said we will attend the Sottonfield ball and that is where I will finally meet him.”
Pacing again, Poppy started a list of things to do. “We have a week to get ready. Of course, Aurora will not be able to attend since she’s in mourning. What about you, Mercy, can you be there?”
“We leave tomorrow for the country. Aunt Phyllis wanted to leave already but stayed so I could attend the funeral. “I’m sorry. I’ll try to shorten the trip.” Worry etched in the corners of Mercy’s mouth, and her green eyes flashed with regret. She had no choice but to travel at the whim of the relations who had raised her after her parents’ death.
Dabbing her eyes again, Faith nodded. “It will all be fine.”
“Not to worry. I’ll be there with you, Faith.” Poppy rounded the furniture and kissed Faith’s cheek.
“Perhaps I can be of service,” Rhys said.
They all stared at him, but Aurora spoke. “You are going to the Sottonfield ball?”
He got up and folded his hands behind his back. “You four cannot do this without someone who might actually get close to Breckenridge. I know Lady Penelope means well, but she can be somewhat graceless in a ballroom. I’m willing to help. It seems the least I can do after failing Rora so completely.”
That he had never before agreed with anything Poppy said had her nervous, but it was hard to argue with his logic or his assessment of her. He was a member of the same gentleman’s club. He was a man and could, once introduced, befriend Breckenridge. The mention of her clumsiness hurt more than it should from someone whom she had no respect for, but the sting couldn’t be denied. “I have no idea how to explain you to my mother, and I can assure you she will be with me at the ball,” she said.
He gnawed on his thumbnail. “I suggest you tell her nothing. She’ll assume I’m courting you, but we can sort that out later.”
“You obviously don’t know my mother.” She’d said it under her breath, but from the quizzical look on Rhys’s face, she gathered he’d heard her. The idea of anyone, her mother included, thinking she would marry someone as arrogant and wild as Rhys Draper made Poppy nauseous. Mother’s own marriage might have been an embittering ordeal, but that didn’t mean she was immune to the notion of her daughter becoming a countess. It seemed to Gwendolyn Arrington being well married made up for her husband’s debauched behavior and mean spirit.
Even after he excused himself to take care of some business, she still worried about a venture that included Rhys and herself. How would they save Faith when they couldn’t be in a room together without bickering? There was no help for it. Someone had to make sure the same fate didn’t befall Faith as what had happened to Aurora.
“You will all still come for tea weekly, I hope,” Aurora said when the four of them were alone and the servants told not to disturb them.
Mercy pulled her strawberry blond tresses back into her bun. She rarely did more than a simple chignon with her soft waves, and they often pulled loose—the problems of not having a lady’s maid because her aunt was too stingy to employ one for her. “I’ll only be away a few weeks, then I’ll be here each and every Tuesday. More often if you need me.”
Patting Aurora’s hand, Faith forced her horrid bland expression. “You never need worry about that. Anyone I marry will have to understand Tuesday afternoons are dedicated to the three of you.”
“Even Radcliff seemed to understand.” After pacing the room since Rhys left, Poppy sat. “He was the worst man, but at least he never tried to separate us.”
“Only Headmistress Agatha ever dared try.” Mercy’s grin lit the room.
Aurora chuckled. “That did not work out very well for her.”
“No. Poppy put a frog in her bed and salt in her oats.” Faith covered her giggles.
“I seem to remember you putting salt in Miss Agatha’s tonic.” There was no way Poppy would let Faith pretend she’d had nothing to do with the strategic attack on the headmistress.
Aurora clapped. “Poor woman was only trying to teach us to behave like ladies, but she should never have dared separate us. After all, we arrived at Miss Agatha Wormbattle’s School for Young Ladies together and we made a pact. Nothing was ever going to keep us apart.”
Mercy laughed. “Even hateful Mary Yates calling us wallflowers after that first ball could not daunt us. We made it our own, embracing the title.”
“Then tea here at West Lane each Tuesday sealed our little club’s title.” Poppy loved each moment spent with her friends, and over the years they had become like sisters. Nothing would change that.
Faith took her hand. “No matter our marital status, we shall always be the Wallflowers of West Lane.”
It was true they could not be separated. Any one of them would fight to remain together. Poppy worried about Aurora all alone in her West Lane townhouse. “I realized Radcliff was not company, but will you be lonely here, Aurora?”
Looking around the room then down at her hands, Aurora sighed. “I had a mad thought that you three might like to move in here with me. We could hire more lady’s maids and until we do we can all share Gillian. Perhaps the upstairs maid, Jane, would also do. She’s been with me a long time.”
Mercy’s eyes lit up. “I see nothing mad about it. It won’t take much convincing. My aunt will be happy to be rid of her aging ward. I will tell her my plans while we’re in the country and move in here directly upon our return.”
Faith’s eyes were as wide as saucers. “My mother will not like the idea. I will tell her I am only staying here as a guest until you are feeling more yourself. Yes. That will work for a while anyway.”
It was a grand idea, and Poppy was not immune to the attraction of being away from Mother and Father on a daily basis. She had never been the daughter they dreamed of. In fact they had never failed to express their disappointment. Father wished for a son, and mother wished for a paragon. Poppy was neither. While Aurora was prattling on about the need for servants, Poppy was already planning what she would tell her parents. “I will speak to Father about an allowance and move in tomorrow if you are certain this is what you want, Aurora.”
Her smile was wide and filled with more joy than Poppy had seen in years. “If I’m certain? Of course, I’m certain. The four of us under one roof is all I have ever wanted. Now, with my new widowed status, I can serve as chaperone for the three of you.”
Giggling, Faith covered her mouth. “You as a chaperone is the funniest thing I’ve heard. As if you would ever censure any of us.”
“That sounds like the perfect chaperone to me.” Mercy’s sarcasm rang true with Poppy as well.
“It’s a pity you can’t go to balls and theater as you please yet,” Poppy complained. “I think it ridiculous you should have to wear black and stay home in mourning for a man who was not worth a halfpenny.”
“I agree,” Mercy said. “In fact, I think we must find ways of getting you out of this house. It would be nice to get out of the city together for a few weeks. I know we all can’t go now, as I have to accompany my aunt. But perhaps in a month or so, the Landons might invite us all for a fortnight?”
Faith’s eyes grew wide. “That’s a marvelous idea. I must make Father and Mother believe it was their notion, but I’ll get to work on it. They adore Aurora, and I’ll find a way to let them know they’d be helping her in her grief.”
It was impossible not to laugh. Poppy said, “Oh Faith, I do love you. Always so prim and proper until trickery and mischief is necessary. Maybe your mother would like to invite Nicholas Ellsworth to attend the house party as well?”
Frowning, she sighed. “It means I’ll have to pay him some attention, but at least it would give us a chance to find out if he’s a nice man.”
“That is the point, Faith,” Mercy said. “Unless you’ve already decided against him and you just want us to figure out a way for him to become unsuitable.”
“Let me decide after I meet him. Then perhaps we’ll need a secondary plan of attack.” Faith smoothed her skirt and fussed with a wrinkle, which wouldn’t release.
Aurora stood, went to the cabinet in the corner, and pulled out a decanter of wine. “Shall we toast our new covenant?”
“Oh yes,” Faith, said clapping and practically bouncing with excitement.
Poppy went over to help with the glasses, and once poured, she brought one for Mercy and one for herself, which she sloshed several drops of on the table. When they each had a glass and stood in a circle, she said, “To the Wallflowers of West Lane. No harm shall ever come to any of us every again.”
“Never again,” Mercy repeated.
“No harm,” Faith said.
Aurora nodded, and they all touched glasses with a musical clink of crystal.

A.S. Fenichel gave up a successful IT career in New York City to pursue her lifelong dream of being a professional writer. She adores writing stories filled with love, passion, desire, magic and maybe a little mayhem tossed in for good measure. Originally from New York, she grew up in New Jersey, and now lives in Missouri with her real-life hero, her wonderful husband and two temperamental cats.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:




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Friday, April 3, 2020

Watch the book teaser trailer for FLASH! THE SCIENCE BEHIND INTUITION by Dr. Anne Watson





Title: FLASH! THE SCIENCE BEHIND INTUITION
Author: Dr. Anne Watson
Publisher: Envision Board Books, an imprint of Post Hypnotic Press, Inc.
Pages: 154
Genre: Parapsychology/ESP Books

If we have intuitions (and we do) where do they come from? Where, in us, do they arrive? What, in us, allows us to receive and interpret them? And why? Why do we get them?

Fourteen years of research, often waiting for the science to catch up with a vision sent to me by the Universe, these questions are answered in lay terms for the wonderment and affirmation of those interested in energy from another plane.

ORDER YOUR COPY

Amazon → https://amzn.to/37U1Fi7

About The Author

Dr. Anne Watson
Anne Watson is a Canadian author and educator and co-author of So You Have to Go to Court! A Child’s Guide to Testifying as a Witness in Child Abuse Cases with Wendy Harvey. She was raised in England, trained as a teacher, and after starting teaching in Canada at Thistletown Regional Centre School for Emotionally Disturbed Children, she then taught in the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, and in Palm Beach County USA. Just before beginning doctoral studies in Special Education Psychology at U. of T., she travelled right around the world. Once a doctor, she became a Prof at UBC and later at Trent U., then switched to doing psychoeducational assessments (CSI of the brain!). After 30 years of midnight oil reports and early morning parent meetings she retired to concentrate on writing and art. Her calling is to help people contact their Inner Voice – the Universe – by fast tracking open brain states using EEG devices, some of which can be glimpsed in a couple of scenes in her just finished movie, “A Thousand Reasons.” She has two successful adult kids and one almost grown up granddaughter.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Twitter Link: @Post_Hypnotic
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Social Leads: Your Social Media Playbook To Generating More Leads by Shay Banks




We're thrilled to host the virtual book tour for SOCIAL LEADS: YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PLAYBOOK TO GENERATING MORE LEADS IN THE NEXT 90 DAYS by Shay Banks. Scroll down to find out how you can pick up a copy of her book!


SOCIAL LEADS: YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PLAYBOOK TO GENERATING MORE LEADS IN THE NEXT 90 DAYS
By Shay Banks
Nonfiction

Struggling To Profit From Social Media?

It’s more than likely not your fault. There is a lot of misinformation (and outright lies) being told about how social media is supposed to work. In Social Leads you will discover post ideas to use on Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, and more!

Your Very Own Social Media Playbook You Can Use Over and Over

If you want to add social media to your marketing plan, this is the playbook you need to get started. Understand how each platform works and how so you can achieve your business’s goals. Inside this action-oriented book, you’ll learn:
  • How to get traffic to your social media pages for free
  • What to do when you’ve tried everything on social media and you’re not getting results
  • Example social media posts (with pictures) to help get your creative juices going
  • Plus more!



Amazon → https://amzn.to/3awrSVf








What To Expect From This Book
Back in the day, building a business seemed pretty straight forward. You found a building, you got a loan, you opened up shop, and the people came to your store.
Except, that’s not exactly what happened?
People found office space, got the loan, opened up shop, and no one came. The savvy business owners would discover marketing tactics that would generate foot traffic. Tactics like direct mail, radio advertising, catalog advertising, classified ads, etc.
After some trial and error, they saw results.
Nowadays, the storefront is different.
People go online and build websites. No loan needed, just a monthly payment for hosting and an annual fee for your domain registration.
But many people have discovered that though it’s easier to “set up shop” now than a few decades ago, they run into the same problem: getting customers.
The savvy business owners will start looking at different online marketing tactics such as blogging, email marketing, SEO, and social media marketing.
“Build it and they will come” mentality crippled/cripples many businesses.
If you are reading this book, kudos to you for putting forth effort to “figuring it out”. It’s important to get as much knowledge as possible. But as Dale Carnegie infamously said, “knowledge isn’t power until it is applied.”
If you are not action oriented, then this book is definitely not for you. I’m sorry to tell you that this book is nothing but words filled with actions you must take if you want your business to have a chance in hell of survival.
Yes, I know, with a title like Social Leads: Your Social Media Playbook to Generating More Leads in The Next 90 Days, there should be some magic. There should be some snap-your-fingers-and-boom-it-works instructions. Sadly there is none of that in this book.
This book is for action-takers.
Implementers.
Persistent and determined individuals who will, by golly, make this business work; it’s this or bust. If that is you, then you’re in luck.
What’s on the pages that follow is action plan that will help you start attracting leads organically using social media.
Why are we focused on social media?
According to the statistics, the average person is on social media between 2 – 6 hours every single day.
Marketing 101 says “Go where the people are.” And the people are on social media. Chances are high, you will be able to sell your products and services on social media.
But…(there’s always a but isn’t there)…
Social media is always changing. The algorithms, the rules, and the available platforms all can change at the drop of a hat. It’s this constant change that makes social media marketing difficult for many to grasp and understand. In my ten plus years of using social media to generate traffic to websites in a variety of industries, I have seen it all.
And yet, despite the changes, I have managed to attract clients and money with less followers and fans than many of my competitors. (I made $500 my first 6 weeks on Instagram with a meager 40 followers. To date, I have made thousands of dollars on Instagram alone and I have under 300 followers.)
How is that possible?
You’ll discover all of that and more in this book. Turn the page and let’s get started.











Introduction
“It doesn’t work!” a woman, we’ll call her Julie, said as she approached my expo booth and scowled at my signage.
Thinking that I must have misheard her, I said, politely “I’m sorry?”
“It doesn’t work. This social media stuff. It doesn’t work. You’re all liars.”
“Well…I’m sorry that it’s been tough,” I said with a strained smile. I mean…what am I supposed to say to that? Yes, you’re right. Many people that do social media ARE liars. Many don’t know how to turn a profit, but they know how to get your some fake followers.
In a way, I truly was sorry for her.
“I don’t want your sorry,” she grabbed a business card off the table and looked at my name. “Shay? Is that I how I pronounce your name” she asked.
“Yes.”
“Well, I don’t want your sorry Shay. I want you to fix it! Here’s my Facebook.” She handed me her phone with her Facebook business page open and ready for my analysis.
I don’t usually do impromptu social media analysis at live events, but it was early. Not too many people were there just yet so I let this interaction happen. Plus, this lady was not backing down. I could tell that she was not going to take no for an answer.
I grabbed her phone and scrolled down a bit. I immediately knew what was missing.
“Yea, I see what—” I began. She interrupted me before I could even finish the sentence. She was definitely trying my patience.
“Nuh huh,” she said, finger pointed up. “I need you to check my Pinterest too.”
She clicked on the Pinterest app, went to her profile and handed me the phone again. I scrolled through her Pinterest page and knew immediately what was missing and why she wasn’t getting results.
Have you ever heard the saying “How you do one thing is how you do everything?” Well it applied here as well. I knew that all of her social media pages were making the same mistake. But to appease her, I looked at all of them.  Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube.
And then, I looked at her, sternly, and then gave her 3 actions to take right now to turn her social media pages around.
This book is an extension of that conversation with her.
Why The Majority Are Not Making Money
Did you know that 70% of small business owners who create online content make $0, as in zero, nada, zilch, $0 from social media, or from any content that they create online?
This is a good thing because that means 30% of small business owners are making money. So if you can ignore the 70 and follow the 30, you will be okay.
I know those Instagram “influencers” want you to believe that it’s all easy. Just post a selfie and BOOM, watch that cash roll in baby!
It doesn’t quite work that way. Or, shall I say, it worked that way in the early days, but nothing lasts forever.
Nowadays, you better know what the hell you’re doing on social media or you can
1) waste a TON of time getting likes and engagement but getting NO dinero and
2) waste a TON of money on Facebook ads, influencer shout outs, or high-end e-courses that promise you’ll make 6 figures in 6 days. (it never works out like they promise, but you don’t realize that until AFTER the 30-day money back guarantee)
Let’s face it, consumers are smarter now. They are armed with information and they know when someone is trying to sell them. If you plan on using social media to market your business, you better bring your A game!
The Zero Profit Attorney
I did a discovery call with a well-known attorney in Dallas who wanted me to help her generate more leads from her social media pages. She and I met at a local networking event and exchanged cards. At the event she expressed that her social media person was gonna put her in the poor house if she didn’t get this thing turned around.
I was shocked she asked me to help her since, based on all the advertising I’d seen of her online and offline, I assumed she was doing quite well.
Turns out, she was breaking even. If she spent $20,000/month in ads online, she would bring in $20,000 worth of business.
That’s certainly not good because you want to be able to have a profit. I mean, that’s what a business is, right? Products and services sold in order to make a profit.
She was skeptical of working with me because she’d spent upwards of $15,000 already on e-courses and her current social media person.  Both were not panning out like she’d hoped. I told her I don’t have an e-course that could fix her problem and honestly, an e-course wouldn’t do her any justice.
She was neck-deep in this social media ocean and it was not something she could navigate out of by herself.
What she needed was a full on 4-hour session with me, one on one.
And that is what we did. A 4-hour session where I showed her step by step how to tweak her Facebook advertising campaign (on her own), what to post, and how to select better targeting. As a result, she slashed her ad costs from $20,000/month to $5,000/month.
Without doing anything else differently, she was able to profit $15,000/month.
Doing the wrong thing on the right platform is costly. This is what the majority do. They follow an influencer or a marketing guru, they follow their “rules” and then they end up not getting the results that were promised.
The reason it doesn’t work is because the influencer or marketing guru has a different target market, spends more money on advertising, has a more established social media reputation, and has access to partners who will happily promote them.
Follow marketing gurus and influencers at your own risk.
Common Characteristics Of Social Media Posts That Make No Money
  1. Too many stock photos
  2. Perfectly shot photos of people on the beach with their laptop
  3. Generic questions asked in an attempt to “boost engagement”
  4. Lots of branded content
  5. No videos or photos of the person running the page
  6. Too many quotes
  7. Inconsistent posting
  8. No engagement with followers
  9. Too many topics covered
  10. Unclear business message
What I'm going to share with you in this book is stuff that I've used in my own business as well as what I've assisted other entrepreneurs and small business owners use in their business.
These strategies work online as well as offline. You will see some similarities, or things that you can take from social media and use offline or take from offline and apply it to social media.
Both work hand-in-hand.
The Difference Between A Social Media Strategist And A Social Media Manager
We need to address the elephant in the room.
 I get asked this question all the time when I tell people what I do. People think I am in my office all day posting social media content for businesses.
That’s not an accurate description of what I do. So let’s break down the differences so you get a clear understanding.
A Social Media Manager, by definition, manages your social media pages. They interact with your audience on your behalf. They comment on your followers’ posts. They are basically people who boost engagement.
A social media manager’s main job is to increase your followers organically and post the content you create. That’s it. They are acting on your behalf to save you time.
A Social Media Strategist, by definition, shows you a strategy to achieve your business goals using social media. They do a ton of market research on your target audience and use that information to create a specific social media campaign for your business.
A social media strategist’s main job is to get you leads so you can boost your business. That’s it. They do not post the content, but they may create the content for you to save you time. Depends on the services that strategist offers.
If you already have content and just need someone to post it on your social media pages, or you don’t have the time to get on social media every day and you need someone to do it for you, then you need a Social Media Manager.
If you need to know what to do on which platform in order to attract your ideal client using social media or you have a specific goal you would like to achieve using social media, then you need a Social Media Strategist.
What’s Your Motivation?
Before we get into the actions you need to take, you might want to get out some pen and paper. We're going to do a quick little exercise, because I want to tap into your why.
What's your why? Why do you want a business? Why are you trying to make this business grow?
I always do this with my clients because this entrepreneurial journey is tough! I can speak firsthand to that. If you don't have a strong enough why, you will not move forward, you will give up, and you may give up too soon when you were super close to a win.
I don't want you to fall prey to that. Take a quick second and answer these questions:
Three months from now, I will earn ___________________.
I will earn this amount because ____________________________________________________________________________.
I commit to ________________, ______________________, and ___________________ in order to achieve my goal income.
I want you to keep the answers above handy. Keep them around you, because, let me tell you, you will find obstacle. Well, actually, you won't find them, they will find you.
There will be several obstacles for you to overcome on your journey. And it's constant. It never stops. I don't care whatever success you're looking for, there are more obstacles on the other side of that. So keep these answers front and center so that you can stay focused when things get tough.
About Me
“I’m so thankful I had a childhood before technology took over.” -Unknown
I'm going to send you back, waaay back in time when this grown woman was a little six-year-old girl in the first grade.
My first series of novels that I read were the Babysitters Club. The series was about these 4  best friends who started a babysitting business. And I was just so intrigued by that. I thought, oh my gosh, that is my calling. That is what I'm going to do. I am going to have a babysitting club business. But I’ve got to wait until I'm in the eighth grade. Right now, I'm six years old. What kind of business should I do now, I would ask myself.
I knew that a kid that lived down the street from me, delivered newspapers.
I remember asking my mom if I could deliver newspapers like the kid down the street. Without even a second to think, my mom said no because “that's a boy's job.” As a sidenote: there were also a few child kidnappings that had happened in my small town that made her leery too.
Through my search, I was able to find one business that my mom could not say no to: BeautiControl Consultant. If you know Avon or Mary Kay, you may know what BeautiControl is, because it's very similar.
They do make up, they do facial cleansers, and all that good stuff. I remember I gathered up my $100, which was my birthday money and part of my allowance. I scraped it all together to get a starter kit. My first customer was one of my aunts. She bought a moisturizer from me.
It was the first $12 I’d ever earned on my own.
I didn't do BeautiControl for very long, though. But I knew I was meant to be in business for myself because I was already looking for business opportunities at six years old! Now if we fast forward a little while, I have gone through high school, I've gone through college. I lived in South Korea for a year teaching English as a Second Language, and then I came back to Texas, and I was a teacher. So let’s just fast forward 20 or so years after earning that first $12 on my own.
It was around this time, in 2008, I was done with teaching. I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. But I didn’t know what my next move would be. But I knew for sure, it was not teaching.
And so I started looking for business opportunities online. Three days into my search, I became intrigued by a young lady who said she was a business coach. I bought some of her online programs, I read her blog, I commented on her blog, I did some more online research, and then I joined her mastermind.
This business coach advised me that I could have an online business sharing my gifts and passion. (Vague, I know! But I was so eager to jump at the possibility that I didn’t let logic enter in my mind!)
She was like, "All you need is a blog! You already have a powerful voice, you can just write, and you'll make six figures."
And so I followed her instructions. I started my blog. I would work at my school from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and then I would go home and be in front of the computer from 6:00 PM to midnight.
I did this every single day for over a month. I was determined to make this business a success.
After about the first 40 days of doing this, I looked at the analytics. I’d been blogging like a mad woman for over a month and I wondered how many people have come to my website, because I haven't seen anything in my PayPal account.
I knew something was wrong because the equation was blog and BOOM, make six figures.
When I didn’t see anything in my PayPal account, I went to the analytics. I go to the analytics and I saw that only two people had come to my website. Do you know who those two people were? Me and my mama!
 That was not okay because the two of us were not going to help me make the six figures that I wanted.
I quickly learned that this big-time guru/business coach I chose to follow was leaving some important elements out of this “blog and make six figures” equation.
There was more to making money online and I had to figure it out on my own. It took me a long while, a lot of trial and error, lots of money spent, lots of time wasted, but once I figured it out, I started making money.
It started off by getting organic traffic to my website and then getting that traffic to get on my email list. I did that by applying all the SEO tactics I’d learned while reading sites like Copyblogger and ProBlogger. Using the tactics I learned from those websites, I ended up making $50 a day.
This was all free traffic because it was all about using the right keywords and backlinking strategies. I then stumbled upon advertising through Google Adwords, Facebook ads, banner ads, mobile ads, in-app ads. As a result, I started making $100+ a day.
And then, 3 years later, I was able to quit my teaching job.
You can actually shorten your learning curve by just listening to what I'm telling you in this book. Unlike my first business coach, I won’t be holding anything back.
I know what that feels like when someone gives you only part of the plan and then looks at you like you’re crazy for not making money.  This book is all about giving you the whole enchilada, so that way you can start getting leads and you can start making sales really quickly.
So without further adieu, let's get into the social media strategies that will get you more leads in the next ninety days.









Shay Banks helps entrepreneurs get more leads and sales with social media. If you’re not filling your pipeline with new leads, Shay can show you how to use your social media pages to do just that. Get more leads now by grabbing your free social media toolkit at: www.shaybanks.com.

 





http://www.pumpupyourbook.com
 
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First Chapter Reveal: UNEARTHING THE PAST by W.L. Brooks


UNEARTHING THE PAST
W.L. Brooks
The Wild Rose Press
Romantic Suspense

A single mother and owner of the town diner, Charlie McKay couldn’t be happier with her life in Blue Creek. Taking care of everyone around her is a labor of love, but the secret she’s keeping about her daughter’s parentage lurks beneath the surface. With the scars of the past still not healed, Charlie isn’t interested in adding a man to her life, even if that man is the oh-so-tempting Craig Sutton.

Determined to own his own bar, as his father had, Craig Sutton is a man on a mission. But wanting to enjoy small town life is only one of the reasons he moved to the mountains of North Carolina. Whether meaning to or not, Craig can’t keep from getting involved with the McKay family, and the closer he gets to Charlie and her daughter the more entangled he becomes.
 In Blue Creek secrets have always run deep, and someone is now trying to expose Charlie’s in a disturbing way. She isn’t the only one with something to hide, however, and deception threatens a possible relationship between her and Craig. As hidden truths are revealed and danger increases, Charlie must find a way to face the past or lose everything. 

First Chapter:

Someone was in his bedroom. Craig Sutton feigned sleep, even though the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. He rolled over, slid one hand beneath his pillow, grasped cold steel, and opened his eyes. He didn’t know whether to laugh or curse. Standing on the bed next to him was four-anda-half-year-old Mackenzie McKay. Her big black eyes were wide and unblinking. He released his weapon and sat up.
 “Uh…hi.”
“Hi.” She twirled one of her white-blonde pigtails. Craig had come across Mack, the niece of his landlady, on a number of occasions. But…
“How’d you get in here, sweetheart?”
 She pouted. “I’m allowed.”
“Well…I don’t think anyone told you, but because I’m staying here, you need to knock first.” Craig didn’t want to scare her or, God forbid, make her cry. He’d never been able to handle female tears, especially the tiny variety.
 She crossed her arms. “Auntie Alex shoulda said.”
 “I’m sure she meant to…How about you go in the other room while I change, and then I’ll take you to find your aunt.”
 “Ohskay.” She jumped down and closed the door behind her. Craig went to the bathroom, brushed his teeth, and changed his clothes in record time. When he came out, he was surprised to find her sitting at the kitchen table, humming and swinging her legs.
 Craig shook his head and smiled; the kid was adorable. “Ready, sweets?” “Yep!” She hopped off the seat and took Craig’s hand.
He shivered the moment he stepped outside; he should have grabbed a jacket. It was freezing, and Mack didn’t have a coat on. He swung her up in his arms, she giggled, and his heart warmed.
She pressed her cold nose into the crook of his neck. “Grandpops does that too.”
 “He’s a nice guy then.”
“Uh-huh. You smell pretty. Kinda like my Uncle Ryan but with more pepper,” she said with a small nod, then her mouth pinched. “But you don’t itch my nose.”
Craig laughed. “Is that so?”
“Uh-huh.”
They walked across the gravel parking lot toward the bed and breakfast Alexandra McKay owned and operated. It was called Granny Vaughn’s, and the place was both massive and impressive, if one was into that kind of thing. There was a closed-in porch leading to the kitchen, which was off limits to B and B guests, but whose entrance he was told he was welcome to use if he needed anything—like paying his rent or chatting up his landlady.
 Craig had expected to come across Alexandra but found her sister Charlie, Mack’s mother, instead. It was a pleasant surprise. He enjoyed this particular McKay, with her short blonde curls, big brown eyes, and supple pink lips—kissable lips. Almost every time he was in her company, he’d been drawn to her mouth, not that she noticed. It was for the best; he had his own agenda here in Blue Creek, and he needed to keep his priorities straight.
 Charlie put her hands on her jean-clad hips. “Mackenzie Annie McKay, where have you been? I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”
 “Uh-oh, kid.” Craig put Mack down. “She used your full name; looks like you’re in trouble.”
 Mack’s gaze darted between the adults. “I went to the playhouse.”
“Do we need to talk again about going somewhere without telling me, or going into places without being asked?”
The child looked down and shuffled her feet.
Charlie offered him a small smile. “I’m sorry, Craig.”
“It was a shock to the system, but what the hell, it woke me up,” he said looking around the room. “Is Alexandra here?”
 “She’s running errands, but she’ll be back soon.”
She turned to Mack. “Do you want to help me or play with your doll babies?” It only took a second for the child to dash out of the room.
 Craig eyed the pot of coffee sitting on the counter. “Are there any guests?”
Charlie, the consummate hostess, poured him a cup. “This is the slowest time of year for Alex, but there was a sweet older couple staying here last night; they left a bit ago. I was helping them load their luggage into their car, hence my daughter slipping away.”

“Don’t worry about it.” He took the offered mug, then sipped. “You do make the best coffee.”
She gave him a shy smile. “There are muffins too, if you’re interested?”
 He homed in on the basket of baked goods, sat down at the table, and helped himself. “Keep me company?”
Charlie shot a quick glance in the direction her daughter went. “Okay, but just for a bit.” She poured herself a cup of coffee, then took the seat across from him. “How’s Blue Creek treating you, so far?”
He shrugged. “I can’t complain, but let’s not talk about me; tell me about you.” He eyed her over the rim of his mug. Was she debating what to divulge? How stimulating!
 “Well…I—” “I didn’t see your ride in the parking lot.”
 “No, my sister Casey took it for an oil change.”
“She’s the mechanic, right?”
Charlie nodded.
 “It’s an interesting choice,” he said around a mouthful of muffin.
Her brow pinched. “Sorry?”
He swallowed both his food and his grin. “Your SUV—not your sister’s career. A female mechanic is pretty badass, but so is your ride. It’s vintage, isn’t it?” Her lips quirked upward.
 “Yes. I saw one like it in a movie once. I’ve never really been into cars, but I wanted that Blazer! I asked Ward Jessup, who was the town mechanic at the time, how hard it would be to get one, and he said he’d look into it. It took him years, and I’d actually forgotten about the entire thing, but after I had Mackenzie, it showed up in my driveway.”

Craig’s eyebrows rose. “He gave it to you?”
A fine sheen glazed her eyes. “Yes, Ward was very special to my family—to me. He died over a year ago.”
And now he was a dick. “I’m sorry.”
 “It’s okay.” She shrugged. “You didn’t know.”
 He shifted in his chair. “What about your family?”
“What about yours?” A blush swept up her cheeks. “I didn’t mean to sound—”
He waved a hand. “Don’t mention it. My mother died when I was a kid. It was just me and my dad until college—two men trying not to let life knock them down, or so he always said. He owned a bar, so I’m continuing the tradition. I’m on my own now.” Sort of.
 “Oh, I’m—”
“What about Mackenzie’s father?”
 She flinched. Damn. “Sorry if that’s too forward.”
“He’s dead.”
Craig sat back. “I see…sorry.”
Charlie stood, dumped her coffee in the sink, and started loading the dishwasher.
 He drummed his fingers against the table. “So, tell me about my landlady.” She glanced over her shoulder. “Alexandra?”
“Yes, is she as—I don’t know—cold as she seems?”
“Alex isn’t cold; she’s shrewd—there’s a difference.”
“Yeah?” He smirked and stood.
 “She seems a bit stuck-up to me.”
“I wouldn’t say ‘stuck-up.’ ” She closed the dishwasher and smiled at him. “We’ve always described her as prissy, and that’s Alexandra to the core. She’s always been like that—she’s a trip. You seem to have a lot of opinions about my sister.”
Craig cocked his head to the side. Was Charlie jealous? “I’m the curious sort, but if you’re wondering if I’m interested in her, then the answer is no. She’s not my type.”
“And what is your type?” Her face went red.
“Why? Are you interested?” Wouldn’t that be stimulating?
 Her brow pinched. “I…” She was a picture with big doe eyes, apple cheeks, and pink, kissable lips.
He downed his coffee and walked over to her. Priorities be damned. “Well, Charlie, are you?”
 “I have a four-and-a-half-year-old and own a diner. I don’t have time to be interested.”
Craig leaned down and breathed her in. She smelled like cookies. Delicious. “Pity that.”
Her gaze searched his, and, God help him, she licked her lips.
“Good morning.” And there went all the heat. Craig winked at Charlie, then turned. Even with the cold stare in her dark blue eyes, Alexandra was breathtaking.
“Good morning, Landlady.”
She put her shopping bags down on the table and eyed him. “Was there something you needed, Mr. Sutton?”
 “Nope, and it’s Craig, remember?” He turned to Charlie. “Thanks for the coffee and conversation.”
Charlie’s cheeks were still flushed, but she smiled. “You’re welcome.”
He gave a curt bow to Alexandra, then headed out the door. Despite the dismissal, Craig smiled. Things were shaping up his way.
****
Craig Sutton…holy moly, but the man caused Charlie to pulse in places best not thought about. From the moment he walked into her diner, she had been taken by the sight of him. And today was no different; his tawny hair had been tousled by the wind, and his dark blue eyes were the perfect mixture of mischief and sincerity. Not to mention how his tight jeans fit his backside oh-so-snugly.
 Even a ratty sweatshirt couldn’t diminish the drool-worthy factor. Charlie shook her head and turned to her sister.
“Do you want to tell me what all that was about?”
Alex paused from putting away groceries. “What all what was about?”
 Charlie rolled her eyes. “Oh, you know very well what I mean.”
“I thought you’d sworn off men?”
She could only stare at her sister. A few years ago, Charlie’s choice in the opposite sex had sent her reeling into a black pit of shame and despair. She had promised herself she wouldn’t go down that particular rabbit hole ever again, but it didn’t mean she couldn’t enjoy the scenery. And she missed being in a man’s arms, not to mention kissing. Goodness, she loved kissing. If Alex hadn’t come in, Craig may have…Don’t even go there, Charlie girl!
“Cat—or something else—got your tongue?”
Charlie gaped. “What in the world has gotten in to you today?”
Her sister sighed. “Sorry, I’m not trying to be a bitch—”
“You could have fooled me!” She shook her head. Alexandra was more than a sister, she was Charlie’s best friend, and…and… “Do you like him?”
 “Who?”
“Seriously!” She huffed and snatched a package of coffee filters out of her sister’s hands. “Do you like Craig?”
“We don’t know enough about him.” Alex held out her hand.
Charlie gave the filters back. “That doesn’t answer my question.” Most men fell over themselves when they first met Alex, and Craig was no exception. Charlie couldn’t blame him; her sister was like a goddess with her crown of fiery locks and unrelenting confidence. And Charlie wasn’t jealous, but this particular man’s reaction to Alex, and her sister’s odd behavior, did prickle under her skin.
 “Are you interested in him?”
 Charlie shrugged. “I can’t afford to get in a tizzy over any man.”
“Exactly! Men make a mess of things, and that’s all we need to say on the subject.”
“Fine.” Charlie began to help unload the groceries, knowing full well her sister hadn’t answered the question.
 ****
 “Did you get me a surprise?” Mack asked.
 “Yes, baby, but you have to wait till we get home,” Charlie said for the third time since they’d left her parents’ house. It was her own fault for mentioning she’d gone shopping after she’d picked their SUV up from the garage.
She pulled into the driveway, enjoying how the moonlight haloed their little house, a small white-sided ranch with navy-blue shutters and a wraparound porch. It was the house she’d always pictured having—a home of their own. Putting the vehicle in park, Charlie squinted at the package on the front porch. She didn’t remember ordering anything.
She got Mack out of her car seat and hurried up the steps after her. “Look, Mama!” Mack clapped. “It’s a present for us.”
“Let’s go inside first, then I’ll come and get it.” Charlie unlocked the door and urged Mack in. She waited a beat, then went back to get things she’d picked up at the store. She glanced at the box and rolled her eyes. It looked heavy.
Mack tried to take the bags out of Charlie’s hands the minute she walked into the kitchen. “Can I have my surprise now?”
Charlie handed her daughter the new coloring book. “Here, sweetheart. Now go to the playroom, and I’ll come in there in a minute.”
Mack shouted her thanks and skipped away.
 Charlie hated admitting it, but she couldn’t wait for preschool to start again. She understood the teaching staff had the flu, but how long did it really take to get better? Take a chill pill, Charlie girl! Twenty minutes later, she put the finishing touches on her meatloaf. She cranked the timer for another fifteen minutes and went to set the table. She had just put out the forks when she remembered the box.
Maybe one of her sisters had sent them something. Out on the porch, Charlie took a few minutes trying to figure out how to get the thing inside—it weighed a ton. Finally, she decided to open the package right where it was. From the smell, something had gone bad. There was no way she was bringing it inside her house, much less her kitchen.
Maybe if she hadn’t forgotten about the darn thing, it wouldn’t have had a chance to spoil. “It’s freezing out here, so it isn’t my fault,” she told the box. Shaking her head, Charlie used a paring knife to cut the tape. She opened the flaps, wincing at the stench, and looked inside. Charlie rushed to the porch railing and emptied her stomach.
She closed the box, her hands shaking. It couldn’t be! Oh, God.
“Mama, what—”
“Go to your room, Mackenzie, and don’t come out until I get you.”
 Mack hesitated.
Charlie shouted, “Now!”
Her daughter ran back inside.
Charlie rubbed her face. “Holy shit,” she whispered; she choked out a sob, then took a couple of deep breaths. She could handle this; she had to calm down. She pulled out her cell phone and dialed.
 “McKay.”
 “Fletcher, someone sent me a package.” She gulped for air. Do not fall apart, do not fall apart.
“Hells bells, just spit it out! I got a grave robbed out here, and you won’t believe whose it is neither.”
“Rick’s?”
 “How the hell did you know that? Shit—”
 “That’s what I’ve been trying to say. He’s here…someone put him on my porch.”
“Holy fuck! Don’t touch anything! Jasper and I’ll be there in a few minutes.” Charlie shoved her cellphone in her back pocket. Not only did someone out there know her secret, but they’d dug it out of its grave, chopped it into pieces, and left it at her door.


About the Author
W.L. Brooks was born with an active imagination.  When characters come into her mind, she has to give them a life- a chance to tell their stories. With a coffee cup in her hand and a cat by her side, she spends her days letting the ideas flow onto paper.  A voracious reader, she draws her inspiration from mystery, romance, suspense and a dash of the paranormal.
A native of Virginia Beach, she is currently living in Western North Carolina. Pick up her latest novel, The Secrets That Shape Us- available now!

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: www.wlbrooks.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorwlbrooks
Goodreads: https://bit.ly/2RAd0xl


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