Sunday, September 28, 2008

Back to school September...

Wow, what a feast! I'm feeling a little distended here. Time to pass the dishes to the dishwasher (what do you mean he's asleep under the table?) and join the Roast Masters in thanking the wonderful authors who took part in our eight day extravaganza:

Tues, Sept 16: Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page
Wed, Sept 17: Bill Cameron
Thur, Sept 18: Jason Pinter

Mon, Sep 22: Donna Storey
Tues, Sep 23: Ray Wong
Wed, Sep 24: Danette Haworth
Thurs, Sep 25: Susan Gilmore
Fri, Sep 26: Sara Thacker

If contest winners haven't contacted the authors to coordinate receipt of their prizes, please do so when you have a chance.

If you check the margin to the left, youll see we're already lining up our October treats, so please pop back soon for more details!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Friday's special is..Smooth Lies!

Smooth Lies by Sara Thacker

Sara's books are available from The Wild Rose Press
If you're not lucky enough to win your copy here, then order one from The Wild Rose Press for the chance to win a Sony e-reader! More details and a book trailer can be found at Sara's blog.

Secrets are never a good thing. Especially between husbands and wives. Especially when they're dangerous secrets. The kind that put your life at risk.

Sophia and Jake Henley are caught between military secrets and the secrets of their marriage. With Jake's former commanding officer already having made an attempt on Jake's life, both Jake and Sophia are in danger. The problem is that Sophia's secret life is to blame - the secret life Jake doesn't know about. And telling him will only deepen the danger...

Here's an excerpt:

The door squeaked opened behind her. She crossed her arms covering her breasts, looking over her shoulder to find Jake standing in the doorway. “Can’t you knock?”

He cracked a smile and her legs grew weak. He’d lied to her. His job as a computer developer and sales person didn’t exist. If he had been truthful, maybe she would have understood. Hell, who was she kidding? She didn’t want to marry into the Army. She liked not being an Army wife. At the stores in town she would see those pathetic women carrying around a passel of kids, waiting for their husbands to make it home safely. But she had been different, detached from them and yet in the same position without even realizing it. Secretly, at one point, she had been jealous of the Army wives. They had support when their husbands took off for months at a time. She had nothing but a ring on her finger and no one at home.

Jake moved closer. Sophia gave her head a short shake, warning him to stay away, but he didn’t notice or didn’t care. His strong arms went around her shoulders, pulling her close. He spun her towards him and crushed her arms against his chest. His fingers ran down her spine, soothing the tired muscles in her back.

“I’m sorry you were put in the middle of this.”

Sophia hiccupped a sob. Her throat constricted and words failed her.

“Sophia, I know it’s hard to believe, but I was going to change. Just this last project, it had to be completed.”

“I don’t want to hear your excuses.” Sophia’s plea was weak. She did want to hear it. She strained to believe anything he could tell her so this entire mess would make sense.

“I need to get you to safety and then I have to stop this madness.”

“What? You’re just going to dump me somewhere and then run off again.”

“No, I’m not going to dump you anywhere. But these people are playing for keeps. They mean business. They already tried to kill me and almost succeeded.”

“Where have you been?”

Jake held Sophia away from him. His grey eyes had darkened and were hooded with worry. “I’ve been in Romania.”

“Why there?”

“Over a month ago, my CO dumped me into the Black Sea and expected me to die.”

“Oh my God, Jake, are you okay? Shit, of course you’re okay. You’re here.”

“I’m fine.” Jake swallowed the guilt of his lie. He wasn’t fine. His body ached. His bones were tired and his muscles throbbed from the exhaustive exercise today. He could last only a few more days at this pace before he started making major mistakes.

“You’re lying.”


“Not telling the truth, you know, lying. That’s what you’re doing. Just like with your job. Did you ever love me?” Sophia’s voice rose with each word. Her body shook and her face flamed pink.

“Sophia, I do love you. I just don’t know how to be a husband.”

“Maybe you should work on figuring that out?”

* * *

And on to the questions...

1. What is the smoothest lie you've ever told?
2. What do you cover up when your spouse enters the room unexpectedly?
3. What does it take to be a good husband?

And do ask Sara about her SWAT experience...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thursday's Special Is…Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen!

Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore

Order from Amazon

Watch the trailer

Visit Susan's website

Good morning everyb—all right, okay. I know. I know. With an irresistible title like Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, the last thing you want to do is sit here and listen to me ramble through an entire paragraph of intro. You want to find out what this book is about! So I'm not going to spend any more time trying to—all right. Sheesh.

It’s the early 1970’s. The town of Ringgold, Georgia has a population of 1,923, one traffic light, one Dairy Queen, and one Catherine Grace Cline. Daughter of Ringgold’s Baptist preacher, Catherine Grace is quick-witted, more than a little stubborn, and dying to escape her small-town life.

Saturday afternoon, she sits at the Dairy Queen, eating Dilly Bars and plotting her getaway to Atlanta. And when, with the help of a family friend, the dream becomes a reality, she immediately packs her bags, leaving behind her family and the boy she loves to claim the life she’s always imagined. But before long, tragedy brings Catherine Grace back home and, as personal events alter her perspective—and change grips Ringgold—she begins to wonder if her place in the world may actually be, against all odds, right where she began.

Let's give Susan a warm welcome!

She has written for the Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science Monitor and the Chattanooga News-Free Press. Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen is her debut novel. You're going to find Susan's witty style and fully realized characters as irresistible as her title, and you're going to wish the story didn't have to end. You may even shed a tear. I did. And I'm an insensitive bastard.

But don't take my word for it. Let Susan show you in her own words:

My daddy always said that if the good Lord can take the time to care for something as small as a baby sparrow nesting in a tree, then surely he could take the time to listen to a little girl in Ringgold, Georgia. So every night before I went to bed I got down on my knees and begged the Lord to find me a way out of this town. And every morning, I woke up in the same old place.

It was a place that I, Catherine Grace Cline, never wanted to call home, even though I was born and raised here. It was a place where everybody knew everything about you down to the color of underwear your mama bought you at the Dollar General Store. It was a place that just never felt right to me, like a sweater that fits too tight under your arms. It was a place where girls like me traded their dreams for a boy with a couple of acres of land and a wood-framed house with a new electric stove. It was a place I always planned on leaving.

When I was no more than nine years old, a tornado tore right close to my house. I remember yelling at my little sister to run and hide in the basement. “Martha Ann,” I warned her, “if that twister hits this town, nobody’s even going to notice it’s gone.”

She started crying for fear she was going to be swept up in the clouds and carried away; and nobody, not even our daddy, would be able to find her. Turned out the only thing of any importance swept up in the sky that day was Mr. Naylor’s old hound dog. People said that Buster Black flew some fifteen miles, those long floppy ears of his flapping like wings, before landing right in the middle of a cornfield over in the next county.

But that’s not nearly as amazing as what happened next. Five days later, that four-legged fool came limping back home, wagging his tail acting like he’d found the Promised Land. Mr. Naylor was crying, praising the Lord, holding Buster Black in his arms. The local newspaper ran a color picture of them both right on the front page, like that dog was some kind of prodigal son.

“You know, Martha Ann,” I told her after reading about Buster’s triumphant return, “a tornado like that just might be our ticket out of here, but unlike that stupid old hound dog, we are not going to limp back home.”

My daddy said I was a little girl with a big imagination. Maybe. Or maybe I was a patient girl with a big dream, a little girl waiting for her divine deliverance. But either way, I was going to hitch a ride out of Ringgold, whether it was on a fiery twister ripping a path through the Georgia sky or on a Greyhound bus rolling its way down Interstate Seventy-Five.

1. Mmmmm… Dairy Queen.

Sorry, that's not a question is it? Actually it is. What do you look for at the Dairy Queen?

2. Complete this sentence: Riding a Greyhound bus is more hazardous than riding a twister in the sky because _________.

3. If Buster Black the hound dog leaves the cornfield for Ringgold at 3:50PM traveling at an average speed of 4 mph, assuming clear skies and a daytime temperature of 87F, what's the weirdest thing he stops to smell along the way?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wednesday's special is...Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning

A kick-ass title, a killer cover, and a sweetheart author. How could you go wrong?

Danette's website is here. To visit her blog, click here. Amazon is selling her book somewhere vicinity here.

And I'll tell you all about it here:

Spunky, headstrong Violet Raines is happy with things just the way they are in her sleepy backwoods Florida town. She loves going to the fish fry with her best friend, Lottie, and collecting BrainFreeze cups with her good friend Eddie. She loves squeezing into the open trunk of the old cypress tree, looking for alligators in the river, and witnessing lighting storms on a warm summer day.

But Violet’s world is turned upside down when Melissa moves to town from big city Detroit. All of a sudden Violet’s supposed to want to wear makeup, and watch soap operas, and play Truth or Dare! It’ll take the help of Violet’s friends, her Momma, a few run-ins with lightning, and
maybe even Melissa, for Violet to realize that growing up doesn’t have to mean changing who you are.

A former travel writer, technical writer, and even comic book writer (self-published at the tender age of six), Danette Haworth is Walker & Company's newest middle grade author. I met her while wandering around Blogtopia and was instantly won over by her casual, friendly style. Listen in as she shares a sample of Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning:

When Eddie B. dared me to walk the net bridge over the Elijah Hatchett River where we’d seen an alligator and another kid got bit by a coral snake, I wasn’t scared—I just didn’t feel like doing it right then. So that’s how come I know just what he’s saying when I see him in church, flapping his elbows like someone in here is chicken. When Momma’s not looking, I make my evil face at him, but he just laughs and turns the right way in his pew.

I fold the bulletin and fan myself. Lord, it’s hot in here. The windows are open but all that breezes in are a couple of love bugs, landing in front of me on a lady’s hair. I elbow my best friend, Lottie T., and point at the bugs. They crawl around and slip under a web of hair-sprayed strands. I start giggling and Lottie does, too. Only we press the giggles down so instead of coming out of our mouths, the giggles shake our shoulders.

Taking a deep breath, I lean forward and then, “AH-CHOO!” The lady’s hair blows over in one piece like a typhoon hit it and two black specks fly out. Lottie laughs out loud. When the lady turns around, I see she has devil eyebrows, the kind that go up in a point. I smile innocently. “’Scuse me, ma’am.” She nods and turns around. I look at Lottie and laughter starts bubbling up from somewhere deep until Momma puts her hand on my arm, pulling me back in the seat. I look forward and try to pay attention.

The preacher’s talking about how too much honey can make you sick and I know it’s true because I have put too much honey on my peanut butter sandwich before and I just about puked. But I get that he’s talking about too much sweetness is sickening. He doesn’t have to worry about me. I am never too sweet to anybody.


1. What besides honey has made Danette sick when she ate too much of it?

2. The name "Violet Raines" was inspired by:

a. A rainbow.
b. The apocalypse.
c. The artist formerly known as Prince.
d. Other (fill in the blank): __________

3. Danette's blog is called "Summer Friend." What should she call it now that summer is over?

Tuesday's Special Is...The Pacific Between!

Order HERE from Amazon.

Visit Ray's WEBSITE.

Morning everyone! Roast Master Jason here. I've got Ray Wong marinating backstage for his roast. Let's all pound on the table with our forks and knives to give him a warm welcome!

Interesting fact about Ray: he has two birthdays. Please remember that when considering his age, you must divide by two. Of course, counting by twos has it's benefits. He was the hippest 11 year old at the bar scene. But coming home smelling of whiskey got him grounded a lot.

Why two birthdays, you ask? (You did ask, right?) Because Ray has two cultural identities, each looking to a different calendar. He was raised in China, then moved to the United States as a teenager. It's more than metaphorically that the Pacific lies between these lives. Yet, in the face of all that distance, his two identities mix, sometimes in confusion, sometimes in unique harmony. Ray explores these themes in his novel, The Pacific Between, which centers on Greg Lockland, who returns to California for his parents’ funeral and discovers letters suggesting an affair between his father and his ex-lover, Lian. Suspicion, anger and jealousy take Greg on an transpacific journey to find the truth.

Let's take a look:

Rarely a summer would sweep by without at least a few days or even weeks spent discovering Lantau. It was only an hour or so of boat ride away, a quick escape from the fanatical rhythm elsewhere around this narrow nub in the South China Sea. The countryside was always lush with hues of green, and the surrounding sea seductive in deep, dark blue. On those early summer mornings, while we were high up in the hills, the layers of fog lingered in the valleys, forming a contiguous ring around the emerald heaps--scenery straight out of a Chinese watercolor painting, drenched in sublime divinity.

All I can see now are buildings and bridges and factories and construction sites and cars and people and a future without regard for its past.

Progress, I suppose.

On our way in, the taxi crawls through the thick traffic on the west side of Hong Kong Island, and I notice how things actually haven't changed much here on the strip, only more people, more stores, more cars, more cell phones, and less room to breathe. Gone are the Union Jacks. Instead, proud Chinese flags fly. Chaos abounds: loudspeakers, car horns, tram bells, stores brimming with Chinese herbs, dried scallops and ginseng root, side-street vendors and their cheap imitation merchandise, McDonald's, Ah Yee Noodles, obnoxious neon signs, tall glass houses. Hong Kong is like a grandmother--no matter how man more wrinkles she has, you will always remember her face.

The taxi drops me off outside of the Grand Hyatt in the fantastically packed Wanchai. It's a sparkling hotel towering on a prime cut of real estate. I check into a quiet corner room on the thirty-fifth floor that overlooks the spectacular Victoria Harbor and half of the Kowloon Peninsula. Down from my window, the new, mammoth Exhibition Center stretches out on the waterfront, a giant white turtle perched on a flat rock.


I sit on the King-size bed and extend my tired limbs, loop my hands around my sore neck, twist and crack it twice, and feel immediate relief. Exhausted, I lie down and shut my eyes for a second, catching my breath. It's so quiet that I almost forget I'm half a world away from Los Angeles and only moments into my past.

Ready to rock the contest?! Let your fingers do the walking on these three questions. And if you'd rather kick back and just chat, do that too! Ray is an actor and model in addition to his keyboard-intensive pursuits. Stop by his website (link above) and discover all things Ray!

1. If Ray gave you the Pacific, what would you put it between?

2. China spelled backwards is ANIHC. Using this as an acronym, give us the name of a charitable organization suspected of having a paltry membership. (For example, Association of Nobody Incinerating Hot Chocolate--A.N.I.H.C.)

3. Remember SAT analogies? Complete this one: McDonalds is to China as dipping sauce is to _________________.

I do declare the contest open!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Monday's Special Is ... Amorous Woman!

Amorous Woman by Donna George Storey

Order here from Amazon

Visit Donna's Website

We've got the spice level set to scorching to get this roast week off to an extra-hot start. Amorous Woman is erotica at its finest: literary fiction with a solid story to tell that just happens to include the kind of sex scenes your mother never told you about.

Before Donna started writing steamy books, she taught Japanese literature. For those of us who've sat in class wondering if the professor had a naughty secret life, Donna assures us the answer is yes!

Amorous Woman is the story of an American woman’s love affair with Japan and her intimate encounters with the many men and women she meets along the way. Given the price of airline tickets these days, it’s a bargain way to take a vacation to Kyoto and get a glimpse into a hidden side of the city few tourists ever see. If you're at least 18, check out Donna's provocative book trailer, "An Erotic Trip to Japan," with lots of pretty (and pretty racy) Japanese art and some mildly embarrassing photos of her when she was in Japan.

Amorous Woman has garnered a number of saucy reviews such as:
"A work of elegant eroticism …with a very special perspective on elements of Japanese culture … a blend of humor, social critique, and literary skill that is impressive from beginning to end.”
- Margaret Lane, Midwest Book Review

"Vivid sexual scenes abound, encompassing a vast range of pleasures … this book is hard to put down.”
- Romantic Times Book Review Magazine
Read the excerpt (it's mild -- no need to send the kids out of the room!) then answer the questions for a chance to win your own Amorous Woman. For a spicier taste of this and other stories, visit Donna's Website.


To set the scene:

Lydia, the Amorous Woman, has just left an unsatisfying marriage and taken a job in a hostess club in Kyoto’s famous entertainment district of Gion ...

Some days later, the mama-san leaned into the small side room next to the bar that we used to dress and touch up our makeup before the night’s work began.

“Megu-chan? Mr. Kimura asked for you tonight. He’ll be arriving shortly.”

Marie and Aimée exchanged a quick glance.

“This is a good sign,” Marie said brightly. “By the way, if he asks you to dinner, it’s okay to say yes. Kimura-san is a special friend of the Mama and if he likes you, your level goes up.” She held her palm out flat and lifted it several inches.

“But aren’t we supposed to avoid seeing the customers outside of the club?”

“Dinner is okay,” Aimée broke in, adding a final coating of mascara to her eyelashes. Of our threesome, she clearly offered the charms of the traditional Japanese beauty with her oval face, prim mouth and slanting almond eyes. “Then afterwards, you bring him to the club for a drink. It’s like a warm-up for work.”

How did Japanese always manage to make any job a twenty-four hour commitment?

“But I am allowed to turn him down, aren’t I?”

Aimée turned and gave me a stern look. “Yes, of course, but Kimura-san will take you to a very nice restaurant. It is a good chance to study Japanese culture for your research, I think.”

The story I’d given them was that I was working to save money to go back to graduate school in Japanese -- with a specialty in the seventeenth-century literature of the pleasure quarters in the golden age of the courtesan. So far, everyone seemed to buy it.

“Can I bring you along to the restaurant, Marie?” I said, hugging myself. “To make sure I don’t do anything wrong?”

Marie laughed into her hand, Japanese-style. “Megu-chan is very funny. Go out front, now. It’s is best to greet Kimura-san when he arrives.”

As I walked out to the salon, I took a deep breath and willed my body to soften and relax. My days as a proper housewife were over, probably for good. As smooth as water flowing, I had joined the night side of Japan, where you said “Good morning” at 9 pm, and pleasure always came before duty. A world where it was not only okay to tell lies, it was expected. So what if “the water trade” was based on the commodification of women? I’d turn the tables, let them come to me, fall at my feet, pay fortunes to squire me to dinner with no hope of repayment. Besides, I had a regular customer already. My charming, cultured company was in demand. It seemed like a long time since I had succeeded at something.

Maybe I’d finally found the one place in the world where I belonged.


1) When the narrator, Lydia, goes to dinner with Kimura-san, what does she order?
2) What does Donna do to warm up for work?
3) What was the last lie Donna told?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Weekend Pleasures...

Chapter One: Chasing Smoke by Bill Cameron

On my list of suspicious circumstances to avoid, cop waking me up by rapping on my car window at five o’clock in the morning oughta be right up there. Not as high as letting a liquor store clerk spot my piece before my badge maybe, but higher than being caught ripping coupons out of the newspaper on my neighbor’s stoop.

Oughta be, but apparently isn’t.
...continue reading

Chapter One: The Stolen by Jason Pinter


I saved the document and eased back in my chair. My body had grown accustomed to long days and nights spent in its discomfort. The first few months, I would go home nearly every day with a sore tailbone or stiff back, wondering if the supplies department would turn a blind eye and let me expense a newer model. Eventually I forgot about it. Then one day, I noticed I hadn’t thought about the aches and pains in months. They were a part of me now.
...continue reading

Chasing Smoke: Chapter One

Chasing Smoke by Bill Cameron

Chapter One

On my list of suspicious circumstances to avoid, cop waking me up by rapping on my car window at five o’clock in the morning oughta be right up there. Not as high as letting a liquor store clerk spot my piece before my badge maybe, but higher than being caught ripping coupons out of the newspaper on my neighbor’s stoop.

Oughta be, but apparently isn’t.

I peel back my eyelids and peer at the cop from inside a bewildered daze. The headlights of the patrol car blaze in my rear view mirror and needle my crusted eyes. I cough—a moist, phlegm-coated rattle that sounds like it comes from the bottom of a barrel. My breath mists the glass, obscures my view out. Just as well. I’m not ready to face a cop. My chin is wet and my mouth tastes of stomach acid. Can’t feel my arms or legs, but my gut is right where I left it, complete with clawing pain like a rat dragging itself through my intestines.

The cop raps again with his Maglite, then flicks it on and shines it through the fogged glass. “Sir?” His voice seems muted and far away. “Please roll down the window, sir.”

I reach for the window handle with my left hand. The rat picks that moment to clamp down on a loop of my gut with hot teeth. I shudder and clench my jaw, bite back a whimper. Don’t have my pills with me. I groan and lean against the door.

“Are you all right?” The cop grabs the door handle, but the door’s locked. “Detective Kadash? Can you hear me?”

I nod, unsurprised. He’ll have run my tags before he approached. Maybe he’ll go easy on another cop—not that I can tell you why he’d need to. Sleeping in your car isn’t the smartest thing you can do, but most of the time it’s not illegal. At least I’m not napping on my airbag. I take a breath and look around. It’s dark, but the grey gleam from a lone street light reveals the rough outline of the area. Old brick commercial, loading docks, a bridge overpass. Street split by an unused rail line. Eastside industrial district, I realize, down near the river, north of the Hawthorne Bridge. I can smell the river.


I lift my hand again, try to wave him off. My arm starts to tingle. I manage to get a grip on the window handle and crank it a turn or two. Chill air and a splash of rain sweep into the car.

“Can you hear me, Detective?” his voice now sharp through the open window.

“Jesus, yes.” I lower the glass some more, then try to shift in my seat. Goddamn ass feels like wood. My feet go hot as blood rushes into my legs. I groan again, but the rat eases off, settling back down to its typical sharp-clawed wriggle. I can cope with fiery sensation returning to my numb limbs so long as the rat keeps its peace.

I feel the cop’s sleeve brush my cheek as he reaches through the open window and unlocks the door. “I’m all right,” I say. “I can get it.” I heave forward and pop the latch, then sag back into the seat. The cop pulls the door open. He puts a hand under my arm, but he just holds it there. Waiting. His face that odd mix of concern and suspicion that only young cops have—enough time on the job and the concern will burn out of him, leaving only the raw suspicion behind. I lean forward and succeed in swinging my feet out onto the pavement. I grab the door frame with both hands and, grunting, heave myself out of the car.

It works out as well as I might have hoped. I have to steady myself with one hand on the roof of the car, but otherwise it doesn’t seem like I’m going to face plant any time soon. I take a moment to catch my breath and look the cop over. Young fellow, shiny-cheeked and razor burned. Name tag reads BARNES. My height, five-eight or so, and about as heavy. Unlike me, he carries his weight in his chest and shoulders rather than his belly. His face is thick, lips full, with a flat nose and dark hair and dense eyebrows. Eyes too small and too close together. The overall effect is rather unfortunate, but then the overall effect of my face is even more unfortunate. If he can stand to look at me, I can stand to look at him.

Barnes gives me at least as thorough a once-over as I give him. “Have you been drinking, sir?”

Always the first question once the pleasantries are over. In my patrol days, if I’d come across a guy passed out in the front seat of a car on some dark street I’d have asked the same. Don’t mean it doesn’t piss me off a little. I was born with the ruddy and swollen complexion of a hard drunk. A lifetime of explaining it away left me a mite tetchy on the matter. But I also know he’s just doing his job so I shake my head and try to laugh it off. Find myself scratching my neck instead. That causes him to look away. The other thing I was born with was a patch of skin on the side of my neck the color and consistency of raw hamburger. These days, I suppose a child thus disfigured would be shuffled off to the plastic surgeon. Buff the bad patch off. All paid for by insurance. When I was a kid, we had no insurance. My mother could hardly afford a doctor for the inevitable broken bones and stitches. She sure as hell wasn’t going to pay someone to pretty me up.

“What are you doing here?” he says, eyes still averted.

“Sleeping, what it looks like.”

“And you’re sure you haven’t been drinking?”

In the few moments since he woke me, the sky has gone from black to deep grey. No telling how long I’d been asleep, but it wasn’t long enough. It was never long enough anymore. “Son, you want to haul me back to the precinct and make me breathe into the machine, knock yourself out.

But your blow stick won’t pick up anything but hell’s own morning breath.”

I guess he could take or leave the sobriety test. Either he’ll give me the go home if you need to sleep lecture, or he’ll whip out the bracelets. Frankly, I don’t give a shit which so long as he gets on with it. He surprises me and chooses door number three.

“Are you armed, Detective?”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Sir, just answer the question.”

I can’t read his expression. “No. I’m not.” Wary now.

“Can I see some I.D.?”

Like the thing on my neck isn’t I.D. enough. I hand him my wallet, wait while he inspects my driver’s license. My badge and gun are back at the house. I haven’t carried either in months.

“Satisfied?” Wallet back in my pocket. The rat takes a nibble and I wince.

“Detective Mulvaney is on her way to a scene. When she heard I’d come across you, she asked me to bring you down.”

Jesus. All I want is to get back in my car and go home. Take a pain pill and wait it out until my appointment with the goddamn doctor later this morning. A crime scene is the last place I want to be. “Forget it. I’m on leave, or didn’t she tell you that?”

I turn to climb back into my car, but Barnes reaches out and grabs my upper arm. His grip is strong. I back up, find myself pressed up against the door frame.

“Sir, she was insistent. You can follow in your car, or ride in the back of mine. It’s up to you.”

I sag. There are few on earth who can insist as inexorably as Susan Mulvaney. This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to dodge her in recent days, but she’s upped the ante by sending a cop after me. She probably told the bastard to arrest me if I refuse her summons. I throw up my hands, tell him fine, I’ll follow.

He drives south and west, weaving toward the river, and finally comes to a stop just outside the parking lot under the east end of the Hawthorne Bridge. I park further up the block on Water Street, close enough to keep him from getting pissy but far enough to keep the escape lanes open.

Barnes waits for me to join him, then leads me past his car. I see another patrol car parked beyond, engine running and lights spinning. A pair of uniforms are inspecting a silver Jeep Grand Cherokee off by itself near the pedestrian ramp that curves down from the bridge.

“What’s going on?”

“Detective Mulvaney will explain everything when she arrives.”

The sky continues to brighten. I can see the river now. Clouds overhead, more thin rain. I have a vague recollection it had been hot the day before. A hundred degrees and twig-snap dry. That’s why I was in my car. No air conditioning in the house, and the heat riling the rat. I’d popped a couple Vicodins and gone driving to try to cool off and relax. Now I wish I’d brought a jacket.

He tells me to stay where I am. He walks over to the Jeep, speaks to the other uniforms, then pulls out a cell phone and makes a call. I can’t hear what he’s saying, but he keeps his beady eyes on me.

I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of thinking I give a damn, so I show him my back and gaze out over the Willamette. The water is dark and choppy, swept by listless gusts of moist wind. Fingers of fog clutch at the edges of Waterfront Park and the downtown towers across the river. Overhead, the elevated section of I-5 grumbles with early traffic. The morning is still more dark than light, the sky a sodden grey, but joggers and bikers are already working both sides of the river. Before me, at the edge of the lot, the broad, paved path of the Eastbank Esplanade overlooks the river.

I hear footsteps and turn. Barnes is done with his call. “You got a body in that Jeep,” I say. Not a question.

“Detective Mulvaney is on her way.” Not an answer. “You can wait in my car.”

I hear the alarm cry of a marsh wren from the trees below the bridge. “Right here’ll be fine, thanks.”


“Son, you know I’m police, and since you’ve been talking to Susan you know I’m Homicide. I know how this shit works.”

He frowns. After a moment he says, “Stay out of the way. Give me any trouble I’ll cuff you and sit your ass in a puddle.”

I chuckle. The bastard has grit. That, or he knows I’m a dead ender with zero traction in the bureau. He goes back to the others, and I listen to them set up lights and tape off the area around the Jeep. I feel no curiosity. I watch the river and shiver. Every so often a runner or skater passes on the Esplanade, their ears wired into music players strapped to their arms or waists.

After a while, I hear a car roll to a stop, a door open and close. Whoever it is doesn’t come to me right away. Jeep more interesting, I guess. A few minutes pass, and then I sense a presence at my side. I glance over and see Susan. Beyond her, the Jeep’s doors are open on the driver’s side, and I can just make out a still form in the back seat.

“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you siccing Officer Snippy on me.”

“Skin, you haven’t returned my calls. I’ve left messages on your cell phone. I’ve been worried.”

“The battery’s dead.”

I can hear her breathe. “I tried your house too. You never answer.”

I don’t bother to say that I expected folks to take the hint.

She offers me a Starbucks cup. “I brought you some green tea.”

“That’s your idea of a peace offering?” I glare at the cup even as I accept it. Green tea is my new drink of choice—recommended by Jimmy Zirk, my doctor’s medical assistant, and endorsed by Ruby Jane Whittaker, my caffeine pusher. Don’t care for the stuff much. I miss my coffee. Miss my smokes too, for that matter. But green tea is supposed to be good for me, and coffee’s diuretic quality puts unnecessary stress on my renal system. Gotta go easy on the renal system these days. I sip the tea and try not to make a face.

“What were you doing sleeping in your car, Skin?”

I’ve known Susan Mulvaney for over seven years, partnered with her for most of that. The only detectable change in her during that time has been a deepening of the hollows around her green eyes, a growing furrow between her eyebrows. She’s tall and slender with dusty blond hair perpetually pulled back into a loose bun. This morning she’s wearing a tailored beige suit with a white blouse and sensible brown shoes. Her badge hangs from her jacket pocket—I know she has an extra layer of interfacing sewn into the pocket to ensure it retains its shape.

I don’t want to answer her question. I gesture instead. “Who’s in the Jeep?”

She looks me over. I’m thinner than when she last saw me, with a lot less hair. The effects of cancer and chemo are easy enough to spot, and I quickly feel my impatience flair up. “Come on, Susan, spill it ... or let me go home.”

“Come have a look, let me know what you think.”

“I’m off the clock.”

“It will only take a minute.”

“What’s going on, Susan?”

“Just take a look.” She meets my eyes with her own. “Then we can talk.”

I don’t like the sound of that. The Jeep is parked off by itself. Clean, less than a year old. The tires have minimal wear. An off-road vehicle that has never been off-road and likely never will be. I glance through the open rear door at the body in the back seat, then look away again as the rat stirs. “What do you want me to see?”

“Whatever there is to see.”

“You don’t need me for this. Where’s your partner?”

“Kirk will be here soon.” She takes my tea and hands me a pair of blue nitrile gloves. “Just take a look.” I sigh, but I know she won’t let up until she gets what she wants. I pull the gloves on, then move to the driver’s door. Start in the front. Worry about the stiff after.

I lean in, wrists propped against my knees. The interior is as clean as the exterior, discounting the mess in the back seat. Almost looks like it’s just been driven off the lot. Creamy leather seats, inlaid panels of polished wood in the dashboard. Driver’s seat forward, tilt wheel up. Keys hanging from the ignition. Dash free of dust and the specks of crud you find in even the most fastidiously maintained vehicles. Odometer is electronic, so I’ll have to turn the key to see the mileage. I stand and look more closely at the tires—minimal wear, but not no wear. At least a few thousand miles on them. I think it possible a criminalist might not turn up any fingerprints at all.

The passenger seat holds the goods. A pint of Crown Royal, only a finger or two of whisky left, and an empty quart of whole milk. Two prescription bottles, the same anti-nausea med I take and an opioid pain killer. Prescribing physician, Doctor Tobias Hern, for one Raymond Orwoll. The doctor’s name makes my stomach jump, but Orwoll means nothing to me. Presumably the fellow in the back. Both pill bottles are empty. Looks like a fairly typical case of suicide by overdose. Mix the booze with the pills, douse it with milk to keep it all down. Cut and dried, except even the cursory glance I’d given the body before turning to the front seat indicated that probable cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head.

The body lays slumped against the door on the passenger side, left leg stretched across the back seat, right leg splayed open with the foot on the floor. The fellow is tall and dark haired, dressed in a grey dress shirt and charcoal slacks. Just one of his leather shoes would cover my car payment.

I don’t see a gun, but black stippling on his right hand suggests he’d fired one, muzzle pressed under his chin. Small entry with blackened star-like striations at the edge indicates a contact wound. Gun hand on his belly. No evident exit wound, minimal blood. Bladder and bowels had let go, and there’s vomit on the back of the passenger seat. That last had to be pre-mortem, and might explain why he decided to give a bullet a try. Assuming he’d been the one to pull the trigger.

Even with two doors open, the interior reeks. Besides the stench of shit, piss and puke, the air is thick with the bittersweet smell of burnt powder. And something else, just a hint I can’t place at first. A familiar odor that hovers at the edge of scent. Then I have a thought. I look at the console under the dash. The ashtray is full of change.

I rise, my stomach burbling. Take a moment to breathe.

“What do you think?” Susan asks.

“He’s not gonna make it.” I close my eyes and strip off the gloves. Turn and take a couple of unsteady steps. My hands feel clammy and cold, and the urge for a cigarette swells up in my chest like a bubble. After my initial review of so many crime scenes I’d lost count the first thing I’ve always done is wander off to the side for a smoke and a little thinking. Nothing like a smoke to clear the mind, along with the nasal passages. But about three months back I saw that first vivid streak of crimson in the urinal. It wasn’t long after that my internist sent me to Doctor Tobias Hern, oncologist, who explained the link between smoking and bladder cancer with the help of full-color photos in a medical text book. “We can beat this, Thomas,” he told me, “but you have to work with me. The time has come to end your dependency on cigarettes.” Bastard. Still, I did what he said, for all the good it’s done me. Blood still tints the john, and now my gut is in on the act. God only knows what that means.


I open my eyes. Susan stands in front of me, her face a mask of concern. I feel a thin coat of sweat on my cheeks and neck despite the morning chill, and I realize I’m holding my breath. I press a hand against my stomach and breathe, fixing my eyes on her own. “Does Doctor Hern have something to do with this mess?”

“He’s your doctor too, right?” She hands me my tea. “His name has turned up on pill bottles at several scenes in the last couple of weeks.”

“Jesus, Susan, what are you telling me?”

“Four suicides.”

“This one too?”

“One of the responding officers found a twenty-five between the body and seat back when he was checking for I.D.”

Across the river, the fog is thinning, but it remains dense around my head.

“You knew I was Doctor Hern’s patient when you told that asshole to bring me here.” I knead my gut with my free hand, try to massage the rat into complaisance. “What exactly is going on, Susan?”

I hear the wren call and Susan looks out across the river. “A young woman named Jerilyn Titchmer came to us a week or so ago. She had a list of five names, five men whom she claimed were targets. One was her father, Davis Titchmer. He was dead, self-inflicted gun shot the previous week. Kirk and I had given it a glance, but didn’t think there was anything there. Of the other four men, two were dead, also suicides. Now another one is in that Jeep.” She points as if I need to be reminded which Jeep she’s talking about.

“That doesn’t explain how Doctor Hern comes into it.”

“Jeri Titchmer knew the dead men were his patients. She claimed they became friends through some kind of support group he runs.”

I know about the group. Coping with cancer, that kind of bullshit. It’s not actually Hern’s group—it’s run by Jimmy Zirk. I’m not a sit-in-a-circle-and-share kinda guy, so I’ve never gone. Not sure Doc even knows I’d given it a miss.

“And this daughter thinks what, exactly?”

“She was pretty vague, to be honest—adamant about only one thing. She is convinced her father didn’t commit suicide.”

“They never think dad scrambled his own eggs.” No response. The rat squirms and I suppress a grimace. “What’s Owen say?”

“He’s a problem.” She purses her lips, a strong reaction for Susan. “His position is that Jeri Titchmer is crazy, unwilling to accept her father’s suicide and desperate for another explanation. The congruence of the suicides is a fluke, and not surprising given the men’s medical history. No reason to suspect foul play. He doesn’t want us wasting time on it.”

“But you think there’s something more.”

She exhales noisily. “Listen, Owen is probably right. But he has us all on a tight leash these days. I can’t do anything without him yanking me back.”

“Dolack?” Her partner since I’d dropped out.

“He’s new, Skin. He’s not going to cross Owen.”

“Wouldn’t wanna piss off his sugar daddy.” I sigh. “Okay, what’s your theory?”

“Not much, at this point. Five men on Jeri Titchmer’s list, four now dead. The connection is the daughter.”

“And Hern?”

“Probably peripheral.”

I close my eyes a moment. “You think the girl killed them?”

“Or she knows something she isn’t telling.”

“And since I’m tits in the wind you figure I’m free to take a run at her. Christ, Susan, have you noticed anything unusual about me lately?”

She reaches into her jacket pocket and hands me a sheaf of a dozen or so folded pages. “I need a fresh pair of eyes to take a look, see if there is anything that will force Owen to open this up. Something more than a crazy daughter or the fact the men were all in the same cancer support group.”

I flip through the pages, photocopies of notes written in Susan’s small, careful script. “Three of the men were dead when the girl appeared with the list?”

“That’s right.”

“So at that point she’s just nuts with grief. Now you got a fresh corpse and it looks like she knew what was going to happen.”

“You don’t think Orwoll killed himself?”

“I dunno. Probably he did, but get Ident over here before Owen has a chance to stop you. Maybe something will turn up.” I look at the Jeep and shrug. “In any case, you don’t need me. What you need is get to the fifth guy—” I check the first page of notes, see the name. “Abe Brandauer, whoever—and protect him. Then round up this girl and sit on her till she gives.” I offer the pages back to her.

“Keep them—” She seems about to say more, but her eyes move past me and she presses her lips together. I turn, but I already know who’s there. I jam the notes into my back pocket before he catches sight of them.

“Kadash, what in hell’s holy name are you doing here?”

Richard Owen is a big man, gut like a sack of feed corn, bald head, slick of grey sidecar hair behind the ears. He’s wearing an expensive, well-cut blue pinstripe suit. Not so long ago, he’d been one of us, just another dick on the Homicide Detail, but shortly before I took leave he got kicked up to lieutenant in charge of Person Crimes. I guess with the new rank, he had to upgrade his wardrobe to something more appropriate for a guy who now spent half his time on the fourteenth floor trying to be seen by the chief.

“I asked you a question, Kadash.” Loud enough for everyone present to hear.

“I guess I just miss hanging with the cool kids.”

He glances around. Susan’s eyes are fixed past his ear, which appears to confound him. Quickly he zeroes his sour glare back on me. “You’re supposed to be sick.”

“You can’t believe anything you read on the internet.”

The uniforms have all stopped what they were doing and now stand quietly watching the scene unfold. Off beyond the crime scene tape on the Esplanade side of the lot, a few civilians gather. Kirk Dolack appears off Owen’s left flank. He glances my way but doesn’t meet my gaze. Owen’s got his big bad scary cop face working, which has the same affect on me as a clown face on a balloon.

He puts his hand on Susan’s shoulder. “A word with you, Detective.” To me he says, “You don’t go anywhere. Dolack, stay with him.” He and Susan go around to the far side of the Jeep. I can see his head bob, like a pigeon on a roid rage, but he keeps his voice down. Susan only nods and offers monosyllabic responses.

Beside me, Dolack reaches into his shirt pocket, pulls out a pack of Merits. He lights up casually, his eyes narrowing at the rising smoke. Pretty goddamn brash with the lieutenant twenty feet away. Then he surprises me by extending the pack.

I want a cigarette like I want my next breath. “No, thanks. I quit.”

“Really?” he says. “Little late for that, isn’t it?”

“At least I have the capacity for change, Kirk. You’ll always be a cunt.”

A jet of smoke shoots from his nostrils. Owen chooses that moment to return, sparing me Kirk’s attempt at a comeback. “Detective, get rid of that cigarette. You know better than that.” Dolack steps off to the side and flicks the butt into the street, his expression dark.

Owen’s draws himself up and looks at everyone in turn, an imperious chieftain. “Detective Mulvaney agrees with me that most likely the man in the car shot himself, but in light of other information we have about the victim we’re going to go ahead and give the Jeep a work over to see what turns up.” He focuses his gaze on me. “Since you have no business being here in the first place, Detective Kadash, you’re dismissed.”

The smart play is to get the hell out of there before my flapping gums get me any deeper in the shit. I look at Susan instead. “Two things come to mind. The driver’s seat is pushed forward, but Orwoll’s a tall fellow. Makes you wonder, did he move it up before climbing into the back, or was someone else driving?”

She pulls out her notebook, nodding and ignoring the heat rising on Owen’s neck. “Even if someone wiped the steering wheel and gear shift, they might have forgotten the seat adjustment lever.” A long shot, we both know, but it won’t hurt to check. “And the second thing?”

“Someone smoked in the car. You can smell it. But the ashtray’s clean.”

“Bullshit, Kadash,” Owen snaps. “If you smelled anything it was your own goddamn smoke.”

“Your boy’s the one who lit up at a crime scene, not me.” Owen’s ears turn red, but before he can pop off again I say to Susan, “We finished? I got a doctor’s appointment.”

She reaches out to squeeze my forearm. “I’ll walk you to your car, Skin.”

Nice to offer, but I’m still thinking about how I ended up here. “Don’t bother.”

I feel a hitch in my stomach as I push past Owen. Without thinking, I thrust the half-empty cup of tea into Dolack’s surprised hand. Manage not to laugh as the lip pops off and tea splashes onto his arm. As I head across the lot and under the tape, I hope I can complete my escape without throwing up. I need to clear my thoughts, to focus on something other than the body in the Jeep, something other than Owen. Down at the river, the wren calls again. The piercing trill does nothing to reassure me.

The Stolen: Chapter One

The Stolen by Jason Pinter


I saved the document and eased back in my chair. My body had grown accustomed to long days and nights spent in its discomfort. The first few months, I would go home nearly every day with a sore tailbone or stiff back, wondering if the supplies department would turn a blind eye and let me expense a newer model. Eventually I forgot about it. Then one day, I noticed I hadn’t thought about the aches and pains in months. They were a part of me now.

The last three days and nights had sped by in a blur of keystrokes, chinese food containers and discarded coffee cups. I was on the kind of crash deadline that a year ago would have had me sweating rivulets, but now barely raised my pulse. The fact was, without those deadlines to keep me focused, the pains might not have ebbed away.

Saving the file, I looked outside my window over Rockefeller Plaza. The view had changed—bright morning into gauzy summer afternoon, fading into the kind of New York night where the bright lights disguised any sense of time.

Until a few months ago, the night always heralded the end of my work day. I would file my story with Evelyn Waterstone, the Gazette’s Metro editor, pack up my things, throw some goodbyes to my night shift colleagues and one or two guys at the sports desk who were putting together the box scores, and head home to meet Amanda. Good conversation, a hot shower, maybe a movie or a show we’d recorded, they’d all be waiting. Then I’d fall asleep with a whisper of hair across my face.

We’d met two years ago. Our introduction wasn’t exactly the set up for most romantic comedies. Our paths crossed while I was on the run after bring falsely accused of murder. I had nobody to turn to. Nowhere to go. And just when the situation was at its bleakest, Amanda offered a hand to me, a total stranger. She saved my life. She was running from her own demons, having come from a broken home, spending her childhood recapping her life in small notebooks because she assumed everyone she met would eventually abandon her. It was this that brought us together. We were both damaged, but together we were whole. She was everything I wanted in a partner. Strong, brilliant, beautiful. And she laughed at my jokes that made everyone else cringe. I repaid her by offering all the love I had to give. Had I offered merely love, it would have been more than enough. It’s the other baggage I brought along that was too much for our relationship to bear.

Six months ago, a killer began terrorizing the city by publicly executing those he felt deserved his wrath. I was able to weave together the strands of his mysterious past and learned the horrific truth about his ancestry. During my search, the killer turned his sights not just towards me, but to those I loved.

He brutally attacked my ex, Mya Loverne, and left her fighting for her life. He broke into Amanda’s office at the New York Legal Aid Society and nearly killed her. It was then, in the aftermath of those acts of violence, that I realized what I had to do. To protect those I loved, I had to turn away. I had to shield them from myself.

There was nothing more I would have wanted than to spend the rest of my life with her, playing shuffleboard and eating dinner at noon, doing whatever old couples did. It should have been easy. I mean everyone complains about how hard it is to find someone in New York City. Once you find the right person, you hold on to them for dear life. Unfortunately I had to do the opposite.

Amanda nearly lost her life because of me, because of my work. And because being a reporter was in my blood, I shuddered to think that it was only a matter of time before those odds caught up. So I left her. In the middle of the street. And every day since I’m had to think about my decision.

We have not spoken in six months. My apartment, once warm with her presence, was now cold and uninviting. The stove, where we used to burn our attempts at lasagna, hadn’t seen a pan in weeks. The place reeked of carelessness, abandoned by an owner who felt like a stranger in his own home.

Work had always been my passion. Now it was my whole life.

Underneath my desk was a small duffel bag in which I kept a clean shirt, slacks and a pair of loafers. Every other day I would venture back to that unfamiliar home, unload the dirty laundry and pack up a clean change of clothes. Every other week the accumulation of soiled attire would be sent to the cleaners, and the cycle would start again. I would change in the men’s room, always drawing a few were you just wearing that? looks from my colleagues.

I heard a noise behind me, turned to see Evelyn Waterstone striding up to my desk. Evelyn had barely given me the time of day when I first started working at the Gazette, but she’d warmed considerably over the past few months. Evelyn was in her late fifties, a solid tree stump of a woman who commanded attention, respect, and made everyone leap to the side when she walked by. Like many of the newspaper’s top talent, Evelyn was unmarried and childless. She was also one of the best editors in the business. Somehow I’d grudgingly gained her respect. I figured as long as I kept my head down and did what I did best, it would stay that way.

“Got your story, Parker,” she said, barely slowing down as she approached, then stopping abruptly before she knocked my desk over. “I swear you must have replaced your brain this year or taken basic grammar and spelling lessons. I haven’t had to smack my head in frustration at your copy in almost a month. You keep it up like this I might actually be able to cut back on the migraine medication.”

“They say reading is the cure for all ills,” I said.

Evelyn eyed me skeptically. “Who said that?”

“You know…they.”

“Tell ‘they’ that they can shove their quotations up my keester. Anyway, keep up the not-so-terrible work. You’re giving me more time to spend with crustaceans whose brains haven’t fully grasped the ‘i before e’ concept.” Evelyn shot a glance towards Frank Rourke, the city’s top sports columnist, to whom grammar was a term of endearment for his mother’s mother.

Then Evelyn leaned forward. Sniffed. Scrunched up her nose.

“My god Parker, you stink worse than O’Donnell the morning after St Patrick’s Day. Your pieces might be clean, but you reek like my nephew’s diaper. Go home and shower, seriously, otherwise I’ll tell Wallace he has a rodent infestation on the twelfth floor.”

“I’m not that bad, am I?” I raised an arm, took a whiff, and immediately nodded in agreement.

“I’m on my way.”

When Evelyn had left, I took the duffel out from beneath my desk, opened it. Took a whiff.

Closed it right up. Maybe it was best to just burn this load.

I grabbed the bag, left the office, took a cab to my apartment. I blew in the door, took a three minute shower, and seven minutes after that I was wearing a fresh outfit with a spare packed away. Another cab brought me back to Rockefeller, where I strode in the door with a sense of pride that I knew was well undeserved. I waved to the night security team. They were too busy watching a ballgame to wave back. I took the elevator back to twelve.

The newsroom was nearly empty. A quiet newsroom felt like an unnatural beast, but I’d grown used to it.

I opened my drawer, pulled out a down pillow I’d bought myself as a present. I took a fresh pillow cover from the bag, pulled it on. Buried somewhere in those drawers, beneath a mountain of papers, was a photo of Amanda. I’d taken it at a concert at Jones Beach last summer. It was raining. I was concerned the camera would be ruined. Amanda told me not to worry, that if special moments weren’t worth some sort of risk, how special could they be?

Without saying another word I took the photo. She was right. The moment was worth far more than the risk.

Her hair was plastered to her cheeks, her neck. Her tank-top clinging to her slick body like silk. Her eyes were closed, the music pouring through her. That was my favorite photo of Amanda. It used to sit on my desk. Now I couldn’t even look at it, because it only made me think of the night I ended the best thing in my life.

Then I did what I’d been doing every night for the past four months. I placed the pillow on my desk, put my head down, and slept.

Chapter 1

“James, get your behind down here and finish your greens!”

Shelly’s voice boomed through the house, and even though it took eight year-old James Linwood only thirty seconds to turn off his Xbox and race down the stairs, his younger sister Tasha was already sitting at the table, eyeing him while munching loudly on a celery stalk. When James sat down, Tasha, six years old but already a grandmaster at sibling rivalry, stuck a green, mush-filled tongue out at her brother, who was more than happy to return the favor.

“That’s enough, both of you. James, baby, I never excused you from the table. You have to ask to be excused.” James looked at his mother and gave an exaggerated sigh, then picked up a single piece of lettuce. He took a bite, grimacing like it had been marinating in oyster juice. “I don’t know what you’re looking at me for,” Shelly said. “Some people actually like eating their vegetables.”

Tasha nodded along with her mother, opened wide and shoved a whole stalk of celery in her mouth.

“Those people are stupid,” James said, nibbling at the lettuce.

“No, if you knew what kind of vitamins and minerals veggies had you’d know those people are quite smart,” Shelly said. “Did you know LeBron James eats a double helping of carrots before every game?”

“Does not,” James replied.

“Does too,” said Shelly.

“Does too,” said Tasha.

James gave his sister a cold glare. He tore off a piece of lettuce and chewed it with vigor, letting several shreds of green gristle fall onto the table.

Shelly watched her children eat, their eyes more concerned with her approval than their nutrition. The soft jingle of a wind chime could be heard from the back porch, the faint noise of a television set blaring from the house next door. Mrs Niederman’s hearing had begun to go last year, and now she watched Alex Trebek at a volume that could be heard from space.

Shelly took a moment to gaze around her house. Just a few years ago, the back porch was ridden with termites, the wood rotted, the whole structure ready to collapse. She never would have let Tasha and James play on it. Randy was never very good with tools, and they simply didn’t have the money to rebuild it. Not yet.

After their terrible ordeal, when their family had been fractured, the good samaritans of Hobbs County reached out to help the Linwoods. Now barely a day passed where James and Tasha weren’t outside shooting off water guns, dangling from the railing like a pair of spider monkeys. At least the porch had been rebuilt.

While the kids were at school, while Randy was away at work, Shelly would often find herself looking at the old photos of their house, taken when they’d first moved in years ago. She barely recognize what it had become.

The white paint was fresh, blue trim even, the mailbox upright. Nobody egged their house after Halloween, and she never had to call the police to report the teenagers who used to drive by once a week and knock the mailbox sideways with wielded baseball bats. Those kinds of things never happened anymore. There were more cops; she could feel their presence. They stopped by every so often, just to see how she and Randy were holding up. I’m fine, Shelly would say.We’re fine.

They always turned down a cup of coffee. As though being any closer to the sorrow might somehow infect them.

James was grimacing through his last scraps of food when Shelly heard the doorbell.

“That’s got to be Daddy,” Shelly said. “He probably forgot his keys again this morning. James, would you let your father in?” James didn’t move. “Did you hear me?”

“I’m cleaning my plate like you told me. I can’t answer the door and eat at the same time.” He smiled at this catch-22. Shelly sighed, though silently proud of her son’s intelligence.

“Fine, you can stop eating if you let your father in. But if I hear that video game start up before you finish your social studies homework you won’t watch television until you graduate college.”

James sprung up like he’d been in an ejector seat, bolted from his chair.

Shelly smiled at her daughter. Tasha. Her beautiful, young daughter, who would grow up to be strong and vivacious like her mother had never been. Shelly felt an ache in her stomach, placed her palm on Tasha’s cheek. Tasha smiled at her, that big goofy grin full of baby teeth.

“Mom?” James’s voice bellowed from the hallway. “There’s a kid here. Do you know anyone named Daniel.”

A napkin fell from Shelly’s hand and fluttered to the floor.

“Wha…what did you say baby?”

“Daniel. There’s some kid at the door says he knows you. Wait, huh? Uh, mom? He says…he says you’re his mom.”

Shelly leapt from her seat. She dashed through the house, nearly knocking over the coffee table, and sprinted into the front hallway.

The wooden frame was open to reveal the screen door. Daniel was standing behind the screen, looking confused as to why he hadn’t been allowed in yet. Shelly covered her mouth to prevent a scream from leaving her lips.

On the other of the door side stood a boy Shelly both knew and didn’t know. He was about five foot three with a lock of dark hair that fell over his hazel eyes. His father’s eyes. His limbs were gangly, full of sharp angles, like he’d grown a great deal in a short amount of time and the flesh hadn’t caught up to his bones. Everything and nothing was just like she remembered.

“Baby, oh my god…”

She gently pushed James away from the door and tore open the screen. The boy stood on the front porch with a look of slight bewilderment, a twinkle of recognition, a blurry memory slowly coming into focus. He didn’t move. Instead the boy’s eyes met Shelly’s as though waiting for something, and before another second passed Shelly Linwood gathered the boy up into her arms and squeezed him like there was no tomorrow, until his arms tentatively wrapped themselves around her body and held on. She remembered how he felt in her arms, and though heavier, he was the same boy she’d held in her arms for the first five years of his life. She showered the boy’s head with kisses until he pulled away slightly, an embarrassed grin on his young face.

“Oh my god,” she whispered. “Oh my god, oh my god oh my god. Baby, is it really you?” The boy shrugged, then was muffled as Shelly attempted to squeeze the life out of him again.

Shelly heard a car pull up. When the engine cut off, she looked up to see Randy’s silver V70 Volvo in the driveway. The door opened, and her husband climbed out with a groan. Randy was forty one, just ten pounds heavier than when they’d met in high school. His jawline still prominent above a slight jowl, his arms still maintaining some of the tone from his linebacker days at Hobbs High. Shelly loved to run her hands down his arms when he lay on top of her, the definition of his triceps making her shiver. It had been a year since she last felt that, but now she needed to feel him closer more than ever.

Her family.

Randy stretched his back, ran his fingers through his thinning hair, then reached back inside to grab his briefcase.

“Honey,” he said, noticing the commotion on the front porch. “Please tell me there’s a left over Michelob left in the fridge, I…”

“It’s Daniel,” Shelly blurted. “He’s back.”

Randy looked up, confused. Then when everything came into focus, his briefcase fell to the ground. He stared for a moment, shaking his head, then leapt up the steps to join his wife. He placed his palm over the boy’s forehead, pulled his hair back, gazing into the young, confused eyes. Then he joined his wife in the embrace.

“You people are weird,” James muttered. “I don’t get it, who is he?”

“This,” Randy said, turning the boy to face him, “is your brother. His name is Daniel. Do you remember him?”

James had been just three when it all happened. She didn’t take it personally when Daniel looked at them, bewilderment reigning over his face, a slight twinkle of memory.

“My brother?” James said. “I thought he was, like, stolen or something.”

“He was,” Shelly said, stroking Daniel’s hair. “But thank you God, somehow our boy has found his way home.”

James looked at Daniel. There were no bruises on his body; no cuts or scrapes. His clothes looked new enough to still have the tags on them. Though he was so young, Shelly wondered if James remembered all those people rushing in and out of their house. Men and women with badges, other loud people with cameras and microphones. Once on an Easter egg hunt, Shelly had entered the bedroom to find James and Tasha rifling through a trunk stuffed full of newspaper clippings about Daniel’s disappearance. James had asked Shelly about Daniel once, and she answered with a single tear, a trembling lip. He never asked again.

To Shelly, this was God’s will. It was fate that her family be reunited.

To James Linwood, though, he couldn’t understand how his brother, who’d disappeared without a trace, could simply reappear like magic without a scratch on him.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thursday's Special Is...The Stolen!

The Stolen by Jason Pinter

Buy from Amazon

Jason Pinter is the bestselling author of the THE STOLEN, THE GUILTY and THE MARK, which was nominated for the Strand Magazine Critics award, the Barry award, the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award, and was optioned for film. His critically acclaimed Henry Parker series has been published in more than 10 countries in over half a dozen languages. Jason’s weblog, “The Man in Black,” was named one of the top mystery blogs by Library Journal and one of the top writing and publishing blogs by Associated Content. He is a member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, and is a founding member of Killer Year. He lives in New York City with his wife Susan and their dog Wilson, and is currently at work on his next Henry Parker novel.


Book excerpt:

James was grimacing through his last scraps of food when Shelly heard the doorbell.

“That’s got to be Daddy,” Shelly said. “He probably forgot his keys again this morning. James, would you let your father in?” James didn’t move. “Did you hear me?”

"I’m cleaning my plate like you told me. I can’t answer the door and eat at the same time.” He smiled at this catch-22. Shelly sighed, though silently proud of her son’s intelligence.

“Fine, you can stop eating if you let your father in. But if I hear that video game start up before you finish your social studies homework you won’t watch television until you graduate college.”

James sprung up like he’d been in an ejector seat, bolted from his chair.

Shelly smiled at her daughter. Tasha. Her beautiful, young daughter, who would grow up to be strong and vivacious like her mother had never been. Shelly felt an ache in her stomach, placed her palm on Tasha’s cheek. Tasha smiled at her, that big goofy grin full of baby teeth.

“Mom?” James’s voice bellowed from the hallway. “There’s a kid here. Do you know anyone named Daniel.”

A napkin fell from Shelly’s hand and fluttered to the floor.

“Wha…what did you say baby?”

“Daniel. There’s some kid at the door says he knows you. Wait, huh? Uh, mom? He says…he says you’re his mom.”

Shelly leapt from her seat. She dashed through the house, nearly knocking over the coffee table, and sprinted into the front hallway.

The wooden frame was open to reveal the screen door. Daniel was standing behind the screen, looking confused as to why he hadn’t been allowed in yet. Shelly covered her mouth to prevent a scream from leaving her lips.

On the other of the door side stood a boy Shelly both knew and didn’t know. He was about five foot three with a lock of dark hair that fell over his hazel eyes. His father’s eyes. His limbs were gangly, full of sharp angles, like he’d grown a great deal in a short amount of time and the flesh hadn’t caught up to his bones. Everything and nothing was just like she remembered.

“Baby, oh my god…”

She gently pushed James away from the door and tore open the screen. The boy stood on the front porch with a look of slight bewilderment, a twinkle of recognition, a blurry memory slowly coming into focus. He didn’t move. Instead the boy’s eyes met Shelly’s as though waiting for something, and before another second passed Shelly Linwood gathered the boy up into her arms and squeezed him like there was no tomorrow, until his arms tentatively wrapped themselves around her body and held on. She remembered how he felt in her arms, and though heavier, he was the same boy she’d held in her arms for the first five years of his life. She showered the boy’s head with kisses until he pulled away slightly, an embarrassed grin on his young face.

“Oh my god,” she whispered. “Oh my god, oh my god oh my god. Baby, is it really you?” The boy shrugged, then was muffled as Shelly attempted to squeeze the life out of him again.


1) Name two things that Jason can't do at the same time.

2) Someone's standing at Jason's front door. He (or she) has urgent business with Jason. Who is this person, and what do they want?

3) What did five-year-old Jason like to squeeze?

**Come back Friday to read chapter one in its entirety! A very nice weekend treat!!**

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wednesday's Special Is...Chasing Smoke!

Chasing Smoke by Bill Cameron

Buy from Amazon

Bill Cameron lives and works in Portland, Oregon. His stories have appeared in Spinetingler, The Dunes Review, The Alsop Review, as well as The Portland Southeast Examiner. He is a member of Friends of Mystery and serves as Vice President of the Northwest Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

His debut novel Lost Dog is available from Midnight Ink Books. His second novel, Chasing Smoke, will be available from Bleak House Books in November 2008.

Lost Dog is a Rocky Nominee for Best Novel set in the Left Coast Crime Geographic Region, as well as a runner up for the Spotted Owl Award for Best Novel of 2008 by a Northwest author.
"Slice of Pie," Bill's contribution to Killer Year: Stories to Die For was described as an "irony-filled gem" in the Chicago Tribune.

This excerpt is from the second chapter, shortly after his partner has roped him in to helping with an investigation off the books. He's decided to go see his friend Ruby Jane, owner of a local coffee shop, to distract himself from thinking about an upcoming doctor's appointment at which he expects bad news. As the moment opens, Skin, a long-time smoker who's recently quit, has been watching a fellow smoke outside the coffee shop.

Ruby Jane sets a pair of steaming mugs on the table, then slides into the seat across from me, her movement awkward. I can see she still favors her left leg. She swivels her head toward the window. “I thought you were going to go right through the glass after that guy’s cigarette.”

“I don’t do my own stunts.” I grab a mug and give it a sniff. Smells more like fruitcake than tea.
“It’s got cinnamon, nutmeg, milk, and a little honey. Thought you might like a change.”
I take a sip and resist the urge to make a face. “A year ago you’d’ve been in for some police brutality if you tried serving me one of these frou-frou tea concoctions.”

“Glad it’s a hit.”

"Oh, it’s great stuff. Lovin’ it.”

“It’s decaf.”

"You’re under arrest.”

She rolls her eyes and sips her own tea. “What’s the news?”

“I’m still not dead. Film at eleven.”

“How’s your treatment going?”

“I could ask you the same.”

“Yeah, but I asked first.”

I gaze down into my mug. “Been in a holding pattern. I just had some more tests.”

“You gonna need more surgery?”

“I don’t know. Doc is supposed to have news for me this morning.”

She doesn’t say anything, picks up her mug and drinks. Ruby Jane isn’t a woman who speaks just to fill the silence. It’s one of the things I like about her. She has a round face and dimples, with blue eyes beneath reddish-brown bangs. She’s inclined toward colorful hats and vests, but this morning she wears only a black turtleneck and billowy cotton pants under a teal apron that matches the awning outside. Hair back in a short pony tail.

“You still doing the physical therapy?” I ask her.

She smiles tightly and nods. “Down to twice a month now though.”


“How’d you know?”

“Your togs are more restrained than usual.”

She touches one finger to the side of her nose. “You oughta be a cop.”

“I’ll never give up the carnie life. How much longer do you have?”

“Too damn long. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever walk right again.”

“These things take time,” is what I do not say. Ruby Jane is no more amenable to empty platitudes than I am. The previous December she’d been shot, leg and gut. I was part of the investigation, a complicated mess that could have ended much worse than it did. “How’s Pete doing?” I ask after a moment.

Ruby Jane swirls her tea. “Okay, I guess. He’s on the road, touring plant nurseries down in California. I haven’t talked to him for a while.”

“He hasn’t called?”

She doesn’t seem to want to make eye contact. “I told him I needed a breather.”


I see Roger leaning over the pastry case, pointing out selections to one of the counter girls. The girl adds scones and Danishes to a large box. Her bare forearms are swathed in a tangle of tattooed green vines and orange blossoms. Roger mumbles something I can’t hear and the girl laughs. She has a silver stud in her tongue.

“I don’t know, Skin. I admit I rushed into things with Pete, but sometimes you meet someone and it just feels right. You’re laughing at each other’s jokes, finishing each other’s sentences. Every moment is natural and comfortable, like it was always meant to be. And then, time passes, and something changes. You know each other better and better in the little ways, so it feels like you’re growing closer. But in the big ways—” She fiddles with her mug. “Pete knows exactly how I like my coffee.”



1) Bill is in training as a stunt double for the next Indiana Jones movie starring Harrison Ford. In fact, Bill's been so good as a stuntman, the director is going to let him choose a title for the movie. What is the title he chooses?

2) How many vests does Bill own?

3) Speaking of finishing sentences, let's finish Bill's last sentence a bit differently. "Pete knows exactly how I like..."


Chasing Smoke is being released as a simultaneous trade paper and hardcover, plus a limited-edition hardcover called "Evidence Collection." The Evidence Collection version is distinguished by special endpapers and a Booking Sheet bound into the front which is signed and numbered and features a thumbprint. (see photo below)

**Come back Friday to read chapter one in its entirety! A very nice weekend treat!!**

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tuesday's special is...The Flavor Bible

A Book and a Bottle

First, the book:

The Flavor Bible, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg.

Great cooking goes beyond following a recipe—it's knowing how to season ingredients to coax the greatest possible flavor from them. Drawing on dozens of leading chefs' combined experience in top restaurants across the country, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg present the definitive guide to creating "deliciousness" in any dish.

Now, the bottle:

Answer three questions below about wine and the stuff we put into our stomachs to absorb it (food), and not only might you win a personalized, autographed copy of The Flavor Bible, but also a bottle of 90+ rated wine from

Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, wine columnists for The Washington Post, are the award-winning authors of Becoming a Chef, Culinary Artistry, Dining Out, Chef's Night Out, The New American Chef, and What to Drink With What You Eat. Visit their website here. Buy their books from Amazon here.

An excerpt from The Flavor Bible:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

We could simply give you a recipe for shrimp, and then you’d know one way to cook shrimp. But we wanted to be more generous than that—so instead our new book gives you an infinite number of ways to cook shrimp over your lifetime!

Here is a sample listing from The Flavor Bible, which lists modern flavor pairings for hundreds of ingredients, from Apples to Zucchini Blossoms. You can look up any ingredient, and discover the herbs, spices and other seasonings that best enhance their flavor—along with some of the best cooking techniques to use with that ingredient. Put them all together, and you’ve got a delicious new dish!


Season: year-round
Weight: light-medium (depending on size)
Volume: quiet
Techniques: bake, barbecue, boil, broil, deep-fry, grill, poach, roast, sauté, steam, stir-fry

Flavor pairings:

Arugula, avocado, bacon, basil, bay leaf, beans, bell peppers, butter, carrots, cayenne, celery, celery root, chile peppers, chives, cilantro, cinnamon, clams, crab, cream, curry powder, garlic, ginger, lemon, lime, mint, mushrooms, mustard, olive oil, onions, orange, parsley, pepper, rosemary, saffron, salt, scallions, sesame, shallots, soy sauce, stocks, thyme, tomatoes, vinegar, and wine.

Flavor affinities:

Shrimp+basil+garlic+jalapeno chile
Shrimp+black beans+coriander
Shrimp+cepes+curry powder+Dijon mustard
Shrimp+chiles+lime juice+brown sugar
Shrimp+crab+old bay seasoning
Shrimp+crab+pistachio nuts+watercress
Shrimp+ginger+green apple+saffron
Shrimp+white beans+bell peppers+orange+sausage

Some tips:

"Fruit works easily with shellfish. You need to be careful, though, and counteract some of the sweetness of the fruit with vinegar or a citrus juice like lemon. Watermelon works well with shellfish, and I particularly like it with lobster, shrimp and crab."
—Gabriel Kreuther, The Modern (New York City)

"I love vanilla with shellfish, because it brings out the sweetness. It works with scallops, lobster or shrimp. I make a lobster-vanilla bisque that is one of my favorite soups. I also serve a scallop dish with vanilla, almonds, and orange. The vanilla brings up the sweet, the almonds add crispness to the creamy, rich scallops, and the orange adds some acid. The dish also works really well with grapefruit instead of orange, and gives it a tart flavor as well."
—Bob Iacovone, Cuvee (New Orleans)

* * *
Now, the questions:

1. Dornenburg and Page order shrimp sautéed in a spicy sauce with jalapeño, mint, and garlic, topped with shredded fresh coconut (a recipe from their book). What kind of wine do they select to accompany it?

a. White, slightly sweet, delicately perfumed
b. White, dry, crisp, steely
c. Rosé, spritzy, tangy
d. Red, robust, woody, velvety

2. The sommelier, handing the cork to Dornenburg for inspection, accidentally drops it into the Roquefort dressing. What does Dornenburg do?

3. What is your favorite shrimp dish? What makes it work? Dornenburg and Page want to know.

Provide the best answers and win a personalized copy of The Flavor Bible straight from the authors' shelf. Book Roast will kick in a bottle of 90+ rated wine from What kind of wine? The readers shall decide:

The fine print: Wine can be shipped only to the following states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Washington D.C., West Virginia, and Wyoming. If you live elsewhere we'll send the bottle to a friend or relative in one of these states. Or if you prefer, we'll send you an empty bottle, complete with its original cork, and you can amuse yourself wondering how it would have tasted, had you, instead of the Book Roast team, been the one to drink it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

More to come in Super September!

We're giving you a few days to let the agents settle, but be sure to head back here this Tuesday when we kick off our eight-day writer roast:

Tues, Sept 16: Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page
Wed, Sept 17: Bill Cameron
Thur, Sept 18: Jason Pinter

Mon, Sep 22: Donna Storey
Tues, Sep 23: Ray Wong
Wed, Sep 24: Danette Haworth
Thurs, Sep 25: Susan Gilmore
Fri, Sep 26: Sara Thacker

We'll be open for business 6:00 a.m. Eastern Time, Tuesday 16 September when we'll be discussing food - real food! - with Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page.

Remember that our 24-hour business hours for the week means that as soon as one contest is done, we start cooking with another! No waiting!

Friday Feeding Frenzy....More Chumly Chum

Friday posting here!

Friday Feeding Frenzy... More Chum

For better scrolling...

I'm going to turn comment off on the previous thread so we can all post here.

Friday Feeding Frenzy...more chum on the waters

A new thread for faster sculling, sorry, scrolling.

What Janet does to children's books

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Friday Feeding Frenzy

Please meet the rather wonderful Janet Reid. Her blog is one of the most delicious slices of agenting life around. Let's look back in time to some sage words from Janet, from 2005. And, just for fun, let's add a little Book Roast perspective to her wisdom.

Based on one of Janet's blog posts from August 2005

Seven Ways to Make Your Agent Crazy

1.Give your contracts to your son/daughter/neighbor who’s a lawyer “just for a quick glance”. (Janet)

So a law student is OK. Goody. (Book Roast team)

2. Discuss the business side of things with anyone before your agent. (Janet)

Poo? You want to talk about poo? Waaay TMI! (Book Roast team)

3. Delegate all business discussions to your spouse. (Janet)

This just simply never works. (Janet)

Even if my spouse is a law student? (Book Roast team)

4. Give talks at writers conferences on “how to get published”. (Janet)

What about 'how not to get published'? We think we could all contribute to that one. (Book Roast team)

5. Say always yes/always no to blurb requests. (Janet)

We at the Book Roast like saying yes to everything, then letting the chips fall where they may. Then, if necessary, setting fire to them to obscure the evidence. (Book Roast team)

6. Badmouth your publisher/agent/editor, and/or the industry in public. (Janet)

Agree. But we do respect the occasional motor mouth. (Book Roast team)

7. Not ask questions when you don’t understand something. (Janet)

But, surely, the more questions you ask, the stupider you look? (Book Roast team)

And the eighth way to make an agent crazy...invite her to Book Roast and don't offer her the whisky. Cheers, Janet!

Janet has been a great supporter of the nascent brilliance that is the Book Roast, dropping her authors in it, sorry dropping in to visit her authors when they are on the grill and helping us in many different ways. We'd like to thank her for everything she has done.

When she's not here, quaffing the water of life with us, Janet can be found at:

The Bar
Query Shark

Competition time...

For a copy of 'Scotland and its Whiskies: the Great Whiskies, the Distilleries and their Landscapes' by Michael Jackson, tell us your funniest whisky-fuelled story. Non-whisky drinkers (sigh) may substitute another liquor. Non-drinkers may disappoint me.