Thursday, October 30, 2008

Friday's Special Is...Earrings of Ixtumea!

Earrings of Ixtumea by Kim Baccellia

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Kim's writing credits include numerous poems published in a variety of magazines, ranging from Beginnings magazine and Latino Stuff Review to Coil magazine. Her poem, My Father , appears in the Mind Mutations Anthology published by The Sun Rising Poetry Press. Her essay on the adoption of her son, Finally, Our Turn , appeared in both Adoptive Families magazine and the Adoptive Families 2003-2004 Adoption Guide . She is also a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators ( SCBWI).

Another interesting thing about Kim is she's related to the author of "Tarzan." In that vein, let's get swinging with her excerpt!


Could the earrings really be a portal to some world, a world her abuela called Ixtumea?

For once she wished she had listened to those off-the-wall tales.

A high-pitched scream broke Lupe’s concentration. She pulled her earplugs out, thinking at first her iPod was broken. But the sound surrounded her. Startled, she dropped her iPod and backpack. Books and papers scattered on the ground. Passersby seemed not to hear the sound.

The inhuman scream increased in volume. The hairs on the back of Lupe’s neck stood up.

Will this nightmare never end?

Lupe looked around. What’s that sound? She expected to find someone hurt, but nothing appeared out of the ordinary.

Lupe bent to pick up her books and papers. As she shoved everything into her backpack, she glanced over her shoulder and bit her lip. She groped for her iPod. It lay in the gutter with a thin crack down its side.

The sound intensified.

She tossed the broken iPod inside her backpack, fumbling with the zipper. Adrenaline surged through her; she scrambled to get her legs under her, but they’d gone to jelly.

Then she saw him.

Out of nowhere, a bare-chested young man with funky leather underwear jogged across the street, coming toward her. His strong muscular torso rippled with each movement. The panic jangled through her, prickling her skin. Only one thought went through her mind: get home, and fast.

The stranger crossed the street, his eyes never leaving hers.


1) How many songs does Kim have on her I Pod?

2) What is Kim's favorite jelly?

3) Hmmm... "Funky leather underwear." Sounds like a perfect haiku topic, doesn't it? Get busy and write a haiku about funky underwear, leather or not.

Thursday's Special Is ... The Alien Abduction Handbook!

Order here from AudioBookMan.

Visit Peggy's website.

Roast Master Jason here for day two of our rock'em sock'em space theme!

Today, we're roasting Peggy Lee Johnson and her (decidedly nonfiction) book, THE ALIEN ABDUCTION HANDBOOK. God, if I only had that volume in my hands years ago. Seriously. I spend a fair amount of time isolated in the mountains, and you all know what happens up there. I have the 72 hybrid children/amoeba to prove it.

Seriously, Peggy is a blast. She gives more energy in a day than I've had since birth. For 15 years, she traveled all over the United States doing a living history, called Rendezvous. She has published six books and propelled felines into the 6th dimension with Cats in Space Magazine. I loved to learn that her writing space at home is called "The Bridge," and it's filled with Trekkie gear!

Peggy's latest book, THE ALIEN ABDUCTION HANDBOOK, was born from her abiding love of aliens. I'm ready to take notes, because I can't sit for more than five minutes at a time anymore. No more mountain trips for this human! The excerpt:

A common misconception among the human population is that we are going to abduct you when you are naked. No one is quite sure when or how this idea came to be. It can only be assumed that people have dreamed this during their nightmare dream state. It is a complete fallacy. After studying this matter for generations, the scientists aboard have made a few recommendations that they hope will help you plan for your abduction.

It is for your benefit that a majority of the Council recommends you go to bed early. This way, you will not be tired during your trip. They also recommend that you wear some type of loose-fitting clothing. They have no wish to see any more naked human forms. Take a few minutes and stand naked in front of a full length mirror. Think to yourself about what reflects back to you. Would you want that form to be the first thing that a visitor from another galaxy sees?

If you do not own a nice, flattering set of sleepwear, invest in some. Choose sleepwear preferably made of cotton, a renewable resource. It should also be noted that you are discouraged from wearing polyesters, or other man-made materials. Many of the man-made materials are highly flammable. Cotton holds up very well under duress. When possible, choose cotton.

Your visit may take awhile. The clothing that you wear during your abduction will be what you are photographed in. These photographs will become a permanent part of your record. Choose wisely. It is your file.

You may request access to your file while on-board. If you are not satisfied with said photograph, we will try to accommodate you, if possible. While all ships have state of the art digital capabilities, and technicians who are qualified to retouch photographs, this is not allowed. We apologize in advance. You may not have a copy to take back with you.

Carry-on luggage is forbidden. Do not pack extra clothing for the trip. If your clothing becomes soiled, there is a responsible party who maintains the laundry facility, and they can help you alleviate such stains.

In the past, abductees were allowed to bring small, battery-powered devices with them during an abduction. Some abductees abused this privilege, so we now forbid such devices.

We do not show up in cornfields, nor do we beam-in unannounced. We are civilized beings, and there are rules which we must follow. We will probably knock on your door as if we were a limo driver. In a sense, we are. We will introduce ourselves, and make sure that you have followed all instructions. The initial trip to the mother ship is very short. We have small transports to take you there. Please note, there are no stewardesses on board.

Once we reach our destination, our doctors will spend a few minutes with each of you. We have gone to great lengths to make this experience enjoyable for all. Rest assured that we take every precaution; your memory of this will be completely erased upon your return. I am sure you have heard your politicians reaffirm this fact when they say, “I do not recall.”

Are you ready for the contest?? Abduct the following questions, and return them unharmed with some spanking answers! (Or just hang out and chat. That's cool too!)

  1. In what circumstance do you tend to give the excuse of alien abduction? (Example: oh, my homework? Sorry. Alien abduction.)

  2. If aliens would be happy abducting part of you, which part would you choose? Also specify whether you want it returned.

  3. ET (The Extraterrestrial)...was he up to something?

Come back this weekend for a clip of an alien narrating this passage! In the meantime, be sure to check out Peggy's book trailer HERE.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wednesday's Special Is ... Heroes Die Young!

Order here from Amazon.

Visit Todd's Website.

Roast Master Jason here turnin' up the Wednesday heat for Todd Hunter and his new book, HEROES DIE YOUNG.

Todd doesn't mess around with his science fact, or his science fiction. He earned a degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Kansas. So yes, he's a rocket scientist. (Sorry, I couldn't resist. I've taken my share of abuse for being a Latin major.) Born and raised in Kansas, it's sometimes hard to believe that he could believe in space travel, let alone that other species exist in the universe. But when it comes to dreams and imagination, the sky's the limit. (Er, well, in this case, I guess the universe is the limit. But how can you be limited by the limitless? Damn, my head is starting to hurt.)

But to heck with hard science. Todd intentionally tosses out most of what he learned while working on tales that people actually enjoy. Usually, those involve some amount of drinking, and delectable predicaments for Aston West, his space pirate protagonist. Let's hitch a ride with him in HEROES DIE YOUNG:

"I’m in," I announced to Jeanie.

"Be careful."

Inside, I broke into a sweat from both the physical exertion and the climate controls aboard the freighter. Rulusians were from an extremely warm and humid jungle planet, and liked to make their ships feel like home. My heavy jacket didn’t help matters. Lines of sweat made their way down my face as I stepped away from the airlock hatch.

I turned my gaze to the entry corridor and saw carnage I wouldn’t soon forget. Rulusian bodies lay on either side of the hallway. Burn marks from energy weapons shone as black patches on a background of dark green skin. The putrid scent of scorched flesh was in the air. I passed an open doorway on my left and looked inside at crew quarters. More Rulusian corpses lay amidst sparks and clouds of smoke.

I lifted my sleeve again. "You’re sure there isn’t anyone on this ship?"

"Affirmative. All scans show nothing but you."

"This damage is too recent for my liking."

"Did the crew abandon ship?"

I grimaced. "Doesn’t look like it."

I continued toward the bridge. Dark blast marks lined the floor and frame around a blown access hatch. Smoke particles lingered in the air, and I detected a faint chemical odor as my eyes watered. I took slow, cautious steps through the opening and became witness to even more carnage. Ten more Rulusians were collapsed against the wall or slumped over consoles, all roasted by weapons fire. I definitely didn’t need to meet up with the people who had done this. I didn’t get into the scavenging business to be a hero. Everyone loves heroes, but heroes have a tendency to die young.

I glanced at displays as I stepped around the short end of an oval-shaped outer wall. All of them flickered with minimal power from backup systems, while I stepped over a pair of corpses. I stopped at a console and attempted to bypass the lockout. The sweat dripped from my face onto the screens and formed little pools that slowly worked up enough courage to slide down the panel. I realized my attempts were useless and walked to an access hatch at the back of the bridge.

"Jeanie, which bays contain contraband?"

"All of them."

A huge smile spanned my face. My dream come true.

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!
1. You're an interstellar developer who has just discovered an untouched jungle planet. Pitch us your plans for a quantum resort!

2. Phasers set to stun, or kill?

3. You're going to be alone in space for a long time. Whose voice do you want your computer to have?

Let's pump this contest up to the speed of light!
And as a special treat, Chapter 1 will be posted this weekend!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tuesday's Special Is ... Cries and Whiskers!

Cries and Whiskers by Clea Simon

Order here from Amazon.

Visit Clea's Website.

Clea Simon may be a dyed-in-the-wool liberal Democrat who grew up coloring on the backs of Eugene McCarthy posters, but she also values monogamy. Despite her all too easy-to-stereotype reputation, she only lives with one cat at a time. She likes the focus, the undivided attention, that slitted stare that says, "You're mine."

Why the reputation? Among numerous other books and stories, Clea has authored four cat caper cozies. Cries and Whiskers, which Booklist pegs as "Highly recommended," is number three. Number four, Probable Claws, is due out in April.

As for influences, Hilary Mantel and Anthony Trollop's writing had none on her own writing style, but she's still a huge fan of theirs. Oh, and the multi-talented Clea once played bass semi-professionally. Perhaps you heard her play in bands such as Wake Up Screaming or the Liggers? No?
But wait! Animal lover, musician, patron of a black-and-white tuxedo kitty named Musetta … Is Cries and Whiskers really a memoir camouflaged as a novel? Hmmm … Read this excerpt and see what you think. Then answer the questions for your chance to win an autographed copy of Clea's latest memoir novel.


(The heroine Theda's beloved house cat, Musetta, has gone missing in a wild winter storm. She feels terrible, thinks that Musetta got out because of her negligence. But after searching, setting humane traps, and posting "missing pet" posters, her friends tell her she needs to go home and eat.)

I wasn’t hungry. I felt like someone had slammed me full on into a wall. But I let him talk to me as if I still cared about meals and by the time we got off the phone, I’d humored him by making a turkey sandwich that tasted like paste.

“I love you, darling. Do you have something to keep your mind busy tonight?” I thought of that stupid tape, the column that was due, and grunted.

“Well, whatever it is, try not to worry too much.” Like that was going to happen. But he must have heard my silence. “Try to get some sleep, okay?”

“I’ll try, Bill. I love you, too. Thanks.”

I made a stab at transcribing the tape then, though the work goes slowly when you turn off the machine at every noise. But there were no calls, and no familiar mews kept me from finishing every fatuous word of it. God, the Swann’s Way guys were full of themselves. Writing would have been impossible, and by then my eyes were barely focusing. The bed was too empty for comfort, but I must have dozed off on the sofa. When the phone finally rang, I found myself tangled in the afghan that usually lies along the back. I nearly ripped it in my haste to grab the big, old phone’s receiver.

“Hello? Hello? I’m here!” Please, god, let it be someone with news of Musetta.

“We have your cat.” I went dizzy with relief.

“Oh, thank god! Where did you find her? Where are you? I’ll come out and pick her up.” I reached for my glasses and started looking around for a pair of dry shoes.

“No, you don’t understand.” The male voice on the line was muffled but clear. Still, his words confused me. “We have your cat. Back off with all the questions, and she’ll be all right.”

The line went dead in my hand and I was left staring, the only sound the buzz of the phone and the soft patter of wet snow against the window.


1) Name another food besides a turkey sandwich that tastes like paste in a time of crisis.
2) How many afghans does Clea own, and are any of them dogs?
3) What does Clea do to keep herself busy when she's trying not to worry?

Special Treat: We'll be posting Chapter One this weekend!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Monday's Special Is ... Janeology!

Janeology by Karen Harrington

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Watch the trailer

Visit Karen's website and blog

"Harrington begins with a fascinating premise and develops it fully. This debut novel is as much character study as a legal thriller." - Booklist

"In a thriller world saturated with James Pattersons, John Grishams and Stephen Kings, this debut novel from Karen Harrington comes as a breath of fresh air." - New Mystery Reader

"Not only is Harrington a masterful conjurer of a suspenseful thriller, but she is also a wordsmith able to maintain the reader's attention and involvement in her masterful exploration of the science of psychology, genetics, and the fascination with the concept of retrocognition, all the while unraveling a mystery not unlike decoding a strand of DNA." - Grady Harp, Amazon Vine Voice

Read the following excerpt, and answer the questions that follow for a chance to win a free copy of Janeology. Or, stop by and chat with Karen!

Here’s what I remember about that day. What I can’t forget about that day. It was hot and humid. My sweat-soaked shirt clung to my skin under the oppressive June heat. There are dozens of photos showing me like that. Dozens more of me as I was led away by an officer, my tie flapping up as I stumbled over the plastic toys in our front yard.

And then they led me to the jail where I found myself with Jane. We were alone in a cold room and I kept plucking the shirt material from my chest, still overcome by heat and shock.

There were no attorneys then. Funny, it’s hard now to remember my life before attorneys. That day, we were just two people sitting in a room waiting to have a conversation. You would never know that hours before Jane had turned on the kitchen faucet, filled the sink with water and killed our son Simon. And then she attempted the same with little Sarah, who God knows must have been terrified as she watched her mother do this to her brother before being chased through the house until she, too, was caught and submerged. But I learned that later.

If I had known those details when I went to the jail, maybe I would have been raging, maybe violent. Who knows the appropriate response to having a wife who kills? That day, I felt stuck, nervous and hesitant at meeting my own wife. I was forty-one years old and should have been in control of my emotions as I entered the holding room, but as I felt the thick door click closed against my back, I had the urge to turn and run.

Jane looked normal. Or perhaps normal for Jane. She wore no reaction of any kind to seeing me. Her body was relaxed, her legs crossed. She greeted me with a light, dry voice, saying my name in her usual fashion by drawing out the vowel.


The intimacy of it made me ill.

“Tom, are you okay? I wondered when you would get here,” she said, standing.

“Jane, sit down.”

She backed away and slipped back into the plastic chair. We looked at each other for a long moment. I searched her blue eyes for traces of murder, believing I should see something black that belied her beauty. Some flipped switch. Something red or black. I thought perhaps I saw less white in her eyes, but that might have been a trick of the room’s flickering fluorescent light. The only visible difference was what she had on: a county-issue orange jumpsuit. The orange reflected off her face, giving her a sun-kissed glow, like she might have spent a day at the beach instead of within the cement-grey walls of a jail. Even her hair was still in its trademark perky ponytail with wisps of dark blonde highlights framing her face.

“Are we going home?”

My mouth was dry. I licked my lips. I heard ringing in my ears.

“We’re not going home. You’re not going home.”

“I guess I know that. They said you would say that.”

“Why Jane? Tell me. What’s going on because I can’t figure this out? Tell me what happened.”

She was devastatingly casual.

“I had too much. I was done being a mother, you know.”

“No. I don’t know. Why couldn’t you tell me? Ask for help?” I said, clawing for air. “Sarah is still alive. Did you know that? She is holding on.”

Sarah had a thin pulse when paramedics arrived and was critical now, and I was desperate to be with her.

“Jane? Do you know what you did?”

I stood and looked away from her, bracing myself against the wall. Anger welled up inside me and I was glad because it was finally an emotion I could recognize. My hands wanted to encircle her throat, but I forced them into my pockets. This couldn’t be my wife. The woman I loved. Love.

The ringing in my ears got louder. I heard the sound of something breaking, like a piece of cold chalk snapping in two. A bone giving way. My heart dividing, part of it tearing away at a fault line, a tear which began when the dean had appeared in my classroom doorway.

“Don’t argue, Tom,” he had said. “There’s been an accident.”

“An accident?”

“Please go to your home with this officer.”

The man in blue stood at my door and would not meet my gaze, shuffling his feet and staring at his shoes. Finally he took me by the elbow while the dean entered my classroom.

Jane was tapping the floor with her foot now. I looked at the black and white clock on the jail-room wall. Ten after nine. My life seemed about to dissolve into something unrecognizable. Her voice, her careless words. I was done being a mother.

“Are we going home now, Tom?”

“No, Jane.”

“Because I didn’t take my pills yesterday. There was a doctor in here earlier and he wanted me to get them. Will you bring them to me?”

“When was the last time you took them, Jane?”

“I don’t know. Maybe last week. The day the ice-cream maker came, I think.”

My mind tumbled. How could she think of an ice-cream maker when she had destroyed both our lives? And then, because I couldn’t think of another thing to say, I got up and left.



1. Write a 10 word sentence about a dysfunctional family. No, not your dysfunctional family... your, uh, friend's dysfunctional family.

2. If your family tree was an actual tree, what type of tree would it be? Explain.

3. Nature? Or nurture? Discuss. Hey, they all can't be easy.

Friday, October 24, 2008

First Chapters: Brandon Massey, Karen Dionne, Tish Cohen

Special Thanks to our first set of October Roastees!! For your weekend viewing pleasure, here are first chapters from each of their books!!

Brandon Massey's DON'T EVER TELL

The night that changed Joshua Moore's life began, ironically, with a party.

On Sunday, December 16, Joshua and his wife, Rachel, hosted a holiday get-together at their home in south metro Atlanta. Over twenty people, a lively blend of family and friends, crowded into the four-bedroom house. It was their first time holding an event at their home since they had moved in five months ago, and Joshua's head was spinning from all the activity.
...continue reading


The wind howled around the solitary trawler like an angry god. Inside the wheelhouse, Ben Maki braced his feet as an errant wave hit broadside and the trawler listed heavily to starboard. Sleet spattered the windows on the port side. White patches of sea ice told him they were close. He gripped the back of the first mate’s chair and glanced at the captain.
...continue reading


The stench in his daughter’s darkened room nearly brought Len to his knees. Nothing quite pierced the nostrils like the harsh tang of death. Especially death four days later. Len held his breath as he threw back the curtains and leaned down over the bed.
...continue reading

Brandon Massey: DON'T EVER TELL

The night that changed Joshua Moore's life began, ironically, with a party.

On Sunday, December 16, Joshua and his wife, Rachel, hosted a holiday get-together at their home in south metro Atlanta. Over twenty people, a lively blend of family and friends, crowded into the four-bedroom house. It was their first time holding an event at their home since they had moved in five months ago, and Joshua's head was spinning from all the activity.

People gathered in the family room, dining room, kitchen, living room, and hallway, eating, drinking, talking, and laughing. The dining room had been turned into a buffet, featuring a full spread of appetizers, desserts, and beverages such as crab cakes, hot wings, egg rolls, meatballs, pasta salad, peel-and-eat shrimp, cheeses, cookies, cakes, fruit punch, soda, wine, and a glass bowl brimming with rum-spiced eggnog. Holiday music played over the in-house stereo system, loud enough to enliven the mood but low enough to encourage conversation.

"You look dazed," Eddie Barnes said. Standing in the living room beside a seven-foot high Christmas tree that dwarfed his slight frame, Eddie nursed a glass of eggnog. "Take a load off and chill for a sec."

"Good idea." Careful not to spill his soda, Joshua sat on one of the new microfiber sofas they had purchased upon moving in. He stretched his legs in front of him-which, at his height of six feet five, was a considerable length. "I can't remember the last time I threw a party."

"I do," Eddie said. "Sixteenth birthday. In your parents' basement. I was the deejay, remember? Mixmaster E?"

"Man, that was a long time ago. Sixteen years?"

Eddie bobbed his clean-shaven head. "We're getting old, dawg. Married with kids and shit."

"Speak for yourself. I don't have any kids."

"They're on the way. See how much Rachel's been talking to Ariel? She's getting child-rearing tips, trust me. Look at 'em." Eddie motioned with his glass.

Joshua looked over his shoulder. Dressed in a red sweater, green slacks, and a cute Santa cap, Rachel was in the hallway speaking to Ariel, Eddie's wife. Ariel bounced their three-year-old son on her hip with practiced ease, while their six-year-old daughter pranced around them. Tanisha May, Rachel's business partner, was also part of the group. The two as-yet childless women resembled chicks taking lessons from a mother hen.

Joshua shrugged. "We're in no rush to have kids. We only got married six months ago. We're planning to just enjoy being married, do some traveling, you know."

"What's that saying? Man plans-God laughs. You never know what life'll hit you with. Be ready."
"You must've tipped some extra rum into that glass. You're talking crazy."

"I joke, but fatherhood is cool, Josh." Eddie gazed at his young children with a proud smile.

"Makes you grow up real quick. Can you honestly say, right now, that you would die for someone else?"

Joshua looked at Rachel again. As sometimes happened when he regarded her, his heart kicked, an almost painfully poignant feeling.

"I'd die for my wife," he said.

"Most definitely. Now take that same feeling that you'd sacrifice it all for her, and multiply it by ten-that's how you'll feel when you have children."

"How'd you feel when Ariel was pregnant?"

"Tired as hell. She'd be snoring so loud and rolling around in the bed so much I got maybe two hours of sleep a night. Sometimes I had to sleep in the guest room."

"Seriously? What else?"

"When she was walking around with my babies growing in her? Dude, if you had looked at her the wrong way, I might have jacked you. Some superman, protective thing kicks in. I didn't want her to go anywhere alone. Didn't want her to drive or lift anything. I was sort of tripping out for a minute."

"Sounds like it. Anyway, like I said, it'll be a while before Rachel and I get to that point."

"Do some traveling, yeah. Get your money right. Spend some more time getting to know each other."

"We already know each other pretty well, or else we wouldn't have gotten married."

"Nah, dawg. You're only six months in-you don't know each other yet. Talk to me after ten years."

"There you go." Joshua shook his head. "Newlyweds don't get any respect."

"It's all relative. My folks have been married damn near forty years, and they look at me and Ariel like we just met yesterday."

"I hear you. Hey, be back in a minute-I'm gonna grab another crab cake before they're all gone."
Joshua started to rise off the couch-and spilled his soda. Cola splashed onto the beige carpet. He swore under his breath and looked around for a napkin.

"I'll take care of that," Rachel said, suddenly beside him with a delicate hand on his arm.

"Sorry. You know how clumsy I can be."

"Don't say that, baby." She took a wadded napkin and pressed it against the darkening damp spot on the carpet. "Can you get some more ice out of the garage, please? Tanisha wants to make some strawberry daiquiris."


"Thanks, love."

Joshua glanced at Eddie, who had followed their interaction with amusement, and headed to the garage to fetch a bag of ice from the freezer. Eddie, he knew, could remember a time when his spilling a drink at a party would have provoked a hurtful remark from whoever happened to be his girlfriend at the moment. He had been dating since he was a teenager, but Rachel was the first woman who truly loved him for who he was, clumsiness and all.

Sometimes, he honestly wondered how she had fallen in love with him in the first place. He was no one special. He wasn't rich-he was a freelance graphic designer, and earned a reasonable but unremarkable income. He wasn't particularly handsome-though he was tall and husky, he wore thick glasses to correct a bad case of astigmatism, which back in the day his classmates had teasingly called "Coke bottles." And he sure as hell wasn't suave-no man with a knack for knocking over drinks, bumping into people, or dropping dishes could be considered smooth by any stretch of the imagination.

Further mystifying him was the fact that she, by comparison, was perfect. Sweet-hearted. Intelligent. Successful in her chosen profession as a hair salon owner and stylist. Supportive of his goals, and pursuing goals of her own. And not to overlook, she was absolutely fine-five feet six, with big pretty brown eyes, smooth skin the color of honey, and a body that would have roused the pulse of a dead man. Although he had often dreamed of finding a woman like Rachel, it had seemed one of those farfetched fantasies, like one might have of hitting the lottery some day.

But somehow, he had found her-and when he had told Eddie that he would die for her, he meant it.

Around nine, the last guest departed, and blessed calm took over the house. Joshua collapsed on the love seat in the family room, legs too tired to stand any more.

A minute later, Rachel entered from the kitchen. She eased onto his lap, languidly stretched her arms above her head, and released a deep sigh.

"Finally, we can relax," she said.

Coco, the three-year-old Chihuahua that Rachel had brought to their relationship, scampered across the room and leaped onto Joshua's lap, too. Restless from being caged upstairs during the party, the dog whined and tried to kiss Joshua on the mouth, and he gently nudged her away.

"Daddy doesn't want to give you smooches now, sweetie," Rachel said. She plucked Coco off his chest and tucked the dog against her breast like a purse. "Daddy's saving his kisses forMommy."
Tail wagging, the dog looked at Joshua longingly.

"I think she needs a boyfriend," he said. "Anyway, what do you think about the party? I thought it was a hit."

"Me, too. It was a lot of work, but everyone seemed to have a good time."

He studied her face. Although she had channeled her energies into hosting the party, he'd had the nagging sense that she was distracted by something. A couple of times during the event, he'd noticed her off to herself, not speaking to anyone, her gaze clouded, as if she were deeply immersed in thought.

Now, however, her eyes only looked tired.

"Are you feeling okay?" he asked.

She nodded.

"Just wrung out."

"Too bad tomorrow's Monday. I'd love to sleep in."

"Oh, you're funny. You can sleep in, Mr. I Work from Home. I have to get up at the ass crack of dawn and open a salon."

"I meant I'd love to sleep in together." He touched her leg.

"Oh?" Mischief sparkled in her eyes.

"I'd like one of those long, lazy mornings. Hugging, cuddling."

"Hugging, cuddling, and other bedroom activities."

"Something like that."

"I can tell Tanisha I'll be in late and have someone cover my appointments." She set Coco on the floor. Then she placed her hand on his groin, and slowly began to massage.

"But why wait until tomorrow morning to get started?" she asked.

"You're not too tired?"

"Are you?" She squeezed him.

He groaned.

"Let's go upstairs."

"Let's not."

She began to pull her sweater over her head.

Although he thought he had a healthy sex drive, she was often insatiable. He knew she had been with men before him-though he didn't know how many and didn't care to ask-but he often got the sense that with him, she felt free to express herself in ways that she never had before. As if with him, she was free for the first time in her life.

Weird, but that was the impression he had.

At some point, they made their way upstairs to the master bedroom. Exhausted, they fell asleep, lying against each other like spoons in a drawer.

Later that night, he awoke to Rachel screaming.


The wind howled around the solitary trawler like an angry god. Inside the wheelhouse, Ben Maki braced his feet as an errant wave hit broadside and the trawler listed heavily to starboard. Sleet spattered the windows on the port side. White patches of sea ice told him they were close. He gripped the back of the first mate’s chair and glanced at the captain. In the hurried introductions, Ben hadn’t caught the captain’s name, and the guy was so intimidating with his overshot brow and deep-set eyes and unruly salt and pepper beard that Ben was afraid to ask him to repeat it. The captain grinned—at least, Ben hoped it was a smile; the expression could have been a grimace as it wrapped around an unlit cigar.

He shifted his feet again when the trawler finally righted herself, thanking God he’d eschewed his oxfords this morning for a pair of Doc Martens. He peered out at the forward deck. Derek MacCallister, the Arctic Dawn’s owner and the man Ben had flown 3,400 miles to see, stood at the open prow, nylon jacket flapping furiously in the wind, bare hands clenching the rail. Ben shook his head. He’d entrusted his life to a madman. Only a lunatic would leave port in this kind of weather. Dark clouds in the east promised more snow, the St. John’s fishing fleet were safely tucked into their berths, and yet here they were, all alone, battling waves the size of small mountains with the harbor two hours behind them. Back at the dock, the trawler and her crew looked like something out of The Perfect Storm, and now that they were out to sea, the resemblance hadn’t diminished. The lawyers who’d flown up with Ben were probably sitting in a bar or a pub or whatever they called them up here, laughing at Ben’s impulsive decision to play iceberg cowboy and sucking back beers while Ben tried not to upchuck and to stay out of everyone’s way.

“Where’s Derek?” Jack, the first mate, climbed the narrow gangway to the bridge.

The captain jutted his chin toward the ice-glazed window. “Where else?”

“Out there? Can’t he watch the scope?”

The captain shrugged.

Tyler, a skinny kid they’d hired for the season, joined them from the galley below. His eyes grew wide as the ship rode the crest of another swell and fell with a sickening thump. Ben’s stomach plummeted with it. Swallowing hard, he held on more tightly to the chair.

The handle on the wheelhouse door turned and Derek stepped through. The cabin temperature dropped ten degrees in the time it took to dog down the door behind him with a clang. Derek pulled off his toque and shook the ice crystals out of his hair like Ben’s Jack Russell after its bath. His cheeks—what could be seen of them above his curly brown beard—were bright red; each with a white patch in the middle the size of a quarter where the skin was just beginning to freeze.

“It’s there! Three hundred yards dead ahead!”

The captain nodded. “I got it on the scope.”

“Okay. Start circling around. Jack, you and Tyler get ready to pay out the cable.”

“How’s she look?” Jack asked.

“Big,” the captain answered grimly. “Maybe seventy thousand tons.”

Jack’s brow puckered. Ben’s mirrored his concern. You knew you were in trouble when the first mate looked worried.

“Not to worry,” Derek said. “Sure she’s big, but we know what we’re doing, eh? And snagging a berg this size means we won’t have to come out for the rest of the season. You’d like that, wouldn’t you, Tyler?” Giving the boy a good-natured shove that sent him sprawling against the opposite wall.

“Aye, sir!” Tyler scrambled to recover the proper seaman’s attitude of attention. The captain’s mouth twitched. Derek guffawed, and the boy added a nervous grin.

“All right!” Derek pulled on his toque and turned to his men. “Let’s do it!”

The captain spun the wheel, and the Arctic Dawn swung around, rolling and pitching as she turned sideways to the waves. Derek, Jack, and Tyler donned safety harnesses and survival suits, then stepped out of the wheelhouse onto the icy deck.

A hundred yards ahead, the berg towered fifty feet above the ship. “Icebergs calve off the Greenland glaciers,” the captain said as he leaned forward to wipe the condensation off the windows with his shirt sleeve. “Tabular bergs are the most stable, but this far south, we hardly ever see ‘em. By the time they get to us, the berg’ve eroded into all kinds of shapes. Domed and wedge-shaped are the most unstable. They can roll over in seconds, just by looking at ‘em.”
Ben studied the craggy, gray mountain looming off the starboard bow. The berg looked stable enough. Was the captain trying to frighten him on purpose?

The captain cut back on the power to let the drift carry them closer. “No way to know what the berg’s like under the water,” he continued. “The Arctic Dawn was retrofitted with a three-inch steel-reinforced hull when we changed her from fishing trawler to ice hauler, but there’s not a ship afloat that could survive that kind of collision.”

Hardly reassuring, but Ben didn’t figure it was meant to be.

As the craft made its slow circle, the crew paid out the tow line: a yellow and black polypropylene rope as thick as a man’s arm that floated conspicuously atop the rolling sea. The captain kept an eye out, cringing when Tyler tripped over a coil of rope and a wave nearly washed him off his feet.

“Boy needs another hundred pounds on him. Skinny ones are too easily swept into the sea.”
Another unlucky thought. What happened to the much-vaunted sailors’ superstition? Ben’s seafaring experience was limited to working weekends as a teenager on his grandpa’s Great Lakes fishing boat, but even he knew that voicing misgivings invited disaster.

The captain turned back to the task at hand, chomping his cigar until forty-five tedious, stomach-churning minutes had passed. Ben sighed his relief as they completed the circle without incident. Jack snagged the tow line with a grappling hook while Tyler worked the winch handle and Derek made the junction and added cable. Once the pelican hook snapped into place, Derek gave the signal, and the captain began the long, slow turn that would take them home.

A clear patch of sky opened directly overhead. Instantly, the iceberg transformed into a shimmering celestial blue, its faceted surface reflecting the sunlight like a thousand mirrors. Ben shielded his eyes. He had just decided that the sun was an omen of success when a flock of seabirds resting on the berg’s peak took flight, their raucous calls audible above the wind. The iceberg leaned to the right. It hung undecided for a moment, like the stuck second hand on a clock, then tilted even more.

The captain flung open the door. “She’s going over!”

Out on deck, Jack was already shoving the boy toward the wheelhouse. The captain regained the helm and pushed the engines for power, desperate to put distance between them and the collapsing berg.

“Where’s Derek?” he bellowed when Jack and Tyler burst through the door.

“Out there!” Tyler pointed toward the stern. “He’s trying to unhook the cable!”

“Mother of God!” Jack cried. “Back off! Give him slack!”

The captain jammed the engines into reverse. The ship groaned in protest. Ben’s gut wrenched along with it. As long as they were connected to the berg, their fates were irrevocably tied. If it rolled, they were going with it, and the Arctic Dawn would be flipped into the air as easily as a child’s toy tied to the end of a string.

Jack leaned out the door. “Hurry!” he called out to Derek.

“I’m trying!” Derek yelled back. “The hook’s jammed!” He stripped off his gloves to fumble barehanded with the ring release.

The captain’s hand twitched on the throttle as the seconds ticked by. At last Derek waved the all-clear and they started forward—just as the iceberg split in two with a thunderous crack and roar.

“Inside!” Jack screamed to the deck. “Now!”

“There’s no time!” Derek wrapped his safety line around the rail, yanked the survival suit hood down over his head, and hugged the rail in a death-grip, bracing for the killer wave they all knew was coming.

Seconds later, it crashed over the ship, engulfing them in icy white.

The captain shoved Ben toward the ship’s wheel. Ben barely had time to hook his arms through the spokes before the ship yawed leeward at an impossible angle, leaving his legs dangling in midair. The crew smashed into the opposite wall, map charts and coffee cups raining down on them like confetti.

“The door!” the captain yelled as the ship foundered. “For God’s sake somebody shut the door!”

“I can’t reach it!” Jack called back. “It’s too high!”

“I can do it! Boost me up!” Tyler scrambled on all fours across the canted floor. Jack linked his hands and lifted the boy to his shoulders, gripping Tyler’s ankles with both hands as he fought to keep his own footing.

Tyler strained for the latch. “Move to the left! The left! Hurry, hurry!”

“I’m gonna fall!” Jack let go with one hand to brace himself against what used to be the floor.

“More, more! Okay, I got it!” Tyler pressed his shoulder against the door as water poured in around the edges.

Ben tightened his grip. No way could ninety pounds win against the sea. Still, the door slammed shut. Jack lowered the boy to the floor. Tyler put his head in his hands. Jack patted his shoulder.

“There, there, lad. Give her a minute, and she’ll quick put herself ta rights, you’ll see.”

But the ship rolled even farther. The cabin lights flickered and went out. Ben squinted through the watery half-light, trying to discern if they had passed the point of no return, but with no true vertical reference it was impossible to tell. If his feet were acting as a plumb bob, they were at 45, maybe 50 degrees. The trawler could probably do 60 and still recover, but any more, and—
Suddenly, his feet found their purchase. He thanked God and started to stand, but his feet slipped out from under him and he smashed to the floor. He put out a hand to raise himself, then snatched it back as though he’d been burned.

Mother of God. It couldn’t be. He extended both hands again, feeling about cautiously as if slow, deliberate movements could somehow change the truth, but no. Instead of the raised-patterned, sheet-metal floor he’d been expecting, the surface beneath his palms was smooth as baby’s skin.
He was sitting on the ceiling.

JesusMaryandJoseph they were turtled; the ship’s underbelly exposed to the sky; her antennas pointing uselessly toward the pitiless depths below. It was all over now. The Arctic Dawn would float upended for a few minutes, maybe five, maybe ten. Then her holds would fill, and the sea would claim five more. He closed his eyes. He supposed he should do something—break out a window to swim for the surface or try to open the door—but if ever a ship and her crew needed help from above, it was now. He tried to call up an appropriate supplication, then remembered the prayer to St. Elmo his grandpa had framed and mounted in the wheelhouse of his fishing boat.

Almighty God, he prayed, silently mouthing the words that had been uttered in every church nave and every household and every candlelit vigil since the first sailor had been lost at sea, you bestowed the singular help of Blessed Peter on those in peril from the sea. By the help of his prayers may the light of your grace—may the light of your grace . . . damn—how did the rest of it go? ‘Shine forth’—yes, that was it— shine forth in all the storms of this life and enable us to find the harbor of everlasting salvation. He drew a deep breath and began again. Almighty God, you bestowed the singular help of Blessed Peter on those in peril from the sea. By the help of his prayers—

“Derek,” Jack whispered.

Tyler sobbed.

Ben squeezed his eyes shut tighter. “Almighty God,” he prayed aloud, as if the force of his entreaty could effect an answer, “you bestowed the singular help of Blessed Peter on those in peril from the sea. By the help of his prayers—”

“May the light of your grace shine forth in all the storms of this life,” the captain joined in.
“—and enable us to find the harbor of everlasting salvation,” they finished in unison.

“We ask this through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Tyler added, his youthful voice cracked with terror. “Amen.”


The men fell silent, listening to the Arctic Dawn creak and moan as if she were already mourning her crew. Ben opened his eyes, but this time, instead of praying, he willed the iceberg to shift, to roll, to split again—anything that would generate another wave like the first one—a monstrous, rogue wave that would slap them with all the force the Atlantic could muster and knock them upright again. It could happen. Miracles could happen. Miracles did happen . . .
Almighty God, you bestowed the singular help of Blessed Peter—

The ship shuddered. He blinked, then blinked again as a coffee thermos rolled slowly across the floor. It picked up speed, finally clattering into a corner, and Ben clenched his fists. Yes, by God. They were moving. He grabbed hold of the ship’s wheel.

“Hang on!” the captain cried. “We’re going up!”

“Hold on where?” Tyler asked as he slid across the ceiling and cracked his head against the window. He scrambled to his knees, then fell again. “Is it really true? We’re saved?”

The captain didn’t answer.

More, more . . . a little more . . . come on . . . keep going . . . keep going . . . It wasn’t his imagination; the water outside the windows was getting lighter . . .

The ship continued to roll, straining for the surface like an Olympic swimmer after a high dive, until at last they burst up from the depths into the middle of a shaft of sunlight so ethereal Ben would have thought he’d died and gone to heaven if his arms weren’t so sore.

He extricated himself from the ship’s wheel and looked around in speechless amazement. Tyler was on his knees retching into the corner, but Ben couldn’t fault him for that. He didn’t feel so well himself.

Most unbelievably of all, when he stood up on shaking legs and crossed the room to look out the door, he saw Derek still strapped to the stern, hair and beard dripping, clothes freezing stiff as he grinned back at the wheelhouse like a madman and gave a big, victorious, double thumbs-up.


The stench in his daughter’s darkened room nearly brought Len to his knees. Nothing quite pierced the nostrils like the harsh tang of death. Especially death four days later. Len held his breath as he threw back the curtains and leaned down over the bed.

“Olivia,” he said, shaking the sweaty ten-year-old’s shoulder. “Time to get up and get ready for school, princess. It’s Thursday. Drama and music class.”

Olivia groaned. Tangled in a mass of The Incredibles bed sheets and twisted pajamas, she rolled over—long, reddish-brown snarls strewn across her pale face like a net; doughy stomach with impossibly deep belly button, luminous in the morning sun. Half of a bandage dangled uselessly over a scratch nearly healed on her forearm. As usual, she’d refused to allow her father to count to three and yank.

Olivia rubbed her eyes and stretched. Squinting into the sunlight, she grumbled, “Wish it was Saturday,” and slithered off the bed, knocking to the floor her beloved Birthday Wishes Barbie, who, like Olivia’s other Barbies, had long been stripped of the finery she arrived in—violet gown, full-length gloves, dainty shoes—and been obliged to endure a perpetual state of nakedness ever since.

The child stumbled across the room to her gerbil cage, the source of the rotting stench. “Need to feed Georgie Boy.” Yawning, she reached her hand inside and unclipped the water bottle, holding it up in the sunlight. Olivia groaned. “Empty? The pet store lady said we should access to water him daily.”

“Give him access to clean water,” Len said. “But it’s a little late for that.” He could see the gerbil on its back, stiff as Indian rubber. The concept of death was not coming easily to Olivia. Her mother died when she was too young to understand, and this gerbil was the child’s first conscious experience dealing with the intangible reality of someone, something, being there one minute and gone the next. So when they’d found the little rodent claws-up on Sunday afternoon, Olivia flatly refused to bury him.

In the supposed five stages of grief, the child was besotted by the first—denial—and her fidelity showed no signs of waning.

Len moved closer, sank into Olivia’s desk chair, and wondered if the air might actually be alive with stink. A soupy fog of putrefaction so strong he was damn near certain he could taste it.
He glanced at his watch. He wasn’t late for anything in particular. The senior partners of Standish, Bean and Roche could, technically, stroll in when they pleased. Trouble was, they didn’t. By the time Len jogged in at 9:30 each morning, desperate for a coffee, the other partners were already elbow deep in divorce and custody files, calling out to their assistants or mollifying jilted spouses on the phone.

There had been a time when Len prided himself in being the one to turn on the office lights each morning. He’d arranged his life in such a way that dedication to his family and his career were perfectly balanced. Until his wife died. A widowed parent loses the luxury of balance. And on this particular morning, confronted with a festering rodent, family won.

Taking Olivia’s free hand, Len said, “It’s never easy to say goodbye to our loved ones. Do you remember that song that used to make you cry? What was it called…The Circle of Life?”
Olivia’s silver eyes, far too big for her delicate face, shone. She nodded. “From The Lion King.”
Good. We’re getting somewhere. “Yes. The Lion King. Do you know what that means?”

Blinking furiously, Olivia looked up to the ceiling and concentrated. “It means he was king of the jungle.”

“No. I mean, yes,” Len said. “What I meant was, do you know about the circle of life?”

Olivia had already lost interest. She poked Georgie Boy in the stiffened haunch and watched him rock like a tiny, stuffed, upside-down moose. Then she stopped. “Hey!” she squeaked. “I can see her penis.”

Len leaned back, sighing. “Where did you learn that word?”

“From Callie Corbin and Samantha Hyde. I tell them stuff about rodents, they tell me stuff about penises.”

He’d have to speak to Olivia’s teacher. Again. “Do me a favor, Olivia, stay away from those girls. They’re bullies.”

Olivia reached for the chipped antique milk bottle on her dresser and, squinting, held it up to the window. Pebbles shimmered in the morning sun—some smooth and round, some pitted and veined, others pure black—filling the bottle by a little more than a third. “Callie Corbin called me ‘Inside Out Girl’ again and everybody laughed. I hate her.”

“Where was Jeremy?” Jeremy Knight, the scruffy-faced teacher’s aide in Olivia’s classroom, had made it his personal objective to shield her, as best he could, from the taunts of other children. He’d come up with a way for Olivia to stand up for herself, if only in private, by encouraging her to write the bully’s name on the chalkboard when the other kids were at recess, then erase it with all her might. By the time she’d wiped out any trace of the offender, Olivia was usually giggling, drunk with power. Ineffectual, after-the-fact power—not much more than an expired salve really—never quite soothing the underlying pain, but doing a decent job of drying the tears.

Jeremy’s influence didn’t end at school, however. A few weeks prior, he’d introduced Olivia to a girl band called Aly & AJ, or, more specifically, to their song titled “Sticks and Stones,” which was about being bullied and refusing to be a victim. Olivia had come home insisting Len drive her to the mall to pick up the CD and had played it endlessly. Ever since, she’d called Jeremy her “special person.” Her hero.

“He wasn’t at school that day. Is Jeremy going to be there today?”

“I’m sure he will, sweetheart. You know, I’m wondering if maybe I help you get dressed before school each day…”

“I DON’T need help!”

What was better—derailing his special needs daughter’s critical attempts at independence or watching her march toward her classroom wearing her t-shirt backward, knowing full well the kids would eat her alive? It was a question for Dr. Kate.

"I’m only inviting nice kids to my birthday party,” Olivia said. “No Callie Corbins.”

Len sucked in a deep breath. “I thought we’d do something extra special for your birthday this year, something even better than a party.”

“No, I want a party. You never let me have a party!”

When Olivia was very young, at the age when kids attended anyone and everyone’s birthday parties, she’d had a few successful showings. But that was back when the parents called the shots. Things changed as the children got older and realized Olivia Bean’s social skills weren’t evolving in quite the same way as their own. Eventually, it became social suicide to be caught speaking to Olivia, let alone attend her parties. Len never stopped trying to throw birthday parties—he simply sent out invitations without the child’s knowledge. That way, when every parent RSVP’d with a “conflicting engagement,” Olivia didn’t have to bury herself under her covers and cry. Year after year, the child blew out her birthday candles with only her father and grandparents huddled over the cake.

“Your birthday isn’t for another six months,” said Len. “We’ll discuss it later.”

The girl seemed to wilt. Her narrow shoulders sagged and her stomach jutted out further. She exhaled long and hard. “I thought it was tomorrow.” Olivia turned back to her lifeless pet. “Come on, Georgie Boy. Time for breakfast.” Olivia’s voice had always had a lilting, sing-song quality. It rose and fell like a happy little train chugging across hilly terrain.

“What the circle of life means,” Len continued, “is that, as living, breathing beings on this planet, we’re born, we live and we die. Do you understand me, Olivia?”

She nodded. “Sure. The earth’s round. Like a circle.”

“No. Well, yes. What I mean is, Georgie Boy died. It wasn’t your fault, or mine. His circle of life was complete.”

Olivia waved a shriveled carrot strip in front of the animal’s nose. “Circles have no end, Dad. They just keep going and going. And going.” She pulled the carrot out of the cage, tore it in half and held the fresher end in front of Georgie Boy. “Anyway, I know he died. I’m not stupid. But it’s time for him to wake up and eat so he doesn’t die again.”

“Olivia, when we die, there is no waking up. Georgie Boy is gone.”

“He’s not gone!” Olivia shouted, her face pressed against the bars of the cage. “He’s right here!”

“His body is here, but his soul is gone. We need to bury him.” Len leaned back in the chair, hoping to catch a fresh breeze. “Soon.”

“No. You can’t bury my gerbil. It’ll kill him!”

Len couldn’t take the odor anymore, he pulled his tie up over his nose. “Olivia…”
She turned and looked at her father. With no warning, the girl sucked in a jagged breath and screamed the scream that, without fail, scrabbled up Len’s spine and caught him in the throat. It was impossible to grow accustomed to such a sound.

Dropping the tie, Len pulled her onto his lap and tried to hush her. “Shh. See my mouth now? It’s just Daddy, it’s just me!”

Twisting away from Len, Olivia burrowed into the furthest corner of her bed and heaved with sobs. “Why did you hide your mouth?” she wailed.

“I know, I forgot. See me now?” He crawled onto the bed and stroked the child’s shoulder.
She jumped from her father’s lap and ran out of the room. Sighing, Len rubbed his face. He needed help. His time and patience were stretched to the limit and the last day of school was quickly approaching—eight weeks away. The two weeks of rodent camp at the local zoo would help in a tiny way, but Olivia would not be pleased to hear she’d be spending her summer at KidFun, the after-school program run out of the staff room at school. Asking Len’s parents for assistance was out of the question, they’d only suggest he try hiring another nanny and that he should offer top dollar so the next one wouldn’t quit.

If only money were the issue.

The last nanny, some two years prior, a hard-working grad student from NYU looking for a summer job that allowed for quiet evenings to work on her thesis, had arrived with two overstuffed suitcases and a sleek silver laptop. Len prepared Kimmie as he did all the others. He explained that Olivia’s needs were out of the ordinary. That, in order to prepare his daughter for a life fraught with obstacles, her self esteem needed to be better than solid. That, for Olivia, navigating an ordinary day was akin to traversing the rainforest.

Like the others, Kimmie was impressed first with Olivia’s extraordinary beauty. Behind an avalanche of auburn hair that seemed to crinkle itself up in knots moments after being brushed, was the wide-eyed face of an angel. Other than the odd smear of jam or dirt from the garden, Olivia’s skin was almost chaste in its creaminess, untouched by so much as a freckle.

Like the others, Kimmie made myriad attempts to dress Olivia in a manner befitting such a face. Summer frocks and matching Alice bands were pulled from the closet with great hopes of transforming the child into an elegant young lady. And while the dresses made it over Olivia’s head, they would be promptly tucked into tattered SpongeBob sweatpants, which, in turn, would be tucked into the musty woolen liners of her winter boots.

The Alice bands went straight into Georgie Boy’s cage to make a corral.
Right away, Kimmie discovered Olivia was enormously knowledgeable, gifted even, in reading, the rules of certain sports and all things rodentia, and despite Len’s warnings, she lulled herself into thinking the child’s competence spread to other things, like brushing her teeth, dressing herself or even walking up the stairs while carrying on a conversation. But it didn’t.

By the end of the first week, Len steeled himself for Kimmie’s complaints: “Olivia doesn’t listen; she won’t stop talking; you aren’t paying me enough; she steps on my feet; she’s ‘lost in space;’ I need a day off; she’s like a four-year-old; I need a raise;” and the definitive—“she screams bloody murder, too bloody often.”

Week Two typically brought some kind of catastrophe. In Kimmie’s case, she’d run Olivia a bath and gone down to the laundry room for fresh towels. She came back to find Olivia in the tub, fully dressed, humming The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” Between great mountains of bubbles, Olivia’s naked Barbie dolls executed synchronized loop-de-loops and freefall drops, navigating the most perilous of acrobatic maneuvers onto a partially submerged makeshift stage.
Kimmie’s silver laptop.

Len heard the scream over the sound of the lawnmower from the very back of the yard. Tearing upstairs, he imagined every possible sort of catastrophe except what he found in the bathroom—Kimmie on the floor, crying into the clean towels and Olivia sitting in the tub, her t-shirt covered in bubbles. Len tried everything, apologies, offers of financial compensation, but nothing could soothe Kimmie, who’d never before seen the point of backing up her work.

“Daddy, help!” Olivia called now from the hallway. Her voice sounded strained. “I can’t reach the soap that smells like Mommy…”

Len raced from the room to find his daughter shoulder deep in the linen closet, teetering atop a wobbly, three-legged barstool she’d obviously dragged in from the kitchen. Just as he scooped his little girl into his arms, one of the stool legs snapped and the whole thing crashed to the floor.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thursday's Special Is...Don't Ever Tell!

DON'T EVER TELL by Brandon Massey

"The talented Mr. Massey has the rare knack of grabbing the reader early and not letting go. In this relentlessly gripping novel the hold only gets tighter as the pages turn. Massey knows how to ratchet up the suspense. Tell everyone that DON'T EVER TELL is a crackling good thriller."—John Lutz, New York Times Bestselling Author

"Put the kids to bed, let the cat out, throw another log on the fire, you will not stop turning the pages of Brandon Massey's DON'T EVER TELL until you've gobbled every last morsel. A diabolical rocket sled of a book, this story is deceptively simple, carefully crafted out of lean, mean prose; but the pay-off is shattering--a tour de force of psychological suspense. Old grudges, dark secrets, and a ticking time bomb of a villain add up to an irresistible read. Highly recommended."—Jay Bonansinga, National Bestselling Author
Read the following excerpt, and answer the questions that follow for a chance to win a free copy of "Don't Ever Tell." Or, stop by and chat with Brandon!!!


Tim Price was watching television behind the counter when Joshua entered the electronics shop. His mop of brown hair even more disheveled than usual—and that was saying a lot—Tim smoked a cigarette and sipped coffee from a Styrofoam cup. He scowled at Joshua’s entrance.

“Hey, man,” Joshua said.

“You back already?” Tim asked.

That day, Tim wore a long black tee shirt that read, in giant red and green text, “It’s a Black Thing—You Wouldn’t Understand.”

“Interesting shirt,” Joshua said.

“It’s a vintage shirt, dude. From like the 80s. Classic.”

Joshua heard a Public Enemy song playing on the stereo at low volume. His memory of the track’s title was fuzzy, but he thought it was “Fight the Power.”

“Is this Black Pride Day in Price Electronics?” Joshua asked.

“I appreciate all cultures, my brother,” Tim said and nodded sagely. He blew out a ring of smoke and grinned.

“Whatever. I need your help again.”


Joshua placed the satchel on the counter and opened it. He withdrew the laptop and the cell phone.

“First, I need access to this computer. When I turn it on, I get stuck at the log on screen when it asks me for a password.”

Tim took a puff on his smoke, frowned.

“You don’t know your own password? Even when I’m at my most stoned, I remember my freakin’ passwords, dude.”

“This isn’t my computer. It’s my wife’s.”

“Then, duh? Why not ask her the password?”

He was not about to tell Tim what had happened. Although Tim was a friend, they had never shared details of their private lives with each other. Theirs was mostly a friendship that revolved around their work and hobbies.

“She’s not around for me to ask,” Joshua said.

“Your lady creeping around on you?”


“Okay, it’s none of my business. But if you want some advice . . .”

“You ever been married, Tim?”

Tim blinked. “You crazy? Hell, no, that’s like, legalized bondage.”

“Exactly. So no, I don’t want any advice.”

“Suit yourself.” Tim shrugged, slid the laptop toward him and raised the lid. “What’re you looking for on here?”

“I need to look through some files. I’m not exactly sure which ones yet.”

“This is highly unethical, you know,” Tim said. “Invading your wife’s privacy and all. You one of those ultra-jealous, stalker husbands? Like that guy in that Julia Roberts movie, Sleeping with the Enemy or whatever?”

“It’s for a good reason, Tim, I promise.”

Squinting at Joshua, Tim tapped ashes into a tray that looked like a hollowed-out mouse pad.
“All right, look,” he said, “I can probably get in, but it’s not gonna help you much if she trashed all the files. She might’ve covered her tracks or whatever. I can recover deleted files, but that can get a little hairy.”

“Let’s deal with that later. I just want to get on the system and see what I find.”

Tim pointed at the cell phone with his cigarette. “What about that?”

“It has a password, too.”

“Damn, your wife is like, super private with her stuff. Who puts a password on a freakin’ cell phone?”

“She did.”

“What the heck is she hiding, man? Like, government secrets or something?”



1) How many hours of television does Brandon watch each day?
2) Make up your own t-shirt slogan: stick within the categories of books, writers, vegetarians, Brandon, or small, furry animals
3) Ahhh…. Marital advice. The gift that keeps on giving. Share a piece of advice that has helped you or a loved one enjoy bliss (PG-rated please!)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wednesday's Special Is ... Freezing Point!

Freezing Point by Karen Dionne.

Just released! Order here from Amazon.

What's more terrifying than a Halloween horror story? How about a thriller that's so eerily plausible it'll have you second-guessing the best of corporate motives right along with government assurances that global warming is just an ecological hiccup.

When a 1,000 square-mile section of the Larson Ice Shelf broke off the Antarctic continent in 1998 due to global warming, thousands read the AP story in their local papers. Only one was inspired to write a novel about the giant iceberg. Karen Dionne combined that incident with the greatest April Fool’s hoax in Discover Magazine’s history to create “a timely, terrifying thriller” (Dame Magazine) about an environmentalist who thinks he can alleviate the world’s fresh water crisis by melting Antarctic icebergs into drinking water – not realizing he’s about to unleash an environmental disaster with the potential to destroy all mankind.

“Filled with fascinating science and thorny ethical questions, Freezing Point takes horror to a chilling new degree,” Dame Magazine adds. “Its ingenious plot, genuine characters, superlative writing and nail-biting suspense will change the way you look at a bottle of water," according to Romantic Times Book Review – all without a drop of romance in the novel!

It takes a cold, calculating mind to come up with this kind of thriller material. Say the type of mind that creates a little Web site for writers and calls it Backspace. Or perhaps the type of mind that gets its owner ranked #11 worldwide in the "Expert" category of Minesweeper. (Yes, folks, sad but true.)

Let's take a peek inside this mind, shall we? (Oh, and if you're eating ... well, let's just say I wouldn't be.) Answer the questions that follow for your chance to win a copy of Freezing Point.


For the fourth time in as many hours, Zo shoved the Hägglunds into park, opened the door, and jumped to the ground. The moment her feet touched down, she bent double, retching her peanut butter and jelly sandwich onto the snow. Straightening, she wiped her mouth on her jacket sleeve and leaned against the vehicle’s track to catch her breath. Then another cramp seized her, and she bent forward again.

Once her stomach was empty, she climbed back into the driver’s seat, still hungry, still nauseated, and leaned her head against the steering wheel, thinking how ridiculous it was that something as normal as pregnancy should make a woman so sick. She eyed the remaining half of her sandwich; then looked down at the brown and purple Rorschach blot in the snow and sealed the sandwich in a zip-lock bag—force of habit, since the Antarctic climate was so dry an open bag of chips stayed fresh for months.

Shifting the Hägglunds into gear, she started forward with one eye on the flag line and the other on the GPS, the mountains on either side rising up out of the snow like miniature Himalayas. A pterodactyl-shaped shadow passed over the ground. Zo traced it back to an albatross flying overhead. Seabirds never came very far inland, which meant she was close. She was tempted to roll down the window to sample the salt-smell in the air, but the exterior readout of –2E F and the frequent spindrifts of snow counseled otherwise.

After another half hour of jostling and bumping, she arrived at the Larson. In front of her, the glacier pooled between two rocky promontories like melted ice cream, spilling carelessly out onto the ocean where at some indeterminate point it ceased being a glacier and became the Larson Ice Shelf. Viewed from a distance, the surface was deceptively smooth, but ice shelves floated up and down with the tides, grating against the rocks and opening up cracks and fissures capable of swallowing an entire fleet of Hägglunds. Icebergs the size of apartment buildings regularly broke off from the leading edge in a process that was as natural as the seasons. It was only in recent years that chunks as big as small countries had begun falling into the sea. Laymen pointed their confident fingers at global warming, but lacking definitive empirical evidence, scientists were divided. Zo’s physical survey was intended to add to their body of knowledge; unfortunately, one season’s data wasn’t going to amount to much of a contribution.

As she drove out onto the glacier, she followed her previous tracks closely, fully aware of the sacrilege she was committing by scarring the face of the object she’d come to study. For all its harshness, Antarctica’s was a delicate ecosystem where change came slowly and even a footprint lasted for decades. To her left, she saw movement, the usual welcoming committee of dark shapes scurrying low to the ground. She tapped the horn in greeting and congratulated herself for not shuddering. The rats weren’t the only ones capable of adapting.


1) What kind of vehicle does Karen typically drive, and why?

2) Zo obviously frequents the Ice Shelf often. Why doesn't she just stay home and keep her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the freezer like the rest of us? (10 words or less.)

3) Write a haiku using at least 3 of the following words: rats, albatross, iceberg, Hägglunds, Rorschach.


Like what you've read so far? Come back this weekend to read CHAPTER ONE of Freezing Point!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tuesday's Special Is...Inside Out Girl!


Buy Inside Out Girl from Amazon

“Tish Cohen has created an endearing portrait of a type-A single mom in Inside Out Girl, but what you’ll really love is watching Rachel Berman’s transformation after becoming the guardian of learning disabled Olivia. As the pair’s relationship grows, Rachel finally comes to realize that being perfect has almost nothing to do with being truly happy.” -- Parenting Magazine

“It’s too soon to tell whether Inside Out Girl will be coming soon to a theatre or plasma screen near you, but the odds seem pretty good . . . Cohen uses wry humor and genuine emotion to bring about a bittersweet close. That empathetic quality, regardless of Hollywood’s persistent calls, is what marks Cohen as one of Canada’s strongest new talents.” --MACLEAN'S magazine (Canada)

Read the excerpt below, then answer the questions below for a chance to win a free copy of "Inside Out Girl." If you already have the book or don't want to answer the questions, then please feel free to drop in to say hello and talk to Tish!!



Then—the reason she’d been late getting dressed—Tabitha Carlisle. Gazing at Tabitha from afar, Janie stumbled over a rock. Which pretty much summed things up. About three months ago, Janie tripped over Tabitha and had yet to stand up straight.

It happened in gym class. Well, after gym class, in the locker room. Most of the girls were in the shower, but not Janie. She never showered at school. She didn’t want anyone to see her naked, but Tabitha and her friends had no such bodily hang-ups. They came back from the showers barely wrapped in towels, giggling and completely oblivious to who might be trying not to look at them. Tabitha’s clothes were in the cubby next to Janie’s.

Janie had turned her back and was yanking a t-shirt over her head so no one could see the suit of armor that was her bra, when someone tapped her on the shoulder. She spun around to find Tabitha smiling and holding something out in her hand. It was Janie’s striped hairband.

“It was on the floor,” Tabitha said, wearing nothing but a flimsy blue bra and panties. Powder blue. With tiny blue satin rosettes sprinkled across the front. Not that Janie looked. “Is it yours?”

So nervous she thought she’d throw up, Janie grunted and snatched up the hairband more aggressively than intended.

“You’re from the bus stop, right?” Tabitha had moved in next door a few days prior. But half her gymnastics team went to The Wilton School—the pricey alternative private school Janie and Dustin had attended since kindergarten and would continue to attend until college—so Tabitha had built-in friends. “I’ve learned so many names since moving, I keep forgetting.”

Janie smiled and stood up taller, nodding. “Cool.”

Tabitha smiled and motioned toward Janie’s chest. “It’s sweet.”


“Your hairband.” She reached out and touched the strip of fabric Janie still held in her hand. “I wish I had one like it.” Then she turned back to her friends, leaving Janie more gnarled than the ratted nylon.

Now, Janie swallowed as she approached the bus stop. How could anyone look so good just standing there? Tabitha’s long blond hair was tucked behind her ears. Janie already knew she’d be wearing the faded khakis and three black rubber bracelets. Her binoculars were that good.
Just as Janie was preparing a witty comment—something about Tabitha’s bracelets and good things coming in threes—the bus roared up and blanketed her unlaced Doc Martens in a film of dust. As the other kids hauled themselves up and into the vehicle, Janie hung back.

She had a plan.

Tabitha Carlisle was a creature of habit. Every morning, grinning at Libby Anders in the second row, she sauntered down the aisle, then flopped into the seat with the wheel well so she could prop her feet on it. Always on the left, always by the window. Janie just needed to casually slide into the empty seat beside Tabitha and dazzle her with her shining personality. Simple.

The doors yelped to a close behind Janie. Tabitha’s blond hair glowed, beckoning, just where it should be – about two-thirds of the way back, on the left. By the window. For a second it looked as if Dustin, little shitface, might swing into Tabitha’s seat. Janie held her breath and vowed to pound him after school, but at the last moment his revolting friend burped Dustin’s name from the back seat and he continued on, clearly charmed.


As the bus pulled out into traffic, Janie slid into the left wheel well seat. Right beside Tabitha.

Tabitha glanced up and pretend-smiled. “Saved,” was all she said.

Janie jumped up, mumbled, “Sorry,” and dove into the next seat back. She folded her arms across her chest and tried not to stare at Tabitha’s hair the rest of the way to school.


1) Tish has acquired many hang-ups throughout the years. Name one of them.

2) Residing in Tish's computer is a folder called "Character Nicknames." Little Shitface is in there. What's another nickname in that folder? (Not too racy, folks!)

3) How does Tish charm her friends into sitting next to her on the bus?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October Roastees

It's been a while since our last roast. Okay, just a couple of weeks. But still, the need is there. We feel it too.

Without further ado, a preview of our upcoming authors!

Tuesday, Oct 21: Tish Cohen "Inside Out Girl"

(condensed from an interview)

My close friend is a family therapist and once told me her favorite clients are children with non-verbal learning disorders, because of their loving dispositions—naiveté, clumsiness, big hearts, and an utter inability to connect with other children. She loves that they talk too close, constantly knock things over, say the wrong thing, and still get lost on the way to the restroom down the hall in an office they’ve been coming to for five years. Often they can’t walk up the stairs and talk at the same time, their clothes are inside out and their lack of motor skills means they can’t brush their own teeth. If you tell them to jump in a lake, they probably will. Frustrating, to say the least.

But they will hug you until you weep.

I thought about what it would mean to have a child with NLD and the joy and pain that would entail. Then I wondered what that parent would do if he had to leave such a child behind in a world that doesn’t understand her and that was really the seed for this story.

Wednesday, Oct 22: Karen Dionne "Freezing Point"

As he faces the frozen behemoth of a giant iceberg, environmental activist Ben Maki sees Earth’s future. Clean drinking water for millions, waiting to be tapped from the polar ice. The Soldyne Corporation backs Ben’s grand philanthropic vision for a better today—while making its own plans for a very profitable tomorrow.

Rebecca Sweet lives for the cause—an eco-terrorist who will do whatever she must to protect the earth. And Ben Maki’s ideas have set her on the path to war…

All of them will be drawn into a battle between hope and helplessness, power and pride. But they are about to discover that deep within the ice waits an enemy more deadly than any could imagine—an apocalyptic horror mankind may not survive.

Thursday, Oct 23: Brandon Massey "Don't Ever Tell"

DARK SECRETS...With a new identity, a new city to live in, and a wonderful new husband, Rachel Moore believes she's finally free of the demons in her past. But nothing could be farther from the truth. For the deadly secrets she thought were long buried are now on the brink of being exposed...

HAVE A WAY...Someone has a vendetta against Rachel. Someone whom she betrayed a long time ago. Someone who is determined to make her pay--no matter what the cost...
OF COMING BACK WITH A VENGEANCE...Now Rachel knows it's just a matter of time before her dangerous past meets up with her present--and destroys everything she's worked so hard for. Because if there's one thing that can be counted on--her enemy never forgets or forgives and will do whatever it takes to see her suffer...

Monday, Oct 27: Karen Harrington "Janeology"

Jane, a loving mother of two, has drowned her toddler son and is charged with his murder in this powerful examination of love, loss, and family legacy. When a prosecutor decides Jane's husband Tom is partially to blame for the death and charges him with "failure to protect," Tom's attorney proposes a radical defense. He plans to create reasonable doubt about his client's alleged guilt by showing that Jane's genealogy is the cause of her violence, and that she inherited her latent violence in the same way she might inherit a talent for music or a predisposition to disease. He argues that no one could predict or prevent the tragedy, and that Tom cannot be held responsible.

With the help of a woman gifted with the power of retrocognition—the ability to see past events through objects once owned by the deceased—the defense theory of dark biology takes form. An unforgettable journey through the troubled minds and souls of eight of Jane's ancestors (named below), spanning decades and continents, this debut novel deftly illustrates the ways nature and nurture weave the fabric of one woman's life, and renders a portrait of one man left in its tragic wake.

Tuesday, Oct 28: Clea Simon "Cries and Whiskers"

When an animal rights activist is killed by a hit-and-run driver on an icy Cambridge street, music critic Theda Krakow can’t get too upset. The victim cared more for wild animals than for people, and had no use at all for� domesticated pets, such as the black-and-white cat Musetta that Theda adores. Besides, Theda is caught up in investigating the rise of a dangerous new designer drug that threatens the musicians and fans who make up the club scene she considers her second home. But when the feline-friendly writer learns that the accident victim was defying her own radical group to rescue feral cats on the eve of a ferocious winter storm, she puts her own prejudices aside to help out. As Theda and her buddy, the punk-rock shelter owner Violet, race to save these half-wild felines from the freezing New England winter, they uncover simmering tensions that make the activist’s death seem more than an accident. Could a friend have been the fatal driver? Is Violet more involved with the extremist group than she’s let on? Even while kittens are at risk and the new drug hits close to home, Theda tries to hang onto her journalistic objectivity. But when the threats become more personal and Musetta goes missing, Theda risks her reputation, her career, and possibly her life as the word “deadline” takes on a whole new meaning.

Wednesday, Oct 29: T. M. Hunter "Heroes Die Young"

Space pirate Aston West stumbles upon a derelict freighter, fresh from a recent battle, and can’t fight the urge to pilfer a valuable cache of highly illegal weapons. While on-board, however, one last stowaway fights back, thinking him part of an earlier boarding crew. Attack craft return to finish the ship off and Aston has no choice but to save her from certain destruction.

Who is she? What are the weapons for? Why was the freighter destroyed?Aston discovers more questions than answers, and his life is put in jeopardy every time he stops to catch his breath. His life motto of never getting involved is put to the test, and he must decide whether to become a hero for people in need, or continue his path of self-preservation.

Thursday, Oct 30: Peggy Johnson "The Alien Abduction Handbook"

Nearly four million people believe they have been abducted and examined by aliens. It's just a matter of time before they get around to all of us. You need this information to ensure your safe return.

The Inter-Galactic Council believes that the abduction process can be streamlined if future abductees know what to expect, and are prepared for their journey, so they sent a spokesalien to brief us on their important protocols, and dispel some of the myths commonly attributed to aliens.

The Alien Abduction Handbook will answer all the questions you might have about the experience. What is best to wear? Can you request a postponement? Is it permissable to pack a carry-on bag, or a light lunch? What should you say on your outgoing voicemail message? For a fee, will the aliens drop you off at a different location than where you were abducted?
OK. So he sounds a little odd. He's an Alien!

Friday, Oct 31: Kim Baccellia "Earrings of Ixtumea"

Fourteen-year-old Lupe Hernandez dismisses the legend about her Mexican grandmother's magical earrings as a silly fairytale, despite recurring nightmares of human sacrifice. But when the earrings thrust her into the parallel world of Ixtumea, she must confront the very thing she shuns the most -- her cultural heritage.

Lupe's journey takes her through a dense Mayan jungle to the damp underground kingdom of Malvado, where a rebel leader plots to keep her from fulfilling her destiny. She is guided by a hot warrior protector named Teancum, who tells her about a prophecy of a long-awaited young prophetess - which happens to be Lupe. She trains with the Spider Goddess, who teaches her the sacred knots that bind both worlds together, and she meets her long-lost mother, Concha, who is now a dangerous enemy. Life as Lupe knows it will never be the same!