Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday's Special Is...Lonely Places!

Lonely Places by A.L. Debran

Wounded and left to die on the Colorado plains, Elliotte Sorin is a woman with incomplete memories. Beau Hyatt saves her life and she vows that with this handsome brooding man she will never be alone again. As his gunfighter past intrudes into their lives, and his absences from her increase, her loneliness deepens.

She turns to Liam Mederi and finds endless love in his welcoming arms and smiling green eyes. Deadly jealousy rages when Beau questions the paternity of her unborn child and the two men meet in a violent confrontation that threatens to destroy more than one life.

Order from Cobblestone Press.

Visit A.L. Debran's website.


When Beau Hyatt stepped out of the line shack, the diffused brightness of the cloud-covered sunrise on the snow-covered prairie greeted him. There was no breeze, not a whisper of air. He surveyed the rolling landscape and inhaled the cold, crisp air as he saddled his horse and swung into the saddle, glad that the snowfall hadn’t turned into a blizzard overnight.

An hour later, he started down a ravine and pulled up sharply. Damn it. I’ll get myself killed if I’m not more careful. Ahead of him, a packhorse stood over an unmoving horse on the ground. The packhorse nickered and whinnied, glad to see someone. A distant, answering whinny reached his ear. He cocked his head toward the sound, but heard nothing more.

He sat the gray a comfortable and cautious twenty feet away and contemplated the scene. He took in the dead horse with the gear still in place, the packhorse with the lead line dragging, and that there was another over the hill. Slight movement by the dead horse caught his eye. He frowned and looked around. He stepped down, dropped the reins to ground tie his mount, and walked to the horses.

The free side of a blanket trapped under the dead horse flapped in the growing breeze. Squatting on his heels, he lifted an edge of the blanket and snow scattered around him in a swirling gust. He expected to find a body beneath the blanket, but discovering it was a woman caught him completely off guard.

He hesitated. Staying out of other peoples’ business had kept him alive. He stuck his neck out for few people, especially strangers, female or not. Scenes of his life with another woman passed through his mind, but he forced them away. With an uncharacteristically sympathetic decision, he un-cinched the saddle and pulled the woman, along with the saddle, from under the horse. Once more, he hesitated. If he tried to save her life, his own would be forever changed.

He took off a glove and slipped a bare hand inside her coat. Cool, but warm enough. Her face, ears, and fingers were pink. Matted brown hair stuck to her face with bloody ice crystals and dirt. There was no telling how long she’d been there, but he knew the blanket and the warmth from the dead horse had kept her from freezing.

Grabbing his glove, he stared at his hand. Blood. He pulled her coat open and found her clothing stiff with dried blood while fresh blood trickled from an injury high on her chest or shoulder. Checking further, he found three holes in her coat: two in the upper left shoulder and one on the same side midway down her back.

Antsy and wary, he rocked back on his heels and studied his surroundings, analyzing the situation. No sign of self-defense. The holes in her coat entered from the back. He figured the horse had taken a shot to the flank and had gone down with her still in the saddle.

“Who are you? Why the hell are you out here all alone?”


Please answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of LONELY PLACES, or just pop in to chat with A.L. Debran!!

Out on the prairie, you lift up a blanket and find your mother snoozing red-faced with two empty bottles of tequila. Do you wake her up, and if so, what is the first thing you say?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thursday's Special Is...Searching for a Starry Night!

Searching for a Starry Night by Christine Verstraete

Samantha Ann Carlton would rather spend her summer vacation anywhere but a spooky old house in Lake Geneva! Somehow Sam knows it's going to take more than a couple days to find a missing painting no bigger than her hand.

Maybe things won't be so bad, she thinks, since she gets to take a friend's lovable, nosy, and often mischievous Dachshund, Petey, and her best friend Lita. If they're lucky, the three of them can find the miniature replica of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" and help Sam's mother get it to the museum, where it belongs.

But it's not going to be easy, Sam realizes, when she discovers that her own family has some spooky secrets. Then Petey digs up an ancient curse, and Sam fears her friendship with Lita is doomed.

Can she find the miniature masterpiece before it's too late? Will she and her best friend go home forever friends or enemies?

Visit Christine's website.

Order from Quake/Echelon Press.

Order from Amazon.

(Christine Verstraete thinks you're never too old to play with dollhouses, so when she's not writing, she's probably working on a new miniature project.

Pets, especially dogs, also manage to find their way into many of Christine's projects and stories, with her real life dog serving as inspiration for her book's mischievous Dachshund, Petey.

Christine's real house is home, as well, to assorted fish and birds, plus wild turtles, and frogs that crawl across her lawn each summer.

Christine has had short fiction and nonfiction published in various magazines and online. Her short horror story, "The Witch Tree," was a contest winner published by Echelon Press. She also is author of the ebook, "In Miniature Style," with miniatures photos, stories about collectors and how-to projects.)


(Finally, Sam and Lita make their way over to the housekeeper Mrs. Drake's house. They might not be able to get inside to see the woman's dollhouse collection, but they can at least peek in the windows, right?)

Sam studied the house. Neatly trimmed hedges, a variety of flowerpots. Most importantly, the driveway was empty. Mrs. Drake's car wasn't here. Sam crept closer to the house to listen. The house looked deserted. The windows were open, but no sounds drifted out.

Fishing equipment in hand, Lita jogged across the road to stash everything out of view behind the scraggly bushes, while Sam went to peek in the backyard and checked the sides of the house. A quick glance eased her mind. Okay, it looked like the coast was clear. Sam headed back to the front and nodded to her friend. "Okay, I'll take the left, you take the right, watch the bushes."

Lita's long, lanky legs made it easier for her to sidestep the giant yew bushes positioned in front of the right side windows. She squeezed close enough to the house to peer inside. Sam inched forward to peek into the living room through the left side window.

"Oh, awesome!" Lita cried. "Sam, you see the house? Look at all that other stuff!"

"Yeah. Wow, Mrs. Taylor wasn't kidding," Sam said. "There's stuff all over."

The tall pink Victorian dollhouse that they'd seen Mrs. Drake carry out of Aunt Hilda's house now sat on a table in the corner. A chair by the fireplace overflowed with a variety of dolls and bears in all different sizes. A smaller dollhouse sat on one end table. Two even tinier houses sat on the coffee table. Even the fireplace mantle was lined with a collection of dolls and more houses.

Sam's wish that she could see what was in the adjacent room was cut short by the sound of a car driving up the road. "Lita, quick! Someone's coming. Hurry, hide somewhere!"

It was a scene from an old Charlie Chaplin film as Lita hurried out from behind the bushes, fighting to pull her shirt caught on a branch, before frantically searching for somewhere to go. Sam's heart thudded in her chest as she hopped around, unsure of where to turn.

Lita decided for them. "Sam, quick, get behind that bush. I'll be around the corner."

In the nick of time, Sam jumped over the pots of mums and ducked behind one of the tall bushes in the back, thankful that it was far enough away from the building. The space was small, but it at least gave her enough room to squeeze in without getting stabbed by the bush's spiky limbs or coming out with dozens of tiny scratches on her arms. Hearing the car stop, the engine shut off and a car door slam, Sam tried to peek around the edge of the bush to confirm that it was Mrs. Drake without giving herself away.

The click-clack of a woman's heels on the concrete steps caused Sam to shrink as far back into the corner as she could, like a frightened turtle returning to its shell. She stood in the cramped space, mouth dry, hardly daring to breathe. The squeak of the screen door being opened and the rustle of paper drifted her way. Her heart thudded so loud she thought everyone could hear it. C'mon, hurry up, she urged silently. What was taking her so long to go inside?

A minute later, the sound of a voice, clearly Mrs. Drake's, almost made her run. Sam looked around in a panic, not sure what to do.

"You can come out," the housekeeper said.

Sam froze. Funny, she wouldn't have guessed that Mrs. Drake had any pets. She hadn't heard any barking nor seen a dog through the windows. The muscles in her legs tightened as she braced herself. Her heart pounded. Any minute she expected the mysterious dog to run out and head straight for her.

Mrs. Drake spoke louder. "Did you hear me, Sam?"

A puzzled look crossed Sam's face. Cat, dog, whatever it was had her name, too? Weird. No wonder Mrs. Drake made fun of her when they met!

Sam's eyes widened when her gaze met a pair of brown eyes looking straight at her. "I meant you, girl. Next time you want to hide, don't stand behind a bush you can see through. You can tell that friend of yours to come here and bring those grocery bags in for me, too."

Still surprised at being discovered, Sam nodded at Lita who slunk from around the corner with a sheepish look on her face. The two of them followed Mrs. Drake up the steps and grabbed a paper sack. Sam turned to take one more look at the bush before she went in. Mrs. Drake was right. You could see right through the bare limbs. She hadn't noticed that before! Whatever made her and Lita think it was a good idea to hide there?

With a smile, Sam carried the bag of groceries into the neatly kept house, glad to have been discovered. Actually, it was a perfect idea. It had worked to get them inside, hadn't it?


Please answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of SEARCHING FOR A STARRY NIGHT, or just pop in to chat with Christine!!

What did Sam and Lita see the last time they looked in the housekeeper's window?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wednesday's Special Is...Mermaids in the Basement!

Mermaids in the Basement by Michael Lee West

MERMAIDS IN THE BASEMENT explores the complex bonds between a father and daughter. Twenty pounds overweight—and sporting a bad haircut—Renata DeChavannes’ luck has run out. Her screenwriting career is on the skids, she’s reeling from her mother’s sudden death, and her producer-boyfriend is on the cover of tabloid magazines (accompanied by a big-breasted starlet). For decades, Renata has been estranged from her father, but she retreats to her beloved paternal grandmother’s home in Point Clear, Alabama, where an old steamer trunk holds clues to her troubled childhood—and to her parents’ failed marriage. She hopes to reconcile with her womanizing, heart-surgeon father, until his latest fiancée turns up bloodied and comatose at her engagement party—and pearls from Renata’s broken necklace are rolling around the crime scene. While the police snoop and her father dodges her phone calls, Renata continues to excavate the old trunk; and she discovers that everything she thought she knew about her parents—and herself—is a lie. And all of it uncannily resembles a tabloid story.

Order from Amazon.

Visit Michael's website.

(Michael Lee West is the author of five novels including Crazy Ladies, Mad Girls in Love, American Pie, She Flew the Coop as well as a food memoir Consuming Passions. She lives with her husband on a rural farm in Lebanon, Tennessee with three bratty Yorkshire Terriers, a Chinese Crested, assorted donkeys, chickens, sheep, and African Pygmy goats. Her faithful dog Zap was the inspiration of a character in Mermaids in the Basement.)



If I had not read the cover story in the March 2, 2000, National Enquirer, it's doubtful that I would have gone to Alabama and ruined my daddy's engagement party, much less sent the bride-to-be into a coma. Just for the record, I don't go around hitting other women, even if they are all wrong for my daddy; I don't read tabloids, and I certainly would never steal one, yet that's exactly what happened.

For the past six months, I'd been staying at my late mother's cottage on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, eating salt water taffy, forgetting to shave my legs, and plotting my next trip to Ireland. Days ago, my sweetheart, Ferg Lauderdale, had called from his Dublin hotel room, and, in between sneezes, he'd mentioned that he'd lost his sweater at a pub. "Could you pop a cardigan into the mail, love?" he asked. "Or better yet, could you deliver it in person?"

After we went through our five-minute ritual of saying good-bye, I drove to Jockey's Ridge Crossing, where I bought a pound of pecan divinity at the Footgear, then looked at a flying pig whirligig at Kitty Hawk Kites. Finally, I wandered over to Black Sheep, an eclectic wool store that sold dhurrie rugs, Flemish tapestries, Aubusson pillows, cashmere sweaters, and assorted one-of-a-kind clothing.

A bell tinkled over my head as I ducked into the store. A woman with short gray curls and horn-rimmed glasses sat next to the checkout desk, dipping French fries into catsup. She directed me to a polished maple display table that was piled high with cashmere. I hadn't seen Ferg in five weeks, and the notion of hand-delivering a care package was quite appealing. I selected three blue crew-necked sweaters that were exactly the color of his eyes, and a heavy, oatmeal-colored cardigan with deep pockets.

"Don't forget to look at our fifty-percent-off counter," called the clerk, lifting a plastic cup.

Tucking the sweaters over my arm, I wandered to the sale bin. A white poncho was spread out like gull wings over a half-price bolster pillow. With one hand, I lifted the poncho, and the macramé fringe, which was knotted with aqua beads, clicked and swayed. I had an image of myself wearing this poncho to Ireland. I'd jump into Ferg's outstretched arms and wrap my legs around his waist-well, maybe I wouldn't leap, and I certainly wouldn't do any sort of leg wrapping. A salt water taffy binge had left me with ten, or maybe twenty, extra pounds.

Setting down Ferg's sweaters, I slipped the poncho over my head, taking care not to snag my dangly seashell earrings in the fringe. The poncho felt a bit snug, and on my way to the three-way mirror, I caught the clerk's attention and said, "Does it come in a larger size?"

"I'm afraid not. One size fits all," said the clerk. "Unfortunately, that doesn't mean it flatters all." She waved her hand, knocking over the plastic cup. Ice and cola slid across the glass counter, then cascaded over the sides, pattering against the industrial-grade carpet. The clerk threw down several paper sacks, then bustled off to the stockroom for a mop.

I parked myself in front of the mirror, glancing over my shoulder, trying to see if the poncho covered my rear end. It didn't. Grasping the fringe, I tried to stretch the garment over my elephantine self. My head jutted out of the poncho, resembling the handiwork of a South American head shrinker.

I turned away from the mirror and bumped into a hospitality table that held a coffee urn and Keebler oatmeal cookies. A thick stack of fashion magazines and tabloids toppled to the floor. I hunkered down, gathering them into my arms, and happened to glance at the cover of the National Enquirer. It was upside down, but I recognized the couple in the photograph.

The laughing, dark-headed woman was Esmé Vasquez, the star of my sweetheart's new film. Her tight black pants showed the outline of aerobicized thighs. She leaned sideways, her breasts spilling out of a V-necked blouse, a smoky topaz necklace shining against bare skin. Her manicured hand gripped a man's thigh-Ferg's thigh. He was wedged against her, gripping a pint of ale. Behind his familiar wire-rimmed glasses, his eyes held a bemused expression.

I'd helped Ferg select those glasses after he'd stopped wearing contact lenses. His hair looked shorter and redder than I remembered. If he'd altered his hairstyle, what else had changed? The old Ferg had coppery, ropelike natural curls that sprang out all over his head. I remembered how he used to sit on the fl oor between my knees, a towel draped around his shoulders while I shaped and scrunched his hair with my unglamorous, unmanicured hands.

Me, I was the antithesis of all things Hollywood. One year ago, when he gave his acceptance speech at the Academy Awards, the camera had panned over to my row. I started to shrink down, but I was seated next to Susan Sarandon, who'd been nominated for best supporting actress in Bombshell. Susan grabbed a handful of my black gown and held me aloft. Later, when we made the party rounds, she pointed to my feet-one navy pump, one black. I waved my hand, and explained that the shoes were Prada, identical twins except for the color: the navy kid leather was almost black. I had borrowed them from my late mother, a self-professed shoe-a-holic. When Shelby VanDusen fell in love with a shoe, she bought them in multiple colors. "Just go barefoot," Susan suggested, "unless you're trying out for Fashion Victim of the Week in the tabloids."

"But I'll get my feet dirty," I said.

"That's all right, love," Ferg said, handing his statue to Susan; then he swept me into his arms. He smiled. "I'll carry you."

I always thought his hair went with his smile, a wide-mouthed, open grin. I'd worked with him three years, lived with him for two; but the longer I stared at the picture, the more alien he seemed. If it wasn't the camera angle, only one explanation made sense: I had never really known him. He was a stranger with even stranger hair.

In less than four minutes, my own hair was about to undergo a radical transformation, and not by choice.


Please answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of MERMAIDS IN THE BASEMENT, or pop in to chat with Michael!!

What do you feed your mermaids in the basement? (And for extra credit, what are their names?)



Mermaids in the Basement

Twenty pounds overweight—and sporting a bad haircut—Renata DeChavannes' luck has run out. Her screenwriting career is on the skids, she's reeling from her mother's sudden death, and her producer-boyfriend is on the cover of tabloid magazines (accompanied by a big-breasted starlet).

American Pie

With wit and loving compassion, Michael Lee West introduces us to an indomitable family of eccentric survivors in an unforgettable novel of cruel fate, bad luck, and unassailable resiliency.

She Flew the Coop

From Michael Lee West comes a beautifully rendered portrait of small-town Southern life, filled with humanity that brilliantly weaves comedy with dark calamity.

Mad Girls in Love

Michael Lee West's indomitable G.R.I.T.S. (Girls Raised in the South) are back -- enduring rough times with all the grace and outrageous flair expected of true Southern heroines.

Crazy Ladies

A lively multigenerational tale of six charming, unforgettable Southern women--a story of love and laughter, pain and redemption

Consuming Passions

Consuming Passions is Michael Lee West's delightfully quirky memoir of an adventurous life centered around food and family—the story of how she went from non-cook to gourmet of words and victuals by watching a multitude of relatives squabble, prepare sumptuous repasts, and carry on honored traditions.


Again, the question is: What do you feed your mermaids in the basement? (And for extra credit, what are their names?)

Go for it!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday's Special Is...Within the Law!

Within the Law by Chelle Cordero

Tom gave up on ever falling in love again the day that he buried his high school sweetheart and fiancé. He started a career in law enforcement just so that he could find her murderer and rapist.

Just when he is about to see justice done, he meets Alli Davis-the defense attorney for the man who took his love from him.

Alli and Tom share a mutual and passionate attraction but Alli refuses to make any commitments. She is hiding a huge secret. Tom falls in love with her and pursues her despite a false arrest, kidnapping and attempt on his life.

Buy from Amazon.

Visit Chelle's Website.

Excerpt from WITHIN THE LAW:

He put his hand on the bartender’s wrist as she moved the open bottle towards his glass to refill.

“That’s going to be it for me, I’ve got an early morning.” He removed his hand from her wrist and watched as she pulled her slender hand away, noting the bright red of her nails. He remembered seeing red nails like that before. It was the same red as the cherry that topped the ice cream sundae you took your girl out for on a hot summer night. It was the same red as the Ruby stone that sat in a high school ring.

It had been more than eight years since he had seen that high school ring. She had been wearing it on a gold chain around her neck as she kissed him and told him she’d see him later. He waved as she got into the car with her friends and they drove off. Even though it had been a girls’ outing, he was supposed to drive them that day. One of her friends was planning to move into the dorm at the university in Syracuse later that summer and they all had wanted to help her make purchases for her room. But the restaurant manager had a last minute opening and he was grabbing all the work he could. So he stayed behind. He stayed behind and worked so they would be a little bit closer to being able to afford getting married.

His high school ring was never supposed to replace her engagement ring. He had been planning on buying one. But they wanted to move the wedding date up. They needed the money so buying the diamond was put on hold. Tom was still working the busboy job that had carried him through his senior year of high school. He had applications in at lots of other places for full time jobs, but the summer wasn’t the best time to get hired. His dad had wanted him to go on to college, but college wasn’t in his plans. Not anymore. He proposed to Joyce on their high school graduation day.

Joyce’s parents tried to convince them each to go to the local community college. They kept telling them that a two year engagement wasn’t all that long after all. Tom and Joyce knew they couldn’t wait the two years. So he worked as many hours as he could as a busboy. He managed to pick up a few extra hours pumping gas at the local station also. Joyce babysat and she was going to start selling plastic kitchen containers to all the area housewives. She wasn’t planning to buy anything that day. She was just going along for the ride. She was just going to enjoy the day with her girlfriends. He wanted her to have fun.

He was dead on his feet after the shift at the restaurant and he just wanted to go home and watch TV. His mom called him before he left work. His fifteen-year old cousin had run away again, something she did an average of twice a week since coming to live with them when she was twelve. Tom always knew where to find her and he picked her up on his way home that night. They were sitting in his car while he once again lectured her about her behavior when the police car pulled up. Tom knew that his world was about to end when he saw Joyce’s father get out of the back seat.


Please answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of WITHIN THE LAW, or pop in to chat with Chelle!!

GI Joe has just commandeered your dollhouse. What redecorations has he made, and where does his Dachshund sleep?

(Chelle says the most creative answer wins!)

Monday, January 26, 2009

So...You're Writing a Book, Are You?

From the desk of Ms. Sally Spitfire:

My dear Suzy-kins,

Thank you for the package! I was so thrilled to get it. The hat you sent is simply gorgeous, although I can't imagine where I'm going to wear it! Certainly not at work and certainly not until summer--but I'll do my best to find the perfect occasion.

Meanwhile, I have a mystery that I need help to solve. I decided to go in for half a day this past Monday even though we technically had the day off (Martin Luther King Day) and you'll never guess who I saw when I walked into the office...


And I still have no idea what he was doing there. All I know what that he was sitting in front of his computer, staring intently at the screen and muttering to himself...until he saw me. Then he immediately jumped up to make us both a pot of coffee. Any ideas?

But I've been sidetracked; I wanted to answer the question from your letter! As it turns out, publishing DOES have its own "occupational hazard" and it is this: once you start working in publishing you quickly find out that EVERYONE IS A WRITER. They simply ooze out of the woodwork!

For example, at our family Christmas this year, no less than three of our relatives pulled me aside into linen closets and quiet corners to ask my opinion on "a fantastic idea for a book that I've been thinking of writing." I have received, by email, 5 different manuscripts and at least three times as many queries on "how to go about publishing a book" from close friends of the family. I even got a call from an ex-boyfriend with whom I hadn't spoken in years who wanted recommendations on good (read=willing) literary agents for his recently-finished epic fantasy novel.

But best of all, Suzy dear, was what happened at my last dentist visit. I should never have mentioned that I work in publishing. As he stuck his hands in my mouth, my dentist exclaimed: "Well that's fantastic because I'M ACTUALLY A WRITER!" At first I thought he was kidding but it turns out that the joke was on me because he spent the rest of the appointment telling me about his series of DENTAL FORENSIC MYSTERIES. And, to top it all off, he claims I have a cavity. I use the word "claim", because in the same breath he told me I'll have to come back next week to have a "very small cavity" filled and also, when I come, would I mind bringing along a list of editors from my publishing house who work with mysteries?

I swear, Suzy, sometimes I think I should just tell people that I work in finance.

Much love to you and Chloe and her rabbits,

(Ms.) Sally S.
So, how do you describe your day job?

Who is more paranoid? A criminal in the midst of a break-in, or a writer about to type "The End" to a manuscript.

Do you like your dentist?

Discuss as you like...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Warning to Our Patrons

Once in a while, we at the Book Roast need to remind patrons that hanging out at the grill is done so at a moderate amount of risk.

Before hanging out at the grill:

After hanging out at the grill:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday's Special...A Time for Alexander!

TIME FOR ALEXANDER by Jennifer Macaire

Ashley is a one of the elite, a time-travel journalist who has fought to prove herself in a world that that believes her road in life was paved by her parents' money and her title. After winning a prestigious award she is chosen to travel through time and interview a historical figure. Choosing her childhood hero Alexander the Great, she is sent back in time for less than a day to find and interview a man whose legend has survived to the present day. He mistakes her for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and kidnaps her, stranding her in his own time.What follows, after she awakes under a pomegranate tree, is a hilarious, mind-bending tale of a modern woman immersed in the ancient throes of sex, love, quite a bit of vino, war, death, and ever so much more.

To buy, click here:


I could not, would not, go back in time with my head shaved. But the fashion consultant ignored my protests, put the razor to my head, and swept off my hair.

That should have been a warning, but all day long I'd ignored the signs. To begin with, I couldn't get any of my so-called friends from Tempus University to come pick me up. They'd stopped speaking to me when I'd been chosen for the prize. It shouldn't have bothered me. I'd never had friends before, why did I need them now? Well, they would have come in handy for a ride. The only flat I could afford after giving my money to a charity foundation was in a crappy section just outside town and there was no zip-tram nearby. When I called a taxi, he'd refused to drive up to my door and I had to walk through the garbage strewn streets to the main station.

When I finally got to the University, the fashion consultant gave me a dress to wear that felt like it had been woven from nettles and the most uncomfortable sandals in the world. The sandals, the fashion consultant informed me, were made by a shoemaker-slash-historian from plaited grass imported directly from the Euphrates riverbanks.

Just after I finished dressing, the smug fashion consultant shaved me bald and gave me a most unflattering wig. Then, in another room, a surgeon gave me a shot that would temporarily protect me from all the known illnesses of the time, including pregnancy and rabies. Then he implanted my tradi-scope right above my left ear, missing the first time, and giving me a fearsome headache. I didn't complain. Besides, I needed the tradi-scope to understand all the languages I would meet.

Finally, when I was deemed dressed and coifed appropriately for 333 BC, the fashion consultant escorted me to the very center of the Institute of Time Travel, where I climbed onto the massive seat carved from a block of pure quartz crystal that would send my atoms spinning through time.

A nurse paused next to me and looked at the glowing screen by the cylinder of frozen nitrogen. "Only a few more minutes before you get vaporized," she said, and smiled.

Everyone in the room was waiting for me to fail at my undertaking or to show some sort of weakness. I leaned back in the freezing chair and pretended to yawn.
Please answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of TIME FOR ALEXANDER. Or, pop in and chat with Jennifer, before she goes back in time for more fun ideas!!
Who is the most popular professor at the Institute of Time Travel?

Nathan Photo Caption Winner!

Congratulations to Calderwood books!!!

All of the captions cracked me up, but this one was my favorite.

Please contact me via email so I can arrange for your gift certificate.
Thank you to everyone!!!

And now, for the second verse of "I'm a Little Teapot..."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday's Special Is...Nathan Bransford!

UPDATE! A contest! A real one. Details buried within the comments.

We all know him from his first line contests. And his first paragraph contests. We at the Book Roast would like to start the rumor, here and now, that Agent Nathan Bransford is going to have his first ever first word contest.

That's right. You get one word. Email him your one-word query between now and midnight, February 31, for a chance to win the statue in the photo.

Okay, okay. Seriously, when we asked Nathan if he'd participate in an agent roast, he was more than gracious and forthcoming. Thank you, Nathan!!

Nathan's blog


1) Other than addressing you as “Nate Dawg,” in a query letter, what’s a good way of getting your attention?


That would definitely get my attention.

2) A haiku about your last contest, please:

Entries coming in
Don’t think I’m going to make it
Vacation time please?

3) What’s the first blog you read each day?

Whatever pops into my Google Reader first.

4) A potential client meets you for lunch. She’s wearing her Bransford T-Shirt. As she sits down she pulls out two bottles of Bransford beer from her purse. What do you do?

Secretly text my wife to meet me there. Then we’ll steal the beer, distract the potential client with a fake book contract, and stop a criminal from robbing the register. All in a day’s work, kids. All in a day’s work.

5) Which character on “Gilligan’s Island” is most deserved of a separate series?

Um, let’s see. There’s Gilligan, the Professor and…. Two women, right? Three? Wasn’t there a little guy who said, “Da plane?” Sorry, never really watched it. I think there were some Nick at Night reruns when I was a kid though.

6) Can you surf?

Ha. I’m a farmboy. Don’t know where that rumor got started. Although in my hometown people have been known to water ski in canals behind a pickup truck. I wish I were kidding.

7) How did you celebrate Festivus this year?

Just like any other family. We aired our grievances, which led to a huge fight that involved the Festivus pole and featured many feats of strength.

8) What do you typically eat for lunch?

Peanut butter and jelly, an apple, and saltine crackers. Got me through elementary school, why stop now?

9) Your recipe for perfect hair, please.

All I know is what I do for my own hair: towel dry and let it do what it pleases. It’s pretty much the opposite of perfect though.

10) What are you reading at the moment?

THE BLACK SWAN by Nassim Nicholas Taleb


Please drop by and say hello! Chit-chat. What's your favorite part of Nathan's blog?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009



"Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan, a gifted harpist who regularly plays for weddings and other events, has the kind of stage fright that makes her physically ill before a performance, which is an inauspicious way to start a romance; but while vomiting before a competition a gorgeous boy comes into the restroom to hold her hair. He is Luke Dillon, a flautist who proceeds to accompany her in a truly stellar performance. As four-leaf clovers start appearing everywhere, Deirdre develops telekinetic powers and encounters strange, unworldly people who seem to bear her ill will. Her best friend, James, also a talented musician; her beloved grandmother; and her mother all are in danger, as Deirdre is targeted by the queen of Faerie. Deirdre eventually discovers that she is a cloverhand, a person who can see the denizens of faerie, and Luke, not the only immortal who has her in his sights, is a gallowglass, an assassin assigned by the queen of Faerie to kill Deirdre but who falls in love with her instead. This beautiful and out-of-the- ordinary debut novel, with its authentic depiction of Celtic Faerie lore and dangerous forbidden love in a contemporary American setting, will appeal to readers of Nancy Werlin's Impossible and Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series." - Booklist, starred review.


James took my hand in his written-upon ones and turned the ring on my finger, absently. It reminded me of Luke’s hand on mine, earlier. How can two hands feel so different? “And the clover? The one that you moved this morning, with your brain? Do you still have it?”

“Thought I moved,” I corrected. I shook my head. “Yeah.” I shifted my weight so I could pull it from my pocket.

“So move it.”

I looked hard at him.

“Well, if you can’t move it like you said, it won’t move, and you won’t have to worry about it anymore, will you? But if it does – well, then you’re a freak.” James grinned. He plucked the slightly crushed clover from my finger and set it in the sparse grass beneath the tree. “Go go, magic clover.”

“I feel foolish.” I did. We were like two kids hunched over a Ouija board, part of us hoping for something strange to happen, proving the world a mysterious place, and the rest of us hoping desperately for nothing to happen, proving the world safe and free of monsters. I cupped my hand like earlier that morning, a little goal for the clover to shoot into. “Come on, clover.”

Breeze kissed the sweat on my forehead, and the clover tumbled end over end into my hand.

James closed his eyes. “It makes me frigid when you do that.”

“It was the breeze.” It was just the breeze.

He shook his head and opened his eyes again. “I always get cold when I get one of my weird feelings, and that just about hit glacier-cold on the weirdness chart. Do it again, you’ll see. Next to my leg, where there’s no breeze.”

I picked up the clover and set it down in the shadow of his leg. Cupping my hand, I said faintly, “Come on, clover.” The clover and several other leaves rustled and then skipped across the ground into my hand, a huge dry collection of leaves the color of summer pressed against my fingers.

James’ voice was as soft as the rustling of the leaves, and when I looked at him, I could see goose bumps standing on his tanned legs. “Telekinesis. Suddenly the world seems a lot more interesting.”

What it seemed was a lot less ordinary.


Please answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of LAMENT: THE FAERIE QUEEN’S DECEPTION , or pop in to chat with Maggie!! She's cuddling a cute puppy in her photo, so she must be easy to talk to!

If Maggie had the power to move one thing in this world by telekinesis, what would that one thing be?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tuesday's Special Is...Love's Magic!

Love's Magic by Traci E. Hall

Celestia Montehue is the misfit in a legacy bound family. The only thing she has in common with her ancestors is her magical healing ability. Nicholas Le Blanc, a monastery raised knight, is captured while on crusade and forced to kill for his freedom. Can the healer save the broken man, or will his family’s curse doom them both?

Excerpt from LOVE'S MAGIC

Her eyes widened and she swallowed, her breaths coming faster beneath his stare. “We agreed to an annulment,” she said on a ragged whisper.

“I know.” But he couldn’t think of all the reasons they should not be together; instead he stared pointedly, envisioning the kiss they’d shared that afternoon. The pull of lust alluring for the first time in a long while, he thought of all the ways he could teach her to kiss him, to hold him. She flicked her pink tongue over her full lower lip, her eyelids heavy. He was aware that she had no idea how heavenly she looked. The heat between them ratcheted another notch until he could stand it no more.

“Angel.” Nicholas reached out and grabbed her by the wrist, pulling her to him until her mouth was beneath his. He kissed her as if his life depended on it, and if she did not return his passion he would fall into a spineless puddle at her tiny feet.

His surprise was great when he felt the push of her warm tongue against his lips. Her hands rubbed the sleeves of his tunic, as if she would strip him of it. Up, down, the fabric slid against his flesh until the heat of her fingers bumped against the ropy scars on his wrists.

A zing so hot it felt cold made him pull back and she cried out, as if in agony.

“What?” Nicholas panted. “What was that? What is the matter with you? You’ve seen my scars, I thought that you didn’t mind them, I-”

“It hurt,” she said, her face pale, her eyes without the familiar sparkle.

“It didn’t.” The realization of what she’d said came slow.

“It was hot, dark, you were hurting terribly.”

Nicholas’s desire ebbed, but the intensity was replaced by fear. “What do you mean?”

Her eyes filled with tears that sparkled like gems upon her lashes. “You were hurting. You were being made to feel the highest level of pain, on purpose. I’m sorry, I am so sorry, Nicholas.”
Tears tracked down her cheeks.

Horrified, Nicholas lashed out, “You know nothing about my life, pain or otherwise.” His basic instinct was to protect himself, and his secrets. He put his hands out, symbolically pushing her away. “Close the neck of your gown. If you want to act the whore, I am happy to oblige, my lady. But if you wish to return to this house as pure as when you left it, then I suggest you keep your hands to yourself.”

She dried her eyes, but refused to adjust her gown. Her shoulders were proudly set. “My heart is breaking for you. Can you not trust me?”

“You’ve already lied to me once!”

“I didn’t lie, exactly. I saved your life.”

Cold spread through his body. “And I’ve saved yours. We shall see who made the better bargain.”

Please answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of LOVE'S MAGIC, or stop by and say hi to Traci.
Traci has a special gown she wears for grocery shopping. Please describe it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

If You Wanna Sell Your Book, You're Gonna Have to Bite Me

From the desk of Ms. Spitfire

My dearest Suzy-kins,

I just knew you would love Antonio! Not only is he gorgeous but can you believe he's a sweetheart too? Since I rarely leave my office for lunch, he's taken to bringing me back a coffee--just the way I like it (lots of soy milk, a bit of cream, no sugar)--when he goes out for his lunch. As it turns out, his limited English does not seem to limit his lunch dates... If it's true that 50% of succeeding in the world of publishing is who you know, Antonio is well on his way; at this rate, he'll know every female in publishing within 25 blocks of us by the fall.

Speaking of dates, I went out this past Monday with Nandi--surely you remember him? The handsome Indian man I met amidst the clementine landslide disaster at my corner fruit & veg stand? Anyway, he proved to be as charming over a glass of red wine as in the face of certain citrus calamity. The only drawback is that when the topic turned to books, as it always does with me, he confided that his favorite genre is.......... paranormal romance. You can only imagine my surprise, Suzy dear. Not only is it unusual to meet a self-confessed male fan, but I really thought that the genre was on its way out. Apparently, I was wrong. I've since chatted with Zia (my dear fire-tressed, Harvard-educated, editor-goddess friend) who says that the paranormal romance submissions are coming in "hotter and heavier than ever" and despite the economic climate, the genre is still pulling in some respectable dollar figures. I guess when you're worried about your job, your chid's college tuitin, flocks of birds colliding with planes over the Hudson river, a bit of vampire necking goes a long way towards taking your mind off it all.

Speaking of, please tell everyone back home--particularly Aunt Mayble Sue Jean and Cousin Ruby Jo--not to worry about me. Yes, our company did let go of a whole bunch of people last month across all of our US operations, but I was fortunate enough not to be one of those. I think--unless things get significantly worse--my job is relatively secure. The way I see it, it's people exactly like me that these companies need to hold on to: people who have been around for a few years and know the ropes but whose salaries are still pretty modest. All in all, I guess, I'm a pretty cheap hire. I think our company is weathering the storm as best as I could hope; For the most part, upper management is simply battening down the hatches for what looks like what may be several months or even a year or two of shrunken profits. Except for the layoffs, most of the measures make a lot of sense: We're significantly decreasing advertising dollars and what few ads we do take in print and online venues are very carefully and strategically placed. We no longer have pizza at our Tuesday bestseller meetings. A limit has been imposed on lunches charges to the company (although really, is it such a hardship to spend less than $40 per person for lunch?) Even the layoffs resulted from some extremely practical restructuring of a few select divisions. From what I can tell, one could say that the economic crisis has simply become the impetus for publishers like mine to put into effect some intelligent business decisions that probably should have been made years ago.

On the other hand, that may be too rosy a picture for the industry as a whole. There are indeed some publishers who are having serious problems. On top of the dramatically decreased book sales, there are rumors flying that Borders may be gone by year's end--which would be a real travesty for the whole book industry--in my opinion. To be sure, different publishers are dealing in different ways: some have significant decreased their number of acquisitions (books bought from agents/authors for publication), others have laid off many employees, and still others have shut down smaller, less profitable imprints. In their own way, each publishing house is trying to make budgets stretch, publish books as efficiently as possible, and put money where it's going to really count--behind best-selling authors, trendy genres, and can't-fail new books and projects.

That being said, let me repeat, don't worry about me Suzy, dear. The publishing industry won't fold any time soon (Kindle and economic crisis or no) and I will be writing you many more missives in the months to come.

All my love to you and Chloe,

(Ms.) Sally S.

P.S. Did you buy ever buy Chloe that pink leather collar we saw last summer? It would look so adorable on her golden curls.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saturday's Special Is...Junior Geography Detective Squad!

Junior Geography Detective Squad by Elysabeth Eldering

What happens when four friends get together and play a geography trivia game? Learn some new information about a different state each time Matt, Guy, Jolene and Mary Beth pick up the handheld game that will give them a bit of geography, history, trivia and mystery. Can you guess the state with the characters? Take the challenge of guessing the state along with them and find out more information about the state and book at the end. Discussions questions can be used in group reads or by individual readers to find out more about the states.

Where will the adventure take you next? Find out by reading the Junior Geography Detective Squad, 50-state, mystery, trivia series.

Buy from Amazon

Elysabeth's blog

"Hey, Matt. What's this?" Guy leaned over the desk and picked up the handheld game. He turned it over and over, checking all the buttons and the screen. The machine looked like a cross between a PSP® and a PDA. "Aren't we getting a little past the Gameboy® days."

"No. It's a new geography game my mom got me. Said it would help with social studies this year."

"So what's it do?"

"Let me show you." Matt held out his hand waiting for Guy to give him the game.

Matt flipped the power switch. The song, We Are the Champions, blared out. "Holy cow! I didn't realize it was so loud. I hadn't turned it on in a few days. Mary Beth must have been using it and had the headphones in."

"Yeah, your little sister's always messing with your stuff."

"And it aggravates the heck out of me. She uses my stuff and never leaves it like she found it. Just once…" Matt adjusted the volume and hit the enter button, which brought up the first screen.

Greetings, Junior Geography Detective. Please enter your name.

"It talks. That's pretty cool." Guy nodded in appreciation of not having to read the screen.
Matt typed in his name and added another line for Guy's name.

Welcome, Matt and Guy. Do you think you know the United States? If so, maybe you are up to the challenge of figuring out which state we are visiting based on clues, facts, and trivia. I will present you with some information about a state. The clues and facts get easier as you advance. Are you ready to play?

"Want to make a bet?" Matt looked over at his friend.

"A bet?"

"Sure, let's write down our answers when we think we know the state, and the one who knows it sooner gets to pick what the loser has to do." Matt tore a page out of the notebook on his desk and gave half to Guy.

"How will we know who the winner is?"

"At the end of the game, whoever guessed it earliest is the winner, and the loser pays big time."
"Pay? I'm not paying you anything. I'm going to whip your butt."

"So you think you're ready?"Guy nodded. "Yep, let's see if Mr. Brady's class last year helped us."

Elysabeth is going to lead us along in an interactive game of Junior Geography Detective. Play along and see if you can be the first to guess the state and win a free copy of Elysabeth's book!! Clue number one - This state is located in the northwest area.

And we'd love to learn fun facts, silly trivia or something interesting about the state where you live!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thursday's Special Is...I So Don't Do Mysteries!

I So Don't Do Mysteries by Barrie Summy

A girl. A guy. A ghost. A heist. Yikes!

Sherry (short for Sherlock) wants more mall time, less homework and a certain cute guy. Instead, she's recruited by her mother's ghost to prevent a rhino heist at San Diego's Wild Animal Park.

Here's what people are saying about I So Don't Do Mysteries:
"Summy keeps the fizz in her effervescent premise...using a punchy first-person narration; story lines involving romances, movie stars, rhinos and egotistical chefs; and various eccentricities, including a late grandfather who assumes the form of a wren...Sherry remains entertaining, and readers will hope for a second caper."
--Publishers Weekly

"A seriously funny ghost story packed with mystery, romance and fun." --Sarah Mlynowski, author of the Magic in Manhattan series

"Sherry's relationship with her mother's spirit and her own quirky personality elevate this text by adding sincerity and warmth." --Kirkus

"I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES is a funny, engaging debut novel and Sherry's antics will keep you turning pages since nothing happens as expected. Ms. Summy's title suggests she so doesn't do mysteries, but I believe she does them very, very well, and I surely hope she will be brewing up more mysteries for Sherry and her mother in the future."
--5 Star Review, Cana Rensberger, (

"It's a really funny book, Mom, which is weird because you don't have much of a sense of humor." --This is from my very own Child #3!!

Buy from Amazon


This excerpt is from Chapter three, when Sherry first meets her mother as a ghost. Her mother, an officer with the Phoenix PD, was killed in the line of duty eighteen months earlier.

Weird. Weird. Weird. Next she’ll be telling me she’s going on a field trip to Hogwarts. “And the Academy of Spirits is what, exactly?”

“An organization that trains ghosts to protect the living. To enroll, you need prior experience in a field such as law enforcement, firefighting or PI work. And to advance through the various levels, you have to conquer your weak areas. For example, I’m currently targeting my sense of direction. The Academy is only on the other side of town. Under Dairy Queen. But it took me months to find my way here.”

I rub my forehead, thinking how a Blizzard will never be the same for me.

“Sherry?” Mom’s voice goes soft and gooey and sweet, like fresh bubble gum. “I’ve been watching you, and it looks as though you’ve gotten even more fearful of challenges since I’ve been gone.”

“Mom, I’m fine. Really.” Except for the fact that I totally freeze up in tough situations. Like a Popsicle. As in frozen solid.

“I did some research at the Academy library and found an interesting loophole in their rules.” She pauses. “A loophole that would allow us to work together.”

“Like. . .partners?” I picture Mom’s partner—well, ex-partner—Stefanie, with her cute haircut and cool blue uniform. I smile. Then I picture a bunch of bad guys with guns and scars. I frown.

“It would be completely safe,” Mom says, reading my frown. “You’d just be helping me with a little mystery solving. It would build up your self-confidence.”

It feels like an undigested carnitas burrito with guac and sour cream is sitting in my stomach.

“I don’t do mysteries, Mom. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not Nancy Drew.” I fluff my dark hair for emphasis. “Do I look like a strawberry-blond-haired teenage detective?”


“You know me,” I say. “You know I’ll choke.”

I can make myself sweat with memories of my many mistakes. I always flunk pop quizzes; I was held back in beginner swimming five times; I’m the star of miles of videotape of school shows where I just stand there like a moron. And the lame list goes on.

“You wouldn’t be operating alone. I’d be very involved.”

“No, no, no.” I’m shaking my head so fast, the front of my brain has probably Jell-O-jiggled all the way to the back and vice versa.

She sighs. “Sherry, I need to be a little more up-front. I didn’t want to put this pressure on you, but--”

“What? What?” I say. “What’s going on?”

“The Academy is”—Mom clears her throat—“highly competitive. This is my last chance. If I fail this assignment”—her voice cracks—“I’ll have to move on.”

The heavy burrito feeling is back in my stomach. My go-getter mother is failing at something?

“Move on?”

“To the afterlife reserved for Academy failures.”

So I’d be losing her all over again. Right after we found each other. And to a terrible fate for which I don’t want details, thankyouverymuch.

“I really need your help,” she says.

Like the pitiful drummer in our school band, my heart beats all erratically. My mom needs me. My überindependent, never-turns-down-a-challenge mother needs me. And not just for babysitting but for big stuff. This is mind-blowing. “What would I have to do?”

Answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES, or stop by and chit-chat with Barrie! Maybe she'll unlock some of her personal mystery!

Please rewrite this sentence, replacing the italicized portion: It feels like an undigested carnitas burrito with guac and sour cream is sitting in my stomach.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wednesday's Special Is...Lucienne Diver!

Welcome, Lucienne Diver, to the Book Roast!!

Over the course of her dynamic career Lucienne has sold over six hundred titles to every major publisher, and has built a client list of more than forty authors spanning the commercial fiction genres, primarily in the areas of fantasy, science fiction, romance, mystery, suspense and erotica.

That's all well and true, but what we really love about Lucienne is her hearty appetite for good humor. We also admire her ability to whip up beautiful jewelry in one hand while whipping up beautiful manuscripts in the other. Welcome, Lucienne!!

The Knight Agency website

1) In addition to writing great query letters, what else bothers you about today’s aspiring writer? (This is inspired by Stephen Barbara's post on PW)
That there are so many of them! (Writers, not pet peeves.) We get something like 200 queries per month per agent. Reading through them really cuts down on my beach time.

Seriously? Authors who don't do their research or follow submission guidelines. Queriers who address me as "Mr." Diver or put down those who've rejected them previously as lacking vision. We're in publishing; we squint at tiny type all day. Mocking us for our corrective lenses isn't a bit nice.

2)What’s your favorite karaoke song?
Favorite karaoke song? You're kidding, right? Is there such a thing?

3)What’s your favorite snack?
The blood of innocents.

4)A haiku about adverbs, please:
With verbs needing help
Lolly got her adverbs here
At the Comp'ny Store

5)What is the daily price you must pay for being a hottie?
$49.95. I had a coupon.

6) If you were on a deserted island, what book would you most like to use as kindling?
Ooh, that's tough. On Walden Pond is too short for an extended burn.

7) One bottle of fine wine, or ten bottles of college stuff?
Can we compromise on two bottles of decent, but not really fine wine? I want it all. Quality and quantity.

8) Who is your favorite editor?
Is that the phone? Yes, I'm sure it is. Gotta run!

9)There’s a reason to be afraid of that closet. The one to your left, behind the pile of boxes. Go ahead. Open it. Show us what’s inside.
When I was a kid, I was convinced that aliens were waiting under my bed to grab my legs if I got up during the night. The grim reaper hid out in my closet. Frankenstein was waiting to chase me down the hall, Dracula was hiding behind the shower curtain and there was a hand in the toilet. So, if I was desperate, and only then, I'd leap out of bed, several feet out of reach of grasping alien hands; run down the hallway, because Frankenstein shambled; throw open the shower curtain to foil Dracula and then hover. The reaper in my closet was really kind of timid. He was always waiting until I fell back to sleep. Did I mention I didn't do much of that as a kid?

10) What are you reading at the moment?
The second pass edits on my own novel, VAMPED (think Clueless meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer), which is coming out in May! I'm doing the love/hate thing with it. Today I'm just hoping it doesn't suck…no pun intended.
Please drop by and wave hi to Lucienne! Perhaps she'll give us tidbits about Vamped!! And if you have a query letter you've been circulating for years with no success, why don't you throw it up here? heheheheeh (That's a joke. DON'T do that!)
Welcome, everyone!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tuesday's Special Is...Flight of the Hornbill!

Flight of the Hornbill by Eric Stone

From an American suburb incongruously set into a jungle clearing, to the sleazy bars and high-rise offices of Jakarta; from a teeming neighborhood floating on a river to the dense, steaming rainforest – Flight of the Hornbill is a thrill ride through an exotic Asian landscape peopled with unforgettable characters; some desperate to make a buck, some willfully ignoring their past, and most unforgettable of all, Ray Sharp, expatriate corporate investigator, struggling to find his place as an outsider in someone else’s world.

FLIGHT OF THE HORNBILL is loosely based on the facts of the real-life Bre-X gold fraud.

Buy from Amazon


The rich odor of baby powder and mineral oil wraps around me like a favorite old blanket. A faint note of sharp, sweet incense tickles me as I glide down the corridor. A large, thick Korean woman firmly holds my hand and pulls me along. From the curtained cubicles we’re passing comes a thwop, thwop, thwop sound of gentle fists on flesh and the sweet music of grunts and groans.

I heard somewhere that everyone in Korea is named Kim, except for a few Parks. I hope Kim’ll be gentle. I’ve had enough pain.

She shows me to an empty cubicle with a narrow massage table and a chair, tells me to take off my clothes and indicates that she’ll be back. I don’t know how naked she wants me, so I leave my shorts on. The room is spare, dimly lit, decorated with last year’s, 1995 Mitsubishi Forestry Products calendar and a framed picture of some mountains in Korea. There’s a small cupboard on top of which are a bottle of mineral oil, a pink plastic container of talc, a jar of skin moisturizer and a gaudy floral print box of tissues. Country western music tinkles into the room from a small crackly speaker high up on the wall. Tammy Wynette warbles Stand By Your Man. An overhead fan churns the air making a light pfft, pfft, pfft.

Kim comes back with an armload of towels. She looks me up and down and smiles. She plucks at my shorts. "Take off." She motions for me to lie on a towel on the table. The towel gives off the scent of fresh warm oatmeal. It must be the laundry soap they use. I lie down and let my muscles go as slack as they can.

My face fits snug into the hole at the end of the table. It’s bigger than the holes usually are; my head is trapped deep into it. But it’s strangely comforting. I roll my eyes in their sockets and I can see the bottom of two table legs, a discarded tissue that looks like it might have been used to wipe off lipstick and the green-flecked linoleum floor. I can hear the muffled country western music, the thwop, thwop, thwop and the pfft, pfft, pfft and occasional crackles of Korean chatter from the other rooms. I’m lulled and dozy. Kim says, "Oil or powder?" I go for the oil.

It’s cold and I tense briefly when she squirts it on my back. As she begins rubbing it in, it warms, I relax and drift away.

After a while Kim climbs onto my upper thighs, squatting over me on the table and putting considerable weight into kneading my muscles. I’m thinking of telling her to ease up, but as the heat from the friction of her hands seeps into me, I settle into it and add my own voice to the soft chorus of content.

She works her body down my legs and her hands down my back, occasionally pausing to squirt a little more oil. She digs her fingers into my butt, grinding it in slow deep circles into the table.
Her strong fingers and palms mash down the back of my thighs, onto the back of my knees, calves and finally down to my feet where her knuckles on my soles connect directly to other parts of my body. She takes hold of my toes, one by one and cracks them, like you would crack your knuckles, with a swift motion.

Kim moves back up my body and squirts more oil on my legs and butt. Her fingers trail lightly up to the bottom of my ass. She brushes me there and gently snakes a greasy hand up underneath me.

She bends over, her lips headed for my right ear to ask in a whisper if I want anything else. I lift my face slightly from the hole in the table and catch a strong whiff of garlic and pickled cabbage on her breath. But with her hand on me I don't care. To anyone else watching, and probably to Kim, the moment must play like farce. But to me, in the state I’m growing into, it’s ripe with intimacy and anticipation.

Three loud, sharp explosions snap me out of it. There's a thud, like a hammer hitting a piece of meat. Kim gasps, and before I can move, falls with all her weight onto me, pressing my head uncomfortably deep into the small hole in the massage table.

My eyes open wide and bounce wildly around the limited field of vision. One of Kim's hands is dangling off the table to the left, it’s speckled with blood.

I try pushing my head back out of the hole and my body off the table, but my head is stuck. My hands can’t find leverage anywhere. Her dead weight holds me in place.

It sounds like a war’s breaking loose in the hallway. The machine guns don’t make a noise like “chatter” at all. They’re too loud, too harsh, more like the screaming of enraged pre-schoolers than the pitter-patter of conversation. There’s shouting but I can't make out any words. There’s the splatter of bare feet on linoleum running in all directions.

A boom erupts just outside my cubicle. It claps my ears and deafens me. A body falls into my vision, the shoulder and upper arm tangled into the curtain that closed off the doorway. Rolling my eyes up as far as they’ll go, I can just make out a gun, still grasped by an unmoving hand. Part of the arm is barely in reach of my right hand. I tug on the sleeve, trying to get the gun.
My hearing starts to come back. There’s still the soft country western music. Somehow the pfft, pfft, pfft of the fan has grown louder and blended with an engorged whomp, whomp, whomp of blood pulsing through my heart, swelling through my veins and arteries and breaking in waves against my temples. There’s a faint splishing from the left where Kim's blood drips to the floor. I can hear feeble groans that aren’t so very different from the ones I was hearing just a few moments ago. In the distance are sirens.

I hear footsteps and they’re coming my way, slow, cautious. The scrape of metal rings on metal bars moves toward me, down the hall as the curtains in front of the cubicles are flung open. Twice, just after that sound, I hear shots. Someone’s coming. They’re getting rid of survivors.
As the footsteps approach, I frantically yank at the arm, trying to pull the gun to me. The footsteps are getting closer as I wrest the gun from the rubbery, cooling hand that holds it. I wrap my palm around the grip, put a finger on the trigger and wait.

I don’t know who the hell I’m going to be able to shoot with it anyhow. If someone walks right up to the end of the massage table I’ll be able to see their shoes. What good does that do me? If it’s brown wing tips, shoot them in the foot?

Answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of FLIGHT OF THE HORNBILL, or pop in and chat with Eric! He may be a scary writer, but he's a nice guy!

What’s more dangerous: a Korean massage parlor in Indonesia or a Russian deli in New York?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Introducing Ms. Sally Spitfire!

Every Monday, the Book Roast will post letters from publishing insider Ms. Sally Spitfire.

Ms. Spitfire is full of mystery and intrigue. (That is why we can't tell you her real name.) But we do know some things about her. For example, when not tutoring Antonio or smoking in the bathroom, she is busy churning out bestsellers and keeping her authors happy.

Her letters will be informative, fun, and full of juicy tidbits! Please drop by with your comments and questions!

Without further ado, the first letter to Miss Susanna, Ms. Spitfire's country cousin:

My dearest Suzy-Q,

I propose a new addition to our vocabulary for 2009: TGIMITTW. A little unwieldy, perhaps, but it is a noble sentiment. ""Thank God I made it through this week!" I don't mean to sound melodramatic, but seriously, Suzy, the first week back after the winter holidays in the publishing world is one of catastrophe, of 6,000 unread emails, and of playing catch-up as if your life depended on it. (Which, in the current economic climate, it might. But I'm getting ahead of myself...)

So, to answer your question, my week was let's say... very, very intense. I had at least three times as much to do as usual and, thanks to a whole slew of day-long launch meetings, barely half the usual amount of time to do them in. On the bright side, launch meetings are one of my favorite times of the publishing season. Have I every explained launch meetings or seasons to you before?

Basically, at big publishing houses like mine, the year is divided into three seasons--winter, fall, and spring/summer--and every book is assigned to one of these three. So, although the common bookstore browser would never know, we publishing folk live our lives by a cycle that repeats three times a year and, for me in marketing, the cycle begins with... drum roll please... the launch meetings!

Basically, the launch meetings are when each editor officially announces which books he or she will be publishing in the next season. It's the editor's opportunity to really win over the marketing, publicity, and creative services teams that THIS book is fantastic! This book deserves special attention and excitement! This book is going to be a BEST SELLER.

Maybe I exaggerate. Not every book is introduced as a future best-seller. But, just like a parent with a child, it is an editors job to believe that every book is truly special and to convince (or dupe) everyone else working on the book to believe the same. Suzy, dear, I simply LOVE watching the editors enter the fray for their--as of yet--manuscript-bound book-babies. To me they seem like old-fashioned knights defending their fair maidens...

Even better, perhaps, is that launch heralds the beginning of my role in the publishing process. Once we learn which new books are coming out, each book is assigned to one marketing manager...

But oh my! I have rambled on, haven't I? Suzy, dear, I'm so glad you wrote! Hearing from you simply made my day and I've decided to make it my New Year's resolution to keep you up to date on my life and career here in the "big city," as "y'all" call in down there. It makes me smile to picture you sipping Aunt Callie's sweet tea as you read...

Your lovin' cousin,(Miss) Sally S

P.S. I almost forgot to tell you about the uber-delicious Christmas present I gave to myself this year... a new assistant! His name is Antonio and although he's new to publishing (and the English language in general, from what I can tell), I know you would approve. After all, what are assistants for if not to help us do our jobs better? And I know seeing him each day will do exactly that... More on this next time I write...


Let's give Ms. Spitfire a big welcome to the Book Roast! And feel free to ask questions--she may use your questions for future posts!!

Many thanks!