Monday, June 29, 2015

Boys of Summer by Lucien N. Plante Book Feature

Title: Boys of Summer
Author: Lucien N. Plante
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 254
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Kindle

 In the Darkness, Mike slid over the side of the ship and in to the water, without knowing direction swam away from the ship into the darkness hoping not to hear the sound of a rifle or the pain of its report. Without knowing where he was Mike hoped he was swimming for shore, hoping he would not end up as fish food. He had escaped the Yankees.

 This is a story of how our Country grew and how we grow. A story of hard work, hard thinking and true love. Some time before the Civil War two families grow together and become part the that eras American dream. The book will show them loving living and celebrating. It will also show the sadness of separation and death. The unforgettable pain of not knowing where someone is or what happened to them. But worst the wrenching pain of not being able to help someone you love.

 Witness the lives of two families become one. Witness the boys of summer, sun and youth enter the turbulence of lives winter. No not that they should grow old in years. Life has a winter for all and for some it comes early and is brutal. Hope is down the road we know or least wise believe there will be spring. The sun will warm us and all will be well.

Lucien Plante is a marine veteran and retired engineer. He married his high school sweetheart, and they have four children and sixteen grandchildren. Besides his family, he loves history and the great outdoors. He spent many days, maybe years, of his life roaming the woods and mountains of the Adirondacks.

Lucien is giving away a $25 Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Gift Certificate to the e-retailer of your choice
  • This giveaway begins June 29 and ends on July 10.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on July 11.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Aeromancist by Charmaine Pauls (Book Cover Reveal Event)

About The Book

Title:  Aeromancist
Book 3: Seven Forbidden Arts Series
Author: Charmaine Pauls
Genre: Paranormal Erotic Romance
Publisher:  Mélange Books
Publication Date: July 6, 2015

Preorder Book Buy Links: 

Book Description:

Passion always comes with a price.

All he could offer was thirty days of passion.

He condemned her to a terrible fate instead.

Now he’ll do everything in his power to save her.

He is known as the Weatherman. Lann Dréan is the last of his kind. A price on his head, chased for a power he should not possess, he can’t promise any woman forever. All he can offer Katherine White is thirty days of passion. But his uncontainable desire comes with an unforeseen price. Lann’s lust will cost Kat everything. Now he’ll do anything to save her from the fate he has brought upon her.

* This book contains adult content with explicit language and frequent, consummated love scenes, including light bondage, sex toys and breath play. Reader discretion is advised.


About The Author

Charmaine Pauls was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa. She obtained a degree in Communication at the University of Potchestroom, and followed a diverse career path in journalism, public relations, advertising, communications, photography, graphic design, and brand marketing. Her writing has always been an integral part of her professions.

After relocating to France with her French husband, she fulfilled her passion to write creatively full-time. Charmaine has published six novels since 2011, as well as several short stories and articles.

When she is not writing, she likes to travel, read, and rescue cats. Charmaine currently lives in Chile with her husband and children. Their household is a linguistic mélange of Afrikaans, English, French and Spanish.

Read more about Charmaine’s romance novels and psychological short stories here on

Contact Charmaine at:

Facebook: Twitter: Goodreads:

Book Cover Reveal Event 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Profile: Author Barry Hornig

Were you on line at Studio 54? Did you ever swap drugs for gold in Tangiers? Or try on a dog collar at the Botany Club? Ever marry a countess or a Playboy playmate? Meet Barry. He did all of that and a lot more. He’s had many ups and downs and has probably forgotten more than you’ve fantasized, but this book is what he can recall…
“I hope I left a roadmap and some signposts to show other people that when they get lost, there is a way out."
Thus goes the pitch of Barry Hornig’s candid, compelling, revealing, and ultimately inspiring memoir, Without a Net: a True Tales of Prison, Penthouses, and Playmates (Köehler Books, 2015), which, from idea to polished manuscript, took him eight years to complete.
Without a Net is the story of a young man from a middle class background who shoots for the stars and goes after things that aren’t attainable, and when he thinks he has them, they get taken away,” states Hornig. “In the process, he winds up incarcerated, threatened with guns, and succumbs to addictions, but through a powerful series of visualizations he manages to manifest somebody who helps him change his whole life around through love and compassion. And through that, he is able to help other people.” Hornig’s over-the-top life is told with honesty, self-mockery, hope, and more than a little Jewish humor.
The decision to write this memoir came about from Hornig’s anger about his great ups and downs in life and the question, “Why do they continue to happen to me?” He needed to get it out of his system. Through writing, he hoped to see life more clearly and get rid of some of the anger and pain. He decided he wouldn’t misdirect his energy by looking back, but instead concentrate on looking forward and benefit from lessons learned, and it worked. “I hope I left a roadmap and some signposts to show other people that when they get lost, there is a way out,” says Hornig. “I believe that with determination, visualization, and the right partner, you can emerge from any darkness, live an interesting and fruitful life, and recover your sanity and your spiritual balance.”
In addition to his personal journey, the book offers a kaleidoscope of America from its triumphant and proud years in the 50s to a more recent time when – from Hornig’s perspective – “A great power has been shamefully falling apart. We’ve killed all our heroes, and there’s nobody to look up to. Violence never wins. And Gordon Gekko was wrong; greed is not good. (Sorry, Oliver.)”
Writing Without a Net had its challenges. From telling the truth, to stirring the hot coals, to old temptations re-awakening, to unsupportive peers telling him he was wasting his time and would never finish the book, Hornig admirably stuck to his vision through it all and came through the other side with a completed manuscript and a renewed sense of reality.
Besides the obvious painful, emotional journey of having to access his troubled past, Hornig’s challenge included the fact that he’s dyslexic. Because of this, he decided to work with Michael Claibourne, who helped him organize his thoughts and Without a Net Coverpen his words. Claibourne loved his life story and had been urging him for quite a while to write it all down.  It seemed just as exciting as any of the screenplays they were working on. “My creative process was a form of channeling with Michael, who acted as interviewer, scribe and psychiatrist,” adds Hornig. “We wrote this memoir from Topanga Canyon to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Montana, and New York City. Sometimes lying down and sometimes sitting up.  In person, over the phone, and over the net. It was complex but clear. I tried to be truthful and honest with all the subjects.”
In spite of help from his writing partner, as well as support from his spouse and family, becoming an author has been overwhelming for Hornig, to say the least. “I can’t quite wrap my head around it,” he says. “All I did was tell a story. We’ll see what happens from there, and I’ll leave it up to my audience.” He’s looking forward to sharing some of his experiences in this journey with younger people, and hopes that this book puts him in a venue where he can talk to them. “I want to spread the news: it’s never too late.” He hopes readers will learn from his story and even find themselves in it, and realize that even the most destructive impulses can be overcome. “I have been able to forgive the people who wronged me, and forgive myself for wronging the people that I wronged – both the ones who are dead and the ones who are still alive. And looking back now through the other end of the telescope, it’s all very clear.”
Barry Hornig currently divides his time between Santa Monica, California, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he owns a gallery of fine art rugs. He is a professional sports fisherman, an expert on the paranormal, has talked with beings from space, had visions in Masar-i-Sharif, has been blessed by Muktananda, and hugged by Ammachi. “I have so many more stories to tell… and they’re not all autobiographical” states the author on what lurks on the horizon. “Screenplays, movies, all with messages. I am hoping that with this book my other story work will be taken seriously. And that in turn the other work will get out and more lessons will be learned.”
Connect with Barry Hornig on the web:
Without a Net is available from Köehler BooksAmazon, B&N, and other online retailers.
My article originally appeared in Blogcritics

Poetically Baring My Soul by Jerald Brown

Title: Poetically Baring My Soul
Author: Jerald Brown
Publisher: Jerald Brown
Genre: Poetry
Format: Paperback

 Poetically Baring My Soul is a poetry book that offers a honest inscription of trials, feelings, thoughts, and revelations. It creates a visual image from personal accounts within the expressions of the writings. Poetically Baring My Soul invites all those who have an acceptance of faith, a honesty and even accountability of self, and a vivid appreciation of metaphors and wordplay, to embrace the poems inside.

  ORDER INFORMATION Poetically Baring My Soul is available for purchase at  

  I was born and raised in Danville, Il, a small town about 2 hours outside of Chicago. My parents, J.W. and Dizer Brown instilled values and principles of life in me at an early age. I enlisted into the Army 10 days after graduating high school and the discipline I received added to my upbringing, shaping me into the man I am today. My love for poetry began through hip hop. I had aspired to become the greatest rapper of all time! Alongside the music, I would write little poems about anything from my surroundings, to my feelings, to my experiences. Eventually, those "little poems" turned into pieces of my life. Poetically Baring My Soul is my very first book. It provides a testimony to the trials and tribulations I've faced, my growth into manhood, and expressions of my spirit, soul, and body. I wrote this book to honor God with this gift, glorify Him, and to connect with others who may share in my walk through life. I am a man of faith. I am confident that my poems will explain my purpose, provide insight, and give readers a honest look into my heart.

For More Information

Visit Jerald’s website.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Guest Post by Suspense Author Gabriel Valjan: "'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...'"

It would seem that everyone is an author these days, which makes it difficult to be seen and heard. It seems as if the contemporary literary scene mirrors that famous opening sentence from A Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…

Don’t despair. While there is some chance of receiving recognition somewhere along the way, over which the writer has no control, you do have absolute control over what you create on the page. Every sentence is one that you crafted and chiseled into place. You are the storyteller, so tell the best story that you can tell; edit it and revise it, listen to feedback and then let it go out into the world. If you can, have a say in the cover art because books are judged by their cover art before the content within their pages. Learn from other writers, past and present, and express gratitude for the reviews received and glean something positive from the negative reviews. People may spend money to buy your books, but more importantly they are spending time, irreplaceable time, reading you. Write the story that you have within you. Don’t write to be “literary.” Write because you have something to say, something to share, and because it is burning to come out of you. What you write uses the language that we use today, and your story will entertain, move, and affect someone tomorrow. What you write is what you leave behind, and the quality of that legacy requires consideration.

Title: Turning To Stone
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Author: Gabriel Valjan
Publisher: Winter Goose Publishing
Purchase link:

About the Book:

Bianca is in Naples for Turning To Stone, the fourth book in the Roma Series from author Gabriel Valjan. Loki, her mysterious contact, is now giving Bianca baffling anagrams. They seem to lead to a charismatic entrepreneur who has a plan to partner with organized crime to manipulate the euro and American dollar. Against a backdrop of gritty streets, financial speculation, and a group of female assassins on motorcycles, Bianca and her friends discover that Naples might just be the most dangerous city in Italy.


Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma Series from Winter Goose Publishing. His fourth book, Turning To Stone, came out 15 June 2015. Gabriel writes short stories, which are available online and in print. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Connect with Gabriel Valjan on the web:
Twitter: @GValjan

Pinterest boards for the Roma Series books
Book 1: Roma, Underground  |   

Friday, June 26, 2015

Need Book Publicity? Pump Up Your Book Summer Special for Limited Time Only!

Do you need book promotion help but don't want to break the bank?  Pump Up Your Book is offering a super deal on the bronze package of their virtual book tour packages.  Now until July 30, you can book a virtual book tour for only $99 (regularly $199).

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Interview with Ruby Lee Tuesday, author of Better Believe A Story of Hope

Title: Better Believe
Author: Ruby Lee Tuesday
Publisher: Trafford
Pages: 132
Genre: Biography
Format: Ebook
 Purchase at AMAZON

 Ruby Lee Tuesday was born to be her father’s property. Trapped in an abusive home where only perfect was good enough for the devil, Ruby attempted to distract herself from his ways through her music, poetry, art, and most importantly, her faith in God. Tuesday shares a heartbreaking story of childhood trauma as she bravely pursued her dreams, despite living with parents who seemed determined to destroy her, both physically and emotionally. While providing a riveting look into the ways of an abuser, Tuesday details how her mistreatment eventually caused her to lose her faith, embark on a path of self-destruction, and succumb to panic attacks and depression. But through it all, Tuesday somehow managed to find solace and an escape in her music, ultimately leaving everything behind and bravely following her dream all the way from Norway to Nashville, Tennessee, where she would find faith once again. Better Believe is a story of determination, passion, betrayal, friendship, and hope as one woman journeys from the darkness of abuse into the light of healing where she learns to believe in herself for the first time.


Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

This is the first time I write a book and it is the first time I publish a book.

When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

I chose to go Self-published because I had the means to do so.

How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

I wrote and published this book within 1 year, 2014.

How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate? 

My feelings were a little mixed when I published this book. On one hand I was very proud that I had finally voiced my story and thereby broken out of a bondage of silence. I also felt as if I did something wrong when I told my story, you see everything that happened within our family was to never be told. We never talked about it, just let it happen. So when I now tell my story I kind of break the number one rule of all domestic violence families, namely not to talk about it. My sister didn’t like it at all so she has, as far as my knowledge goes, pressed charges against me in Norway to have the book withdrawn from the market. So as far as celebrating it I kind of struggled with the whole thing and the celebration I have yet to look forward to. But in my heart I am very proud that I dared to voice my story and to keep moving toward my final goal in life, to record and release my album “…butAlive!!!” as LadyLoveRebel. And I am working on the album now. So as far as further goals in life, I am still focusing on reaching this one. My story and my music.

What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I promoted in on my web page and I also made agreements with Trafford to market and promote my book.

Ruby Lee Tuesday has spent years on healing both physically and spiritually. She is a poet, singer, and songwriter who plays a variety of instruments. Ruby left Norway in 2013 to pursue her dreams in Nashville, Tennessee. This is her first book.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Interview with Seth Mullins, author of The Edge of the Known Trilogy

Title: What Casts the Shadow
Author: Seth Mullins
Pages: 240
Genre: Metaphysical
Format: Paperback/Kindle

 A troubled young rock musician, a mystic mentor, and a generation of lost souls longing for a new voice to emerge from the wilderness... When an altercation outside of a performance venue nearly proves fatal, Brandon Chane begins to realize how far his life is spinning out of control. His efforts to channel his pain, frustration and thwarted loves into his music may not suffice to save him. Then he meets Saul, a crisis counselor with the soul of an ancient medicine man, and a far-reaching journey of healing - one that may teach him how to steer away from the very edge of the abyss - begins.

  For More Information:
  What Casts the Shadow is available at Amazon. Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.

Title: Trust in the Unseen
Author: Seth Mullins
Pages: 234
Genre: Metaphysical
Format: Paperback/Kindle

 "We'd all thrown our fates to the wind, trusting in the unknown - in the Unseen, as our EP so proudly proclaimed - and that leap had thus far landed us in a place where we couldn't even grope our way forward in the dark anymore." Brandon Chane was beginning to realize that discovering his voice was only the first step of the journey. Now he must somehow learn to trust the depths from which it comes, and the unknown horizons that it may sweep him away to, even as every part of his personal world seems to be falling apart.

 For More Information:

  Trust in the Unseen is available at Amazon.
Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.

Humanity's Way ForwardTitle: Humanity's Way Forward
Author: Seth Mullins
Pages: 246
Genre: Metaphysical
Format: Paperback/Kindle

 "The echoes of those scars can clearly be heard in Edge of the Known's music. But one can also discern, quite distinctly, that other inexplicable thing that is within us all, the undying flame that transcends our wounds and sufferings..." Brandon Chane had always seen life through the eyes of an outcast, a misfit, a young man at odds with the world and with himself. Now they're calling him a wounded healer; a shamanic Pied Piper for the throngs of alienated youth; a thief of fire. He wonders if he and his band can escape the claims that the world has suddenly laid upon them. But what about the cherished dream that he's struggled so desperately to fulfill, the dream that finally seems to be coming to fruition?"

 For More Information:

 Humanity's Way Forward is available at Amazon.
Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.

Thank you for your time in answering our questions  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to write a book?
These books follow the trials, tribulations and triumphs of a brilliant but deeply wounded musician. I was inspired by a lifelong fascination with art and also with the people who create it. Why have so many of them, throughout our history, flirted with self-destruction? The Edge of the Known essentially questions whether the ‘suffering artist’ cliché is really inevitable. It also poses a vision of the creative life as one of healing rather than destruction. 

Is this your first book? 
It’s my most realized work, the work I’m most proud of. I did publish a couple of fantasy novels, each with a metaphysical slant, years back.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey? 
This was my first time attending to all the details of the process myself, and I was a bit astounded to discover how many little details there were! I chose to self-publish, never even submitting the books anywhere, because I was concerned that someone else might try to soften the rough edges. I believe those edges are crucial; they need to be there. 
What lessons do you feel you learned about the publishing industry?
Well, whichever route you take, the bulk of promotion falls upon the shoulders of authors. The trick in past decades was to win your way past the gatekeepers. Now, with all the changes that technology has wrought, the challenge is to win the attention of potential readers, all of whom are confronted with myriad choices and oftentimes no clear reason to choose one book over another. 
If you had the chance to change something regarding how you got published, what would you change? 
I vacillate on this one: I wanted the covers to in some sense reflect the jagged character of the prose. I wanted them to resemble the old pulp fiction covers. At the same time, I realize that something glossier would be more attention-getting. If I had to do it over again, though, I’d probably still steer the same course.
Did you credit any person or organization with helping you get published? 
No, I’m a self-made author in that respect.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Take time to uncover and explore your own unique voice. That’s where the most powerful writing comes from. And try not to get distracted from that pursuit by pestering thoughts that you should be cleverer, more verbose, etc. Just let the writing reflect the natural unfolding of your thought.

Seth Mullins first conceived of his dream to write novels in his early teens, and this one desire has stayed with him throughout all the other myriad twists and turns of life. His inspirations include methods of inner exploration such as dream-work and shamanism and his experiences as a songwriter and performing musician. He studied creative writing at Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico and Lane Community College in Oregon. Seth has lived in Connecticut, New Mexico, Oregon and (currently) Vermont.

For More Information
Visit Seth’s website. Connect with Seth on Twitter.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Review: Turning to Stone (Roma Series Book 4), by Gabriel Valjan

TurningtoStone_FlatforeBooksInternational spy Alabaster Black returns in this the latest instalment in Valjan’s exciting mystery/suspense Roma series.
This time Alabaster (aka Bianca Nerini) and her colleagues takes us to Naples, where tension is rapidly escalating between mafia clans and where she must outwit a powerful crime syndicate named Camorra.
Counterfeited euros and bonds, anagrams, car bombings, sexy women assassins on motorcycles, undercover detectives, and delicious Italian food mix together in this page-turning thriller filled with international intrigue. At the heart of the plot is a mysterious agent named Loki who, via the computer, communicates intelligence to Bianca. The problem is, we don’t know who she or he is, or what his motives are. We only know Loki has an avid affinity for anagrams which Bianca must decipher. Needless to say, not an easy task.
I’ve read all of the Roma series books and I found this to be the most complex and skilfully plotted. There are a lot of secondary characters and I was grateful for the list of character descriptions at the start of the book, which I found helpful, especially at the beginning until I familiarized myself with all the names. Valjan has a gift when it comes to writing about organized crime, and I found the dynamics between clashing mafia clans and their doings terrifyingly real. The inter-relations between special agents, the FBI, the Italian regional police, and capitalist magnates also ring with authenticity. The story moves fairly quickly with a lot of dialogue propelling the plot.
Turning to Stone is a deftly written novel and one fans of suspense will surely enjoy. Recommended.
Find out more from Amazon.
Visit Gabriel Valjan’s Amazon page and website.

Interview with Julie Rowe, author of Deadly Strain

Julie Rowe’s first career as a medical lab technologist in Canada took her to the North West Territories and northern Alberta, where she still resides. She loves to include medical details in her romance novels, but admits she’ll never be able to write about all her medical experiences because, “No one would believe them!”.

In addition to writing contemporary and historical medical romance, and fun romantic suspense for Entangled Publishing and Carina Press, Julie has short stories in Fool’s Gold, the Mammoth Book of ER Romance, Timeless Keepsakes and Timeless Escapes anthologies. Her book SAVING THE RIFLEMAN (book #1 WAR GIRLS) won the novella category of the 2013 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. AIDING THE ENEMY (book #3 WAR GIRLS) won the novella category of the 2014 Colorado Romance Writer’s Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in several magazines such as Romantic Times Magazine, Today’s Parent, and Canadian Living.

You can reach Julie at , on Twitter @julieroweauthor or at her Facebook page:

Connect with Julie:

About The Book


TitleDeadly Strain Book 1: Biological Response Team Series
Author: Julie Rowe
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: June 15, 2015
Pages: 260
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Format: eBook, PDF  

Buy The Book:


Barnes & Noble:


Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking:

Book Description: 

Book one of Biological Response Team Series

Major Grace Samuels, a trauma surgeon deployed to Afghanistan, spends her life helping her fellow soldiers overcome disease and combat injuries. But her own wounds are harder to heal. Wracked with guilt over the death of a fellow soldier, she finds comfort in her only friend and appointed bodyguard, weapons sergeant Jacob “Sharp” Foster.

Sharp feels more for Grace than a soldier should, more than he wants to admit. When the team discovers a new, quick-to-kill strain of anthrax, he tries to focus on the mission to find its source. He knows he can help Grace defeat her demons, but first they must defeat the deadly outbreak.

Sharp is Grace’s most loyal ally, but in close quarters, he starts to feel like more. She can’t watch someone else she cares about die—but she might not have a choice. The closer they get to finding the source of the strain, the closer it gets to finding them.

Book Excerpt:

The battle line between good and evil runs through the heart of every man. —Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Chapter One

“I’m so dead.” Dr. Grace Samuels stared at the chessboard. There was no hope. None. Not a single move left open to her.
Except for one.
She sighed, shook her head at the patience on her opponent’s face. “I concede.”
“Want to know where you went wrong?” he asked as he cleared the board. He set the pieces up again. Those big hands of his could bandage a wounded soldier, field strip a 9 mm and box her into checkmate with equal skill.
“I sat down in this chair,” she answered with a straight face. The mess hall was busy with soldiers, American and Afghan alike, either beginning their day or ending their night.
“No,” he said. “You played the board.”
Grace thought about it for a second, but it still didn’t make any sense. Then again, it was 0600 and she’d only been up for twenty minutes. “Huh?”
Special Forces Weapons Sergeant Jacob “Sharp” Foster looked at her earnestly. “You played the board,” he repeated. “You should have been playing the man.”
He winked and she had to fight not to roll her eyes. When she first met him she’d thought his flirting was for real, and had been worried she’d have to shut him down. She didn’t want to, because he was hilarious, but the impropriety couldn’t be ignored. Then, she discovered when he wasn’t on the job, he had a wicked sense of humor, and everyone was a target.
“Then I suppose I’ll have to study you.” She leaned forward and made a show of giving him a thorough once-over.
He grinned and spread his hands wide. “By all means, study me.”
Sharp was a big man, about six-two, and she’d guess he weighed about two hundred pounds. He flexed his biceps and waggled his eyebrows in response to her joke. Though he had brown hair, with a mustache and beard to match, he had the lightest blue eyes she’d ever seen—like looking into glacial ice.
Right now, those eyes were challenging her. She just wasn’t sure if it was regarding the game or something she didn’t want to talk about. At all.
Unfortunately, Sharp wasn’t going to leave it alone. The chess game should have warned her. They usually played poker.
She watched him reset the chessboard while, for the first time in a week, letting her mind go back to the moment she realized she was in trouble. On her way to her quarters late at night. They’d arrived at Forward Operating Base Bostick the week before, and she’d been introduced to the base commander, Colonel Marshall. He’d barely spoken to her. So why was he waiting for her outside her quarters with clenched fists and a face so blank she knew he was in the grip of a powerful emotion?
The colonel wasn’t known for any kind of emotion.
She stopped several feet away. “What are you doing here at this hour, sir?”
One corner of his upper lip lifted in a sneer and he snarled, “I wanted a private conversation.”
His words triggered every internal red flag she had. “I don’t understand.”
Marshall’s response was two words. One name. “Joseph Cranston.”
A name she wished she could forget. “You…knew him?”
Scorn turned his words into weapons. “He was my son.”
Oh God.
Grace took an involuntary step backward. Now that she knew, she could see the son in his father’s face, the same eyes and jawline as the young man whose features she couldn’t forget. As if conjured, his shade floated in front of her mind’s eye, thrusting her into a memory she wanted desperately to erase. His face, covered with blood, whipped her heart into a gallop. Her breathing bellowed, lungs attempting to push air through her terror-closed throat. She fought the invisible hands pulling at her and her vision spiraled into a narrow tunnel.
Sharp had surfaced out of the dark, his presence breaking the memory’s chokehold.
He’d crouched in front of her, calling her name, ordering her to respond before he did something stupid like give her mouth-to-mouth. She coughed out a response, couldn’t remember what, and fought her way to her feet.
Sharp didn’t try to hold her. He didn’t touch her at all, but he shielded her body from prying eyes with his own. He refused to leave her, facing down Colonel Marshall, who showed no sympathy and less tolerance for her fainting spell. Two of Sharp’s team members appeared and, after glaring at them all, Marshall left without saying anything else.
She managed to get inside her quarters before anyone could demand an explanation, shut the door and locked it. She’d only felt relief when no one knocked to ask for an explanation. It wasn’t until the next day that she realized their lack of questions was as suspect as her behavior.
She hadn’t expected to meet anyone connected to Joseph Cranston outside of the United States. Hadn’t expected something that happened that long ago to thrust her into a memory like it was happening all over again.
In the days since, Sharp had been mother-henning her like she was some fragile little chick, and she’d had about as much of that as she could take. She was a Samuels. Her father, also a military doctor, had just retired from the army, and her grandfather had run a MASH unit during the Korean War. He’d met her grandmother during WWII; she’d been one of the first Air Force service pilots. If there was one thing she wouldn’t accept from anyone, it was pity.
“I’ve been studying you for a while.” Sharp finished setting up the board and met her gaze. “You’re a damn good doctor, a hellacious good shot on the range and you put up with our male stupidity with more patience than we deserve.”
“I hear the but coming.”
“What happened between you and Marshall?”
“None of your damn business.”
When he continued to stare at her, she added, “Look, I’m not going to saddle anyone else with my personal grievances or the fact that I don’t get along with someone.”
“Personal grievances?” Sharp asked. “Twice last week I thought you were going to damage a guy for jostling you in the chow line. What’s going on with you?”
Shit, of course he would notice. She’d damn near freaked out each time, a scream hovering on her lips, her hands and feet moving to defend against an enemy who wasn’t there.
The enemy wasn’t there. No gunfire. No weapons pointed at her, yet she still found herself reacting as if it were happening all over again.
She hadn’t been reacting that way until Marshall had confronted her. Meeting the father of a soldier who’d died an unnecessary death in front of her must have detonated an emotional trip wire in her head. One she needed to deal with.
Not an easy thing when on active duty and nowhere near a base with more than a glorified first-aid station.
It seemed like anywhere she went on the base, Sharp or one of the guys from the A-Team was there. Not doing anything, just there. They weren’t fooling her.
Damn alpha males and their overprotective tendencies.
“Nothing I can’t handle. I take care of myself.” She narrowed her eyes. Her sidearm, a Beretta M9, might have to make an appearance. Then Sharp’s words sunk all the way in. “Wait. Are you telling me I should play chess with the same mind-set as poker?” She buried his ass every time they played poker. He was terrible at keeping his attention on his cards and lousy at pretending he wasn’t checking her out—not that he was serious about it. He knew the rules same as she, and she was glad, ridiculously glad, she had a friend she could count on, someone she could trust.
“Sort of. Chess demands more of you than poker, but the principles are the same.”
Them’s fightin’ words. “The hell you say.” She’d been playing poker with her dad since she was ten years old. He’d taught her how to bluff anyone.
“Doc,” Sharp said, chuckling. “If I were lying, you’d be beating me, but you aren’t.”
“Ha.” She leaned forward and tapped the board. “Make your move.”
Sharp opened his mouth to respond, but he never got a chance to say anything before another Beret, the team’s other weapons sergeant, Harvey Runnel, strode over to them. It wasn’t the speed he was moving that drew her and Sharp’s attention, it was the look on the soldier’s face. Flattened lips, clenched jaw and a slightly flared nose. She couldn’t see his eyes due to the tinted safety glasses he wore, but she could guess that the skin around them would be tight—a man who was on full alert.
Special Forces soldiers did not get amped up for no reason.
“Playtime’s over,” Runnel said. “Doc, grab your go-bag.”
A mental blanket sank over her, numbing her to the horror to come. It was the first self-preservation tactic doctors learned. Compartmentalize all that terrible stuff or go crazy in a week. Sometimes she wondered when all those boxes in her mind would break open and rip her apart from the inside out.
There was an entire crate named Joseph Cranston.
“Warm or cold?” She asked even though she already knew the answer. Runnel never looked this rattled. Please say warm.
Her warm go-bag was a trauma kit, a backpack with everything she’d need if she was dealing with bullet holes, shrapnel lacerations or broken bones. The typical things most people expected her to treat since she was a trauma surgeon. But that wasn’t all she was.
She was also an infectious disease specialist.
Her cold go-bag contained the very latest in biological detection technology. One- or two-step tests that identified anything from anthrax to Ebola to a weaponized flu. She was a member of a select group of virologists, microbiologists and infectious disease specialists the US Army relied on to train not only their own troops, but the soldiers of other nations, in the detection of and protection against biological weapons. They were known officially as the Biological Rapid Response team, but most soldiers called them Icemen or Icequeens.
Lately the army had been assigning BRR team members to work with Army Special Forces teams—Green Berets. She’d been working with Sharp’s team for almost a year. Her job was to assist in training Afghan forces in everything from combat and demolitions to the most survivable responses to biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.
“Cold,” Runnel said. “No drill.”
Adrenaline spiked through her system as Grace got up and followed Runnel. He led the way back to whoever was calling the shots, Sharp right behind her as they ran at a trot. She might be the base’s resident expert on biological weapons, but it was knowledge she wished fervently she didn’t have to use.
They entered the staging area where she’d been doing some of the training. Several members of Sharp’s team were using it to gear up. Runnel glanced at her and angled his head toward the base commander, a tall man in his forties who wore a permanent frown. He was looking at a map with several ranking officers, including the A-Team’s commander, Geoffry Cutter.
Cutter glanced at her. “The major is here, sir.”
Base Commander Colonel Marshall gave her a glare before returning his attention to the map in front of him.
He’d called her a fucking quack yesterday as he walked past her. If he kept demeaning her in front of the Afghan forces and their own soldiers, she’d lose the credibility she needed to successfully train them.
“Major,” Marshall said without looking at her. “One of our patrols reported in about ten minutes ago with what appears to be a biological incident.”
She waited, but he didn’t add any more details. “What led them to believe that, sir?”
He met her gaze with an even colder expression. “An entire village dead. Some of the bodies show lesions and bleeding from the nose, mouth and eyes.”
Holy Mother of God.
Bad. This was very bad.
“I concur with their assessment of the situation, sir. Your orders?”
“Get the fuck out there,” he snarled at her. “Figure out what happened and fix it.”
That part she knew already. Asshat. She’d hoped he’d give her some detailed orders, with a timeline and what kind of manpower she could expect. Not more sarcasm and snark. She came to attention and saluted. “Yes, sir.”
He took two steps, then stopped and turned around. He addressed Cutter and only Cutter, who had somehow inched his way over until he was right next to her, with Sharp on the other side. What a couple of papa bears. “Send half of your A-Team with the Icequeen. The other half will stay here in case I need a second team to go in.”
Grace bit her tongue hard to keep from telling what she thought of him and his orders, and mentally promoted him to asshole.
“Yes, sir.” Cutter saluted. “The location of the village is here.” He glanced at Grace and pointed to a spot on the map. From a distance Cutter looked like the least threatening person in the room. He was the shortest, skinniest guy on the A-Team, but he more than made up for that in stubbornness and stamina.
Grace moved closer so she could get a better look. “How far is it from the Pakistan border?”
“About two klicks.”
“Not very damn far.” She ran her index finger over the spot on the map. “Mountain valley?”
“Yeah. It’s a small village. Less than one hundred people.”
“The patrol found no one alive?”
“No one.”
Grace breathed in through her nose and out through her mouth. “Did they get their breathing gear on right away?”
“According to their report they did, but they’re nervous. Whatever killed those people, killed them fast.”
“Okay. I don’t have to tell you guys how to prep. You’re as well trained as I am. Consider this a live weapon.”
“Will do,” Cutter responded. He looked at Sharp standing next to her. “I’m assigning Sharp to ride herd on you, Doc. Where you go, he goes.”
“I’m not arguing, Commander. I’ve worked with Sharp plenty of times.”
“Good. We leave in fifteen.” Cutter nodded at her, gave Sharp a nod, then moved off to brief the rest of his team.
“I have to get my go-bag and the rest of my gear,” she said to Sharp, her mind on the eight million things she needed to do before those fifteen minutes were up.
“I’ll give you a hand.”
“Thanks, but I don’t need any help.” She was going to have to deal with his protective crap sooner rather than later, but carefully. “I do need every friend I can get, though. Are you in for that?”
At his grin, she relaxed a little and refocused on the job at hand.

* * *

Sharp watched Grace rush away for about two seconds too long.
“Do I need to replace you with Runnel?” Cutter asked.
He jerked his head around to stare at his commander. He’d thought Cutter had been briefing the rest of the team. “No.”
Cutter stood with his arms crossed over his chest and his feet apart. “Then pull your tongue back into your head. You’re damn near panting after her.”
“Not fucking likely. She’s just the only person on this base who can beat me in poker. If something happens to her, I’ll have nothing to do for the next month,” he said. “Besides, something’s not right. She’s been off her game since Marshall decided to be an ass. She’s our number-one asset. I’m worried.” The way he’d found her the other day, damn near passed out, shaking and hyperventilating like she was about to fly apart… It had hit him—a sucker punch to the gut. She was reliving something awful.
Post-traumatic stress disorder.
How many guys did he know who lived with PTSD? Ten, twenty, fifty?
What was Marshall’s connection? Something he’d done or said had set off a bomb in Grace’s head.
Even weirder, Marshall hadn’t liked it when Sharp wouldn’t leave Grace alone with him.
What the hell had Grace been involved with that earned her the dislike of a career military man who normally didn’t give a rat’s ass about what a doctor like her might be doing or not doing?
“Still, watch yourself. Word around the base is, he’s got a hate on for the doc and you got in the way.”
“What do you know, Cutter?”
“Nothing specific. Marshall hasn’t talked, but his attitude toward the doc is clear. He hates her guts.”
Cutter was right, Marshall’s face had been twisted by disgust and hostility as he stared at her the night he got between her and the colonel. What had happened to cause it? Whatever it was, Sharp wasn’t going to let anyone hurt her. She worked just as hard and long at training their allied troops as the A-Team did. And she was good.
“Sharp.” Cutter’s voice had a wary edge and he took a step closer. “Be careful, man. I like the doc, too. Hell, the whole team likes her, but you and I both know falling for someone while on deployment is a mistake.”
“Preaching to the choir here, boss. I might enjoy the view on occasion, but there’s a line I have no interest in crossing.”
They’d both watched as a former team member fell hard for a woman he’d met while overseas. The relationship disintegrated within weeks after he’d been reassigned. It had damn near broke him, and he’d left the military altogether.
“I respect her,” Sharp told his commander. “She’s smart and she’s worked her ass off this last year. I also think Marshall has some kind of vendetta against her. The look on his face the other night…” Sharp shook his head. “He’d have killed her if he could have. She belongs to us.”
Cutter was silent for a couple of moments, his gaze steady on Sharp’s face. Finally, he angled his head toward the knot of soldiers and gear. “Come on, no one is going to bother her now. Marshall needs her. Get your shit together.”
Cutter had one thing right. He needed to keep his focus on the mission. Sharp followed the other man, but there wasn’t much for any of them to do, since they were always ready to move out on a moment’s notice. Every man on the team had developed the habit during training and had only refined it since. One of their instructors used to say that an unprepared soldier was a dead soldier.
Sharp joined the rest of his team, double-checked his weapons, pulled on his battered gear and bio-suit and got out of the way. Focus.
Cutter was talking with Bart, one of their communications guys, when Colonel Marshall walked in a few minutes later with another half-dozen soldiers behind him and headed straight for the Special Forces group.
“Cutter, storm coming at twelve o’clock,” Sharp informed him quietly.
By the time Marshall came to a stop, the entire A-Team was standing at attention.
“Sir,” Cutter said with a salute. “The go-team is ready, sir.”
“Where’s that damn doctor?”
“She’ll be here in six minutes, sir.”
Marshall grunted. “You’re taking these men with you on this mission. Two additional medics, Yanik and Anderson, and four of my infantry for security. Your mission objective is to assist Major Samuels.”
For the first time since their arrival two weeks ago, Marshall was actually helping a situation rather than shitting all over it.
“And make sure that bitch doesn’t screw up,” Marshall added. “I want the men on that patrol back in one piece. Understand?”
“Yes, sir.”
The team saluted and Marshall stalked off like he was Patton or something.
“So much for that guy not being a tremendous bag of dicks,” the team’s second in command, John Leonard, said in an undertone.

 Author Interview

Welcome to The Writer's Life! Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process. Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning? Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

I’m a medical lab technologist and I worked in small to medium sized hospitals where the techs often did a lot of work they don’t do in larger hospitals and health centers. One of the things that I’ve watched become more and more common is antibiotic resistant bacteria. The World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control are both watching this situation closely. It’s become big news, and the problem is world-wide.

Here’s where I started asking myself the what if questions. What if an extremist or terrorist got their hands on a pathogen that had the potential to kill thousands of people? What might that person do with that weaponized pathogen? What could his goals be? What might his end game look like? These are the questions that lead me to write Deadly Strain.

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

Persist. Take every chance to learn that you can and keep writing. Don’t give up. Persist.

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

My publisher is Carina Press, a digital imprint of Harlequin. I submitted to them shortly after they began taking submissions because they were looking for stories outside the box. My writing had often been described as a little too different by editors, so I thought this might be the place for me and my stories. Happily, I was right!

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

Yes, how much there is to do to get a book ready for publication after you’ve sold it. There’s usually three rounds of edits with Carina Press (at least for me there is!). Developmental edits (big picture stuff), line edits (literally line by line) and copy edits (where someone new checks for spelling, grammar, word usage, and more). Can I just say now that I adore my editor? I love the collaborative process between us during the editing process. She asks the best questions (in the margins of the manuscript)!

What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

Deadly Strain is the first book in the Biological Response Team series. Lethal Game will follow in October and Viral Justice in February, 2016.

What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

Twitter! I love posting my favorite dialogue and novel lines from my books there. They’re micro-excerpts, and I find them a ton of fun. Like this one: “Do you always rearm this fast, or has it been a while?” Deadly Strain out 06/15 #military #romance

Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

One of the core themes in all my novels is how sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder deal with their disorder. PTSD is an insidious illness that’s hard to explain let alone treat, and all kinds of people have it to one degree or another. Not just soldiers or policemen. It affects the entire family of a person with PTSD. If you suspect someone in your family, or a close friend, may be dealing with PTSD, talk with them. Even more important: listen to them. Show them they’re loved and that they matter.

Thank you again for this interview!

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