28 May 2021

#InsincerelyYours by Manasi Singh



All Ray wanted was to have some fun. Little did she know that what began as a harmless midnight adventure would soon end up being the most terrifying night of her life.

Shuttling back and forth between the States and whichever obscure Indian town her civil servant father was transferred to, Atreya ‘Ray’ Sen’s life has always been on the move. When she comes down to sleepy old Visakhapatnam and befriends Mira, Ray hopes she could be a successful means of whiling away her summer. When Mira invites her to a late-night adventure with Mira’s boyfriend and his pals, Ray jumps at the chance for some excitement. When one of the boys suggests they take a detour to one of Vizag’s most famous haunted houses, the night takes a turn for the dark. The spirit of a mean old man seems to be following them, killing them off one by one.
A near-death experience reveals to Ray that she is the only one who can bring peace to him. Now, Ray must race against time to find a way to save her family and friends, or else the once-peaceful town of Vizag would witness a bloodbath like never before.
An old Victorian mansion with a dark history…a spirit with a vengeance…a girl with no memory of her past…
Will Ray be able to stop the killings in time? Or will she be left with no friends and no family yet again?

Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon.in * Amazon.com

Read an Excerpt from Insincerely Yours

Ray surveyed the interiors of the Victorian mansion in awe. The person who had inherited it had hit the lottery, although they didn’t seem to do anything to maintain the grandeur of the place. Everything was coated with a thick layer of dust, revealing that nobody had come by in years. The house, although beautiful in a vintage way, looked like it had seen better days, when there were butlers maybe to take care of the humongous living room. Ray’s eyes fell upon a portrait that hung on the far right off the hall. She walked up to it, noticing every detail she could. The portrait was that of a man who looked like he was in his mid-sixties. He had a proud posture, standing upright, with his moustache pointed to perfection. He had a stern look about his face, save for the smile. He had a kind smile, which made Ray’s lips curve upwards. It almost felt as though he was looking at her, welcoming her to his abode. She felt the picture tug at her heartstrings, the familiarity of the warmth in that face throwing her off. He looked like someone she knew, but who? She wasn’t sure. Perhaps his face was one that was common, like that of a mathematics teacher, they all looked so similar.

As Ray turned around, taking in the room, she noticed two sets of stairs running parallel, towards the middle of the room, to what looked like a catwalk of the first floor. Her eyes fell on a grandiose piano that was half-hidden behind one of the stairways.

“So, what’s the story behind this place?” She asked, mesmerised by the beauty that seemed to surround her.

“They say that an old man lived here, a retired colonel from the army,” Mira said, and Ray’s eyes immediately went back to the portrait, “Apparently, he was a well-respected guy around town until – well – until one fine day, when he lost his mind. He just randomly went batshit crazy and fired all his staff. You could hear him walking around the house all alone in the evening, his cane tapping against the wooden floors. He would play Kishore Kumar songs on his music system for hours. At nights, if you were close enough, you could hear him crying and wailing out loud. One fine day, the tapping and wailing stopped. The music went on for hours, though. When some neighbours came to complain about the constant music, they found him dead on the floor.”

“The version I heard says that he was a paedophile, that they found a picture of a little girl clutched to his chest when they found the dead body. The old man was found by the bar, in this very mansion, and he had drank himself to death. The neighbors were so aghast at him, they let the body lay as it is, saying he didn’t deserve a proper burial,” Karthik remarked.

Ray wrinkled her nose delicately.

“They say his ghost still occupies this house. The watchman of this area has sworn he sometimes still hears the cane tapping away at night, as though the old man still walks these halls. One time, he heard some music playing, and ran away so fast, he swore never to return again,” Karthik continued in a conspiratorial whisper, “They say nobody has ever made it out of here alive. The ghost of the old Colonel makes his presence felt by playing his favorite Kishore Kumar song.”

“Which is…?” Rohan asked, stepping closer to Ray subconsciously, looking a little nervous. 

Is he scared by this absurd legend?

The room was so silent, she could hear his breath coming out short and fast, the fear in it unmistakable, blending well with the sentiment of the room.

Suddenly, music blasted from somewhere in the room.
Ek Haseena thiii…Ek Deewana thaaa…

Mira was the first to shriek, holding her hands to her ears. Ray felt her blood running cold in her veins, as the room’s temperature seemed to drop a couple degrees.

A Kishore Kumar song. Could the legend be true?

About the Author:

Manasi Singh is a lawyer, graduated from one of the top law schools in India in 2019. Lawyer by day and reader by night, Manasi always had a lot of stories to share, which she did by publishing short stories and articles in newspapers, magazines and journals. In 2019, she began writing short snippets on social media under the name “The Vanilla Writer”, shortly after which she published her first novel “As Fates Would Have It”, which was received warmly by readers of all ages. Manasi is a firm believer in art and creativity not being restrained in any way, which is why she writes short stories, fiction novels, screenplays for short films, and much more.

Manasi on the Web:
Twitter * Instagram * Facebook 

26 May 2021

The Fourniers by Vera Jane Cook



Women's Fiction

Date Published: 5/26/2021

Publisher: Indies United

When Hannah Reilly steps off the ship on the shores of Ellis Island in 1912 she has no idea that it is not a convent that awaits her. It is a man who finds her far too beautiful to marry God.

Hannah turns her back on the church and she and Wade settle in Jacksonville, Florida, where the world holds the promise of sunshine. They have two wonderful children before life changes and Wade insists that Hannah abort her third child. When Hannah refuses, light turns to darkness and fate unfolds before Hannah with the cruel consequences of her choices.

A story told against the backdrop of the Depression, Hannah struggles with anguish and despair highlighted by brief moments of triumph, lost love returned, deep friendship and the cruelty of laws so unfavorable to women.

About the Author

Vera Jane Cook enjoys writing in a variety of genres. As Olivia Hardy Ray, Jane is author of the dark, suspenseful scifi novel, Pharaoh's Star. In the fantasy genre she is the author of Annabel Horton, Lost Witch of Salem, Annabel Horton and the Black Witch of Pau. She has numerous forthcoming titles in this genre which include Annabel Horton and the Demon of Lodun, Fox Hollow and Nobody's Road.

As Vera Jane Cook, she often explores her southern roots and complex family dynamics in her women's fiction. Her novel Dancing Backward in Paradise won the Indie Excellence Award for notable new fiction when it was first released in 2007 and an Eric Hoffer Award for publishing excellence that same year. Dancing Backward in Paradise received a five-star review from ForeWord Clarion. The Story of Sassy Sweetwater, first released in 2012, was a finalist for the ForeWord Clarion Book of the Year Award. Additionally, Jane has published the southern fiction novels Where the Wildflowers Grow and Pleasant Day. Her newest women's fiction novel, When Hannah Played Ragtime, Book One in a family trilogy will be published this year.

Jane lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her spouse, her Dachshund, Karly, her Chihuahua, Peanut, and her two pussycats, Sassy and Sweetie Pie.

Contact Links



Twitter @verajanecook





Purchase Link


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25 May 2021

Welcome to Planet Lara by Eliza Fordon

I am so excited that WELCOME TO PLANET LARA by Eliza Gordon is available now and that I get to share the news!

If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book, be sure to check out all the details below.

This blitz also includes a giveaway for a signed finished copy of WELCOME TO PLANET LARA and a couple eBooks courtesy of Eliza and Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.


About The Book:


Author: Eliza Gordon

Pub. Date: April 8, 2021

Publisher: SGA Books

Pages: 412

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Find it: Goodreads, AmazonKindleB&N, iBooks, KoboTBD, Bookshop.org 

“There are … stipulations on your inheritance, Ms. Clarke.”

Lara J. Clarke is used to getting her own way. Motherless at ten and raised by her oft-absent eco-warrior/philanthropist grandfather, she lives the high life afforded by her seemingly bottomless trust fund.

That is, until Grandfather Archibald sheds his mortal coil in a very public manner, and Lara’s privileged life is set adrift, headed for a collision course with the gorgeous, private Thalia Island off the coast of British Columbia. According to the will, Lara will step into the role of Project Administrator, wherein she has one year to fulfill her late grandfather’s dream of a self-sustaining, eco-friendly, family-centered utopia.

The stakes are real: fail, and lose access to the family fortune—forever.

Convinced Thalia Island will be an extension of the heiress lifestyle she’s long led, Lara is surprised to find her new coworkers—and neighbors—aren’t as pliable as the underlings of her former life. Even with the hunky lead engineer Finan Rowleigh showing her the ropes, Lara quickly learns just how unprepared she is to trade her Louboutins for steel-toed Timberlands.

When a series of calamities reveals a sinister element undermining the security of the island and her residents, Lara and Finan must reach beyond their job descriptions to protect Archibald’s precious utopia from those who would do her harm.

And while keeping her late grandfather’s flame alight, Lara finds her own flame burning hot for a charming, kind man who wants nothing from her but her heart.


"Eliza Gordon delivers a unique premise, delicious romance, and plenty of intrigue. I loved it and can't wait for more from Planet Lara!" -- Samantha Young, NYT and USA Today bestselling author

"Smart, hilarious, and completely unpredictable, Welcome to Planet Lara is your next must-read. West Coast Canada Schitt's Creek meets grown-up Nancy Drew for a riches-to-rags adventure filled with murder, romance, mystery, and a heroine you love to hate--until the moment you realize you just love her."-- Suzy Krause, author of Sorry I Missed You and Valencia & Valentine

"I absolutely loved Welcome to Planet Lara! It made me feel all the feels ... what a crazy ride! Eliza, once again, brings her characters to life with humour, heart and realness. I loved every minute of it and did not want it to end! Cannot wait to find out what Eliza has in store for Lara."-- Brandee Bublé, children's author (O'Shae the Octopus and Jayde the Jaybird)

"I love it, and I CAN'T WAIT TO READ THE NEXT ONE. The concept is amazing, and the eco-message is so timely and very dear to my heart. [Eliza] has tackled so much, and done it with her usual spunk and zest."-- Stephania Schwartz, author and editor



Chapter One


I don’t know why they have pickles on this table. My mom hates pickles. Hated. Past tense. I heard Rupert correct my grandfather when he mentioned my mother the other day—they were talking in Grandfather’s huge office lined with bookshelves and Louis XV Savonnerie carpets and giant windows the housekeepers complain about cleaning when they don’t know anyone’s listening, and Rupert referred to my mother in past tense. I wasn’t supposed to hear their conversation—that’s why the outside door was closed. When it’s closed, I’m not allowed in. But I’m very good at hearing things I’m not supposed to hear because, like that kid in my class who always smells like wet dog says, I’m so scrawny, he could stuff me into his rolling backpack and throw me into the ocean and no one would ever miss me.

I’d like to think that someone would miss me. Only now that we’re speaking of my mother in past tense, I guess that’s one less person who would wonder if I’m floating out to sea, trapped in a rolling backpack covered in dog hair. Also, I’d like to think my English teacher, Mrs. Buck, would be proud of me for understanding the difference between present and past tense, even if her nylons on her beefy thighs scrape together when she walks between our desks and the sound makes me shiver.

Like I was saying, I’m scrawny, so two days ago, I snuck into my grandfather’s office and tucked myself into the antique liquor cabinet—he doesn’t drink so the cabinet is empty and the perfect place for me to hide when I don’t want his bossy housekeeper to find me because her job is to vacuum and change sheets and make Grandfather’s special food but now she keeps trying to hug me and pet my hair and her boobs squish my face and I can’t breathe, so she thinks I’m crying about my dead mom, my mom who’s only alive in the past tense now, but I’m not crying about my dead mom. I haven’t cried yet. I think that makes me the worst kid ever.

Yeah—I mean, yes, since Rupert won’t allow me to say yeah—so I was in the cabinet and I heard Rupert say we needed to refer to my mother, Cordelia Josephine Clarke, in the past tense. “It will be easier for Lara if we don’t give her hope that her mother will be returning.” Rupert—I call him Number Two, like that character in Austin Powers, a movie I wasn’t supposed to watch but did anyway because one of the housekeepers invited me to her daughter Madi’s ninth-birthday sleepover because she felt bad for me that I never get to go to sleepovers. So I went, and Madi is basically my best friend now, but the housekeeper and her husband drink a lot of wine that comes in a box and they play their country music really loud. The biggest difference from the Number Two in the movie and Rupert Bishop is that Rupert doesn’t have an eye patch and he hardly ever laughs or smiles and even if he does smile, he’s like a hundred feet tall so I can’t even see up to his unsmiling face most of the time.

“They didn’t find a body, Rupert. They found the wrecked plane, but no Cordelia. What if she made it? What if someone in that god-awful jungle has her?”

Through the slats in the square cupboard door, I saw Number Two shake his head and look down at his shiny brown loafers. One of these days, I’m going to take a black marker and color the tops of his shoes so he can’t shine them anymore. I’m also going to cut off those stupid tassels and use them as fishing lures.

“Sir, this is the best course. Do not cancel the memorial. Plant the tree, give Lara some closure. Let her move on. She’s only ten. Still young enough to have a satisfactory life wherein her memories will fade, even in the face of this tragedy. It’s not as though she’s spent a lot of time with her mother anyway.”

My grandfather’s face hardened for a minute, that look he gives when he’s about to blow his top, his chin jutting and eyes narrowed.

“Pardon me, sir. I overstepped.” Rupert folded his hands behind his back. He’s not wrong, though. My mother hasn’t been around for a long time. She works a lot, or so she says. When she’s home, it’s all fun, fun, fun, like she’s trying to make up for the next time she leaves a note on my nightstand covered with Xs and Os and smiley faces and promises of trips to zoos and museums and amusement parks and my favorite ice cream shop when she gets home.

Rupert told me once that my mother’s first love was her airplane. And even though she named it Lara, after me, I have always known that Lara the plane was more important to my mom than Lara the human kid.

My grandfather, unlike me, has cried a lot since the men in black suits showed up a week ago and asked for a place to talk privately. Rupert’s comment has made my grandfather cry again. Maybe I will forget coloring his shoes and just drop them all—his entire collection of fancy, tasseled loafers—into the pond in the back with the koi.

Cordelia was my grandfather’s only daughter. His only child, actually.

I am his only granddaughter.

Archibald Magnus Clarke the First, and only, was almost an old man when Cordelia was born. Her mother left her behind, just like Cordelia left me behind.

I haven’t cried yet. Maybe I will later.

But there are pickles on this big stupid table, and Cordelia hated pickles. And everyone in the room—all these faces I’ve never seen before—are looking at me like they’re expecting me to burst into tears at any moment.

Instead, I pick up the plate of pickles of all varieties and whistle once with my fingers tucked into my lips like Madi taught me. Once I’m sure I’ve got the room’s undivided attention, I launch the plate overhand, anticipating the satisfaction that will come when the glass hits the de Gournay papered wall and shatters into a thousand pieces and stinky pickle juice seeps across the bamboo floor and into the fibers of the eighteenth-century Persian rug we’re not supposed to wear our shoes on.

Except at the same moment, this tall, lanky kid steps into the plate’s trajectory and the heavy crystal hits him instead with a dull crack!

Everyone in the spacious, light-filled room gasps. The kid, stunned, looks in my direction, big brown eyes wide, not quite sure what just happened. And then blood spills down the side of his head and he slumps to the floor into the pile of pickles and juice, followed by grown-ups freaking out and the big-boobed housekeeper barking orders at some other member of the house staff to get the first-aid kit and then Rupert’s bony but well-manicured hand is around my arm and he’s pulling me out of the solarium and forcing me down onto the soft, carpeted steps in the main foyer.

“What on earth possessed you to do that, young lady?”

I look up at him and am surprised when tears sting my eyeballs. I didn’t mean to hit that kid.

“My mother hates pickles. If any of you guys even knew her, you’d know she hates pickles.”

Past tense, Lara. Your mother hated pickles.

Rupert kneels, his joints cracking even though he’s not even that old.

A commotion behind us draws our attention. Two parents huddle around the tall boy who is again on his feet. They pause just long enough for me to look at the kid, a bloody cloth pressed against the left side of his head and face.

“Sorry,” I whisper.

He nods once, and they leave.

Then I start crying, and I don’t stop for a year.

Chapter Two


The cacophony pouring from the hastily constructed, oversized gazebo is the opposite of music. Maybe no one explained to Grandfather what marching bands are best at: marching. Instead, forty-odd adolescents, sweating under the hot lights in their full blue-and-white regalia, must rush out their Born to Run and Uptown Funk before they’re pushed off the stage, to be replaced with the real reason all these people are crowded into this shoreline park in their finest attire, their Jimmy Choos sinking into the sand, in front of a modest structure that promises the future is just inside its double glass doors.

A giant pair of silver scissors, cast from recycled car parts, sits on an equally giant velvet, bamboo-stuffed pillow atop a 3D-printed, biodegradable table made of cornstarch and wildflower seeds that will be left out in the inevitable spring rain to melt and blossom once the ceremony ends. The bold red ribbon stretched across the structure facade trembles at its proximity to the sharpened blades.

A trumpet misfires. The audio system roars with feedback. The impressive crowd groans and flinches. Dainty, bejeweled hands not holding champagne flutes cover delicate ears against the assault.

Thankfully, the song ends. Lukewarm applause plays the marching band off the gazebo, their noise replaced by the ambient serenade of whale song and falling rain pumped through the surround-sound speakers. It makes me need to pee.

“Canapé? It’s fresh, smoked wild Pacific salmon on artisan rye and topped with dill, all ingredients grown in one of Dr. Clarke’s self-sustaining vertical farms.”

“He grew the fish in one of his skyscrapers?”

The redheaded server looks confused. This information wasn’t included in the script his boss fed him before sending him out with a tray.

“I think the salmon came from the ocean?” His Adam’s apple bobs nervously. I should feel bad. Probably just a college kid trying to make tuition for next semester. Some people have to do that. He has no idea who I am. Or maybe he does, and that’s why he’s sweating.

“Allergic to salmon,” I lie. “But I will take more bubbly.” He nods and hurries away, forgetting to hand out his canapés to the buffed-and-polished deep pockets around me.

“Do not treat the staff like they’re below you, Lara. You never know how quickly life can change. You might need the charity of others someday.”

Grandfather’s voice in my head worsens the martini headache that’s already trying to push my eyeballs out of their sockets. I wish Canapé Boy would hurry up with that champagne.

I’m supposed to be backstage with Grandfather’s entourage to wave at his adoring crowd and field the accolades that his years of scientific achievement and dedication to the environment and sustainability have birthed. Just waiting for Rupert’s hail, at which time I will slide in behind the crowd. I tried to decline—Dr. Archibald M. Clarke I is a big boy. He doesn’t need me standing up there with him faking a smile while his offering plate is passed around. But Grandfather did say he thinks this will be his last public shindig, so I will obey, like a good little cyclone is supposed to.

My phone buzzes in my black clutch. It could be Connor texting to find me in the throng, although he wasn’t sure if he’d be wrapped in time to make it. Too bad. The Pacific Ocean looks beautiful from this very expensive patch of real estate. We could sneak off and get sand in our undies and hope that someone records it.

It’s not Connor.

Please join us. Rupert, a.k.a. Number Two, Grandfather’s steward, valet, assistant, his right-hand man in all things. Tall, pinched, British, and annoying.

Yes, sir.

He doesn’t respond. Rupert tolerates me only because he is paid to do so. The feeling is mutual.

I weave through the crowd, eyes seeing through everyone so no one stops me to ask for anything. Someone is always asking the Clarkes for something. And as I’m here solo tonight—my assistant, Olivia, had some other engagement, and Connor, well, who knows—I have no one to run interference.

The sky purples as the sun dips a toe behind the horizon. While it’s unseasonably warm for April in Vancouver, the breeze coming off the water will soon see bare-shouldered partygoers pulling on wraps and accepting tuxedo jackets from their dates.

Canapé Boy passes with a tray of champagne, and I slow my momentum to lighten his load by two flutes. The pampered, overdone blond next to me tries, and fails, to furrow her brow. “Do you need both of those?” she asks. She looks like she French-kissed a beehive.

I drink the first glass in one long pull, and then the second, never taking my eyes off her.

“Aaaahhhhh, Moët. Refreshing,” I say, handing the emptied glasses back to the sweating server.

“Bitch,” she growls.

I eye her augmented cleavage, one brow hiked dismissively. “Did you know the world’s oceans will have more plastic than fish by 2050?” I move on.

With the last body out of my way, I manage the four metal stairs, minding the hem of my dangerously short dress and hoping my calves look gorgeous in these Louboutin stilettos, to squeeze in behind the heavy green, rough-cotton drapery surrounding the stage. Grandfather stands in the center of his small crowd, like the nucleus of a comet, the source of all this light. I don’t like many people, but I adore my grandfather. And he knows it.

“Rupert,” I say, pushing in beside him.

“My Lara Jo is here,” Grandfather says, handing Rupert his custom, hand-carved cane so he can wrap his arms around me. The only hint that Archibald Clarke is ninety-four comes from his bent spine—and it’s only bent because he took a spill on his solar-powered bike in Toulouse on his eighty-eighth birthday, and the spine doc couldn’t do any better than the fusion that gave him the slight hunch. His brain is still sharp as a razor, his eyes as clear as a Caribbean lagoon.

Though there is the little issue of the dodgy pacemaker …

“Hey, old man, how are you tonight?”

He kisses the back of my hand and pinches my cheek. Same thing he’s done every day of my life. We remain with hands clasped—even though his is smaller and thinner than years past, I still feel safest when Archibald Clarke anchors me to shore—as Rupert and the stage manager whisper and nod about getting the next phase underway.

Number Two nods at us both, pats Grandfather’s shoulder, and steps out into the spotlight. The applause rolls over the audience, growing louder, punctuated with whoops and hollers.

“Showtime,” I mutter to Grandfather. He winks, winds my arm through his, and retakes his cane from one of the stage assistants. His face is a mask of friendly calm, and although I am used to eyes on me, this sort of occasion does make me nervous. I’m sure someone will find something to pick apart about my outfit or hair in time for WickedStepsister’s press deadline.

Rupert, center stage, unhooks and grasps the microphone like he’s going to bust into some Michael Bublé. I’m surprised Bublé isn’t here. He lives, like, a half hour away, the only person in the city who might be more famous and beloved than my grandfather.

With a raised, long-fingered hand most suited to piano scales and reprimands, Rupert calms the gathering. A few of his female admirers catcall from the area closest to the stage, followed by laughs. Joke’s on them. Rupert doesn’t have time for love and other nonsense, “and if I did, it wouldn’t involve vagina.”

His words, not mine, and only after an evening of Macallan “borrowed” from my teetotaler grandfather’s collection of gifts he’s never touched. It was one of three occasions in my life I remember Number Two behaving in a manner more akin to a real-live human than obedient robot.

“Welcome, everyone, to this glorious evening of celebration,” he starts. For approximately a million minutes, he extols the many virtues of my grandfather’s esteemed scientific career, his dedication to the people of Earth, his passion for sustainability, even when people have laughed him out of boardrooms for his crazy ideas, how he was Elon Musk before Elon was even a twinkle in his mother’s perfectly lined eye.

“But no one is laughing now, now that we stand on the brink of an unprecedented era, on the precipice of an irreversible tipping point. In answer, Dr. Clarke has gifted us with an invigorating new way to live sustainably and in harmony with Mother Nature and our fellow earthly cohabitants. Searching the stars for new homes is a fool’s errand, not when we have a beautiful home right here, crying for our help.”

I roll my eyes at Rupert’s melodrama and instantly regret it as a renewed surge of pain pings inside my dehydrated skull. I again promise myself I will never drink another martini as long as I live.

“You remember what I told you?” Grandfather leans over and asks under his minty breath.

“About what?”

“Everything.” He winks again. I kiss his cheek. I don’t know what he’s talking about, but I don’t have time to ask for clarification.

“And now, without further ado, I would be so very honored if you would join me in welcoming everyone’s favorite eco-warrior, the son of Gaia herself, Dr. Archibald Magnus Clarke!”

More applause, more whoops. As we walk to center stage, I spy a woman in the front row with tears streaming down her face.

Archibald M. Clarke is happy to take the tall stool Rupert slides behind him. I help him onto it, holding his cane. Under the lights, he looks tired—I know he’s been working around the clock to maintain his myriad projects and make sure they’re all ready to be managed by his crack crew of experts once he “abandons this mortal coil.” He’s tried to rope me into helping, but I won’t hear of him leaving me, so no, Grandfather, leave me out of it and get back to work.

His speech continues on where Rupert’s left off. I stand next to him, his hand still clasped in mine, my obedient, grateful Clarke smile in place as he introduces me to his “friends.” I nod at the appropriate times, even if I’m mostly just scanning for the nearest champagne fountain. The crowd slurps up Grandfather’s words like that fresh, wild Pacific salmon still making its rounds.

“Enough about me,” Grandfather finally says, the onlookers oohing and aahing and clapping again. “Let us cut this ribbon and welcome our generous visitors to the presentation center for the Nature Tower, Vancouver’s first eco-cooperative, self-sustaining, family-friendly, mixed-use high-rise community!”

The Nature Tower. One of many ongoing Archibald Clarke projects—I cannot possibly keep them all straight, despite long discussions over our last-Sunday-of-the-month family dinners. And by family, I mean Grandfather, me, and Number Two. That’s it. We’re all that’s left of the Clarke clan, a dynasty started in Europe via textile manufacturing and railways during the early days of the Industrial Revolution and moved to America in the late 1800s to finance inventors and thinkers. The Clarkes are excellent with business, not so excellent with reproduction to secure the family’s lineage. Too busy thinking to make babies.

And Rupert isn’t even a blood relative. He’s just been with Archibald for so long, he’s become a remora, suction-cupped to my grandfather’s flank as they navigate the tempestuous waters of science and discovery.

Either way, I’m usually three sheets to the wind by the time they get heated about the number of hipsters and free-range chickens their high-rises will house.

Rupert steps in with the giant, shiny shears as my grandfather finally releases my sweaty hand. Archibald takes the scissors; the red ribbon before us has stilled. It has accepted its fate.

We begin the count. “Three! Two! One—”

The scissors plunk noisily to the stage floor, followed immediately by my grandfather keeling face-first onto the red-carpet-covered plywood.

Everyone freezes, me included, the only sound the subtle recording of keening whales and steady rain floating from the speakers.

Followed in short order by shouts and yells that aren’t quite screams but probably could be. I drop to Grandfather’s side, turn him over, grab his hand, and pat his cheeks. “Open your eyes, Archie. Let me see you in there,” I demand.

He obliges, his blue eyes bright as the sunrise. “Take this,” he says, pointing to the sole piece of jewelry I’ve ever seen him wear. “My little cyclone.” He struggles to remove his thick white-gold-and-stone ring as the crowd crushes closer to the stage to see what the hell has just happened.

“Grandfather, keep your ring on. We’re going to get you some help.”

“I love you,” he says, and then his hands flop to his chest and his eyes fixate on something overhead, the light draining from them like an incandescent bulb whose filament has just flamed out.

“Grandfather … Archie!” I yell, patting his face harder, shaking his shoulders. “Wake up! Please wake up!”

Panicked assistants converge from offstage. Rupert pushes me aside to make way for the audience member who has rushed up the gazebo stairs and is initiating CPR …

I lean back on my haunches in my too-short evening dress and watch Rupert and this stranger bounce on my grandfather’s rib cage to attempt to restart the heart I know has finally given up. Memories of my mother’s wake flood into my head, what later became known as The Pickle Incident. Whatever happened to that kid … one of the few things I’ve done that I actually feel guilty about.

I wish I had something to throw right now.

“Lara, move!” Rupert barks as Grandfather is hoisted onto a stretcher. I hop back, numb, legs tingling from crouching, as my last remaining relative is carried behind that heavy green curtain, away from public view. He’s surrounded by so many people, I only catch a brief glimpse of his smiling but bluish face, glazed eyes staring into nothingness.

Another assistant appears next to me, her hand on my arm, her headset making her look like an alien or maybe an astronaut. “Ms. Clarke, Ms. Clarke, do you want to go in the ambulance?”

I look at her, see her mouth moving, but I’m underwater.

The red ribbon dances before us, happily untouched by those menacing, giant silver scissors now left forgotten on the stage.

Inches from the pointy toe of my shoe sits Grandfather’s ring. I bend to pick it up.

Slide it on my middle finger. The dark red stone stares up at me, confused.

It’s still warm.


About Eliza Gordon:

A native of Portland, Oregon, Eliza Gordon (a.k.a. Jennifer Sommersby) has lived up and down the West Coast of the United States. Since 2002, home has been a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia. When not lost in a writing project, Eliza is a copy editor, mom, wife, bibliophile, Superman freak, and the proud parent of two very spoiled tuxedo cats.

Eliza writes stories to help you believe in the Happily Ever After; Jennifer Sommersby writes young adult fiction. Her debut, Sleight, was published in 2018 by HarperCollins Canada, Sky Pony (US), and Prószyński i S-ka (Poland). The sequel, Scheme (called The Undoing in Canada), is out now!

Follow Eliza on social media or go to her website at www.elizagordon.com and sign up for her newsletter.


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Giveaway Details: International

1 winner will receive a signed finished copy of WELCOME TO PLANET LARA, International.

2 winners will receive an eBook of WELCOME TO PLANET LARA sent by BookFunnel, International.

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24 May 2021

Razor Wire Wilderness by Stephanie Dickinson


True crime/memoir

Date Published: June 1, 2021

Publisher: Kallisto Gaia Press

Perpetrator. Bystander. Victim. Krystal Riordan watched as her boyfriend beat a drunk teenager to death in a vermin-infested hotel room. Could she have stopped it? Could she be his next victim? She is serving the maximum 30-year sentence while the man who beat the young woman to death is about to be released. This is no anomaly. Studies show over 80% of women who fail to stop their partner from committing a violent crime serve more prison time than the perpetrator. What does it take to survive in a maximum-security lockdown for 30 years? Is it possible to thrive? The answers only lead to more questions.


Somehow, the angels’ wings kept me alive long enough

to find out I wasn’t doing 30 years, but sentenced to nine years.

Lucy Weems, Inmate #781192

Her father, alarmed by the Public Defender’s 30 years, manages to hire a real attorney, and then everything changes. The facts of the case become distortions. He examines the evidence and gets much of it thrown out—blurry video footage, tainted DNA exhibits. The plea deal’s 30 years gets dropped to 15 and then to 9. Lucy accepts the 9 years and will be transported to Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women to begin serving her time. Ramón, the hard-core dealer who bullied his customers and sold tainted dope, shows up at the sentencing and claims he’ll be traumatized for life.


In the doggie wagon van the sun has gone out, and Lucy sits with her head bowed. There’s no room to straighten up without hitting the van’s roof. Better to contemplate the shackles around her ankles and the handcuffs encircling her wrists. Soon she’ll add inmate to her list—a college graduate, a flutist, an artist, a mother, a wife, an accountant, a heroin addict, a prostitute, and an armed robber and kidnapper.

Maybe it rains only inside her or the doggie wagon. The same kind of van that Animal Control transports stray dogs in. All afternoon it’s been the gray overcast that makes you feel like you’re floating inside the steam that rises off a kettle. Yet she’s high on being out of Cell 1313. She’s interested in her neighbors, her fellow prisoners, and the noises of the interstate. Instead of how the jailed world sounded—the outside muffled and half drowned. After being in solitary confinement for a year, the breathing and shuffling of her neighbors being transported to prison is music.


You can feel the highway but not see it. One of the other prisoners says she’s from Newark and the other from Camden. The Newark girl violated her parole and she’s on her way back to EMCF. This is her return trip past the cliffs of Weehawken, past the sea-oats sloughs that once flourished and now are a toxic nothingness that ducks putter through.

So long, Newark, all dying cathedrals and abandoned factories. So long, tall clusters of trees, poplar and hickory. The Ironbound section—foreclosure storefronts, mosques, flu shots advertised $24.99. All the doggie wagon ladies have tasted the dark matter bubbling at the universe’s core, the trapdoor that leads to the street, the homeless shelter, or prison. Like Lucy, the other shackled women bow their heads and to God, glancing down from the clouds, it looks like they’re praying.

About the Author

Stephanie Dickinson, raised on an Iowa farm, now lives in New York City with the poet Rob Cook and their senior citizen feline, Vallejo. Her novels “Half Girl” and “Lust Series” are published by Spuyten Duyvil, as is her feminist noir “Love Highway.” Other books include “Heat: An Interview with Jean Seberg” (New Michigan Press); “Flashlight Girls Run” (New Meridian Arts Press); “The Emily Fables” (ELJ Press); and “Big-Headed Anna Imagines Herself” (Alien Buddha). She has published poetry and prose in literary journals including Cherry Tree, The Bitter Oleander, Mudfish, Another Chicago Magazine, Lit, The Chattahoochee Review, The Columbia Review, Orca and Gargoyle, among others. Her stories have been reprinted in New Stories from the South, New Stories from the Midwest, and Best American Nonrequired Reading. She received distinguished story citations in Best American Short Stories, Best American Essays and numerous Pushcart anthology citations. In 2020, she won the Bitter Oleander Poetry Book Prize with her “Blue Swan/Black Swan: The Trakl Diaries.” To support the holy flow, she has long labored as a word processor for a Fifth Avenue accounting firm.

Contact Link


Purchase Links


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22 May 2021

STATUS-6 by W. Craig Reed


Status-6 by W. Craig Reed Banner


by W. Craig Reed

May 1 - 31, 2021 Tour


Status-6 by W. Craig Reed

Deep beneath the Arctic Ocean, a covert team of Chinese operatives uses stolen U.S. technology to capture Russia’s newest attack submarine. Loaded with 100-megaton nuclear torpedoes, the sub is headed west. The Americans want to sink her, the Russians want her back, and the Chinese claim they’re not responsible.

NCIS agent Jon Shay is a former SEAL Team Two operator. Still shattered by the murder of his wife a year earlier, he places the barrel of a revolver against his temple, spins the cylinder, and squeezes the trigger. He hears only a click—and the chime of his phone. Activated for a mission in the Arctic, Jon pairs with British scientist Kate Barrett to battle a ticking clock, trained operatives, and top government officials. Together, they must find and stop the world’s most lethal submarine. The stakes are raised when they learn that the Russian sub is controlled by an infected AI system bent on completing its mission to create a nuclear winter.

Praise for Status-6:

"W. Craig Reed's Status-6 is my vote for Thriller of the Year. The protagonist is Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan meets Lee Child's Jack Reacher." -- Grant Blackwood, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Tom Clancy's "Under Fire"

"W. Craig Reed's latest novel, Status-6, is the best book I've read this year—a ripped-from-the-headlines military technothriller that literally left me awake at night, fearful of where we're headed as a nation and a species. What's next after the nightmare coronavirus pandemic? Don't miss this first book in the NCIS Special Ops series that promises to shatter the thriller genre." -- James Rollins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of "The Demon Crown (Sigma Force)"

"W. Craig Reed's Status-6 grabs you from page one and doesn't let you go. The global security crisis revealed in this book is all-too-real and could well be tomorrow's headlines. The characters are well-nuanced and provide a powerful urge to root for or against them. Don't read this thriller before going to bed—you'll be awake all night!" -- George Gladorisi, New York Times bestselling author of the Tom Clancy Op Center series

Status-6 Book Details:

Genre: Military Thriller
Published by: Post Hill Press
Publication Date: April 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 256
ISBN: 1682619354 (ISBN13: 9781682619353)
Series: Status-6 is the first book in the NCIS Special Ops Thriller series.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Read an excerpt from Status-6:

With his legs sore and lungs burning from the cold, Jon arched his back and stretched when the group finally stopped marching thirty minutes later. To his right, about a quarter-mile distant, the bright blue stripes covering the mess tent signaled the location of the ICEX camp. Two holes, three feet in diameter, had been carved into the ice a few feet from where the group now stood. Jon surmised they were the spent practice torpedo holes drilled by Navy Divers. Liang and company must have parked the ASDS nearby and used the holes as infiltration points. Also, Liang must have had some inside help to deactivate the intruder detection system surrounding the holes. But who? Rinaldo? When would she have had access to that system? More unanswered questions.

Rinaldo approached and said, “Since you’re the former Navy SEAL, why don’t you help our female guest suit up?”

Jon crossed his arms. “This has gone far enough. Time for some answers, Rinaldo.”

Rinaldo pointed her M-16 at Kate’s head. “How’s this for an answer—she suits up or dies.”

Jon uncrossed his arms and fought to quell the ire-stoked coals in his chest. He turned toward Kate. “Are you a certified diver?”

Kate’s nose and cheeks were red. She shivered. “I hate water.”

“Drinking or swimming?” Jon said, hoping to diffuse Kate’s angst.

It didn’t work. Kate looked like a small child being forced to brave a dark alley. “I can’t do this.”

While donning a dry suit, Rinaldo cocked an ear. “What’s the problem?”

Kate stared at the hole in the ice. Frigid blue water lapped against the sides. She backed up and turned away.

“I think she has a water phobia,” Jon said.

“Get her over it,” Rinaldo said.

Jon bristled. The muscles in his face tightened. He grabbed Kate’s suit and brought it to her. Facing her back, he said, “Turn around.” Shaking, Kate remained facing away.

“Please, turn around.”

Kate turned.

“Good,” Jon said. “Now look at me.”

Kate’s eyes met his. Though full of fear, they were riveting, like a blue morning sky touching the edges of a Nebraska corn field. Jon felt his heart flutter. He tried to hold on to the feeling, but it refused to linger. A year had come and gone since he’d lost his wife, but the pain in his chest still held the high ground.

“I’m not setting a foot in that water,” Kate stammered. Her eyes burned with defiance.

“What about a toe?”

Kate crossed her arms and said nothing.

“Just put on the suit to keep the witch happy while I think of something,” Jon said.


“Yeah, something.”

“Like what, mate?”

Rinaldo called over from the other side of the ice hole. “Five minutes, Shay.”

Jon held up the suit. “Just put it on, please. I promise I’ll think of something.”

Kate rolled her eyes and held out her arms. “Fine, but you’d better not be lying to me.”

“Who’s your colleague?” Jon asked as he moved in close to help Kate don the dry suit.

“Bobby Ruppert. He’s a bit rough around the edges and goes into panic mode in stressful situations, but he’s a brilliant engineer.”

While Jon zipped up Kate’s dry suit, the scent of her perfume conjured a memory. He shivered.

“Now what?” Kate said. Her bottom lip quivered. Annelia had also done that when she was frightened.

Jon pulled on his suit. He stepped toward Kate and said, “Let’s just put on our SCUBA gear and then I’ll make my move.”

“Your move?” Kate shot back.

Jon said nothing as he helped Kate into a BC vest, saddled up her tank, and held a Kirby Morgan diving mask in her direction. “Put this on.”

Kate’s tone turned urgent as she grabbed the mask. “You said you’d think of something.”

“Just follow my lead.” Jon pulled on his tank and ran through a system check. The action felt like a visit from an old friend and reminded him of dozens of missions survived.

Kate shook her head in defiance as she sucked in a breath. The hiss of compressed air echoed off nearby shards of ice pushed skyward by Mother Nature.

One by one, Liang’s men entered the water. Jon watched Kate recoil with each splash.

Rinaldo approached. “Ready?”

Kate’s eyes widened. She held her palms up as if to say, “Something?”

Now fully suited, Jon led Kate toward the water. He had to drag her the last few feet. He turned toward her, lifted up his mask, and said, “I’ll hold your hand all the way. This will all be over in five minutes.”

Her eyes still wide, Kate tried to step backward but Jon held onto to her hands and gently kept her in place.

“Just follow me,” Jon said. “I’ve done this hundreds of times.”

Kate shook her head as she dug her heels into the ice.

Rinaldo slapped Jon’s back. The gesture did not feel friendly.

Jon slowly guided Kate toward the hole’s edge. She fought to pull away. He held on tight and looked into her eyes, assuring her in silence that she could do this. Tears streamed down Kate’s face and dripped onto the mask’s rubber lining. Her breathing was erratic. Jon’s heart ached with compassion and guilt. He felt like a jailor forcing an innocent victim into a torture chamber. The bitter taste of choler filled his mouth as he stole a glance at Rinaldo. The beast in his gut grumbled and demanded to be set loose. Jon closed his eyes and slowly breathed in and out to quell the angst.

He opened his eyes, lifted his mask again, and focused on Kate. Softening his voice, he said, “Close your eyes.”

Kate stared at him through her mask. Jon could tell she wanted to trust him, but fear remained her master. He had seen this kind of panic before on the faces of green wannabe SEALs learning how to dive the Navy way. None of them had ever made it through training. For sure, none of them would have survived a dive in Arctic waters.

“Close your eyes and trust me,” Jon said. “Don’t open them until we’re out of the water.”

Trembling, Kate closed her eyes. Jon pulled on her fins and helped her into a seated position with her legs dangling into the water. He did all this with slow movements so as not to make a splash. Rinaldo stood by and watched with impatient indifference. Jon slipped into the hole…


Excerpt from Status-6 by W. Craig Reed. Copyright 2021 by W. Craig Reed. Reproduced with permission from W. Craig Reed. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

W. Craig Reed

William Craig Reed is the New York Times bestselling author of thrillers and non-fiction military and business books including Spies of the Deep: The Untold Story of the Most Terrifying Incident in Submarine Naval History and How Putin Used The Tragedy To Ignite a New Cold War and the critically acclaimed Red November (HarperCollins). Also, The Seven Secrets of Neuron-Leadership (Wiley), an award-winning business book, and Tarzan, My Father (ECW) co-written with the late Johnny Weissmuller, Jr.

Reed served as a U.S. Navy submariner and diver during the Cold War and earned commendations for completing secret missions, some in concert with SEAL Team One. Reed’s military experience and inside contacts help infuse his writing with intrigue and realism, and inspired his next non-fiction book, Also, this novel: STATUS-6 about a former SEAL Team Two operator turned NCIS agent that teams with a British female scientist to stop a Russian submarine controlled by an infected artificial intelligence.

Reed holds an MBA in Marketing and was a former vice president and board director for the Silicon Valley American Marketing Association. Reed is the co-founder of Us4Warriors, an award-winning Veterans Non-Profit and serves on the Board of Aretanium, a wellness firm that leverages the neuroscience he wrote about in his leadership book to provide personalized wellness and professional development programs to accelerate brains, careers, and relationships.

Catch Up With W. Craig Reed:
BookBub: @wc14
Instagram: @wcraigreed
Twitter: @wcraigreed
Facebook: @wcraigreed



Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!



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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for William Craig Reed. There will be ONE (1) winner who will receive TWO (2) physical William Craig Reed books (including The 7 Secrets of Neuron Leadership AND Spies of the Deep). The giveaway begins May 1, 2021 and ends on June 1, 2021. This giveaway is available only for shipping addresses located in the US, UK, and Canada. Void where prohibited.

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20 May 2021

The Maharaja’s Fake Fiancée by Alisha Kay


A scandal-averse Maharaja.
A free-spirited actress.
What do you get when throw them together and add a fake engagement to the mix?
Depending on whom you ask, you either get a match made-in-heaven or a royal disaster.

Nivy Sharma knows exactly what she needs - the freedom to be herself and follow her passion. Guess what she doesn’t need? A tailor-made husband.
When her meddlesome mother tries to throw her into the arms of a mom-approved suitor, Nivy runs the other way.
Right into the arms of the man who shattered her heart.
His Highness Veerendra Singh can recognise a pain-in-the-ass when he sees it. Especially when it falls into his arms.
Even if said pain-in-the-ass has legs that go on forever and lush lips that just beg to be kissed, Veer vows to run the other way. As he did once before...
But, when the marriage-minded princess of Tejpur sets her sights on him, Veer runs back into Nivy’s arms to propose a fake engagement.
When 'fake' starts to feel very real, Nivy and Veer have to decide what is important… long-held prejudices or the chance for a life with the only person they've ever loved.

Will this be their second chance at love or will their broken past ruin their hope for a shared future? 

Read an Excerpt from The Maharaja’s Fake Fiancée


There was a soft knock at the door, and Munshi Ji entered, with a trolley containing three cups, a big pot of black coffee, milk, sugar and a huge plate of chunky chocolate chip cookies. 
He served us our coffee and just then, Veer walked in. 
“Pour me a cup too, Munshi Ji,” he ordered. 
I avoided Jessie’s amused gaze and smiled at Veer. He smiled back at me. We kept smiling at each other until we were pelted with bits of chocolate chip cookies. 
As one, we turned to glare at Jessie who was doubled over with laughter. 
“Would you miss your sister if I pushed her out of the window?” I asked with narrowed eyes. 
“Not at all,” replied Veer, promptly. 
Jessie ignored my threat and smiled innocently at Veer. 
“Veer, do you have any plans for dinner?” 
He shrugged. 
“No. Why?” 
“Because Anika wanted to dine with you guys today. Just you, her and Nivy.” 
I choked on a cookie crumb. 
“What! Why?” I yelped, while Veer stared at Jessie in horror. 
“She wants to get to know you better. I think she just wants to mess with Nivy, though. Have fun,” she said, sweetly. 
“I’m not hungry,” I announced. 
“You will be, by dinner time,” she replied. 
“Not if I go on a fast. Don’t you royals have all sorts of weird customs? I’m sure we can find some obscure text that says that the Maharaja’s fake fiancée can’t eat anything until she does some sort of penance,” I said, grasping for straws. 
“I think dinner with Anika is penance enough,” said Jessie, with a laugh. 
That girl was enjoying my misery far too much. I snarled under my breath as I tried to think of a way out. 
“Alright. I’d like to borrow the Devgarh sword please,” I begged. 
Veer shook his head. 
“While I’d love to see you swing it at Anika, you can’t. It’s too heavy. Your delicate arms wouldn’t even be able to lift it off the wall,” he said regretfully. 
“Can I pay you to swing it on my behalf?” 
“A true Rajput doesn’t raise his hand to a woman, even if he’s convinced that said woman is actually a chudail in disguise,” he said softly. 
Something went melty in the region of my heart, but I ignored it stoutly. 
“Umm, if you guys could stop making sheep eyes at each other, I have a solution,” suggested the pain in our collective asses. 
“And you let me go on and on about the Devgarh sword?” I snapped at her. 
“It was funny,” she said with an uncaring shrug. 
Veer held me back as I lunged at his sister. 
“What solution, Jess?” he asked, running a soothing hand down my back. 
I allowed him to lead me to the bay window, and we sat down together. I acted as if I couldn’t feel his hand holding mine. 
Jessie stared at our joined hands pointedly for a second and then started talking. 
“You could take Nivy out for dinner,” she suggested. 



“Done,” he replied. 
Jessie stood up with a squeal. 
Veer refused to analyse why he'd agreed so promptly. He was just trying to keep Nivy out of Anika’s way. It had nothing to do with the fact that he wanted to spend as much time as he could with this maddening girl before she went back to Mumbai and forgot all about him. And it had absolutely nothing to do with how right her hand felt wrapped around his. 
“Veer, I’m not sure this is such a great idea,” Nivy whispered. 
“It’s better than spending time with Anika,” he whispered back. 
“It’s not a real date, just a pretend one. Think of it as two friends sharing a meal,” he said, with his fingers crossed behind his back. 
“Fine,” she conceded. 
Jessie clapped her hands. 
“I’ll make all the arrangements. You guys just go and have fun,” she said, skipping out of the room. 
“Jessie, wait,” he called, but his sister had already left. 
Veer turned to Nivy in confusion. 
“Why is she making arrangements for our date?” 
“Date? I thought it was just two friends sharing a meal?” she asked with her arms crossed over her chest. 
Veer grinned at the sceptical look on her face. 
“Of course, it is,” he said as innocently as he could. 
She looked so adorable when she scrunched her nose disbelievingly that he was tempted to kiss the tip of it. Of course, if he did give in to that impulse, she’d punch him in his nose, so he finished his coffee in one gulp and set the cup down. 
“Ring the bell when you want all this to be cleared,” he said and left the room before he did something stupid.

Meet the Author:

Alisha Kay is a Delhi based writer, who writes romances set in India.
She doesn’t hold with the concept of damsel-in-distress, which is why her heroines are spunky women with a sharp tongue and the ability to rescue themselves. Her heroes are hot men who are woke enough to find that independence irresistible. 
The Maharaja’s Fake Fiancée is Alisha’s first book.

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