Secrets: The Hero Chronicles (Volume 1), Tim Mettey {FREE!}

The Midwest lies in complete ruins after a catastrophic disaster kills tens of thousands and leaves hundreds of thousands injured. Nicholas Keller emerges out of the devastation as a shining light of hope for all. But his newfound fame comes with a price that his aunt will not let him pay. They flee into the shadows in order to protect his secret. However, as Nicholas begins his sophomore year at his fifth school in five years, strange and unexpected things begin to happen. He soon tumbles into a web of doomed love, extraordinary talents and a secret past, which threatens the lives of everyone he cares about. It’s up to Nicholas to confront the truth, even if it means his own death.

Stay tuned for the release of book 2 in the
series, TRUST, coming October 10, 2013!

What readers are saying:

After reading Secrets, I am highly anticipating the continuation of The Hero Chronicles, and more of Mettey’s dynamic writing. I would recommend this book to many.

The average Amazon Review is currently 4.2 stars {107 reviews}.

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: The Brightest Moon of the Century, Christopher Meeks {$0.99}

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Christopher Meeks‘ Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of The Brightest Moon of the Century:

In his fourth award-winning book, Christopher Meeks offers a comic and compassionate coming-of-age novel. A young Minnesotan, Edward, is blessed with an abundance of “experience”–first when his mother dies and next when his father, an encyclopedia salesman, shoehorns Edward into a private boys school where he’s tortured and groomed. He needs a place in the universe, but he wants an understanding of women.

Accolades:

“A truly great novel in the tradition of Charles Dickens and John Irving.” –Marc Schuster, Small Press Reviews

“In his debut novel, ‘The Brightest Moon of the Century,’ Christopher Meeks chronicles one man’s path to middle age and, in doing so, illustrates how choices and circumstances — even those that seem arbitrary at the time — have a way of irrevocably cementing a person’s future.” -Cherie Parker, Minnneapolis Star Tribune

“Charming and endlessly entertaining, ‘The Brightest Moon of the Century’ is a fine read that is an excellent addition to literary fiction collections.” -Midwest Book Review

“Edward is endearingly real, and readers will be rooting for him in every situation. ‘The Brightest Moon of the Century’ will appeal to readers across genders and generations.” -Dawn Rennert, She Is Too Fond of Books


Reviews:

The Brightest Moon of the Century currently has a customer review rating of 4.1 stars with 21 reviews! Read the reviewshere.


The Brightest Moon of the Century is available to purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99


An excerpt from The Brightest Moon of the Century:

THE HAND
(1968-69)


Near mid-century when Edward was born, the full moon was years from being the brightest. That would happen—in terms of luminosity and size—in the last month of the century. As a child growing up, however, Edward found much splendor and mystery in the moon. It kept changing and following him around, a rock with its own rhythms, much like girls, and he knew he was years away from understanding girls.
Now in eighth grade with his mother gone, Edward felt he’d finally done something right. His father, Stanley, stood at the kitchen sink reading one of Edward’s English papers. Edward smiled, waiting for his father to see the letter grade of “A” at the end.
“What’s this quote?” asked his father, who then read the quoted line aloud. “‘The moon on the river looked like a dented hubcap floating on a cesspool. I hated rivers, and my grandfather, Elihu Twain, hated them, too.’ You say this is from Mark Twain. Where’d you find this quote?” The man frowned.
“I don’t know,” Edward said. He had to pause his breakfast spoon in mid-flight, knowing his cornflakes, bathing in the bowl’s milk, were about to turn into corn mush. “The encyclopedia?”
“Don’t you know that there were no hubcaps in those days? And Mark Twain’s real name was Samuel Clemens, so his grandfather would be named Clemens, for crissakes, not Twain. And Mark Twain, for your information, had been a steamboat pilot, and he loved rivers—compared them to pearls and opals! Where did you get this quote?”
“I was running out of time, so I had to— I mean—”
“You made it up, didn’t you?”
“It was due,” Edward said. “And I still got an ‘A’.”
“I didn’t raise you to be a cheater.”
“She mostly just wanted to see that we can write an essay, and—”
“It’s not even that great of an essay,” said his father.
“You’re always harping on grades so—”
“Don’t you blame this on me.”
“It’s a good grade. What’re we arguing about?” Edward stood, turning to the sink with his bowl.
“And what kind of English teacher couldn’t catch such a thing?”
“I don’t know.”
“Education is the asphalt for the road of life.”
“What? Asphalt?”
“The point is next fall you’re not going to that waste dump of a school.”
“Because of one lousy high-graded paper? Come on!” Edward dumped his now-soggy cereal down the garbage disposal.
His father shook his head. “I’ve been thinking about this awhile. I want you to have more opportunity than I had. You don’t want to be an encyclopedia salesman, do you? I want you to go to McCory.”
“But I love where I’m at! It’s good asphalt.”
The fact was Edward did not love his school, but no one bothered him there. At Eastbrook Junior High School, Edward Meopian was not a wallflower but more like a hearty, imperceptible weed. The girls looked through him, the guys he passed in the hallway nodded once in a while, and the teachers didn’t find him distracted or daydreaming so did not pounce on him. He was not someone who was teased, for he wasn’t nerdy or outwardly vulnerable. Rather, he came across to most people, certainly to himself, as something of an ottoman or sofa: existing and acceptable. His grades were just above average—not good enough for the jocks to ask him if it was okay to copy his homework. If he were to become a mass murderer down the road, no one would know him well enough to tell the blond TV interviewer, “Yeah, I knew him in junior high, and he was so friendly. Who knew he could turn people’s pelvis bones into ash trays?”
Rather, he was “Edward Who?”
On Saturday morning two weeks later, his father drove Edward to the McCory School to take the entrance exam. The high-class private school for boys was in a bleak brick structure above the train yards of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
His father said while dropping Edward off, “Do well on the test or else.” Or else what? Would his father force him to go to the public high school where Edward wanted to go anyway? Or would his father allow no friends over for a month? Edward had no friends. What do you take away when you have nothing?
Edward nodded and exited the car. Inside the school in the dim hallway, a thin man with a nicotine face led him to a small paneled room where a test waited for him on a wooden desk. Edward sighed, flipped the test open, and did as well as he could on the entrance exam, math and English, because he did not want to be thought of as stupid. At the end of the test was the question, “Why do you want to attend McCory School?” He wrote, “I don’t want to. My dad wants me to go.” To the question, “What appeals to you about McCory?” he penned, “Nothing. I want to go to a school with girls. There are no girls here.”
A week later at breakfast, his father said, “I got a call yesterday.”
What was that supposed to mean? His father looked serious.
“From Aunt Barbara?” he tried.
“McCory.” He broke out in a grin. “You made it in.”
“But I don’t want to go to McCory. How can you afford McCory?”
“That’s my problem.”
“I promise to do better at Eastbrook.”
“It’s McCory. We’ll go shopping for suits soon.”
“Suits?”
“You have to wear coats and ties there.”
Edward gasped.
“Don’t give me that look,” said his father. “You’re going to be a businessman someday, so you may as well get used to coats and ties now.”
“What if I want to be a welder?”
“Then you’ll be a gentleman welder. Oh, and one other thing. Because of what you wrote at the end of your test about not wanting to go—they felt you had a maturity issue. You’ll be starting in the eighth grade.”
“But I passed the eighth grade!” said Edward.
“You shouldn’t have written what you did.” His father finished his coffee and put his cup in the sink. He beamed at Edward. “You’re going to be a McCory boy. Someday you’ll thank me.”

#

As the summer ended, his father took him to the Foursome, a men’s store across the bay in Wayzata. With stern looks that demanded silence from Edward, Dad bought him one blue blazer and one pin-stripped double-breasted suit, as if Edward were a thin, gawky banker. His father had never spent such money on him before. His father asked him one question: “Do you know how to tie a tie?” Edward shook his head, wondering how his father expected such a thing. They never went anyplace that demanded a tie, so how was he supposed to have learned? By the same method he had learned about girls: from boys talking in line at gym?
“I know just the trick for you,” said his father, and stepped away. Edward would have followed, but he noticed a college-age woman, very pretty in a flowered dress, adjusting the tie of her smiling, husky boyfriend in what must be a new blue suit. There was something about her touch, sure and casual, that made Edward stare. As she gazed at her man up and down, the way his mother had once looked at him and his father, Edward wondered if he would ever share such a moment with someone again. Would he ever get a girlfriend?
“Here you go,” said his father, carrying two pre-tied ties. “These are called clip-ons. You’re slow enough in the morning as it is, so this should help you.” His father clipped it on just under Edward’s throat as easily as a horse was attached to a tether.
Weeks later, walking stiffly in his blue blazer and clip-on, Edward walked the half-mile to the corner where the McCory bus would pick him up. The bus was orange like other school buses, but when he stepped on, only boys in coats and ties stared at him, looking like miniature accountants.
“Who are you?” said the first kid, about fourth grade with eyes resembling a gerbil’s.
“Edward.”
“Oh,” said the kid. “Got gum?”
“No.”
A half-hour later, the bus pulled into a long tree-shrouded drive that took them up the hill to the school. The three-story building called the Upper School technically had no grade levels, but rather “forms,” as in English schools. Seniors were Form Six, Juniors, Form Five, etc. Edward was in Form Two, the youngest in the Upper School. The Lower School, a smaller, one-story building a long block away, held grades three through six as well as Form One. The athletic fields lay between. The three wings of the Upper School formed a U, which backed its open end against a berm, giving the central, grassy area in back the feel of a prison yard.
The rooms inside, most of them built for fifteen or fewer students, were small with chipped blackboards and wood floors that had nearly seventy years of yellowed varnish, the color of dead men’s fingernails. The rooms echoed the confinement that Edward soon felt. Between classes, the olive green cement stairs that led to each floor flowed with students, the only time that Edward experienced, in his first days, any sense of positive energy, mainly because each step was that much closer to the final bell. The school motto, “Far from noise and smoke,” which was perhaps meant to suggest healthy isolation and the flowering of minds in a quiet, smogless atmosphere, did not take into consideration the horn blasts and diesel exhaust from passing trains below. As Edward would learn, the world was an ironic place.
Within the first week, one of Edward’s new classmates, John De Bernieres, a husky kid from his English class who walked as if he had a cigar up his butt, beelined right up to him. “What’s your dad do?”
“Why?” said Edward.
“My dad runs a big law firm,” said De Bernieres, “Maybe he knows your dad.”
“Mine’s in publishing.” That was a stretch. His father sold encyclopedias.
“Oh.” De Bernieres yanked Edward’s tie, and when it pulled off, he shouted to no one visible, “Hey, you’re right. The new kid has a clip-on!” Word spread quickly. In the olive drab hallways of McCory, his tie was being yanked off dozens of times daily by an equal number of classmates, including Lee Boatswain, son of the president of Northwest Banks, Robert B. Dalton, whose parents later named a large bookstore chain after him, and Reese Freely, son of the CEO of Dairy Queen.
On Sunday night after his first week of McCory, in bed early, Edward wondered what to do about the ties. His stomach felt as if it were a washrag wrung and twisted so hard, soon there would be no more liquid. Maybe his whole body would dry up and disappear.
Staring up into the darkness beyond the deepest moonless night, Edward realized maybe his father wasn’t the best person to get him through things. His father no longer understood what it was to be a kid. Edward was simply a responsibility. Edward then thought of the time their Sunday dinners had had three placemats, not two. He remembered how he could be with his mother alone, and with a quick hug and a laugh at something Edward said, the world was made right. Maybe she was a ghost, and he could find her. He really wanted to find her. But even if she came to him now, could she help him with a tie? No. The sense of aloneness overwhelmed him. Edward would have to learn how to tie a tie on his own. But how?
Minutes later, he knocked on his father’s bedroom door. Edward was scared to knock on the door, of course, but he had nowhere else to turn, even if his stomach told him not to. “What is it?” barked his father.
“Can I come in?”
“May I come in?”
“May I?”
“Yes.”
He found his father in bed, the same king-size bed the man had shared with Edward’s mother, whose last paperback book, Jacqueline Suzanne’s Valley of the Dolls, was still splayed face down on the bedside table as if she would return. His father looked up from a history book about Rommel.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in bed? This is my time. I’m tired,” said his father.
“I’m sorry. I just— I was— I mean—”
“Spit it out!”
“A tie. I’d like a regular tie, if that’s okay. For school.”
“I got you two, didn’t I?”
“They’re clip-ons, not regular.”
“Clip-ons look just fine.”
“Not really.”
“But they’re fast to attach.”
“The other kids tie regular ones fast. So will I.”
He thought his dad might raise his voice at the possibly impertinent answer, but instead his father said, “You can tie ties now?”
“Yeah . . . I mean yes.” He had entered the room also meaning to ask him how, but now, seeing how irritated his father might be, thought it better to pretend.
“Open my second closet and take any two you want,” said his father.
Edward nodded. He opened the closet and, from about fifty ties hanging neatly from their own little bars, looked at all the variations on stripes. Nothing stood out, nothing seemed special, so Edward took one in blue and another in green.
“Thanks,” said Edward, and, to his surprise, his father smiled.

 

The Brightest Moon of the Century is available to purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99


Connect with Christopher Meeks:

Website: http://www.chrismeeks.com

Twitter: @MeeksChris

Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Christopher-Meeks/212382392140974

THEN LIKE THE BLIND MAN: Orbie’s Story, Freddie Owens Wegela {FREE!}

A storm is brewing in the all-but-forgotten backcountry of Kentucky. And, for young Orbie Ray, the swirling heavens may just have the power to tear open his family’s darkest secrets. Then Like The Blind Man: Orbie’s Story is the enthralling debut novel by Freddie Owens, which tells the story of a spirited wunderkind in the segregated South of the 1950s and the forces he must overcome to restore order in his world. Rich in authentic vernacular and evocative of a time and place long past, this absorbing work of magical realism offered up with a Southern twist will engage readers who relish the Southern literary canon, or any tale well told.

Nine-year-old Orbie already has his cross to bear. After the sudden death of his father, his mother Ruby has off and married his father’s coworker and friend Victor, a slick-talking man with a snake tattoo. Since the marriage, Orbie, his sister Missy, and his mother haven’t had a peaceful moment with the heavy-drinking, fitful new man of the house. Orbie hates his stepfather more than he can stand; this fact lands him at his grandparents’ place in Harlan’s Crossroads, Kentucky, when Victor decides to move the family to Florida without including him. In his new surroundings, Orbie finds little to distract him from Granpaw’s ornery ways and constant teasing jokes about snakes.

As Orbie grudgingly adjusts to life with his doting Granny and carping Granpaw, who are a bit too keen on their black neighbors for Orbie’s taste, not to mention their Pentecostal congregation of snake handlers, he finds his world views changing, particularly when it comes to matters of race, religion, and the true cause of his father’s death. He befriends a boy named Willis, who shares his love of art, but not his skin color. And, when Orbie crosses paths with the black Choctaw preacher, Moses Mashbone, he learns of a power that could expose and defeat his enemies, but can’t be used for revenge. When a storm of unusual magnitude descends, he happens upon the solution to a paradox that is both magical and ordinary. The question is, will it be enough?

Equal parts Hamlet and Huckleberry Finn, it’s a tale that’s both rich in meaning, timely in its social relevance, and rollicking with boyhood adventure. The novel mines crucial contemporary issues, as well as the universality of the human experience while also casting a beguiling light on boyhood dreams and fears. It’s a well-spun, nuanced work of fiction that is certain to resonate with lovers of literary fiction, particularly in the grand Southern tradition of storytelling.

What readers are saying:

Reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird, this “sensitive and gripping” coming-of-age story evokes backcountry Kentucky in the troubled 1950′s in prose that’s spare yet lyrical — a “special” novel worthy of joining the ranks of an illustrious Southern literary tradition.
- Kindle Nation

Every once in awhile, you read a book in which every element fits together so perfectly that you just sit back in awe at the skill of the storyteller. Then Like the Blind Man is one of these books. …[It] grabs you from the very first page and carries you along, breathless and tense, until the very last, very satisfying sentence. Freddie Owens has created something special.
- The San Francisco Book Review

In an American coming-of-age novel, the author presents a stunning story with clarity and historical accuracy, rich in illuminating the Appalachian culture of the time period. …[It] brings history alive, depicting American union labor practices and the racial prejudices that were so prevalent in the 1950′s.
- Publisher’s Weekly

Then Like the Blind Man is an electrifying porthole to the south of the ’50s, where, though inane prejudice may have dominated, kindness and justice also had a place. Orbie’s sharecropping grandparents, by defying convention with unnerving grace, become founts of colloquial wisdom whose appeal is impossible to resist, and the Orbie they nurture — the best version of a boy who may otherwise have been lost — is someone the reader comes to love.
- Michelle Schingler / ForeWord Book Review

The average Amazon Reader Review Rating is currently 4.2 stars {109 reviews}.

 Click here to read more about and purchase THEN LIKE THE BLIND MAN: Orbie’s Story for FREE!

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Call of the Herald (Godsland Series: Book One), Brian Rathbone {FREE!}

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Description of Call of the Herald:

Echoes of the ancients’ power are distant memories, tattered and faded by the passage of eons, but that is about to change. A new dawn has arrived. Latent abilities, harbored in mankind’s deepest fibers, wait to be unleashed. Ancient evils awaken, and old fears ignite the fires of war. When a Catrin Volker, a teenage horse trainer, inadvertently fulfills the prophecy of the destroyer, she becomes the most feared and hunted person on all of Godsland. With the help of her friends, she must convince the world that she wants only peace.

The World of Godsland fantasy series includes:

The Dawning of Power trilogy (Omnibus Edition available)
Call of the Herald
Inherited Danger
Dragon Ore

The Balance of Power trilogy (Omnibus Edition available)
Regent
Feral
Regal

 

Accolades:

“I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I would recommend this book for all ages.” Linda Weaver Clarke, author of the new mystery series The Adventures of John and Julia Evans.

“…kind of like a cross between The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter…I honestly could not stop reading this book. I completed it in two days, it was that good.” Cheryl’s Book Nook


Amazon Reader Reviews:

Call of the Herald currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4.1 stars, with 290 reviews! Read the reviews here!

 

Call of the Herald is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for FREE!


Excerpt from Call of the Herald:

Outside the lesson hall, Chase ducked into a darkened recess and waited for Osbourne. Roset came first, and she cast him a haughty glance, but he was grateful that she said nothing. Using the darkness for cover, he held his breath as Peten stormed by, followed by a mob of agitated townies. Minda and Celise walked by, and Osbourne seemed to be trying to hide behind them. Hoping no one noticed, Chase grabbed Osbourne by the shirt and dragged him into the alcove. Osbourne let out a small yelp before he realized it was Chase who had grabbed him, and he looked over his shoulder more than once.

“Looks like Edling held Catrin after class,” Chase said.

“I told you he looked boiled,” Osbourne said, but there was a tremble in his voice, and he looked nervously over his shoulder. “Are you going to wait around for Cat?”

“I can’t. I promised my dad I’d help with the afternoon deliveries.”

“I can’t either,” Osbourne said. “I’ve chores to do, and I should probably study for the test we have coming up.”

“Bah, who needs to study?” Chase asked with a grin. “Just remember everything Edling says; that’s all.”

Osbourne shook his head. “That may work for you, but my father’ll tan my hide if I bring home bad marks. I’d better get Patches saddled and get going, or I’m going to run out of light.”

Chase peeked around the corner before walking back into the light, half expecting to find Peten and the rest of the townies waiting for him, but the stables were eerily quiet. Only Patches remained in her stall, and Chase stayed with Osbourne while he got her saddled.

“Never seen everyone clear out so quickly,” Chase said.

“I’m starting to think the snake was a bad idea,” Osbourne said as he tightened the girth. “Feels like I’ve got squirrels in my guts. You don’t think they’ll do anything to Cat, do you?”

“You worry too much,” Chase said, but he secretly wondered if Osbourne was right. It seemed strange that Peten and the others had left so quickly, and letting Osbourne and Catrin travel home alone suddenly seemed like a very bad idea. There was nothing he could do about it, though, no way to take back what was already done, and he tried to drive the worry from his mind. “I’m sure everything will be fine.”

“I hope you’re right,” Osbourne said as he mounted. Patches, who was a well-mannered mare, must have sensed Osbourne’s nervousness, for she danced around the stable, her ears twitching as she spun. Osbourne soothed her with a hand on her neck, and she trotted away with her tail tucked. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” Osbourne said with a wave.

“Be careful,” Chase said, betraying his own fears, and Osbourne rode away looking more nervous than ever.

Checking around every corner as he went, Chase made his way to the mill. At each turn he expected to find the townies waiting, and their absence only increased his anxiety. “I wish they would just get on with it,” he mumbled to himself as he passed the market.

When he saw his father waiting with the wagon already loaded, though, he forgot his fears. They had enough work to keep them until nightfall, and he would have time to think of little else.

 

Call of the Herald is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for FREE!


Connect with Brian Rathbone:

Website: http://brianrathbone.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/brianrathbone

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/worldofgodsland

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Salty Miss Tenderloin, Jacki Lyon {$2.99}

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Jacki Lyon’s Frugal Find Under Nine:

Get it now, here

Description of Salty Miss Tenderloin:

SALTY MISS TENDERLOIN is a fiercely tender novel by award winning writer Jacki Lyon. Never shying away from the dark side of humanity, Lyon introduces Starlight Nox, a scrappy girl born on the gritty streets of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District when Jimi Hendrix and the Vietnam War are center stage.

Starlight learns at an early age to rummage food from dumpsters and collect clothes from the corner charity for survival. When the girl’s father dies with a needle in his arm and her mother disappears searching for her next fix, the forsaken twelve-year-old is adopted by wealthy grandparents. Uprooted from San Francisco to Cincinnati, Star spends the next two decades learning that danger doesn’t lurk just in pimps and pill pushers on Turk Street. She discovers that evil finds a welcome host in tailored suits and Chanel dresses and even glossy church pews. Star calls on her early, bitter lessons from the streets to navigate the more sinister roads she travels as a young woman.

SALTY MISS TENDERLOIN is a poignant coming-of-age story that proves the transition from child to adult is a process that repeats itself many times in life. Coming-of-age is about survival. For the lucky, the change begins with a raging gnaw of desire; for the unlucky, the change begins with a crying gnaw of hunger. For Starlight Nox, the treacherous journey begins much too early in life and continues to test her ability to grow and persevere, time and time again.


Accolades:

Jacki Dillon Lyon hit a home run again!!! I loved this book. Star is a character that you will fall in love with because of her determination, loyalty to her friends and grandmother and her ability to keep it all together at times . . . Get your book groups to read this. You will not be disappointed. Barb Rohs, Cincinnati, Ohio

I just finished reading Salty Miss Tenderloin and am not ready to let the heroine, Star, go. Jacki Lyon has written an awesome novel, but more importantly, she’s shown through Star, that regardless what life offers, one can find the strength to overcome adversity and perservere! Becki D., Sarasota, Florida

 

Salty Miss Tenderloin is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99


An excerpt from Salty Miss Tenderloin:

Prologue
Oreo Cookies and a Snickers Bar . . .

Tenderloin District, San Francisco 1974
The hour before dawn was Tony Martinelli’s favorite time of night. Most of the guns would be sleeping by then. He could relax. If something was going to happen, it usually went down by 4 a.m. The dealers and pimps had parked their Cadillacs in front of their one room efficiencies, and the drunks and addicts had found their own piss-stained stairwells hours before. Even these people had a routine, Tony thought.
But that was before the Symbionese Liberation Army decided to kidnap Patty Hearst, the millionaire heiress, brainwash her and rob the Hibernia Bank over on Noriega Street. Two bystanders were shot, and the left-wing-terrorist thugs got away with ten thousand dollars. Now, the entire force was on pins and needles from dawn to dawn, staking out store fronts, safe houses and communes, searching for the SLA.
Tony slowly drove his cruiser down Jones Street past St. Anthony’s Dining Room. The Sunshine Bread truck was already at the cafeteria door, delivering the only bread that most of the visitors would eat that day. St. Anthony’s was the backbone of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District, feeding the meager spiritual and physical needs of the community. Tony grimaced as ‘feeding the hungry’ was one of the alleged goals of the SLA. Part of Patty Hearst’s initial ransom was a two million dollar donation from her big-time papa to feed California’s poor. The food distribution exploded into mass chaos as people fought for whole chickens and bags of carrots. Tony looked up at St. Anthony’s steeple, thinking about all the good people who actually worked hard because they really cared about their fellow man, but around the corner or across the street was the other guy who had the devil hiding behind a deluded smile and glassy eyes.
The police radio chatter had died down, but Tony knew the city wasn’t sleeping. He rolled down the car window to let in the chilly night air. Long, high-pitched whines drifted in from the fishing boats that were inching their way across the bay, laden with early catches of salmon. Ever since he was old enough to cast a line, the fog horns had a way of soothing Tony to sleep on the nights his father wobbled in late, all liquored-up and looking for a fight with his mother. Fiddling with the tail of his coonskin cap, he’d close his eyes and block out all sounds, except for the quiet songs that echoed from the bay.
Tony sucked in the salty bay air and stretched his shoulders back against the car seat to rouse awake for another few hours. As he turned left onto Turk Street, a sharp movement in the shadows of the bus stop shelter caught his eye. Slowing the cruiser, he leaned toward the passenger window and spotted a pair of pale yellow dog legs with thick, black paws folded under the bench.
“Catching a snooze, ol’ boy?” Tony sighed. “Wish I could be doing the same.” He settled back into the driver’s seat and began to pull away, but something tugged at him. He stepped on the brakes and glanced in the rear view mirror. He rubbed his heavy eyes and stared back into the glass. A tangled mass of hair and large, round eyes had popped out from under the bench and was peering at the back of the cruiser.
“Goddamn,” he grumbled. “There goes my hour of peace and quiet.” He backed up the cruiser ten yards, stopped and slowly got out. Moving around the front end of the car with his hand held firmly on his gun, Tony could now see a small body wedged in the corner of the shelter.
He shined his flashlight in the shadows and feral green eyes glistened back. The urchin let out a sharp cry and covered her eyes with filthy fingers. The child looked like a night monkey with greyish skin and wide, dark eye masks. Tony shrugged, anticipating the pathetic story that was certain to follow. Tripping dad. Tripping mom. Mom’s psycho boyfriend. Psycho mom. Abandoned. Hungry. The stories were different yet all the same. Tragic kids caught up in a cloud of dazed parents who couldn’t escape their own youth. Tony shifted the bright light from the child’s eyes and asked her to crawl out from the corner.
“Go away!” she screeched back at him and shrank deeper into her nest.
“Come on out,” Tony commanded, shining the flashlight back into her eyes.
“Go away!” she screeched again, but this time she raised her moppy head and spat at him.
“Out, now!” Tony demanded. “And tell me what you’re doing under there.”
“I’m hidin’!” she hollered, still tucked tight into her corner. “Jack says hide from da’ cars.”
“Who’s Jack?” he asked, but the child didn’t respond. Tony knelt down to get a closer look at the girl. “Where are your parents?” he asked again. This time she slowly pointed to a dimly lit window across the street, three stories up.
“Then, why are you down here in the middle of the night?”
“I’m waitin’,” she snapped.
“Waiting for what?”
“Till Sue be done.”
“Done with what?” he asked, eyeing her hollow, dirt-streaked face.
“A man.”
Tony had had enough. He stretched out his hand and told her to come out. “Giant rats live under there,” he warned.
“I ain’t movin’,” she said stubbornly. “Jack says I don’t move I get a Snickers Bar.”
“Are Jack and Sue your parents?” he asked.
She hesitated at first but then confirmed the question with a silent nod.
“Why did Jack put you out here at night?”
“‘Cause of da’ man.”
“What man?” Tony asked, shifting the weight on his knees.
“I told you! A man with Sue.”
“Young lady, come on out from under of there. I’ve got a bag of Oreo cookies in the car. Are you hungry?”
She shook her head no and contracted deeper into the corner.
“Listen, your pops won’t mind if you talk to a policeman. He just doesn’t want you talking to bad guys. Right?”
The little girl just stared back at Tony. Still kneeling, he bent under the seat and said, “I’m Officer Tony. What’s your name?”
“Star,” she whispered.
“Star . . . that’s a beautiful name. How old are you, Star?”
The little girl raised four fingers in the cool air. Tony shook his head. Her big attitude already defied her age. But the Tenderloin had a way of doing that to kids—ripping childhood right out from underneath their feet, leaving them with the gift of street smarts but stunted in most every other way.
“You want an Oreo, Star?” he offered again.
She nodded yes but coiled deeper into her nook.
“Then come on out with me.” He stuck his hand under the bench again. This time she grabbed it and unravelled herself from the corner. Star stood just above Tony’s knee and wore a mess of black curls that were matted around her face. Her thin arms and legs were lost in a baggy t-shirt that hung to her knees and was decorated with pictures of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. Her skin was grey, but Tony couldn’t tell if the grimy hue was from poor health or from living in the four walls of a shithole for her entire life.
He led her to the door of the cruiser and told her to climb in, but she refused to budge. She just stood next to the door, looking up at him with thick lashes and heavy eyebrows that were hiding a lot of life for her young age.
“Have you ever been in a police car, Star?”
“Nope,” she said with wide, frightened eyes.
“Well, jump in. It’s nifty-neat and extra cool, and the cookies are in there, too!”
With another mention of food, she slowly climbed into the backseat and tucked her knees under her shirt. She waited quietly while Tony unlocked the trunk and pulled out a blanket. He wrapped the scratchy wool around her shivering shoulders and then called dispatch for backup and a family service counselor. She kept a close eye on him as he grabbed the cookies from the front seat and squatted down next to the cruiser door. He pulled an Oreo from the bag and peeled it apart.
“Look, they’re Teddy bear eyes,” he said gently.
Star gazed at the chocolate and cream without saying a word.
“How do you eat an Oreo? I pull mine apart and eat the inside first. Like this,” Tony explained and then ran the creamy center across his teeth, leaving tracks in the hard chocolate cake.
“I never had a Oreo,” she whispered.
“You’ve never had an Oreo!?” he asked in mock outrage.
“Nope!” she said, shaking her head earnestly.
“You’ve got to try one!” He pulled a cookie from the bag and gave it to her along with a tired smile. Star raised the cookie to her nose, took in a deep breath then clutched the disk in the palm of her hand.
“Aren’t you going to eat it?”
“Nope,” she whispered. “Gonna’ let Jack and Sue have a bite.”
Tony sighed, thinking that she was still young enough to love those assholes. In another few years, the illusion of parental love would be lost, and in a decade, Star would be perpetuating the same cycle of dashed dreams, neglect and waste when her own kid would surely be found roaming the streets at four in the morning.
Tony rubbed his eyes and shook his head. “Listen, go ahead and eat the cookie. I’ll give you the whole bag if you promise not to eat them all at once.”
“Promise,” Star agreed and smiled for the first time.
Watching her relax, Tony pressed on with more questions. “Star, why’s your mommy with the man? Is he your uncle . . . or grandpa?”
She shook her head no and took her first bite of cookie. A wide grin spread across her face as she crunched down on the chocolate.
“Why is the man at your house when it’s bedtime?” he pressed again.
“To play,” she mumbled with crumbs falling from her lips. “Fat Albert loves cookies,” she giggled and pointed to the hefty black character in red on the front of her t-shirt. Star pushed her spindly knees to the front of the shirt to make her belly grow bigger and sang, “Hey, hey, hey! It’s Fat Albert!”
Emerging from the over-sized t-shirt was the little girl’s true four-year-old self, hidden behind the grit and grime of street life. Tony peered down at the girl’s shirt and smiled. Fat Albert and his junkyard gang was the genius cartoon creation of Bill Cosby, a gutsy comedian from the tough streets of North Philly. Cosby was pushing racial and cultural barriers with parents who were accustomed to pleasantville sit-coms like The Andy Griffith Show whose Sheriff Taylor spent his days keeping peace in the peace-loving white town of Mayberry R.F.D. Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, on the other hand, tackled real issues that tormented black, inner-city streets across America. Andy Taylor’s biggest threat was Otis, the town drunk, who let himself into jail on Saturday nights to sleep off his binge. Fat Albert faced real threats like the time when he mistakenly found himself entangled in a drug deal with Muggles, Franny’s older brother. Whether Fat Albert an d his gang were dealing with drugs, divorce, or bullying, they were always teaching a real lesson to real kids, which was part of Tony’s mission in the Tenderloin. He looked down at Star and understood that she was one of the kids that Cosby was trying to save, but he also knew her chances of success in the District were slim or none.
“Do you like Fat Albert?” Tony asked.
“Yepparoo! Bucky and Dumb Donald are funny, but Fat Albert’s da’ best,” she said with certainty, reaching into the bag for another cookie.
“He’s my favorite, too,” Tony agreed. “Now, tell me about your mom. Why is she playing with the man in your apartment?”
“Sue and him plays naked. Sue says they wrestle.”
“Does Sue wrestle at night a lot?”
Star nodded her head yes. “Da’ man didn’t want to play ‘cause of me. That’s why Jack says stay here.”
So, this john had a conscience, Tony thought for a second. Nah, not down here in the District. A performance problem, most likely. Probably couldn’t get it up with a kid in the next room. Eyeing the little girl behind her thick lashes, he was able to see the collateral damage brought down by needles and pipes and temporary joy rides. Just as he thought, she was one of hundreds of remnants from the psychedelic haze that blew over from Haight Ashbury, just one more kid who hid out in rancid apartment hallways while her old lady got some grandpa’s rocks off, just so she could get her fix for the night.
Tony patted the little girl’s thin knee and took in a heavy breath. She smiled with drooping eyes and rested her head against the seat. Tony tucked the blanket around her legs and stood up. He closed the door and leaned against the car, waiting for the social services counselor to arrive.

Salty Miss Tenderloin is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99

 

Connect with Jacki Lyon:

Website: jacquelinelyon.com or jackilyon.com

Facebook: Search Jacki Dillon Lyon

Twitter: @jackilyon

Salty Miss Tenderloin, Jacki Lyon {$3.99}

SALTY MISS TENDERLOIN is a fiercely tender novel by award winning writer Jacki Lyon. Never shying away from the dark side of humanity, Lyon introduces Starlight Nox, a scrappy girl born on the gritty streets of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District when Jimi Hendrix and the Vietnam War are center stage.

Starlight learns at an early age to rummage food from dumpsters and collect clothes from the corner charity for survival. When the girl’s father dies with a needle in his arm and her mother disappears searching for her next fix, the forsaken twelve-year-old is adopted by wealthy grandparents. Uprooted from San Francisco to Cincinnati, Star spends the next two decades learning that danger doesn’t lurk just in pimps and pill pushers on Turk Street. She discovers that evil finds a welcome host in tailored suits and Chanel dresses and even glossy church pews. Star calls on her early, bitter lessons from the streets to navigate the more sinister roads she travels as a young woman.

SALTY MISS TENDERLOIN is a poignant coming-of-age story that proves the transition from child to adult is a process that repeats itself many times in life. Coming-of-age is about survival. For the lucky, the change begins with a raging gnaw of desire; for the unlucky, the change begins with a crying gnaw of hunger. For Starlight Nox, the treacherous journey begins much too early in life and continues to test her ability to grow and persevere, time and time again.

What readers are saying:

Jacki Dillon Lyon hit a home run again!!! I loved this book. Star is a character that you will fall in love with because of her determination, loyalty to her friends and grandmother and her ability to keep it all together at times . . . Get your book groups to read this. You will not be disappointed. Barb Rohs, Cincinnati, Ohio

I just finished reading Salty Miss Tenderloin and am not ready to let the heroine, Star, go. Jacki Lyon has written an awesome novel, but more importantly, she’s shown through Star, that regardless what life offers, one can find the strength to overcome adversity and perservere! Becki D., Sarasota, Florida

Click here to read more about and purchase Salty Miss Tenderloin for $3.99

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: The Painted Darkness, Brian James Freeman {$0.99}

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Brian James Freeman‘s Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of The Painted Darkness:

The Painted Darkness: A Novella

When Henry was a child, something terrible happened in the woods behind his home, something so shocking he could only express his grief by drawing pictures of what he had witnessed. Eventually Henry’s mind blocked out the bad memories, but he continued to draw, often at night by the light of the moon.

Twenty years later, Henry makes his living by painting his disturbing works of art. He loves his wife and his son and life couldn’t be better… except there’s something not quite right about the old stone farmhouse his family now calls home. There’s something strange living in the cramped cellar, in the maze of pipes that feed the ancient steam boiler.

A winter storm is brewing and soon Henry will learn the true nature of the monster waiting for him down in the darkness. He will battle this demon and, in the process, he may discover what really happened when he was a child and why, in times of trouble, he thinks: I paint against the darkness.

But will Henry learn the truth in time to avoid the terrible fate awaiting him… or will the thing in the cellar get him and his family first?

Written as both a meditation on the art of creation and as an examination of the secret fears we all share, The Painted Darkness is a terrifying look at the true cost we pay when we run from our grief—and what happens when we’re finally forced to confront the monsters we know all too well.

 

 Accolades:

“The tone and building dread reminded me of classic Stephen King. Great velocity and impact, and super creepy. Don’t go in the basement!”
— Stewart O’Nan, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Country and A Prayer for the Dying

“Spooky stuff!”
— Richard Matheson, New York Times bestselling author of I Am Legend

“Brian James Freeman’s evocative tale about the dark corners of an artist’s imagination is elegant and haunting.”
— David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of The Shimmer

“The Painted Darkness is a dark, terrifying, and deeply moving gem of a novella. Brian James Freeman managed to both scare me and move me to tears.”
— Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of The Keepsake

“Wonderfully reminiscent of the quiet horror of Charles L. Grant, The Painted Darkness takes readers on a gently chilly walk through the forest of fears both conscious and subconscious. A very impressive achievement.”
— Bentley Little, award-winning author of The House and His Father’s Son

“The Painted Darkness delves into territory that fascinates so many of us — the fine lines between beauty and horror, faith and fear, art and the unconscious. Both a wonderful allegory and a gripping read, Brian James Freeman has written a taut, memorable tale.”
– Michael Koryta, New York Times bestselling author of So Cold the River and The Cypress House

 

Reviews:

The Painted Darkness currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4.6 stars from 74 reviews. Read the reviews here.


An excerpt from The Painted Darkness:

Just start at the beginning, Henry’s father once told him, and the rest will take care of itself.

These words of wisdom came during the waning hours of a beautiful March day when Henry was five years old, a day that began with a gift from Mother Nature and ended with the little boy running home as fast as his legs would carry him, bounding through the snowdrifts and dodging the thorny branches lining the path through the woods.

Once inside the safety of his family’s home at the end of Maple Lane, Henry fell to the hardwood floor in his bedroom, exhausted, his skin scratched, the wounds burning like they were on fire. His hands were bruised and bloody.

Henry crawled under his bed and closed his eyes and he prayed like he had never prayed before. Not the type of praying he did at bedtime every night as his mother watched, and not the generic prayers he said every week in church with the rest of the congregation. For the first time in his life, he was directing his message straight to God Himself, and Henry’s request was simple: please send a mighty angel to undo what had been done.

An hour later, the room grew dark as the sun vanished behind the mountains to the west, but Henry hadn’t moved an inch. Exhaustion and fear wouldn’t allow him. He still wore his yellow rain slicker; his clothing was soaked in sweat; his face was damp with tears. The snow melting off his winter boots had trickled across the hardwood floor, forming a puddle of dirty water.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, Henry heard the house’s front door open and close. A few minutes passed, but he didn’t dare move. He held his breath as he listened to the floorboards creaking through the house. The footsteps stopped outside his room and Henry almost couldn’t bring himself to watch as the door swung open.

A pair of heavy work boots crossed the room, every step a dull thud, and Henry let out a small cry. The boots stopped. The man’s pants were stained with grease and grime and bleach. He took a knee next to the puddle of melted snow and, after a brief moment, he reached under the bed with his weathered, callused hand.

Henry grabbed onto the giant hand and his father pulled him out in one quick, smooth motion. He hadn’t turned the lights on yet, but a bright beam of moonlight sliced the bedroom in half.

Henry stared into his father’s big eyes, which seemed to glow in the sparkling light. His father was a bear of a man, but he gently lifted Henry and sat him on the bed like someone moving the most delicate of antiques. Henry sobbed while his father rocked him in his enormous arms, but for a while this did nothing to make the little boy feel better.

His father whispered, “It’ll be okay, Henry. Just start at the beginning and the rest will take care of itself.”

Henry, still shaking, told his father what had pushed him to the brink of his sanity that beautiful March afternoon: a series of events so terrible he wouldn’t allow himself to remember them once he grew up. He did his best to describe what had caused him to run as fast as he could through the woods and to hide under the bed, as if the bed might protect him from the horrors he had witnessed. As if the monsters would leave him alone there.

“Son,” his father said when Henry had finished, “the monsters don’t live in the dark corners waiting to pounce on us. They live deep in our heart. But we can fight them. I promise you, we can fight them and we can win.”

Henry listened to his father’s words, which were soothing and comforting and wise. His father suggested Henry get a piece of paper and some crayons. He said, “I know something that’ll help you feel better.”

Henry did as his father instructed and before the night was over he would be repeating a mantra: I paint against the darkness.

Those words made Henry feel strong in a way he couldn’t describe. The words opened doors within his mind; they set him free and gave him courage to face the night.

But in the end would that courage and his father’s wisdom be enough to truly save Henry from the monsters he feared so much? Or had he just delayed the inevitable?

The answers to those questions wouldn’t be determined for another twenty years.

 

The Painted Darkness is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99

 

Connect with Brian James Freeman:

Author Website: http://www.BrianJamesFreeman.com

Author Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/BrianJamesFreeman

Author Twitter Page: https://twitter.com/BrianFreeman

Free Danner, Loretta Giacoletto {$0.99}

99-cent madness for a limited time! This coming-of-age novel for new adults is on the edgy side, as in dark humor with off-beat characters, some not-so-likable, others downright despicable. As for Danner, he’s the ultimate bad boy you’ll either love, hate, or love to hate.

Free Danner really is free, after spending ten years in Juvy for what the judge called an unspeakable act and Danner considered one of mercy. Now he’s determined to find the dad who doesn’t know he exists. One thing’s for sure: this is not The Maury Povich Show; it’s Danner’s. And he figures everybody’s out to screw him, especially the big shot who hired him as a hit-man-in-training. So what’s a guy to do? The right thing, but Danner has a problem distinguishing right from wrong.

Free Danner is eleven when his party-girl mom sends him to live with her parents on their Southern Illinois farm. The generation gap proves harder on the rebellious city boy than his grandparents and soon results in a tragedy so horrific no one could’ve predicted it. Fast forward to Danner at twenty-two, by-passing those years he spent in the juvenile system and then some. He locates his mom Lark in St. Louis and demands she name the clueless dad. Lark’s not sure but with Danner’s not-so-gentle persuasion, she comes up with three possibilities. Danner’s search for his dad and a better life takes him on a crisscross journey to Las Vegas, Southern California, and the Florida Panhandle. Most of the off-beat characters he encounters along the way either wind up dead or wanting Danner out of their lives. But these people don’t know the real Danner or what being free means to him.
Fans of the dysfunctional-family novels by Pat Conroy will enjoy FREE DANNER as will fans of the movie, WILD TARGET.

What readers are saying:

“In Giacoletto’s well-written, gritty, and touching novel, Danner seems to live on the fringes. Nobody wants him, neither his mother nor his grandparents. To me, the characters were real flesh and blood people, and some of their stories came too close to home.

The average Amazon reader review rating is currently 4 stars, with 9 reviews.

Click here to read more about and purchase Free Danner for $0.99

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: The House of Six Doors, Patricia Selbert {$2.99}

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Patricia Selbert‘s Frugal Find Under Nine:

 

Description of The House of Six Doors:

Winner USA “Best Books 2011″ Awards

Multicultural Fiction

Finalist in General Fiction and Women’s Lit

1st Runner Up Eric Hoffer Award 2011 General Fiction

Serena, at thirteen, leaves her home on the colorful Caribbean island of Curaçao and her beloved grandmother, Oma, when her ambitious, impulsive, and emotionally unstable mother takes her and her sister to the United States in pursuit of the American Dream. They drive from Miami to Hollywood, where their luck runs out and a 1963 Ford Galaxie becomes their first American home. Compelling and exotic, the narrative weaves together the hard realities of 1970s Hollywood and memories of an innocent past. The story is rich and tangy, filled with images from around the world. The timeless wisdom Serena’s grandmother imparted to her becomes the compass by which Serena navigates the unscrupulous world she confronts. Filled with brilliant and visceral characters from multiple countries that come to life and reveal themselves and their cultures, The House of Six Doors gives the reader an intimate look at the complexities of an immigrant’s journey and a young girl’s coming of age in a multicultural Los Angeles. A pageturner, this story is so distinct and intimate that it becomes universal and leaves the reader with profound insights.

 

Accolade:

The US Review of Books

The House Of Six Doors was a landhuis, or plantation house, that my grandfather owned. It was painted a brilliant cobalt blue  with white trim”

This story plays upon your senses, making you feel the terror and pain of Serena and her sister, Hendrika, as they leave the only stability and family they have known. The pair travel to the United States from Curacao with their adventure seeking, emotionally unstable, mother. Mama was like a butterfly, flitting from one flower to another. She was always uprooting her family and moving them somewhere better, but their mother’s obsession with money, which began when she returned from the war in Europe, transforms into an unfulfilled quest for riches, causing untold emotional and physical damage to her children.

The girls’ grandmother, Oma, was one of the few people that had given the children stability and guidance. She loved her daughter, but felt sorrow for the pain her poor life choices caused her grandchildren. Struggling in a new land and culture finally gave way to a semblance of a good life for Serena, although Hendrika wasn’t so fortunate. The family’s earlier struggles left her drug dependant, resulting in deportation to Curacao. Still their wretched unhappiness makes the few triumphs truly exhilarating.

Patricia Selbert is an author with genuine knowledge of immigrating to the United States. The research and compassion are evident. With a compelling plot and characters, the reader is held from the early going, experiencing the colorful Caribbean culture in matching verse.

 

Reviews:

The House of Six Doors currently has a customer review rating of 4.5 stars with 17 reviews! Read the reviews here.

 

The House of Six Doors is available to purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99

 

An excerpt from The House of Six Doors:

Curaçao Remembered

Raised in Curaçao speaking four languages, Patricia Selbert has always drawn her inspiration from her native island, with its rich history, vibrant architecture, stunning natural beauty, and diverse, resourceful people.  This excerpt from the novel takes us back to Curaçao in the 1960s.

…It was getting dark. Serena sat in the back seat of her family’s car as she waited for her mother and sister to return from another job interview. Their move to Hollywood, California had not turned out as they’d expected. They were living in their car and struggling to survive. Serena longed to be back home, she closed her eyes and recalled happier times in Curaçao.

… My grandfather, stood in front of me. “Let’s go to the House of Six Doors!” he declared. The landhuis was a one-and-a-half-hour drive from town and down dusty dirt roads, and about half a mile from the ocean. Next to the house was a windmill to lift water from the well. There were no other buildings for miles around, just rolling hills and gray-green brush.

The house got its name because it had six doors, three on the ocean side and three on the bush side. The ocean-side doors opened directly on the center of the house. Here there was a large living room, a dining room, and a kitchen. The three bush-side doors opened onto a gallery that ran the entire length of the house. Oma had said all the plantation houses were built this way to let the trade winds flow through them. When I asked her why six doors and not four or eight, she told me each door had a purpose. The three ocean-side doors were to bring in gratitude, wisdom, and compassion, and the three bush-side doors were to let out greed, ignorance, and anger. I loved staying at the House of Six Doors.

I found myself sitting in the backseat of Opa’s car, cradling on my lap the cake Oma had made six months before for his upcoming birthday. It was a Bolo Pretu, a black fruitcake soaked in rum, Curaçao liqueur, and Marsala wine, and decorated with snow-white icing and tiny silver balls of candy. Bolo Pretu was made only for very special occasions and tasted best six months to a year after it had been made. Opa’s birthday must have been a significant one, although Oma didn’t mention his age.

We traveled to the landhuis in my grandfather’s car. Boxes were tied to the roof of the car with rope; the trunk was so stuffed that several boxes were hanging out halfway. On the way, we stopped three times. We stopped at Shon Pètchi’s house, a modest mud house painted red with two green windows on either side of a green front door. The thatch on the roof was dry and sparse. Shon Pètchi came running when he saw our car arrive. He waved and smiled as if we were Santa Claus. Chickens and goats scattered in all directions. Three dogs tied on long ropes under a tree barked furiously when Oma got out of the car and went to greet Shon Pètchi. She shook his hand and asked how he and his family had been since the last time she had seen him. His wife came out of the house with three of her children. Her oldest daughter stopped feeding the donkey and smiled at us. It was good to see familiar faces. “I’m glad everyone is well. Look how much the children have grown,” Oma complimented him.

“Thank you, Shon Elena, thank you for your kind words. How long will you be staying at Kas di Seis Porta? Are you having any parties?”

“Oh yes, we’ll be here for the summer, and this year Don Diego’s birthday will be a big celebration.” I listened from the car. I was bursting with impatience to see all of Oma and Opa’s friends and my aunts, uncles, and cousins again.

“Would you like a goat for the party? I have some fat ones, really nice ones. They’ll be ready two weeks from Saturday. That’s the day, no?”

“Yes, that’s the day, but I would like to cook iguana. This is a very important year.” Shon Pètchi smiled and nodded; the whites of his eyes and his white teeth glittered in the sun against his black skin.

“Ah, Don Diego is having a special birthday? All right, I will find you the fattest, tastiest iguanas on the island.” Iguanas once had been abundant on Curaçao but now they were difficult to find. “Don’t worry, Shon Elena, I will catch them myself.”

A mango dropped from the tree, just missing his shoulder. Everyone looked up. Hidden among the branches was a ten-year-old boy, one of Shon Pètchi’s sons, trying to make himself invisible. I knew how much fun it was to climb a mango tree. Shon Pètchi frowned at his son and then turned back to my grandmother, apologizing and smiling.

We drove on down the dusty road lined with thorny, small-leaved shrubs. The occasional black-and-yellow barika hel flew from its hiding place, startled by the sound of the car. A turn off the main road led us to the beach and Shon Momo’s house. His one-room house was painted light blue with dark blue doors and windows. The recently thatched roof was golden yellow. Shon Momo sat in his rocking chair under a big tamarind tree.

He was asleep as we drove up, but when Opa turned off the engine he opened his eyes and stared at us as if we were a mirage. His three short wooden boats lay in the yard, fishing nets scattered around them. Fishing lines were hanging in the trees and an old anchor leaned against the house. His dog, tied on a rope, barked and wagged his tail. Oma got out of the car and slowly approached Shon Momo, who recognized her as she got closer, and his face lit up. “Shon Elena, kontá bai?” How are you? Very kindly, he took my grandmother’s hands in both of his and, nodding and smiling, he welcomed her and asked what he could catch for her.

His black skin looked like polished leather from being out on the ocean for so many years. He waved to my grandfather as he moved slowly and gently to Opa’s car, as if he were a boat on a calm sea. He took my grandfather’s hand in his, his big black hand covering Opa’s slight white one, leaving only Opa’s wrist showing. Shon Momo assured my grandfather he would bring him all the fish he could eat. With a smile and a wave, we were on our way again. Lizards scurried in panic as the car bumped along the dusty road.

Shon Tisha’s tiny pink house had a corrugated roof and a car in the driveway. The antenna on the roof proudly announced she owned a television. A chicken-wire fence ran around her yard, confining her dogs, cats, chickens, and goats. Shon Tisha was a very large woman; her hips jutted out eight inches to either side. She could easily rest children or baskets on them. We picked up her daughter, Mirelva, who would clean and serve while we were at the landhuis. Mirelva and I had played together for longer than I could remember. She knew me so well we could communicate without saying a word.

“How long before we get to the House of Six Doors from here?” I asked Oma.

“Well, if we were traveling by horse and buggy, the way your grandfather and I used to go, it would be another hour, but since we are in a car, it will be only fifteen minutes more. Aren’t you lucky?” Oma smiled. We turned onto another road. The House of Six Doors came into view as a speck at the top of the hill in the distance. A panoramic view of the landscape appeared as we ascended. Scrubby divi-divi trees, with their gnarly trunks and their branches all leaning in the same direction, were reminders that the trade winds always blew the same way.

Oma pointed out the window. “Serena, look at those trees. Curaçao doesn’t get enough rain to grow big shade trees so it gets strong winds to shape the trees we have, into giving shade.” It was true; a divi-divi tree had the perfect shape to lie under in the midday sun. As our car climbed to the top of the hill, a herd of wild goats scurried in front of us.

Opa blew the horn and waved his hands outside the window, trying to give the goats some direction, but they were confused and terrified as they dashed back and forth, bleating frantically. Opa stepped on the gas to scare the goats with the engine’s noise, but the car surged forward, barely missing one of them. The cobalt-blue house patiently waited for us against a backdrop of green-blue ocean and light-blue sky.

As soon as we arrived, we opened all the doors and windows to clear out the musty smell of the closed house; it was immediately replaced with the smell of the ocean. I helped Oma take off the colorful sheets that covered the furniture. Mirelva was busy unloading and unpacking.

Opa went to the kitchen and came back with a large bottle of blue Curaçao liqueur and three tiny glasses. “Ban dal un bríndis, Elena,” he said, calling for a toast as he poured. Opa always kept a large supply of Curaçao liqueur at the House of Six Doors. He put his arm around Oma and she raised her glass to meet his. “Un bida largu bon bibá,” he said. To a long life, well lived. Opa and Oma clinked their glasses, then each touched their glasses to mine, which contained only a tiny drop of Blue Curaçao. I pretended to drink: I didn’t like the taste of the liqueur, but I loved the occasions on which it was served. Opa took Oma’s glass from her and set it on the table. He hummed an old waltz as he took Oma in his arms, and they danced across the room. I sat watching them, giddy with joy.

Serena opened her eyes and her joy disintegrated. She realized she was still in the car in Hollywood, alone.

 

The House of Six Doors is available to purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99

 

Connect with Patricia Selbert:

Websites: http://thehouseofsixdoors.com/http://patriciaselbert.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/patriciaselbert.author

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PASelbert

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: FAMILY PIECES, Misa Rush {$0.99}

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Misa Rush‘s Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of FAMILY PIECES:

Karsen Woods’s life seems charmed, from her hunkalicious boyfriend to her picture-perfect midwestern roots. Away at college, even the necklace she wears serves as a constant connection home – a family tradition created when her grandfather handmade each immediate relative an interlinking charm. Each piece crafted in the shape of a puzzle piece, each one interlinking perfectly together. But when the unexpected death of her mother turns her world upside down, she discovers there is a missing piece of her treasured family tradition, and her life as she once knew it may never be the same.

Addison Reynolds resides in her posh Manhattan condominium and wraps her personal identity around running Urbane, the magazine empire built by her father. In a moment of haste, Addison divulges her deepest secret to her closest friend Emily – a secret she never intended to disclose.

Could one choice, one secret, bond two unlikely women forever?

 

Accolades:

“It was so bittersweet realizing that I was at the end, I wanted more!”

“Umm, yeah, I totally loved this book. I related to Family Pieces on so many levels it’s ridiculous! This, my friends, is chick lit with depth.”

“If you are looking to read a good book, but don’t have a ton of time to read–this is your book!”

“What I loved about the book. EVERYTHING”

“I read it in two days {I couldn’t put it down!}.”


Reviews:

FAMILY PIECES currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 5 stars from 38 reviews. Read the reviews here.

 

FAMILY PIECES is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99

 

An excerpt from FAMILY PIECES:

PREFACE

One Choice. One Secret.
Choices are made every day. Some bear no consequence. Others have life-altering results. I should know. My mother made a choice. She kept a secret. Her intentions were pure. With every beat of my heart, I believe she thought keeping her secret was in everyone’s best interest. She thought the secret would be buried with her, never to be revealed. She thought wrong.

Chapter 1

Karsen woke before the sound of her alarm and prepared herself for the first day of the new semester. A nervous energy brewed in the pit of her stomach. In her junior year at Arizona State University, she didn’t remember ever feeling anxious over a few new classes; nonetheless, it was an uncomfortable sensation that she simply couldn’t shake. It burrowed deep down inside like the tickle one gets in their throat just before a full-blown cold.
She pulled her burgundy cashmere sweater over her head, attempting to bury the uneasiness with the giddiness of wearing a new outfit. The sweater had been a Christmas present from her mother, and she loved the soft feel against her skin. Maybe her discomfort stemmed from the strained conversation she had had with her mother the day before. Maybe she should call and apologize, she thought.
She dialed her mom’s cell number, which went straight to voice mail.
“Hey, Mom, sorry I missed you. I’m headed out to class, but I just wanted to say sorry for our fight. I’ll try you back tonight. I love you.” She hung up promising herself that she’d call again in the evening.
Karsen reached beneath her sweater and pulled out her necklace. Closing her eyes, she tenderly pressed the end of the silver charm against her lips. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, trying to release her tension. “Today is going to be a great day.” She smiled and repeated this mantra to herself.
Looking back, Karsen couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t worn her necklace. She found herself fiddling with it often particularly when she felt worried or homesick, just as she did now.
“Some people may think it’s silly,” Karsen remarked once while explaining the meaning of her necklace’s puzzle-shaped charm to her boyfriend James near the beginning of their relationship. “Somehow it makes me feel connected when I’m away. Like part of a bigger plan – my family is always with me no matter where they are.” James had listened half-heartedly, more interested in unbuttoning her shirt than learning about her family history.
Karsen opened her eyes and glanced in the mirror one last time. Her dark hair fell just past her shoulders in a sleek-straight style that was both elegant and trendy. Even though she’d heard how pretty she was over the years, a twinge of insecurity always nestled itself in the back of her mind. She felt average at best compared to the flawless beauties flocking the campus and still wondered often how she’d landed a guy like James.
She dabbed one last coat of gloss across her lips and then, satisfied with her appearance, gathered her book bag and headed to campus where she’d arranged to meet Hanna outside the physical science building.

Arriving at their meeting spot, Karsen waited for Hanna. Hanna and Karsen had been paired as roommates the first day of their freshman year and had been inseparable ever since. Karsen glanced down at her watch. Their chemistry class was about to begin and the perfectionist in her hated to be tardy.
“Hurry up! We’re going to be late,” Karsen yelled, waving Hanna on when she finally spotted her. Hanna scurried toward her, immaculately dressed in a cream-colored sweater, brown hounds-tooth skirt with coordinating chocolate-brown knee high boots. Hanna’s knack for finding designer clothing on clearance, mixed with her natural beauty and perfect blond hair, made her the spitting image of a model out of the girl’s favorite fashion magazine, Urbane.
“Sorry. Sophia was talking my ear off. I couldn’t get away,” Hanna muttered, catching her breath as she reached Karsen’s side. Her cheeks were flushed even though the temperature barely topped sixty degrees on the mild January morning.
“What’s going on now?” Karsen asked, adding, “cute outfit by the way.”
“Thanks. Sale-rack, Macy’s,” Hanna said. The two girls set off toward class, walking at a brisk pace. “Anyway I would’ve been here on time, but you know my sorority sister. Just the usual ‘my boyfriend broke up with me over break’ saga.”
“What else is new?” Karsen laughed at the ‘on-again off-again’ relationship of their mutual friend, thinking to herself again how lucky she was to have found James. Certainly, they’d had a few quarrels, but they had never ventured anywhere near break-up territory. “They break up every holiday. I’m beginning to think he does it so he can welch out on buying her a gift.”
“You could be right,” Hanna smirked. “Anyway, how was your break?”
“Good. My parents flew back to Indiana yesterday. I always look forward to seeing them, and I hate to admit it, but I was kind of ready for them to go. My mom couldn’t stop grumbling about James.”
“What about now?” Hanna opened the door to the lecture hall, holding it open for Karsen.
“She still doesn’t think he’s right for me. We’ve always been so close. I just don’t get it. Sheesh, I don’t do drugs. I don’t smoke. I get straight A’s and I’m her daughter. Don’t you think she should trust my judgment?”
Hanna wrinkled her cute button nose. “You’d think. But, maybe she’s just worried about you. He did have quite the reputation before you two hooked up.”
Karsen shrugged. “Maybe, but she doesn’t know that. Plus we’ve been together now for two years. Anyway, who are you to judge? You’re the one who introduced us in the first place.” Had it not been for Hanna’s prodding, she doubted she would have ever had the courage to even speak to him. But thank goodness she had.
“Yes, I know. But only because I was tired of hearing how perfect he was. And you took it from there by spilling coffee all over him. How was I to know that he’d find your klutziness attractive?” Hanna said with a laugh. “Anyway, has your mom liked any of your boyfriends?”
“Not really,” Karsen said, still cringing from the memory of the coffee caper, maybe one of her most embarrassing moments ever.
“See? I’m sure it’s just a “mom” thing,” Hanna reassured her friend.
Karsen hoped she was right. She still couldn’t imagine why her mother didn’t like James. He was three years older than her, but what was three years in the scope of forever? He had already graduated and was even taking masters classes while launching the start of a more than promising sales career. The more she thought about him, the more perfect he seemed, which didn’t matter since she was unmistakably in love with him already.
The lecture hall buzzed with chatter as the eighty-some students settled in. The girls secured two spots together mid-way up the center. The seats were red cloth, slightly faded and worn from overuse, each with an old-style writing desk that swiveled up and across to write on.
“So, what did James get you for Christmas?” Hanna asked, settling into her seat.
“Not a ring.” Karsen’s voice bled disappointment. Even though she and James had never specifically discussed their future, Karsen couldn’t help but think that surely he’d propose soon. Their relationship had progressed like clockwork. The natural next step was to live together, but Karsen knew that would never fly with her mother unless there was a ring promising a commitment.
“Maybe he wants to wait until you graduate.”
“But that’s another year or more. We could at least get engaged.” Karsen bent over and shuffled through her bag, then pulled out a magazine page she’d torn out of Brides. “Look.”
“Wow! That’s an amazing dress!” Hanna grabbed the page from Karsen and examined it in detail. “It must cost a small fortune.”
“Only half a small fortune and James is making good money. I figure I can splurge. After all, you only get married once, right?”
“Yeah, usually, I guess,” Hanna murmured sarcastically in agreement as she handed the page back to Karsen. “Why are you in such a rush to get married anyway? You’re only twenty-one.”
“Seriously, have you met my boyfriend? It’s like I’ve landed in my very own fairy tale. He’s everything I could’ve ever imagined for a husband and more. Why would I let him get away?” Karsen met James when she was a freshman. As cliché as she knew it sounded, for her, it was love at first sight. His dark hair and muscular build made her knees buckle, but it was his dark espresso eyes that she couldn’t peel her own from.
“I’m sure your mom will come around soon. At least she cares. My mom’s too busy with her own drama to care about mine. I’m sure she just wants you to be happy.”
“You’re probably right. Guess I’m lucky to have a mom that cares too much,” Karsen smiled. “I’ll talk it out with her tonight. I can’t stand it when we argue.”
Before Hanna could segue into another topic, the professor bellowed over a small shirt-clipped microphone, bringing the class to order. “Good morning class. Welcome to Chemistry 351. If you’re not supposed to be here, this is the best time to exit.” Karsen tucked the picture back into her bag then focused her attention toward the front.

An hour later, Karsen and Hanna exited the science building and were welcomed by a crisp blue, cloudless sky. The sun beamed down, making Karsen wish her sweater had been a cardigan that she could shed. She felt a vibration through the front pocket of her bag and scrambled to free her pink-and-clear Swarovski crystal-encrusted phone before it went to voice mail.
“Hi, Daddy!” Karsen answered in an upbeat voice. The three-hour time difference made it three in the afternoon in Indiana, an odd time, she thought, for her dad to be calling.
“New Blackberry?” Hanna asked.
“Shhh,” Karsen said turning away and plugging her open ear. “Sorry, Dad. I couldn’t hear you. Hanna was talking. We’re just leaving chem class. What’s up?”
“It’s your mother,” he started, his voice sounding much further away than the two thousand miles between them. “Honey, I’m afraid she’s been in a car accident…”
“What?” Karsen’s face drew white as she listened.
“What’s wrong?” mouthed Hanna, her face immediately conveying her worry.
“Is she okay?”
“I’m sorry, honey,” Carl Woods continued on the other end of the phone. His voice shook as he struggled to form the words. “There’s no easy way to tell you this, but she’s gone. Your mom is gone.”
“No, No, NO!” Karsen gasped, slowly shaking her head in disbelief. Her eyes filled with tears, as a crippling constriction overtook her chest, causing her to a make a hiccup sound. “Oh God, oh my God, NO!”

 

FAMILY PIECES is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99

 

Connect with Misa Rush:

Author Website: www.misarush.com

Author Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/familypieces

Author Twitter Page: @MisaRush

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