An Affair to Dismember (The Matchmaker), Elise Sax {$0.99}

Certain to appeal to fans of Janet Evanovich, Jennifer Crusie, and Katie MacAlister, Elise Sax’s hilarious series debut introduces matchmaker-in-training Gladie Burger, who stumbles into a dangerous quagmire of murder and red-hot romance.

Three months has been Gladie Burger’s limit when it comes to staying in one place. That’s why Gladie is more than a little skeptical when her eccentric Grandma Zelda recruits her to the family’s matchmaking business in the quaint small town of Cannes, California. What’s more, Gladie is also highly unqualified, having a terrible track record with romance. Still, Zelda is convinced that her granddaughter has “the gift.” But when the going gets tough, Gladie wonders if this gift has a return policy.

When Zelda’s neighbor drops dead in his kitchen, Gladie is swept into his bizarre family’s drama. Despite warnings from the (distractingly gorgeous) chief of police to steer clear of his investigation, Gladie is out to prove that her neighbor’s death was murder. It’s not too long before she’s in way over her head—with the hunky police chief, a dysfunctional family full of possible killers, and yet another mysterious and handsome man, whose attentions she’s unable to ignore. Gladie is clearly being pursued—either by true love or by a murderer. Who will catch her first?

What readers are saying:

“Elise Sax’s new Matchmaker series is off to a rousing start! . . . Sax gives the comic mystery genre a new spin. . . . A fun read sure to entertain.”—RT Book Reviews

“Fans of laugh-out-loud romantic suspense will enjoy this new author as she joins the ranks of Janet Evanovich, Katie MacAllister, and Jennifer Crusie.”—Booklist

“Elise Sax will win your heart.”—New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis

“In the tradition of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, Elise Sax’s new novel is a funny, sexy ride.”—Valerie Frankel, author of Four of a Kind

“What a fun book! It will leave readers begging for more.”—Kim Gruenenfelder, author of There’s Cake in My Future

The average Amazon Review is currently 4.5 stars {55 reviews}.

 Click here to read more about and purchase An Affair to Dismember (The Matchmaker) for  $0.99 from Amazon!

Love at Absolute Zero, Christopher Meeks {$0.99}

LOVE AT ABSOLUTE ZERO is a comic romance about Gunnar Gunderson, a 32-year-old star physicist at the University of Wisconsin who’s determined to meet his soul mate within three days using the Scientific Method. As he channels his inner salmon (for speed dating), he accidentally steps on the toes of a visiting Danish schoolteacher–and his life turns upside down.

“A deeply resonant read that manages to be funny without sacrificing its gravity. Highly recommended!” -Heather Figearo, Raging Bibliomania

“Thermodynamics are nothing; it’s that love thing that is so frustratingly hard to figure out. ‘Love at Absolute Zero’ is an excellent read that is very much worth considering, highly recommended!” -Midwest Book Review

What readers are saying:

Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalist

“Highly recommended!” – Midwest Book Review

“The book is a hilarious read! – BookGeeks (UK)

“Laugh-out-loud funny!” -NY Times bestselling author Darcie Chan

The average Amazon reader review is currently 4.2 stars {43 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

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: A Beautiful Heist (Agency of Burglary & Theft), Kim Foster {$4.61}

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Kim Foster‘s Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of A Beautiful Heist (Agency of Burglary & Theft):

Everyone has a talent. Some are just more legal than others. Cat Montgomery steals jewels for AB&T, the premier agency for thieves in Seattle. Career perks: good pay, great disguises, constant adrenaline rush. Drawbacks: the possibility of jail time…or worse. Now she’s taken on a lucrative side job—recovering a priceless Faberge egg for an alleged Romanov descendant.

Though Cat is working solo, there are plenty of interested players. Her FBI ex-boyfriend is nosing around, as is her former mentor-turned-nemesis. Then there’s the charming art thief helping—or is he hindering?—her mission. If her luck holds out, this could be the case that allows Cat to retire with her conscience and her life intact. If not, it’ll be her last job for all the wrong reasons…

 

Accolades:

If you are a reader who enjoys thrills coupled with well-developed characters, pick up A Beautiful Heist. Not only will it have you on the edge of your seat at times, it will also give you a character who promises to only get more interesting in future installments. (Tia Bach, Mom In Love With Fiction)

Kim Foster’s debut novel is an enjoyable, convoluted and action-packed caper. It’s a nonstop ride from the first chapter until the very end. Full of schemes and betrayals, human sacrifice and treasure hunts, this new but capable author captures her audience in a tightly-plotted and intricately set up first-in-series. A complicated plot, likeable but imperfect characters, and Foster’s clear style of writing lend for an easy, entertaining and fast-paced read. A Beautiful Heist is less than three hundred pages, but the author manages to contain an interesting, complex, and original plot within those few hundred pages. (Jessie, Ageless Pages Reviews)

Cat herself proves to be more nuanced than I expected…A Beautiful Heist is a fun read–light, fast-paced, yet with enough character development to deepen the reader’s enjoyment. It’s got a good balance of action and suspense with real-life choices and implications. It’s a great summer read. (Elizabeth, 5 Minutes For Books)

A Beautiful Heist is a satisfying caper novel, with lots of twists and turns in the plot and plenty of glamour in the settings and the characters. There’s enough romance and suspense for readers of romantic suspense, but the complexity of the story and the characters lifts it from the genre. It’s a gripping novel and would make a great movie. (Rebecca, More Than A Review)

Reviews:

A Beautiful Heist (Agency of Burglary & Theft)  currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 3.8 stars from 11 reviews. Read the reviews here.


An excerpt from A Beautiful Heist (Agency of Burglary & Theft):

Everyone breaks the rules eventually. It’s just that some of us make a career out of it.
Lingering by the bar, I sipped my Veuve Clicquot and, with the utmost subtlety, tugged at the short neoprene wetsuit concealed beneath my cocktail dress.
The warm September evening air swirled with lush jazz; the chime of crystal mingled with the laughter of socialites and millionaires. It was a graceful affair. But I, for one, was far from relaxed. My eyes roved the party restlessly and my nerves sizzled with anticipation. And fear.
My safety that evening hinged on my skills of deception. On my ability to conjure the illusion that I belonged at this party. Whether I got my assignment done, however, depended on an altogether different sort of talent: the particular skill-set I happened to be born with.
As always, I needed to keep my fear in check and stay focused on my goals. Do the job, Cat. Make it out of here alive. Don’t get arrested.
I tucked a short lock of my platinum blond wig behind my ear. A saltwater breeze teased the hem of my black Dolce & Gabbana gown. The party occupied the lido deck of a 280-foot luxury yacht moored in Seattle Harbor. Which should explain the wetsuit. Rule number one for every professional thief: always have as many getaway options as possible.
Now—before you judge too harshly, consider this: everybody in this world is guilty of something. Everybody has dirty truths they keep tucked in linen closets and shoe boxes, secreted away in diaries and letters and the dark alcoves of their minds. Maybe yours isn’t anything all that grievous. Maybe you just cheat a little on your taxes. Maybe you sneak into a different movie once you’re inside the theater. Or, perhaps your dark secret is something worse. The point is, sooner or later, everyone behaves badly. Some of us are just better at it than others.
I curled my way through multitudes of rich and beautiful people who were busy rubbing shoulders and sundry other body parts. My muscles were coiled tight as a librarian’s bun, my face was impassive. I watched for signs that someone suspected what I was up to. The people at this particular party—and their hired security staff—would not react well knowing someone like me was in their midst. Weapons would be drawn. Blood would be shed. This was a state of affairs I preferred to avoid. Just thinking about it made the hairs at the nape of my neck curl with sweat. My mouth felt dry; I took another sip of champagne.
Maybe this was a mistake. I glanced at the exit points. Should I really be attempting this tonight? It was risky pulling a job on the night of a gala.
But no–I was prepared. Besides, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity—it meant too much to me. I had to do this. I couldn’t back down now. This could be the job that would finally banish the shadow.
I selected a vantage point on the upper deck and wrapped my palms around the cold chrome handrail. Stars dazzled in a tuxedo sky high above, reminiscent of the shimmering gowns and sparkling flutes of champagne below.
I kept my face expressionless and methodically scanned the glittering party below me. Glamorous young things lounged on curved banks of white tufted leather sofas, orchids spilled out of crystal vases, hundreds of fairy lights twinkled along the sleek lines of the yacht.
I was scouting for telltale signs: the distracted expression of someone listening to an ear-receiver, unusual body language, a waiter or a musician who looked strangely uncomfortable. Markers of a person who could interfere with my ability to do my job tonight, be it security staff, FBI, or—worse—one of those damned concerned citizens.
Then my stomach tightened: was that red-haired man by the oyster bar watching me? I narrowed my eyes and slid to my left, concealing myself behind a post. There was something odd, something furtive about the small actions of his hands. He was standing beside a woman, his date or girlfriend, but he seemed to be avoiding her gaze. Very strange. The set of his jaw betrayed a degree of anxiety. I bit down on the inside of my cheek. Then, I saw him reach into his jacket pocket and a small Tiffany box appeared in his hand.
Ah. I rolled my eyes and focused my attention elsewhere. He was going to propose tonight. Fine. Not interesting.
I continued raking the crowd of partygoers. But as I did so, I must confess to a small twinge of envy. As they sipped their mojitos and nibbled their canapés, everyone looked so, well, relaxed. I glanced back at the couple by the oyster bar.
For a moment I considered stuffing this assignment and simply enjoying myself, perhaps trying my chances at meeting my own Prince Charming equivalent, of which there appeared to be plenty.
No, Cat. I scolded myself and pushed those thoughts firmly from my mind. That was not for me. I had to get this job done. Besides, the truth was, people like me were not destined for storybook endings. Dreams of the moon belonged to much worthier people; I’d abandoned those hopes a long time ago.
No. This girl didn’t deserve the fairy tale. It wasn’t usually the villain who got the happily-ever-after.
A white-gloved waiter approached and, after mentally clearing him as a non threat, I accepted a divine smoked salmon crostini from his silver tray. I smiled at him, confident in my disguise: the wig, of course, plus chocolate-browncolored contact lenses and painstakingly applied theater makeup conveying much sharper cheekbones than I myself, sadly, possessed. I took a mouthwatering bite of the crostini and allowed a small shiver of delight. Another fringe benefit to the job.
On the surface, becoming a crook is an ill-advised choice. I get that. Very few people would see the appeal and, fair enough, it’s not a way of life that would suit everyone. But let me assure you: it’s a thrill like no other. And isn’t that what we all want, ultimately? A life purpose that we’re good at, and that we love?
Of course I’m making it sound like I had a choice in the matter. As if being anything other than a criminal was an option for me. It wasn’t. The universe made it clear, long ago, that being a thief was my role in this life. Bucking that fate was not only futile, it brought dire consequences. I know. I had tried it.
At the party, I popped in one last bite of crostini and was on the move again. I buried myself in the crowd and wove my way to a less populated area of the party on the aft deck. I needed to choose my moment precisely. It was a matter of sharpening my awareness of other people’s attention. I needed to have a clear perimeter in my peripheral vision, to know there were no eyes directly on me.
But although the crowd here was thinner, there were still a lot of people. I experienced fresh anxiety about doing this job tonight. It was never my first choice to do the actual heist on the night of a gala. Too many potential complications. Most crooks will tell you: parties are better suited for reconnaissance.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have an option. Davis Hamilton Jr, the steel magnate, sailed the Elysia into Seattle this morning and he was staying one night only. The next morning he would sail down the coast for California and I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity. I had done that before; it would never happen again.
Then, I noted that in the nearby knot of people a man was entertaining the group with an anecdote. I readied myself–this would be my chance. As he wrapped up the story and delivered the punch line, the group was laughing and distracted. That was my moment. I made a sharp right turn, melted into the shadows, and dove down the steps leading belowdecks.
The corridors were dark, narrow, and quiet. The ceiling hung low. The layout of the yacht and its suites was firmly etched in my mind, memorized from the blueprint. Fourth door on the left, just after the corridor took a sharp right turn. I was skulking along when a large, lumpy man suddenly emerged from a doorway and lurched out, smashing into me. Damn.
I’d have to bluff it. “Oops!” I giggled, stumbling against the wall. “Where’s the little girls’ room?” I said with an intentional slur. The man possessed an unfortunate physique: slopy shoulders and barrel torso. His small eyes were too close together, his teeth tiny and spaced apart, like those of a third-grader.
Unfortunately, the man moved closer. And started leering. “Hey, sweetheart, what’s your hurry?” A hot cloud of liquor-spiked breath floated my way. And now I had a problem.
Memo to self: Take a moment, next time, to size up your audience before knee-jerking into drunk, giddy female bit.
“What’s your name?” he said, taking another step closer. I cringed. Even an expensive suit couldn’t minimize the impact of hair like a Brillo pad. Why, oh why, was it always this type? Why couldn’t this be that Hugh Jackman-lookalike I noted by the Jacuzzi upstairs? I was sure I wouldn’t have been quite so irritated.
This was exactly the sort of thing I was afraid of. I should have aborted the job, right then.
But I didn’t.

A Beautiful Heist (Agency of Burglary & Theft) is available for purchase at:

 Amazon Kindle for $4.61

Connect with Kim Foster:

Website: http://www.kimfosterbooks.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorKimFoster

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DrKimFoster

Between Boyfriends, Sarka-Jonae Miller {$0.99 After Memorial Day Sale!}

At first glance, twenty-one-year-old Jan Weston has it all: a gorgeous boyfriend, fun friends, and wealthy parents who take care of all those pesky credit card bills.

Then her boyfriend dumps her, her friendships fall apart, and her parents cut her off. Suddenly without money, without a man, and without a plan, it’s time for Jan to grow up.

Determined to get her life back on track, Jan decides it’s time to make it on her own. Can she find her way as a single lady in San Diego? Can she fix her friendships, her job prospects, and her hair? And can she keep her vow that she’ll never date again, even after she meets a guy who just might be perfect for her?

BETWEEN BOYFRIENDS is a sexy, hilarious story of living life, finding love, and growing up… but not necessarily in that order.

What readers are saying:

“This book is the ultimate chick-lit read–a light-hearted romp focused on the travails of Jan, a college student dumped by her boyfriend, an SDSU student. The moment proves an epiphany, as Jan resolves to stop dating and find fulfillment as a single woman.” – East County Magazine

Between Boyfriends “presents a unique twist on the chick lit genre.” – Hollywood & Vine magazine

“Over the course of the book, Jan, who is in her early 20s, begins to grow as a person and even strikes up a true friendship with a man, a first for her.” – Rancho Santa Fe Review

“Between Boyfriends is a delicious slice of chick-lit! Snappy dialogue sets this story apart from the pack as it follows a young woman who, financially cut off by her parents when she fails to attend school, learns that life is more than her Amex card, and reunites with a mother who has endured her own brand of pain.” – Jan Moran, bestselling author

The current Average Amazon Review Rating is 4.2 stars {56 reviews}.

Click here to read more about and purchase Between Boyfriends for $0.99

Castles in the Air, Ilana Waters {$2.99 or borrow FREE w/ Prime!}

Ten-year-old Wikkley McStag and his family are born farmers, happy to work the land. But then they—and other royal subjects—are forced to buy strange, useless machines. Money starts running out. Now the McStags have two days before they lose their farm. As the eldest child, Wikkley must journey to the palace and ask for the king’s help. His loved ones only hope his reckless nature won’t get him in trouble once he’s there!

When Wikkley arrives at the palace, he finds an unnecessary castle being built right into the sky. The same thing is happening in a neighboring kingdom. When royal foolishness leads to disaster, it’s up to Wikkley to save several lives. Will his recklessness finally come in handy? Or will it mean the end of his family, his farm, and possibly . . . his life?

From the fantasy world of THE ADVENTURES OF STANLEY DELACOURT, Ilana Waters brings you another alternate-medieval adventure. If you like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, don’t miss meeting Wikkley McStag!

(This novella is approximately 21,000 words, or 70 pages).

What readers are saying:

5.0 out of 5 stars A Magical Adventure! March 3, 2013
By Helene
Wikkley McStag is an honest, hard-working boy, determined to save his family’s farm. It’s easy to sympathise with his his innocent, ever-optimistic view of the world. This is a magical, quirky, fast-paced read and I’m sure readers of all ages will love it!

5.0 out of 5 stars An Adventure for All Ages February 26, 2013
By Diba
This book is appropriate for any age group even though it’s geared toward young adults. It is really an enjoyable read for all ages! The main character is a young man with a lot of love and heart and you end up rooting for him from beginning to end. The author gives a good amount of background as to how Hartlandia came about. Excellently written!

5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful fairytale!, February 21, 2013
By Dr. S. Drecker – See all my reviews
My kids (5+7) loved this story! It starts out with a nice farmer boy, who only wants to help his family. So he travels into the wide world, totally unaware of what he’s about to get himself into. His ‘simple’ and practical way of looking at things bring him from one humorous situation into another. My kids laughed and cheered for him the whole way.

And when he reaches his goal, the king, things really get silly. Even when the story was done, my children continued to ask questions as to why the kings did what they did. They really got into this imaginary world.

The main character is easy to relate to and it’s a pure joy to accompany him on his adventures. This is definitely a story we’re going to read a second…a third… several times. 

The average Amazon reader review rating is currently 5 stars, with 5 reviews.

Click here to read more about and purchase Castles in the Air for $2.99 or borrow FREE w/ Prime!

Humorous Lines and Clever Interjections for Contemporary Flirting, Matt Upward {$2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime}

 

After so many years of social interaction you have common sayings you gravitate to quite often. You have your “can’t argue with that” line. Your “you need to get out more” line. Your “I call it like I see it” line. You find no reason in brushing up on your humor when “that’s what she said” interjections win over social circles just fine. Performing a stand-up routine is not something on your list of things to try this year and you are kind of past the “I’m going to be overly outgoing” shtick, yet the charming nature of being quick-witted is something you and the rest of us still find appealing.

In comes a collection of a couple hundred phrases and words that is not exactly a how-to book. In fact it was never meant to be a book at all. Years ago, a very good looking young gentleman, going by the pseudonym Upward, started noting remarks he found inherently playful and somewhat common in conversation for only his personal use, until recently when he decided to pack them up, add examples, and share them with the self-improving public. They are phrases to laugh at. Most of them you will recognize. Now you will have the lines in your metaphorical back pocket to nonchalantly pull out when needed. In essence, a manual to ease your l’esprit de l’escalier. Socially potent fire, if you will.

What readers are saying:

“Upward made a useful and hilarious book for every dilemma you may run into.”

“A very convenient and modern day social interaction guide for people like me who could use a little punch in the sentence.”

“Whether you are in the office or at a party….no line will ever escape you!”

The average Amazon reader review rating is currently 3.9 stars, with 9 reviews.

Click here to read more about and purchase Humorous Lines and Clever Interjections for Contemporary Flirting for $2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime at Amazon 

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: THE FATHERS WE FIND, Charles P. Ries {$0.99}

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Charles P. Ries’s Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of THE FATHERS WE FIND:

Set amidst the farm fields and rolling hills of Southeastern Wisconsin, THE FATHERS WE FIND is a coming-of-age story that takes place between 1950 and 1971. This novel based on memory closely parallels the experiences of its author who grew up on a mink farm just outside of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Drowning in a sea of nuns, priests, and hard-working church-goers, “Chuck,” our narrator, stumbles his way to enlightenment with help from a series of delightful men in a journey that is simultaneously hilarious, poignant, and nostalgic.

Following his father’s funeral, we find Chuck, a middle-aged man, sitting on the back porch of his parents’ farm home trying to remember, “how he got here, to this place.” His reflections take him back to his earliest memory, and his first job, at four years of age and the reward he would receive for becoming a little man. From there we find Chuck’s mother praying that God make her first-born child a soldier in His army. Which He does. God follows that up by making five more of Helen and Carl’s children recruits in His holy arsenal, causing parishioners to wonder if Helen and Carl might carry some sort of vocational virus. For some, this virus is a reason to draw near in hope of infection, and for others—well, it prompts them to run.

 

Accolades:

“Charles Ries’ novel The Father’s We Find reminds me of Frank McCourt’s (Angela’s Ashes, “Tis, Teacher Man) memoirs with their keen attention to character and strong voice. Ries’ characters’ voices are ring loud and clear, I can hear them calling, long after putting the book down. When I read a novel that resonates with my experiences, one wrought with so much care and detail, I know that this is a winner. When characters follow me for days after reading, when I’m sad to see the story end, I know this is true.” 

Karl Huston
Author of Inventory of Lost Things
Winner of Main Street Rag Poetry Book Competition

“Few authors capture the narrative voice with the perfect balance of self-deprecating humor and poignant insight that Charles Ries brings to THE FATHERS WE FIND. Ries’ account of a small-town farm boy set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War combines humor and heart to create a truly remarkable novel. The narrator stumbles his way to enlightenment with help from a series of delightful men in a journey that is hilarious and nostalgic.”

Camille N. Cline
Editor / The Literary Spa
Acquisitions Editor / Taylor Trade Publishing

“As promised, I read your book on this last trip. Read it in two nights, very late nights. That should tell you how much I liked it. You’re an incredibly good writer. I don’t, however, think it’s a novel; it’s a memoir and an excellent one. Maybe your saying “A Novel From Memory” really means memoir? Also, memoirs are supposed to be really hot now in the publishing field, so why not take advantage of the timing? I think this book is every bit as good as the James Herriott (English veterinarian) best-selling books, which are fabulous. I can actually see yours as a movie.”

Ellaraine Lockie
Author of Finishing Lines
Recipient of Six Pushcart Nominations
Winner of Over 60 Poetry Awards

“Charles Ries’ story of his youth and family life is full of colorful characters, evocative details, episodes both harrowing and humorous, and subtle wisdom. Every family – every life – should have a chronicler as honest, clear-eyed, and loving as Charles Ries.”

Larry Watson
Author of Montana 1948 + five other novels
Professor at Marquette University

I just finished your book. My heart is still warm from the “afterglow” of your book. You have me filled with the thoughts of those lessons that we all learn when we don’t really know we’re learning them. I did not know I was reading a great book until I was silently yanked in by the characters—and then I looked back and wondered how I got there. I read the last page three times—the first time as it flowed, second time for you and the third time for me. I always know a good book not only because it speaks directly to me, but also because I listen. I had to ponder a bit before closing the back cover. Now I need to know when you are going to publish, because I can’t wait to share it with friends—I already know who I want to give it to.

Tracy Weyers / Green Bay, WI


Reviews:

THE FATHERS WE FIND currently has a customer review rating of 5 stars from 5 reviews. Read the reviews here.

 

THE FATHERS WE FIND is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99

 

An excerpt from THE FATHERS WE FIND:

Beyond the predictability of my father’s work and prayer habits, there was one ritual he performed without fail. He blessed our beds. Each night after he’d washed and prayed, he’d come up to the two bedrooms on the second level of our home and make the sign of the cross over his children as they lay sleeping. Carrying a small glass bottle with a cross etched on the front, he sprinkled us with holy water. In his mind, he was showering us with a protective blanket of grace that would fill our room with angels and hover over us until morning. Most nights I was already fast asleep when he made his rounds, but on occasion just as sleep neared, I would feel a drop of holy water fall on my face or hand. It was a good feeling. An act of love that made the night safe. This rite of passage into the night was as sure as the sun rising in the morning. He’d silently come into the room I shared with my three brothers and bless our two beds. My father’s world was built on routines and rituals. They kept his feet on the ground. They made the world a safe predictable place for him and for us. In these silent acts of kindness he extended his heart. These were the hugs and kisses he never shared with us. Through this twilight ritual he came as close to touching our souls as he ever would and ever did.

HOLY WATER

I’d go through the same routine every time I visited. I’d tell him I loved him and then sit in silence looking at him. Waiting for him to say something. I wanted to run, but I owed it to him to stay there and say the words. He had earned at least that much respect. I repeated, “Dad, I love you,” one final time and saw what I thought was a trickle of tears coming from his eyes as he sat hunched and strapped in his wheelchair, unable to talk, his body shaking uncontrollably. I wasn’t sure if what I saw was the disease or a moment of real feeling. I had long given up on him, but still held out for a sign. I waited for the feelings buried deep within him to finally come out and breathe the same air with me.

As tears rolled down his cheeks I was certain I had finally seen him. I was certain that the curtain of his disease had parted for a moment and he was sharing something real with me. The view made me pity him all the more, but I could not reach down and find tears for him. I had stopped crying years ago. I would not weep for him now.

After a series of small strokes and following the administration of the Last Rites, he mercifully died. His eighty-eight year life was over. “What am I to feel? How am I to be? It’s my father, who just died.” But I felt nothing. He had taught me well. I now had a firm grip on my feelings. They were stored a million miles away where they could do me no harm.
______________________________________

My father was not a warm and fuzzy kind of guy, my brother Joe began his eulogy. He wasn’t a very playful person – he taught us how to work and all of my brothers and sisters know how to do that very well. I’ve learned some things are more important than being able to tell a good story or being able to entertain friends — things like integrity, sincerity, decency — in other words, faithfulness to one’s beliefs.

I waited for something to open me up. For some sweet memory to find me and send me my tears, but nothing came. I was still angry with him. Angry that I had to shut myself down. Angry that I couldn’t remember him hugging or comprehending me. I had no connection with this man other than the holy water he sprinkled on my bed each night.

Every Tuesday night and often on Sunday, my dad would go to St. Vincent de Paul meetings and then would go out to visit and help families in need. My dad wasn’t a do-gooder though because that implies superficiality. What he did, he did from his heart. He did what he did because of a deeply held belief that it was just the right thing to do.

As my brother continued, I stopped listening. I withdrew and looked forward to the after burial luncheon and drinking a few Brandy Old Fashions to my old man, the best minker that ever lived.

WHEN MEMORIES BEGIN

With closed eyes, I reached back and searched for my memories. The meaning of who I had become would be discovered by carefully remembering these building blocks of my nature.

A series of snap shots, smells, colors and dreams passed before me – the mysterious pieces of a boy on verge of becoming. Splashing in a puddle created by a late August storm with my younger brother. Feeling the close quarters of my dad’s 1949 Buick as the nine of us crowd together enroute to my Uncle’s for Easter Sunday dinner. Abducting my aunt’s poppy seed tort from the desert table and carrying it into a near by clothes closet so I could have all its creamy goodness to myself and then crying hysterically as my mother discovered me and liberated my friend from my intoxicated fingers.

Snap shots. Fragments of memory.

Green farm fields. The chirping of my father’s mink after weaning and the smell of pelting season. Snow forts, ice-skating in the swamp and my mother’s garden with its raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb and vegetables. The smell of bread baking in the kitchen. A world of constancy nestled in the heart of Wisconsin.

Our red brick house that stood next to my grandparent’s cream brick home. And next to our home my uncle’s and just thirty feet further south my aunt’s. We’d laughed and called it Riesville. Four homes along a black top country road populated with seventeen children and eight adults. The only things that ever changed were the weather, the seasons and our ages.

It felt as if we had always been here. My ancestors homesteaded this land 1810. Fresh off boat from Austria, my great great grandfather bought his stake in America. Two more generations of dairy farmers followed and then came my father who would raise mink rather then dairy cattle. Hard working, church going, frugal men and women who made good use of their time on earth.

The earliest days of my life were without surprise or pain. There was nothing to distinguish one day from the other. Until my eyes started to open and as natural as life itself, I began to see. And the life I remember began.
_______________

“Chucky, is the mail truck here yet?” my mother called from the kitchen.

“Not yet. I’m watching,” I called back. My nose pressed against the window that looked north toward my grandparent’s house. Their home, and Riesville’s large postal box, stood beneath an Oak Tree whose branches reached like protecting arms over the sky blue roof and soft yellow brick exterior of their house.

“Well, it’ll be here in a minute or two,” she replied.

I was old enough for my first chore. At four years old I was big enough to find a place in the factory of my father’s farm.

“I can see it! I see the mail truck,” I shouted as I raced through the kitchen and out the back door, running with short urgent strides. Propelling myself along a foot worn path that carried me and a procession of mail collectors before me through a sparse orchard of crab apple trees toward the mailbox into which all of the mail destined for Riesville was placed.

“You must be the new delivery boy?” a voice called to me from the mail truck.

“Yes sir. It’s my job.”

“Think you can carry all this stuff? You’re just a little guy,” I heard the voice say as a tanned arm reached out of the side window and placed the day’s news, bills and letters into my out stretched arms.

It was the commencement of my working life. It was the day I became a little man.

“Well look who’s here,” I heard my grandmother Mary say as I opened the screen door leading to her kitchen. “So, you’re in charge now, huh?” she said in her thick German accent.

“I’m in charge of mail,” I replied, holding the overflow bundle. Hugging it and making sure not one item escaped my embrace.

“I see that. Well you just put the mail there on the table and sit down,” she said pointing to the chair where she wanted her grandson to sit. “You look hungry. You have three more houses to go before lunchtime. You need some apple pie,” she said in a way that always sounded like an order.

“Grandma, I have mail to deliver now,” I tried to explain, letting her know I knew my job.

“You will. But first you get some pie. You work. You eat. Little men have to eat,” she said placing a wedge of pie in front of me from one of the four she’d set on the table to cool. It was my diploma to manhood – a quarter-pan-man-sized certificate of achievement. As I sat and took a fork full of the warm treat, I realized I wouldn’t complete my route until I’d finished her pie. As I ate, she talked to me in her short matter-of-fact sentences. “God gave us a good day. A good day for picking raspberries and canning tomatoes,” she said as she sorted the mail, not looking up until she had placed the day’s delivery onto four neat piles. She tied each pile with a piece of butcher’s twine and then took a long admiring look at the young man sitting at her table and nodded affirmatively, mentally noting that he was right on track to becoming a good, productive little Ries. Her gift of pie was God smiling on my life.

As I neared the end of my sweet tribute the phone rang, “Yes, Chucky’s here. Sure, he’ll have plenty of room for lunch. He’s busy with grandma now. We’re talking. We have business to do. He’ll be home soon. He has mail to deliver,” she said to my mother who’d called wondering where the new mail carrier had disappeared. With my plate now spotless, I got up and received an uncharacteristic hug from my grandmother and resumed my route. She’d laid the three bundles of mail in my arms, “you get moving now. Your mom’s got your lunch waiting. Scoot.”

I bounded out of the kitchen and saw my grandfather Peter coming up the gravel road that lead to the carpenter-shop, “better get moving Chucky, everyone’s wondering if the mailman thought you were a letter and mailed you to Green Bay.”

“Okay grandpa, I’m moving now. Grandma had pie for me.”

“I’m sure of that,” he said as he watched me make my way back along the path, through orchard and over a wide mowed field where we played softball.

I walked the final hundred yards to the far end of Riesville where I delivered my aunt’s and then my uncle’s mail. Knocking on each door, handing the bundle through the opening to a, “thanks Chucky, you want to stay for lunch.”

“Nope. I had pie at grandma’s. Now I have to get home for lunch,” I said as I sped back across the softball field and entered the kitchen where my six siblings were already half way through with their meal.

“All done?” my mother asked.

“Yup, done for this day.”

Well, take a seat and have some lunch or did Grandma fill you full of pie?” she said, seeing the telltale sign of early desert on the corners of my mouth and clinging to the front of my shirt.

It was my first day of work and my life’s first memory.

 

THE FATHERS WE FIND is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99

 

Connect with Charles P. Ries:

Author Website: www.charlespries.com

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Kat Fight, Dina Silver {$2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Dina Silver‘s Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of Kat Fight:

Readers everywhere will revel in this sharp-witted, well-meaning whirlwind in author Dina Silver’s hilarious new novel, Kat Fight. In her quest for love, Kat makes every wrong turn, juggling two men, one best friend, and her own deeply confused heart’s desires. Kat Porter is a consummate romantic, eager for her chance to find love and commitment. But after her boyfriend of four years, Marc, begins to grow apathetic and sends her calls straight to voicemail one too many times, Kat finally musters the courage to confront her so-called sweetheart, who seems more interested in dodging her than courting her. Though she’s no fan of ultimatums, Kat is at the end of her considerable wits, and lobs a massive one his way, completely confident that he’ll make the right decision when faced with losing her. He doesn’t. With radio silence from Marc, Kat’s lifelong dream of finding a husband and forging a family is decidedly on the skids. That’s when her childhood friend Julie steps in, forcing Kat on a blind date to help her move beyond the break-up. Not only does Kat botch the setup, she instead finds herself in hot pursuit of Julie’s love interest, Ryan Sullivan. A man who, in addition to literally taking her breath away, is the living, breathing personification of everything Kat wants in a husband. Can Kat connect with the man of her dreams without hurting two of the people she cares most about? At the same time, she must also contend with the quips of her beloved catty coworker Adam, her bi-polar boss Brooke, and a string of comic, unpredictable plot twists. All the while, Kat’s cheeky perspective and generous heart will leave readers adoring every moment of her journey while chuckling and cheering for the ever cute, razor-sharp Kat as she fights to land the love of a lifetime.

 

Accolades:

“Dina Silver does it again! Kat Fight seriously tickles your funny bone. Ms. Silver’s voice is upbeat, humorous and self-deprecating. A fun delightful read!” 

“It’s simply the kind of story that will entertain you, make you smile, and maybe even laugh at a few of your own mistakes.”


Reviews:

Kat Fight currently has a customer review rating of 4.5 stars from 29 reviews. Read the reviews here.

 

Kat Fight is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!

 

An excerpt from Kat Fight:

PROLOGUE

I’ve always wanted to get married. Not simply because I enjoyed fairy tales and layers of tulle at a young age – and I did – but because I truly wanted a husband and family of my own. My parents divorced when I was nine years old, leaving me desperate for my own chance at getting it right. A chance to meet my soul mate, fall in love, and stay committed. A chance to do things my way. A chance for a normal family with no screaming, no cowering children and no more loneliness.

And while I’ve held onto that dream like a child holds onto a ratty, drool stained blanket, I have never really obsessed about the particulars that are typically important to a bride. Things such as the gown, the flowers and the color scheme never entered into my imagination. So on my actual wedding day, I was a little surprised to realize how meticulously every detail had been attended to.
There I was, all dressed in white with a soft veil loosely brushing against the skin on my face, feeling blissful and resplendent. I wore a strapless satin sheath and in my hands was a bouquet of dark red roses. I started walking slowly towards my groom standing curiously far away from me at the end of the aisle. So far away, in fact, that I was having a difficult time focusing on his face. The more I walked the farther he seemed. I paused at one point to observe the people standing on either side of me on that gloriously sunny day and marveled at them smiling in my direction. It was finally my day. My chance.

Feeling much more secure, I closed my eyes for a second before continuing. When I opened them, I was lying on the lobby floor of my apartment building trying to remember what made me lose consciousness.

CHAPTER ONE:
Marc My Words

I burst off the elevator like a racehorse out of its gate, and run to my desk before Brooke realizes I’ve taken a two-hour lunch. I managed to get most of the groceries home before rushing back to the office, but I had to make one last stop on the way back to get Marc’s favorite salad dressing. Since the only things I’ve learned how to cook in my twenty-six years are baked potatoes, potato skins, spaghetti with jarred sauce and tuna salad – my kitchen is not equipped to make much else – so I knew when I planned this steak dinner for Marc that I would have a ton of shopping to do. I’m sweating as I dump the salad dressing in my desk drawer and then grab my phone and scramble to the conference room for a creative meeting. Adam stops me before I enter the empty room five minutes late.

“Where is everyone?” I ask him.

“Dave cancelled the meeting,” he says, delicately placing an Altoid on his tongue. “Which you would have known if you hadn’t fled the building earlier. You ran out of here like I did when I had that phantom farter in my Bikram yoga class.”

“I’m making dinner for Marc tonight, and work has been so crazy that I haven’t had any time to go to the grocery.”

He looks me up and down as if he doesn’t recognize me. “You’re making dinner for Marc?”

I nod.

“You’d have better success climbing Mount Everest in those dated wedges you’re wearing,” he says and points at my feet.

“Thank you,” I smirk. “But I’m honestly not in the mood for you at the moment. I love you, and I will see you later.”

“Tata,” Adam calls after me.

I finish my work by six-o’clock, and after one last stop to grab Marc’s favorite beer, I’m back at my apartment ready to make dinner. I live alone in Lincoln Park, a city neighborhood just a couple miles north of The Gold Coast area, where my job, and the offices of Lambert & Miller Advertising are located. A brief commute is a must for someone like me who has trouble being on time. My apartment is a microscopic habitat that isn’t referred to as a studio only because there is a cupboard-like kitchenette with doors that separate it from the main room. Besides that, it’s four hundred square feet of home-sweet-home. The unit is located in a century-old Chicago hi-rise that’s two blocks from Lake Michigan; however, my apartment is on the opposite side of the building and overlooks the much less serene Clark Street. This is nice because if I ever happen to sleep through my alarm, I can usually count on the #22 bus to grind its brakes outside my window and wake me up with that clatter instead. I try not to complain too much because at eight hundred bucks a month, the price is right, and I’ve suffered through enough roommates to appreciate any abode as long as I’m the only one living in it. Simple pleasures like my own leftovers in the fridge, my own socks on the floor, and my own long, brown hairy mess in the shower drain.

I asked Marc to come over at eight o’clock, so now I have roughly one hour to pan-sear two steaks, make two baked potatoes (my specialty), rinse and toss the salad, bake the Pillsbury Crescent rolls and soften the filling for the cannolis, Marc’s favorite dessert.

Things between Marc and I have been strained lately. He’s been so busy with work, that we haven’t spent any time alone together over the past few weeks. I’m hoping this dinner will not only give us time to reconnect, but also give Marc a renewed sense of appreciation for what we have. When he moved to Chicago for work last year, everyone assumed we’d get engaged soon after. Including me.

I initially fell for Marc in college, and I fell hard. He definitely brought out the best and the worst in me. I’d never fought with any boyfriends before Marc, so the few times I would find myself screaming at him about something, I was really surprised at my behavior because I hate arguing. I hate listening to people argue and I hate being in the middle of an argument. But after years of listening to my parents rip each other apart, I figured those were the struggles you had to endure for unconditional love. That to have someone care about you like that, you had to suffer a little bit too. “Some things are worth the fight, Kat,” my mom would tell me after one of her fights with my dad. Then they divorced.

But despite my arguments with Marc, there was always a lot of love between us. In fact, there were times when I thought no one else in the world would ever be capable of loving me as much as he did, even my own parents. If my parents truly cared about me, they never would have broken our family apart. They never would have made my sister and I choose whose house we wanted to go to for Thanksgiving – or who we’d rather have sitting in the bleachers during our ice skating show – or who we’d rather celebrate our birthday’s with. Choices that made my stomach turn. Choices that made me soak my floral bedspread with tears. Then Marc came into my life and repaired my heart; he loved me unconditionally at one time and I was wise enough to appreciate it.

My cat Curtis is shout-meowing at me, so I tear open a can of tuna and dump it in his bowl. At about five minutes to eight I decide to pour myself a glass of wine and heat up the cast iron pan. I double check the recipe book which confirms to heat the pan slowly, that way, by the time Marc gets here he can have a beer while I finish up the meal. Small, non-threatening billows of smoke begin to rise from the empty pan at about ten past eight, so I lower the flame. At eight-fifteen I send Marc a quick text, also non-threatening, asking what time he thinks he’ll be here. At eight-thirty I turn the flame off and call him at the office. There is no answer. I call back five minutes later in case he was in the bathroom or something. Still no answer. At nine o’clock, I put everything back in the fridge, send another text and microwave myself a baked potato. At nine-thirty I get a text from Marc saying that he’s in a meeting, and that’s when I begin to lose my shit.
“Can you believe him!?” I scream aloud, although Curtis and I are alone in the apartment. And despite the volume, he sleeps through my outburst.

My stomach churns into a tightly wound mess as soon as I realize that, once again, Marc has simply brushed me off like an annoying fly buzzing in his ear. As I bravely prepare to call him for the third time in twenty minutes, I wonder which of his canned excuses he might use this time: ‘Someone is in my office’ or ‘I’ve got another call’ were likely candidates, but I am determined nonetheless. I take a deep breath; I pick up the phone and dial his number again. I can feel the blood racing through my veins as the line rings and goes straight to voice mail.
“Unbelievable!”

My throat clenches as I pace the dusty hard wood floor of my tiny apartment before sitting on the couch. Then I take a sip of wine, a deep breath and snatch the phone from the table in front of me. Tears of frustration began to blur my vision, but I remain undeterred and repeatedly dial his number until I hear his voice on the other end.

“Marc Nolan,” he says curtly, as if it were one word.

“Where are you?” I blurt out.

“I’m at work, you just called me here,” he says.

I straighten my spine. “We need to talk,” I respond swiftly, shocked to hear both his voice and the apathy in it.

“Kat, I have someone in my office and I can’t talk now.”

I wasn’t surprised by his response, and in that moment the memory of countless other unreturned phone calls and texts come pouring down like a hailstorm. Like the time when my car died in front of Costco and I had to transport a trunk load of unbagged household crap into a taxi because Marc refused to answer his phone during the Bears game. And the time when I cooked lunch for him one Sunday and he never showed up. I sat and watched cheddar cheese congeal on two tuna melts because his phone was on vibrate. But I always forgive him because I love him. That’s what I do, and that’s what he expects from me. Why shouldn’t he?

“Then I’ll be brief,” I bravely interject, hoping he won’t hang up before I get everything out that I want to say. A fire has erupted inside of me as I stare at my empty kitchen. “I want you to leave me alone. I’m sick of your bullshit, Marc, so lose my number and don’t ever call me again,” I say as my hands begin to shake along with my lower intestine. Not exactly the confidence-laden monologue that I jotted down on the spiral notebook in front of me, but as the words exit my mouth, a wave of contentment washes over me.

 

Kat Fight is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!

 

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THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Slouching Towards Bellingham, Anneke Campbell {$2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Description of Slouching Towards Bellingham:

What if people saw the Virgin in a teen-age girl rather than a grilled cheese sandwich? Author Anneke Campbell works that premise here, wondering how we’d react 2012 years after the first virgin birth. The result’s deliciously reminiscent of a box of lemon bars—a little bit sweet, a little bit tart, and you can’t stop eating. (Or reading as the case may be.) She’s created a generous helping of wistful magic mixed with equal parts knowing satire–sort of Alice Hoffman meets Nora Ephron.


Accolade:

“An extremely well-written and vividly descriptive story, with glitches of sarcasm and the perfect amount of humor. I love that Campbell covers pretty much every imaginable reaction to a virgin being pregnant in a small American town in today’s climate: a doctor tries to find a viable scientific explanation, a journalist writes on op-ed on the girl drawing parallels to the financial industry, a teenage girl the protagonist’s age sets up a support group on Facebook… This is an incredibly imaginative, thoughtful, and beautifully-crafted book”

 

Reviews:

Slouching Towards Bellingham currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 5 stars from 13 reviews. Read the reviews here.

 

Slouching Towards Bellingham is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!

 

An excerpt from Slouching Towards Bellingham:

“What was that up ahead, slouching towards Bellingham, shaped roughly like a blue egg on matchsticks? Joe Dupree pushed his glasses up on his nose, shifted the mailbag onto his other shoulder, and picked up his pace. His right hip socket talked back at him louder than usual, which was to be expected in this weather, in the damp and threat of more snow. Could the egg be causing the footprints he’d been following, foot long and humanoid, as if from a creature dropped by a flying saucer, or, judging by the wheel tracks, let out of a truck on old Route 37?

Joe turned and walked up the first driveway of the Sycamore Hills Subdivision. He rang the bell and while he waited for a response, peered back over his shoulder, but his vision blurred the blue, and there flashed in his mind’s eye the prescription for new bifocals sitting on the mantel at home three months already. Because of his slow ways, here he couldn’t tell what he was seeing between the bare trees and bungalows. Something was up, this he knew from his internal weather, from an edge of alertness not caused by a thermos full of java.

Not that Joe was a superstitious man. He would be the first to tell you, his were sore but realistic bones. At work this morning, when the office manager recited the newest evidence of government cover-ups, with others throwing in their conspiracy theories, Joe said nothing. People believed what they wanted to believe, and all the talk could not assuage the underlying fear of more lay-offs and wage cuts, of a collapsing economy, of terrorism or natural disasters heading their way. It must be reassuring to believe that some devious persons were in control. A few of the other carriers could stick around for hours, deriving comfort from mouthing off, but he preferred to be out here under the open expanse of grey, with the quiet broken only by the rush of cars and barking of dogs.

The door opened to a man in a robe.

“Mornin’, Mr. Hogmeyer,” Joe said. “How ya doin’?”

“Could be worse, could be better.”

“Sign here, please?”

“Think we’ll have a white Christmas?”

“That’d be nice,” Joe agreed. He liked to be friendly, chat about the weather, ask after a relative or animal, although that was harder now his memory for names wasn’t as keen as it used to be, and less so since the switch of route two years ago. Walking the West Side for seven years, he had known most residents by name, dog and human. They knew his name too, and that he liked those home baked sugar cookies at Christmas, loading him up until he had to take the surplus to the Salvation Army. Along his new route, it seemed like fewer folks stayed home during the day. Except for Mrs. Deckart at the next house over, who might be waiting, reeking of strawberry perfume, wanting the mail delivered into her hands, which would fondle his, as she talked and talked, trying to keep him there. She would invite him in for coffee. Sorry, he would say, got my job to do.”


Slouching Towards Bellingham is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!

 

Connect with Anneke Campbell:

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