blog tour, books

Blog Tour: More Than the Game – Jenni Bara

Who loves bad-boy, Sport Romance?

We’re celebrating the release of Jenni Bara’s latest novel, More than the Game! Read on for more details and a chance to win a $25 Amazon e-gift card!

MTTG ecover

More Than the Game (Becoming and Evans #1)

Publication Date: September 14th, 2021

Genre: Contemporary Romance/ Sport Romance

Trending on social media is her nightmare.

Beth Evans, former Olympic golden girl, known for a national scandal and daughter of a rising political star, is more than happy to stay out of the spotlight, living life as a normal single mom in a small Jersey town. The last thing Beth needs is Twitter’s favorite bad boy–Marc Demoda–walking into her life to stir things up.

Marc lives for the three b’s; baseball, bars, and ball bunnies, until the unthinkable happened. An accident destroys his shoulder and his career, leaving him desperate to get back in the game. Too bad no one hires notorious bad boys to coach. With his reputation on life support, Marc finds his saving grace might be the feisty blonde he can’t get out of his head.

When pictures of Beth and Marc’s chance encounter blow up on Twitter, they strike a deal to avoid further scandals and fix their image. But even in the harsh public spotlight, their fake relationship begins to feel real. Beth’s growing feelings for Marc have her questioning if she can permanently handle the limelight, just as Marc wonders if Beth might mean more than the game.

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

Marc walked down the ramp over the dunes in front of his house with his water bottle, cooling off after his evening workout. He took a selfie and sent it to Austin, telling him to post it with a comment about keeping in shape. For fuck’s sake, he wouldn’t let anyone think he was getting fat. He pulled his shirt back on and leaned against the railing overlooking the Jersey coastline.

Who knew getting good media was so hard? When he’d been pitching, even bad press wasn’t that bad. He’d been patient with being called a drunk, a drug addict, a hothead, even a whorish disease-infested sleaze bag, but he drew the line at fat.

His eyes scanned the beach while he sucked in a breath of salt air. He sank into one of the two chairs he’d placed on the wooden planks, watching the runners who dotted the sand this time of night. Nothing caught his eye until he landed on slender, toned legs in a pair of tight Sideline shorts. The woman reached down to tie her shoelace, allowing him to catch a glimpse of her heart-shaped ass.

He swallowed, feeling relieved. For days he’d tried to drudge up interest in the women he met in bars and clubs, but he couldn’t. It had been years since he spent so many consecutive nights alone.

Seeing this woman, watching her bend down, Marc found himself interested. He smiled as he brought the water bottle up to his lips, but it stopped halfway to his mouth when the woman turned around, and he realized it was Beth. Shit. How had he not known this was the same woman he’d spent days uselessly trying to forget? He shook his head in frustration.

Ever since that night, when he’d been close to placing his lips on Beth’s, he’d spent most of his waking hours thinking about her. He couldn’t believe how badly he’d messed up by asking her to go out with him. He winced.

But he’d have to think about what that meant later if he wanted to catch up with her now. Marc left the bottle sitting on the chair’s arm and took off down the ramp towards the water.

“Beth,” Marc called, but she didn’t hear him. When he got closer and she still didn’t answer, it became clear she was ignoring him. No one ever ignored him–especially not women. Marc picked up his pace, putting himself in her path, forcing Beth to acknowledge him. Her eyes tracked over him, and his stomach tightened before she glanced away.

 “Marc,” she replied coolly. Her tone clearly showed her annoyance. He’d have to try harder.

“It’s beautiful this time of night,” he said awkwardly.

That was the best he could do?

He shook his head as he moved in step beside her, slowing his long legs to match her shorter strides.

“I usually enjoy it alone.” Her eyes took in anything and everything apart from him.

“Lucky you; now, you don’t have to,” he joked sending her a smile—knowing full well by her body language that she didn’t see it as lucky.

She didn’t even crack a grin back.

“I realize I owe you an apology.” Her glare turned softer as, at last, she snuck a glance at him, so he continued. “Beautiful women make men nervous and we say stupid things.”

“It’s been two weeks, and that’s the best you got?” She shook her head and tried to speed up, but he easily matched her pace.

“I was trying to ask you out for a drink or dinner or something, and it came across like I was trying to get you into bed. That’s not what I meant.” Those words felt strange coming out of his mouth. They were true now, but for most of his life that statement would have been a lie.

“You think I don’t know Marc Demoda’s reputation?” Beth rolled her eyes, but Marc almost missed his footing.

“You know who I am?” He made a poor attempt to keep the shock out of his voice.

“Of course.” Beth stopped suddenly and turned in the opposite direction. “This is where I head back. Enjoy the rest of your run.”

Marc stood frozen after her apparent dismissal.

In hindsight, it was obviously she knew who he was. His father had called her a VIP client, and his sister spoke about Beth as if Glory knew her. On top of that, repeatedly Beth called him Marc without him having to introduce himself.  But he’d assumed as soon as she discovered who he was, she would be falling over him like every other woman he met. She was so different. 

“Beth,” he called, taking off down the beach after her. She seemed not to hear him, or maybe she was ignoring him again, but that didn’t stop him. “Did Steve know too?” He slowed down and matched her stride again.

“Yes.”

“He didn’t care either?” Damn, kids were always impressed with him. She shot him a look that said, Are you kidding me?

“You’re definitely not going to be his pick for a teammate anytime soon.”

“I had an off night.” He couldn’t even blame it on his bad arm; it was her fault. “Normally I’m more impressive.”

“Marc, you flooded my kitchen and played bad baseball. That’s the extent of my impressive experience with you.”

“Then give me a chance to do better.”

“I’ve told you I’m not interested,” Beth sighed.

Couldn’t she spend some time getting to know him before she decided he wasn’t worth her time?

“Well, I am,” he huffed. Wow, that was his comeback? Maybe even given a chance, he wouldn’t impress her.  

“Why, Marc?” Beth stopped running and looked at him.

It was a good question, and one that he damn well wished he could answer, but he didn’t know. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. His eyes slid over her sweatshirt and then lingered on her hips. He reached for curl that had fallen out of her ponytail and tucked it behind her ear.

“I can think of a few reasons,” he said, his voice low and throaty. Without consciously deciding to, he’d fallen back into seduction mode.

Instead of backing away, Beth let her hand run down his arm before grabbing his wrist and pulling him closer, so almost no space existed between them. She stood up on her toes and let her mouth move to within a centimeter of his ear. His gut clenched as a jolt shot down his body and he licked his lips in anticipation of what she’d do. He finally had her.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

good reads

Even as a young child Jenni Bara would conjure up all kinds of tales with her endless imagination. She’s improved her skills since the days of scaring her younger cousins with ghost stories, but her love for books and stories has never changed.

In her everyday life, she is a paralegal for family law writing unhappily ever afters for people every day. So in turn she spends her free time with anything that keeps her laughing including life with her four kids, or five if you count her husband!

All joking aside she is blessed to have not only a very supportive husband but super supportive parents as well as a loving extended family always happy to share their opinions! 

Her favorites spots all have the best views of the sunsets and she loves to share the views through photos

Jenni Bara | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Giveaway: $25 Amazon e-Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Tour Organized By:

R&R Book Tours

books

Cover Reveal: Red Roses – Katie Ward

Today I’m sharing the cover reveal for Katie Ward’s upcoming book – Red Roses. Review coming soon. Read on for more info about the book.

Autumn is stuck in a rut and desperate to escape the fears that bind her to the life she’s grown to hate. Back home and living with her parents after university with a degree that seems to count for nothing, she knows something has to change. After a chance meeting with a stranger at the beach, she makes the spontaneous decision to move to Dublin and chase her dreams. However, what Autumn doesn’t realise is that she has just made the decision that will lead to her death. But does a short life have to mean an unsuccessful life? Will she be able to make it count? 

Red Roses is a compelling and uplifting story that shows the true beauty of life, love and friendship.

Amazon UK Amazon US

Publication Date: 31st October

Book trailer via YouTube

Katie Ward always knew she wanted to write for a living. However, she was told by her careers advisor that “it might be more appropriate for you to work in a shop”. When Katie didn’t get the grades she needed to get into college, she negotiated a three month trial. After successfully completing the course she secured a place at her first choice university to study Journalism. 

After realising she wanted to be an author, Katie moved to Dublin where she worked her way up from receptionist to Executive Assistant at Merrill Lynch. Katie continued to write in her spare time, submitting her short story into the “Do the Write Thing” competition being run by Irish TV show ‘Seoige and O’Shea’. This story was originally written when Katie was 14 after she was inspired by an article in her favourite teen magazine. Katie was the only non-Irish author selected to have her story published in an anthology of the same name which reached 19 in the Irish Best sellers List. Katie was also shortlisted for a competition judged by MAN Booker Prize winning author Roddy Doyle which was run by Metro Eireann newspaper. 

Katie currently lives in Devon with her cat (aka ‘Her Royal Fluffiness’) where she sings in a community choir and has recently taken up Archery. Katie’s favourite author has been Roald Dahl since she was a child as she loves the dark edge he brings to his books. On the flip side though, Katie loves Disney, magic, unicorns and a good rom com film at the cinema with her friends.

Twitter Facebook Website

blog tour, books

Blog Tour: Where We Are Tomorrow – Tavi Taylor Black

wherearewetomorrowBT copy

Welcome to the blog tour for award-winning novel, Where Are We Tomorrow by Tavi Taylor Black! Read on for more info and a chance to win a $25 Amazon e-Gift Card!

Untitled design(23)

Where We Are Tomorrow

Publication Date: May 31st, 2021

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/ Women’s Fiction

Publisher: TouchPoint Press

Alex Evans, a thirty-six year old touring electrician, discovers through an accidental pregnancy and then the pain of miscarriage that she truly wants a family. But to attempt another pregnancy, she’ll have to change both her career and her relationship; her partner Connor, ten years her senior, isn’t prepared to become a father again.

When Alex is implicated in an accident involving the female pop star she works for, she and three other women on tour rent a house together in Tuscany. While the tour regroups, confessions are made, secrets are spilled: the guitar tech conceals a forbidden love, the production assistant’s ambition knows no limits, and the personal assistant battles mental issues.

Through arguments and accidents, combating drug use and religion, the women help each other look back on the choices they’ve made, eventually buoying each other, offering up strength to face tough decisions ahead.

TRIGGER WARNING: MISCARRIAGE/ ADDICTION/ GRIEF 

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

Inside the concrete arena, programmed lights whirred and spun in rhythm; eleven thousand fans watched, mesmerized, as vibrant magenta and violet beams sliced through midnight black. On stage, the band regurgitated the same set as the night before, and the night before that. They’d performed the set in Mexico City and Guadalajara. As far south as Santiago and Lima. The road crew for Sadie Estrada’s Home Remedy tour knew each dip in volume, each drop in the beat. They knew exactly, down to the second, how much time it required to step outside and suck down a Marlboro. These time-zone travelers planned bathroom breaks by the songs’ measures; no one missed a cue to mute the stage mics, to hand out room-temp bottled water for set breaks, to pull up house lights.

Behind heavy velvet curtains, separated from the frenzied pace of the show, Alex unscrewed the cover of a moving light to expose the core: circuit boards and capacitors, motors connected to color wheels. Deep bass, feedback, and the fevered pitch of collective voices penetrated the curtain, the familiar, almost comforting reverberations of life on the road. Alex continued her diagnosis, removing the light harness as a mother removes a soiled diaper— routinely, with a touch of tenderness. While she located and replaced the broken part, she kept an ear to the music, alert to the final measure of the set, ready to repack her multi-wheeled toolbox, move on to the next city, set up again.

Alex ran the light through all its functions, testing and retesting once she’d replaced the gobo wheel. The body of the light panned and tilted, working fine. A small victory.

“Sure you know what you’re doing, little lady?” Alex turned at the familiar voice of the tour’s production manager.

“Funny,” she said. “Very original. For that, you get to help me put it away.” Alex waited for another barb, one about her not being able to lift the seventy pounds by herself, but Joe simply helped her flip and crate the unit, a harder task for him at 5’2” than it was for Alex, a good five inches taller.

The arena crackled in anticipation of the show’s climax. Thousands of voices swelled and surged, a unified congregation. The body of the moving light settled into the carved Styrofoam, and Alex tucked its tail inside the handle. As she slammed the case shut, Joe’s laminate got caught inside the box, and he was jerked down by the lanyard around his neck. He freed the latches and yanked it clear, smoothing the wrinkles from the photo of his two young children, a wallet-sized clipping he’d taped behind his backstage pass. Joe caught Alex eyeing the photo.

“When are you gonna give in and pop out a few yourself?” Joe asked.

Alex breathed slowly, letting a brief sadness settle into her body, though her face wore a practiced, blank expression. She gestured into the smothering dark, into the roar of the crowd and sweat-filled air. “And give up all this?”

 Amazon | BookshopIndieBound | B&N

About the Author

_IGP6937

Tavi Black lives on an island near Seattle where she designs sets for the ballet, works as the tour manager for a musical mantra group, and has founded an anti-domestic violence non-profit organization. Before earning an MFA from Lesley University, Tavi spent 14 years touring with rock bands. Several of Tavi’s short stories have been shortlisted for prizes, including Aesthetica Magazine’s Competition, and the Donald Barthelme Prize for Short Prose.

Tavi Taylor Black | Instagram | Kirkus Reviews | Indie Reader

Giveaway: Click the link below for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Tour Organized By:

R&R Book Tours

blog tour, books

Blog Tour: Cenotaphs – Rich Marcello

Cenotaphs copy

Welcome to the book tour for Cenotaphs by Rich Marcello! Read on for details and a chance to win a fantastic giveaway!

Cenotaphs FRont Cover FinalCenotaphs

Publication Date: July 26th, 2021

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

AFTER A CHANCE MEETING, AN OLD MAN AND A MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN CHART AN UNCONVENTIONAL PATH FORWARD.

When Ben Sanna, a contemplative retiree with a penchant for helping people, and Samantha Beckett, a secretive New York City hedge fund manager, meet by chance in a small Vermont town, they enter into a tenuous relationship. Over several weeks, Samantha and Ben open their pasts inch by inch, sift through their futures consciously, and come to terms with the strength and depth of their bond. A meditation on redemption told in alternating chapters of musings and scenes, Cenotaphs is about platonic love; the ways we close ourselves off in reaction to pain and what happens when we open ourselves up again; and the deep, painful legacy of loss.

Add to Goodreads

A SORTING

The parts recur––the son, the lover, the husband, the father, the friend, the citizen. They come in whispers and fragments, in the unwinding of memory. They come in your smile, in the laughter of our children, in nightmares, in bursts of violence against once precious objects. How do you gauge the parts of a life? Did I perform any of them well? How do you summon them into an unfettered whole?

I am old now. I’d hoped I would’ve figured out a few answers by this point, but the truth is I spend more time each day watching the Red Sox than thinking about such things. In the summer and fall, the games are on every day, often twice a day, and watching them gives Zeke and me something to do. Something zen exists about the game, something appealing to me as I age, something about the stillness, the waiting, the bursts of energy, all mimicking the best and worst times in life. And I like the red, blue, and gray uniforms. They remind me of a more structured time.

Zeke, a big black, brown, and white mutt I rescued about ten years ago, keeps me company in our cabin. When I first got him, he liked digging holes in my yard, searching deep and dirty, with only a rare unearthing. His record: twenty-two holes. Twenty-two! In one of them, he found an empty wine bottle, message-less. Now, Zeke mostly sleeps in the same worn spot on the living room rug. I’m not sure which one of us will die first.

Available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble

About the Author

IMG_4294

Rich is the author of five novels, The Color of Home, The Big Wide Calm, The Beauty of the Fall, The Latecomers, and Cenotaphs, and the poetry collection, The Long Body That Connects Us All. He also teaches creative writing at Seven Bridges’ Writer Collaborative. Previously, he enjoyed a successful career as a technology executive, managing several multi-billion dollar businesses for Fortune 500 companies.

As anyone who has read Rich’s work can tell you, his books deal with life’s big questions: love, loss, creativity, community, self-discovery and forgiveness. His novels are rich with characters and ideas, crafted by a natural storyteller, with the eye and the ear of a poet. For Rich, writing and art making is about connection, or as he says, about making a difference to at least one other person in the world, something he has clearly achieved many times over, both as an artist, a mentor, and a teacher.

Rich lives in Massachusetts with his wife and Newfoundland Shaman. He is currently working on his sixth and seventh novels, The Means of Keeping and In the Seat of the Eddas, a follow-on to The Latecomers.

Rich Marcello | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Click the link below for a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card! (E-Card)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Tour Organized By:

R&R Book Tours

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: After The Rising & Before The Fall – Orna Ross

ORNA ROSS is an award-winning writer, an advocate for independent authors and other creative entrepreneurs, and “one of the 100 most influential people in publishing” [The Bookseller]. She writes novels, poems and nonfiction guides for creatives, and is Founder-Director of two popular online communities, the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and The Creativist Club. She lives in London and writes, publishes and teaches around the globe. When not writing, you’ll probably find her reading.

Website Twitter Facebook Instagram

My thoughts: I’ve spent a lot of time studying the early 20th century – the First World War, the Russian revolution, but curiously never the Easter Rising of 1916 in Ireland and the turbulent events that followed. It doesn’t even get mentioned. Which is weird considering how many people I know with Irish parents and grandparents, North London has a huge Irish community, but we learnt virtually nothing about our nearest neighbour and the first victim of the British desire for empire.

“The Irish Question” goes all the way back to the Tudors, Henry VIII was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (a job Churchill would later hold during the 1920s, when parts of this book are set).

Moving back and forth in time, Jo slowly unravels the secrets and sadness hidden in the heart of her family. Her grandmother’s fervent Republicanism, the tragic death of her brother Barney, the suffering of Auntie Norah, and why her mother was so horrified when she fell in love with Rory O’Donovan.

Jo’s relationship with her mother – Mrs D, is fraught with barely concealed anger, they’re so alike they clash constantly, and the past continues to intrude into their lives. The history that shaped the Republic of Ireland also shaped the family, and left them with wounds that haven’t healed.

Jo is fiercely independent and it is only when going through the letters and diaries her mother bequeaths her, finding out how the turbulent years of the early 1900s impacted her family so directly, that she starts to realise that it’s ok to need people, like her sister Maeve.

Book three, In The Hour, is due out next year and fills in more of the missing story of Jo’s family, this time of her absentee father. This is an epic and powerful, moving family saga, that is also an incredible history of Ireland, something that should be more widely taught and learnt from.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Bridge Across the Ocean – Jack B. Rochester

Jedediah Smith, Luke Lin, David Bondsman and Rick Saundersson have created the most innovative bicycle drive in history: The Spinner, a technologically advanced device that produces and stores its own energy without using batteries. It’s 2011, and it’s ideally positioned for the just-emerging city bike market, and the world’s largest bicycle maker located in Taiwan is interested. Just before they are to leave for Taipei to discuss a licensing agreement with Joyful Bike, Luke is struck down while cycling and killed by a hit-and-run driver. Although heartbroken, the three friends decide to continue with their business travels, taking Luke’s fiancée Suzie Sun with them. At Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, the group encounters two Japanese agents of business espionage who don’t know what they have, but nevertheless want to steal it. The “information worms” pursue the cyclists to Taipei, where the stakes grow even higher and a battle of espionage ensues. The guys begin negotiations with Joyful’s director of business development, Jung-Shan Lai. She takes them cycling on Joyful bikes through Taiwan’s breathtaking scenery as they continue to thwart the attacks of the information worms. Jed promptly falls in love with Jung-Shan, and she with him. Will the team be able to secure and finalize their business deal with Joyful Bike? Will the agents of business espionage ride away with the stolen bicycle drive intelligence? Will the three friends get justice for Luke’s tragic death? Will Jung-Shan and Jed work out their cross-cultural love affair?

An eclectic mix of genres, Bridge Across the Ocean breaks through fiction stereotypes, thanks to the author’s engaging story that opens the door to a diverse readership. Bridge Across the Ocean by Jack B. Rochester is anaction-packed, adventurous story fraught with its share of suspense and what-happens-next, IP espionage, business and technological innovation, and a moving love story. An avid cyclist for more than 30 years, author Jack B. Rochester combines his love of cycling with his love of writing in his fourth novel. “This is a book about love,” he says. “It’s a story about four intelligent business innovators’ love of bicycles and cycling; the love by all parties of technological innovation; and a love between two people and the importance of unconditional love between all people.” To support his message and bring awareness to cycling safety, Rochester will be donating all royalties from Bridge Across the Ocean to organizations promoting bicycling safety.

As a grad student, JACK B. ROCHESTER longed to see a book with his name on the cover. Today, it’s on 16 books and counting. He launched his career as a business book editor and guided 65 authors’ books into print. With the publication of the bestselling The Naked Computer, he launched his editorial services company, Joshua Tree Interactive. He wrote three college textbooks and many more business books until 2004, including the publication of his nonfiction swan song, the internationally acclaimed Pirates of the Digital Millennium, co-authored with John Gantz. In 2007, Rochester turned to writing fiction full-time. His Nathaniel Hawthorne Flowers literary trilogy was published by Wheatmark (available in paperback, Kindle, Audible). He’s currently working on two distinctly different novels and a short story collection. You can follow his writing and read his alternating blogs, Saturday Book Review and My Brain on Grape-Nuts, at JackBoston.com, his innovative website. Today, Rochester spends a lot of his time mentoring writers, counseling writers one-on-one and in writing workshops across the country – er, the internet. With Caitlin M. Park, he’s the co-founder of The Fictional Café, an online ‘zine publishing fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, fine art, photography, and fictional podcasts for nearly 1K subscribers in 67 countries. The Strong Stuff: The Best of Fictional Café, 2013-2017 was published in a limited edition in 2019. A new edition featuring work from 2018-2020 will be published soon. Rochester earned his Master’s degree in Comparative Literature from California State University, Sonoma. He grew up in South Dakota and Wyoming, and spent 15 years on the West Coast. He and his wife split their time between Boston, MA and Florida. An avid cyclist, he owns five bicycles. As he likes to say, no moss grows beneath his feet.

Video from the author

Giveaway – to win a copy of Bridge Across the Ocean, just answer this question below: which character’s death happens just before the planned trip to Taiwan? (US only, book will be sent by the publisher directly to the winner, closes 17th September)

The Ride – Excerpted from Bridge Across the Ocean

Excerpted from Bridge Across the Ocean by Jack B. Rochester. Copyright © 2021 Jack B. Rochester. Reprinted with permission from Jack B. Rochester. All rights reserved.

After breakfast, the four went back to their rooms to change into their cycling clothes. Jed, entering the hotel lobby, found Jung-Shan in Team Joyful pink-trimmed black cycling shorts and a pink-and-mauve jersey. She looked at him over her shoulder, then turned to face him and smiled. She was breathtaking to behold, her feminine curves gracefully pronounced by skin-tight spandex.
“Not polite to stare, Jed,” said Jung-Shan, giving him a coquettish smile. “Where is yours?”
“My . . . mine? My what?” he spluttered.
“Your helmet. Your gloves.” She pointed at a table. “Oh, look! They are right here. You see, I am taking care you.” She gave him a mischievous grin.
“Ah, yeah,” he stammered. “Thanks.”
Holding the door open, she said, “The others are waiting for their captain outside,” delighting in the effect she had on him. Jed grabbed his helmet and gloves and hurried past her.


Wei-Ting drove them from the Serenity Garden inn to Longshan Riverside Park to begin their day’s ride. The early August morning was already hot and quite muggy, but once the bikes were rolling the riders cooled right down. Following Jung-Shan’s lead, they pedaled the wide paved bikeway north alongside the Tamsui River, warming up, getting a few muscle kinks stretched out. All around them people walked, pushed strollers, sat on benches smoking, gazed at river boats, practiced the ancient Chinese movements known as Taijiquan on the lawns. Cyclists of every ilk rode bikes of every ilk: kids on BMXs, women on rusty clunkers with wire baskets filled with fruits and vegetables, young men on racing bikes streaking along, teenaged girls pedaling in twos and threes, three-wheeled bike-carts transporting cartons of commerce and who knows what else, all cruising along with utter disregard for a left-right traffic flow.
They rode northwards, following the river, feeling the travel tension diminish. The bikes were performing flawlessly. David said, “Hey guys, what do you think of the carbon fiber?” Jed and Rick raised their fists in approbation. “I think we ought to look into this when we get back home.”
Jed said, “I keep saying this! I don’t know why we haven’t already.”
“But I told you, a CF fab shop is gonna cost a lot of money,” said Rick. “It’s a whole different process. Lots of handwork.”
David said, “That’s true, Rick, but the cycling world is moving toward CF and we ought to, too, before we become heavy-metal dinosaurs. I remember seeing the first CF bike back in the mid-eighties. A Kestrel, I think. A few guys in the MIT Cycling Club had ‘em. In fact, I rode a guy’s once, a Specialized. I wasn’t overly impressed at the time, but this Joyful bike is turning my head.”
Jed smirked to himself, Yeah, like Jung-Shan is turning mine.
She rode breakaway, five to ten meters in front of the guys, but always close. Her long hair, pulled into a ponytail, fanned in the breeze at her back. Jed had no trouble keeping his eyes on her.
They drew deep breaths to oxygenate their blood, all the while laughing, swilling water, grabbing the lead from one another while taunting the others to catch up, but never once getting ahead of Jung-Shan. They rode through Yanping Riverside Park, where fully clothed people lay sunbathing on the manicured lawns. A young guy with long hair flew a radio-controlled helicopter with great skill, making it dive and swoop and climb, flipping it to hover upside down. A photographer with several cameras slung around her neck shot pictures of three college-age kids, two girls and a guy, wearing matching team kits as they stood astride their bikes. They rolled on, crossing the Tamsui on a bridge ramp designated for bicycles. Rick called out, pointing ahead, “Hey, Jung-Shan, isn’t that the Grand Hotel?” She raised two fingers in
a V and wagged them. Yes.
They rode kilometer after kilometer along the Tamsui until they reached the bright red double-arched Guandu Bridge. Traffic was heavy. “Please be careful and stay in one line behind me,” Jung-Shan called out. They crossed to the east side of the river and turned north on Longmi Road, stopping at a rest area on the Gold Coast Bicycle Path where food stands congregated in a grove of banyan trees. Outdoor toilets designed for a person and their bicycle stood nearby. Rick said, “I gotta take a picture of this!”
They continued riding through the Mangrove Preserve, crossing over little wooden bridges, the swamps below filled with birds, sharing the trail with scooters, dog-walkers, jitneys and bikes. Boats of all types navigated the river, shimmering in the bright sunlight. Cruising around the BaLi District, Jung-Shan pointed out the beautiful Hanmin Shrine, where they turned and rode back to the BaLi Pier and took the ferry across the river to the Tamsui District, New Taipei City.
The town was filled with interesting shops but the streets grew increasingly narrow, shared equally by cars, scooters, bikes, and jaywalkers. Jung-Shan popped out of her clipless pedals and stopped. “I suggest we walk our bikes.” Even that was difficult: the sidewalks were overrun with tourists, shoppers, scooters. They ate some street food for lunch, little gua bao sandwiches with a slice of pork and a sprig of greens inside, and refilled their water bottles at the 7-Eleven across Zhongyang Road.
Jung-Shan said, “If anyone is tired, the Danshui MRT station is near. We can ride the train back to Taipei. Bikes are allowed.” The guys cried “NOT!” in unison. They remounted and eventually were riding north again, heading toward where the Tamsui flows into the Strait of Taiwan. The river was enormously wide here; they stopped to caffeinate at a Starbucks where they could gaze upon its mighty effluence.
Jung-Shan, “Come. I will show you something special.” They swung back on their bikes, still heading north, pedaling along a narrow spit of land with the Tamsui on their left. A beautiful bridge came into view on the right. “This is called Damsui Lover’s Bridge,” she said. It was pure white, suspended by cables from a single gracefully curved wishbone-shaped tower. “Ready to go across?” she said, smiling. “We must walk our bikes.”
“Why do they call it a lover’s bridge?” asked Rick.
“The bridge construction started on a Valentine’s Day,” she said.
“I thought I heard you call it Dam-shoey,” said David.
“Yes. Often there are many ways to spell in English,” she said.
“Danshui, Damsui, all means the same thing as Tamsui. They can sound the same when you speak.”
“We have some names like that, too,” said David. “Like, the English spell the name of Köln, Germany, differently than the Germans do.
They—we—write it like the perfume, Cologne. I know there are lots of other examples.”
“Peking,” said David. “Beijing.”
“Tao, Dao,” said Jed.
Crossing the bridge, they turned south and rode back to the Tamsui District. Jung-Shan stopped them at the MRT station plaza and said, “OK, if you are warmed up, want to have some fun?” Straddling her bike she tilted her head, grinned, and shook her handlebars back and forth.
That got a laugh. “Sure!” said Rick. “What have you got in mind?”
“Follow me and you will see!” she said as she clicked back into a pedal and pushed off.
They rode a few blocks south, then Jung-Shan signaled for a left turn. There was a fair amount of traffic, discouraging much sightseeing. Soon they were moving away from city congestion on Denggong Road, which became increasingly rural. The road went up and down—more up than down—tracing a route through hills and valleys as it turned south. Then it became steeper, narrower and more twisty. They took a sharp right turn onto Fuxing Road and began climbing in earnest. Homes and Buddhist shrines sprouted out of the thick semi-tropical forest on the mountain slope; no guardrails prevented a sheer drop on the opposite side. Jung-Shan was still leading, constantly downshifting and standing to pedal the more strenuous climbs. Although it was enticing to watch her lithe body in motion—the smooth rise and fall of her pumping leg muscles, the gentle sway of her hips, her beautiful shimmering pony tail dancing behind her—but the guys instinctively knew everyone had to take their turn pacing the ride. They rounded a nearly 180-degree turn and began another steep climb that slowed all four of them. David called out, “I got it,” and jumped into the lead.
Jung-Shan got right on David’s rear wheel and began drafting him. “Thank you,” she puffed. They formed a single line and took turns in the lead, one after another, sustaining the wind pocket to help each conserve energy. One rider pumped away for a minute or two, then dropped back for the next rider to lead the paceline. Not only did everyone begin to feel better, but the klicks went by much faster. At last they crested the final mountaintop where they stopped to rest, hydrate and take in the view of the rivers and the vast valley below.
“There is Taipei, of course,” said Jung-Shan, pointing. “The small river flowing east to west is the Keelung. We will ride to it. The larger one to the right is our old friend the Tamsui.”
“Awesome,” said Rick.
“Far away you see the mountains?” she said, pointing east “There is Yangmingshan National Park. I love to go there. Once it was a place of living volcanoes!” She swung her arms into the air. “Many rare flowers grow there. Nice place to stay longer.” She stretched her arms up again,
then out, up, and rotated her shoulders. “OK, all ready for the gift of the mountain?”
“Gift? What gift?” said Jed.
“Every mountain that goes up also comes down. We have now earned our ride down. Please be careful for cars on our narrow road. It is just like the road up. When we reach the bottom, we will arrive in Beitou. It is a nice town with the culture of mineral hot springs for enjoyable health bathing.”
“Hey, crazy,” said Rick. “I would love to do that! All us would, right, guys?”
“Rick, you are probably only crazy one,” said Jung-Shan, laughing, and they all joined in.

The ride down was exhilarating, scary, fun, both hands on the brake levers all the way. They cruised into busy Beitou, its streets clogged with the usual mix of auto, scooter, bicycle and pedestrian traffic. The guys wanted to linger, just to pedal alongside the hot springs stream
and the boardwalk beside it where pretty Taiwanese girls strolled with their colorful parasols, but it was late in the afternoon and Jung-Shan said they should keep going.
They followed Daya Road south out of Beitou, eventually crossing a bridge over the Keelung River. They rode a short distance to the Dajia Riverside Park, filled their water bottles and sat on the lawn to rest. Jung-Shan pointed back across the river. “What do you see, Rick?”
“Oh, wow, there’s the Grand Hotel again! What a great day! Awesomely great riding and scenery and, wow, just fun!” said Rick. “It’s different here, but it’s not. I don’t know . . . you know?” He looked helplessly at David and Jed.
“I think I speak for all three of us,” said Jed, looking at David and Rick, “but Jung-Shan, this Dragon Fire carbon fiber is just, well, I can’t say it in a single word. Your frame design engineering is exceptional. The CF ride’s smooth, really absorbs the road. It handles beautifully;
no work. It’s fast, and it responds instantly. I thought our Smithworks bikes were about the hottest bikes on the market, but this Dragon Fire beauty . . . and yeah, it’s beautiful, too. It might be as good as our titanium bike with the same gruppo.”
“Maybe better,” said David.
“Yep, I would agree,” said Rick, “Maybe. Even. Better.”
“So I guess that means we’re in agreement,” said Jed, “we look into carbon fiber when we get home?” They nodded.
Turning toward Jung-Shan, Jed said, “What are we doing tonight?”
“We are having dinner,” said Jung-Shan.
“Sounds good!” said Rick. “I could eat a horse.”
“Oh, Rick! You eat horse?” said Jung-Shan, her eyes widening in mock surprise. More laughter. “At dinner we will be joined by Derek.”
“To discuss security, I imagine,” said Jed.
“No, Jed. I told you before, no business talk while sharing a meal. But I am concerned about what happened at One Path,” she said. “What if we were discovered?”
“I’m a little worried about that, too,” said David, “but I have no idea what we can do about it.”
“Except wait and see if it happens again, I suppose,” said Jed.
“This is not the first time we have had problems with information worms. I have told you this before, too. You will be surprised when you learn how well prepared we are to protect you,” said Jung-Shan, getting to her feet. She brushed grass off her shorts and headed toward the bikes. Jed watched her walk away. Every step. Rick gave him a poke and a wink, and Jed got up.
“How long will it take us to ride back to the inn?” David asked as they put on their helmets.
“Oh, one hour, perhaps,” said Jung-Shan. “Can you make it?” She smiled, not serious.
“Of course we can,” said David. “We’re used to four- and five-hour rides. In fact, we were out on a hundred-miler with major mountaingoat climbs just before we left . . .”
The silence that followed spoke for itself. Thoughts of Luke drifted back. Jed replayed the crash scene in his head, a bad, bad movie. He shook it from his thoughts.

Wei-Ting was waiting for them at the Longshan Riverside Park, squatting with two other men, all of them smoking and talking and laughing. He jumped to his feet as they rode up and quickly walked to Jung-Shan. She spoke to him briefly; he nodded, ran to open the Jimmy’s rear hatch and began stowing their bikes.
Jung-Shan drew the guys together and said, “Wei-Ting informs me he is confident he has not been followed today. This is a good sign. Perhaps the information worms have not been able to find us after leaving One Path.”
“You can just say we shook them off our tails, like American cowboys would say,” said Rick, grinning.
“I thank you for teaching that to me, Rick. I’m sure it is simple to translate into Chinese,” she said with a withering smile. “Shook them off our tails.”
But they had not.

My thoughts: starting with a shocking event – one that rocks the characters and changes their plans, this is an interesting story about culture clash – between the US and Taiwan, and how we should learn from each other.

There’s also conspiracy and intrigue, corporate espionage, tests to the friendship between the three men and a love story. Something for every reader really. I don’t know a lot about cycling – I own a bike, but couldn’t even tell you what kind (thanks Cycle to Work scheme). But you don’t need to be into the cyclist’s lifestyle to enjoy and appreciate this book at all.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Wolf in the Woods – Dan Brotzel

Colleen and Andrew haven’t had sex in eleven weeks and three days [not that anyone’s counting]. Their marriage is in crisis, they’re drinking too much and both have secrets they’re afraid to share. 

A teetotal week in a remote cottage could solve all their problems. But with the promised beach nowhere in sight, a broken-down car and a sinister landlord, they may not find it so easy to rekindle their romance. In this dark and funny novel, tensions build and tempers fray.

Dan Brotzel’s short stories have won awards and been published widely, with Hotel Du Jack, his first full-length collection, published in 2019. He is also co-author of a comic novel-in-emails about an eccentric writers’ group, Work in Progress (Unbound). The Wolf in the Woods is his debut novel.

Dan lives in London with his partner Eve and their three children.

My thoughts: this is a slightly strange story – mostly because of Wolf, the overly friendly owner of the cottage Colleen and Andrew rent for a week. He’s forever popping in with items of food, some advice, the offer of a lift after their car breaks down, a friendly chat. But he seems to know all sorts of private things about them and becomes increasingly sinister as the week goes on.

Neither Colleen or Andrew are exactly happy, she’s fantasising about running away with Gerry from drama school, he’s too busy cogitating on words and their pronunciation to pay real attention to his marriage. Neither of them want to discuss their problems – the drinking, the estranged son, the fact that they’re miserable.

I’ve stayed in lots of holiday cottages but I don’t remember any of the owners being this visible (except when it was my aunt and uncle’s cottage) and annoying. Wolf and his sister/wife (!?!?!) are really odd too – living in such a remote place, mentioning things but never explaining them – who is Jilly? What’s wrong with Hildy?

This increasingly descends into very black comedy and the beginnings of a horror story where Wolf and ‘Mrs Wolf’ are serial killers or something. The woods are not always full of teddy bears having picnics, sometimes there are wolves…

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books

Blog Tour: To Be Enlightened – Alan J. Steinberg

Enlighyened copy

Welcome to the tour for “cosmic love story”, To Be Enlightened by Alan J. Steinberg. Read on for details and a chance to win a $100 Amazon e-gift card!

Copy of To Be Enlightened book coverTo Be Enlightened

Publication Date: February 27, 2021

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/ Literary Fiction/ Romance

To Be Enlightened is a cosmic love story that follows Professor of Philosophy Abe Levy as he grapples with what it means to love both his wife, Sarah, and the ocean of silence within. It is also an intellectual exploration of the most intimate of subjects: our consciousness.

Abe Levy’s long tenure as a philosophy professor has motivated thousands of students to ponder age-old questions in light of New Age ideas. Though Abe is passionate about his teaching, he is obsessed with a powerful childhood dream of heaven. To return to that heaven, he must reach enlightenment in his lifetime. Day after day, Abe settles into deep meditation, reaching the very cusp of his goal but unable to cross the threshold. Desperately, he commits to doing whatever it takes, even if it means abandoning his wife for a more ascetic life-a decision that sets off a cascade of consequences for Abe, Sarah, and those he loves the most.

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

Vedic wisdom holds that during the forty-eight minutes prior to sunrise, which is called the Brahma Muhurta, a wave of purity and balance sweeps through the world, gently waking it up, along with the birds and other animals. I sip my coffee, enjoying the silence and morning calm. About fifteen minutes before sunrise, the birds start singing praises, enlivening and infusing the atmosphere with optimism for the approaching day. The transition rarely fails to uplift me.

A high-pitched fluttering followed by a distinctive buzzing draws my attention. I look up to see a large, shiny purple hummingbird hovering about a foot above the center of the table, looking at me as if wanting to speak. It flits its beak up, down, and sideways, and—zip! It’s gone. I don’t remember ever seeing a hummingbird so close. I sit for a moment. I know that hummingbird! I’ve seen her many times before in my dream. But she was always a bee.

I do asanas and pranayama and then walk toward our bedroom for my morning meditation. The hummingbird gets me thinking about omens. If there really are omens, does it mean that God communicates with us only at specific, special times? Or is it that at certain times we become still enough to precipitate an omen? Maybe there are always omens and we aren’t aware enough to appreciate them? I bet it’s even more complex than that. I adjust my pillows for meditation. In a half lotus, my eyes close.

Mantra, mantra, maaaantra, mmmannntraaaa, maaa…mantra emerges from shimmering pool, drop of water in reverse. Mantra, mantra, mmmmaa…the place on surface of pool where mantra will emerge begins to move, vibrate…I am observing and hearing the mantra’s emergence from my consciousness. It is separate from the real Me, the observer…The school’s administrative board has asked me to head the search committee for a new chief of campus security. I don’t know anything about security. I’m not going…I observe that thought, and this thought, arise in the same way the Mantra emerges.So interesting…Mantra, mantra, mantraaaaa, maaaantra…surface of pool, no ripples, no thoughts, no feelings coming from body or mind, endless…one side, silent awareness; other side, activity. Mantra, maantraa, mmmmm…mantra barely tickles my expansive surface…Bliss surges through body, mind. Bliss is caused by awareness of subtle disturbance at junction between…Mantra, mantra, mantraaaaa, mmmmmmaaaaaaa…flowing outward, all directions; I am a boundless, luminous mirror between my self and my Self… Mmmaaaa…mmmm…maaaaa…I am the surface of the ocean, impossibly still, deafeningly silent…needing to let go…ready to let go…fearing loss…Mmmmmmmm…decision made, must go forward, will go forward…surrendering all I thought I was for what I am…individuality dissolves: raindrop, ocean…

I am.

I am—the vast, unbounded ocean of consciousness. I am—unmoving wholeness. I was never that body or that mind. I have been observing Abe Levy since the moment he was born, and much, much longer than that. I am—at peace. I am—now awake. I was sleeping before. I can see the sun and the planets clearly. They are so dear to have nurtured Mother Earth, allowing her to birth humanity. I notice distantly that my body is glowing. Time is immaterial and has lost its grip on me…

* * *

Back in my body, I look over at my bedside alarm clock. More than an hour has gone by. I lie down to rest and a deep sleep envelops my body and mind, though I am awake, aware, and witnessing.

I get up and put on my robe. Something is very, very different. It’s as if I am still meditating even though my body and I are active in the world. I am in two places at the same time—the unbounded ocean of consciousness and the bounded world of activity and senses. I have never, ever, felt so good and so focused. I walk to the kitchen, but I don’t seem to be moving.

It happened. The thought comes that I should be jumping with joy, but I’m past that. A more pressing, evolving issue appears to be whether my body can contain my joy. I close my eyes and watch as thin, sparkling beams of Bliss increasingly poke their way through the shell that is my old body, shining out from my new one in a myriad of luminous, waving threads of various lengths and hues. The brightest and most numerous ones are congregated around my solar plexus and the top of my head. The weirdest part of all is that I’m not surprised or concerned by this in the least.

I make oatmeal with whole milk, dried cherries, roasted almond slivers, cinnamon, cardamom, and a hint of nutmeg. I notice something is gone. I am not, in general, an anxious or fearful man, but I now realize I had significant anxiety and fear all my life. I know this because, for the first time, I am completely without those constant companions. Along with my anxieties and fears, my worries about leaving Sarah to go to Fairfield have evaporated. I don’t have to go anywhere now. I am where I have always wanted to be. I’m Here. The weight of responsibility that I had shouldered in guiding Sarah around her triggers has lifted. I think that I can now lovingly support her without feeling bogged down or burdened.

I shower, shave, dress for class, and it all seems to happen automatically, as if I’m uninvolved in the process. I was somewhat intellectually prepared for this, but even after over fifty years of meditation, I’m not prepared experientially. This will take some getting used to.

Walking to my office, the world is delicious. The singing birds are part of me, thrilling me thoroughly from the inside with our perfect twittering. My heart sings with them. My body hums with a hymn as my feet beat the rhythm into the sidewalk.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

Alan Steinberg

Alan J. Steinberg, MD is board-certified in Internal Medicine and practices with the Cedars-Sinai Medical Group in Beverly Hills, California. He also serves as one of the attending physicians for the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. He grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he learned Transcendental Meditation (TM) in 1975. Earning his undergraduate philosophy degree at Pomona and Pitzer Colleges in Claremont, California, he went on to attend the University of Nevada School of Medicine, receiving an MD degree in 1984. His first book was a non-fiction consumer’s guide, The Insider’s Guide to HMOs (Plume/Penguin), which garnered favorable reviews in the Los Angeles Times and other publications as well as appearances on The Today Show20/20 and C-Span. The book helped sway the direction that healthcare was heading in the late 1990s. His debut novel, To Be Enlightened (Adelaide Books, 2021), is a work of visionary fiction, inspired by some of his own experiences as a lifelong practitioner of TM. Dr. Steinberg lives with his wife of over thirty-five years in Los Angeles, California. They are the proud parents of three young adults.

Alan J. Steinberg | Twitter | Instagram 

Click the link below for a chance to win a $100 Amazon e-gift card! (Open to everyone)!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Tour Organized By: 

R&R Button

R&R Book Tours

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Lies Like Wildfire – Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

An intense high-stakes story about five friends and the deadly secret that could send their lives up in flames, perfect for fans of Karen McManus and E. Lockhart.

In Gap Mountain, California, everyone knows about fire season. And no one is more vigilant than 18-year-old Hannah Warner, the sheriff’s daughter and aspiring FBI agent. That is until this summer. When Hannah and her best friends accidentally spark an enormous and deadly wildfire, their instinct is to lie to the police and the fire investigators.

But as the blaze roars through their rural town and towards Yosemite National Park, Hannah’s friends begin to crack and she finds herself going to extreme lengths to protect their secret. Because sometimes good people do bad things. And if there’s one thing people hate, it’s liars.

Amazon Goodreads

I received my B.A. in English from the University of California at Berkeley. I’m fascinated by underdogs and power dynamics between groups of people. 

I’m the author of LIES LIKE WILDFIRE, a teen thriller soon-to-be published by Delacorte Press, and two middle grade book series, each published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, THE GUARDIAN HERD (a quartet) and RIDERS OF THE REALM (a trilogy). Before this, I self-published a middle grade fantasy called THE PET WASHER. 

When I’m not writing, you’ll find me galloping my little black mare through the foothills of Sonoma County or teaching free creative writing workshops to kids and adults at various branches of our local library system. 

The Healdsburg Literary Guild selected me as their 2019/2020 Literary Laureate for my work in building literacy in my community. It is an honor I hold dear. I am also the current SCBWI Sonoma County Coordinator and a volunteer on the Sonoma County Library Advisory Board.

I live in Northern California with my husband, three children, and more than my fair share of pets!

Website

My thoughts: this was a really compelling read about friendship, truth and how far you’re willing to go to protect yourself.

Hannah is the sheriff’s daughter and she’s who her friends turn to after they accidentally start a huge wild fire that has lethal consequences. They lied and now the lies are unravelling. As are they, for five lifelong friends, can their bond survive?

I found Hannah a really interesting character and totally untrustworthy narrator. We only ever see things from her perspective and when people try to tell her things she disagrees with, she reacts in terrible ways.

Wildfires are incredibly terrifying and increasingly deadly as the world heats up, and they spread fast. I felt awful for the people caught up in the careless one these five spark, it might have been an accident but their decision to lie about it makes it so much worse. This book feels incredibly timely after reading newspaper reports of the recent fires in Greece and other parts of Europe. Many of which started accidentally.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books

Book Blitz: Anya Chases Down The End – Jeffrey Yamaguchi

AnyaChases copy

We are so happy to share this book with you today! Check out Anya Chases Down the End by Jeffrey Yamaguchi! Read on for details and a chance to win a digital edition of the book!

anya_chases_cover

Anya Chases Down the End

Publication Date: May 26th, 2021

Genre: Young Adult/ Contemporary/ Novella
A missing book is about to write the story of her life — before she even gets one.

Recent high school grad Anya doesn’t just want to write the great American novel — She wants to publish it, too. So she has faked her way into a summer internship at a major New York City publishing house thousands of miles from home in order to pursue her dream career at an accelerated pace. But her shaky, clandestine plan — which includes camping out in the office and surviving on leftovers from the pantry refrigerator — is completely upended when she loses track of a coveted manuscript by one of the biggest authors in the world. Off she has to race into the late night streets of New York City to track down the manuscript — to save her internship and preserve her cover story, not to mention her best-laid career plan — before the sun rises and her boss is back in the office.

Come along on the madcap quest in this standalone YA novella filled with secret door venues, abandoned subway stations, concealed backrooms and crash pads, mysterious missed connections on old school rotary phones, electric alleyway kisses, and revelatory poetry hiding in plain sight.

Add to Goodreads

Chapter One

I wasn’t usually invited to the toasts. And technically, I wasn’t invited to this one, but because I was pulled into the last second effort to put it together, at the very least I’d get to mill about in the group of people raising glasses, as opposed to the usual: being huddled over in my cube, my work-a-day motions provided with the soundtrack of everyone else in the office having a good time.

“Anya, what are you still doing here?”

The big boss — Francine — was looking at me like I had failed to rush to the vet a deathly sick puppy that was lying at my feet.

“I was just about to leave, Francine.”

“You do know how important this is, right?”

As a matter of fact, I did know. Because literally one minute earlier, when she was tasking me with picking up the champagne for the toast, had told me just that, in tones usually reserved for someone who was being given the responsibility of delivering a package that contains the formula for an antidote to the virus that is in the process of wiping out the entire human race.

I had spent the first 30 seconds excited that I would get to be a part of the toast — so excited that you would have thought that I was going to be personally thanked. Not going to happen. Still, it felt like a little bit of publishing history was happening, and I was going to be there to witness it — maybe even showing up in some photographs that many years from now, would end up in the biography about my long and storied career as a writer AND publisher who transformed the literary landscape. Or, more realistically, maybe they’d just end up on the publishing house’s Instagram page, and I could share the photo so all my friends would see me making it big in the big city. Not now, of course — I didn’t want to social expose myself and ruin everything in the real right now (more on that later), but at some point in the future, when I’ll probably need to show photographic evidence to case close on everyone that I really did spend six whole weeks of the summer in New York City working at a publishing house.

The inside-my-own head revelry of both the toast and the future brag did not last long, however, because it hit me like a seven layer chocolate cake in the face — while I’m wearing my favorite summery cocktail dress, no less — that I had no way to actually purchase the champagne.

This was double-drag bad — like, not only is the party off, but the house where the party was supposed to be is engulfed in flames. For one thing, Francine expected that champagne to be ice cold and ready to pop in far less time than it was going to take me to get to and from the liquor store that is located just around the corner from the office.

But the bigger issue is that I had no way to actually buy the champagne for the very simple reason that I am not 21 years old, and I don’t have a fake ID.

Yes, it sucks. It sucks to not be able to buy alcohol. Old enough to vote, but not be able to go to bars. Or get into shows, or clubs. But that’s nothing compared to the suckage that is about to swallow up my situation into a deeper and much darker hole. And the situation is this: I am 18 years old and I just graduated from high school, but nobody here knows this. They think I am 21 and about to start my senior year of college, because that is what I told them. At the time that I applied for the internship, it was an impossible lark, and I didn’t really think about any of the consequences of getting exposed as a fabulist because I simply didn’t think it was ever going to happen.

But such an exposure will trigger a cascade of questions and open up the floodgates to a number of deceptions that I’ve had to vocalize, sign-on-the-dotted-line, and sustain in order to pull off what I am literally just one day from totally and completely getting away with.

I know it sounds like I’m a lying, no-good cheat, but to my mind, I applied for an internship in a field I am desperate to break into, got it, and have worked hard during my six weeks here at Teasdale House. While it’s true that I lied about my age, and that I was close to finishing up college, not to mention telling my parents that this was all part of a University program for pre-college students — I wasn’t trying to be deceptive. The false information propping it all together didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. But now, it’s clear to me that there’s quite a few people — and institutions — unknowingly tangled up in the web of deception that I’ve weaved to pull all of this off. If it all falls apart… Well, frankly, I can’t think about that right now.

I dash into the elevator bank, see a set of doors that are in the midst of closing, and jump my way in, like I’m narrowly escaping a mine shaft about to be rocked by a massive explosion.

It wasn’t until after I screeched “Fuck!” that I realized someone was in the elevator with me.

“Good thing you made it! This is the last transport off the literary industrial complex prison module known as the Teasdale House of Strikethroughs and Last-Minute Changes.”

***

Of course it would be Max, or Hot Max as I referred to him in my waking workaday fantasies. I also call him “The dude,” because he’s always the one dude in meetings full of women. He’s one of those forever interns, meaning he’s operating outside the usual seasonal cycle, and people think of him as a staffer, but ultimately, he’s still just an intern. Likely, when he graduates from college, he will get a job at the publishing house. The word is that he’s been promised exactly that. But I have no idea. What I do know is that he’s quite the dapper dresser despite always looking like he was out a little too late the night before. I would occasionally relay messages to him from Francine. This is how our interactions would go:

“Francine would like to see the front cover selections for the Spring list’s lead titles.”

“Okay, I will bring them by in a few minutes, just need to print out the latest versions.”

“Great, thanks,” I’d say, already turned around with my head down.

Pathetic, I know. I made myself feel a little bit better by acknowledging the fact that he probably wasn’t paying close enough attention to me to notice the ridiculously insecure way in which I was functioning, seeing me more as a sentient being transporting messages and documents from one person to another, nothing more, nothing less.

But there was no time for this kind of thinking. In fact, there was no time for thinking at all. The elevator in this shiny and slick new building might as well have been a hyperspace chamber, zapping you instantaneously to whatever floor you needed to get to by the push of a button.

So I just blurted out: “Hey, I just realized I forgot my ID at home. Do you think you could help me get something done for Francine?”

This not thinking thing was really working for me. Not only did I lay the groundwork of the forgotten ID, but I threw in a Francine name bomb. Even if Max was going to try and squirm his way out of helping me out — a fellow intern who never said more than two words to him, if he even remembered anything about me at all — the inclusion of the Francine factor was going to force his hand.

Max swung around and looked me square in the eyes, his smile further lighting up his light green eyes, as well as a no sleep swell to the perfect skin above his everyday, all the time, 5 o’clock shadow. He was holding the elevator door open for me.

“No problem,” he said, with not a hint of annoyance, “Whaddya need?”

***

Fifteen minutes later, the champagne was set up in the conference room, which had an expansive view of the NYC skyline, but most directly looked out upon a residential building that seemed to have some kind of dance studio on one of the floors about midway up the old brick structure. You couldn’t help but catch the movement flowing from that floor, especially after the sun went down. It’s always lit up, and there is always a blur of activity: whirling, gorgeous, flowing bodies moving from one side of the floor to the other.

That’s what I love about the city. It doesn’t make sense that there’s a dance studio in an otherwise residential building, but there it is, and there are people in their dancing, and your eyes can’t help but fall on one particular dancer, who is moving this way and that way, seemingly never touching the ground. As I held in my breath, I realized this dancer’s movement might possibly be the most beautiful thing that is happening on the entire planet at that particular, fleeting moment in time. I’m too far away to actually make out her face. It always strikes me as odd — sad, even — that If I saw this dancer on the street, I would have no idea that this was the person I had been watching flow through the most beautiful of moves, elegantly sweeping her way across the floor in a blur, or balancing herself in a graceful, otherworldly stillness.

***

What I had thought would be a very good thing — standing there with everyone, holding a plastic cup, listening intently to the toast — in reality felt painfully forced and extremely awkward, like I had been invited up on stage to share in the acceptance of an award that I didn’t deserve.

Francine wasn’t a particularly eloquent speaker, but she knew how to command a room. “This is one of many toasts to come,” she began. “There will be many more milestones and even more successes.”

And then, with just the right amount of volume uptick, she proclaimed even more forcefully, “This new book, which Chester just finished, insures all of this and more. This is just the beginning. And oh what a glorious beginning it is. Cheers to you, Chester!”

On cue, people put their hands together and clapped. Chester Fred Morrissey had the look of a man who was used to applause, and no matter how muted it might be, I got the feeling he felt it roll into his ears with pounding thunder. He had a monster hit a few years ago, and that’s a ticket that he, along with everyone else standing in this conference room, plus many others, has been riding ever since.

“I just finished going over the edits with Francine — there weren’t hardly any at all,” he said, a little too heavy on the self-assuredness.

Was that a joke? I wasn’t sure, and I don’t think anyone else was either, because no one laughed.

“I hand it over to you, and I have absolute faith that you will all do your best to share it with the whole world — They’ve been waiting for it, of course, so by all means, carry on with your hard work, full speed ahead!”

Another joke? No one was laughing at all, and though Francine was still smiling, there was the ominous hint of confusion — or was it concern — in that steely, never-let-them-see-you sweat veneer of hers.

“So to the hard work that is complete, and onto the hard work yet to be done!”

People were barely clapping, and perhaps that’s why it quickly became apparent that someone was clapping a little too loudly and far too slowly. All of the sudden, all eyes were staring down on the perpetrator of the obnoxious clapping, which meant all eyes were zeroing in on me as well, because wouldn’t you know it, I had the terrible luck of standing right next to this…. insane person.

I had no idea who this guy was — a disheveled, full-bearded, middle-aged white guy, dressing like an old man wearing the opposite of a custom fit grey suit and, of course, dirty white sneakers. I think I had seen him around before, but I couldn’t quite place him. He definitely didn’t work on this floor.

Before I knew it, Francine was on top of him, smile ablaze but moving too swiftly and with too much purpose to seem like a natural, so good to see you here approach.

Nobody was drinking their champagne. The eyes in the back of Francine’s head must have made her aware of this because she quickly turned around, raised up her glass, and announced, “Cheers indeed!”

She then took a hard swallow from her glass, drinking not in celebration, but to be done with it. With the murmuring reaching its peak, Francine put her arm around the gentleman, whispered into his ear, and ushered him away back towards her office.

I scanned the room and saw that I was not alone in wondering what the fuck was going on — everyone was unified in a look of discomfiting confusion. Everyone, that is, except for Max — he was radiating a bemused grin. I don’t think he knew what was going on, and that was fine with him — he was just enjoying the disarray. He raised up his glass in my direction, kept his eyes locked on mine, and then drank his glass down in one swallow.

***

Just as I’m sinking into Max’s eyes and working to decipher exactly what that was all about — hedging toward the fantasy that Max is actually interested in me — I am immediately struck with an urgent and impossible thought: What if he comes over at this very moment and starts talking to me? Yes, this is what I want, but because I’m a total idiot, I also realize I’d just like to disappear.

It turns out that the disappear option would have been the right choice, because without warning, Francine stomps into my space, grabs a hold of my shoulder, and pulls me in the direction of her office.

Once inside, she shuts the door, and then takes a seat behind her desk. It still feels like her hand is on my shoulder.

Before Francine even has a chance to say anything, and that means I spoke up pretty quickly, I asked, “Who was that guy?”

Whoa. Clearly I was buzzing off the two sips of champagne I had drunk… that, and the buzz I was feeling from the look Max may or may not have been throwing in my direction.

Francine didn’t want to spare the second to compute that I had perhaps spoken out of turn. “He’s not important, never mind him, Anya.”

Then, she got even more cult-leader like.

“What is important is Chester, and the manuscript completion we are celebrating. He arrived today with the last pages — the ending we’ve been waiting so long for. It’s all been reviewed and the pages have been marked-up, including on the stunning new pages that close the novel. The edits just need to be implemented.”

Francine then lets out a sigh of accomplishment, and pauses for effect, before carrying on: “Now I’ve got to go out to dinner with Chester. What I need you to do is go through the marked-up manuscript and the notes, implement all the changes and fixes, and lock down a final draft. Pay special attention to everything, but especially the end. These are the newest pages and they’ve had very few eyes on them — Just Chester’s and mine.”

She was looking at me, and pointing at the manuscript, which was drenched in so much red pen it looked like someone had left it in a room full of school children armed with nothing but red crayons. Clearly, she wanted to see my reaction.

“This has to be done… before the start of the work day tomorrow,” she says sternly.

“By tomorrow morning…?”

“That’s not a question, right, Anya? That’s your affirmation to me that you understand how critically important this is, and how you will have it done by tomorrow morning.”

She didn’t wait for an answer. She got up, put on her jacket, and opened her office door.

“I know you’re going to have to stay here pretty late to get this done,” she said, in a softer voice than usual. For a moment, it seemed like she was about to show some concern, or possibly, some gratitude, but the next thing I knew, she had raised up her arm and she was pointing a finger in the direction of my chest but seemingly aimed at my very soul.

“Under no circumstances should you remove the manuscript from this office — not even a page or two while you go to get a cup of coffee. And no one — I mean NO ONE — is allowed to step foot in here.”

And with that, she turned and left to go out to her fabulous dinner with the fabulous author in a fabulous restaurant in a fabulous part of the city.

Of course I’m stuck at the office with a pile of work that is sure to keep me here all night. I know what you might be thinking. How horrible! An all-nighter in a deserted, darkened office tower, the creepy clinking and clanking of air vents and cheap metal file cabinets settling deeper into the industrial carpet. But for me, this wasn’t unusual at all. Not because I was always being left to do all the work while everyone else goes out for the fancy dinners, or at least some slices and a few after-work drinks.

Staying not just late, but through the entire night, is absolutely normal for me, because I’ve been sleeping at the office since this internship began.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

yamaguchi_author_photo

At the age of 26, Jeffrey Yamaguchi quit his job, threw himself a retirement party, and believed that he could make a living publishing zines. It didn’t work out, but he continues to dream the dream. Jeffrey’s books include 52 Projects, Working for the Man, Anya Chases Down the End, and Body of Water. His stories, poems, photography, and short films have been published in many literary journals, including Okay Donkey, Kissing Dynamite, Back Patio Press, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Honey & Lime, Spork Press, Vamp Cat Magazine, Nightingale & Sparrow, Black Bough Poetry, and the Atticus Review.

Jeffrey Yamaguchi | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Giveaway: Win one of five digital editions of Anya Chases Down the End (Closes August 21st)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Blitz Organized By:

R&R Button
<a style=”color: #333333;” href=”http://rrbooktours.com&#8221;