Tuesday’s Teaser with Kathleen Neely

The Street Singer

Today I have award-winning author, Kathleen Neely here to talk about her new book. Welcome, Kathleen. Let’s begin talking about The Street Singer.

How would you describe your main characters?

I’m pleased to introduce you to Trisha Mills and Adda Marsh.

Trisha, a student in her final year of law school, is no stranger to loss. After losing her parents in an auto accident, she was raised by her grandparents in an old house at the foothills of the mountains in rural Asheville, NC. When they died, she found herself without a family. It left Trisha with a passion for any remembrance of her past.

Adda Marsh has an extraordinary singing voice, at least she did before old age compromised her vocals. She won’t be nominated for another Grammy, as she once was when the world knew her as Adaline, but she could still gather a crowd from her spot on the corner of an Asheville street. Adda would never use the name Adaline again. It carried too many memories, and most of them were not good.

What problems do your characters face?

Although generations and ethnicity separate Trisha and Adda, they have a connection. Trisha’s grandfather played Adaline’s records when he taught Trisha to dance. They both loved her music. How is it possible that this once-famous singer now entertains people from a street corner and lives off of money from the donation box?

Nostalgia, compassion, and a spunky spirit drive Trisha to uncover the story, despite the friction it creates with her fiancée, Grant Ramsey. When attorney Rusty Bergstrom agrees to help Adda, Trisha begins to examine her life, her feelings, and her future.

What would you like your readers to know about your characters?

No character is completely good or completely bad. Each is flawed, and each is driven by a different source.

— Trisha longs to hold on to the past.

— Adda does what she needs to do for daily survival, but protects her box of memories.

— Grant is programmed through his political family to filter everything through the eyes of the media.

— Rusty practices law to right wrongs and help people.


Read an excerpt of The Street Singer

Adda sat on the mattress to catch her breath before lifting the lid off of the remembering box. It was the fullest. There was a lot more to remember than there was to eat. Some of the remembering was good. But mostly it was hard.

Adda picked up a photograph of her family. She never questioned where they got it, or how they had afforded such a fine picture. It was black and white with a white border around the whole thing. Little curvy cuts made up the white paper frame. There was her mama and daddy, standing straight in the middle, all nine of their children surrounding them, everyone smiling for the picture.

She started with the one on her left because that was the way she was told to read—left to right. Leila, Jamal, and Rosa were first, next to Mama. Then Daddy was standing with Berta, Kande, Kioni, and Luther, beside him. Adda and Minny were in front of Mama and Daddy. They were the littlest. Adda figured she must have been around four years old, and Minny just a tad younger.

Adda looked beyond the people and saw her growing-up home. There was that old house with the two windows that always stayed open, trying to get some air inside those three rooms. The front porch had big rocks pushed under the corner poles to keep it level. Adda remembered the time Luther slithered under that porch, hiding when he was a’feared that Daddy was gonna whoop him. Didn’t take Daddy no time to find him cause that dry old dust started Luther coughing. Daddy whooped him, once for disobeying and twice for hiding.

The big pole furthest from the door had the clothesline attached. Then it stretched out to a big old Elm tree. There were no clothes hanging on it, which was a strange sight. Adda never remembered the clothesline being empty.

She placed the picture face down and pulled out a frayed piece of fabric, no bigger than a hand towel. The floral pattern was faded beyond recognition, but Adda saw it clearly. She had those tiny pink roses burned in her mind, their green swirly stems all sewed with hand stitches. Mama had sewn the blanket when Berta was a little child, but when she tried to hand it on down, Berta threw a fit. Adda kept sneaking to use it, and Berta would snatch it back. That was about the finest thing inside that little old rough wood building. Adda held the scrap to her face and brushed its softness against her cheek. Mama. Why didn’t you help me?


About Kathleen

Kathleen Neely resides in Greenville, SC with her husband, two cats, and one dog. She enjoys time with family, visiting her two grandsons, traveling, and reading. She is a retired elementary principal.

Among her writing accomplishments, Kathleen won second place in a short story contest through ACFW-VA for her short story “The Missing Piece” and an honorable mention for her story “The Dance”. Both were published in a Christmas anthology. Her first novel, The Least of These, was awarded first place in the 2015 Fresh Voices contest through Almost an Author. She has numerous devotions published through Christian Devotions.

Kathleen continues to speak to students about writing and publication processes. She is a member of Association of Christian Fiction Writers.

Friday’s Feature with Clare Revell

I’m so excited to have Clare Revell here today to answer some fun questions and share her new book, Dark Lake.

Thank you so much for being here, Clare.

Tell us about your favorite character in your new book.

That would be Lou. She was the heroine in my YA series Signal Me. I wanted to do a story about her when she’d grown up and Dark Lake kind of just wrote itself. She’s feisty, has a temper, hates taking orders or being told she can’t do something.

Do you read the reviews and comments of your readers? How important are reviews to authors?

Yes, I do. Not that I get many – some books have loads, some have none. I find that hardly any are put on the UK side of Amazon and being a British author I always look there first. Even a short I loved it is great.

How much of yourself do you put into your books?

Ignoring the fact that Lou is my middle name and I hate taking orders? I tend to put a fair amount in. Dad always recognises things from my childhood. Hubby always recognises expressions as mine such as saying afty instead of afternoon. And strangely enough all of my heroines hate eight legged creatures. (not octopi)

Some people believe that being a published author is glamorous, is that true?

Nope. And it definitely doesn’t pay millions. Or produce film deals or anything like that. It’s a lot of hard work. Most of the day, or night, is spent handwriting each book, then typing it up.

Who are some of your favourite authors?

I grew up reading and loving Enid Blyton and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Then moved on to Danielle Steele, Elizabeth George, Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler.

Have you met any of them and found yourself having a fan-girl moment?

No. But TV stars… several. And the hosts of a quiz show on the BBC did a book signing at our local book shop before it closed. So I went and bought a book, had my photo taken and yes… fangirled.


DARK LAKE

Archaeologist Dr. Lou Fitzgerald is used to unexpected happenings, and they don’t usually faze her. After surviving a childhood disability, and dealing with an unfair boss, Lou has learned the art of rolling with the punches. But when she arrives at Dark Lake, what was supposed to be a simple archaeological dig is beyond even her wildest imaginations.

Land owner Evan Close has his own reasons for keeping the secrets of Dark Lake, and this attractive interloper is a menace. Her precious dig threatens to bring his house of cards tumbling down around him, and he feels helpless to stop it.

It soon becomes apparent there are dark forces at work, and Lou’s simple assignment turns into a mystery. Solving that mystery comes with a steep price.


Get your copy today!

Amazon.co.uk United Kingdom

Amazon.com United States


 

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Dark Lake:

Lou leaned back in her chair, glad she was sitting down. Her heart raced, cheeks burned and her stomach clenched. “You’re kidding me,” she finally managed past the huge lump in her throat.

“No. I’m sorry. I’m not kidding. I’m deadly serious.” Varian certainly didn’t appear sorry, and he definitely didn’t sound apologetic. He both looked and sounded smug, as if this had been his plan all along.

“I can’t leave,” Lou insisted. “Didn’t you hear me? We found it. Proof that I was right all along.” She waved a file at him. “This is my work. My discovery. You can’t just replace me.”

Make that replace her again—the same way he always did, right when she was on the cusp on proving something or on the brink of another discovery.

“I’m sure your team is more than capable of carrying on without you.”

“Uh, no, they’re not,” she spluttered. Were they really having this conversation? “They need me as much as I need to be here.”

“Are you saying you don’t trust them?”

“No. I’m not saying that at all! I trust them implicitly. Well, most of them anyway.” She sucked in a deep breath, her hands curling into balls under the desk. She tamped down her temper and tried to put a lid on her emotions. “I’m saying I’ve put years into this and I want to—”

“—be the one to finish it?” Varian completed her sentence in that annoying manner, which only served to irritate her further.

She scowled, fingers drumming on the desk. “Yes. Is that so wrong? It’s my work, my paper, my blood, sweat, and tears, not to mention sleepless nights that have gone into this and you want to ditch me in favour of some up and coming lackey so you and he can take the glory? Again. It’s not fair.”

“Life isn’t fair. You’ve got an hour to get your notes and files together before you brief him and me—”

“I don’t believe I’m hearing this!”

“Then you leave and don’t look back.”

Lou scowled harder, wishing she could give him the “stink-eye” as Jim termed it when they were kids. “Who is he anyway? This person you’re replacing me with.”

“Monty is coming down to…”

She almost yelled aloud in frustration, reining it in at the last second. Monty was Varian’s son. It made sense he’d be the one taking over now that they were so close to a discovery that would make her name and put this corner of Wales on the map right up there with Stonehenge and the Grand Canyon.

Instead, Lou picked up a pen and hurled it across the portacabin. “What a surprise. You know, it’s so nice to see that nepotism is alive and well and flourishing in Wales. The exact same way it does all over the country wherever the Sparrow Foundation can be found.”

She paused, counting to five slowly. “Are you sacking me?” she muttered.

“On the contrary, I have a nice simple job for you.”

“Tell you what. Send Monty to do your nice simple job. See if he can do that without messing it up. We all know what happened on the Tumbrel dig. How he was responsible for those deaths.”

Varian’s expression darkened, and Lou wisely shut up before he really did sack her. “Have you heard of Dark Lake?” he asked.

“Should I have?”

“It’s a reservoir up in the Pennines. The villages of Abernay and Finlay were flooded in the first half of the last century to make the Aberfinay Dam, shortly before the start of the Second World War. It’s now known locally as Dark Lake after the new village that sprang up next to it. The dam provides water for one of the large towns. It doesn’t matter which one. The whole area is owned by an old family friend, Evan Close.”

Her fingers drummed her irritation on the desk. “And? What does this have to do with the price of fish?”

“The water levels have dropped enough to see the church spire above the level of the reservoir. A few unusual artefacts have washed ashore. I want you to go up there and see what’s going on.”

“Why?”

“Like I said the land is owned by a family friend. Neither of us wants this getting into the media. We’d prefer it be handled quickly and quietly. I can get you permission to dive once or twice. And arrange for a diving team to meet you up there.”

“Can’t it wait a few weeks?”

“No. It has to be done now.”

“Send Whatshisface up there.”

“Monty can’t swim. You can. You have a gold medal to prove it.”

Lou chewed her bottom lip. “That was a lifetime ago. I had to make a choice over careers, and I chose archaeology. I finally get my big break, and you’re taking it away from me. When I’ve done all the leg work, all the research…”

Varian handed her a file. “I’d shut up about now if I were you. Assuming you want to keep your job. I’m sending you to Dark Lake. End of discussion. I’ll see you in an hour.”

Lou stood. Part of her wanted to quit on the spot, but the other part of her had more sense. “You know what? Brief yourself. These are all my files and notes. I’m sure my team can tell you anything else you need to know if you can’t read my writing.”

“Lou…”

“Don’t you Lou me. I’ve spent the best part of ten years working for you, and this is how you repay me. Every. Single. Time.” She stomped over to the door and slammed it hard behind her.


More about Clare

Clare is a British author. She lives in a small town just outside Reading, England with her husband, whom she married in 1992, their three children, and unfriendly mini-panther, aka Tilly the black cat. They have recently been joined by Hedwig and Sirius the guinea pigs. Clare is half English and half Welsh, which makes watching rugby interesting at times as it doesn’t matter who wins.

Writing from an early childhood and encouraged by her teachers, she graduated from rewriting fairy stories through fan fiction to using her own original characters and enjoys writing an eclectic mix of romance, crime fiction and children’s stories. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading, crocheting or doing the many piles of laundry the occupants of her house manage to make.

Her books are based in the UK, with a couple of exceptions, thus, although the spelling may be American in some of them, the books contain British language and terminology and the more recent ones are written in UK English.

The first draft of every novel is hand written.

She has been a Christian for more than half her life. She goes to Carey Baptist where she is one of four registrars.

She can be found at:

http://www.revell124.plus.com/clarerevell/

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Tuesday’s Teaser with Suzy Parish

Flowers from Afghanistan

My husband Chet provided me with research about camp life for the book. I worked on the outline as he served in Afghanistan, so during our Skype sessions I took notes and quizzed him on sights, sounds, and smells.

Whose boots are on the cover? The boots on the cover of Flowers from Afghanistan are my husband Chet’s boots. They are the actual boots he wore while training police officers in Afghanistan. I don’t want to give a spoiler, only to say something interesting happened concerning those boots.

  • The characters are all fictional, some have characteristics of guys he served with, others just seemed to spring up organically.
  • The plot is fiction, except for the attack scenes, which have been compressed, moved chronologically, and altered in other ways. The main attack scene in the book seems short, in reality, the men were under fire for 6 hours.

Mac McCann is named after whom? Mac is named after Brian McCann, the catcher for the Atlanta Braves during the time Flowers from Afghanistan was written. He was my favorite player that year.

When Mac’s son dies in a tragic accident, Mac tries to outrun his guilt by leaving to train locals as police officers in Afghanistan. He focuses on abandoning his guilt but fails to think about who else he left behind…

“By coming to Afghanistan, I’d closed a door. Only I hadn’t meant that door to be Sophie.”


Preorder your Kindle copy through August 10th for only 99¢! Amazon.com


Read an excerpt

Huntsville, Alabama-2010

“Little Mac, where are you?”

Giggles came from behind an old sheet draped over our breakfast nook table, a makeshift tent. I pretended to look behind the sofa. “Are you behind the couch?”

More giggles.

“Are you under the coffee table?” I crawled on my belly, looking in the 3-inch space between the coffee table and floor. “Nope. I don’t see you.”

Infectious laughter.

I crawled over to the table, slowly, slowly, calling his name until‒‚”Gotcha!” I threw the sheet back and grabbed him in my arms, tumbling and tickling him until his laughter bounced off the walls.

“I thought I heard my two favorite guys!” Sophie came in from the kitchen, pulling an oven glove off her hand and laying the mitt on the table. The yeasty smell of warm bread breezed in her wake. “I’m having photos made from your going away party. The sergeant’s words about you were very touching. I hadn’t heard stories about a few of those calls you were on. How was the office party today?”

“Good. Chief even came by to wish me luck.”

“Luck. I hope you have more than luck. I’m praying for God’s protection.”

I shook my head. “Don’t start in on me about God-stuff again.”

Sophie turned away. “Dinner’s ready.”

“I promised the guys I’d bring Little Mac by the barbershop to visit and get a haircut.”

“Wait until tomorrow. You’ll have more time,” Sophie said.

If I’d listened to her, things would be different.

I ignored her request and scooped him off the floor, dressed him in khaki shorts, a blue T-shirt, and red sneakers. My little man was going for a haircut at the same barbershop all my fellow police officers on first shift frequented. “We won’t be long,” I said.

“If you won’t listen to me, then at least take a picture of us before you go. I’ll miss these curls.” She wound her finger around a bit of his strawberry blond bangs and kissed his forehead. Sophie hugged Little Mac into her lap.

He squirmed.

“Hand him his pinwheel. That always settles him down.”

I found my son’s favorite toy on the end table and handed it down to Sophie, trying to center their faces on my phone. “Say, Pumpernickel!” The name of that bread always made Little Mac laugh.

“Pump-a-ni-coo,” he repeated in his squeaky voice. Little Mac’s face spread into another of his infectious grins. The dimple on his left cheek deepened as he spun the pinwheel. The blue blades threw glints of light onto the floor and ceiling. He clutched the plastic toy to his chest like it was a treasure.

I bought it for him when Sophie was still carrying him in her womb. I was amazed it survived two years of his rough play. He graduated to toy cars and building sets, but the pinwheel was still his favorite. I snapped a picture, a light flashed, illuminating the room. They were frozen in time on my phone. I’d won the argument but wasted precious time. The barbershop was only four blocks away, but it closed in thirty minutes. I scooped Little Mac from Sophie’s lap.

“Babe?”

I stopped mid-step at the door.

“Drive careful. It looks like a storm is on its way.”

”Will do,” I said, blowing Sophie an air kiss.

I hurried outside carrying Little Mac, letting the screen door slam behind me. Lightning flashed in the west. I pulled away in a cloud of dust.

Little Mac kicked his feet against the back of my double cab truck seat, in time to his favorite song.

I sang along, though Sophie wouldn’t have called it singing. I put on my turn signal and stopped at the red light. When I hit my brake, my cell phone slid across the front seat. I grabbed it, and as I did, a text message flashed. My breath caught. It was the name of a first shift dispatcher who’d sent me on most of my calls. I thought I’d made it clear when she approached me at my going-away party. I wasn’t interested in any relationship outside my marriage. I fumbled with the button to erase the message.

The light turned green.

I hit the gas. How did she have the guts to text‒ Out of the corner of my eye, a flash.

The loud bang of two vehicles colliding

reverberated in my head, then grinding metal on metal. Airbags deployed.

I coughed and blinked to clear my eyes of the white cloud that filled the truck.

Smoke? Are we on fire? No, it’s powder from air bags.

The truck stopped spinning. I tore myself from the seatbelt, grabbed my pocket knife and cut Little Mac free from his car seat harness. “Hold on, son!”

Red lights flashed. No siren. No traffic sounds. Only the fear-filled bass of my heart and my own ragged breaths. It seemed to take forever to reach the ambulance. I tucked Little Mac’s small body against my chest. Focus. A few more feet. I ran until I threatened to push my lungs and legs past their limit of endurance. I handed my two-year-old son off to the waiting paramedic and jumped in the back of the ambulance with them.

Later all l could recall was his hand, so tiny, grasping my sleeve as if he were trying to do his part, too.


About Suzy

Suzy Parish wrote as a Community Columnist for the Huntsville Times and has been published in Splickety Magazine. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

Suzy discovered her love of books as a child in Richmond, Virginia when she took refuge from the summer heat in the local Bookmobile. She believes strongly in the power of literacy to improve the lives of individuals and stewards a Little Free Library in a local park.

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