THE FORGOTTEN SISTER by NICOLA CORNICK – Spotlight and Excerpt

In the tradition of the spellbinding historical novels of Philippa Gregory and Kate Morton comes, THE FORGOTTEN SISTER by Nicola Cornick. It’s a stunning story based on a real-life Tudor mystery, of a curse that echoes through the centuries and shapes two women’s destinies…

1560: Amy Robsart is trapped in a loveless marriage to Robert Dudley, a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Surrounded by enemies and with nowhere left to turn, Amy hatches a desperate scheme to escape—one with devastating consequences that will echo through the centuries…

Present Day: When Lizzie Kingdom is forced to withdraw from the public eye in a blaze of scandal, it seems her life is over. But she’s about to encounter a young man, Johnny Robsart, whose fate will interlace with hers in the most unexpected of ways. For Johnny is certain that Lizzie is linked to a terrible secret dating back to Tudor times. If Lizzie is brave enough to go in search of the truth, then what she discovers will change the course of their lives forever.
In the tradition of the spellbinding historical novels of Philippa Gregory and Kate Morton comes a stunning story based on a real-life Tudor mystery, of a curse that echoes through the centuries and shapes two women’s destinies…

1560: Amy Robsart is trapped in a loveless marriage to Robert Dudley, a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Surrounded by enemies and with nowhere left to turn, Amy hatches a desperate scheme to escape—one with devastating consequences that will echo through the centuries…

Present Day: When Lizzie Kingdom is forced to withdraw from the public eye in a blaze of scandal, it seems her life is over. But she’s about to encounter a young man, Johnny Robsart, whose fate will interlace with hers in the most unexpected of ways. For Johnny is certain that Lizzie is linked to a terrible secret dating back to Tudor times. If Lizzie is brave enough to go in search of the truth, then what she discovers will change the course of their lives forever.
HERE’S AN EXCERPT of THE FORGOTTEN SISTER by Nicola Cornick

PROLOGUE 
Amy Robsart, Cumnor Village 
They came for me one night in the winter of 1752 when the ice was on the pond and the trees bowed under the weight of the hoar frost. There were nine priests out of Oxford, garbed all in white with tapers in hand. Some looked fearful, others burned with a righteous fervour because they thought they were doing the Lord’s work. All of them looked cold, huddled within their cassocks, the one out ahead gripping the golden crucifix as though it were all that stood between him and the devil himself. 
The villagers came out to watch for a while, standing around in uneasy groups, their breath like smoke on the night air, then the lure of the warm alehouse called them back and they went eagerly, talking of uneasy ghosts and the folly of the holy men in thinking they could trap my spirit. 
The hunt was long. I ran through the lost passageways of Cumnor Hall with the priests snapping at my heels and in the end, exhausted and vanquished, my ghost sank into the dark pool. They said their prayers over me and returned to their cloisters and believed the haunting to be at an end. 
Yet an unquiet ghost is not so easily laid to rest. They had trapped my wandering spirit but I was not at peace. When the truth is concealed the pattern will repeat. The first victim was Amyas Latimer, the poor boy who fell to his death from the tower of the church where my body was buried. Then there was the little serving girl, Amethyst Green, who tumbled from the roof of Oakhangar Hall. Soon there will be another. If no one prevents it, I know there will be a fourth death and a fifth, and on into an endless future, the same pattern, yet different each time, a shifting magic lantern projecting the horror of that day centuries ago. 
There is only one hope. 
I sense her presence beside me through the dark. Each time it happens she is there too, in a different guise, like me. She is my nemesis, the arch-enemy. Yet she is the only one who can free me and break this curse. In the end it all depends on her and in freeing my spirit I sense she will also free her own. 
Elizabeth. 
I met her only a handful of times in my life. She was little but she was fierce, always, fierce enough to survive against the odds, a fighter, clever, ruthless, destined always to be alone. We could never have been friends yet we are locked together in this endless dance through time.
 I possessed the one thing she wanted and could not have and in my dying I denied it to her forever. For a little while I thought that would be enough to satisfy me. Yet revenge sours and diminishes through the years. All I wish now is to be released from my pain and to ensure this can never happen again. 
Elizabeth, my enemy, you are the only one who can help me now but to do that you must change, you must see that the truth needs to be told. Open your eyes. Find the light.
Excerpted from The Forgotten Sister by Nicola Cornick Copyright © Nicola Cornick. Published by Graydon House Books.

HOLDING OUT for CHRISTMAS by Janet Dailey – SPOTLIGHT & Giveaway – CLOSED

Welcome to the Christmas Tree Ranch and the third part of Janet Dailey’s Christmas Tree series: HOLDING OUT for CHRISTMAS (ZebraContemporary). FYI: You can read this as a stand alone, like I did. It’s the perfect book for you to welcome in the holiday season.
 
She’s all he wants for Christmas.  Maybe even forever…
 
Conner Branch is a hunk all readers will fall for. He’s delicious. He hasn’t stopping thinking about the sultry singer, Lacy Leatherwood he spotted on stage during last year’s Cowboy Christmas ball in Branding Iron, Texas. So imagine his surprise when he discovers the petite and sweet woman he rescued out of a snow ditch, whose coming home for the holidays to Branding Iron is the very same woman. Talk about coincidences. And once he’s up close and personal with the mesmerizing Megan, he’s determined to keep her by his side for good…
 
If only Conner Branch were simply the star struck cowboy she once believed him to be, Megan wouldn’t have to worry about losing everything to the rugged—and wildly romantic—rancher. With Christmas in the air, it’s a little too easy to imagine spending the holidays, not to mention her whole life, wrapped in Conner’s big loving arms.  But this country songstress has hopes for a big career back in Nashville. And no little holiday romance will ever get in the way of that. So what’s a woman to do when she finds herself facing down a love as big and bold as Texas itself?

This is a wonderful novel to read to get into the holiday spirit. I loved all the characters, especially Megan’s brother, Daniel who has Down’s Syndrome. We all can learn from his positive and cheerful outlook on life. Grab some hot chocolate and settle in a comfy chair. I also think the cover for HOLDING OUT for CHRISTMAS is delightful. Don’t you just want to take one of these puppies home?
Janet Dailey has written more than 100 novels and has become one of the top-selling authors in the world. We have one copy of HOLDING OUT for CHRISTMAS to giveaway. Just tell us your holiday plans. We’ll choose a winner soon. Good luck! GIVEAWAY: USA only please.

THE HAUNTING of BRYNN WILDER – Spotlight & Giveaway CLOSED

SPOOK ALERT! PERFECT BOOK FOR HALLOWEEN!

From the #1 Amazon Charts bestselling author of Daughters of the Lake comes an enthralling spellbinder of love, death, and a woman on the edge by author, Wendy Webb.

After a devastating loss, Brynn Wilder escapes to Wharton, a tourist town on Lake Superior, to reset. Checking into a quaint boardinghouse for the summer, she hopes to put her life into perspective. In her fellow lodgers, she finds a friendly company of strangers: the frail Alice, cared for by a married couple with a heartbreaking story of their own; LuAnn, the eccentric and lovable owner of the inn; and Dominic, an unsettlingly handsome man inked from head to toe in mesmerizing tattoos.

But in this inviting refuge, where a century of souls has passed, a mystery begins to swirl. Alice knows things about Brynn, about all of them, that she shouldn’t. Bad dreams and night whispers lure Brynn to a shuttered room at the end of the hall, a room still heavy with a recent death. And now she’s become irresistibly drawn to Dominic—even in the shadow of rumors that wherever he goes, suspicious death follows.

In this chilling season of love, transformation, and fear, something is calling for Brynn. To settle her past, she may have no choice but to follow her instincts. Happy Halloween!

Two books set Wendy on the path of her life—Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. Through those two books, she realized her love of storytelling, and knew, by the time she was about 11 years old, that she wanted to be a novelist someday.

Wendy was born and raised in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. She graduated from the University of Minnesota, where she majored in political science and minored in French and history. After college, she spent some time living in France with two lifelong friends, and when she returned to the States, she was fortunate enough to get an internship with a congressman in Washington, D.C., and later a job with a Minnesota senator.

When she moved back to Minnesota, Wendy got her first writing job with City Pages, an arts and entertainment weekly in Minneapolis. She has been a journalist ever since, writing for national and local magazines and newspapers, including Duluth Superior Magazine, where she was editor-in-chief for almost eight years.

Even though she loved her career as a journalist, she never forgot her dream of being a novelist. Finding the time to write a novel—that was the hard part. What with making a living and taking care of a young son, she just couldn’t find the luxury of spending time devoted to a dream. But finally, when her son Ben was in school and she was working from home as a freelance journalist, she realized she actually had the time to start writing her first novel. And she never looked back.

Wendy lived in Duluth, MN for 16 years with her family and three beloved Malamutes. Now she’s back in her home town of Minneapolis, where she is currently at work on her next novel and looking for a new dog. We have one copy to giveaway. Just tell us your plans for Halloween. We’ll chose a winner soon. Good luck. GIVEAWAY: USA only please.

GIRLS of BRACKENHILL by Kate Moretti – Spotlight & GIVEAWAY CLOSED

Haunted by her sister’s disappearance, a troubled woman becomes consumed by past secrets in this gripping thriller, GIRLS OF BRACKHILL from the New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Year, KATIE MORETTI.

When Hannah Maloney’s aunt dies in a car accident, she returns to her family’s castle in the Catskills and the epicenter of a childhood trauma: her sister’s unsolved disappearance. It’s been seventeen years, and though desperate to start a new life with her fiancé, Hannah is compelled to question the events of her last summer at Brackenhill.

When a human bone is found near the estate, Hannah is convinced it belongs to her long-lost sister. She launches her own investigation into that magical summer that ended in a nightmare. As strange happenings plague the castle, Hannah uncovers disturbing details about the past and startling realizations about her own repressed childhood memories.

Fueled by guilt over her sister’s vanishing, Hannah becomes obsessed with discovering what happened all those years ago, but by the time Hannah realizes some mysteries are best left buried, it’s too late to stop digging. Overwhelmed by what she has exposed, Hannah isn’t sure her new life can survive her old ghosts.

Kate Moretti is the New York Times Bestselling author of six novels and a novella, including Thought I Knew YouWhile You Were GoneBinds That TieThe Vanishing YearBlackbird SeasonIn Her Bones, and the forthcoming Girls of Brackenhill. Her first novel THOUGHT I KNEW YOU, was a New York Times bestseller. THE VANISHING YEAR was a nominee in the Goodreads Choice Awards Mystery/Thriller category for 2016 and was called “chillingly satisfying.” (Publisher’s Weekly) with “superb” closing twists (New York Times Book Review). Her books have been translated in over ten different languages and has been optioned for television.

​Kate has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for twenty years as a scientist and enjoys traveling and cooking. She lives in Pennsylvania in an old farmhouse with her husband, two children and no known ghosts. Her lifelong dream is to find a secret passageway.

http://www.katemoretti.com

Thanks to Thomas & Mercer we have one copy to giveaway. Just tell us your best ghost story. We’ll choose a winner soon. Good luck.

GIVEAWAY: USA only please.

A FRENZY OF SPARKS by KRISTIN FIELDS – Review, Interview & Giveaway

I loved Kristin Fields novel, A FRENZY of SPARKS (LakeUnion). In many ways it was my story of growing up in the 60s where everything seemed perfect, and boring at the same time. We lived in the same neighborhood as our aunts, uncles and cousins. We were always dreaming of escaping our lives in the suburbs. Sundays were family day, usually a barbeque at someone’s house.

In this book, Gia is a 13-year old girl living in Queens on the verge of growing up. Her backyard canal is a better place to be, compared to spending time with boys in the neighborhood. But in A FRENZY of SPARKS, like much of life the neighborhood isn’t really what seems. One cousin introduces drugs into the neighborhood and everything starts changing and not for the better.

A FRENZY of SPARKS is a story about family, love, addiction and making choices. Its a story of survival and attempting to move on when your heart has been broken.

WE ASKED KRISTIN A FEW QUESTIONS:

1. We love sagas about families. The secrets and the various relationships. What makes the perfect family saga?
The funny thing about families is that we’ve clustered a group of individuals together by blood and traits that sometimes compliment each other, but often clash. A good family saga throws that whole range of emotions, from wanting to belong to wanting to stand apart, down on paper. 

2. Please give me the elevator pitch for this novel?A FRENZY OF SPARKS is a coming of age story set in 1960s Queens against the backdrop of the drug crisis of the time, in which a 13 year old girl tries to save her brother from addiction and the world from chemicals, but the most important thing she’ll need to save is herself. 

3. I like this quote, “survival is the attempt to move forward while leaving pieces of your heart behind.” Explain.It often feels impossible after a loss that life can continue, that the next breath will come, that the newspaper will end up on the stoop, that food will ever taste like anything at all, that time will be a thing that we savor instead of dread. But slowly, time accumulates. We continue, not wholly, not without missing pieces, but we continue. 

4. What is your writing process?I usually know the title of the book before anything else. The title becomes the question to answer as I write. I write about 150-200 throwaway pages to figure out the characters and relationships that will ultimately drive the story and outline later. Outlining in the beginning feels too restrictive for me – how can I know what they’ll do if I don’t know who they are yet? My favorite time to write is around 4am before the world starts. It’s nice to fall into another world and look up to realize the sun has come up. It’s the best way to start the day.

5. Tell me about the research that went into writing this novel?
A FRENZY OF SPARKS was inspired by a true family event: I have an uncle who overdosed before his eighteenth birthday. Even though he died years before I was born, it was too painful for my family to talk about, and I didn’t know much about him. It hit me one day that this was the story I was meant to tell – and had perhaps been inching towards in my earlier writing.
Writing A FRENZY OF SPARKS was the first time I spoke directly to my father about his childhood. We scheduled Saturday morning interviews, which he took very seriously. I had questions about his neighborhood, family, things he did for fun, local legends, the shops they visited, much of which shaped the novel’s setting, though at the time, it was less about historical accuracy and more about curiosity. It’s a special thing to imagine your parents as children. 
Our first call lasted four hours. My father was close to Gia’s age at the time, but ultimately, A FRENZY OF SPARKS is fiction, told through the perspective of a girl on the cusp of adulthood. I borrowed from my own experience and frustration with the expectations projected on Italian American girls. Gia is the closest character I’ve written to myself. She is young and naive, but fearlessly observant and intune to the moods of others. She feels a deep connection to nature and the natural world despite living so close to New York City, a fact that sets her apart from her family. More than anything, she wants to do good in a world that isn’t quite open to her yet. 
Years ago, I taught high school in Rockaway and moved to Howard Beach for a shorter commute. I lived in a small, ground level apartment off a canal that flooded when the tide was high at full moon. I used to watch the planes take off from JFK in the park and ate more slices at New Park than I can count, but the funny thing is, the apartment was right around the block from the house my father grew up in. He was as surprised as I was to discover that I’d ended up so close. We joked that I must’ve been drawn there. My father described reading A FRENZY OF SPARKS as the surprise of walking around the block and bumping into someone he hadn’t seen for a long time. Gia reminds him of me. 


6. Tips for would be writers.The best writing advice I ever received was from Martha McPhee, my mentor and friend. I was struggling to write my first book when she told me to pause writing and go live my life. It wasn’t easy to hear, but she was right. The words followed when there was more experience to draw from. 

Kristin Fields grew up in Queens, which she likes to think of as a small town next to a big city. Fields studied writing at Hofstra University, where she received the Eugene Schneider Fiction Award. After college, Fields found herself working on a historic farm, teaching high school English, and designing museum education programs. She is currently leading an initiative to bring gardens to public schools in New York City, where she lives with her husband. We have one copy to giveaway. Just tell us the latest book that you’ve read and loved. We’ll announce a winner soon. Good luck. GIVEAWAY: USA only please.

MISTLETOE and WEDDING BELLS by Ashley Farley – GIVEAWAY

We’re heading back to Hope Springs and it’s Christmas. In Ashley Farley’s third installment of the Hope Springs Series, MISTLETOE and WEDDING BELLS, we’re catching up with the same down home characters and gentility. But there’s more, someone or someones are planning their wedding on Christmas or Christmas Day. “Weddings Bells are ringing.”

General Manager, Stella Boor is back. She’s trying to plan her wedding, build a dream house, but more importantly, get full custody of six-year old, Jazz.

Event planner, Presley Ingram, has a secret. She’s secretly planning Stella and Jack’s dream wedding. She’s so caught up in their wedding plans, she won’t make a date for hers. Her relationship with a hot man is growing. She wonders if she’s planning Stella’s wedding or her own.

Head Chef, Cecily Weber is marrying the love her life, or she? After discovery of another side of her fiance, she questions whether or not she’s making a mistake. She’s a workaholic, successful she doesn’t want her personal life to screw up her career.

Head chef, Cecily Weber, will wed the love of her life on Christmas Eve. But when her fiancé shows an irresponsible side she’s never before seen, Cecily begins to have second doubts. Is she suffering from pre-wedding jitters? Or will she be forced to choose between marriage and the success she’s worked so hard to achieve.

We get to enjoy a wonderful Christmas season at Hope Springs despite all the drama. Who is really going to live a life of happily ever after.

Ashley Farley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her bestselling Sweeney Sisters series has touched the lives of many.

Ashley is a wife and mother of two young adult children. While she’s lived in Richmond, Virginia for the past 24 years, a piece of her heart remains in the salty marshes of the South Carolina Lowcountry, where she still calls home. Through the eyes of her characters, she captures the moss-draped trees, delectable cuisine, and kindhearted folk with lazy drawls that make the area so unique.

Ashley loves to hear from her readers.
Mingle with like-minded readers on her active Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/ashleywfarley.
Visit her website @ http://www.ashleyfarley.com
Sign up for her newsletter @ https://ashleyfarley.com/newsletter-signup/

Thanks to Kate Rock Tours we have one copy to giveaway. Just tell us your favorite Holiday memory. We’ll pick a winner soon. Good luck.

GIVEAWAY: USA only please

NOEL, ALABAMA by Susan Sands – Review & Giveaway CLOSED

She’s finally come home, but will she stay?

Bailey may have bolted from Ministry before the ink on her diploma dried, but her hometown definitely knows how to throw an unforgettable southern Christmas. Except she forgot about the ghosts of Christmas past she left behind—especially her first love, Seth.

Sheriff Seth McKay never forgot the girl he let go so many years ago. They were soulmates, but he knew Bailey needed more than Ministry could offer. Now she’s back and more stunning and confident than ever. Despite the years, their connection and chemistry still burn bright. Can Seth find his own Christmas miracle and convince Bailey to write her story in Ministry…with him?

I loved this book. The love story was sweet, the writing fresh and totally got me excited for the upcoming holiday season. I also learned a lot about the movie business. Readers will all want to visit MINISTRY this Christmas.

A self-described late bloomer, Susan Sands began writing her first novel at age forty. She compares her challenging journey to publication as “raising another child—a difficult one.”

Susan has published five southern, contemporary women’s fiction novels set in Alabama. She describes her humorous small-town stories as fun, romantic, and filled with big family love. Susan also writes authentic place-as-a-character southern fiction with a humorous voice in addition to her Alabama series.

Susan has three grown children and lives with her dentist husband in Roswell, GA. She has a degree in elementary education, is a member of the Georgia Romance Writers, the Romance Writers of America, the Atlanta Writer’s Club,  Womens Fiction Writers of America (WFWA), and the Broadleaf Writers Association. She participates in book festivals, book clubs, and writer’s conferences around the South. Susan is the recipient of the 2017 Georgia Author of the Year award for romance.

http://www.susansands.com

Thanks to Susan we have one autographed copy of NOEL, ALABAMA to giveaway. Just tell us what makes the Holidays magical for you. We’ll announce a winner soon. Good luck.

GIVEAWAY: USA only please

THE MIRROR MAN by Jane Gilmartin – Spotlight – Excerpt – Q & A * GIVEAWAY CLOSED *

In THE MIRROR MAN by Jane Gilmartin, the offer is too tempting: be part of a scientific breakthrough, step out of his life for a year, and be paid hugely for it. When ViGen Pharmaceuticals asks Jeremiah to be part of an illegal cloning experiment, he sees it as a break from an existence he feels disconnected from. No one will know he’s been replaced—not the son who ignores him, not his increasingly distant wife—since a revolutionary drug called Meld can transfer his consciousness and memories to his copy.

From a luxurious apartment, he watches the clone navigate his day-to-day life. But soon Jeremiah discovers that examining himself from an outsider’s perspective isn’t what he thought it would be, and he watches in horror as “his” life spirals out of control. ViGen needs the experiment to succeed—they won’t call it off, and are prepared to remove any obstacle. With his family in danger, Jeremiah needs to finally find the courage to face himself head-on.

HERE’S AN EXCERPT FROM THE MIRROR MAN

Charles Scott glared down at him with a glint in his green eyes that felt like a warning, and Jeremiah replayed in his head the man’s ambiguous threat during their first meeting several weeks before.

“You now know as much about this project as anyone else involved,” he’d said. “It wouldn’t do to have too many people walking around with this kind of information. Our investors have a tendency to get nervous.”

Although Scott had quickly followed that remark with the matter of Jeremiah’s substantial compensation, there was no mistaking the implication: the moment he’d been told about the cloning project Jeremiah was already in. That first meeting hadn’t been an invitation so much as an orientation, and the contract he’d later signed had been a formality, at best. And the entire thing had done nothing but gain momentum from that moment on.

Dr. Pike continued to affix the wires to Jeremiah’s head. Jeremiah focused on the man’s gleaming black hair and the deep brown of his sure, professional hands, and he struggled to remember the allure of the $10 million payout he’d get at the end of the whole thing. That kind of money could fix a lot of problems. It would change things. The prospect of that fortune had been enough to make him turn away from principles he thought were unshakable. Every man has his price, he supposed.

Somewhere in the back of his mind he also acknowledged the real temptation of a twelve-month sabbatical from his own life. It had seduced him every bit as much as the money had. Maybe more. Between a job that had already begun to make him question his own morals, and a marriage that felt increasingly more like a lie, stress was eating him alive. And into his lap fell a chance to just walk away from all of it—without consequence and without blame. A free pass. He could simply walk away without anyone even knowing he was gone. There isn’t a man alive, he told himself, who would have refused. Despite the ethical question, despite that human cloning was illegal the world over, it would have tempted anyone.

Dr. Pike injected the clone with Meld and then turned wordlessly to Jeremiah with the second syringe poised above his left shoulder.

Jeremiah closed his eyes and rolled up his sleeve.

After the initial stab of the needle, he felt nothing. Which is not to say he didn’t feel anything; he literally felt nothing. Seconds after the injection, he became aware of a total emptiness, like a towering black wave that threatened to sink him into an immeasurable void. The experience was unlike anything he’d ever known. He imagined an astronaut suddenly untethered from his ship, floating helplessly into unending darkness. Without thinking, he immediately felt his body recoil. His mind screamed against it.

I’m dying!

From impossibly far away, he heard Dr. Pike say something about a heart rate and felt the slight pressure of a hand on his shoulder. He couldn’t see anything of the hospital room anymore. He was drowning in the blackness. His chest felt suddenly constricted. He fought just to find his breath.

“This is all perfectly normal, Mr. Adams. You have nothing to worry about. Concentrate on the sound of my voice. Nod if you can hear me.”

With considerable effort, Jeremiah managed what he hoped was a nod of his head. He was suddenly gripped by the alarming certainty that if he couldn’t communicate somehow, he’d be lost—swept away forever.

“Good. Good. Listen to my voice. It will keep you grounded.” Pike still sounded far away, but Jeremiah nodded again and struggled to focus. “What you are experiencing is to be expected. Do you remember when you took the Meld with Dr. Young? Do you remember the way you could feel her thoughts for the first few minutes?”

He nodded. It had been an unnerving thing to perceive her consciousness mixing with his like that. Flashes from her mind—odd, alien things like the feel of a blister on the back of her right heel, the familiar gleam in the eye of an old man he’d never seen—had swirled into the very structure of his own mind and fought for a place to settle. He had railed against that, too, and she had grounded him by flashing a penlight in his face, making him focus on that while the Meld took effect. Afterward, once he had sunk in, it had been easier.

“This is no different than what you experienced then,” Pike said. “This time, though, you are connected to an empty mind. There’s nothing there. But the more you resist, the longer this will take. You need to relax, Mr. Adams. Give in to it.”

Jeremiah nodded again and then shook his head with as much grit as he could muster. How does one give in to this? He didn’t think he could do it.

“Once your thoughts begin transferring into the mind of the clone it will be easier for you,” Pike urged. “Focus on a memory, as I suggested. Something vivid. It will help to fill that void you’re experiencing now. It will give you something to hang on to.”

Without the benefit of his full faculties, Jeremiah had little choice but to grab the last thing he’d been thinking about—his initial conversation with Charles Scott, the day all of this began.

He’d been surprised when he’d received an invitation to lunch from ViMed’s head of Engineering. The man was an icon in the science world, and although he’d quoted him a hundred times for the company, Jeremiah had never actually met him. He’d been intrigued enough to accept the invitation, especially when Scott had told him it involved a “proposition that could make him a very wealthy man.”

Flashes of that encounter and snatches of conversation now flitted through his mind like so many fireflies. He fought to catch them.

“We’ve been watching you, Mr. Adams.”

“All we ask is one year of your life. Isn’t that worth $10 million?”

“We can do this. The science exists. And with Meld, the clone will even share your thought patterns… Your own mother won’t know the difference.”

“This is sanctioned by powerful people—we have millions in secret federal backing. There are billions more in eventual funding… There’s no need to be so suspicious, Mr. Adams.”

From somewhere far away, Jeremiah heard Dr. Pike repeating his name. He had been so engulfed in his efforts to hold on to the memory that he’d almost forgotten where he was. As soon as he realized it, the void loomed again in his mind.

“Mr. Adams,” Pike said, “you’ve got to listen to me. The clone cannot pick up on any memory of the experiment. What you’re thinking about is not going to help. You need to think about something else, some memory that won’t be filtered. His mind is still empty.”

Jeremiah panicked. He couldn’t think. And now that he wasn’t focused on anything, the blackness began to take over again, creeping closer and threatening to swallow him. He fought for breath.

“Relax, Mr. Adams,” Pike said. “Think about your job here at ViMed. Remember something the clone can actually use. Something he’ll need to know.”

He felt a dull jab at his shoulder.

“This should help. I’ve given you a mild sedative. Take a few deep breaths. Concentrate on your breathing.”

With everything in him, Jeremiah tried to turn his mind away from the void that seemed to be all around him. He inhaled deeply and tried to focus on the rise of his own chest. Exhaled, and he felt his chest fall.

“Very good, Mr. Adams. Very good. Pulse is returning to normal. Deep breaths. Now, think about a typical day at work. Something ordinary and mundane.”

Inhale. Exhale. After a moment, Jeremiah began to relax and, as the sedative took hold, he found he could let his mind wander without the frantic thought that he’d never get it back. An oddly comforting fog seemed to expand in front of him, pushing the blackness away slightly, and Jeremiah retreated into it.

He began to think about the morning of the Meld fiasco—the day the New Jersey housewife had killed herself. The press had been circling. He’d arrived at his office with a terse mandate from his superiors to “get these fuckers off our back” and no idea how to accomplish that. It hadn’t been lost on him that not a single soul seemed bothered enough to stop and feel sorry about it, and he’d taken a quick moment behind his office door to offer silent condolences. It wasn’t thirty seconds before someone had come knocking, pushing him to get something done.

Weeks before, he’d heard talk of Meld being used to detect brain activity in a sixteen-year-old football player who had been comatose for nearly six months. Time to cash in. He tracked down the doctor somewhere in Delaware and the man started gushing about Meld, calling it “magical,” “a godsend” and “the most important medical advance of a generation.”

“After so many weeks,” he said, “the parents were hopeless.”

Meld was a last resort before pulling the plug, and it gave them the first clear signs of neural activity in the boy.

“Not only was he aware and awake in there, but he was cognizant of everything that was going on around him—including the fact that his parents were losing hope. He even heard them talking about funeral arrangements at one point. The kid was scared, terrified. He was begging for his life in there. That’s what I saw when I took the Meld with him. Meld absolutely saved his life. There is no doubt in my mind.”

Jeremiah had almost smiled. It was pure gold. A few hours later, the story was in the hands of every major news outlet, and that doctor was spending his fifteen minutes of fame touting Meld as “a medical miracle.”Jeremiah focused on that now. Maybe Meld did have some silver lining, after all, he thought. Maybe it was miraculous.

WE GOT TO ASK THE AUTHOR SOME QUESTIONS

What made you write this novel?

I love characters that are almost but not quite human. My favorite Star Trek characters are always ones like Spock, Data, and the Doctor from Voyager. Clones, to me, are about as almost human as you can get. Some of my favorite science fiction stories deal with clones. But there are so many good ones already out there I didn’t feel like I had anything to add, and I never really set out to try.

But I was reading something a few years ago that posed a straightforward and fascinating question: What would it be like to meet your own clone? The article I was reading left it at that, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I knew it might be interesting to write a clone story that focused not on the clone, but on the human, who had been cloned. I thought that presented a whole new set of ideas and issues within the topic. It sort of turns the whole thing around when you look at it from that human perspective. What would it feel like to see yourself replaced in your own life? There is something so creepy and sad about that idea. Also, though, I saw something hopeful. I think it brings up the possibility of making a change in your life or seeing the opportunity for a second chance, which is always a good thing to explore. Those are some ideas I tried to keep in mind as I was writing The Mirror Man.

  1. Medical thrillers are all the rage. Why, do you think?

I think there is something intrinsically threatening about so-called Big Pharma – especially right now. In the midst of a global pandemic, the world is waiting for a viable vaccine to fix it, but there’s this nagging doubt that maybe it’s being rushed. We have government agencies relaxing rules on testing protocol, funding research with budgets the size of planetary systems, and all these drug companies racing to be the one that comes charging in on the white stallion to save the world. But poll after poll in the news says the public won’t feel safe getting vaccinated right off the bat, even if it means getting back to normal. And there are more people in the world today that don’t trust mandated vaccines to begin with – not even for the tried and tested ones for polio or mumps. 

People don’t trust that these huge companies truly have the public’s best interest at heart. I think that really became more evident when pharmaceutical companies began advertising drugs on television and pushing people to “ask your doctor or pharmacist if (insert drug here) is right for you.” I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t want to suggest a drug to my doctor as though it were a brand of cookie that looked good on TV. I’d much rather my doctor had a more educated idea on what medicine I ought to be taking. 

So, I think medical thrillers are big right now because people are pretty easily convinced that an industry that seems motivated more by profit and less by altruistic science just might have the capacity for evil. For a lot of people, that distrust is already there.

  1. What are your thoughts about cloning?

I find the concept of cloning to be fascinating. The thought of having a clone – someone who could say, clean the bathrooms for me, make dinner, go to a meeting in my place – is sort of tempting. But there are all these sinister elements about cloning, and a whole lot of ethical questions, too, that are a lot more serious. What if we created clones for harvesting body parts in the event that we got sick or injured? What if we used them to fight our wars or for bomb disposal and other dangerous endeavors in our place? Would the auto industry begin using clones instead of test dummies for crash test data? Presumably, a clone would feel every bit as real and human as the host it sprang from, but would it be? Would clones have the same rights and privileges of personhood if they were mere copies? Would they be entitled to such rights and privileges? And if they didn’t get them – what then? Would they organize and rise up against us? 

There is a lot to consider about human cloning and I only touched briefly on these questions in The Mirror Man, but I think we – as a society and as a species – ought to start thinking about it.

  1. How did you research this novel?

Because the main focus of The Mirror Man is more the psychological changes of the protagonist as he watches his clone, it isn’t a book that’s especially science laden. That being said, the science (even though most is invented) had to be believable and plausible and so, is based on real science.

For the cloning aspect in the story I researched the way cloning is currently done in mammals – via cell transfer and embryotic implantation. But I also needed to identify ways in which scientists might grow a human clone quickly, so it would reach a full, adult maturation rate in about 48 hours. I read a lot about Human Growth Hormone (HGH) in the pituitary gland of our brains and its effect on how our bodies grow. The research was intriguing and sent me down so many rabbit holes dealing with the role this hormone plays in cell repair, muscle mass, weight gain, and even life expectancy. The articles I saved and the notes I took might well come in handy for a future novel.

I also did some research for Meld, the invented drug in the story. I wanted to create a drug that – if two people took it together – could offer a literal glimpse into someone else’s mind but one that could also be used to transfer brain patterns and consciousness from the main character into the clone. In the novel, the drug is used in a myriad of ways – not only to copy a mind, but also as a promising medical tool and as an illegal recreational drug with dire consequences. For Meld I researched the areas of the human brain such a drug might act upon – especially our aptly titled mirror neurons which are responsible for making us yawn when we see someone else yawn. (If yours are especially active, you might have yawned at the very thought of that. If so – sorry!)

  1. Do you believe human cloning is possible?

As the lead scientist in The Mirror Man likes to point out, “the science exists.” 

Human cloning is absolutely possible. We are already so adept at cloning animals that there are actual companies out there whose entire business model is built on cloning our dogs and cats. And people do that more often than you’d imagine. Did you know Barbara Streisand has had something like five clones of her favorite dog? It’s true. And we all know the story of Dolly, the sheep with the dubious distinction of being the very first mammal to be successfully cloned in 1996. From dogs and cats and sheep it isn’t a giant leap to cloning humans. Essentially, the science is the same. What’s stopping us (thankfully) isn’t the feasibility, but the ethical and moral dilemmas associated with human cloning.

While many countries have passed laws that prohibit human cloning, the US currently has no such legislation (although some states do). Congress has proposed many bills to that effect, but none have been enacted into actual law. The reason for that is partly because things like medical stem cell research overlap the science of cloning. But there are reams of material written on the ethical implications of human cloning from agencies including the World Health Organization, and there are ongoing congressional discussions to agree at least on some level of regulation. But at the moment, in the US, human cloning is both scientifically possible and essentially legal. That’s just a tiny bit terrifying.

  1. Talk about the meaning of identity in your book

It didn’t take me long to understand that what I was really doing with The Mirror Man was writing a story about self-identity. It’s a topic that finds its way into a lot of what I write and is strangely compelling to me. My favorite line from David Bowie’s song “Changes” is this: 

I turn myself to face me, but I never caught a glimpse of how the others must see the faker

I find that idea fascinating. We all have this idea of who we are, and how we come across to other people, but it’s probably not the truth. The way we see ourselves is muddled with all these filters and little lies. We are all, in a sense, just fakers. I wanted to explore that concept, so I came up with a way to put a character in a situation where he literally had to turn and face himself – to see himself exactly as everyone else sees him — from the outside. Cloning seemed an obvious choice for a science fiction writer. 

In the novel, my character, Jeremiah is largely locked in this laboratory/apartment and made to watch his clone on a TV monitor for four hours a day. Even though he’s typically seeing mundane things – the clone interacting with his family and co-workers – the experience is difficult and eye-opening for him. While he has to admit that his double is every bit identical to him, he begins to despise who he’s watching. It makes him question fundamental things about his own identity.

Meanwhile, we have this illegal street use of a drug called Meld that allows people to see themselves through someone else’s eyes and it leads to a rash of suicides. It’s another way of looking at what the main character is going through, but the result is basically the same: It isn’t easy to face the truth of who you are.

There are a lot of figurative and literal mirrors in my novel. Jeremiah is often looking at his own reflection as he grapples with questions about his life. He spends quite a bit of time creating an avatar of himself for a video game. And, obviously, his clone is sort of the ultimate reflection. But he never fully understands what he’s seeing until he’s forced to face himself. And I had to bring him to that point in a very literal way. Hopefully, the novel will leave readers asking some interesting questions about their own identity.

About the Author:

Jane Gilmartin has been a news reporter and editor for several small-town weekly papers and enjoyed a brief but exciting stint as a rock music journalist. A bucket list review just before she turned 50 set her on the path to fiction writing. Also checked off that list: an accidental singing career, attending a Star Trek convention, and getting a hug from David Bowie. She lives in her hometown of Hingham, Massachusetts.

Social Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JANEGILMARTIN3 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/imadj123/ 

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mirror-Man-Jane-Gilmartin/dp/0778309649 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-mirror-man-jane-gilmartin/1132648651?ean=9780778309642

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/the-mirror-man-9780778309642/9780778309642

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780778309642

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Mirror-Man/Jane-Gilmartin/9780778309642?id=7603448579977

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ie/en/audiobook/the-mirror-man-6

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-mirror-man/id1474107554 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Jane_Gilmartin_The_Mirror_Man?id=9nClDwAAQBAJ

THE MIRROR MAN will be published October 20th.

TSARINA by Ellen Alpsten – SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY CLOSED

Before there was Catherine the Great, there was Catherine Alexeyevna: the first woman to rule Russia in her own right. Ellen Alpsten’s rich novel, TSARINA (StMartinsPress) sweeping debut novel is the story of her rise to power.

St. Petersburg, 1725. Peter the Great lies dying in his magnificent Winter Palace. The weakness and treachery of his only son has driven his father to an appalling act of cruelty and left the empire without an heir. Russia risks falling into chaos. Into the void steps the woman who has been by his side for decades: his second wife, Catherine Alexeyevna, as ambitious, ruthless and passionate as Peter himself.

Born into devastating poverty, Catherine used her extraordinary beauty and shrewd intelligence to ingratiate herself with Peter’s powerful generals, finally seducing the Tsar himself. But even amongst the splendor and opulence of her new life―the lavish feasts, glittering jewels, and candle-lit hours in Peter’s bedchamber―she knows the peril of her position. Peter’s attentions are fickle and his rages powerful; his first wife is condemned to a prison cell, her lover impaled alive in Red Square. And now Catherine faces the ultimate test: can she keep the Tsar’s death a secret as she plays a lethal game to destroy her enemies and take the Crown for herself?

From the sensuous pleasures of a decadent aristocracy, to the incense-filled rites of the Orthodox Church and the terror of Peter’s torture chambers, the intoxicating and dangerous world of Imperial Russia is brought to vivid life. Tsarina is the story of one remarkable woman whose bid for power would transform the Russian Empire.

“Love, sex and loyalty with war, intrigue and treason create an epic canvas as exotic and powerful as eighteenth-century Russia itself.”

TSARINA will be published November 10th.

ELLEN ALPSTEN was born and raised in the Kenyan highlands. Upon graduating from L’Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, she worked as a news anchor for Bloomberg TV London. Whilst working gruesome night shifts on breakfast TV, she started to write in earnest, every day, after work and a nap. Today, Ellen works as an author and as a journalist for international publications such as VogueStandpoint and CN Traveller. She lives in London with her husband, three sons and a moody fox red Labrador. Tsarina is her debut novel.

Thanks to St. Martin Press we have one copy to giveaway. Just tell us what you know about Russian History. We’ll choose a winner soon. Good luck.

GIVEAWAY: USA only please

#TSARINA @EllenAlpsten_Author @StMartinsPress #Historical #Russia #RussianHistory #ShelfAwareness

MURDER in the PIAZZA by by Jennifer Collins Moore – SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY CLOSED *

In Jennifer Collins Moore’s debut novel, MURDER in the Piazza(LevelBestBooks), Maggie White, a downsized American executive stuck in Rome on her husband’s expat assignment, is finding the dolce vita isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. She’s taken a job offering painting instruction to well-heeled travelers and her boss-a rather unpleasant English lord-has turned up dead in his penthouse. Maggie’s left with a palazzo full of suspicious guests, a valuable painting her boss might have stolen, and a police who’s decided she’s the prime suspect. Now Maggie must keep the tour up and running while she tracks the killer and works to clear her name.

Moore’s debut and the first installment of A MAGGIE WHITE MYSTERY will have you hooked at the first page. You’ll identify with the protagonist, Maggie, her persistence and there are clever twist and turns. You’ll also go on a tour of Rome!

I’m already excited for the 2nd book.


Jen Collins Moore is the author of the Maggie White Mysteries. Her short fiction has appeared in Mystery Weekly, and she is the editor of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest newsletter. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, as well an established marketer and entrepreneur. A transplanted New Englander, she lives in Chicago with her husband and two boys.

http://www.jennifercollinsmoore.com

Thanks TLC Book Tours we have one copy to giveaway. Just tell us the latest cozy murder you’ve read. We’ll choose a winner soon. Good luck!

http://www.tlcbooktours.com http://www.jennifercollins moore.com #cozymurder #murder #MaggieWhiteMystery #mystery #MaggieWhite

GIVEAWAY: USA only please