Book Recommendations, Bookish News

Cover Reveal: Azriel by Lee James

Releases  Fall 2020

Bree Faro learns early in life that she has only herself to depend on. Due to her feisty nature and unusual ability with a sword, she is educated in every fighting style imaginable and excels at them all. When she’s sent to infiltrate the city of Azriel, she does not expect to find her place among the Watchmen of the Keep, but they welcome her as one of their own.

Little does Bree know that her new companions are in danger.

An immortal creature lies in wait for any Keeper of the Flame, the city’s water source has dried up, and they are under constant attack from the Yirtzi—former Watchmen reduced to vengeful spirits, who sold their souls for power only to realize the enemy of Yahweh does not translate to the friend of mankind. Not only that, but the Watchmen are fraying. Hostilities come to a head when a Watchman is murdered.

Only a Watchman can kill another Watchman, and all eyes shift to Bree.

Bree finds herself faced with a choice. Does she engineer the betrayal of the powerful city, or does she embrace her destiny as a true Watchman of Yahweh and find the killer before it’s too late?

About The Author

Lee James writes stories of hope and redemption. Whether she creates fantasy, mystery, or historical fiction, her beautifully awkward characters traverse a dark labyrinth on their journey to a hopeful end. Her work is dedicated to sharing the beauty of Christ, one faith-infused project at a time.

Keep up-to-date with all of her stories at http://www.leejameswrites.com.

Bookish News

Cover Reveal: She Wears The Mask by Shelly Stratton

SHE WEARS THE MASK BY SHELLY STRATTON

No one can ever really know what lies behind the mask . . .

Gripping and moving, She Wears the Mask is a novel about two women from two very different worlds, both burdened with secrets from their pasts, who form an unexpected bond…

1950s Chicago: Angelique Bixby could be one of many fresh-faced sales girls working along the Magnificent Mile, but she’s unique. She’s a white woman married to a black man in 1950s Chicago, making her stand out among the tenements on the South Side where she lives. Despite the challenges the couple faces, they find comfort and strength in their love for one another. Angelique is content, as long as she has her Daniel by her side and their baby in her arms, until she loses them both—one to death and the other to dire circumstances.

1990s Washington, D.C.: Angelique Crofton is a woman of privilege. A rich, aging beauty and mother of a rising political star, she has learned to forget her tragic past. But now that she is facing her own mortality, she is finally ready to find the daughter she left behind, remember the young woman she once was, and unearth the bittersweet memories she had long ago buried.

Jasmine Stanley is an ambitious lawyer—the only black woman at her firm. She is too busy climbing the corporate ladder to deal with her troublesome family or their unresolved issues. Tasked with Angelique’s case, Jasmine doesn’t know what to make of her new client—an old debutante with seemingly too much time and money on her hands. Jasmine eagerly accepts the challenge though, hoping if she finds Angelique’s long-lost daughter, it will impress the firm’s partners. But she doesn’t count on the search challenging her mentally and emotionally. Nor does she expect to form a friendship with Angelique, who is much more like her than she realizes—because Jasmine is harboring secrets, too.

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EXCERPT

Chapter 1

 Angelique

November 9, 1950

Chicago, Illinois

 

She will never get used to the sound of the “L” train.

Angelique realizes this for the umpteenth time as the train thunders above her and she ducks her head and clutches the collar of her wool coat in a white-knuckled grip with one hand. While crossing the street under the train tracks, she doesn’t look up—too frightened to witness its passage. She focuses her runny eyes instead on the puddles of melting snow where the halogen lights from bars and the late-night delicatessen glow. Her eyes then drift to the bundle in the basket she holds.

Hearing the steady click-clack of the train wheels, the seismic rattle of metal beams, and the whoosh of air as it passes will never become background noise to her, no matter how long she lives in the “Windy City” to some or “Chi-Town” to others—but it did for Daniel. He laughed at her the first time she cringed when the train passed their bedroom window.

“Look at you,” he drawled that first night they slept in their apartment. “It’s just a train, sugar. It can’t hurt you none.”

But what did Daniel know? Even though he’d grown up on the alfalfa fields of North Carolina with dirt under his nails and the sweet stench of manure in his nostrils, he’d been a city boy at heart. The “L” was practically a Mama’s lullaby, lulling him to sleep at night, while it became her torturer, yanking her awake every time her eyelids would drift closed.

When she did sleep, the train would haunt her dreams—those hungry steel wheels gnashing at the tracks, sending up sparks into the dark night. Her mind’s eye would see the train barreling at high speeds over Logan Square, Hyde Park, and Chinatown, like it was searching for her, leaving quaking windows in its wake.

She dreamed of standing with other commuters waiting to head Uptown, only to have someone accidentally shove her. She’d go tumbling off the platform, onto the train track, and get hit by the “L,” yelling for help as she watched it approach. She dreamed of Daniel riding on his way to work at the stockyards, and one of the train cars would derail and go careening to the busy street twenty feet below. She would wake up screaming, and Daniel would wrap her in his strong arms, pull her close, and let her tremble in his embrace.

After a while, she started to sleep with a pillow over her head to finally get some rest, hoping to drown out the sound of the train at night. Unfortunately, it also drowned out their baby’s cries. Daniel had to shake her awake and tug the pillow from her head a few times.

“She’s hungry, sugar,” he would say, bringing their baby girl to her.

She would turn onto her back, prop the pillow behind her, tiredly undo the ribbons of her night gown, and lower the infant to her tender breast, yawning and staring out the window at the passing of the “L” as she nursed.

Ultimately, Daniel would be proven right. It wasn’t the train she should’ve feared, but the street car. That’s what took her man away in the end. The sound of the trolley bell would be the harbinger of death for him, not the screech of train wheels.

She gives a bleak, dark chuckle at the irony as the “L” finally . . . mercifully passes overhead, leaving behind the distant sound of rattling metal and fluttering newspapers. She can hear her baby girl, Emma Jean, crying now and see her squirming in the basket at her side, making it hard not to drop the basket and the baby from her sore fingers. She holds fast though, and continues to walk in the cold and through the melting snow. Her leather shoes—one of her few remaining pairs—are covered in rubber booties, but the booties have holes in them. The shoes are now damp and she suspects her feet are starting to freeze. Her toes are stinging like they’re being poked by tiny needles. She wonders if she will develop gangrene, but she doesn’t stop to check her feet. She’s already walked this far. May as well keep going.

“Hey, lady! What you doin’ out here with that baby?” a voice slurs, startling her and making her pause for the first time.

Angelique turns to her right to find a figure lurking in a doorway. An old Negro man with weathered skin stumbles out of the shadows like someone has given him a hard shove. He clutches a half pint of Old Forrester in his dirty hand. He’s wearing several layers of clothing, all of which are either shredded, riddled with holes, or covered with stains. The rank smell of alcohol, body odor, and urine drifts from him like an atomic cloud. He narrows his bloodshot eyes at her.

She stares back at him, tugging the basket close to her side, but she doesn’t respond. She turns back around and starts walking again.

“Cain’t you hear that baby cryin’?” he shouts drunkenly after her and she starts to walk faster. “Shouldn’t be out here in the cold with no baby no way! Take it inside!”

When she nears the end of the block, she is almost at a run, jostling the infant in the basket and making her cry louder.

“Crazy cracker wench!” his voice howls against the growing wind.

Angelique is finally a block away. She stops at an empty wooden bench to regain her breath. She sets the wicker basket on the bench, sits beside it, and takes out Emma Jean. She holds her against her chest, cooing to her and rocking her softly. Emma Jean is no more than a little round face engulfed in blankets under the street light. Big brown, watery eyes gaze up at her. After a few minutes, the wails quail to whimpers and the whimpers die down to hiccups. Emma Jean’s eyes close. Long dark lashes like her daddy’s sweep her cheeks. Eventually, Emma Jean quiets, asleep again.

This is when Angelique begins to lose her nerve, feeling the familiar warmth of her baby girl against her body, seeing Emma Jean slumber so blissfully in her arms.

Her vision begins to blur as the tears well. She sniffs and a nose that was already chapped red from the chill and the wind, becomes even redder.

“I can’t do this. I can’t do this,” she whimpers, shakily rising to her feet, leaving the basket on the bench. She lurches back toward the corner with Emma Jean, and sees the outline of the drunken bum leaning against a brick wall, watching her from a distance like a specter in the dark.

Seeing him again, she suddenly remembers the empty shelves in the kitchenette cabinets back at her apartment and the icebox filled with one block of cheese and a bottle of milk that is about to go bad. She remembers the “Rent Due” notice tacked to her front door. And she remembers that she can’t return to her plush sales girl job thanks to Mr. Mullan. She probably will never be able to show her face, let alone work anywhere at the posh stores on State Street again. Odd jobs at night clubs and seedy bars won’t keep her and Emma Jean from starving. She could very well find herself on the street like that bum. She must move on and start all over again, but her baby girl will not be able to move on with her. Emma Jean does not fit into her life anymore. Not after the mess she’s made of it. That is why she is here to procure her daughter a new life—a better one.

She lowers the infant back into the basket, nestling her in the soft blankets, careful not to wake her again. She adjusts the envelope beside the baby, the one containing a note, a picture of Daniel, looking dapper in his Army uniform, and a lock of her own hair.

Angelique blinks through her tears and starts walking again, continuing to her destination.

ABOUT SHELLY STRATTON

Shelly Stratton is the penname an award-nominated author who has published almost a dozen books under another pseudonym.

She is married and lives in Maryland with her husband and their daughter. Visit her at her web site http://www.shellystrattonbooks.com to learn more about her work.

CONNECT WITH SHELLY

AUTHOR SITE | FACEBOOKTWITTER | INSTAGRAMAMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

Bookish News

For Authors: Interview with Therese Plummer

Stopping by Authors & Readers Book Corner today is Therese Plummer, is an actor and award-winning audiobook narrator working in New York City. She has recorded over 350 audio books for various publishers. She won the 2019 Audie Award for her work on the multicast, Sadie by Courtney Summers for Macmillan Audio, was nominated for the Mutlicast Any Man by Amber Tamblyn for Harper Audio and her solo narration for The Rogue Planets Shaken by Lee W. Brainard for Podium Publishing. The American Library Association (ALA) awarded her work on Sourdough by Robin Sloan as part of the 2018 Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration for Adult Listeners.

Thérèse is the voice of Maya Hansen in the Marvel Graphic Motion Comic Ironman Extremis, Dr. Fennel in Pokemon and for various Yu-Gi-Oh characters. Television Guest Star Roles on The Good Wife, Law and Order SVU and the upcoming series Virgin River for Netflix. She chats with us about being a narrator, it’s importance and how she takes care of her voice to be able to record audiobooks.

Let’s learn more about Therese Plummer:

What’s a day in the studio like for you?

I get to the studio to start my session at 10:00am.  I will yuck it up with the engineers and whoever else is around and then get into my studio for a full day of performing.  I love the pomodoro technique* lately as it is fantastic for productivity and keeps my energy levels at a sustainable level.  My typical recording day is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tell me a bit about transforming books into audiobooks. How do you prepare, and what do you most enjoy about the preparation? From one project to the next, how much do you change your approach to each audiobook?

I love this question!  Each book is a new friend I have just met and in order to get to know her I need to really listen. The book tells me everything I need to know because the author has taken the time to create this world and the characters whose journeys I am lucky to go on and bring to life. Every story has its own personality and vibe.  If I have questions regarding pronunciations I will submit a word list to my producers and also will collaborate with the authors if I am able to ask specific questions about how they ‘hear’ certain characters. My prepping means I read the entire book and will highlight ‘directions,’ I see (e.g. he whispered, she muttered, he said in a flat voice, she roared).  I will have made a new friend so when I go into  the studio to give the book a voice it is now a dialogue with my new friend.

Does your work impact how you read outside of work?

When I am in the studio I record off of an iPad and will scroll to the next page.  The other day I had a book on my lap and saw my finger go to the page to scroll it and I started laughing.  Old habits!!  My husband is very amused as I am always giving things a voice and a character.  It’s kind of a habit now. I am definitely a faster reader.

What do audiobooks offer that a book can’t? And considering how much audiobooks are booming, why do you think we’re being drawn to this medium more and more?

So when I was twelve years old I remember reading a book called Tully by Paullina Simons** and being absolutely mesmerized.  I couldn’t focus in school as I kept thinking about Tully and the next chapter I would get to after school. I was fully invested in this story and these characters.  It was so real for me. That’s what a good story does.  If I were to guess, I think when a listener finds a voice that works for them telling them the story and bringing it to life, it is the ultimate escape and experience.  I have had listeners tell me they won’t leave their car until the chapter ends.  Storytelling is the oldest form of entertainment and connection and to have a voice perform a story to you is such an intimate and beautiful experience.  It is a human connection and it is highly entertaining. It is a healthy way to detach from the noise of your commute and escape into a wonderful story.   I have had other listeners tell me listening to an audiobook is equivalent to watching a  movie in their head.

What do you believe are your greatest strengths as a narrator of books? What is the most rewarding or coolest thing you get to bring to this experience through your reading?

I believe my greatest strength as a storyteller is the ability to immerse my whole self into all of the characters and trust myself to then translate that vocally. I lose myself in the story and the characters and I think you have to do that to bring the authors world alive vocally. It is so fun to play crazy characters (lycans, vampires, gargoyles, etc) or little kids talking to their parents and to hear my voice just become what is in my head. I am one of eight kids in my family and I have 15 nephews and nieces to date so I have lots of inspiration:-)

What’s one thing people might not expect about your role as narrator?

It is exhausting!  The pomodoro technique helps me with energy but at the end of a six or eight hour day I usually come home and crash.  I am used to playing one character on stage and film but in the studio it is a one-woman show and sometimes up to 40 characters a book.  I have so much respect for my community of storytellers!

How do you take care of your voice?

Sleep is my number one voice-care.  The others are vocal/diaphragm warm ups before my session.  Stretching my tongue, jaw, throat and face.  Also lots of water, espresso (not sure that’s a good one but is my vice) and tea.  I love soups.  And Airborne in the beginning and end of a session.

Tell us a bit about being a woman in the audiobook industry. Do you face any particular challenges? How have things changed over time?

The biggest change has been our Union (Sag-Aftra) negotiating contracts with the publishers on our behalf to solidify our rates in the last 10 years or so.   I think the biggest challenge as a woman is speaking up for a higher rate as time goes on.  I know if I were a man it would be less intimidating but the good news is that my community of storytellers are filled with like-minded strong beautiful talented and fierce queens who band together in support and encouragement of each other. We know our worth and ask for what we want and need.  The worst thing that can happen is they say no but it is worth the discomfort.  As freelance artists it is really scary because if we ask and they say no we don’t want to lose work or be seen as greedy or annoying to work with so a lot of us stay quiet.  The few times I advocated for myself and asked it was greeted with approval but my god, it was terrifying. I try to channel my inner vampire or werewolf strength at times. LOL.

Who in your life has had the biggest impact on your work as a narrator?

My father.  He was a professional actor in his younger days and growing up in my house he was always singing and bringing characters in his head to life.  We never knew who would be serving us our French Toast.  Was it a French man or an Italian man?  Accents and characters galore.  It was a one man show and incredibly entertaining.  He performed a one man show of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and every year I sat in the audience and was mesmerized how he brought every character in that story to life!  I was in awe.  When he retired my brother and I took over the tradition and perform A Christmas Carol at Grey Towers in Milford Pa. the first weekend in December every year. What a gift.

I’d love to know more about reading Robyn Carr’s work! How do you approach romance in particular as a narrator? (Especially kissing/love scenes!)

I was asked to audition to narrate Virgin River in 2009 at Recorded Books in NYC.  They chose my voice and none  of us knew the journey we would all go on! The romance books are the same as any other story as it is a friend I have yet to meet.  The thing I love about these stories though is that each book has so many mini stories going on that it felt like a soap opera or television show while I narrated.  The love scenes are intimate, personal, passionate and sometimes funny so as the voice of the man and the woman and the narrator I have my work cut out for me.  There is a way to soften my voice but get closer to the microphone so I am not too soft and bring the scene to life.  I have cracked myself up when the groan I emit as the man comes out more like a croak and my engineer and I will have a good chuckle before going back and getting it right.  Again I am bringing a story alive to your ears so the more natural and realistic I can get it the better for you.  That is my goal.

I am blessed to call Robyn a friend and she is one of the funniest, most real, bad-ass queens I know.  I was able to narrate all of her Virgin River, Thunder Point and Sullivan’s Crossing series as well as her stand-alone novels.  I adore these stories and characters.  I was able to audition and landed a role on season one of Virgin River for Netflix.  To walk on set and be in Jack’s bar after bringing it to life for so many years through audio was surreal and amazing.  I think they did an amazing job with the series! The best part of Robyn’s books is that she writes about people all of us know.  Everyone can relate and escape into a really good story for a while.  Healthy escapism.

Visit her at Social Media:

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/tplummer76

Facebook: @thereseplummer

Instagram: @plummertherese

Twitter: @tplummer76

Author website: https://www.thereseplummer.com/

Thérèse’s PRBTB Experts Page: https://prbythebook.com/experts/therese-plummer/

Book Recommendations, Bookish News

Book Blitz: Chasing After Love by Suzette Riddick

CHASING AFTER LOVE BY SUZETTE RIDDICK

Can a desperate lie lead to crazy love?

Nancy Redmond’s professional life is on point. It’s her personal life that could use a major overhaul. Selling her business and relocating from the midwest to the east coast, Nancy is determined to get a fresh start and prove to herself that she doesn’t need a man to fulfill her.

Gabriel “Gabe” Saxton’s world is turned upside down when he catches the woman he’s to marry in a compromising position. Devastated, he’s convinced karma has finally caught up to him for breaking an old lover’s heart.

After ten years Nancy and Gabe are unexpectedly reunited and the attraction between them is just as magnetizing. As the couple overcomes previous hurts and betrayals and is on the path to forever, Gabe’s former life collides with the one he’s building with Nancy. Blindsided, Nancy retreats and releases Gabe from his commitment to their relationship. But will she regret her decision?

AVAILABLE ON

AMAZON

EXCERPT

Nancy Redmond was pissed the second her cell phone dinged, signaling an incoming text. If she wasn’t in one of Chicago’s five-star restaurants on New Year’s Eve, she would have made a scene. Bright red lips pursed, she glanced around the dimly-lit dining room at the other patrons. Their faces illuminated by flickering candles on the tables, they chatted and dug forks into succulent meats, while sipping on wine. Meanwhile, her stomach made obnoxious noises because she was so hungry.

Blindly, her hand searched the inside of the clutch on the chair beside her for her phone. A soft gust of air blew past her lips. Just as she thought, Christopher had texted to cancel their dinner date. It was the third time this month he’d bailed out on her at the last minute. The first time she understood because he forgot about a school event he was supposed to attend for his six-year-old kid. Being that her dad pretty much forgot about her after he and her mom divorced when she was four, Nancy refrained from catching an attitude. Every child needed their father in the picture. That’s what she believed and, besides, she didn’t want to be responsible for keeping a kid and his father apart.

Though she was livid, Nancy couldn’t help the smile that touched her lips. Her bestie, Daphne Turner-Collins, had praised her when she told her how mature she’d behaved and hadn’t flipped out on Christopher for ditching her.

“Look at you acting all grown up,” Daphne had teased.

Of course Nancy couldn’t resist telling her to “shut up.”

The second time he’d texted to cancel on their date to see Maxwell three hours before show time, Nancy couldn’t bite her tongue. His excuse this time had been his baby’s momma, Ebony, had an emergency and he had to go to the rescue to watch their son. The chick had four sisters. Nancy found it strange that not one of them was available to babysit. This time when Nancy told Daphne about Christopher jumping ship, she did admit his timing was suspect.

Before she could cuss Christopher out via text, the waiter walked up to the table.

“Miss, can I get you something to drink while you wait for your party to arrive?”

My Lord. Stephan the waiter was too fine for his own good. He wasn’t as tall as Nancy liked her men. But his flawless expresso complexion, heavily-lidded bedroom eyes and full lips made up for what he lacked in the height department. Her eyes discreetly, or so she thought, drifted to his feet. Nancy had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from groaning.

When she finally looked back up into Stephan’s handsome face, he was grinning at her and undressing her with his eyes. Heat fanned across her cheeks as she delicately cleared her throat. Somebody appreciated the effort she’d put into looking good tonight. Stephan and his fine self, for the time being, put her anger on simmer. His lingering gaze made her feel sexy and not rejected. Later for Christopher. A drink or two, something to eat and any excuse to keep Stephan coming back will keep the night from being a total bust.

“He’s not coming. I’ll be eating alone.”

Nancy hated how her voice lightly quivered the way it did right before you’re ready to cry. She wanted to jump across the table and wrap her arms and legs around Stephan when he murmured for her ears only, “He’s a damn fool. Sis, you’re beautiful. You deserve better.”

Yes, I do! “Thank you.”

By the time Nancy drank three glasses of wine, stuffed her face with savory seasoned lamb chops, grilled brussels sprouts, and red velvet cake, her mood had soured again. Couple after couple floated through the revolving glass doors, hugged up as they sought refuge from the cold.

Envy was such an ugly emotion that had taken Nancy years to combat. She could feel its familiar tentacles crawling up her insides as the couples were ushered past her table. Surrounding her like happy sharks in an ocean of sappy love, holding hands and grinning as they spoke in hushed tones. Nancy had to get out of there when the dude at the table across from her slid a ring box across the white linen tablecloth. She rolled her eyes when the young woman gasped before covering her mouth with both hands.

“Aw, crap.”

Nancy realized she was louder than she intended when dude shot her the evil eye. But she could care less about his funky proposal or the fact that she probably spoiled the mood. Her glass of red wine toppled over when she abruptly stood, spilling the contents and splattering the front of the overpriced dress she’d bought to impress Christopher.

Tucking her clutch under her arm, Nancy slightly staggered her way to the ladies’ room. Now in front of the mirror, tears stung the back of her eyes as her gaze went to the tiny spots the red wine made against the cream-colored fabric of the dress she wore. It felt like her entire life was nothing but one big stain beginning with her conception. Only two things had ever gone right in her life. Her friendship with Daphne and owning her own business.

Well, maybe three. After years of being at odds with her mother, Madeline, they were finally in a good place. Recently they were able to pick up where they left off when she was a teenager. Just as they were getting settled into a comfortable mom-daughter relationship, Madeline moved to Haddonfield, New Jersey six months ago. She’d joined a counseling practice across the bridge in Philly as a behavioral health specialist.

Nancy hustled her butt into a stall before a tear could fall and she was caught by someone coming in to use the bathroom. An overwhelming feeling of loneliness suffocated her as she wished for her mom or Daphne. Even though they were only a phone call away, they were probably off doing their own thing and could do without her drama. Daphne and her husband, Adrian, were most likely cozied up butt-naked somewhere in that huge house they lived in. And Madeline out with co-workers at some fancy club in Philly to bring in the new year. This once she would have to tough it out until the morning.

“Oh no,” Nancy mumbled under her breath as she made her way to the sink to wash her hands. Carefully, she set her clutch on the vanity next to the woman who she’d almost ruined her proposal. Turning on the water, Nancy eyeballed her reflection and then the woman. When their eyes met, Nancy smiled although she was miserable. “Congratulations.”

A brief stint of counseling taught her it was okay to show kindness even in the midst of chaos.

Blue eyes sparkled at Nancy as the woman smiled and wriggled the fingers on her left hand, displaying a sizable diamond. “Thank you! Isn’t it gorgeous?” she beamed, now holding her hand practically under Nancy’s nose.

Nancy couldn’t help laughing. Girlie was acting like they were besties. “It is.”

ABOUT SUZETTE RIDDICK

Suzette Riddick is a wife, mother and nurse practitioner who enjoys writing about flawed characters on a quest for love. She is an Amazon Best-Selling Author and was featured in USA Today ~ Happy Ever After. A native of Philadelphia, PA, Suzette loves to travel, read and is addicted to Chanel parfum. To learn more about Suzette visit her website at http://www.suzetteriddick.com.