Book Excerpt: The Illusion of Certainty by Greg Messel

Title:The Illusion of Certainty
Author: Greg Messel
Genre: Historical Fiction
Digital: 829 KB
Publisher: Yorkshire Publishing
Language: English
ISBN-13: B005N49270
Price:  $2.99 (Kindle edition)

The Illusion of Certaintyfollows two parallel storylines. Marc is a successful businessman who seems to have everything—a great job, a beautiful wife, a house in an upscale neighborhood of Portland, Oregon and two great kids who are preparing for college. But something is not right. Marc is unsettled by the sudden change in his wife, Aimee, who seems distant and unhappy. What’s going on with her?

The second storyline involves a successful young attorney, Alexandra Mattson. Alex, as she is called by her friends, meets a handsome young cop, Sean, during an unexpected crisis in her neighborhood. Sean and Alex seem made for each other and begin to merge their futures in a world of uncertainty.

The only certainty in life is that we will face uncertainty. Despite all fo the technology and controls available in the modern world, sometimes the only comfort comes from the human touch.

Book Excerpt:

The naked woman stood motionless, leaning against the wall of the shower and letting the hot water strike the top of her head and cascade down her back. She placed her hands flat against the tiled shower wall and leaned forward and closed her eyes. The warm water soothed her exhausted
body and she felt enveloped in its comforting caress.

She felt safe and was now pampering herself after a grueling night shift at the hospital where she was a nurse. A nurse with considerable responsibilities. Aimee Hunt-Wilson had enough experience and clout to avoid these awful shifts but as a supervisor she was on a mission this summer. She had
been working nights most of the summer to try to rehabilitate the night shift, which was in disarray. Someone needed to repair the damage brought on by an incompetent supervisor who was now gone. Aimee was trying to shape
things up. It’s what Aimee did best; however, it was taking a toll on her.

Marc Wilson was having his first moments of consciousness on this Tuesday morning. He slept alone. That was happening more and more these days. From the bed he could see Aimee, his wife, through the clear glass box that was the shower in their master suite. The only light filtering into the
bedroom and casting a soft light on Marc’s bed was the light from Aimee’s shower.

He leaned up on his elbow and gazed through the steam at the nude Aimee. He was getting aroused. Marc still loved his wife’s body. Lately, when he saw her, she was always hidden in the baggy scrubs she wore at the hospital. Her long black hair was plastered to her wet bare back by the
shower water. Aimee always tanned so well. At this point in the summer she had a perfect swimsuit tan. Her body had matured but it had actually gotten better since the college days when they first met. Her breasts and hips were fuller now but the rest of Aimee’s body was taunt and lean. She was about 5-5, probably in the best shape of her life.

Aimee obsessively exercised and carefully monitored her diet. After her shower she would come to bed to rest and then be pounding the pavement this afternoon running, getting in her miles. Aimee had always been so meticulous about what she ate and she imposed the same standards on Marc.

Marc’s favorite meal, a burger and fries, was considered in the same category as rat poison by Aimee. If Marc went through a fast food window to sneak a burger, he felt compelled to hide the evidence from Aimee.

But all of this vigilance certainly paid off in the way Aimee looked. This mother of two, with a manic schedule, looked terrific as she approached middle age. Her long dark hair, which was naturally curly, was a stunning combination with her bright blue eyes. Marc now lay in the early morning light watching Aimee step from the shower, all pink and soft, as she began to towel off. She then plugged in her hair dryer, bent over and began to dry her long hair.

As he observed her maneuvers to dry her hair, he was taking in the sight of her bouncing breasts and lovely body. Marc knew that when she finished, she would quickly
throw on one of his oversized t-shirts and jump under the covers—just as it was time for Marc to get out of bed and begin his day.

Marc rolled out of bed and attempted to head her off before she dressed and made it to the bed. He was hoping that somehow he could have her, that he could enjoy the physical pleasures of his sexy wife. This had not been planned but the moment was presenting itself and he wanted her. Marc
hoped Aimee would want the intimacy, too.

Aimee slipped on some bright blue bikini panties just as Marc stood in front of her and said, “Hey you’re really looking sexy this morning.”

“Oh Marc, I’m so exhausted, you seem to have the world’s worst timing.”
“Oh come on Aimee, wouldn’t it be fun?”

“Trust me Marc, it wouldn’t be fun right now. I just need some sleep.”

“So when, in this whole summer, would you suggest I make love to you?”

“Marc,” Aimee said with resignation, “I’m begging you to not start right now.”

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Excerpt from The Fear of God by B.A. Chepaitis

Title: The Fear of God
Author: B.A. Chepaitis
Genre: Sci-fi Mystery
Paperback: 218 pages
Publisher: Wildside Press (March 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1434430731

On Planetoid Three, Jaguar Addams enters the minds of criminals. She lives in the shadows of their fears . . . and chases them into the light. The followers of the Revelation Sect are preparing for the Second Coming. Stockpiles of weapons were found when federal agents stormed the home of the fanatical leader, Sardis Malocco. Now Jaguar must resort to using a virtual reality environment of Heaven to get to the root of Sardis’s fear of God-before Revelation’s zealots unleash their own apocalypse upon the world . . .

Read the Excerpt

He grabbed her arm roughly and shook it. “Jaguar, what’re you doing?” he asked.

“Sardis—she’s gone over the edge. I have to bring her back. Show her something real. I have to bring her in to Rachel.”

“What? Empathic contact between Rachel and Sardis? But in Rachel’s condition, it’ll kill her.”

“Don’t tell me what I already know.” She jerked her arm away from his hold. “I need help. You said you did this before, right? Death Walk?”

She couldn’t mean it. A Death Walk? With Rachel?” He couldn’t comprehend it. “Jaguar,” he said, dropping three words like stones into her belly, “she’s your friend.”

“You think I’ve forgotten that?” she said with ice in her voice. She turned feral eyes to him and let him look. “What you see here, that’s the kind of woman I am. If you’ve been nurturing fantasies to the con¬trary, you’d better dispel them. Now.”

Accept it. That’s who she was. That’s why he gave her this assignment in the first place. She’d stop Sardis or die trying. But Death Walk was dangerous, and they had no margin for error here. Jaguar had to learn quickly and well. He put his hands on her face and called her wild eyes to his. Saw her shudder with relief at his touch. It would go faster this way.

Hush. Listen. This is how it’s done. Down into the darkness, naked. No protection. Entirely open. The motion is a wave. It’ll feel like falling a long way. Don’t try to stop the fall. Trust me without reservation. I’ll know when to call you back. And don’t hold on to Rachel. Do not attempt to bring her back.

He showed her the feeling of pull, when to let go. The texture of the space she’d be walking in. He put her hand on his chest so she could feel the beating of his heart.

Follow this, Jaguar. I’ll lead you back.

Then he looked at her hard. She was al¬ready exhausted, and the Death Walk took so much. There must be something else he could do. He touched her face, her lips, warm and alive.

Kiss of Life. As an antidote to death, there was only this. An exchange of passion. The transfer of his energy to her, life flowing from his body, his spirit, to hers. Would she misunderstand the gesture? Or was there any-thing to misunderstand? No. Nothing. It would be clear to both of them. It would have to be.

He put his hand on her face and pulled her close. Then he pressed his lips against hers, kissing her with more thoroughness than he had ever kissed a woman in his life.

Disturb me, Jaguar. Anytime. Under any circumstances.

She accepted it, straining her mouth to his, drinking him, tangling her hands in his hair, her body pressed hungrily against his like seeds deep in the earth, their bright leaves reaching up toward sun while their roots crawled deeper and deeper down toward the always burning center. They swam together, down and down, and he held her as if they would never touch again. They spiraled through waters that grew increasingly thick, increasingly se¬cret and dim.

Then he let her go, moving up and away toward light, while she remained deep, under the dark dome of what it meant to attempt a Death Walk.

Nell Walton Tours in April with her Mystery Thriller ‘The Bone Trail’

Inspired by actual events, The Bone Trail is the story of investigative journalist and horsewoman, Kate Wyndham, who is sent to northern Nevada to do a story on the disappearance of two wild horse advocates. When Wyndham attempts to gain information from the FBI and local authorities she is stonewalled.

She turns to Jim Ludlow, a local rancher who lives on an Indian Reservation near where the advocates disappeared. Ludlow, a Shoshone Indian horse “whisperer” agrees to try to help Wyndham and they begin a search for answers that may cost them everything the hold dear – it may even cost them their lives.

Buy The Bone Trail in Paperback
Buy The Bone Trail on Kindle

About Nell Walton

NellNell Walton is an avid horsewoman and also owns two wild horses, both of which came from a herd near Elko, NV. She is also the founder and managing editor of the online equestrian news magazine, The AllHorses Post (www.allpetspost.org/allhorsespost). She has degrees in journalism and biology from the University of Arkansas, spent many years as a professional journalist and worked as an intern for former President Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas. She lives in East Tennessee on a small horse farm with her husband, four horses, one donkey, two cats and two dogs. The Bone Trail is her first novel.

Find her on Twitter, Facebook and at her blog The Bone Trail.

Follow along with her online book tour by checking out her April tour schedule here.

Book Excerpt: Invasion of the Baby Daddy by Dr. John E. Bell

Title: Invasion of the Baby Daddy
Author: Dr. John E. Bell
Genre: Fiction
Paperback: 125 pages
Publisher:
Jamar House Publishers; first edition (December 20, 2009)
Language:
English
ISBN-10:
0615336116
ISBN-13: 978-0615336114

EVERY UNWED MOTHER’S NIGHTMARE COMES TO LIFE IN THE PAGES OF INVASION OF THE BABY DADDY, a compelling and moving debut novel that echoes the emotional and cerebral frustrations of unwed mothers throughout the ages. Its unforgettable characters and authentic story line are interwoven with current and real facts about the volume of unwed mothers in our society today. In the story, Dr. Sands believes he has found his perfect mate only to discover that she is pregnant from a previous relationship. Not fully aware of the ramifications of this colossal news, Dr. Sands and Rachel date via long distance during her pregnancy and ultimately decide to get married. In order to make a life together, Rachel must move to Tennessee to start a new life with her husband. But the Baby Daddy has other plans for them. Determined to make this marriage work, Dr. Sands goes to extraordinary lengths to try and negotiate with the Baby Daddy. Brimming with honesty from the author s own experiences, Invasion of the Baby Daddy comes alive with unique freshness, candor and rich detail.

Excerpt

As once a single man, I often pondered what life would hold in store for me. I never really knew how to approach the reality of looking for a woman to marry. I often figured it would happen like it does in the movies. You know how the guy meets this woman, and they have a few dates. During the courtship, the man would say the greatest lines and as a result, the woman would be swept off her feet. The rest is history. No drama or challenges, the end. We all know that we do not live in that movie, well most of us anyway. Love, at first sight, is truly a great misconception (or even second or third for that matter). With maturity and experience as both a Father and Husband, I never expected to meet a woman, who already had a child, to be my wife. Furthermore, my expectation was that I would meet someone on my level; like a physician or lawyer—someone who was equally yoked or of my intellectual stature. Once you have wrestled with the challenges of being a young man; you learn how to become a better one. Your selection of women evolves from what you want, to what you need. Selfishness in relationships is commonplace to many men. This characteristic is practically encoded in our DNA. As we are raised to be gladiators, we compete for things, such as: family pride, home turf and always for young love or infatuation. This selfishness is also the core of how most men are defined in their relationships with women. The selfishness quotient of a man translates into how he treats himself and the woman to whom he will make a life commitment. Chapter one excerpt, “Invasion of the Baby Daddy”

If you would like to pick up your copy of Invasion of the Baby Daddy, click here.

FOR THE LOVE OF ST. NICK by Garasamo Maccagnone

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 Author: Garasamo Maccagnone
Title: For the Love of St. Nick
Publisher: BookSurge
Genre: Fiction/Christmas Fiction
Language: English

PURCHASE HERE

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Two California boys, coping with the loss of their mother, find themselves uprooted when their father, a Navy Commander, is transferred to a base in Northern Michigan. With the youngest boy continuously sick, the family must survive military life and the northern elements as they dwell in their little hunter’s cabin on Lake Huron. When the boys’ father must leave prior to Christmas to fulfill his secret mission for the United States Military, the boys are surprised by a chance encounter that saves a life, and reunites a family.

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Typically, when Johnny wasn’t feeling well, I tried to lift his spirits by telling him stories about mom and dad. The commander, vigilant in his hope to preserve mother’s memory, told many of the tales to me. In our old home, I sat on his lap on many nights while he showed old photographs of their courtship days or read me letters mother had written when the two were briefly apart.

Johnny’s favorite story was about the little game mom and the commander played on me on Saturday mornings – the mornings I knew cartoons were on. Since the television sat up high on top of a dresser, they were the only two who could turn it on. To wake them, I stood at the end of their bed and tickled their feet with a wild turkey feather. When I tickled the commander’s big ugly calloused foot my mother laughed. When I tickled my mother’s smooth petite foot the commander laughed. Every time I told Johnny that story he smiled, even if he had a high temperature.

Before falling asleep, Johnny often asked me about our mother. One time, using my nickname, he said, “Tiger, tell me how purdy mommy was.”

Our favorite photograph of mother was placed on the fireplace mantel. We called it the “Big Rock Picture” since she was standing on a giant rock while taking a break from a hiking expedition in New England. From my viewpoint, Mother was looking directly into my soul. The autumn wind played with her long blonde hair and she was smiling, smiling like she was so sure of herself, so confident, so healthy and vibrant. It was a smile I kissed a thousand times during the tender moments of my dreams.

“See Johnny, see how pretty she was?” Johnny took the picture from me and kissed and held it to his chest.

“Mommy will protect me tonight,” he said to me. Then he added, “Love you Tiger.”

“I love you more ya big dope,” I retorted back.

“You think mommy got on that big rock with a hoptacopter?”

By the time I got around to explaining how mother ended up on the giant rock, Johnny was fast asleep.

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Gary MAcc photo

Garasamo Maccagnone studied creative writing and literature under noted American writers Sam Astrachan and Stuart Dybek at Wayne State University and Western Michigan University. A college baseball player as well, Maccagnone met his wife Vicki as a junior at WMU. The following year, after injuring his throwing arm, Maccagnone left school and his baseball ambitions to marry Vicki. After a two year stint at both W.B. Doner and BBDO advertising agencies, Maccagnone left the industry to apply his knowledge of marketing in a new venture in an up-and-coming industry. Maccagnone created a company called, “Crate and Fly,” and turned it from a store front in 1984 to a world-wide multi-million dollar shipping corporation by 1994.  

In the mid 90’s Maccagnone decided to fulfill the promise of his writing career, by first penning the children’s book, The Suburban Dragon and then following up with a collection of short stories and poetry entitled, The Affliction of Dreams. His literary novel, St. John of the Midfield was published in 2007, followed by his For the Love of St. Nick, which was released in 2008.  Maccagnone expanded the original version of For the Love of St. Nick and had the book illustrated for a new release in June 2009.

Garasamo “Gary” Maccagnone lives today in Shelby Township, Michigan, with his wife Vicki and three children. You can visit Gary online at www.garasamomaccagnone.com.

THE BROKEN TEAGLASS by Emily Arsenault

The Broken Teaglass cover

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Author: Emily Arsenault
Title: The Broken Teaglass
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Fiction
Language: English

PURCHASE HERE

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The dusty files of a venerable dictionary publisher . . . a hidden cache of coded clues . . . a story written by a phantom author . . . an unsolved murder in a gritty urban park–all collide memorably in Emily Arsenault’s magnificent debut, at once a teasing literary puzzle, an ingenious suspense novel, and an exploration of definitions: of words, of who we are, and of the stories we choose to define us. 

In the maze of cubicles at Samuelson Company, editors toil away in silence, studying the English language, poring over new expressions and freshly coined words–all in preparation for the next new edition of the Samuelson Dictionary. Among them is editorial assistant Billy Webb, just out of college, struggling to stay awake and appear competent. But there are a few distractions. His intriguing coworker Mona Minot may or may not be flirting with him. And he’s starting to sense something suspicious going on beneath this company’s academic facade.

Mona has just made a startling discovery: a trove of puzzling citations, all taken from the same book, The Broken Teaglass. Billy and Mona soon learn that no such book exists. And the quotations from it are far too long, twisting, and bizarre for any dictionary. They read like a confessional, coyly hinting at a hidden identity, a secret liaison, a crime. As Billy and Mona ransack the office files, a chilling story begins to emerge: a story about a lonely young woman, a long-unsolved mystery, a moment of shattering violence. And as they piece together its fragments, the puzzle begins to take on bigger personal meaning for both of them, compelling them to redefine their notions of themselves and each other. 

Charged with wit and intelligence, set against a sweetly cautious love story, The Broken Teaglass is a tale that will delight lovers of words, lovers of mysteries, and fans of smart, funny, brilliantly inventive fiction.

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Chapter One 

How did a guy like me end up in a place like this? 

Excellent question. It’s the very question that ran through my mind on my first day on the job, and for many weeks hence. How the hell did I get a job at the offices of Samuelson Company, the oldest and most revered name in American dictionaries? In the end, this might strike you as the greater mystery—greater than the one I’d later find in the company’s dusty files: How does a clod like me end up in training to be a lexicographer?

Now that you’ve paused to look up lexicographer, are you impressed? Are you imagining lexicographers as a council of cloaked, wizened men rubbing their snowy-white beards while they consult their dusty folios? I’m afraid you might have to adjust your thinking just a little. Imagine instead a guy right out of college—a guy who says yup, and watches too much Conan O’Brien. Imagine this guy sitting in a cubicle, shuffling through little bits of magazine articles, hoping for words like boink and tatas to cross his desk and spice up his afternoons. 

Don’t get me wrong. When I first got the job, I was pretty excited. I’d been starting to doubt my employability, since I’d majored in philosophy. Admittedly, I’d applied for publishing jobs on a whim, having heard some English majors talk about it. No one at the big New York companies bit at my résumé, but someone at Samuelson must have liked all the A’s on my transcript in heady-seeming topics like Kant and Kierkegaard, and they called me just in time—just as I was starting to thumb through pamphlets about the Peace Corps and teaching English in Japan. My interview was with one Dan Wood, a pale, bearded middle-aged guy who didn’t really seem to know how to conduct an interview. He mostly just described the defining process quietly, peering at me occasionally as if trying to gauge my reaction. I guess I didn’t make any funny faces, because two days later Dan called me to offer the job. 

Claxton, Massachusetts, was a far cry from Manhattan, but I wasn’t in a position to complain. In fact, I was pretty pleased with myself. The shitty location at least allowed me to get a nice big apartment—on the second floor of a run-down Victorian house near downtown Claxton. Once I’d moved all my stuff out of my parents’ house and bought a few cheap pieces of furniture on credit, I had a week left to prepare for my first day on the job. I bought a couple of corduroy sport jackets with elbow patches. I wondered what kind of sharp-witted young ladies I’d meet at the office, and what topics we might discuss by the company coffee machine. I read and reread Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. I worried about sounding like an ignoramus. 

Dan Wood met me downstairs on the first day, and led me up to the editorial office and its expanse of cubicles. After parking me at my new cubicle, he set a dictionary in front of me. 

“I’d like you to read the front matter.” He lowered his voice as if the request embarrassed him. “That’s the section at the beginning of the book. The front matter explains most of the conventions of how our dictionaries are organized. Why senses and variants are ordered as they are, what sort of abbreviations are used, and so on. It’s a tradition for our brand-new editors—reading the front matter on the first day.”

He paused, watching me open my dictionary to the first page. 

“Alrighty,” I said. I was trying to convey some of the enthusiasm I hadn’t had an opportunity to display in the interview. “Great.” 

The corners of Dan’s mouth twitched a little. “Yes. You might find parts of it surprisingly engaging.” 

I nodded, feeling somehow I’d already said too much. 

Dan gave an encouraging little nod before disappearing into his office. 

The front matter wasn’t so bad. There were, admittedly, a few things about the basic arrangement of a dictionary that I’d never considered before. That different senses of words are arranged from oldest use to newest use, for example. Or that when there are two equally accepted spelling variations on a single word, they are simply listed alphabetically. 

Dan appeared again about an hour into my reading, this time holding a giant blue-bound book. The unabridged edition. Its wide spine barely fit in Dan’s long fingers. The way he slapped it into my hands reminded me of someone palming a basketball. 

“The front matter in this one repeats a great deal of the same information.” Dan sighed heavily before continuing. “But it’s also much more comprehensive, as the book itself is more comprehensive. You see?”

I nodded. 

“Unless you’re some kind of speed reader,” he said, “this will take you the rest of the day.” 

When he left, I looked at the clock. It was nine forty-five. I loosened my tie and started in on the section about “Guide Words,” those little words at the top of a dictionary page that tell you what’s on that page. “Variants” was fairly interesting, as were “Inflected Forms” and the very long section on “Etymology.” But it started to get a little stodgy at “Capitaliza?tion.” I wanted to look at the clock again, but knew it would only depress me. “Synonyms” was no better, and I tried to skip ahead to something more interesting. “Guide to Pronunciation,” perhaps? 

I decided some refreshment might revive my enthusiasm. I poked around in the maze of cubicles for a few minutes, trying to look good-natured but academic. A nice petite middle-aged lady came up to me eventually, introduced herself as Grace, showed me to the water cooler, and disappeared. But there were no paper cups. Back at my desk, I started to read about the different pronunciation symbols in the dictionary. The slashes and hyphens and vowels ceased to have any meaning after about twenty minutes. 

I sat up straight and stretched before starting a section on schwas. The schwa—the upside-down e—essentially stands for a grunt. A nondescript uh sound. A fun, if undignified, role in language study. This was a pronunciation symbol I could relate to. Standing on its head and grunting. Like me the first time I tried tequila, when I was sixteen. It was the same night that the whole varsity team drank beer out of one another’s shoes—the night after our first game of the season. We probably never could’ve imagined that one of us would end up in an office like this, poring over a dictionary, thinking of that night. I didn’t miss those days, but there was an odd satisfaction in conjuring those guys here, in this scholarly little institution. I stared into the pronunciation symbols and thought of Todd Kurtz lying flat on his back, trying to get his basset hound to drink White Russians out of his open mouth. 

But that was a long time ago, and now I had to focus on umlauts and accent marks. I stared resolutely at the page. 

A loud buzz sounded from somewhere. A phone was ringing in the cubicle next to mine.

I heard a chair squeak, and then an older man’s voice: 

“Hello? Okay . . . all right, Sheila. I’ll put you out of your misery. You’re welcome. Which line? Okay.” 

The man clicked a couple of buttons. 

“Good morning, Editorial. I’m one of the editors here. I’m told you have a question about one of our definitions?” 

A slight pause. 

“Okay. I’m looking it up. You’re talking about the noun entry for ‘boil,’ correct?” 

Another pause. 

“Okay. Okay. Well, I don’t remember our exact definition for ‘pimple,’ but there is certainly a difference. ‘Pimple’ is generally applied to smaller inflammations, and the application is perhaps a little broader as well.” 

The man’s voice was louder now than when he was talking to “Sheila,” but maintained a sort of good-natured mono-tone. 

“No. No. There’s no size limit for calling something a boil. At least from a lexicographical point of view. If you were to consult a physician’s manual, on the other hand—” 

A long pause, then a quiet sucking-in of breath. 

“Ohhh. I see. That does sound unpleasant. Is it painful? 

“. . . Uh-huh. Well, I’m a dictionary editor, sir. I think maybe you should call a physician. In fact, I hope you do. 

“. . . I understand. But our college dictionary isn’t meant to be a diagnostic manual. 

“. . . Right. But even if you aren’t sure of the right word for it, a trained physician only needs to look at it, and he should be able to tell you exactly what you should be calling it. And with a doctor, there’s also the possible advantage of treatment. 

“. . . Yes. Yes, sir. That’s what I’m saying. That’s what I think you should do. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful . . . Sure. No problem. Let us know how it goes. If you like. 

“. . . All right, then. Good luck to you. Take care.” 

The chair squeaked again as the guy hung up the phone. No more sounds came from that cubicle for the rest of the morning. 

After lunch, Dan took me into his tiny book-lined office. 

“I hope you’re not finding the front-matter tradition too much of a trial.” He rolled up the sleeves of his Oxford shirt as he spoke, still avoiding my eyes. 

“Nope,” I said, and immediately felt dumb and caveman-like. Nope. Yup. Duh. To avoid looking at him, I stared at the twisted little cactus on Dan’s desk. 

“Pretty interesting, actually,” I lied. 

“You have a green thumb?” Dan asked. 

“What?” 

“Are you interested in plants?” 

“Uh . . . not really. No more than average, I guess—” 

“Because I don’t know what keeps this thing alive. I’ve had it for at least four years. I haven’t any idea how to care for a cactus. But still it grows here on my desk.” 

“Do you water it?” 

“Very sparingly.” 

“That sounds about right,” I said, perhaps too enthusiastically. “For a cactus.” 

Dan handed me a sheet of paper that had Training Schedule typed at the top. 

“You’ll be happy to know you won’t be doing this every day. Tomorrow your real training begins.” 

I nodded. 

“It’s not meant to be an endurance test, even if it might feel that way. Quite simply, front matter can train you more succinctly than most training sessions can.” 

I nodded again. 

“As the schedule specifies, I’ll be doing most of your sessions. Here in this office. Just knock on my door at the scheduled times. For the other sessions—like cross-reference with Frank, or thesauri with Grace—they’ll come to you. Do you have any questions about the process? Or anything you’ve read today?”

When I said no, Dan told me I needed to be introduced to Mr. Needham, the editor in chief. Dan led me to Mr. Needham’s office and smiled wanly as he held the door for me. He didn’t go in with me. 

Mr. Needham’s office was pretty Spartan. Unlike some of the cubicles I’d seen earlier in the day, his space contained none of the usual comforting reminders of a slightly rosier existence outside of this office—pictures of smiling children, Nerf basketball hoop, dish of toffee candies. Even on Dan’s desk there was at least a framed snapshot of himself holding a large trout, in addition to that sad little cactus. The only sign of nonacademic humanity in Mr. Needham’s office was a shiny new roll of Tums resting on the corner of his blotter. 

Excerpted from The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault Copyright © 2009 by Emily Arsenault. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Emily Arsenault has worked as a lexicographer, an English teacher, a children’s librarian, and a Peace Corps volunteer. She wrote TheEmily Arsenault photo Broken Teaglass to pass the long, quiet evenings in her mud brick house while living in rural South Africa. She now lives in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, with her husband. You can visit Emily Arsenault’s website at www.emilyarsenault.com.

SHADOW OF BETRAYAL by Brett Battles

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Author: Brett Battles
Title: Shadow of Betrayal
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Suspense

PURCHASE HERE

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The meeting place was carefully chosen: an abandoned church in rural Ireland just after dark. For Jonathan Quinn—a freelance operative and professional “cleaner”—the job was only to observe. If his cleanup skills were needed, it would mean things had gone horribly wrong. But an assassin hidden in a tree assured just that. And suddenly Quinn had four dead bodies to dispose of and one astounding clue—to a mystery that is about to spin wildly out of control.

 Three jobs, no questions. That was the deal Quinn had struck with his client at the Office. Unfortunately for him, Ireland was just the first. Now Quinn, along with his colleague and girlfriend—the lethal Orlando—has a new assignment touched off by the killings in Ireland. Their quarry is a U.N. aide worker named Marion Dupuis who has suddenly disappeared from her assignment in war-torn Africa. When Quinn finally catches a glimpse of her, she quickly flees, frantic and scared. And not alone. 

For Quinn the assignment has now changed. Find Marion Dupuis, and the child she is protecting, and keep them from harm. If it were only that easy. 

Soon Quinn and Orlando find themselves in a bunker in the California hills, where Quinn will unearth a horrifying plot that is about to reach stage critical for a gathering of world leaders—and an act of terror more cunning, and more insidious, than anyone can guess.

 Fast, smart, sleek, and stunning, Shadow of Betrayal is vintage Brett Battles: a gritty, gripping masterpiece of suspense, a thriller that makes the pulse pound—and stirs the heart as well.

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Quinn could see them now. There were two of them, crouched low and half-hidden by the thick brush. As Quinn and Nate watched, one of the men sprinted forward, stopping only when he reached the outside of the church wall. He then moved down the wall until he came to what had once been a doorway, and peered inside.

“Are we going to play games, or are we going to meet?” It was Otero. He was still standing in the middle of the church, not concealing his presence. When there was no response, he said, “Two minutes and we’re leaving.”

The man who had been looking into the church from the doorway glanced back at his partner and waved for him to come over.

“Quinn,” Nate said.

“What?”

“I thought they were only allowed one companion.”

Quinn shot Nate a glance, then looked at a monitor Nate was pointing at. It was the one covering the north approach to the church, the way Otero and Ownby had come.

“I don’t see anything,” Quinn said.

“In the tree,” Nate said. He leaned forward and touched the screen.

For half a second, Quinn still didn’t see anything, then a slight movement revealed the form of a man lying prone on one of the branches, facing toward the church.

A quick glance at a monitor that gave a broader view of that side of the church confirmed Quinn’s suspicion that the man was high enough to see through the missing roof into the abandoned structure.

Quinn pushed the mic button again. “Peter, we have a problem.”

“What?”

“Check the feed to camera six. In the tree, near the top of the image.”

There was a pause.

“Do you see him?” Quinn asked.

“Yes.”

“Is he one of yours?”

“I played by the rules. Only two,” Peter said. “He must be one of theirs.”

Quinn wasn’t convinced of that, but there was no time to argue the point. On another monitor the two newcomers stepped through the doorway, entered the church, and walked a couple paces before stopping. They looked nervous, like this was the first time they had ever done anything like this.

“You need to abort right now,” Quinn said.

“We need that information,” Peter said.

“Peter,” Quinn said, “if you don’t abort, you might not get anything.”

At the church Otero said, “You guys are going to have to come a little closer.”

The taller of the two men shook his head. “We are fine here. I think you have something to show us.”

Otero smiled, then tossed a coin in the air so that it landed a foot in front of his counterparts.

“Your turn,” Otero said.

The tall man tossed his own coin toward Otero. This was the prearranged recognition signal. Otero had been carrying a fifty-yen Japanese coin, and the informant a 1998 Canadian half-dollar.

“Peter!” Quinn said.

“The meet’s already started,” Peter said. “They won’t answer their phones until they’re back in their car.”

“They might not even make it back to their car,” Quinn said, then let go of the button.

“We can start the van,” Nate suggested. “That should throw everyone into a panic. We could even fire off a shot.”704729_revolver

It was an excellent idea, Quinn thought. He relayed it to Peter.

There was a pause, then Peter said, “Do it.”

Quinn pulled his SIG Sauer P226 out of the holster under his left arm as Nate moved toward the back door to open it.

Several rapid flashes from one of the monitors caught Quinn’s eye. It was the one showing the close-up of the man in the tree. He glanced at the view of the church. Otero, Ownby, and the man who had been talking for the other party were all on the ground and not moving.

The final man had just exited the church and was making a run for it. Then there was another flash. The man jerked to the left, his momentum dropping him into a bush at the side of the trail. Like the others, he didn’t get up.

“Stop,” Quinn said to Nate.

The door was already half opened.

“Close it. Quietly.”

Nate shut the door as Quinn sat back down.

Quinn pushed the button. “Your op is blown.”

“I can fucking see that,” Peter said. “Goddammit! You need to keep whoever that is from getting to the bodies. One of those guys is carrying something we need.”

“Don’t know if you noticed,” Quinn said, “but your men are probably dead. That guy in the tree’s got a silenced rifle, and I’m not really interested in walking into his range.”

“Do what you were going to do before! Scare him off. He’s not going to want to get caught.”

Quinn took a deep breath, then nodded at Nate to open the door again. He checked monitor six. The assassin was holding his position, waiting to see if anyone else was going to show up.

Quinn pulled one of the remote communication sets from a bag near the recorders. He slipped the receiver over his ear, then climbed out of the van.

“Talk me in,” he said to Nate. 

“You’re going to try to take him out?” Nate asked, surprised.

Quinn shook his head. “I’m just going to convince him to go someplace else.”

“You want your suppressor?” Nate asked.

Quinn paused for a second. If things went as planned, he’d need the noise of the shot to scare the guy off. But if things got off track?

“Toss it to me,” he said.

Nate disappeared for a second, then stepped back into the doorway and threw a dark cylinder to Quinn.

Quinn stuffed it in the front pocket of his jacket as best he could. Once it was secure, he nodded back at the van. “Talk me in. You’re my eyes, so try not to get me killed.”

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Brett Battles lives in Los Angeles and is the author of two acclaimed novels in the Jonathan Quinn series: The Cleaner, which was nominated for a Barry Award for Best Thriller and a Shamus Award for Best First Novel, and The Deceived, which was nominated for a Barry Award for Best Thriller. He is at work on the fourth book in the series. 

You can visit Brett Battles website at www.brettbattles.com.