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Character Interview: Amy Benson from Ray East & Sam D’s ‘Voluspa’

We’re thrilled to have here today Amy Benson from Ray East and Sam D’s new YA fantasy romance, Voluspa: A Magical World. Amy is a 15-year-old empath from New York.

It is a pleasure to have her with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Amy. Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

I think my character has been portrayed fairly well. However there is this small thing that I’d like to clarify. In the book I am portrayed as someone with an aversion to shopping. In truth I love shopping and hanging out in the mall.

Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

I think the author did a good job of capturing all the nuances of my character. My insecurities, moments of self-doubt, my needs to find affection and all my other traits have been accurately presented.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

I would say my perseverance. Life has always thrown me a few hard curves but I never give up. My friends tell me that I am just plain stubborn.

Worse trait?

I am very emotional. I think and feel very strongly.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

Yes. His name is Drake Mc Grizzle and he is the most amazing boyfriend a girl could ever wish for.

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

I didn’t really get nervous about the outcome of the book because I had faith in my authors.  To be honest, I have to admit that there is one part in the book, where I start feeling an attraction of sorts for a very disagreeable boy. That had me worried. Besides I was so engrossed in Drake, I found it hard to genuinely understand my attraction for another boy.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

I would hate to be Lord Vali. He has no redeeming quality and is just plain evil.He is cruel, greedy, ambitious, blood thirsty and completely merciless. In short, he is despicable. But I also think he is pitiable. His evilness stems from the turns and twists his life has taken – to some extent he is a product of difficult circumstances as well as possessing a natural proclivity towards violence.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

I think the ending of the book is pretty great. If you have connected with the young lovers i.e. me and Drake then the ending is going to fill you with anticipation. You’ll be eager to know what happens next.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it?

I would just ask the author to keep in mind all the things that have changed about me in the past several months. I am no longer the same person that I was when I first arrived in Voluspa. My trials and triumphs have caused me t change. I am so much stronger as a person; more confident. Also finding Drake, falling in love with him has changed me. Now I am at peace with the person I am.

Thank you for this interview, Amy.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

Absolutely! The adventure is nowhere near done. I want my happily ever after with Drake.

Ray East and Sam D has moved to Voluspa and live in the Forest of Skotos with their 5 year old daughter and a pet Typhon.  They visit Earth with the help of an Empath from time to time. Ray East did her masters in Phsychology from Univeristy of Sussex and has worked as a counselor for adolescents. Sam D used to teach at a SPJC before he moved to Voluspa.

Their latest book is Voluspa: A Magical World.

To get your copy of VOLUSPA: A MAGICAL WORLD by Sam D & Ray East at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/VOLUSPA-A-Magical-World-Sam-D/dp/0985681608/ref=pd_rhf_ee_p_t_1

To get your e-copy of VOLUSPA: A MAGICAL WORLD by Sam D & Ray East for your Kindle at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Voluspa-A-Magical-World-ebook/dp/B008BCZBTE/ref=tmm_kin_title_0

Order your copy of VOLUSPA: A MAGICAL WORLD by Sam D. & Ray East at B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/voluspa-a-magical-world-sam-d/1111523622?ean=2940014770675

To learn more about Sam D and Ray East, visit their website: www.magicalworldofvoluspa.com

Visit Sam D & Ray East on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/voluspa

Like Sam D & Ray East on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/worldofvoluspa

Follow Sam D & Ray East at Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15592516-voluspa

Centuries ago, war between aliens and humans almost destroyed the world. To prevent such a war from happening again, a mighty ruler then formed a secret society of nine powerful humans and aliens called the Bramhas. These Bramhas each wrote a book imparting ancient wisdom and knowledge. The possession of these books could bring about untold power and success. The nine books were hidden but the desire to possess those books, still cause men to fight wars and turn against each other. One such war was fought in the realm of Voluspa decades back; the consequences of that war still resonate in this magical land. Two young lovers get caught in this tussle and it changes their destinies forever.

Amy’s humdrum life takes a complete 180’ turn with the death of her stepfather. She goes to live with her grandmother – her only living relative, though she hasn’t seen her in the last five years. Among her mother’s childhood memorabilia, she finds a book ‘Legends of Voluspa’ that captures her imagination. She becomes so engrossed in the book that she starts dreaming  about the places in the book till one night she finds herself inexplicably transported to the new world – Voluspa, as described in the book. Here she meets Drake, who unknown to her is a shape shifter.  Chemistry cackles between the two from the very first and as they discover that they share a lot in common, a tenuous bond forms between the two. ‘I’ll keep you safe’ vows Drake and he remains true to his word as he befriends her and saves her from various troubles that befall her over the next couple of months.

In Voluspa, Amy discovers a new way of life. It’s a magical world inhabited by primarily four clans – Empaths, Morphus, Mendens and the Pulchrous. The Empaths have the power of mind, the Morphus are the shape shifters, Mendens are the healers while the Pulchrous possess physical perfection and strength. With the help of an old family friend, Amy takes her rightful place in the Empath clan. This marks a new chapter in Amy’s life. She realizes her own powers and subsequently starts going to a school to enhance the same. With Drake by her side, she makes some wonderful friends. However, her life is not all smooth sailing; trouble comes when she learns the truth about her biological parents. She realizes that her very existence is against Voluspan law which forbids the union between individuals belonging to two different clans. History threatens to repeat itself as she realizes that her predicament was not that different from what her mother had faced, decades back. She is totally in love with Drake, who belongs to the Morphus clan.

The enchanting world of Voluspa is far from Utopic; it has barely recovered from a devastating war fought twenty years back when the peace of the land is once again threatened by Gangrels, the evil army of aliens.  The two young lovers soon realize that besides contending with forbidden love, they have to deal with other impediments. Ancient enmities, a past war, a much coveted book, all conspire against the two lovers. Gangrels reappear in Voluspa and Drake falls in the clutches of one such evil being who would stop at nothing to realize his fiendish ambitions. Amy and her friends cross realms, face enemies, deal with challenges, solve riddles and brave possible destruction, as they set off on an adventure to rescue Drake.  The ‘Force of Sutra’ clashes with the ‘Elemental Force’ of the Gangrels as Amy and her friends are faced with an indomitable enemy. They use strategic warfare, pit adversaries among themselves and use every last drop of strength, skill and courage as they take on warriors far more ruthless and skilled than themselves.

As Amy embarks upon a quest to save Drake, her love for him is tested at every turn but she never wavers from her objective. Braving imminent death she manages to reach Drake – only to find a changed person. Gone is the man she is in love with, instead a dangerous stranger stood in his place. This Drake was teetering at the edge between becoming completely evil and retaining his own soul. He almost harms Amy but stops himself at the very last minute. His love for Amy proves to be stronger than the evil entity threatening to overpower him.  However when chips are down, Drake comes through. He sets aside his personal well-being in order to save Amy, one last time. Drake is perhaps lost forever but hope dies last – Amy is determined to get back Drake, no matter what the cost.

 

IF YOU’D LIKE TO WIN A  FREE KINDLE FIRE HD, LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW TELLING US IF YOU’D LIKE TO LIVE IN VOLUSPA, THEN CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE KINDLE FIRE HD GIVEAWAY!

Character Interview: Amelia Ryan from Greg Messel’s new mystery romance novel ‘Last of the Seals’

We’re thrilled to have here today Amelia Ryan from Greg Messel’s new mystery/romance novel, Last of the Seals. Amelia is a 25-year-old TWA stewardess from San Fransisco, California. It is a pleasure to have her with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so much for this interview, Amelia.  Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

I do like the story in “Last of the Seals.” It’s a fair depiction of how I met the love of my life, Sam Slater. I like how the book also touches on my long time passion for adventure and flying. In 1958, being a TWA stewardess was one of the only ways for a woman to have a glamorous job where she could see the world.  I had to put up with some grabby guys and older businessmen on my flights flirting with me, but the benefits far outweighed the challenges.

Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

I think he accurately portrays my personality. He knows that I love flying and Elvis and Sam–not necessarily in that order.  I didn’t realize how much I talk about Elvis and his music. I guess I do. It’s a little embarrassing to see that in the book.  One thing that makes me uncomfortable in the book is all of the detail about the things I do with Sam. I mean, we aren’t lovers yet but we are pretty passionate with one another. I am doing things with Sam that I’ve never done with any other guy. I have a key to Sam’s apartment and I like to come to his place on Saturday mornings. I crawl in bed with him…I’m fully clothed of course…and kiss him good morning and it gets pretty intense. It’s a nice way to start the day. Then I make him a nice breakfast. But what if my mother reads this book? She has no idea about all the things I do with Sam. My mother is still under the impression that I’m a good Catholic girl.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

Hmm, I think loyalty. Despite all of the passengers, pilots and other guys who hit on me when I’m traveling as a stewardess, I’m always true to Sam. He’s the only guy I want.  The pilots call me the “ice queen” behind my back. They say that they can’t get to first base with me. I told Sam about what they say. He was glad to hear that I have that reputation.

Worse trait?

Sometimes I can be awfully bossy and cranky with Sam when I get back from my long week of flying across the country. Sam says it’s because I’m tired but he’s being nice. I think I’m too hard on Sam sometimes and he’s always so good to me.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

Oh, yes. I met Sam Slater in the fall of 1957. I had just got home from a flight to Chicago and was wearing my stewardess uniform which always seems to attract attention. Two disgusting drunk guys started roughing me up and wanting me to kiss them. Sam came out of nowhere and rescued me. We’ve been together ever since.

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

There were gangsters after us who threatened to kill me and Sam. I became very worried when we were hiding out in a motel room out of town, hoping the mobsters wouldn’t find us.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

I don’t think I would want to be anyone else. I love being Sam’s girlfriend, living in San Francisco and being a stewardess.  Some of the other people in this book have some serious problems.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

I’m very happy with how the first book ends. Sam and I have fallen deeply in love but there is more trouble for us ahead in the next book. Sam kept me safe from harm in “Last of the Seals” but it wasn’t easy.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if he decided to write another book with you in it?

He is writing another book about me and Sam. There are more adventures ahead of us including a creepy kidnapper who becomes obsessed with me. Sam and I are now secretly engaged. My family knows. They love Sam and my mother, who was afraid I was going to be an old maid, is happy that I’m getting married. However, I have to keep my engagement and pending marriage a secret from TWA. They will force me to resign if I become engaged or married. I’m torn. I love my job and I love flying but I love Sam. I guess I love flying because…well, I guess you know  I was named after Amelia Earhart.  When I have to choose I will choose Sam of course.  I hope the author keeps Sam safe from harm. I worry about him so much when I’m out of town on flights, leaving Sam alone in San Francisco.

Thank you for this interview, Amelia.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

Oh yes. There are several books planned about my life with Sam.  I hope I’m ready for the things that are ahead of us. I do love a good mystery and I love helping Sam on his cases.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

The year is 1957 in San Francisco. Sam Slater is a lifetime minor league baseball player for the San Francisco Seals. The Seals have just one more season left as San Francisco is about to become a major league city. The Giants are coming to town in 1958 and the Seals will be displaced. Sam has come to the end of his baseball career and is going to join the private detective agency of his best friend. When his friend is brutally murdered, Sam must go it alone and try to find out why. Along the way he is swept off of his feet by a beautiful Elvis-obsessed TWA stewardess named Amelia Ryan. Sam and Amelia try to unravel the mystery together. Sam’s best friend, Jimmy inadvertently saw something he shouldn’t have. Sam and Amelia have pictures in their possession that have crime families in San Francisco and Chicago very worried. Then a young woman Sam has been searching for is found dead on the beach. Suddenly, Sam and Amelia find themselves in danger. On dark and foggy San Francisco nights, trouble is lurking just around the next corner.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Greg Messel has written four novels and three unpublished memoirs. He published his premiere novel “Sunbreaks” in 2009, followed by “Expiation” in 2010 and “The Illusion of Certainty” in 2011. “Last of the Seals” is the first in a series of mysteries which are set in 1957 San Francisco. The second book in the series “Deadly Plunge’ will be published around Christmas of 2012. Greg grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and has had a newspaper career as a columnist, sportswriter and news editor. He won a Wyoming Press Association Award as a columnist while working for a daily newspaper in Wyoming. Greg also spent many years in the corporate world as a Financial Manager. He now devotes his energies to writing at his home in Edmonds, Washington on the Puget Sound just north of Seattle, where he lives with his wife, Carol.

Character Interview: Lelia Marie Freeman of ‘Dark Side of Valor’

We’re thrilled to have Lelia Marie Freeman here with us today!  Lelia is the director of ChildSafe Shelters in Los Angeles, California, and the lead character in Alicia Singleton’s blockbuster book, Dark Side of Valor.

We interviewed Lelia to give us some between the pages insights on her character and whether the author caught her true personality.  Welcome Lelia!

Thank you so for this interview, Lelia.  Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

I don’t like being in the spotlight.  My business is my business.  It was bad enough being blasted on national television and dubbed, “The Street Angel”, then there’s that annoying, pain in my tail disc jockey, Zenith Starr and his constant harassment, now there’s this book about my life.  The kids are what’s important.  Not me.  Not my life. The kids.

Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

She made me seem a little rough around the edges, almost crass sometimes, but if that’s the way the world sees me, then…whatever.  I just don’t stomach bull-crap well.  Will there be any questions or some information published on how to help the homeless and runaway child population?  If not, then you’re wasting my time.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

Not tolerating bull-crap, but ok, I’ll bite.  My heart.  Good or bad, life or death, I’ll always allow my heart to lead me.  Now, about the children and how people can help…

Worse trait?

My adopted mother says my big mouth.  Translated that means, I don’t stomach bull-crap well. But I promised her I’d be polite today, so my answer is, my heart.  Again, good or bad, life or death, my heart leads me, even if the situation could kill me.  I’d go to the ends of the earth to rescue my kids.  Who, by the way, we still haven’t discussed.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

Who?  Elijah?  Absolutely not!  He’s brash, a bully, arrogant and a nut job.  If I didn’t need a way out of Sudania, I’d tell him where to get off.

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

When I woke up in another country with nothing to my name except the dress on my back and my underwear, I knew I was in deep trouble.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

President Marwein Boll Deng.  He’s not at all what he seems.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

The very end of the book is a dream I never thought I’d live.  Right before the end of the book is…well I promised my mother I’d watch my mouth.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it?

Can you cut me some slack?  Bullets flying, being chased by crazed men, dropped in the middle of a jungle…what!  Less danger, more focus on the kids.  Can you ask question about them, now?

Thank you for this interview, Lelia.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

Yes, you’ll see Elijah, Asha, Marcellus, Sierra and me again.  And when we talk again, let’s keep it about the kids.  Okay?

About the Book:

Child advocate Lelia Freeman saves children for a living. As the director of ChildSafe Shelters, she ventures to abandoned squats and crackhouses to rescue teens from the hellish streets of Los Angeles. When she is summoned to Washington to serve on a committee that aids the children of a war-torn African nation, Lelia is kidnapped and becomes a political pawn in a sinister conspiracy. Oceans away from everything she knows, she must trust a mercenary to save her life, or die in the clutches of a psychopath.

Hunting, combat and staying alive are Elijah Dune’s specialties. Vengeance is his passion. Haunted by past demons, he’s travels to the Motherland to collect a debt. A debt that demands one payment. Death.

Caught in the crosshairs of a madman, Lelia and Elijah must survive the jungles of Zaire and the horrors of their pasts or be forever consumed by the DARK SIDE OF VALOR.

About the Author:

Born and raised in Philadelphia, the Howard University graduate embraced the written word at an early age. She credits this to her loving, older sister whom, while they were youngsters, made the author eat lotion on a regular basis. Realizing the need to sound-out the ingredients on the lotion label, Alicia stopped the lotion-eating practice, but continued to read the labels of the concoctions her sister brought for her to try. This early necessity to read flowered to a passion; hence, a writer was born.The award winning author resides in Maryland with her wonderful husband and son. Still an avid reader, label or otherwise, Alicia is hard at work completing her next suspense novel.Her latest book is the suspense novel, Dark Side of Valor.

Visit Alicia’s website at www.aliciasingleton.com.

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Early 60s Racial Tensions Make The Promised Land a Must Read

Valerie Stocking booksigningValerie Stocking was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, and wrote her first short story when she was five. When she was eight, she won a short story contest in Jack and Jill Magazine. She wrote her first play at the age of ten. In 1966, when she was twelve, she and her mother moved to a small town in Florida where they lived for a year. During this time, Valerie experienced difficulties with the public school system, tried a Seventh Day Adventist school briefly, and then dropped out altogether. It was her experiences during this year that inspired The Promised Land. Later, she would finish high school, graduate from college and earn a Master’s degree in Cinema Studies from NYU.

For nearly 30 years, she wrote and edited in various capacities, including copywriting, newspaper articles, and short stories. She wrote nearly 20 full-length and one act plays over a ten year period, which have been performed throughout the U.S. and Canada. She edited books for audio, abridging over 100 novels in a 6-year period. In 2010, she published her first novel, A Touch of Murder, which is the first of what will become the Samantha Kern mystery series. It was nominated for a Global eBook Award in 2011 for Best Mystery.

Valerie lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her dog and cat, and is working on her next novel.

You can visit her website at www.valeriestocking.com.

About The Promised Land

The Promised LandIt’s 1966, just two years after President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, and twelve-year-old Joy Bradford’s life is changing dramatically. Born and raised in the white suburbs of Connecticut, Joy is moving to Willets Point, Florida, to live with her mother Jessica because her parents are divorcing. Hoping it really is the Promised Land that her mother describes, she joins in Jessica’s enthusiasm only to find out how horribly wrong that vision is.

Unfortunately for Joy, the move does nothing to change her mother’s emotional and mental instability, resulting in a continuation of the physical and verbal abuse she is all too used to receiving. Her new school is years behind her old one, the kids dress and act differently, and on just the second day, Joy has a run-in with her geography teacher. Things are going from bad to worse until Clay Dooley, a mixed-race boy from that same geography class, offers his friendship. The two become close, sending shockwaves that dovetail with a growing sense of tension and unease in the community as a whole. Clay’s father Clytus, a well-educated black man, attempts to open his own clothing store in the white section of downtown Willets Point. This causes Jessica’s new lawyer cum boyfriend and leader of the local Klan chapter, Bill McKendrick, to join with other white citizens in using great force to block Clytus’ dreams. Tempers flare and emotions run high when Clytus refuses the Klan’s subsequent demand that he and his family move out of the white neighborhood they live in, setting off an explosive confrontation that will change them all forever.

An absorbing and suspenseful coming of age story set against the tumultuous backdrop of racial tensions in mid-1960’s America, Stocking’s blend of historical fact and fiction is as relevant today as it was during the explosive Civil Rights era. Probing the human psyche for the deep-seated fears that fuel the fires of racism and bigotry, she expertly builds characters who feel their very lives are at stake by the changing times. Full of insight and intensity, The Promised Land is a spellbinding journey you won’t want to miss.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Valerie.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

“The Promised Land” is my second book.  My first, “A Touch of Murder,” came out in July, 2010.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

For A Touch of Murder, I went the self-publishing route, but it was through a company rather than me doing everything myself. I paid to be published, but first I had to submit the manuscript of my novel and have it be accepted.  It was, and I was very happy about that.  I self-published because I was tired of doing the query-the-agent routine and getting nowhere.  Self-publishing has become a lot more respectable lately, and I also liked the fact that I got a say in everything that went into producing the physical book.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

With my first book, it took about a year, and that year seemed to drag on forever!  My second book, which was published by SJT Press (CreateSpace) took half that time, but it still felt like a long process.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

It didn’t really hit me that I was a published author until I saw my books on a rack in Borders, where I was doing a book signing.  It felt wonderful!  Just being able to hold the book in my hands was awesome.  I celebrated by going out for Chinese food with friends after the book signing!

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I hired someone to promote the book for me.  That was a mistake.  With The Promised Land, I’ve hired someone to arrange a blog tour for me, but that is far less expensive than having someone else do all the legwork.  Now I am doing the marketing, and it feels great!

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

I would like to think that I have learned from my editors and have improved in certain ways.  Also, I take feedback from readers very seriously, and paid attention to their responses to my first book.  I’m taking more risks now.  I’m putting things down on paperthat actually happened, and mingling them with fictitious situations and characters.  The Promised Land is an edgy story, and totally different from A Touch of Murder.  Touch is a mystery, while The Promised Land is historical fiction/fictional memoir.  I don’t like to write the same thing all the time.  My next book is going to be the sequel to A Touch of Murder and the book after that will be paranormal suspense.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

The sheer number of people who are involved in the industry, from writers to editors to graphic designers to artists to bloggers to marketers.  It is so vast!  Also, I have been very pleasantly surprised by the quality of service that CreateSpace provides.  A couple of my friends who are also published authors went with them, and they persuaded me to try them.  I’m glad I did.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

When someone likes my work and wants to read more of it.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Get a professional editor to help you.  Join a writer’s group and listen to their critiques.  Rewrite and polish.  Then give it to someone whose opinion you trust and rewrite some more.  When it’s ready, let it go.  Go for it!  You can be published – but you want to publish something that’s of real quality, and that takes work.  So roll up your sleeves and get to it!

 

Read a Chapter: The Promised Land by Valerie Stocking

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at Beyond the Books! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring The Promised Land by Valerie Stocking. Ordering information follows. If you would like to learn more about Valerie, visit her website at www.valeriestocking.com. Enjoy!

 

It’s 1966, just two years after President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, and twelve-year-old Joy Bradford’s life is changing dramatically. Born and raised in the white suburbs of Connecticut, Joy is moving to Willets Point, Florida, to live with her mother Jessica because her parents are divorcing. Hoping it really is the Promised Land that her mother describes, she joins in Jessica’s enthusiasm only to find out how horribly wrong that vision is.

Unfortunately for Joy, the move does nothing to change her mother’s emotional and mental instability, resulting in a continuation of the physical and verbal abuse she is all too used to receiving. Her new school is years behind her old one, the kids dress and act differently, and on just the second day, Joy has a run-in with her geography teacher. Things are going from bad to worse until Clay Dooley, a mixed-race boy from that same geography class, offers his friendship. The two become close, sending shockwaves that dovetail with a growing sense of tension and unease in the community as a whole. Clay’s father Clytus, a well-educated black man, attempts to open his own clothing store in the white section of downtown Willets Point. This causes Jessica’s new lawyer cum boyfriend and leader of the local Klan chapter, Bill McKendrick, to join with other white citizens in using great force to block Clytus’ dreams. Tempers flare and emotions run high when Clytus refuses the Klan’s subsequent demand that he and his family move out of the white neighborhood they live in, setting off an explosive confrontation that will change them all forever.

An absorbing and suspenseful coming of age story set against the tumultuous backdrop of racial tensions in mid-1960’s America, Stocking’s blend of historical fact and fiction is as relevant today as it was during the explosive Civil Rights era. Probing the human psyche for the deep-seated fears that fuel the fires of racism and bigotry, she expertly builds characters who feel their very lives are at stake by the changing times. Full of insight and intensity, The Promised Land is a spellbinding journey you won’t want to miss.

 

Chapter One

 

AUGUST 1966

 

            Joy Bradford stared out the window of the moving train headed from New York’s Penn Station to St. Petersburg, Florida.  Her ungainly body was encased in a pair of Bermuda shorts and a white, sleeveless Ship and Shore blouse. She had unfashionably short, curly brown hair, and a splotch of acne across her forehead. She was twelve years old.

She frowned, blinking her eyes behind Coke-bottle thick, horn-rimmed glasses.  The area they were traveling through was very poor, with houses that were nothing more than dilapidated, one-room shacks. Some were tilting to one side, threatening to collapse.  Some of the roofs looked partially caved-in. Windows were crude openings, lacking blinds or curtains.

Aunt Margaret, who was traveling with Joy and her mother Jessica, had referred to the lean-tos that Joy was seeing, which had appeared throughout their trip, as “Niggertowns.”  The term bothered Joy.  When she’d been four, her mother taught her a rhyme, “Eenie meenie miney moe, catch a nigger by the toe. If he hollers let him go, eenie, meenie miney moe.”  She’d recited it proudly for their housekeeper Melissa, who had shouted at her, “Don’t you ever say that again.”

“Why not?” Joy asked.

“It’s a bad word for colored people.”

Joy had never seen her so upset.  “Okay, I won’t say it anymore,” she promised…

“What are you doing?”

Joy, startled, jerked away from the window, looking up as Aunt Margaret entered the room.

Aunt Margaret frowned.  “Come away from there.  That’s something you shouldn’t have to see,” she said.  “None of us should have to look at it.  It’s disgusting.  A cesspool.”

Joy eyed her, but was silent.

“Where’s your mother?” Aunt Margaret wanted to know.

Joy shrugged.  “She said she was going to the dining car to get us a table.”

Aunt Margaret looked at her watch.

“Yes, it’s about time for lunch.  Come along.”

Jessica Bradford was waiting for them in the dining car at a table adorned with a starched white tablecloth, white cloth napkins and ornate silverware.  She was an inch taller than Margaret’s diminutive five feet one, and slender. Her shoulder-length blonde hair hung in her face, partially concealing her high cheekbones and doe-like brown eyes. “Well, just a few more hours and we’ll be there,” Margaret said.  She took one of Jessica’s cigarettes from the Phillip Morris pack lying on the table and lit it.  Jessica automatically reached for a cigarette herself, got a light from Margaret’s flame and inhaled deeply.

“Everything should be ready at the house,” Margaret continued.  “Peter will be picking us up at the station, and I’ve notified Vivian and Carly to make up one of the guest suites.”

Jessica nodded, but said nothing.

“You don’t seem as enthusiastic now as you were before we got on the train,” Margaret commented.  “Getting cold feet?”

Jessica’s lips thinned.  She shook her head.  “Not at all.”

Joy shifted uncomfortably in her chair.  Ever since her mother had announced she was leaving Joy’s father, there had been tension between Jessica and Aunt Margaret.  Joy knew that Aunt Margaret liked her father.  Almost everybody did, except for Jessica.

Now, Aunt Margaret shrugged.  “It’s your life,” she said in a voice that was too loud.  “Of course, there’s also Joy to consider.”

“That’s one of the main reasons why I’m getting a divorce,” Jessica said.  “For Joy’s sake.”

Aunt Margaret squinted at her as she inhaled smoke, then shook her head.  “I still don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.  “Your husband is a fine, upstanding…”

“Creep,” Joy’s mother supplied.  In a lower tone, she muttered, “Drunken pervert.”

“Jessica,” Aunt Margaret said in a warning tone.  “Watch your language.”

Jessica snorted and stabbed her cigarette out in the glass ashtray beside her.  Then

she fumbled in her purse and produced a large bottle of Mylanta.

Aunt Margaret watched her disapprovingly.  “We’ll have to get you over to Doc Nelson once you’re settled,” she said.  “It isn’t normal for a person to be taking so much of that stuff.”

“Are you a doctor?” Jessica’s voice was loud.

Aunt Margaret took another pull off her cigarette and said nothing.

There was a pause while Jessica looked for something to pour the antacid into.  The only glasses on the table were filled with water.  She shook the bottle, unscrewed its cap, and tilted it back as she gulped the chalky liquid.  Her dark eyes roamed from side to side, checking to make sure no one noticed. Then she replaced the cap and put the bottle back in her purse.

“Good afternoon, ladies.”  A Negro waiter approached them and handed out menus.

“Good afternoon.” Aunt Margaret smiled what Joy called her Gracious-to-the-Help Smile.  She showed just a bit too much of her teeth, but the gesture was gone so quickly it left you wondering if it had been a grin or a grimace.

They ate in silence.  Joy hated it when things were this way.  Of course, it was far better than they’d been during the past year, when Joy and her parents were living under the same roof.  She gazed sourly at her mother, who left half her chicken sandwich on her plate and was lighting another cigarette.

When she couldn’t stand the tension any longer, Joy said, “I think I’ll go back to the room and read.”

“Go ahead,” Jessica said tightly.

Joy rose so quickly she nearly knocked her chair over.  She saw with dismay that there were two wet streaks left on the seat.  She perspired heavily from the backs of her thighs, but didn’t know what to do about it.

When she reached the room, instead of pulling out a book, she snuck two pages of plain white stationery from her mother’s tablet, picked up a pen lying on the table and began to write:

Dear Dad,

 

We are almost in St. Petersburg.  There are lots of oranges and palm trees and other things that aren’t so nice to look at.  The land is flat.  I don’t think I’ll have any problems riding a bike here.  We just ate lunch.  I like the food on the train, and the men who make up the rooms and wait on the tables are very nice.

 

She hesitated, tapping the tip of the pen against her front teeth.  Then she added,

 

I miss you.  Thank you very much for the five dollars you gave me just before we left.  I still have it, and I didn’t tell Mom about it.

 

Abruptly, she heard footsteps approaching the room, and Aunt Margaret’s voice

 

saying, “Come over for gin rummy as soon as you’re ready.”

Jessica mumbled something Joy couldn’t hear, then turned the knob on the door.  It was locked.  She tapped on the door, calling,

“Joy?  Are you in there?”

Hastily, Joy shoved the stationery under her pillow and put the pen back on the table.

“Joy?”

“Yes.  Coming,” she called, and opened the door.

Jessica stepped in and set her purse on the table.  “Are you all right?” she asked Joy.

“Fine,” Joy replied.

“Aunt Margaret wants me to play cards with her,” Jessica said as she stepped into the tiny bathroom and shut the door.

“That’s nice.”

“Do you want to play?”

“No, thanks.”

There was a pause.

“I wish I didn’t have to,” Jessica muttered.  “That woman cheats.”

Joy smiled.  She’d played cards with her aunt before, and knew that Aunt Margaret wasn’t dishonest. She just had a good memory and knew after a couple of turns who had which cards.  She very seldom lost.

After Jessica left the room to go next door, Joy got out the letter she’d been writing to her father and resumed:

How is Kitty? I miss her.  I miss you, too.

Joy stopped, aware that she’d already said that.  She thought of scratching it out, but that would leave a blotch on the paper, so she left it. She lay on her stomach on her bed, rereading what she’d written, trying to think of something else to say.  Finally, she wrote,

I hope you’re OK.  You can write me at Aunt Margaret’s address in Bellair.

 

Love,

Joy

She’d only used one of the two sheets of paper she’d taken from her mother’s tablet.  She rifled through Jessica’s cosmetic bag where she’d found the paper, searching for an envelope.  She managed to locate one jammed in a corner and pulled it out.  It was creased across the flap, but Joy smoothed it out and wrote her father’s address on it.   Then she put Aunt Margaret’s address in the upper left hand corner.  When she was done, she stuffed her letter in the envelope and sealed it.  There. Now she just needed a stamp.  She’d ask Aunt Margaret for one when they reached the house.  She’d also ask her aunt to mail the letter to her father.  She didn’t trust her mother to do it.

Joy put the sealed letter in her small suitcase underneath some blouses.  She spent the next half hour writing another letter to her best friend Karen.  It had been very painful to say good-bye to her.  They’d been close for nearly two years.

When she was through, Joy decided she’d ask her mother for an envelope.  She didn’t want to go snooping through Jessica’s luggage again.  Jessica might notice something was amiss and get suspicious.

Joy folded the letter to Karen and put it on the table.  There was no reason to hide that one, she thought.

They had stopped in some Florida town, and now they were jerking forward again, the train giving off its loud HOO-HOOOOO and thunketa thunketa thunk as it pulled out of the station.  Joy returned to her place by the window.

            It won’t be long now.

**

Sheriff Thaddeus Simms and Gil Meyers sat side by side on rickety folding chairs as they had for hundreds of Wednesdays, outside Willets Point Barber Shop, which was owned by Gil. Thaddeus was a tall, imposing man, six feet five and more than 250 pounds.  The little hair he had left Gil Meyers buzzed off every Wednesday.  Thaddeus’s face, which had been innocent-looking enough in high school to earn him the nickname Baby Huey, was hard and craggy with age, but his eyes remained an icy blue.

Thaddeus’ cheeks still smarted from the aftershave Gil had slapped on him a few minutes before.  He sat motionless with his eyes closed, feeling the Florida sun bake his face.  He wished there was a breeze.  Sweat was beading on his forehead and dripping down the sides of his nose.

“I hear he’s rented a place downtown,” Gil said.  Short, string bean thin with gangly arms and legs, he exuded an odor of menthol.

Thaddeus’s eyes flew open.  He stared dully at the seven-acre lot across the street.  It had had a For Sale sign on it for so long the sign looked weather-beaten.

“Them niggers is gettin’ awful uppity these days,” Gil added.

Thaddeus shrugged and said, “Don’t borrow trouble until it knocks on your door.”

“You know who I’m talkin’ about, don’t cha?” Gil pressed.

Thaddeus shifted his bulk in the uncomfortable chair, making it squeak in protest.

“I reckon,” he said.

“That nigger from Atlanta, Clytus Dooley.”

“What about him?”

“What are you gonna do about him?” Gil asked.

“Nothing, unless he breaks the law.”

Gil snorted.  Then he asked, “How’s the truck running?”

Thaddeus shrugged.  “You know.”

“What do you mean?” Gil was defensive.  “When I sold it to you I said…”

“I know what you said.  She’s got her moments, is what I’m saying.”

As Thaddeus said this, he couldn’t help but look at Gil’s brand new 1966 Ford

Fairlaine parked in front of the shop.

Must be in hock up past his chin.

Abruptly, Gil changed the subject: “Know who’s coming into town today?”

Thaddeus winced.  Sometimes he wondered why he bothered talking to Gil at all, but he kept his voice even when he asked, “Who’re you talking about?”

“You know who.”

“Why don’t you tell me?” he asked.

“Miss Jessica Arkasian.”

“You mean Mrs. Bradford,” Thaddeus corrected.

“She’ll go back to her maiden name after she’s took that surgeon husband of hers for all she can get.”

Anger flared in Thaddeus.  “She’s no gold-digger,” he said.  “She doesn’t have to be.”

“Well,” Gil said doubtfully.  There was a pause.  “She’s got a kid, I hear.”

“Yeah,” Thaddeus said noncommittally.

“Train’s pulling in, in about an hour,” Gil went on.  When Thaddeus didn’t reply, Gil added, “You gonna go meet ‘em?”

Thaddeus snorted.

“Are you?” Gil pressed.

“Why would I?” He wished Gil would drop it.  It was too damned hot to be talking.

“I’ll bet Bill McKendrick shows up to welcome ‘em,” Gil said, his voice full of needles.

Thaddeus said nothing.  But his hands, which had been resting in his lap, now moved to grip his knees.

“You don’t want him getting the jump on you again, do you?”

“Don’t know what you mean,” Thaddeus said.

But he did know, damned right well…

Gil laughed.  Thaddeus suddenly wanted a drink.  He glanced at his watch.  Another twenty minutes until he was on his official break.

“Come on, Thad.  I’ve heard she’s still a looker.  Don’t tell me you’re not interested.”

Thaddeus rose from the chair, adjusting the heavy belt containing flashlight, handcuffs and gun that rode on his hips.

“I haven’t seen her in almost twenty years,” he said.

“So?”

“So, people change.”

He watched as a satisfied smirk settled on the wrinkled features of Gil Meyers.  It was hard for Thaddeus not to punch him.  He imagined his knuckles connecting with Gil’s nose.  He imagined Gil on the floor, dazed, shaking his head, all the self-assuredness and mean pettiness knocked out of him.

“I just figured you’d want to know,” Gil said.

“I’d best get back to work,” Thaddeus said, glancing once again at his watch.  Seventeen minutes to go…

**

            “I need a drink,” Margaret Karlson murmured.  She stood wilting in a pink linen suit next to Joy and Jessica in the parking lot of the railroad station in St. Petersburg.  They were waiting for Peter, Margaret’s chauffeur, to arrive.  Margaret shifted impatiently from one foot to the other.  She inhaled the fetid air and tried not to grimace.  This was the worst part of the trip.  Why they put railroad stations in the middle of the worst cesspools of humanity she would never understand.  But at least they were off that wretched train.  Five days riding on that damned thing should have won her an endurance medal.  She blamed Johnson for the whole thing, of course.  It was his fault the damned airlines were on strike.  If only Goldwater had gotten in…

Joy stood next to her mother, her face shiny with sweat. There were dark, wet rings under her arms.  Margaret was aware of the perspiration dripping down her own chin, trickling down her neck.  She retrieved a tissue from her bag and mopped it up.  She glanced at Jessica and experienced a short burst of irritation.  Jessica never perspired.  And the sun loved her: she could bake in it for hours until her skin was as dark as a Negro’s.

“I’m going to start calling you my nigger niece,” Margaret told her.  She turned to Joy and added, “I don’t want any niggers in my family, do you?”

Joy stared stonily back at her. The child made Margaret nervous.

“I’m surprised Bill isn’t here,” Margaret said.

Jessica pulled a cigarette out of a beige leather case and put it between her lips.  “He’s probably working,” she said, fumbling in her purse for a lighter.

“Still,” Margaret said.  “Attorneys can take long lunches if they want to.”  She pulled a cigarette out of her own purse and waited until Jessica produced a lighter to incline her head towards the flame.  She inhaled deeply and said, “I’ll let you in on a little secret about Bill.” She paused and looked at her niece.  “He’s going to be the next D.A.”

Jessica puffed on her cigarette and said nothing.

“I’m financing Bill’s campaign.” Margaret paused to let that sink in, then added, “Don’t dare tell anyone.  It’s supposed to be a secret.  He’s going to be on radio, TV, everything.” Margaret watched her niece carefully.

Doesn’t she have any feelings at all?  If she’s fallen out of love with Mike, she can damn well get cozy with Bill again.

“Personal appearances, too, of course,” Margaret added.  “They say those are most important.”

Jessica was silent.  Margaret frowned.  “He never married you know,” Margaret said pointedly.

“Smart man,” Jessica said.

Margaret sighed in exasperation.

I give up!  She shot her niece a look.  For the time being…

She looked both ways, down the rows of cars in the parking lot, and then at her watch.

“Not where’s that damned…oh, here’s Peter,” Aunt Margaret said jubilantly as the black Cadillac limousine nosed its way toward them.  Peter, dressed in full livery, opened the driver’s side door and got out.  He was a small man, barely Margaret’s height, but as far as she was concerned he had the energy of two regular-sized men.

“Welcome home, Mrs. Karlson,” Peter said, bowing and tipping his hat.

“Thank you, Peter.  This is my niece Jessica Bradford and her daughter Joy.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” Peter said, nodding to both of them.  He gestured to the bags near them.  “Is that everything?”

“Yes,” Margaret replied.  To Jessica, she said, “Come on, let’s get in the air conditioning.”

As they climbed into the back of the limo, Margaret looked at her wristwatch, feigning surprise. “I had no idea it was so late. I’m ready for a drink.  Jessica?”

Margaret turned to her niece, pretending not to see the disapproval flash in Jessica’s dark eyes.

“No thank you,” Jessica said.

“What about you?” Margaret asked Joy.  She saw the girl’s eyes widen in surprise.

“Aunt Margaret, please,” Jessica protested.

“Why?  What’s the matter?” Margaret’s voice took on a defensive tone.  “We’ve been stuck on that God-awful train for days, and baking in the heat on that platform for God knows how long.  We’re entitled.  Aren’t we, Joy?”

Without waiting for a reply, Margaret opened the bar in the back of the limo and helped herself to a glass and a miniature of J&B.  “What would you like, Princess?” she asked Joy.  Joy didn’t reply. “Oh, come on,” Margaret said impatiently.  “Didn’t you tell me you were dying of thirst?”

“That was yesterday,” Joy said in a barely audible voice.

“It’s too early,” Jessica muttered.

“It is not.  It’s late afternoon.  How many people have cocktails at lunch?”

“Not everyone,” Jessica retorted.

“Well, it’s hours past lunchtime now.”

They hadn’t served any alcohol on the train before 2pm.  Margaret thought that was outrageous, and had argued with the help on board, but they refused to bend their damned rules.

Now, finally, Jessica was silent. Margaret experienced a sense of triumph.

I showed her.

Peter climbed into the limo on the driver’s side and shifted into drive.

“I bet I know what you’d like,” Margaret said to Joy.  She pulled a small bottle of green liquid out from the back of the liquor supply and took a fresh glass.

“You like mint, don’t you?” Margaret asked.

Joy shrugged.

“Huh?  Do you?” Margaret asked loudly.

“It’s okay,” Joy whispered.

“Here.  Try some of this.” Margaret handed her the glass, which was half-full of the green liquid.  Joy took a small sip.

“Isn’t it good?” Margaret pressed.

“Sure,” Joy said.

Margaret settled back against the leather upholstery, nursing her scotch.

“Oh, Jessica,” she said. “Did I tell you I invited Bill McKendrick over for dinner tonight?”

“No, you didn’t,” Jessica replied.

“It’ll be like old times.”

**

            Joy watched out the limo window as they made their way 30 miles west from St. Petersburg to Willets Point, Florida.

The car was the height of luxury, she thought.  Its upholstery was covered in suede, and the only things Joy could hear were the hiss of the tires and the subdued whir of the air conditioner.  It felt like a long ride to Joy.  However, as the cool, green crème de menthe coated her tongue and throat, she began to relax.  She loved the way it grew warm as it traveled down to her stomach.

They passed a golf course and a short block of boutiques. They made a right turn and were in a really fancy section now.  Homes spread out gracefully on immaculately manicured lawns.  Palm trees adorned the wide meridians.

Joy had never seen anything this opulent back home. It was impossible not to gape, even though she had been here four years ago. Enough time had passed for the impact of this wealth to strike her again.

The last time she’d been here, when she was eight, she’d gotten lost on the first floor of the Karlson home, between the dining room and the guest suite she was supposed to occupy.  She stumbled around in the dark, on carpeting so thick her feet sank into it, wandering through the breakfast gallery, the library, and the cavernous living room before she finally encountered a servant and timidly asked the way back to the kitchen.  The maid had found it terribly funny.

Joy remembered Aunt Margaret’s favorite part of the house was the elevator.  It was a tiny, plushly padded cubicle that whirred from the first to the second floor.  She and Joy went up and down, up and down in it. Aunt Margaret’s small dark eyes shone with childish glee as she said, “Press the button.  Going up.”

**

            Aunt Margaret resided in a two-story mansion on a large corner lot in Bellair, located in the northernmost section of Willets Point.  Like the other homes on the street, it was white stucco with a coral-colored roof and accents.  Jessica remembered it being bigger when they’d last been here, four years ago.

Things had been better with Mike then. Friends of Margaret and Gustav, Margaret’s husband, including several physicians, had tried to persuade him to move and practice urology in Florida.  He seemed amenable to the idea at first, but then backed down as soon as they had returned to Connecticut.

Now, Jessica gasped as she felt hot acid rising to her gorge.  She looked at her handbag, where she’d kept the large bottle of Mylanta, but then realized she’d transferred it to her luggage because the bottle was stretching the material of her purse.

Once they arrived at the house, Aunt Margaret ushered Jessica and Joy into the same guest suite Joy had stayed in four years earlier. It was done in French Provincial, all yellow and white, and boasted a huge separate dressing room and bathroom. Sliding glass doors led directly out onto the patio, which featured inlaid tile and an ornate fountain.

“Freshen up,” Margaret commanded. Her face was flushed, and her strident voice was a bit louder than usual. Her eyes fixed on Jessica’s. “I know you’ll want to look nice for our guest.”

Jessica pursed her lips, but her heart was pounding with excitement.

She’d met Bill after she’d graduated high school.  He was a few years older, with a lot more experience in the ways of the world than she.  She recalled that summer before she went to college.  Bill had just finished his second year of law school, and was full of promise.  She remembered the first time he kissed her in the parking lot of the Willets Point Country Club, how his lips had lingered over hers, coaxing them open.  She had ended it a few weeks later, after he’d started a fistfight with Thaddeus Simms.

Now, in Aunt Margaret’s house, the first thing Jessica unpacked from her red cosmetic case was the large bottle of antacid.  She found small paper cups in the bathroom, filled one with the chalky liquid, and downed it.

After Jessica and Joy had showered and unpacked a few things, Jessica sat at the vanity table in the dressing room, fumbling with a myriad of small tubes, vials, and sticks.  They left smeared, multi-colored trails of powder and liquid on the imported marble surface.

Jessica was aware of Joy watching her as she applied her make-up.  The girl annoyed her to no end.  She was disobedient and disrespectful, and she took Mike’s side in everything.  Further, Jessica found Joy’s beady-eyed stare behind those dreadful spectacles she wore unnerving.

The silence between them thickened.  Well, Jessica was damned if she was going to be the one to break it.

When she was through with her make-up, she rose and walked into the spacious closet. She hesitated, her hand poised over one of her mini skirts.  The hand wavered, then moved past, finally settling on a knee-length, pale blue dress that accentuated the narrowness of her waist and the curve of her hips.

“Can I wear some lipstick?” Joy asked timidly.

“No.”

Joy moved from one foot to the other, causing the loose shift she had changed into to sway. It concealed her growing bosom and the rest of her chunky body.

She was silent as Jessica applied carnelian colored lipstick to her mouth, puckered and pressed her lips into a tissue, leaving an orange smear.  Jessica sprayed herself from neck to chest with cologne in several rapid, waving motions, then turned to Joy.

“Let’s go,” Jessica said.

            They found Margaret alone in the den, having a cocktail. Margaret shook the ice around in her glass of scotch.  “Can you believe it?” she demanded.  “They’re actually letting niggers into white schools.”

Her face was flushed, and she mopped sweat from her chin with her free hand.

“That’s one of the reasons we need Bill,” she went on.  “These niggers are getting away with all kinds of things.  Everyone’s concerned about their damned civil rights.  What about my civil rights?  What about the rights of white people?  Don’t we count any more?  For God’s sake.”

She made a vague gesture towards the bar.  “Help yourselves,” she said.

Jessica nodded to Joy, who went to the bar and mixed a scotch for Jessica and ginger ale and grenadine for herself.

“What about that high-falutin’ one from Atlanta?” Margaret continued. “He thinks because he’s college educated he can come down here and do business with the whites.  It’s absurd.  No white person wants to be associating with coloreds that way. It’s unnatural, that’s what it is.  Unnatural.”

Jessica cleared her throat.  Margaret could carry on after a few belts.  Anyway, Jessica had other things on her mind besides race relations.

“How’s Bill these days?” She tried to keep her voice casual.

“As handsome and eligible as ever,” Margaret said, grinning broadly.  Jessica’s face grew warm.

As if on cue, the doorbell rang.  Margaret darted to the den door.

“I’ll get it, Vivian,” she bellowed. Unconsciously, she pressed her steel-colored curls against the side of her face with one hand as she strode out of the room.

There was a long silence.  Then Jessica heard Margaret’s voice, loud with excitement as she greeted her guest, followed by a man’s voice, much lower, murmur something indistinct.  There was a pause, and Jessica heard Margaret again, this time much closer:

“Right this way, Bill.”

She was followed into the room by Bill McKendrick.  He was a tall, burly man,  dressed in a dark grey suit, white shirt and striped tie. His grey hair was thinning on top.  He wore horn-rimmed glasses and had broad features.

Jessica almost blanched when she saw him.  He looked like an inflated version of the Bill she’d known 20 years ago.  Still, her heart shimmied crazily as Margaret marched him up to her and said, “Bill, you remember my niece, Jessica Bradford.  This is her daughter, Joy.”

Jessica noted with satisfaction that Bill didn’t bother looking at Joy.  Instead, his eyes lit up with interest and his eyebrows rose slightly as he took Jessica in.

“It’s a pleasure to see you again,” he said, extending his hand.

Jessica took it.  It was surprisingly smooth and soft.  He squeezed her hand gently.  She nodded and smiled.

Margaret stepped in.  “I’m hoping you’ll be able to help Jessica.  She wants to divorce her husband, and needs a good lawyer.”

Jessica was mortified.  Then she thought, Why not?  What the hell?

“I’ll be glad to help if I can,” Bill said.

“Let me get you a drink,” Margaret said.  “Still a bourbon man?”

Bill laughed and nodded.

“Tell us what’s been going on in the world of crime.”

Bill settled his large bulk into a loveseat across from Jessica.

“I saw the sheriff yesterday,” he said to Margaret.

“Thaddeus?  How is he?”

“Just fine, I think. Getting a little broad in the beam.” Bill laughed, then patted his own stomach. “Of course, I’m a fine one to talk.”

“What do you mean?” Margaret waved at him impatiently.  “You’re a big man, Bill.”  She turned to Jessica. “And he will probably be an even bigger man before the end of the year.”  She handed Bill a drink.

“Well, now, we don’t know that yet, Margaret,” Bill said, but he was smiling broadly.

Jessica tried not to look too impressed as she thought,

He’s confident.  He’s a man who’s going places.

“Oh, Bill.  You don’t have any competition to speak of, unless you count that nigger-loving peace-blabbing asshole from…”

“Aunt Margaret, please,” Jessica murmured.

“Well, it gets my dander up every time I think of that idiot saying equal this and equal that.” Margaret took a breath.  “What’s wrong with equal and separate?”

“Believe me, most people feel that way,” Bill said.  “We’ve got some pending business downtown with that fellow Clytus Dooley…”

“He’s the one I was telling you about,” Margaret said to Jessica.  “That left leaning nigger from Atlanta.”

“He’s applied for a permit to open a business downtown,” Bill said.

“In the white section, isn’t it?”

Bill nodded.

“Well, can’t you do something to stop him?” Margaret’s voice was strident.

“We’re trying,” Bill answered.  “But he seems to think the law is on his side.  He’s got some sanctimonious leftist lawyer from Tampa to represent him.  White, I might add.”

“Is he going to have white people working in the store?”

“If he is, they’re bound to be trailer trash who don’t know any better,” Bill said.  “The point is, do we want our hard-earned money lining this carpetbagger’s pockets?”

“No,” Margaret almost shouted.  She took a large gulp of her drink.  “What can be done to stop him?”

Bill smiled thinly.  In a soft voice, he said, “We’ll take care of it.”

At that moment, Jessica felt the scope of this man’s power, and smiled.

 He’s going to be mine.

            Jessica was removing her makeup in the dressing room after dinner when Joy came in.

“What do you think of Bill?” Joy asked as she leaned against the wall next to her mother.

“I don’t know.  Why?”

“Are you going to see him again?”

“Well, yes.  Didn’t you hear me make an appointment with him?  Aunt Margaret wants him to handle the divorce.”

“That’s all?” Joy asked.

Jessica shot her a look.  “What do you mean by that?”

“I don’t know. Do you think you might…date him?”

Jessica’s eyes turned hard. “I’m still married, for God’s sake,” she snapped. “Do you think I’m going to start running around with a man like some floozy? For God’s sake.” She picked up the blue-streaked tissue and continued removing her eyeshadow.

**

– Excerpted from The Promised Land.  All rights reserved.

 

Interview with Barbara Lampert: ‘You have to want your dream badly’

Barbara LampertBarbara Lampert is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in relationships. She’s been in private practice in Brentwood, California for over twenty years. She considers her work a calling and loves what she does. She has a doctorate in medical sociology and two master’s degrees – one in psychology and one in sociology.

Barbara has adored dogs her whole life. They’re her passion! She notes that for a lot of people, their dogs are their best friends. She loves helping people know that’s ok – that a soul-satisfying relationship may be found with any being and needs to be treasured.

Besides her love of dogs, Barbara is an avid gardener and finds herself gardening in much of her spare time. She sees her garden as a work of art. She loves being in nature – the miracle of growth, the ever-changing landscape, its beauty.

Today Barbara lives happily in Malibu, California with her husband David (married twenty-eight years!) and their six-year-old Golden Retriever, Harry.

Barbara hopes that Charlie: A Love Story will be a tribute not only to a magnificent dog but to all dogs everywhere.

You can visit her website at www.charliealovestory.com.

Website | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Amazon| Barnes & Noble | Official Tour Page

ABOUT CHARLIE: A LOVE STORY

Charlie - A Love Story 2Charlie: A Love Story tells of the beautiful love between Charlie, a Golden Retriever, and the author, Barbara Lampert. It takes place in Malibu, California. When Charlie turned eleven years old and started having some health problems, a journal Barbara was keeping about her garden quickly became mostly about Charlie.

Charlie: A Love Story is an intimate look at an incredible connection between a canine and a human. And as a psychotherapist who specializes in relationships, Barbara brings that sensibility and understanding to Charlie’s story as well.

Charlie was Barbara’s loyal confidante and best friend. He was indomitable, had a zest for life and an uncanny emotional intelligence.

Charlie: A Love Story is about devotion, joy, loss, and renewal, about never giving up or giving in. But mostly it’s about an extraordinary dog and an extraordinary relationship.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Barbara.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

Charlie:  A Love Story is my first book that’s been published. My doctoral dissertation was published, but I’m not counting that.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

I took the small press route.  Charlie’s story was a labor of love, and I wanted to have some control over how his story was told and what the book looked like.  Langdon Street Press allowed me to have that control, although their editing and front cover requirements were fairly strict. But now I’m glad for those restrictions, because they benefited my book.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

The interval between when I signed the contract with Langdon Street until I was published was approximately four years. My work as a psychotherapist, which I love, keeps me quite busy, which made it difficult to carve out time for my book. And because I am somewhat of a perfectionist (understatement!), every aspect of the publishing process took longer. For example, picking the font for the subtitle probably took about six weeks!

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

It’s taken so long to publish my first book that I don’t think I’ve yet fully grasped that I am published. But I expect that, like most new identities, I’ll grow into it.  Promoting my book is helping. As I hear how people feel about my book, and as people want me to sign their copies, the realization that in fact I am a published author is sinking in.

I think my official celebration of being published was my first book signing, at Tecolote Book Shop in Montecito, California, on February 18, 2012. It felt that that was when I launched my book, twenty-two days after its publication date.

Here’s why:  Some very important parts of my book happen in Montecito, a place I love. It’s about an hour north of my home in Malibu, and it’s where I go to calm myself and rejuvenate. It’s spectacularly beautiful, with wonderful gardens (residents there take such pride in their landscaping) and most importantly, they love dogs! I was so happy to have a book signing at Tecolote, because it’s a truly charming book store, where the love of books permeates, beginning with the owner and extending to the store’s employees and many of its patrons. Besides which, it’s been in existence for 83 years.

My book signing at Tecolote was magical. Friends and family attended. A good number of people came to get my book, which so surprised me, because I don’t live there! I heard great animal stories – mostly about dogs, with a cat story here and there. I heard how much people love their animals. And I actually felt everyone’s enthusiasm for my book. It was truly a celebration of  Charlie!

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

The first thing I did to promote my book was to have one thousand five-by-seven-inch postcards printed, after which I began handing them out everywhere and to everyone. Right away, I placed some in the waiting room of my psychotherapy office, in the middle of magazines on a long antique blue stressed-wood table. I specialize in relationships, and here was a book about my relationship with my dog. Many of my patients found this very interesting and valuable. Then I took postcards to all the shopkeepers I knew in Malibu and Montecito as well as to the three veterinary offices we’ve been to the most over the years. Of course, Dr. Olds, who took care of Charlie his whole life and who wrote the foreword to my book, was the first veterinarian to receive cards and a book.

I carry these postcards with me and hand them out whenever it feels right to do so.  The postcard has a copy of my book’s front cover on one side and mostly what’s on the book’s back cover on the other side. I must say I think the postcards are beautiful, and I feel good handing them out.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

I’m told that my writing has improved, and I too think it has. My first drafts are better, I’m not repeating myself as much, and I find that I’m more careful with my choice of words. Still have a ways to go with grammar. But the grueling editing process taught me a lot about writing. Now I have more confidence in my writing. And believe it or not, and I can’t even believe I’m saying this, I want to write another book! Probably more about my musings in the garden. I think that writing another book will be a lot easier after this first publishing experience, which involved so much to learn.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

I had no idea what it meant to publish a book prior to this experience. I’m amazed at how long everything took. The publishing world is very slow-moving, which was so difficult for my temperament. I like to move at my own pace, which is pretty fast. So I received many lessons in patience. At times, I thought my head was going to explode. So much waiting. So many details.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

The most rewarding aspect about being a published author is that the story of my astonishing, beautiful, and indomitable Charlie is now out in public. And I was the one who got his story out there. That is rewarding!

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Making your dreams come true is wonderful. The dream of being a published author generally takes a lot of work, determination and tenacity. You have to want your dream badly enough to work around all the obstacles you’ll encounter. But when you do, and then when you achieve your goal, it feels great. And when people love what you’ve done, that is even more wonderful. But most importantly, you have to be happy with what you’ve achieved.

Legal Thriller Urban Fiction Author Chris Shella on blog tour January 2012

Reasonable Facsimile

Pump Up Your Book is pleased to announce Chris Shella’s Reasonable Facsimile Virtual Book Tour 2012 beginning on January 3 and ending on January 27 2012. Chris will be on hand during his worldwide tour promoting his book and giving us candid interviews where we learn more about the author, tips on writing legal thrillers and advice on how to become a published author as well as giving his fans an opportunity to talk to him live via Pump Up Your Book’s chat room on January 27 where he will be giving away a paperback copy of his book, Reasonable Facsimile. Lots of fun along the way as Chris stops off at blogs around the world to give his fans a chance to ask him questions and to find out more about this talented legal thriller urban fiction author.

About Chris Shella

Chris ShellaAuthor Chris Shella is a graduate of Morehouse College and the University of Texas Law School and started his legal career in Long Island, New York at the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office. He is admitted to the practice of law in New York, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and North Carolina. Shella is also admitted to the federal court in the Eastern District of North Carolina, the Middle District of North Carolina, U.S. District of Columbia, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, the Eastern District of New York, and the Southern District of New York.He is also admitted to the Bar Of The United States Supreme Court. He and his cases have been covered on Court TV, CNN, and in the New York Times, and other media outlets across the globe. He has represented everyone from lawyers to major drug traffickers to a serial killer in Baltimore. His two most famous case are the Vegan Baby Case and his defense of the Duke Lacrosse Case accuser for the alleged murder of her boyfriend.

Chris now resides in Durham, North Carolina, with his wife and son.

His latest book is the legal thriller, Reasonable Facsimile.

You can visit his website at www.reasonablefacs.com.

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About Reasonable Facsimile

Reasonable FacsimileCan Jasper Davis pull himself from his life of loose women, liquor, and general debauchery in enough time to win a murder case and possibly save his own hide ? Jasper Davis is a criminal trial lawyer in Baltimore who has slowly but surely become like the drug dealers and lowlifes he represents. He spends more time with hookers than clients and more time drinking Jack Daniels than studying the law books. Simply put. he is a shade of his former self. In Reasonable Facsimile, Jasper is in the middle of a first degree murder trial when he becomes the suspect in the murder of a DEA agent who was set to testify against his client. Jasper is so far gone on women and liquor he sees his trial skills deteriorate right before his eyes. Jasper is confronted by the situation is he gonna continue to be a reasonable facsimile of a human being or is he gonna become the man he once was.

Visit his official tour page at www.pumpupyourbook.com/2011/12/22/reasonable-facsimile-virtual-book-publicity-tour-january-2012. Win copies of his book, learn more about the author and be sure to join him on January 27 2012 in the Pump Up Your Book chat room.

About Pump Up Your Book

Pump Up Your Book handles all the aspects of virtual book touring from pre-buzzing your book before the tour starts to making sure buyers will find your book long after the tour is over. If you are the author of a newly published book, have an upcoming release or just want to give a previously published book new life, a virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book is the answer. We welcome traditionally published, electronically published and self-published authors. Our esteem list of clients include Claire Cook, Caridad Pineiro, C.W. Gortner, Barbara Bretton, Cody McFayden, James Hayman, Karen White, Kathleen Willey, Lisa Daily, Lisa Jackson, Mary Burton, Nancy Thayer, Randy Sue Coburn, Ray Comfort, Sandi Kahn Shelton, Sheila Roberts, Therese Fowler, Hope Edelman, Wendy Wax, Jon Meacham, Shobhan Bantwal, Pat Williams, Jane Green, Judge Glenda Hatchett and cook show personality Paula Deen. We also represent Random House, Abingdon Press, Zumaya Publications, WND Books, Sheaf House Publishers, New Hope Publishers, Guardian Angel Publishers, Genesis Press, and Moody Publishing. Contact us to find out what we can do for you and your book!

If you’d like to contact Chris for an interview or review his book, contact Dorothy Thompson at thewriterslife@gmail.com. Pump Up Your Book is an innovative public relations agency specializing in online book promotion for authors. Visit us at www.pumpupyourbook.com.

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