Book Feature: Don’t Hit Me! by Vanessa de Largie

Don't Hit Me! 3Title: Don’t Hit Me!
Author: Vanessa de Largie
Publisher: Booktrope
Pages: 88
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir/Poetry/Journey
Format: Paperback/Kindle

#1 Amazon Bestseller
# Winner of the 2014 Global eBook Award Bronze (women’s studies)
# Winner of the 2014 Honourable Mention Award London Book Festival (memoir)
# Five-Star Review Midwest Book Review
# Five-Star Review San Francisco Book Review
# Five-Star Review #1 Amazon Hall of Fame Reviewer – UK
# 3 out of 4 stars Official Online Bookclub

Australian actress and author Vanessa de Largie is a survivor of domestic violence.
Don’t Hit Me is the true diarised account of her time living with an abusive man. The story is conveyed through poems, journal entries and fragments of lyrical prose. The book is a snapshot of domestic violence in real time. Raw, poignant and brave – it’s a tale that will stay with you.

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Don't Hit Me A

Book Excerpt:

I speak for female victims of domestic violence. We build forts around ourselves by protecting the individuals who abuse us. I can run away, I can escape. I can report an incident to the police. My own damn fear keeps me nailed in this box.

I want to connect with other women. Can you hear me girls? I am calling your name. Let’s bring out our hammers and set ourselves free.

I can see broken boxes littering the world.

Women dancing free, uninhibited…without fear.

My name is Vanessa de Largie and this is my story.

Book Spotlight: Deadly Strain by Julie Rowe


About The Book




TitleDeadly Strain

Book 1: Biological Response Team Series

Author: Julie Rowe

Publisher: Carina Press

Publication Date: June 15, 2015

Pages: 260


Genre: Romantic Suspense

Format: eBook, PDF

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Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking:

Book Description: 

Book one of Biological Response Team Series
Major Grace Samuels, a trauma surgeon deployed to Afghanistan, spends her life helping her fellow soldiers overcome disease and combat injuries. But her own wounds are harder to heal. Wracked with guilt over the death of a fellow soldier, she finds comfort in her only friend and appointed bodyguard, weapons sergeant Jacob “Sharp” Foster.
Sharp feels more for Grace than a soldier should, more than he wants to admit. When the team discovers a new, quick-to-kill strain of anthrax, he tries to focus on the mission to find its source. He knows he can help Grace defeat her demons, but first they must defeat the deadly outbreak.
Sharp is Grace’s most loyal ally, but in close quarters, he starts to feel like more. She can’t watch someone else she cares about die—but she might not have a choice. The closer they get to finding the source of the strain, the closer it gets to finding them.
Book Excerpt:
The battle line between good and evil runs
through the heart of every man. —Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“I’m so dead.” Dr. Grace Samuels stared at
the chessboard. There was no hope. None. Not a single move left open to her.
Except for one.
She sighed, shook
her head at the patience on her opponent’s face. “I concede.”
“Want to know
where you went wrong?” he asked as he cleared the board. He set the pieces up
again. Those big hands of his could bandage a wounded soldier, field strip a 9
mm and box her into checkmate with equal skill.
“I sat down in
this chair,” she answered with a straight face. The mess hall was busy with
soldiers, American and Afghan alike, either beginning their day or ending their
“No,” he said.
“You played the board.”
Grace thought
about it for a second, but it still didn’t make any sense. Then again, it was
0600 and she’d only been up for twenty minutes. “Huh?”
Special Forces
Weapons Sergeant Jacob “Sharp” Foster looked at her earnestly. “You played the
board,” he repeated. “You should have been playing the man.”
He winked and she
had to fight not to roll her eyes. When she first met him she’d thought his
flirting was for real, and had been worried she’d have to shut him down. She
didn’t want to, because he was hilarious, but the impropriety couldn’t be
ignored. Then, she discovered when he wasn’t on the job, he had a wicked sense
of humor, and everyone was a target.
“Then I suppose
I’ll have to study you.” She leaned forward and made a show of giving him a
thorough once-over.
He grinned and
spread his hands wide. “By all means, study me.”
Sharp was a big
man, about six-two, and she’d guess he weighed about two hundred pounds. He
flexed his biceps and waggled his eyebrows in response to her joke. Though he
had brown hair, with a mustache and beard to match, he had the lightest blue
eyes she’d ever seen—like looking into glacial ice.
Right now, those
eyes were challenging her. She just wasn’t sure if it was regarding the game or
something she didn’t want to talk about. At all.
Sharp wasn’t going to leave it alone. The chess game should have warned her.
They usually played poker.
She watched him
reset the chessboard while, for the first time in a week, letting her mind go
back to the moment she realized she was in trouble. On her way to her quarters
late at night. They’d arrived at Forward Operating Base Bostick the week
before, and she’d been introduced to the base commander, Colonel Marshall. He’d
barely spoken to her. So why was he waiting for her outside her quarters with
clenched fists and a face so blank she knew he was in the grip of a powerful
The colonel wasn’t
known for any kind of emotion.
She stopped
several feet away. “What are you doing here at this hour, sir?”
One corner of his
upper lip lifted in a sneer and he snarled, “I wanted a private conversation.”
His words
triggered every internal red flag she had. “I don’t understand.”
response was two words. One name. “Joseph Cranston.”
A name she wished
she could forget. “You…knew him?”
Scorn turned his
words into weapons. “He was my son.”
Oh God.
Grace took an
involuntary step backward. Now that she knew, she could see the son in his
father’s face, the same eyes and jawline as the young man whose features she
couldn’t forget. As if conjured, his shade floated in front of her mind’s eye,
thrusting her into a memory she wanted desperately to erase. His face, covered
with blood, whipped her heart into a gallop. Her breathing bellowed, lungs
attempting to push air through her terror-closed throat. She fought the
invisible hands pulling at her and her vision spiraled into a narrow tunnel.
Sharp had surfaced
out of the dark, his presence breaking the memory’s chokehold.
He’d crouched in
front of her, calling her name, ordering her to respond before he did something
stupid like give her mouth-to-mouth. She coughed out a response, couldn’t
remember what, and fought her way to her feet.
Sharp didn’t try
to hold her. He didn’t touch her at all, but he shielded her body from prying
eyes with his own. He refused to leave her, facing down Colonel Marshall, who
showed no sympathy and less tolerance for her fainting spell. Two of Sharp’s team members appeared and, after
glaring at them all, Marshall left without saying anything else.
She managed to get
inside her quarters before anyone could demand an explanation, shut the door
and locked it. She’d only felt relief when no one knocked to ask for an
explanation. It wasn’t until the next day that she realized their lack of
questions was as suspect as her behavior.
She hadn’t
expected to meet anyone connected to Joseph Cranston outside of the United
States. Hadn’t expected something that happened that long ago to thrust her
into a memory like it was happening all over again.
In the days since,
Sharp had been mother-henning her like she was some fragile little chick, and
she’d had about as much of that as she could take. She was a Samuels. Her
father, also a military doctor, had just retired from the army, and her
grandfather had run a MASH unit during the Korean War. He’d met her grandmother
during WWII; she’d been one of the first Air Force service pilots. If there was
one thing she wouldn’t accept from anyone, it was pity.
“I’ve been
studying you for a while.” Sharp finished setting up the board and met her
gaze. “You’re a damn good doctor, a hellacious good shot on the range and you
put up with our male stupidity with more patience than we deserve.”
“I hear the but coming.”
“What happened
between you and Marshall?”
“None of your damn
When he continued
to stare at her, she added, “Look, I’m not going to saddle anyone else with my
personal grievances or the fact that I don’t get along with someone.”
grievances?” Sharp asked. “Twice last week I thought you were going to damage a
guy for jostling you in the chow line. What’s going on with you?”
Shit, of course he
would notice. She’d damn near freaked out each time, a scream hovering on her
lips, her hands and feet moving to defend against an enemy who wasn’t there.
The enemy wasn’t there. No gunfire. No
weapons pointed at her, yet she still found herself reacting as if it were
happening all over again.
She hadn’t been
reacting that way until Marshall had confronted her. Meeting the father of a
soldier who’d died an unnecessary death in front of her must have detonated an
emotional trip wire in her head. One she needed to deal with.
Not an easy thing
when on active duty and nowhere near a base with more than a glorified
first-aid station.
It seemed like
anywhere she went on the base, Sharp or one of the guys from the A-Team was
there. Not doing anything, just there. They weren’t fooling her.
Damn alpha males
and their overprotective tendencies.
“Nothing I can’t
handle. I take care of myself.” She narrowed her eyes. Her sidearm, a Beretta M9,
might have to make an appearance. Then Sharp’s words sunk all the way in.
“Wait. Are you telling me I should play chess with the same mind-set as poker?” She buried his ass every time they played poker. He was
terrible at keeping his attention on his cards and lousy at pretending he
wasn’t checking her out—not that he was serious about it. He knew the rules
same as she, and she was glad, ridiculously
glad, she had a friend she could count on, someone she could trust.
“Sort of. Chess
demands more of you than poker, but the principles are the same.”
Them’s fightin’ words. “The hell you
say.” She’d been playing poker with her dad since she was ten years old. He’d
taught her how to bluff anyone.
“Doc,” Sharp said,
chuckling. “If I were lying, you’d be beating me, but you aren’t.”
“Ha.” She leaned
forward and tapped the board. “Make your move.”
Sharp opened his
mouth to respond, but he never got a chance to say anything before another
Beret, the team’s other weapons sergeant, Harvey Runnel, strode over to them.
It wasn’t the speed he was moving that drew her and Sharp’s attention, it was
the look on the soldier’s face. Flattened lips, clenched jaw and a slightly
flared nose. She couldn’t see his eyes due to the tinted safety glasses he
wore, but she could guess that the skin around them would be tight—a man who
was on full alert.
Special Forces
soldiers did not get amped up for no reason.
“Playtime’s over,”
Runnel said. “Doc, grab your go-bag.”
A mental blanket
sank over her, numbing her to the horror to come. It was the first
self-preservation tactic doctors learned. Compartmentalize all that terrible
stuff or go crazy in a week. Sometimes she wondered when all those boxes in her
mind would break open and rip her apart from the inside out.
There was an
entire crate named Joseph Cranston.
“Warm or cold?”
She asked even though she already knew the answer. Runnel never looked this
rattled. Please say warm.
Her warm go-bag
was a trauma kit, a backpack with everything she’d need if she was dealing with
bullet holes, shrapnel lacerations or broken bones. The typical things most
people expected her to treat since she was a trauma surgeon. But that wasn’t
all she was.
She was also an
infectious disease specialist.
Her cold go-bag
contained the very latest in biological detection technology. One- or two-step
tests that identified anything from anthrax to Ebola to a weaponized flu. She
was a member of a select group of virologists, microbiologists and infectious
disease specialists the US Army relied on to train not only their own troops,
but the soldiers of other nations, in the detection of and protection against
biological weapons. They were known officially as the Biological Rapid Response
team, but most soldiers called them Icemen or Icequeens.
Lately the army
had been assigning BRR team members to work with Army Special Forces
teams—Green Berets. She’d been working with Sharp’s team for almost a year. Her
job was to assist in training Afghan forces in everything from combat and
demolitions to the most survivable responses to biological, chemical or nuclear
“Cold,” Runnel
said. “No drill.”
Adrenaline spiked
through her system as Grace got up and followed Runnel. He led the way back to
whoever was calling the shots, Sharp right behind her as they ran at a trot.
She might be the base’s resident expert on biological weapons, but it was
knowledge she wished fervently she didn’t have to use.
They entered the
staging area where she’d been doing some of the training. Several members of
Sharp’s team were using it to gear up. Runnel glanced at her and angled his
head toward the base commander, a tall man in his forties who wore a permanent
frown. He was looking at a map with several ranking officers, including the
A-Team’s commander, Geoffry Cutter.
Cutter glanced at
her. “The major is here, sir.”
Base Commander
Colonel Marshall gave her a glare before returning his attention to the map in
front of him.
He’d called her a fucking quack yesterday as he walked
past her. If he kept demeaning her in front of the Afghan forces and their own
soldiers, she’d lose the credibility she needed to successfully train them.
“Major,” Marshall
said without looking at her. “One of our patrols reported in about ten minutes
ago with what appears to be a
biological incident.”
She waited, but he
didn’t add any more details. “What led them to believe that, sir?”
He met her gaze
with an even colder expression. “An entire village dead. Some of the bodies
show lesions and bleeding from the nose, mouth and eyes.”
Holy Mother of God.
Bad. This was very bad.
“I concur with
their assessment of the situation, sir. Your orders?”
“Get the fuck out
there,” he snarled at her. “Figure out what happened and fix it.”
That part she knew
already. Asshat. She’d hoped he’d
give her some detailed orders, with a timeline and what kind of manpower she
could expect. Not more sarcasm and snark.
She came to attention and saluted. “Yes, sir.”
He took two steps,
then stopped and turned around. He addressed Cutter and only Cutter, who had
somehow inched his way over until he was right next to her, with Sharp on the
other side. What a couple of papa bears. “Send half of your A-Team with the
Icequeen. The other half will stay here in case I need a second team to go in.”
Grace bit her
tongue hard to keep from telling what she thought of him and his orders, and
mentally promoted him to asshole.
“Yes, sir.” Cutter
saluted. “The location of the village is here.” He glanced at Grace and pointed
to a spot on the map. From a distance Cutter looked like the least threatening
person in the room. He was the shortest, skinniest guy on the A-Team, but he
more than made up for that in stubbornness and stamina.
Grace moved closer
so she could get a better look. “How far is it from the Pakistan border?”
“About two
“Not very damn
far.” She ran her index finger over the spot on the map. “Mountain valley?”
“Yeah. It’s a
small village. Less than one hundred people.”
“The patrol found
no one alive?”
“No one.”
Grace breathed in
through her nose and out through her mouth. “Did they get their breathing gear
on right away?”
“According to
their report they did, but they’re nervous. Whatever killed those people,
killed them fast.”
“Okay. I don’t
have to tell you guys how to prep. You’re as well trained as I am. Consider
this a live weapon.”
“Will do,” Cutter
responded. He looked at Sharp standing next to her. “I’m assigning Sharp to
ride herd on you, Doc. Where you go, he goes.”
“I’m not arguing,
Commander. I’ve worked with Sharp plenty of times.”
“Good. We leave in
fifteen.” Cutter nodded at her, gave Sharp a nod, then moved off to brief the
rest of his team.
“I have to get my
go-bag and the rest of my gear,” she said to Sharp, her mind on the eight
million things she needed to do before those fifteen minutes were up.
“I’ll give you a
“Thanks, but I
don’t need any help.” She was going to have to deal with his protective crap
sooner rather than later, but carefully. “I do need every friend I can get,
though. Are you in for that?”
At his grin, she
relaxed a little and refocused on the job at hand.
* * *
Sharp watched Grace rush away for about two
seconds too long.
“Do I need to
replace you with Runnel?” Cutter asked.
He jerked his head
around to stare at his commander. He’d thought Cutter had been briefing the
rest of the team. “No.”
Cutter stood with
his arms crossed over his chest and his feet apart. “Then pull your tongue back
into your head. You’re damn near panting after her.”
“Not fucking
likely. She’s just the only person on this base who can beat me in poker. If
something happens to her, I’ll have nothing to do for the next month,” he said.
“Besides, something’s not right. She’s been off her game since Marshall decided
to be an ass. She’s our number-one asset. I’m worried.” The way he’d found her
the other day, damn near passed out, shaking and hyperventilating like she was
about to fly apart… It had hit him—a sucker punch to the gut. She was reliving
something awful.
Post-traumatic stress disorder.
How many guys did
he know who lived with PTSD? Ten, twenty, fifty?
What was Marshall’s
connection? Something he’d done or said had set off a bomb in Grace’s head.
Even weirder,
Marshall hadn’t liked it when Sharp wouldn’t leave Grace alone with him.
What the hell had
Grace been involved with that earned her the dislike of a career military man
who normally didn’t give a rat’s ass about what a doctor like her might be
doing or not doing?
“Still, watch
yourself. Word around the base is, he’s got a hate on for the doc and you got
in the way.”
“What do you know,
“Nothing specific.
Marshall hasn’t talked, but his attitude toward the doc is clear. He hates her
Cutter was right,
Marshall’s face had been twisted by disgust and hostility as he stared at her
the night he got between her and the colonel. What had happened to cause it?
Whatever it was, Sharp wasn’t going to let anyone hurt her. She worked just as
hard and long at training their allied troops as the A-Team did. And she was good.
“Sharp.” Cutter’s
voice had a wary edge and he took a step closer. “Be careful, man. I like the
doc, too. Hell, the whole team likes her, but you and I both know falling for
someone while on deployment is a mistake.”
“Preaching to the
choir here, boss. I might enjoy the view on occasion, but there’s a line I have
no interest in crossing.”
They’d both
watched as a former team member fell hard for a woman he’d met while overseas.
The relationship disintegrated within weeks after he’d been reassigned. It had
damn near broke him, and he’d left the military altogether.
“I respect her,”
Sharp told his commander. “She’s smart and she’s worked her ass off this last
year. I also think Marshall has some kind of vendetta against her. The look on
his face the other night…” Sharp shook his head. “He’d have killed her if he
could have. She belongs to us.”
Cutter was silent
for a couple of moments, his gaze steady on Sharp’s face. Finally, he angled
his head toward the knot of soldiers and gear. “Come on, no one is going to
bother her now. Marshall needs her. Get your shit together.”
Cutter had one
thing right. He needed to keep his focus on the mission. Sharp followed the
other man, but there wasn’t much for any of them to do, since they were always
ready to move out on a moment’s notice. Every man on the team had developed the
habit during training and had only refined it since. One of their instructors
used to say that an unprepared soldier was a dead soldier.
Sharp joined the
rest of his team, double-checked his weapons, pulled on his battered gear and
bio-suit and got out of the way. Focus.
Cutter was talking
with Bart, one of their communications guys, when Colonel Marshall walked in a
few minutes later with another half-dozen soldiers behind him and headed
straight for the Special Forces group.
“Cutter, storm
coming at twelve o’clock,” Sharp informed him quietly.
By the time
Marshall came to a stop, the entire A-Team was standing at attention.
“Sir,” Cutter said
with a salute. “The go-team is ready, sir.”
“Where’s that damn
“She’ll be here in
six minutes, sir.”
Marshall grunted.
“You’re taking these men with you on this mission. Two additional medics, Yanik
and Anderson, and four of my infantry for security. Your mission objective is
to assist Major Samuels.”
For the first time
since their arrival two weeks ago, Marshall was actually helping a situation
rather than shitting all over it.
“And make sure
that bitch doesn’t screw up,” Marshall added. “I want the men on that patrol
back in one piece. Understand?”
“Yes, sir.”
The team saluted
and Marshall stalked off like he was Patton or something.
“So much for that
guy not being a tremendous bag of dicks,” the team’s second in command, John
Leonard, said in an undertone.






About The Author



Julie Rowe’s first career as a medical lab technologist in Canada took her to the North West Territories and northern Alberta, where she still resides. She loves to include medical details in her romance novels, but admits she’ll never be able to write about all her medical experiences because, “No one would believe them!”.In addition to writing contemporary and historical medical romance, and fun romantic suspense for Entangled Publishing and Carina Press, Julie has short stories in Fool’s Gold, the Mammoth Book of ER Romance, Timeless Keepsakes and Timeless Escapes anthologies. Her book SAVING THE RIFLEMAN (book #1 WAR GIRLS) won the novella category of the 2013 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. AIDING THE ENEMY (book #3 WAR GIRLS) won the novella category of the 2014 Colorado Romance Writer’s Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in several magazines such as Romantic Times Magazine, Today’s Parent, and Canadian Living.

You can reach Julie at , on Twitter @julieroweauthor or at her Facebook page:


Connect with Julie:

Author Website:







Virtual Book Tour Page

Interview with Michael Ditchfield, author of ‘Life’s Too Short for Leftovers’

michael_106 (2)Humanitarian Michael Ditchfield—bestselling author, sought-after speaker, entrepreneur, and former professional athlete, is committed to addressing the humanitarian plight of developing countries. Ditchfield speaks widely on how to inspire change and promote empowerment among cultures and individuals. 
He has worked extensively with children in Africa using sports and culture in furthering the peace process. He remains dedicated to transforming lives by advocating for human dignity across the globe.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your book, Life’s Too Short for Leftovers. What was your inspiration for it?

A: After my first trip to Ethiopia I realized that we all can learn from each other. I wanted people to experience the passion and commitment to helping those amazing individuals in different parts of Africa.

Q: Why was the writing of this book important for you?

A: To save lives while bettering our own.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

LTS-front (2)A: The creative process was mapped out in my mind by circumstances. My mentor began the journey for me and from that watershed I continued to feel the passion which kept the process on course. It took 5 years to complete although the creative mind was fooling with the idea years before that. The bumps were practical in nature. Being able to get into the different parts of countries in Africa presented some stumbling blocks but eventually they turned into stepping stones.

Q: What is the one thing you hope readers will take away from your book?

A: That they can make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of others no matter how near or far away that person is.

Q: What discoveries or surprises did you experience while writing this book?

A: That I had an amazing journey to document with individuals who made me a better person.

Q: How do you define success?

A: The ability to look failure in the eye and smile.

Q: Could you talk a little bit about your publishing process?

A: I found the right team who knew a little more than I did, from editors, book designers, marketers and people who pointed me in the right direction. I did not want my passion compromised and I did not want the content to deviate from this vision. That’s what my team accomplished.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring nonfiction writers? Could you offer some tips or resources that have been helpful to you?

A: To seek advice at every corner of the process, from those who have gone before and trodden down the grass in front of them. I sought an individual who had done this already, but still allowed me to dream and stand for something along the way.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: When you purchase the book you will see just how much you change and at the same time, realize how much you are changing the lives of others in this world.

Waiting for the Cool Kind of Crazy, by M.D. Moore

Originally posted on Plug Your Book!:

Waiting for the CoolTitle: Waiting for the Cool Kind of Crazy

Genre: Fiction/Family Drama

Author: M.D. Moore

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

An extraordinary debut novel, Waiting for the Cool Kind of Crazy introduces protagonist Harmon Burke. The son of a schizophrenic mother, Harmon is haunted by three decades of his mother’s “un-cool” craziness and the mistakes of his own past.  Caught somewhere between his past and present, Harmon is trying to navigate and survive the detritus of his life—a life littered with personal failures, strained relationships and life-threatening health issues.

When Waiting for the Cool Kind of Crazy opens, Harmon’s mother Cece is on her way back to the psychiatric hospital after another psychotic episode—an episode that nearly lands Harmon in jail for his third and final strike before lifelong incarceration.  Landing an unusual lucky break, Harmon cashes in a literal “get out…

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First Chapter Reveal: ’89 Walls by Katie Pierson

'89 WallsTitle: ’89 Walls
Author: Katie Pierson
Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Pages: 240
Genre: Young Adult
Format: Paperback

College is not in the cards for Seth. He spends his minimum wage on groceries and fakes happiness to distract his mom from the MS they both know will kill her. It’s agony to carry around a frayed love note for a girl who’s both out of his league and beneath his dignity.

Quinn’s finishing high school on top. But that cynical, liberal guy in her social studies class makes her doubt her old assumptions. Challenging the rules now, though, would a) squander her last summer at home, b) antagonize her conservative dad, and c) make her a hypocrite.

Seth and Quinn’s passionate new romance takes them both by surprise. They keep it a secret: it’s too early to make plans and too late not to care. But it’s 1989. As politics suddenly get personal, they find themselves fighting bare-fisted for their beliefs—and each other—in the clear light of day.

For More Information

First Chapter:

Quinn stood in the tiled foyer of her silent house, breathing in the soothing smell of Pledge dusting spray that the cleaning lady left behind. She tossed her backpack and jean jacket onto a dining room chair, and headed for the sunlit kitchen. Bypassing the colander of green grapes by the sink, she picked through the snack bowl and settled on a half sleeve of Ritz crackers. She found a block of cheddar in the fridge. She stood at the butcher block, slicing the cheese and making tiny sandwiches.

After her snack, she gripped the oiled banister and took the stairs two at a time. At the top, she could practically taste the smell of clean laundry. She went to claim her stack. Her mom did the folding while returning phone calls but drew the line at putting the clothes back in their drawers.

“I’m not your maid,” Quinn had heard her say, ad nauseam.

Quinn pushed herself up onto the washing machine’s smooth surface and dialed the number for her sister, Sarah. As the phone rang, she wrapped the phone’s coiled cord around her forearm, poking white dots onto her skin between the black rings of stretchy plastic. She’d learned to avoid getting banished to the living room phone by unwrapping the cord slowly: if she unwrapped it too fast, she’d leave an ugly kink in the spiral. Her mom hated it when she did that.

“Hello?” Sarah said.

“It’s me,” said Quinn. “I was wondering if you could come over for a food fight.”

“How about a midnight run to the U-Stop? I could go for a blue raspberry ICEE.”

“I’d kill right now for some sour cream and cheddar potato chips. Mom’s starving us out with grainy wholesome goodness.”

Sarah had moved to New York two years ago. The bathroom the two of them once shared seemed stark without Sarah’s sweaty leotards wadded in the corners. She had attended a local community college for four months before dropping out to start a dance career. She probably still got an allowance. Quinn missed her, but in a twisty, relieved sort of way. The guilty weight of being the successful daughter, the one without dyslexia (and possibly even her dad’s favorite) hadn’t lifted until Sarah had sailed out the door.

“Jason and I started having sex,” Quinn said.

“What? Why?”

“I don’t know. Why does anyone have sex? I couldn’t come up with a good reason to keep saying no. We’ve been together since November.”

“Hitting the five-month mark doesn’t sound like a good reason to say yes.”

Quinn could hear Sarah frowning. “I’m not saying we’re not in love or anything. We’re in lust.”

“So the sex is good then?”


“God, Quinn, can you hear yourself? Don’t do it. You’re not ready.”

Usually, Sarah could boost Quinn’s confidence with her signature blasts of praise and loyalty. When Quinn had fretted about getting into colleges, Sarah had shaken her head at her like Quinn was smoking crack. “Of course you’ll get in,” she’d said. End of discussion. Sarah also knew things about guys. She split them into two essential groups—princes and toads—usually within thirty seconds of meeting them.

“I already did it,” Quinn said. “That horse is out of the gate, so to speak. Besides, what do you mean good?”

“Fun. Hot. Cuddly. Thrilling. Is that what it’s like?”

They’d only done it a few times. But no, it wasn’t. Jason was a great kisser, or used to be back when they did a lot of kissing. But kissing had dropped down on the priority list. And the actual sex part—once the novelty factor wore off—seemed like more trouble and mess than it was worth.

“I guess Jason thinks it is.”

“He’s still hot, huh?”


The first time Quinn met Jason, she and her friend Ilene had competed against him and another guy in a tournament. Quinn and Ilene could tell that they’d lost that round before the judge even posted her results.

“That was a fucking train wreck,” Ilene said, shaking her head.

Quinn smiled. She used to be intimidated by her new debate partner’s self-contained, perfectionist brilliance. Now, when Ilene let fly with one of her sarcastic profanity bombs, it felt like insider intel on their real friendship.

Jason and his partner, apparently, also knew already that they’d won the round. They did a quiet high five.

Quinn shoved her files into her briefcase, then sat back in her chair, trying not to pout on the outside.

Jason crossed the room. He held out his palms out in silent repentance. His wry smile tried to apologize for his disarming, Indian gorgeousness, but Quinn ignored him. Having been dumped publicly a few weeks earlier by Chris, a fast-talking brainiac from Omaha, Quinn was done with debate guys. They were fun to sneak a cigarette with between rounds, but deep down, they were socially retarded and had hearts of stone.

But Jason sat right on her desk. This made him harder to ignore. Then he took the fountain pen she was twirling between her fingers and tossed it in the air. As Quinn stood and caught it, she accidentally-on-purpose shoved him off the desk. He just barely managed to keep his footing. Widening his eyes but not taking them off hers, he laughed. Then he held out his hand.

“I’m Jason Singh.”

She raised an eyebrow and suppressed her smile as long as she could, like she hadn’t already made up her mind.

“Quinn Ganey.”

She’d expected her parents to mention the race thing, but her dad only mused that some of the best scientists in the world were Asians. (Quinn learned later that Mrs. Singh was a hematologist.) Her father had offered a similar, admiring non sequitur when Quinn broke up with Evan Schwartz in ninth grade, something about the Jews one day taking over the world.

“Still, I don’t care how beautiful he is,” Sarah said now. “You should hold out for good sex.”

“I can’t suddenly change my mind.”

“Why not? Is there an official sex rulebook? Go back to oral.”

“He doesn’t like it.” Quinn heard silence on the other end of the line.

“I don’t understand.”

“I mean he only likes it when I do it. Not the other way around.”

Sarah snorted. “That’s pathetic, Quinn. What are you, a battered wife or something? I say that, of course, in the nicest, most loving possible way.”

“And yet I take that as a messed-up, mixed message, Sarah. And I mean that in the most mind-your-own-business possible way.”

“Hey, you’re the one who called me.” Sarah had a point there. “Just wait. For now, you should stick to having sex with yourself.”

“Ew,” Quinn whined.

“Oh, please. Everyone does it, including you. ” That was another fair point.

After hanging up with Sarah, Quinn took her stack of clean clothes to her room. She heaped it on her desk chair and closed the heavy door. Her bedroom was a time capsule from her misguided ninth-grade mauve phase. Only her new Macintosh II and printer, with its trail of continuous-feed paper, offered a clue that a near adult lived here. Flopping on her bed, Quinn kicked off her pointy flats. She rubbed the beginnings of another itchy blister. Wearing socks with flats only made sense if you didn’t have a problem with social death.

Her room overlooked the front yard. Or it would until the Japanese maple leafed out and blocked her view. In the summer, she didn’t even pull her curtains. Last night, the moon had hovered full and low between the budding branches. She’d heaved open the window next to her bed. She could smell that her dad had been raking. Eyes closed, she’d breathed in the perfume of damp dirt shedding its winter layers of leaf mulch. It made her want to do some shedding of her own, to rip off a Band-Aid or cut her hair or do something shocking to her sweet, precious wallpaper.

Prince, Madonna, and Duran Duran glowered out at her from their posters on the wall as if they, too, chafed under their oppressively ninth-grade surroundings. Quinn pressed on one of the puffy square baffles on her mauve bedspread. When she slid her fingers over to the next one, she snagged a fresh hangnail on a loop of clear thread.

She sighed. Last night, Jason had asked her to his prom. He wanted to go with his squirrely pot-smoking friends and their dates—then rent a hotel room. Quinn thought about her conversation with Sarah just now. If she and Jason rented a hotel room, would they have good sex or just sex? And how the hell would she know the difference? She sighed again and started her homework.

The next afternoon, Quinn stood at her locker and tucked in the white cotton strap of her bra. It had sneaked beyond the boundaries of her sleeveless sundress and bugged her all day. She liked how the dial on her locker’s padlock kind of twirled itself, how the lock released with a pleasing thunk. She smoothed her hair behind her ears.

Terrence—whom she’d known since kindergarten—half strutted, half bounced to his locker on Quinn’s right. He nodded a greeting down to her but directed his opening volley over her head to the guy opening the locker on her left.

“Yo, man, this girl was all over me,” he said. “I’m telling her, ‘This is my little brother’s recital, a’right?’” He primped his oiled curls with one hand and spun his lock with the other.

The dim fluorescent lighting in the second-floor hallway made the other guy’s red hair look even redder. He rolled his eyes at Terrence but said nothing. His asymmetrical flop hairdo screamed 1986. This was 1989.

Quinn returned Terrence’s smile, yawning as she opened her locker. It was April of her senior year; at this point, she was a tolerant but bored bystander in this mildly amusing testosterone war. Terrence caught his cardboard breakdancing mat as it sprung out of his locker. Quinn knelt on the marble floor and pried a notebook from the bottom shelf of hers. The lock caught with a bump of her hip as she stood up. She dodged her way through the hallway traffic.

The stalls, floor tiles, and walls of the girls’ room rocked the same relentless hue of hospital green, inflicting a universally unflattering glare on all who entered. Quinn headed for a toilet. She’d drank a huge Diet Coke with lunch.

From her stall, Quinn heard her best friend, Trish, demand of her from the sinks, “Do I look like someone who does crepe paper?”

They met here every day at the same time. Quinn could picture Trish standing with one hand on her narrow hip. The other would be raised as if to say, “What?” She was bitching about her latest run-in with the office secretary/prom-committee advisor. The secretary was outflanked; she just didn’t know it yet.

Trish and Quinn’s mutual, total failure to do a flexed-arm hang for the Presidential Physical Fitness Test had sealed their friendship in seventh grade. Trish had observed out loud that only stupid people hung from a metal bar on purpose. This was a revelation to Quinn. And unlike Quinn, Trish had been tested for real. Trish’s dad had just moved out. Her family-minus-one was renting what would become a series of apartments in a sun-baked complex near Highway 2. Sooner or later the neighbors always complained about the kid noise. Then Trish and her mom would carry their stuff down two floors or over one building. Quinn had spent her junior high years eating M&M’s at track meets with her older sister and parents and taking private piano lessons. Trish, meanwhile, had been supervising her little brothers’ homework and making scrambled eggs for dinner. Quinn remembered Trish’s mom creeping around the apartment in her sweatpants after work, looking like a weepy volunteer for an experiment in sleep deprivation.

In ninth grade, though, Trish’s mom married a real estate developer. He moved the family into a big new house with pillars. Now that Trish had landed the part she’d always meant to play, she acted it out daily in full costume. Once, Quinn teased her about her conversion to the church of Ralph Lauren. Trish had put her fingers in her ears like the manic television icon, Pee-wee Herman: “La, la, la! I can’t hear you!” The real Trish was still there, though. She was still flip, still funny, still the unflappable arbiter of cool. Sometimes Trish’s enveloping audacity was the only thing that kept Quinn from evaporating into thin air.

As Trish addressed the perma-wedgie situation caused by her new Guess jeans, Quinn washed her hands with the dispenser’s last few grains of powdered soap. She frowned. How could Trish look self-possessed even with her forearms down the back of her pants? The problem with being friends with audacious people was that it made you see your own fraudulence more clearly.

She faced her reflection as she rinsed off the non-suds left by the industrial soap. “A quiet beauty,” her dad called her. She’d rather be a loud one. Her breasts were okay, but who would know besides Jason? Her parents, especially her dad, didn’t let her wear anything tight or revealing. Quinn’s fine brown hair refused to be styled, so she wore it parted on the side. It bored her to even think about it. Trish caught her eye and, as usual, read her mind.

“If you spent some of your humongous allowance on funner clothes, you wouldn’t mind having boring hair.”

Quinn made a face at her. Trish knew why Quinn saved her spending money: her parents expected her to pay for a full semester plus books at George Washington University next year.

“Funner’s not a word,” Quinn said, probing a subterranean zit. The light-blue eyes that looked back from the mirror were her father’s and a million other Irish family members’. They smiled even when her mouth didn’t. They also kept a polite distance; even with nice breasts, no one would ever mistake her for a cheerleader.


Character Interview: Alassa from Christopher G Nuttall’s fantasy ‘Trial by Fire’

character interviewWe’re thrilled to have here today Alassa from Christopher G Nuttall’s fantasy Trial by Fire. Alassa is a 19 year old student magician who just happens to be the Crown Princess of Zangaria. It is a pleasure to have her with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Alassa. 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?

TrialByFire_med1Well, the first thing I would like to say is that you didn’t include my full titles. I am Alassa, Crown Princess of Zangaria, Iron Duchess, Lady of the Magical Arts, Patron of Steam and Heiress of Alexis, Founder Monarch of Zangaria.

But the author? Naturally, he should have focused more on me. I’m going to be getting married next month and trust me, Emily doesn’t like the attention. And I didn’t get expelled from the school by accident, I contrived it quite deliberately. No one will be fooled, of course, but one must keep up appearances.

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 reasonably good job of me, as seen through Emily’s eyes. But she’s a very good friend. I don’t think everyone else sees me as the perfect princess. Why, some of them even think I’m a spoilt brat! Can you imagine the nerve?

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

I’m ruthless. And before you start pouring scorn on how unfeminine that trait is, just remember I’m going to rule a kingdom infested with noblemen who want to park their smelly behinds on my throne. Killing my aunt should have warned them I’m not to be trifled with.

Yes, she was asking for it. Can you imagine using blood magic on my uncle, plotting the overthrow of my father and turning me into a slave? She was lucky I only cut off her head, personally. 

Worse trait?

I’m told I’m arrogant, snooty and bloody-minded. I don’t see it myself.

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?

Why can’t I play myself? Do you know what happens to people who say no to me? But if I’m really not allowed to play myself, I’d nominate Billie Piper. Or maybe Laura Vandervoort.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

Yes, I do. Did I tell you I’m getting married?

It’s a funny story, really. My father thought I needed extra training, so he hires a recent graduate to train me and we ended up falling in love. I didn’t see that coming, but did my father? Jade is strong, kind and poses absolutely no threat to the established power balance.

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

I think the moment I realized just which particular acquaintance had returned to Whitehall was a pretty big ‘oh crap’ moment.

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?

Those pesky first years. Running around turning each other into frogs and not actually studying. How dare they waste their first year of genuine magical education?

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

It was bittersweet, I think. Nothing is ever going to be the same again.

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

I have my dignity to think about. If he puts me in an embarrassing situation, I’ll put him in jail. The next book will be delayed.

Or, in other words, he should tell everyone how wonderful I am as often as possible. I’m getting married, you know.

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

I’m getting married, remember? I may have mentioned it once or twice, but I have it on good authority that the next book will center on my wedding. And if it doesn’t, the author will find his head cut off and centered on a pike. So there.

About the Book

Title: Trial By Fire (Schooled In Magic 7)

Genre: Fantasy

Author: Christopher G. Nuttall


Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Sample Chapter HERE.

Purchase on Amazon / OmniLit

Three years ago, Emily killed the Necromancer Shadye before he could sacrifice her and destroy the Allied Lands.  Now, the shadows of the past hang over Whitehall as Emily and the Grandmaster travel into the Blighted Lands to recover anything Shadye might have left behind, before returning to Whitehall to start the fourth year.  For Emily, it is a chance to stretch her mind and learn more about new and innovative forms of magic … and to prepare for the exams that will determine her future as a magician.

But as she starts her studies, it becomes clear that all is not well at Whitehall.  Master Grey, a man who disliked Emily from the moment he met her, is one of her teachers – and he seems intent on breaking her, pushing her right to her limits.  In the meantime, her friends Alassa and Imaiqah are acting oddly, Frieda seems to be having trouble talking to her and – worst of all – Caleb, her partner in a joint magical project, is intent on asking her to go out with him.

As she struggles to cope with new challenges and to overcome the demons in her past, she becomes aware of a deadly threat looming over Whitehall, a curse that threatens her very soul.  And when she makes a tiny yet fatal mistake, she finds herself facing a fight she cannot win, but dares not lose…


About the Author

Christopher Nuttall was born in Edinburgh, studied in Manchester, married in Malaysia and currently living in Scotland, United Kingdom, with his wife and baby son.  He is the author of twenty novels from various publishers and thirty-nine self-published novels.

Connect with the author on the web:

Website / Blog / Facebook

In the Spotlight: Aeromancist by Charmaine Pauls

About The Book


Title: Aeromancist

Book 2: Seven Forbidden Arts Series

Author: Charmaine Pauls

Publisher: Mélange Books

Publication Date: July 6, 2015

Pages: 284

ASIN: B010766W5S

Genre: Paranormal Erotic Romance

Format: eBook / ePub / PDF
Preorder Book Buy Links: Publication Date: July 6, 2015


Barnes & Noble:



Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

Book Description:

Passion always comes with a price.

All he could offer was thirty days of passion.

He condemned her to a terrible fate instead.

Now he’ll do everything in his power to save her.

He is known as the Weatherman. Lann Dréan is the last of his kind. A price on his head, chased for a power he should not possess, he can’t promise any woman forever. All he can offer Katherine White is thirty days of passion. But his uncontainable desire comes with an unforeseen price. Lann’s lust will cost Kat everything. Now he’ll do anything to save her from the fate he has brought upon her.

* This book contains adult content with explicit language and frequent, consummated love scenes, including light bondage, sex toys and breath play. Reader discretion is advised.
Book Excerpt:

From the expression on Lann’s face, Kat knew he hadn’t expected her. Alfonso hadn’t warned him of her visit. Lann sat behind his desk, very similar to the first time they had met, but this time he was in the library, and not in his office. He had probably been working on the restoration of his ancient books, because he wore his glasses. Removing them, he immediately got to his feet. The air felt lighter, as it always did in his presence. Wisps of her hair lifted as if to an invisible caress, but Lann didn’t acknowledge the subtle dance of molecules this time.
As always he looked impeccable in tailored pants and a white dress shirt. He stood immobile, exerting calm, waiting for her to make the first move. Kat had never been fooled about the latent danger that lurked under his quiet sophistication
and intellectual air. There was a raw energy about Lann that hinted at his wildness, even as his exterior was polished civility.
“Alfonso showed me in,” she said.
His lips lifted in the corner, exposing his dimple.
Her heart broke at his smile. It was the one he reserved for other people. Never
for her. It was automatic, a practiced social stance, and she hated it.
Hers was faint in return. She glanced at the employees who were handling his books
with protective gloves. “May we speak in private, please?”
He frowned. “Let’s go to my office.”
He led the way. At least he hadn’t thrown her out on sight. She was walking the
familiar path she believed she’d never walk again. The air gathered around his
ankles as he moved, lapping at her feet as she followed in his wake. She had
never felt it stronger, and yet, it should have been the reverse. She was
supposed to be cutting the tie, not strengthening it, dammit.
Inside his office he almost took a military stance, his shoulders straight, his arms
behind his back, as if keeping them there would prevent him from touching her.
But his eyes were filled with warmth and concern.
“Katherine, I didn’t tell you I was back because I didn’t want to make it harder on you.”
He didn’t owe her an explanation. She agreed to his terms. With her eyes wide
“I came back to take care of the money,” he continued. “When Alfonso told me you
returned everything–”
“I don’t want your money.”
“You can live in comfort. Why struggle, if I have enough to share?”
“Because it wasn’t part of our agreement,” she snapped. She took a calming breath. “Because
it’ll make me feel like a prostitute.”
His expression was incredulous as he considered the statement, but after a moment
he inclined his head. “Of course. I respect your decision.”
She chewed her lip, thinking of the best way to tell him. Hadn’t she practiced
her line a million times? “I wouldn’t have broken our agreement if it wasn’t
He stared at her expectantly. There was no easy way to break the news.
“I’m pregnant.”
He froze. The heat evaporated from his gaze. His upper arms flexed as he clasped
his hands behind his back. She couldn’t tell if he was mad or disappointed.
Either way, neither was the reaction she was hoping for.
The silence stretched between them. For a while he seemed incapable of speaking or
moving. Only his eyes lowered and rested on her abdomen.
“It’s impossible,” he finally said.
She opened her handbag, retrieved the blood test results and offered it to him
shakily. Lann lifted one hand from behind his back and took the piece of paper.
Kat watched him closely as he read it. His eyes widened and narrowed again. She
presumed he was looking at the age of the child growing inside of her, doing
the calculation in his mind. Emotions she couldn’t place played across his
face. Was it sadness, envy, anger that made him press his lips so tightly
together? Finally, he lifted his head. She didn’t like the way he looked at
He handed her back the report. “Congratulations.” His voice was impersonal. “Who’s
the father?”
The words punched the air from Kat’s lungs with the same ferocity as when he had
cut her airflow during lovemaking. Then it had given her an earth-shattering
orgasm. Now it caused her pain, with the same intensity. She couldn’t believe
he said that. Hurt and anger blurred her vision. She drew back her hand, and
before she could stop herself, she slapped him. She took a step away from him,
biting back the tears. The trace of her fingers lay red across his pale cheek.
Lann accepted her abuse with a stoic expression, without uttering a word.
“You bastard,” she whispered. “You needn’t feign your innocence by insulting me. Are
you afraid I’ll ask you for child support? Do you think I expect you to play an
unwilling role in this baby’s life? Maybe you think I’ll try to emotionally
blackmail you into marrying me.” She clutched her bag to her chest like a
shield. “I didn’t come here expecting anything from you. I want nothing. I only
came because you had a right to know.” She took a ragged breath. “And to ask
why you lied to me.”
When he still didn’t speak, she nodded slowly, the unwelcome tears threatening to
find their way to her cheeks. He wasn’t going to offer any explanation, any
solace, any excuse.
“I see,” she said. “Then we have nothing more to say to each other.”
She turned for the door, but Lann’s voice halted her. “Please stay. You’re upset.
I’ll take you home when you feel calmer.”
To her dismay, a small gasp escaped her. Did he honestly think she’d stay after
what he just said? Not looking back, she ran downstairs, not caring that Lann
was calling after her loud enough for the building to hear, or that his
employees were staring at her from the library window.


About The Author

Charmaine Pauls was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa. She obtained a degree in Communication at the University of Potchestroom, and followed a diverse career path in journalism, public relations, advertising, communications, photography, graphic design, and brand marketing. Her writing has always been an integral part of her professions.

After relocating to France with her French husband, she fulfilled her passion to write creatively full-time. Charmaine has published six novels since 2011, as well as several short stories and articles.

When she is not writing, she likes to travel, read, and rescue cats. Charmaine currently lives in Chile with her husband and children. Their household is a linguistic mélange of Afrikaans, English, French and Spanish.

Read more about Charmaine’s romance novels and psychological short stories here on
Contact Charmaine at:






Contest Giveaway
Enter To Win Throughout The Tour!
The prizes include:
a set of 5 antiqued silver bookmarks,
a paperback copy of Aeromancist
and eBooks of the preceding books in the series:
Loving the Enemy, Pyromancist, and Aeromancist, The Beginning


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