A Bookish Conversation with 'Monsterland' Michael Okon

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Michael Okon is an award-winning and best-selling author of multiple genres including paranormal, thriller, horror, action/adventure and self-help. He graduated from Long Island University with a degree in English, and then later received his MBA in business and finance. Coming from a family of writers, he has storytelling is his DNA. Michael has been writing from as far back as he can remember, his inspiration being his love for films and their impact on his life. From the time he saw The Goonies, he was hooked on the idea of entertaining people through unforgettable characters.

Michael is a lifelong movie buff, a music playlist aficionado, and a sucker for self-help books. He lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wife and children.

His latest book is Monsterland.

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What first inspired you to write or who inspired you?

The first time I watched The Goonies, I was hooked on writing. I loved the idea of telling compelling stories through unforgettable characters. I’ve began creative writing when I was 15 years old. I started screenplay writing when I was in my 20s. Then I started writing novels in my late 20s / early 30s.

Can you name three writing tips to pass on to aspiring authors?

1. Research and develop your story before you begin Chapter 1. Researching your subject ad nauseum is the only way you are going to get acquainted with the topic and become an expert. 2. You are building a universe. That’s a writer is. Someone who can take a compelling story and invite the reader into this universe they created. There are no limits so really let your subconscious do the talking. 3. Write every day. Even if it’s a sentence. It’s important not to procrastinate.  You have a story to tell. It won’t tell itself if you’re too busy on social media or the internet.

What hours do you write best?

I research and develop my stories all day long. However, I’m an evening guy when it comes to actually writing a book or script. After my kids and wife are tucked in for the night, then it’s time for me to write. I do this every night until my eyes go.

Are you an avid reader?

Very much so. I devour books on subjects that I like to write about. Plus, I’m a sucker for self-help and law of attraction books. I have over 200 LOA books in my library.

What are you reading now?

Earthing. Jurassic Park. Ratatouille the screenplay. NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories. The Science of Getting Rich. Rounders the screenplay. Primus, Over the Electric Grapevine: Insight into Primus and the World of Les Claypool. Dream It! My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The Strangest Secret.

What are you currently working on?

Monsterland 2 is in the books and will be coming out May 26, 2018. I’m knee deep in Monsterland 3, and currently beating out the storylines to Monsterland 4 and 5. Seems like I’m going to be writing about monsters for the foreseeable future, which I’m not entirely upset about.

A Bookish Conversation with Gaelle Lehrer Kennedy

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Gaelle Lehrer Kennedy worked as an actress and writer in film and television in the United States and Israel. Night in Jerusalem is her debut novel, which she has adapted to film. She lives in Ojai California with her husband and daughter.

She writes, “I lived in Israel in the 1960s, a naive twenty-year-old, hoping to find myself and my place in the world. The possibility of war was remote to me. I imagined the tensions in the region would somehow be resolved peacefully. Then, the Six Day War erupted and I experienced it firsthand in Jerusalem.

I have drawn Night in Jerusalem from my experiences during that time. The historical events portrayed in the novel are accurate. The characters are based on people I knew in the city. Like me, they were struggling to make sense of their lives, responding to inherited challenges they could not escape that shaped their destiny in ways they and the entire Middle East could not have imagined.

I have always been intrigued by the miraculous. How and where the soul’s journey leads and how it reveals its destiny. How two people who are destined, even under the threat of war and extinction, can find one another.

Israel’s Six Day War is not a fiction; neither was the miracle of its victory. What better time to discover love through intrigue, passion, and the miraculous.

Writing this story was in part reliving my history in Israel, in part a mystical adventure. I am grateful that so many who have read Night In Jerusalem have experienced this as well.”

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Title: NIGHT IN JERUSALEM
Author: Gaelle Lehrer Kennedy
Publisher: PKZ Inc.
Pages: 246
Genre: Historical Romance

A bewitching love story that is also an extraordinary portrait of Jerusalem, its faith, spirituality, identity, and kaleidoscope of clashing beliefs, Night in Jerusalem is a novel of mystery, beauty, historical insight, and sexual passion.
David Bennett is invited to Jerusalem in 1967 by his cousin who, to the alarm of his aristocratic British family, has embraced Judaism. He introduces David to his mentor, Reb Eli, a revered sage in the orthodox community. Despite his resistance to religious teaching, David becomes enthralled by the rabbi’s wisdom and compassionate presence. When David discloses a sexual problem, Reb Eli unwittingly sets off a chain of events that transforms his life and the life of the mysterious prostitute, Tamar, who, in a reprise of an ancient biblical story, leads both men to an astonishing realization. As passions rise, the Six Day War erupts, reshaping the lives of everyone caught up in it.

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Can you tell us how you got started writing fiction?
I started writing at about 30, pretty much as soon as I got a sense of who I was.  I had been working as an actress and knew the arts were for me. The thing that drew me to writing was that I could do it all myself without anyone telling me what my part was or where I had to fit in. I’ve always responded best to the beat of my own drum, which I can hear loud and clear most days! Night In Jerusalem is my first novel. Previously, I have written screenplays. They are, of course, visually-oriented and provide limited opportunity for the writer to describe the characters’ states of mind - everything has to be revealed on the screen. I was drawn to writing a novel because the canvas is so much larger –as big as you like -  and the story does not have to fit a budget. However, the relationship with the reader is more intimate and complete, and there’s a challenge to meet there.
Can you tell us about your most recent release?
I have always been intrigued by the miraculous: how and where the soul’s journey leads and how it reveals its destiny; how two people who are destined, even under the threat of war and extinction, can find one another. Night In Jerusalem is a love story set during Israel’s Six Day War in which passion, mystical encounters and the miraculous come together to change the lives of everyone caught up in it.
How did you get the idea for the book?
The love story in Night In Jerusalem came to me on a movie set in Israel. We were filming on a blazingly hot day, dressed as lightly as possible while complying with the dress code of the location, which meant long sleeves, pants and skirts. One of the crew opened his shirt revealing his handsome, muscled chest. An orthodox woman in long black clothes and a wig kept coming out to look at us from her balcony. I sensed how strongly she yearned for contact. The gap between us could have been crossed in a few paces, yet we were centuries apart. I imagined what it was like to be her, what courage it would take for her to break free, how she might do it. Decades later I wrote the book. So far as setting the love story during the Six Day War, Winston Churchill wrote that there is nothing so exhilarating as when someone shoots at you and misses. When the Six Day War erupted. I experienced it firsthand. I spent days in shelters with other women, listening to Arab radio news reports proclaiming victory while we contemplated how we would end it for ourselves. It turned out, of course, that the war went the other way. We were to live! Jerusalem was re-unified. Now, that was exhilarating! At the same time, the search for peace, the endless arguments about what it should look like, and the courageous, impossible loves that thrived despite all odds - the themes of Night In Jerusalem – are questions that have remained with me vividly ever since.
Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?
Reb Eli.   He came from an orthodox family in Germany. While still a child, his father, a prominent rabbi, arranged for him to be evacuated to England just before the Nazis slammed the door shut. He was taken in by an aristocratic British family and lived with them until the end of the war. Learning that his own family had been lost in the holocaust, he started a new life in Israel. His intimacy with suffering was matched by the illumination of his spirit, revealing a wisdom untrammeled by orthodoxy, even though he became revered as a sage and spiritual leader of Jerusalem’s orthodox community. His kindness is what makes him my favorite.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?
The sex scenes were the hardest to write.  The book is an inspirational love story with a spiritual mystery at its core, but it is truly a love story!
What advice would you offer to new or aspiring fiction authors?
I studied creative writing at Columbia and appreciate the virtuosity of many writers, but I love novels that are told simply, where the writer is unobtrusive and the characters and plot say it all. I think it was Einstein who said it is easy to make things complicated, but it takes genius to make them simple. It is hard to write stories that are so clear and transparent you can see right into the souls of the characters. That’s what works for me, and it is what I strive for. I would say to aspiring fiction authors - get started! Let the characters show you the way, and don’t pay too much mind to anything else. If you get out of your own way and let the characters come alive, you’ll likely find yourself continuously and pleasantly surprised by where it leads you.

In the Spotlight: Depression in Later Life: An Essential Guide by Dr. Deborah Serani

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Title: DEPRESSION IN LATER LIFE: AN ESSENTIAL GUIDE
Author: Dr. Deborah Serani
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Pages: 286
Genre: Self-Help/Psychology

BOOK BLURB:
The geriatric population, defined as men and women 65 years and older, is the fastest growing population in the world. Little attention has been given to the mental health of the aging, and often treatable disorders are overlooked entirely. Depression is one of the leading mental disorders in any age group, but among the elderly, it is often viewed as a normal part of aging. But it’s not. Depression at any age requires attention and treatment.

Depression in Later Life is a go-to guide that introduces readers to depression among the aging and elderly. It looks at both sufferers who’ve been diagnosed in their younger years as well as those with a new diagnosis, and reviews the symptoms, the diagnostic process, treatment options including alternative and holistic approaches, and long-term care for those experiencing mild, moderate, or severe depression. With real stories throughout, the book illustrates the many forms depression can take, and Dr. Serani offers a compassionate voice alongside practical advice for sufferers, caregivers, and families.

BOOK IS AN AWARD WINNER: 2016 Gold Medal Winner, Psychology, Foreword Review https://www.forewordreviews.com/awards/books/depression-in-later-life/.

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Book Excerpt:


What is Late-Life Depression?

            I know depression because I’ve endured it my entire life. I had it as a child and it worsened as I became a teenager. And it still lingers in the margins of my life at age 55. For me, depression was a chronic illness that left me in despair and frighteningly unaware of its grinding misery. I didn’t recognize the symptoms – and neither did any family or friends. In fact, as my depression worsened as a college student, I sank into a featureless existence, either awake in a fatigued haze or sleeping the entire day away. Gradually, the bitter brine of depression flooded my mind with hopelessness. I didn’t care about the future and I couldn’t find purpose in the present. It didn’t occur to me that anything was out-of-sorts, short-sighted or even peculiar as my thinking became more corrosive. When I attempted suicide at age 19 with a handgun, it felt right. It felt comforting.
            Of course, looking back, I was in deep emotional and physical pain and believed I found a way to make it stop. But it wasn’t a healthy choice. I was making a decision from an incredibly distorted reality. Luckily my plan was interrupted and I immediately got help. I began intensive psychotherapy and discovered that I’d been living with dysthymic disorder and that it escalated into a major depressive episode. Having both these disorders was called a double depression, and I learned how to replace the quiet agony of my illness with tools to live a more meaningful life. The experience I had with talk therapy was so life-changing and life-saving that it inspired me to become a psychologist. I combined my personal experiences with depression with my training as a clinician and became an expert in mood disorders. I realized that my personal experiences with depression offered enormous insight to those who sought treatment with me because I know the talk and I walk the walk.
            In the 45 years of personally living with depression and the 25 years of professionally treating it as a disorder, this is what I’ve learned:
            Depression doesn’t care if you’re rich or famous, poor or homeless.
            It doesn’t care if you’re young or old.
            Or if you’re ordinary or superlatively gifted.
            Depression cuts across social economic status, is found in every culture and in every country around the world.
            Depression will drape its chokehold over men, women and children - and thinks nothing of how it decays your mind, siphons your soul and crushes the glimpse of possibility, hope and freedom at every turn.
            Depression is not an experience that fades with the next sunrise or can be shaken off with a newfound attitude. It won’t be cured by tough-love. Or rectified by ignoring it. You can’t snap out of it or will it away either. And if you try to minimize its wrenching hold on your health, it’ll root itself even deeper. Depression can’t be ranked alongside adjectives like blue, sad, dejected, down, melancholy or unhappy. Those words just won’t do… because they don’t even come close to describing what depression feels like.
            Depression demands you to see it for what it truly is – an illness. And while it’s a serious illness, it is treatable. The key to success in living with depression is early identification, consistent treatment and planning to manage your illness.


Defining Depression

            Depression is a complex illness that significantly impacts the way you feel, think and behave. According to the World Health Organization, depression involves feelings of worthlessness, decreased energy, hopelessness, poor concentration, negative thinking and disrupted sleeping and eating patterns, just to name a few. The most predominant of these symptoms is a depressed mood, and because of this, depression is classified as a mood disorder. Sometimes called affective disorders, mood disorders are the most common mental illness, touching over a hundred million people worldwide. Mood disorders aren’t the result of a weakness of character, laziness or a person’s inability to buck up and be strong. Mood disorders are a real medical condition.

The Geriatric Population
           
It’s important to know that depression can occur at any age, but in this book, we’re looking at depression in later life. Specifically, the geriatric population - which are individuals 65 years of age and older. Sometimes referred to as seniors or the elderly, geriatric citizens are the fastest growing population in the world.  In America, alone, the baby boomer generation now makes up over 50 million of the senior population. With people living longer, and the combination of medical advances and technology improving the state of healthcare, the senior population is expected to soar to 72 million by the year 2030. More specifically, The US Census Bureau reports that in the next 45 years, people over the age 65 will double, and people over the age 85 will triple. And now more than ever, centenarians, people 100 years of age and older, are not just reaching these amazing ages, but living richly textured lives.                       
            While gerontology, the study of the aging process in human beings, has brought insights about the physical, emotional and social needs of this population, little has been done to train geriatric health professionals. In fact, 97% of medical school students have no training in geriatrics, and the rate of doctors graduating with a geriatrician degree are lower now than ten years ago. 
            Even geriatric psychology, or geropsychology, the specialty that focuses on the mental health of the elderly, isn’t gaining the kind of traction needed to help those living in their golden years.
            This makes identifying and treating depression in later life difficult. But with the help you get in Depression in Later Life, you'll be equipped to see the early warning signs and know where to get help.     




Watch the Trailer!

About the Author


Dr. Deborah Serani is a psychologist in practice over 25 years, an associate adjunct professor at Adelphi University and a TEDx speaker on the subject of depression. She is also a go-to expert on psychological issues. Dr. Serani is the author of the award-winning books, Living with Depression, Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers and Depression in Later Life: An Essential Guide published by Rowman & Littlefield.

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Book Feature: Dead Cold by Jennifer Chase

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We're really excited to be part of Jennifer Chase's DEAD COLD Blog Tour! 



Title: DEAD COLD
Author: Jennifer Chase
Publisher: JEC Press
Pages: 326
Genre: Crime Thriller
What happens when one California community has a disturbing spike in homicides? It catapults cops into a deadly game of murder. Frozen human body parts hideously displayed at the crime scenes offers a horrifying interpretation that only a sadistic serial killer could design—and execute.

On the hunt for a complex serial killer, vigilante detective Emily Stone must face her most daring case yet. Stone’s proven top-notch profiling skills and forensic expertise may not be enough this time.

Young and ambitious, Detective Danny Starr, catches the homicide cases and discovers that it will test everything he knows about police work and the criminal mind. Can he handle these escalating cases or will the police department have to call in reinforcements—the FBI.

Emily Stone’s covert team pushes with extreme urgency to unravel the grisly clues, while keeping their identities hidden from the police. With one last-ditch effort, Stone dangles someone she loves as bait to draw out the killer. She then forces the killer out of their comfort zone with her partner Rick Lopez, and with help from a longtime friend Jordan Smith. A revelation of the serial killer’s identity leaves the team with volatile emotions that could destroy them.

The killer continues to taunt and expertly manipulate the police, as well as Stone’s team, and as they run out of time—they leave behind everyone and everything—in Dead Cold.

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ESCAPE WAS IMPOSSIBLE. TEARS STREAMED down her face as she sat in the darkness and waited for the man to return. There was no other choice—but to wait.
She hadn’t eaten anything in three days and had only a limited amount of water—her strength continued to fade with every hour. With her wrists and ankles secured with duct tape, her skin stung with pain every time she struggled to move. At least the man had peeled the tape from her eyes and mouth so that she could see something besides pitch-blackness.
Even if she could escape, the only way to safety was jumping into the frigid water, but she could not swim and would drown before ever reaching the shore.
The only thing thirteen-year-old Kayla Swanson thought about was home. Fond memories flashed through her mind of her parents, her little brother, and her dog Charlie. She was never going to see them again. Their smiling faces were forever etched in Kayla’s mind, and she constantly held them close to her heart.  
The boat rocked, and seemed to sway more violently as the tide flooded in and out of the harbor. Kayla could hear a consistent clanking noise above her as the boat rolled back and forth. The sound had a hypnotic quality, and kept her mind on something else besides when the man would return and what he would do next. 
Her lips were dry and cracked as she bordered on dehydration. Even her tears dried on her cheeks, leaving her skin stiff and drawn. Her body began to shake, not only from fear, but also because of the extreme exhaustion and the constant dampness all around her.
The boat rocked more, but this time it shifted from the opposite sides. Kayla heard soft footsteps above, which she knew wasn’t her captor’s heavy walk. She strained her eyes in the darkness and thought she saw a thin shadow stealthily move along the upper deck.
Was it a ghost?
Kayla remembered a television series where a team of people hunted ghosts and they had said that ghosts could occupy any type of space, house, property, and even a boat.
She blinked her eyes several times and hoped that she could catch a glimpse of the ghost again. With every ounce of declining strength, Kayla scooted her body closer to the narrow stairs leading to the upper deck.
Painfully craning her neck, she strained to see something up in the darkness.
The dark shadowed areas played tricks on her eyes—it was there, then it wasn’t.
She waited for several minutes.
Nothing appeared.
The only sounds she heard were the usual boat noises she had grown accustomed to hearing. Whatever she thought she heard was gone now. It was most likely her imagination trying to give her some hope and a few moments break from her dire circumstances.
As she relaxed her shoulders and leaned back against the wall, the reality of her world pressing down hard. Tears streamed down her face. She tasted the saltiness that settled around her mouth. Her last moments were approaching, and there was nothing she could do.



Jennifer Chase is a multi award-winning crime fiction author and consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a bachelor degree in police forensics and a master's degree in criminology & criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience with a violent sociopath, providing Jennifer with deep personal investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling.  She is an affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists.

Her latest book is the crime thriller, Dead Cold.

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Book Feature: One Night in Amboise by Ken Malovos

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Today's guest is Ken Malovos, author of One Night in Amboise!


Title: ONE NIGHT IN AMBOISE
Author: Ken Malovos
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 289
Genre: Legal Mystery



JIM HANSEN AND CORINNE LARSON are overseas college students at Amboise, France. After meeting at a local bar they leave and encounter a drunk. JIM hits him and the man may be dead. At the manor house where they live, they kiss and make love. The next day she accuses him of rape but does not formally charge him. He denies the charge. The police investigate the killing of the drunk.

After they return to California, CORINNE struggles with the whole incident, wondering if she was at fault. She talks to her sisters and then seeks professional help after turning to alcohol.  JIM goes to law school and becomes a deputy district attorney, always wondering if the allegation of rape will surface and whether he did the right thing. He marries another overseas student from Amboise.

ALICIA OBREGON contacts JIM and asks him to dismiss the criminal case against her husband. She informs JIM that she knows all about Amboise and threatens to expose him. He throws the case, thereby allowing a guilty person to go free. Over time he pays her money.

JIM is appointed a judge and ALICIA continues to blackmail him. CORINNE’s husband comes to Sacramento and confronts JIM in his chambers. JIM says he is sorry about the whole thing. JIM goes to a rehabilitation facility but in a few weeks he leaves, feeling he has resolved all of his concerns. 

ALICIA is found dead. ALICIA’s husband is charged with her murder but he implicates JIM because he knows all about the blackmailing scheme. JIM then is arrested and must stand trial for the murder of ALICIA. The prosecutor focuses on JIM’s motive. JIM asks noted trial lawyer MIKE ZORICH to represent him.  JIM turns down a plea bargain and a sensational jury trial follows. JIM is not truthful with his wife, his attorney or the jury. CORINNE’s husband testifies. The jury cannot reach a decision and JIM must live with a tarnished reputation amidst unsettled questions whether he killed ALICIA and raped CORINNE.

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April 1985
It all happened in a couple of seconds. The man was lying on his back in the café doorway on a wet, dimly lit street in Amboise, France. He appeared to be lifeless. There was no movement.
Corinne Larson looked at the man and then at Jim Hansen in astonishment. The two American students were standing under the overhang of the closed café, as rain fell lightly. It was just after eleven at night and all the shops were closed on the dark, narrow street, just down from the Rue Nationale.
The man startled them when he jumped out from behind a garbage can and grabbed the end of Corinne’s coat. Instinctively, Jim grabbed Corinne and pulled her away. She clutched her purse and said something to the man, who was reeking of wine and looked crazed with wide open eyes. Then he lurched toward them again. Jim swung his fist and caught the man on the right side of his face, stopping his forward movement. The man was stunned. Jim quickly pushed him as hard as he could and the man fell back, banging his head on the garbage can and landing in front of the door with a thud.
Jim paused for a second, deciding what to do, but the man lay still, his eyes closed. Jim did not think he felt a pulse when he put his fingers to the man’s wrist, but he was not certain. He stared at him for a moment. The man was unshaven and hatless; his belt rested more on his ample stomach than in the loops of his pants. He wore a tattered jacket with a large tear on the left sleeve and a battered, old beret lay on the ground.
“Come on, let’s get out of here,” Jim said.
“Wait. Is he okay?”
“I don’t know. I think he’s drunk. But I think we need to get out of here.”
“Wait a minute.”
Corinne looked around, a worried expression on her face. Jim took her by the arm and they started walking, each of them checking back every few seconds to see if the man moved. He didn’t. Jim looked down the street, but there was no one in sight. It was quiet and dark and wet. They only had a few more blocks to go, as they hurried within eyesight of the Chateau Royal d’Amboise and headed to the manor house, where they were staying with other overseas college students from California.
“Maybe we should say something to somebody,” Corinne said. “Call the police?”
“There’s nobody around here. Let’s just forget this whole thing,” he said. “Leave it alone.”
“That doesn’t seem right.”
“I don’t think we should get involved. They may blame us. You never know.”
“But we didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Right. I was just defending you. We didn’t do anything wrong.”
She looked at him. He didn’t meet her eyes. Instead, he looked down the street again.
“You know, probably nobody will even miss him,” Jim said.
“Why would they blame us?”
“I don’t know. We are foreign students. I’m just afraid I could be charged with something and get locked up. Somebody else will find him…” his voice trailed off.
Jim pulled Corinne close to him. She pulled the lapels of her black coat up around her neck and leaned her head slightly into his, as they scurried along. That April night, a group of American students went to the Brasserie Hippeau, about a half-mile from their manor house. Everyone had too much to drink, but that’s what kids do in college—they drink too much.
The memories of America’s saving role in World War II and all of the G.I.s who served in France during the war were not entirely gone, even forty years later. The residual good will from that horrific time was passed down to the children and grandchildren of the town’s citizens. So a little excess drinking by the young Americans was easily tolerated. Most people took a parental interest in the students. A group of middle-aged women engaged in a game of bridge at a table about twenty feet away grinned at each other as they observed the noisy group in the corner.
The students talked about their families back home and about the year that was drawing to a close. Mostly, they drank beer. Gradually, the group of students that assembled at the watering hole decreased in size until only six remained.
The brasserie stayed open past its usual 9:30 closing time, as it often did when there were patrons. It was late and someone said it was time to go home. The other four took off and it was just the two of them. Jim waited for Corinne while she went to the restroom.
Jim watched as she sauntered to the back of the bar. He liked the way she her rear moved with each forward motion of her hips. He thought about her big brown eyes when she gazed up hazily from her glass of wine into his eyes. They were soft and her eyelashes were long. Her brown hair fell just below her shoulders and she would brush it away every now and then as it tickled her cheeks. After a couple of minutes, she emerged from the back of the brasserie with a slight smile on her face. He looked at the curve of her waist and her perky breasts. On her slender neck she wore a silver chain with a silver heart. He was glad to be with her.
“They said they wanted to get going, so I told them I would walk with you,” Jim said. “We can catch up.”
“That was nice of you, but I have walked these streets alone a lot of times at night. It’s a pretty safe town.”
“I know, but just the same. Can’t be too safe. Besides, we’re both pretty buzzed.”
“You’ve got that right,” she said. “I haven’t had that much to drink in a long time.”
Jim Hansen liked Corinne Larson, even though they had not spent much time together during their stay in France. They were part of a group of 80 students, but for some reason they did not cross paths all that much. Maybe it was because so many smaller groups formed naturally.  But then they met unexpectedly a couple of months ago on a Saturday afternoon in Amboise. Both were exploring where Leonardo da Vinci lived at the Chateau du Clos Luce in 1515 and the Chapel of Saint-Hubert where he was buried. Every citizen of the small town knew the story of how Leonardo came to France with his famous painting, the Mona Lisa. Their interest in French history drew them together.
Ever since that afternoon, Jim and Corinne often smiled at each other in class and in the dining room. But they did not spent time alone with one another. Jim was reluctant to approach Corinne, for reasons he could not explain, and Corinne was naturally shy.
They didn’t say much more on the way home, both lost in their thoughts, just walking along to avoid any further issue with the drunk who had accosted them. He saved her, so to speak. He did a good thing and he felt proud of himself. They passed the fountain in the center of the town, a favorite gathering spot for the students. As they arrived at the manor house, Jim let her scent waft over him. He wondered if he would dare make a move. He had to, she was so good-looking. And he figured he was her hero.
They opened the creaky door and shook off the raindrops, Jim keeping in close contact while he helped her out of her coat. And then he kissed her. She seemed to be surprised at first, but she reciprocated and they sat down in an adjoining parlor on a sofa. They kissed a lot that night. After a while, he closed the door to the small room. He started to unbutton her blouse, but then it ripped in the process as their kisses became stronger and longer.
It might have been the alcohol or the hormones or the exhilaration of the knight-in-shining-armor saving his lady, but only the two of them knew exactly what happened in the next few minutes. It became the subject of their memories for many years after that rainy night in the middle of France.
He recalled her saying “no” at some point, but he didn’t really think she meant it. As he saw it, her actions said the opposite. Yes, she struggled and tried to push him off and yes, he was bigger, but she never yelled out. She didn’t leave. He may have pushed her back, he couldn’t recall. She turned her head to the side when he tried to kiss her some more. Later, she grabbed her clothes, put on her coat, and left quickly. It was quiet in the old house and he was pretty sure nobody heard them.

* * *
The morning after that April night with Corinne, Jim ate breakfast with his usual gang. He was thinking of the man he shoved. Maybe he wasn’t dead. Maybe he had a pulse and Jim just didn’t feel it. He certainly seemed to be drunk. Maybe he slept it off and was okay. That was probably what happened, Jim thought to himself. The more he thought about it the more he became convinced the man survived and everything was fine. He probably should have looked for help, but it was too late now.
With a sturdy build and 6 foot 2 inches in height, blue-green eyes and dark brown hair, he bore something of a resemblance to Paul McCartney. At least that was what he was told by his sisters and a couple of their friends when he was growing up. He didn’t think he looked like the famous singer at all. He had a small scar over his right eye, the result of an accident in his youth when he was playing catch in the front yard with a friend and crashed into a lawn sprinkler attached to a hose, but he figured he was still handsome enough.
He thought of Corinne and wondered if they might become real friends. He liked her and he hoped she felt the same way. Last night was exciting and still at the front of his mind. He wished she had stayed instead of leaving so quickly. He looked around the dining room for her, but she was not to be seen. After breakfast, he went to class and then spotted her on the other side of their classroom in the stately hall that served as the large classroom. She did not even look at him when she walked by him. Odd, he thought. Surely, she couldn’t be mad at him. A couple of hours later, he saw her again as they were leaving their French Revolution history class, the last one of the morning.
“Hey, Corinne, how’s it going? I really enjoyed getting to know you last night. That bar is a happening place.”
She looked at him for a second and then turned away and walked into one of the many small rooms nearby, clearly inviting him to follow. Jim tried to close the door, but it jammed, as did so many of the doors in the old house. He fussed with it for a moment before finally getting it to shut.
“I was thinking we might go somewhere this weekend, if you are up to that, maybe Paris.”
“You know, there is an honor code in this program. And when it comes to sex, the rule is that ‘no means no.’ Have you ever heard of that?”
“Sure I have.”
“You bet you have. And I said no, but you pushed me down. You know I didn’t want to have sex. You forced me. What happened last night was not right.”
“I don’t know what to say, Corinne. I thought you agreed. I don’t know what you are talking about. I thought we were friends. I really like you.”
She stared at him without blinking, hands on her hips. “You know what I am talking about. I never wanted to do anything like that.”
“You went along with everything we did. How can you possibly say that?”
“I can say it because it’s true.”
“Look, be reasonable. That’s not what happened at all.”
“Oh yes, that’s what happened. And that’s not all. You hit that man and you pushed him over. You didn’t have to do that. He was a drunk and he wasn’t going to do anything to you or to me. And you did not even want to stop and see what happened to him. I think you might have killed him.”
“I was trying to protect you. He grabbed you!”
“Oh, for God’s sake, he was harmless. What you did was unnecessary. And you made me rush away with you. You didn’t even want to stop and help him. That wasn’t right. You need to turn yourself into the police and tell them what happened. And you need to figure out why you didn’t stop when I told you to stop.”
“But…”
“I don’t want to hear it. Not until you are ready to apologize. You need to stand up and do the right thing.”
She opened the door and walked away.  Jim looked at her, speechless, and then sat down. What was that all about? She couldn’t possibly be saying he raped her, but she was. He thought again about last night. Yes, they had been drinking, but he was sure she agreed to everything.




Ken Malovos has been practicing law in Sacramento for over forty years. He spent twelve years with the Public Defender’s Office and twenty-five years as a business litigator. He now serves full-time as a mediator and arbitrator. Ken has written two previous Mike Zorich novels and both have been recognized by Chanticleer Book Reviews. Contempt of Court was a First Place Category winner in the legal genre of the Mystery and Mayhem competition in 2014. Fatal Reunion was a finalist in the Thriller and Suspense competition in 2016. Ken and his wife live in Sacramento.

His latest book is the legal mystery, ONE NIGHT IN AMBOISE.

Visit his website at www.malovoslaw.com.

Book Blast: Lottie Loves by Samie Sands & Win $25 Amazon Gift Card!

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Title: LOTTIE LOVES
Author: Samie Sands
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Pages: 210
Genre: Contemporary Romance



“Will you marry me?”
                                                  
Four words I’ve waited my whole life to hear. Four words which I was sure would change my life forever, and it did. Just not in the way I thought it would.

Finding out that my extremely gorgeous rock star boyfriend was about to propose, had the complete opposite effect I thought it would. Rather than catapult me into a future I’ve always wanted, it plunged me all the way back to a past I tried to forget.

Now I can’t get him out of my head. I can’t help but wonder what could have been, how our lives would have ended up if he didn’t leave me behind a shattered mess.

All these memories of the past are dangerous. It’s bringing my past back to ruin my future. And worst of all, it’s taking me right back to him, my childhood sweetheart, my first love…my biggest regret.

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"Will you marry me?"
It was the words that I'd wanted to hear my entire life. Didn't every girl fantasise over the perfect man going to buy the perfect ring and getting down on one knee in the most romantic way possible, before telling them that they loved them so much, they wanted to spend the rest of their life with them?
I knew that I certainly had.
Me and my best friend Cici used to talk about it all the time. We used to plan our dresses, the music, the flowers—every part of the ceremony down to the very last detail. Of course, the man didn't really matter. We were young enough and naive enough to believe that we would magically meet the perfect man without even trying.
And I really thought that I had. I really, truly believed that my dream had come true.
Me and Danny had begun our love story in a very typical fashion—our eyes had met across a bar, where we'd had long, lingering eye contact, sparking all kinds of emotions within me. The only difference between my story, and that of every other rom-com ever, was that Danny was a genuine up-and-coming rock star, playing on a fairly big stage, and I was a fan who already felt a lot of love for this man. I'd been admiring him from afar ever since I first heard their album a year or so before.
I certainly hadn't expected it to ever go any further than that moment, so when he came and joined me at the bar later on for a drink, despite being mobbed by other members of the audience, I felt like my entire life had been leading me up to that moment. I felt like everything that I'd experienced was all drawing me closer to Danny, the love of my life. Here was a gorgeous man who was destined to be famous, and who could have any girl in the world hanging off of his arm, talking to me, asking me questions, and actually showing me interest.
It seemed like a dream—one that I was terrified to wake up from.
As he flicked his messy auburn hair from his warm, chocolaty eyes and he gave me that smile that had already melted the hearts of the nation, I thought for a dreaded, wonderful second that he was going to kiss me in front of all of those people. But after a few beats of pure terror, he didn't. Instead he handed me his phone number, and he asked if I would like to go on a date with him.
Me—boring old Charlotte (Lottie) Jones—on a date with Danny Boreom, bassist of the (now very) famous band Jax. It didn't seem real.
Yet, it was real, and it did happen.
It was the start of my real life.
After a night out on the town where he well and truly wined and dined me, he walked me home to my tiny flat which must have looked ridiculous compared to the mansion that I now know he lived in with the rest of the band at the time, and he finally kissed me. As his lips met mine, I felt myself flying on top of the world—he was an amazing kisser, and there seemed to be an endless chemistry between us. One that I never wanted to end.
Breathless and turned on by the power of his mouth, I invited him inside. Although he coolly and calmly turned me down, it was still the best night of my entire life, made even better by a phone call the next day to say that he only didn't come inside with me because he wanted to be something real. He didn't want our love to end at a one-night stand, he actually wanted us to develop and for him to become my boyfriend.
Fast forward three and a half years and we were blissfully living together, grazing by every day happily and easily. Although he was away for a lot of the year touring, it didn't seem to bother us. We were so strong and so solid with what we had, that nothing would get in our way.
It was perfect, still a dream come true and that intense chemistry hadn't burned down one bit.
Which made it even weirder that my reaction to Cici telling me that Baz—another member of the band—had just told her that he'd been engagement ring shopping with Danny, wasn't one of pure joy.
"What...what do you mean?" I asked, my heart racing frantically in my chest. I could tell that my voice was breathless and kind of terrified, but my mind was spinning too fast for me to be able to do anything about it.
"Aren't you happy?" She giggled, "I thought that you'd be over the moon to finally be Mrs. Boreom."
"No, no, I am," I half lied. The idea had always been at the edge of my thoughts. I knew that Danny was the one for me, and despite all the car crash relationships around us, we'd even managed to survive the fallout of him becoming mega famous. It helped that I had no interest in the spotlight and that I did everything I could to avoid it, but even despite all of that, I felt like it proved that we could go the distance, and be together forever. So why wasn't I excited for us to take the next step? "It's just a bit of a shock, that's all."
But that was normal, right? Everyone freaked out at first when they learned that they were going to become someone's wife...didn't they?
Of course, I already knew that wasn't true. I'd already been proposed to once in my life before, and that time, I didn't hesitate one bit. Panic didn't even come into the equation, I was happy, over the moon at the thought of becoming his wife. This was nothing like that had been. I felt completely different.
For the first time in a very long time, I allowed myself to think about Joe again, and almost the second that I allowed that vault to open in my mind, I felt myself fall into a tailspin. As his face filled my brain once more, it was almost as if the last five years hadn't happened at all, and that I was still his proud girlfriend, waiting to be his wife.
As the wound reopened, I could barely hear what Cici was saying to me. I felt like I was gaping, exposed, and extremely vulnerable all over again, and I did what I'd always done when I was younger, when things got too difficult for me. I started to talk to Joe in my mind.
Where are you now?
What became of you?
What happened to your life?
It was so strange to have gone from the closest people in the world, to absolutely nothing, and I struggled to imagine that he'd changed one bit. Of course I had, my life was completely different, but I couldn't think of Joe without viewing him as the other half of me. The boy that I'd adored, and the one that I never thought would leave my side.
"I...I've got to go," I finally announced to my friend. "I'll speak to you later, okay?" And then I hung up the phone, without even waiting for her to answer. I knew that I was being rude, acting more than a little strange, but I needed some time. I needed to be alone with my thoughts to try and process all of this.
So quite how I found myself sitting at my computer with my fingers running along the keys, I wasn't quite sure.
Don't press anything, I willed myself. As soon as you do, everything will change.
Since we had gone our separate ways, I hadn't contacted Joe once, and with the uprising of social media I hadn't looked him up either. I just couldn't face it. He was like an imaginary fantasy in my mind now, and I wasn't sure that I wanted to ruin that with reality. What if he was married now? Or into drugs or something? His life could have gone in any direction, and I wasn't sure that I really wanted to find out which one.
Plus, my life really was amazing now. Why would I want to even consider risking that? I had a gorgeous, passionate man who actually wanted to be with me forever, even though he was about ten leagues above me, I had a teaching job that I loved, and friends that would do anything for me. That was a hell of a lot more than most people had!
In the end I forced myself to stand up and to move away from the computer screen before it lured me in. I couldn't do it; I just wasn't willing to take that step into the unknown. It terrified me far too much. But as I wandered aimlessly from room to room, I realised that I couldn't just do nothing either. I needed to calm this beast within me, which meant delving into my past whether I liked it or not.
I stood at the bottom of the attic ladder, wondering what awaited me up there. When me and Danny decided to buy a place together—well, he put the most money in of course, but we still classed it as 'ours'—I shoved everything related to my old life away, not wanting to even consider it. But it was always a comfort, knowing that it was there, knowing that I could access it at any moment if I really wanted to.
And I could feel myself finally taking that step.
I creaked up the ladder, feeling my heart thump and my palms sweat with nerves. This was a mistake, I knew it was, but at the same time I couldn't stop.
There would be no way for me to get married without taking this step anyway. Right now, things were comfortable, but if I was ever going to have a future with Danny, I needed to consult my past first. At least, that was my excuse and I was sticking to it.
Danny knew about Joe anyway. Well, he'd been told some of it, the very basics, so I supposed that I was probably going to have to confess all before we finally took the plunge. With that thought in mind, I tore open the first box I stumbled across, and I ended up looking at the few photographs that I had of me and Joe when we were very young, when we very first met...





Samie Sands is the author of the AM13 Outbreak series; Lockdown, Forgotten, and Extinct. She has also had stories featured in best-selling anthologies.

Her latest book is the contemporary romance, Lottie Loves.

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