Monday, February 19, 2018

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with Ashley Warren & Book Giveaway!

We are thrilled to be hosting Ashley Warren's Survivors' Dawn Blog Tour this month! Sign up to win a free copy by filling out form below. Good luck!


Title: SURVIVORS’ DAWN
Author: Ashley Warren
Publisher: Chaparral Press LLC
Pages: 316
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Women’s Fiction / New Adult Fiction

BOOK BLURB: 

A heroic story of three college women’s fight for justice
At first glance, Brooke Flanagan, Lauren Le, and Nikki Towers have little in common: a churchgoing virgin, a party girl, and a resident advisor. But they all have their own dreams, dreams that can be shattered in a single night.

When freshman Brooke Flanagan first arrives at the university, she’s excited to escape her sheltered life in a Southern town. Lauren Le, a scholarship student, likes to have a good time, but she never disappoints her hardworking, single mom. Nikki Towers always goes her own way. Confident, poised, and wealthy, Nikki’s biggest problem is what to do with her future.

Into these girls’ lives walks Colin Jordan. Colin is the son of a private equity titan, captain of his club basketball team, and a brilliant pre-law student. He is also a sexual predator.

Survivors’ Dawn relates a journey of heroes: the strength, courage, and determination of the victims as they fight to survive; the obstacles they face in their pursuit of justice; and finally, with its conclusion, hope for a future where students can pursue their dreams without fear of being attacked.

A contemporary novel, Survivor’s Dawn wrestles with issues of privilege, sexual assault, and the responsibility of academic institutions to protect their students.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon


Book Excerpt:

LAUREN LE BEFORE:
At eleven thirty Lauren Le stood with her new friends at the Homestead, a lively bar in the Triangle. Everyone talked at once, shouting to be heard above the music. The Homestead had space for a couple hundred people, with a large square bar in the middle, dozens of stand-up tables, and two dance floors. The constant beat and the bass notes coursed through Lauren’s veins.
She took a slug of the vodka soda.
Pace yourself, Lauren.
It had taken her a month to get comfortable on campus. She had grown up in Irving, Texas, outside of Dallas, and had never traveled this far to the east before starting school here. Some of her high school friends had gone to college, but none as far away as Lauren. They fell short when it came to grades and test scores and ambition.
Lauren was the result of a short-lived and reckless affair between a Vietnamese immigrant, Kim Le, who worked in a nail salon, and a tall Texan who lit out for the oil rigs as soon as Kim missed her first period. Kim had never heard from him again, and she seldom mentioned him to Lauren. As Lauren grew older she became curious and would sometimes ask about her father.
“I was stupid,” Kim had said. “I tried for a big dream with a big white man. But he was no good.”
When Lauren pressed for more information, Kim would grow adamant.
“You forget about him. You need to study.”
If Kim wasn’t working at the salon, a short distance from their apartment, she was doing piecework for a local tailor. Kim never paid Lauren an allowance, but she let her work a part-time job so long as she kept her grades near perfect.
With a tired mother and an absent father, Lauren was forced to learn how to have a good time on her own, and at that she had excelled. As a senior with a full figure, a fun nature—her hobbies were cosplay, online gaming, and organizing flash mobs—and a curious mind about partying and sex, Lauren had always attracted guys.
She had drunk one cocktail at the Italian restaurant and started with a shot of tequila at the Homestead. When they had first arrived, the girls danced as a group for nearly an hour, not allowing the dearth of boys to deter them from getting the party started.
Lauren took a break, her head buzzing slightly from the alcohol and the dancing. Cool air from the duct above her whisked away the perspiration.
God, college is fun.
The bar began to fill, and boys drifted by their group in ones and twos. A sophomore from New Jersey bought her another drink. He was her height, with red hair, and talked fast in a northern accent. He was almost cute, except for a big pimple and his lack of coordination. They tried dancing but couldn’t make it work. Afterward, he told her his dream of becoming a veterinarian. Snore.
Lauren spied one of the resident advisors from Roxbury Hall, Nikki Towers, watching her from the other side of the bar. The girls had approached Nikki when they first entered the Homestead, nervous because they had used fake IDs to get past the bouncer. They needn’t have worried. Nikki’s nickname was Cool RA. She had a reputation for doing her own thing in her own way and never traveling in a crowd. Cool RA had wished them a good time but advised them not to get wasted. (“I’m your RA, not your babysitter.”) Nevertheless, when Lauren caught Nikki’s eye, she could tell Cool RA was not impressed with the New Jersey kid.
“So…,” he said, “do you want to come over to the frat house and listen to music? I’ve got some killer weed.”
“Oh…well…like…”
His eyes were glazed and his shoulders swayed, like a five-year-old on a bicycle. Lauren wasn’t a fan of just-met sex. If he had been gorgeous, like Liam Hemsworth, then maybe. Wait, maybe? Not maybe. Definitely! But she would not have sex with New Jersey, at least not tonight. “You know, I’m gonna hang with my friends a while longer. Thanks, though.”
“Not a problem. Catch you later.”
He leaned toward her as if expecting something. She hesitated, unsure, and then offered to shake hands. He only got about ten steps before he stopped to chat up another girl.
“What did he want?” said Caitlyn, her roommate. Caitlyn’s face turned sour as Lauren told her of the invite to smoke pot. “Eewww! That guy?”
They laughed. Lauren was light as a feather. She could party all night.
LAUREN LE AFTER:
At two thirty in the morning an Uber dropped Lauren outside Roxbury Hall. Lighting a cigarette, she gazed up at the three-story brick building and remembered move-in day, how excited she’d been; her mother and aunt and uncle had come to help. What had she wanted then? Freedom? Relief from her mother’s watchful eyes? Yes, that was part of it, but she’d hoped for a lot more.
Lauren had smoked pot with her latest score, a hipster from California, and now her head felt heavy and thick. After the joint he had wanted to have sex again. She had no urge for an encore but couldn’t think of a polite way to turn him down. What did that make in total? Three? Four? Five counting the blackout sex with Colin Jordan. Five boys (men?) in four weeks. What the hell? So weird. The hookups were like gorging on pizza, but the gnawing emptiness she’d felt after Colin hadn’t abated at all.
What did she have on the calendar for the next day? A couple lectures: Psychology and English Lit. She might make it to class, or she might not. They were easy courses anyway. Crushing the butt beneath her heel, she tossed it in a trashcan and walked through the door.
Inside Lauren’s dorm room, Caitlyn sat at her desk reading a textbook with her earbuds in.
“Hey,” said Lauren. “What are you doing up so late?”
Caitlyn turned in her chair. “Studying for the psych test.” She sniffed the air.
What? Caitlyn never studied this late. Lauren walked to Caitlyn’s side and saw, sure enough, that the fat psych book was open a third of the way through.
“What for? The test is next week.”
“It’s tomorrow.”
“No, it’s next week.”
“It’s tomorrow. I texted you to study together, but you never answered. Where’ve you been?”
Lauren ignored Caitlyn and walked to her desk to check her laptop. The test had to be next week; she’d skipped a few classes and hadn’t read the book. “What?”
“I asked where you’ve been.”
“The Homestead. I went for a drink.”
Fuck! Caitlyn was right. The test was that morning—less than seven hours away. Lauren shook her head. The buzz from the pot had turned into a headache. How did she mess this up? Caitlyn was saying something else.
“What?”
“You smell like cigarettes and pot. Where did you smoke pot?”
“Uh…I stopped at this guy’s place to party.”
“On a Tuesday? Shit, Lauren. What the fuck?”
“Hey, you’re not my mom. Chill the fuck out.”
After a shower and some caffeine, Lauren reviewed her notes and opened the textbook. Caitlyn had gone to sleep, and Lauren’s desk lamp made shadows on the floor. The quiet of the room calmed her, and for the first twenty minutes she made progress, covered the better part of a chapter, but then her eyelids grew heavy, and the words blurred on the page. A short nap would clear her head and allow her to absorb the material with her usual speed. She set a twenty-minute timer on her phone, lay down, and closed her eyes. The psychology concepts quickly drifted away.
* * *
Lauren sat in the classroom, breathing fast; her eyes flitted back and forth over the questions. Half of the class had already finished and left. She flipped back several pages. Damn. There had to be another question she could answer, but she couldn’t find it, and after another minute the professor called time.
She had woken at eight thirty to Caitlyn roughly shaking her shoulder.
“Wake up! It’s time to go. I woke you twice already.”
With no time to even brush her teeth, Lauren had pulled on boots and a clean top and walked with Caitlyn to class. She had never felt so unprepared.
And now she’d failed the test. Fucking flat-ass failed it.
Outside in the bright sunlight, Caitlyn stopped to face her. Her eyes peered into Lauren’s, her ever-present smile nowhere to be seen.
“How’d you do?” said Caitlyn.
“Awful. I really fucked up.”
“I’m sorry. You know…I tried to text you.”
Lauren’s legs were numb. Adrenaline had fired her up during the exam, but now all the energy had burned off.
Caitlyn headed off to another class, and Lauren trudged to the student union. She’d spent the last of her cash on cigarettes. Once inside, she made it to the ATM and took out ten dollars.
She stared at the red and white logo on the touchscreen.
Bank of America.
Her mother’s apartment was two blocks from a branch. Kim would deposit cash tips at the drive-thru while Lauren sat in the passenger seat. Some days at the salon were hard. The owner would berate the workers for not learning English. But the drive-thru had always lifted Kim’s spirits. On the way out she’d pause to look at the B of A sign and say the same thing every time: “Your future is in this bank.”
Lauren took two steps and her knees softened. She turned her back against the wall and sank until her butt touched the floor.
Don’t cry. Don’t.
But her throat tightened and warm tears forced their way through closed eyelids. She sat with elbows on knees, her hands over her face. Silent sobs shook her shoulders. Students walked past in the hallway, busy, with classes to attend, futures to build. Two girls giggled, happy, oblivious.
Fuck. What was happening? She was freefalling into black air.
Someone said something. A man’s running shoes appeared through spread fingers.
“Are you all right?” he said.
Lauren pressed her palms against her eyes to rub away the tears. She wouldn’t compound her failure by making people pity her, too. Pushing off the tiled floor she stood, pulled her backpack over her shoulder, and faced him.
“You looked kind of sad,” he said.
Who was this guy? What was his game? Not bad looking, with strong shoulders and a relaxed vibe, faded jeans and a simple black T-shirt.
“Do you want to fuck me?” she said.
“What?” His mouth opened. “No!” He stepped back and thrust his hands in front as if to ward her off. “What’s the matter with you?”
Several students stopped, sensing an incident of interest.
Lauren marched away from the onlookers. She ran upstairs to the second floor and exited onto the grounds on top of the hill. She kept walking, past the admissions building and the Old Chapel and onto Philosopher’s Row. She took one of the paths into the side gardens and dropped on a bench.
She rocked slowly, hugging her arms. God, how pathetic was that? What would she do next? She wanted to skip class and walk to the Homestead for an early afternoon cocktail.
As if clinging to the edge of a dark abyss, Lauren tried to hold on, her stomach roiling, her arms shaking. She had propositioned the boy, because she had wanted to fuck him. She wanted to fuck a guy…any guy…every guy.
But why? She’d never done that before. Never on the first night…that was her rule, one she’d broken how many times now? Five.
She grasped the edge of the stone bench, squeezing, ignoring the grating surface against her fingers. A bird sang from a nearby tree. The bird flew from one tree to the next, a flash of red, a cardinal. It settled for a few moments on the branch of a maple tree, whose leaves had begun to turn, sang, and flew off.
The cardinal reminded her of Todd, the gay guy she’d met three weeks earlier, with his bright plumage and sweet song. What had Todd told her as they waited for the Uber driver? Something about the dean of student affairs. Maybe she should check it out.


 Interview

Before you started writing your book, what kind of research did you do to prepare yourself?
 
On a sunny day in early 2010, I sat in my parked car, late for an appointment, stunned by an NPR story about sexual predators. I had no idea such criminals roamed freely on university campuses.
 
Since then, I’ve paid close attention to the issue. It never goes away, and by all accounts the crime is pervasive at every college. As I heard story after story, I began to wonder if I could write a novel about victims whose lives were brought together by a common assailant.
 
Before I could write a credible story, I had much to learn. Readers demand plausibility and accurate details, and this was all fresh territory for me.
 
One of the first topics I explored was the rape kit exam, a four-hour procedure described by victims as a nightmare. Next, I read of the aftereffects of medication offered to victims to reduce the risk of STDs and unwanted pregnancies. To flesh out the story, I explored many minor subjects: the range of good LSAT scores, chastity pledges, low alcohol cocktails, and the charges filed against Roman Polanski in 1977. To fill out the backstory for one character, I researched the patterns of Vietnamese immigration in the 1980s and 1990s. To describe one harrowing scene, I learned about the physical attributes of scalding burns.
 
My hours of exploration turned into days, and then the days stretched into weeks. Researching this novel was often heartbreaking, at times infuriating, and occasionally inspiring. And by the time I began to write the first draft, I had an enormous cache of facts, data, and true stories. Although my first duty to the reader was to write an engaging novel, I forced myself to stay within the confines of what really happens on college campuses.
 
Did you pursue publishers or did you opt to self-pub?
 
Initially, I pursued the traditional route to getting published by sending query letters to thirty literary agents. Half responded with form rejection emails, and the rest never answered my query. I don’t know if any of them read the manuscript excerpt. Apparently, the agents didn’t believe they could sell the book to a publisher. But by then, the story had taken ahold of me, and I pressed forward with self-publication.
 
If self-published, did you hire someone to format the ebook version for you or did you do it yourself?  Can you tell us what that was like?
 
This is a no-brainer for me. A good ebook formatter can be hired for less than a hundred dollars. It would take me days and days to sort out how to format an ebook, and I would still make mistakes.
 
If self-published, how did you determine the price?
 
Pricing is tough. If you price your book too low, readers may undervalue your work. If you price it too high, the casual reader will never buy it. When in doubt, go with the lower price. You don’t want price to be the reason readers pass over your book.
 
How did you choose your cover?
 
First, find a cover designer whose work fits your voice and genre. Give them a short synopsis of your story, a paragraph, no more, because they don’t need it. They will likely ask for your ideas. Don’t give too many. Don’t try to recreate a scene. The purpose of the cover is to attract the kind of reader that will enjoy your book. Paint the emotional journey in words and let the designer work her magic.
 
Did you write your book, then revise or revise as you went?
 
At the beginning, I crank out the words as fast as I can type. Then I go back and do a quick polish so I can read the manuscript without cringing. I call that my first draft.
 
When revising, I will do five or six passes. In the second draft, I focus on getting the plot and characters to hang together well. In the third draft, I concentrate on deep editing designed to improve the quality of the read substantially. In subsequent passes, I use various polishing techniques. I have about thirty polish tricks that I’ve run across over the years. Any time I discover a new trick, I add it to the list for future books.
 
Don’t rely on your editor to polish your book. Any improvement you make now will result in a better final manuscript.
 
 
What’s your opinion on giving your book away to sell other copies of your book?
 
I’ll give ebooks away all day long. When your book is first published, more than anything you need readers. So give away ebooks by the dozens, hundreds even. Giving away print copies cost money and time, so I’m more selective about that. Giving print copies to reviewers makes good sense, but when it comes to your friends, give them a pdf or a mobi file. They can read it just fine on their tablet or computer.
 
What are three of the most important things you believe an author should do before their book is released?
 
First, think hard about your story idea before you write it. Is it unique enough to generate word-of-mouth traffic? If yes, proceed. If no, carefully review why you are writing the story. If you still want to write it, go ahead, but you may not sell many books. It’s terribly competitive out there.
 
Second, hire a good editor and a good proofreader. You need both of those to produce a book you will be proud to read a year after its release. Don’t scrimp on editing. You may write the substance of a great story, but if the writing is poor, discerning readers will never finish it.
 
Third, hire a good cover designer. Covers, titles, and marketing copy sell the books of first time authors.
 
What are three of the most important things you believe an author should do after their book is released?
 
First, learn from reviews. I hate to get bad reviews, but I must admit that almost all of them contain a nugget of truth. Try to read them analytically and figure out how you can incorporate the lesson into your next book.
 
Second, use small money to try various promotional techniques: free Kindle days, ads on Facebook, ads on Amazon, etc. Never spend big money until you have run a marketing test first. When something does work, keep mining that vein.
 
Third, leverage your time. Write down five different ways you can promote your book. Estimate the time it will take for each initiative and also how many books you might sell. You will tend to underestimate the time required and overestimate the resulting sales. I did. If something doesn’t work, stop doing it, and try something else.
 
What kind of pre-promotion did you do before the book came out?
 
I think a Facebook page is the easiest way to get people to notice your novel. FB ads are not that expensive and can reach thousands of people. Post great photos with clever taglines and spend twenty bucks promoting. Before you know it, you’ll have hundreds of followers.
 
Do you have a long-term plan with your book?
 
Write a screenplay and sell it to Reese Witherspoon’s production company. She would make an awesome Karen Flanagan, a key character in Survivors’ Dawn.
 
What would you like to say to your readers and fans about your book?
 
College students have been sexually assaulted for as long as colleges have existed. Brooke Flanagan, Lauren Le, and Nikki Towers are fictitious characters, but their stories are real. Victims face similar fates every day. As you read Survivors’ Dawn, you will experience fear, despair, anger, disgust, purpose, redemption, and finally, hope. You might even decide to get involved. A good start would be to take the It’s On Us pledge and make a donation.
 
Thank you for giving me your time. Readers make the world a better place!
 
 About the Author

The unending accounts of sexual assault on college campuses compelled me to write Survivors’ Dawn.

My goal in writing the novel was NOT to focus on the act itself, but instead, to write of the victim’s journey, to tell a story about the strength, courage, and determination of survivors, to describe the difficulties they face in their pursuit of justice, and finally, to offer hope for a future where students can pursue their dreams without fear of being attacked.

As Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You” implies, non-victims can never truly know how it feels to be assaulted, but we can try to empathize, and we can try to help. Awareness is key to reducing the incidence of sexual assault on campus. Please do your part by taking the It's On Us pledge and contributing to organizations that are fighting on the front lines.

Thank you to readers who give me encouragement. It means so much to me. Word of mouth is an incredible thing, so thank you also for telling your friends about Survivors' Dawn. 

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:




Giveaway Details:

Ashley Warren is giving away a FREE Kindle copy of SURVIVORS' DREAM!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter.
  • This giveaway ends midnight March 30.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on March 31.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!


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Monday, February 5, 2018

Mistress Suffragette by Diana Forbes @dianaforbes18

MISTRESS SUFFRAGETTE by Diana Forbes, Historical Fiction, 392 pp., $6.50 (Kindle edition) $20.48 (paperback)



Title: MISTRESS SUFFRAGETTE
Author: Diana Forbes
Publisher: Penmore Press
Pages: 392
Genre: Romance/Historical Fiction/Victorian/Political/NY Gilded Age Fiction

A young woman without prospects at a ball in Gilded Age Newport, Rhode nIsland is a target for a certain kind of “suitor.” At the Memorial Day Ball during the Panic of 1893, impoverished but feisty Penelope Stanton quickly draws the unwanted advances of a villainous millionaire banker who preys on distressed women—the incorrigible Mr. Daggers. Better known as the philandering husband of the stunning socialite, Evelyn Daggers, Edgar stalks Penelope.

Skilled in the art of flirtation, Edgar is not without his charms, and Penelope is attracted to him against her better judgment. Meanwhile a special talent of Penelope’s makes her the ideal candidate for a paying job in the Suffrage Movement.

In a Movement whose leaders are supposed to lead spotless lives, Penelope’s torrid affair with Mr. Daggers is a distraction and early suffragist Amy Adams Buchanan Van Buren, herself the victim of a faithless spouse, urges Penelope to put an end to it. But can she?

Searching for sanctuary in three cities, Penelope will need to discover her hidden reserves of courage and tenacity. During a glittering age where a woman’s reputation is her most valuable possession, Penelope must decide whether to compromise her principles for love.

Order Your Copy!

https://www.amazon.com/Mistress-Suffragette-Diana-Forbes-ebook/dp/B06XG3G2TF

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mistress-suffragette-diana-forbes/1125897662

 




Tuesday, June 6, 1893, Boston, Massachusetts

As luck would have it, the speaker at Tremont House that afternoon was a woman. I use the term loosely. Her name was Verdana Jones, and her topic, “The Dangers of Irrational Dress.” I had never considered the complex maze of corsets, petticoats, and bustles “Irrational,” but apparently others of my gender did and the sentiment had blossomed into a full-fledged Movement. Some of these undergarments were encumbrances, but they were all perfectly logical. Moreover, every woman in the world wore them.
            Like me, Verdana had red hair, but she wore it cropped in a mannish fashion that was most unbecoming to her otherwise fine features. She had a square chin and large, childlike eyes, and in a Boston fog I’d be willing to bet that she was often confused with a young boy. Her outfit contributed to this confusion. It was outlandish by modern standards and excessively unladylike. She sported a loose white tunic worn over ankle-length trousers, known as “bloomers,” and big, chunky boots instead of shoes.
            A small rectangular wooden platform rimmed the front of the spare lecture hall. Twenty hard-bitten women and three scraggly men dotted the aisles. The women, many sporting bonnets, looked dour and preoccupied as if they were gearing up for a contest of who could show the least expression on their faces. Verdana clomped up to a wooden lectern to deliver her tirade. I couldn’t help feeling that, by her dress anyway, she was a poor advertisement for her cause.
            “Those who would keep women down argue that ‘ladylike dress’ symbolizes discipline, thrift, respectability, and beauty,” Verdana bellowed in her giant bloomers. Her voice sounded throaty from too many cigarettes. “But any dress that requires corsets and tight-lacing is degrading and dangerous to a woman’s health,” she boomed. “Corsets and tight-lacing are designed to make our waists look tiny and our bosoms look large. Our undergarments are crafted to make us resemble ornaments. We women, outfitted like hourglasses, are ornaments in our own homes. And we spend all day inside our homes trying to struggle into our corsets, laced petticoats, complicated boned lining, and bustles, all so that we may decorate them on the outside with frills, ribbons, and lace. We are so pampered—or are we?”
            Her voice, thick with meaning, rose a horsey octave. “Instead of fretting over whether we have twenty-inch waists, we would be better served worrying about why we must depend on men to dress us up in these outrageous, unhealthy outfits. Why can’t we earn our own keep and decide for ourselves what we should wear?”
            One or two women applauded. Others silently knitted: some knitted clothing; others knitted their brows. All in all it was a sullen group. Mother was right about this Movement. It was filled with hardened, bitter women. I didn’t want any part of it.
            After Verdana’s harangue I rose to leave, in dire need of fresh air. I had never heard so much drivel about the evils of ladylike dress and the positive attributes of horrible bloomers. But Lucinda looked up at me like a sorrowful, brown-haired puppy dog that could not be wrested from her spot anytime soon. Her dark face wrinkled into an accordion fan of disappointment. I hesitated, not wanting to let down my friend.
            “Hallo there. The lady in the bustle!” Verdana cheerily called toward my buttressed behind. Recognizing that I was one of the few women in the hall outfitted in the very clothes she’d just lambasted, I intuited that she must be talking to me.
            “Excuse me?” I asked, turning around to face her. I felt twenty pairs of women’s eyes and three pairs of men’s riveted upon my rear.
            “Yes, you,” she called out from where she still stood on the stage. “Tell us. What do you think about Rational Dress?”
            “I-I-I’m not certain you want to hear.” Where oh where was the exit?
            “Obviously she prefers Irrational dress,” Lucinda playfully called out from her seat. She cupped her hands to her mouth like a speaking trumpet. “Just look at what she’s wearing.”
            I heard laughter from the crowd directed at me, even though Lucinda’s dress was not markedly different than my own.
            “This isn’t supposed to be a lecture,” Verdana announced. “It’s supposed to be a conversation. So, instead of leaving the fold before we’ve been properly introduced, why don’t you join me up here on the dais and defend what you’re wearing to the group.”
            Everyone in the room laughed.
            “Because I hate speaking in public,” I said, to even more laughter.
            What was it that my little sister had once said in the heat of an argument? You’re quite good at boring your class to death.
            “Then, don’t think of it as public speaking,” Verdana shouted. “Just come up here, and tell me how you feel.”
            I sighed. How did I feel? I felt betrayed. I felt that my parents should not have asked me to support them. They should have protected me instead of trying to send me to New York. I missed my home and my horse. I even missed Lydia a tiny bit. I was nowhere near old enough to be living on my own in a strange city. Verdana wanted my opinion? Then very well, she would get it. I liked corsets and petticoats and bustles. They offered some support in a world that was mostly unsupportive.
            I stared at Verdana. Did I want to dress like her? Not in a lifetime of Sundays. How would I feel if corsets were forbidden? As if the last domain over which I exerted any control had been taken away from me. They could take away my home. They could take away my fiancĂ©. But I’d be damned if I’d let them take away my corsets.
            I silently prayed to God that I wouldn’t make a fool of myself. Then I took a deep breath and strode up to the small wooden platform. I opened my mouth to speak. But if I had a thought, it flew out of my head.
            My mouth hung open. No words came out. I was speechless.
            “Just speak from the heart,” Verdana urged quietly. “It’s always best. You’ll see. So, I take it you like corsets?” she asked me in a normal speaking voice.
            “Uh—yes,” I said to her.
            Verdana nodded. Under her breath she said, “Good. Now, just explain why. Pretend there’s no audience and that you’re just talking to me.”
            “Fine,” I answered, frustrated at how small my voice sounded.
            She smiled. “Believe me, it’s a knack that develops with time. Just breathe.” She continued to slowly nod her head, silently willing the reluctant words from my mouth.
            I took another deep breath and felt my lungs expand. “Hello, my name is Penelope.” I exhaled. Phew. That was hard.
            “Your last name?” she asked.
            “Huh?”
            “What is your last name, dear?” she coaxed.
            “Uh—Stanton.” I felt my face get hot. Little wisps of hair stuck to my face.
            “Any relation to Elizabeth Cady Stanton?”
            “No.” I felt like I had to think about each word, almost like a foreigner struggling to speak English.
            “Good,” she said, continuing to nod her head. “You see? It’s not so very difficult. Keep going.”
            I pushed the wet hair up off my face and turned to the crowd. “I enjoy the prevailing fashions, as you can see.” Thank God. A whole sentence.
            “I can,” she said, with a broad wink at the audience. “Tell us more.”
            I pointed to my light pink gown. I twirled around to model it for the group. Some tepid applause followed, which surprised me. Two women set aside their knitting.
            Emboldened, I continued. “But I came to Boston to escape from the advances of a particular man, not all men, and do hope that what I’m wearing today won’t prevent me from socializing with the men, or more importantly, the women of Boston.”
            A few women clapped. I thrust back my shoulders, lifted my chin, and met Lucinda’s eyes. “To me, it matters not if a woman’s waist is twenty inches, twenty-one inches, or even twenty-six inches—as long as it doesn’t prevent her from keeping her mind open.”
            A burst of light applause followed, and I only wished that my sister had been there to witness it.
            “Corsets and petticoats offer some structure,” I pressed, “in a world that unravels as I speak.” My voice was strong, and the words were coming readily. “Every day, another bank fails. Our institutions falter. As women, we can fall to pieces or we can stay strong.” I pointed to my torso and looked about the audience, meeting one woman’s eyes and then another. “Structure, shape, support. I will wear my corset proudly, as I face another day.”
            Verdana bowed her boyish head at me and stretched out her arms diagonally, one below her hip, the other high above her head. “And that, ladies and gents, is the other side of the argument,” Verdana boomed to heartfelt applause.
            “Sorry I didn’t let you finish,” she whispered, as the audience applauded. “For a novice, you were brilliant.” Verdana clapped her arm around my shoulder. “But speaking in public is also a matter of knowing when to stop. You always want to leave your audience wanting more.”
            “And do you think the audience did?”
            She squeezed my shoulder. “Of course they did. They clapped, didn’t they? Boston audiences are difficult to rouse, believe me. But you did, and now they want more.”
            I nodded. Perhaps that had been the problem with my French classes. No student had ever wanted more.
            “And how does it feel?” she pressed. “To leave them wanting more.”
            Here on stage I’d felt almost like a different person. Brave, gutsy, and confident. I wouldn’t mind feeling that way every day. What was it about this stage that had caused me to throw caution aside and just express my feelings?
            Her eyes widened as we both waited for me to put words to my emotions.
            “Liberating,” I said.
           
(C) 2017 Excerpt from copyrighted Mistress Suffragette by Diana Forbes (Penmore Press, 2017)

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Diana Forbes is a 9th generation American, with ancestors on both sides of the Civil War. Diana Forbes lives and writes in Manhattan. When she is not cribbing chapters, Diana Forbes loves to explore the buildings where her 19th Century American ancestors lived, loved, survived and thrived. Prior to publication, Diana Forbes’s debut won 1st place in the Missouri Romance Writers of America (RWA) Gateway to the Best Contest for Women’s Fiction. A selection from the novel was a finalist in the Wisconsin RWA “Fab Five” Contest for Women’s Fiction. Mistress Suffragette won 1st place in the Chanticleer Chatelaine Award’s Romance and Sensual category, and was shortlisted for the Somerset Award in Literary Fiction. Mistress Suffragette won Silver in the North American Book Awards and was a Winner of the Book Excellence Awards for Romance. Mistress Suffragette was also a Kirkus Best Indies Book of 2017. The author is passionate about vintage clothing, antique furniture, ancestry, and vows to master the quadrille in her lifetime. Diana Forbes is the author of New York Gilded Age historical fiction.

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PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with 'Abuse of Discretion' Author Pamela Samuels Young



Pamela Samuels Young has always abided by the philosophy that you create the change you want to see. She set giant-sized goals and used her talent, tenacity and positive outlook to accomplish them. Pamela consequently achieved success in both the corporate arena and literary world simultaneously.
An author, attorney and motivational speaker, Pamela spent fifteen years as Managing Counsel for Toyota, specializing in labor and employment law. While still practicing law, Pamela began moonlighting as a mystery writer because of the absence of women and people of color depicted in the legal thrillers she read. She is now an award-winning author of multiple legal thrillers, including Anybody’s Daughter, which won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Fiction, and her new release, Abuse of Discretion, a shocking look at the juvenile justice system in the context of a troubling teen sexting case.
Prior to her legal career, spent several years as a television news writer and associate producer. She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from USC and earned a master’s degree in broadcasting from Northwestern University and a law degree from UC Berkeley School of Law. She is a frequent speaker on the topics of teen sexting, child sex trafficking, self-empowerment and fiction writing.

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Thank you for stopping by Pamela! Can we begin by having you tell us how you got started writing mysteries and legal thrillers?

Pamela: When I finished law school, reading legal thrillers was how I relaxed. But I never saw African-American or women attorneys depicted in the fiction I read, so I decided to try writing a legal thriller myself.  I was working full-time at a large corporate law firm in L.A. and didn’t have any spare time.  Still, I started getting up at four in the morning to write before going to the office.  I wrote on the weekends, in the airport and in my hotel room when I traveled. I even devoted my vacation time to writing. Without question, I discovered my passion.

Do you find writing your books comes natural to you or is it a struggle sometimes?

Pamela: The initial idea comes to me pretty easily. I have tons of them. While I have a general idea of where I want the story to go, developing the plot and working in all the twists and turns can sometimes be a struggle.

Sexting is a predominant theme in your latest book, Abuse of Discretion. What were the circumstances that led you to base your book on this?

Pamela:  I was talking to a law school classmate who was lamenting the fact that he had yet another teenage client facing life-altering consequences as a result of sexting. He’s a criminal defense attorney and he explained to me that children as young as 13 and 14 were being prosecuted for distributing child pornography after taking naked selfies and sending them to a classmates. I was floored when he told me that these children faced the possibility of having to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives if convicted. I immediately knew this was a topic I wanted to address in a legal thriller and Abuse of Discretion was the result.

Can you tell us a little about Graylin Alexander?

Pamela: Graylin is 14 years old and the book’s primary character. When he finds himself facing pornography charges as a result of a sexting allegation, he becomes a real fighter who sticks to his guns even when his attorneys and father try to convince him otherwise. He truly (and naively) believes that life is fair and that he will get off simply because he’s innocent.


Can you tell us a little about the other main characters in your book?

Pamela:  Jenny Ungerman, the attorney hired to defend Graylin, is smart, confident and committed. She isn’t thrilled, however, when ex-prosecutor Angela Evans joins Graylin’s defense team. Angela is a family friend of Graylin’s and sometimes her personal feelings clash with her legal obligations. The two women instantly butt heads. Can they put aside their differences long enough to ensure Graylin gets justice? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

They say all books of fiction have at least one pivotal point when the reader just can’t put the book down. What’s one of the pivotal points in your book?

Pamela: When Graylin makes a decision about his case that makes his father go ballistic. Don’t want to give anything away, LOL!

What would you like to say to your readers and fans?

Pamela: First, thanks for all your support! I’ve just finished my first erotic romance novella, Unlawful Desires, under the pen name, Sassy Sinclair. I decided to use a pen name because I didn’t want someone to pick up the book with my name on it and be stunned at the sex scenes. I had a ball writing it.

Finally, never give up on your dreams. I faced a ton of rejection from the publishing industry, but today, I’m the author of ten books. So no matter what it is you want to do, hang in there. And remember, “Dreams don’t work unless you do!” 

The Apothecary's Curse by Barbara Barnett @B_Barnett

THE APOTHECARY'S CURSE by Barbara Barnett, Historical Fantasy/Gaslamp Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, 345 pp., $9.99 (Kindle edition) $11.55 (paperback)



Title: THE APOTHECARY’S CURSE
Author: Barbara Barnett
Publisher: Pyr Books
Pages: 345
Genre: Historical Fiction/Gaslamp Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Between magic and science, medicine and alchemy, history and mythology lies the Apothecary’s Curse…

A 2017 finalist for the prestigious Bram Stoker Award and winner of the Reader’s Choice award at this year’s Killer Nashville, The Apothecary’s Curse is a complex tale of love and survival set in a very different Victorian era where science and the supernatural co-exist. The Apothecary’s Curse transports readers between Victorian London and contemporary Chicago, where two men conceal their immortality….

In early Victorian London, the fates of gentleman physician Simon Bell and apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune become irrevocably bound when Simon gives his dying wife an elixir created by Gaelan from an ancient manuscript. Meant to cure her of cancer, instead, it kills her. Now suicidal, Simon swallows the remainder – to no apparent effect. Five years of suicide attempts later, Simon realizes he cannot die. When he hears rumors of a Bedlam inmate—star attraction of a grisly freak show with astounding regenerative powers like his own—Simon is shocked to discover it is Gaelan.

When Machiavellian pharmaceutical company Genomics unearths 19th Century diaries describing the torture of Bedlam inmates, Gaelan and Simon’s lives are upended, especially when the company’s scientists begin to see a link between Gaelan and one of the unnamed inmates. But Gaelan and Genomics geneticist Anne Shawe find themselves powerfully, almost irresistibly, drawn to each other, and her family connection to his remarkable manuscript leads to a stunning revelation.

Will it bring ruin or redemption?

Meticulous historical detail infuses the narrative with authenticity, providing a rich, complex canvas. And playing off Simon’s connection to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Apothecary’s Curse draws on both the Sherlock Holmes canon and Sir Arthur’s spirituality, as well as Celtic mythology, the art of alchemy, and the latest advances in genetics research.

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My dear friend, hold fast the doctrine: when all impossibilities are eliminated, what remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Nothing could be so improbable that I must now and forever address you as Sir Arthur!”
Dr. Joseph Bell stood at the head of the dining table before twenty assembled guests, offering a robust toast to the guest of honor, his student and friend, the newly knighted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in London for the first time since the honor had been bestowed on him. His confidante Jean Elizabeth Leckie was at his side.
“Do tell, Sir Arthur,” Wilder said with a giggle, “is it not true that our dear Joseph is in actuality your Sherlock Holmes?”
“Indeed not, Wilder!” The author twisted his mustache a bit more at each mention of Holmes’s name.

Miss Leckie patted Conan Doyle’s arm tenderly. “My dear, your mustache shall soon be as fine as a strand of silk. Besides, you well know he is! They even smoke the same sort of pipe!” The entire table joined her in laughter, despite Conan Doyle’s protestations.
“Ah,” interrupted Joseph, coming to Conan Doyle’s rescue. “Alas, I do not share Holmes’s preference for cocaine, nor does my mind crave the constant stimulation of work. I am quite at peace come Sunday afternoons with nothing to do but read the Times.”
“I wish my consulting detective could rest in peace.” Conan Doyle scowled at  Wilder, as she inquired when a new Holmes story would be published. “Did you not read ‘The Final Problem,’ my dear Wilder? Holmes died at Reichenbach Falls! However, since no one will allow him to be at his rest”—he sighed dramatically—“I can tonight announce a new adventure for the Strand come next year. ‘The Empty House,’ it is called!” Conan Doyle laughed, yet it was darkened with an unmistakable note of vexation.
“But how should you have him come back, Sir Arthur?” Cranford inquired. “If he is indeed, as you say, dead?”
“Do let us change the subject, Cranford.” Conan Doyle lifted his glass, taking a long draught of his wine, his eyes closed.
Miss Leckie smiled. “Oh! I’ve something! Have you heard of that apothecary? Lentine is his name. In Covent Garden. The line to enter his shop goes on and on. Can you imagine?”
“And why might that be, Leckie?” Conan Doyle asked. “Why, his amazing Reanimating ftercuric Tonic, of course! To  hear his patter, the medicine ‘shall restore life, even in the event of sudden death!’ Can you imagine? An apothecary, of all ludicrous things!”
Mr. Cranford laughed. “They should hang them all, the thieving rogues. I’ve never met one I can trust, always trying to hawk the latest patent medicines.”
Gaelan Erceldoune glared at ftiss Leckie, his dark, mirthless eyes hard as basalt. Beside him, his companion, Joseph’s cousin Dr. Simon Bell, laid a calming hand on his sleeve, an urgent plea to forbear; Gaelan snapped his arm away.
With a peevish edge to his voice, Gaelan steered the topic from the dubiousness of the apothecary trade. “What if your consulting detective cannot die?”
Conan Doyle stared him down. “Whatever do you mean—cannot die?”
Simon worried a loose thread in his linen napkin, his hands knotted with tension.
“Yes,” Gaelan continued, ignoring Simon’s disquiet. “Well, after Reichenbach, Holmes is, of course, presumed dead, his body not found. Unsurprising, given the terrain, but I assume your new story finds him quite well. ftight you not suggest, therefore, that Holmes’s invulner- ability extends beyond the intellectual—that he, in fact, cannot die by any natural means, improbable though it may seem? Already, you have toyed with the notion—your Sorsa in ‘The Ring of Thoth.’ You needn’t ever be explicit of course; allow your readers to speculate and draw their own conclusions. Holmes’s devotees will be so elated that none shall even question how it is possible.”
He mimed a vaudeville marquee with his hands high above his head, commanding the attention of the entire table. “The immortal Sherlock Holmes lives on in a new series.” At once self-conscious, Gaelan thrust his deformed left hand into his trouser pocket. “He’ll live forever, by Jove, your creation shall. Perhaps long after you, sir, have gone to your grave.”
Conan Doyle’s enthusiasm seemed tepid at best. But Gaelan pressed further. “As well, do you not imagine, sir, whilst giving new life to your most popular creation, you might also draw upon your truest passion—the supernatural world? Would that not, as it were, be killing two birds with one stone?”
“Ha!” Conan Doyle pointed an accusatory finger at Gaelan. You, sir, sound too much like my publisher.”
Joseph broke in. “Please, ladies and gentlemen, let us go through to the drawing room. We might continue our conversations there in more comfort—”
But Conan Doyle was not to be stopped. “In a moment, Dr. Bell,” he said, holding up his hand to forestall the company. “I’ve a question for ftr. Erceldoune. Our dear Joseph made mention that you are an apothecary?”
Simon backed farther into his chair, cursing himself that he had disclosed even this small fact to his ever-curious cousin. He twisted his napkin, eyes pleading with Gaelan to be still.
Gaelan leaned toward Conan Doyle, a vague threat in the set of his jaw. “That I am, but why is that of concern to you or anyone here this evening? Do you mean to put me in my place as amongst the same company as Lentine, whom Miss Leckie has just now vilified—and with ample cause, I might add?”
“I mean no disrespect, nor to dishonor you amongst the fine physicians at this table. . . . I am curious, and that is all.” Conan Doyle paused a moment, as if to consider something. “I understand, sir, that many apothecaries in eras past were adept in alchemy, even magic.”
Gaelan settled back into his chair by a degree, coiled as a snake. “That, sir, may have been more the case, say centuries ago—a blurring of the lines. However, Sir Arthur, I possess no personal knowledge, for example, of any apothecary or druggist nowadays claiming to hold in his hands the secrets of life through alchemical abracadabra, if that is what you are suggesting. As for myself, I am quite well tutored in chem- istry and toxicology, and a disciple of Paracelsus. ftany of his dicta still ring true for me. Sola dosis facit venenum . . . the dose makes the poison. Paracelsus coined that in the sixteenth century—today it is an axiom of modern pharmacy. He was both an apothecary and an alchemist— and a physician. I would consider myself in esteemed company to asso- ciate myself with his understanding of alchemy. He had neither desire to make gold from lead, nor to find the elusive lapis philosophorum, but only to reveal the medicinal science it concealed by its art.”
Conan Doyle leaned forward confidentially, as if the rest of the company had vanished. “I have no desire, sir, to offend you. Forgive me if my questions seem more interrogation than polite dinner conversa- tion. I am first and foremost a journalist, but my ardent interest is per- sonal and much to do with my curiosity about the occult, as you may have guessed. I am quite sad to think about how much of the ancient arts were lost or have gone into hiding, along with their knowledge. Our ideas must be as broad as nature if they are to interpret nature, and if ideas—no matter how unusual they seem to our modern sensibili- ties—are destroyed and visionaries burnt either literally or metaphori- cally at the stake, we stand not a chance. And by the way, sir. I must aver that you are only one of a very few to have read ‘Thoth.’”
“But to your point regarding our natural fear of the . . . unusual
. . . On that, sir, at least,” Gaelan said, “we might agree.”
“Let us, then, if we may, Sir Arthur,” Joseph repeated, clearing his throat, “go through to the drawing room. ftiss Leckie, would you do us the honor of leading the way?”
“But of course,” she agreed, patting Conan Doyle’s hand affectionately. “Shall we, my dear?” She rose, and the rest of the company followed her from the room.
Gaelan and Conan Doyle found themselves in a secluded corner of the large drawing room as the other guests mingled. Simon stood nearby, gesturing with growing disquietude that they should leave, and quite soon. Gaelan turned his back on him as Conan Doyle leaned in again.
“By the by, sir, I do recognize your unusual name—Erceldoune—I have come across it on occasion in my research into the Otherworld—”
“The Otherworld.”
“Indeed. Where the fae folk rule. I’ve heard of an Erceldoune associated with legends of old, a certain Thomas Learmont de Erceldoune, a relationship with Tuatha de Danann, the—”
“Fairy folk, Sir Arthur?” Gaelan managed a laugh. “You, sir, hold me in exalted company, and I am sorry to disappoint you, however—” “It is said that this man Erceldoune had a book possessing great power, given him by Airmid herself, Celtic goddess of healing, a gift for
his act of kindness. Have you not heard the tale?”
“My family, old though it may be, Sir Arthur, boasts neither connection with the goddess Airmid nor any of her folk—the Tuatha de Danann, if indeed they ever existed. Besides, was not Airmid an Irish fairy? And I am, as are you, sir, of Scottish blood.”
Gaelan glanced around the room again, finding Simon’s anxious eyes beseeching him to end the exchange. “We’d best join the rest of the company. I see my dear friend Simon is quite unsettled, and we ought soon set off for—”
“It is a book of great healing,” Conan Doyle continued. “All the diseases of the world—and their cures—held in a singular volume, said to be written by her very hand.”
Gaelan paused, a petulant sigh escaping his lips. “I cannot say I can recall its mention, even amongst family lore.” His lips tightened into a tense line as he stood. “Now if you will excuse me, sir, I grow tired and fear it is time Dr. Simon Bell and I return to his flat.”





Barbara Barnett is author of the Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel The Apothecary’s Curse  (Pyr Books), an imprint of Prometheus Books. She is also Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics Magazine (blogcritics.org), an online magazine of pop culture, politics and more, for which she has also contributed nearly 1,000 essays, reviews, and interviews over the past decade. She published in-depth interviews with writers, actors and producers, including Jane Espenson, Katie Jacobs, Doris Egan, David Goodman, Jesse Spencer, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parilla, David Strathairn, Russel Friend, Garrett Lerner, Elie Atie, Wesley Snipes, and many, many more.

Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras: THE Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. is a critically-acclaimed and quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show.
Always a pop-culture and sci-fi geek, Barbara was raised on a steady diet of TV (and TV dinners), but she always found her way to the tragic antiheroes and misunderstood champions, whether on TV, in the movies or in literature. (In other words, Spock, not Kirk; Han Solo, not Luke Skywalker!) It was inevitable that she would have to someday create one of her own.
 
Barbara is available for signings and other author appearances as well as radio, print and television interviews. She also loves to speak at writers and other conferences! Feel free to contact her directly!
She is represented by Katharine Sands at the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency in New York City. You can reach Katharine at katharinesands@nyc.rr.com.

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