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Broken Pieces

Jack Canon's American Destiny

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Orangeberry Book Of The Day - Poison Pill by M.A. Granovsky (Excerpt)


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Genre – Legal Thriller

Rating – PG

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It’s the drug of the century, a miracle weight loss compound worth billions, invented by Jon Vickers shortly before his death. So why is Jon’s brother Benedict risking his inheritance, his brother’s legacy, and even his own life to keep the drug from the market?

And why is Olga Mueller, a jaded lawyer Benedict met by chance while traveling to Istanbul, willing to help?

Can they take on a powerful venture capitalist and a ruthless top-tier law firm and win? Or even survive? In a world where money rules, does truth stand a chance?


Peter Gardiner’s suicide merited a Breaking News bulletin on CNN. His body was found by a couple of hikers coming back from an afternoon trek. He was slumped on a park bench near the exit from the Palisades State Park, on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, his right hand still gripping the gun with which he’d shot himself. His Baltic Black Maybach 57-S was in the parking lot, and his suicide note, addressed to his wife and handwritten, was found inside a manila envelope on the driver’s seat.

Of course, most of these details were not communicated in CNN’s bulletin. Instead, the news channel concentrated on Gardiner’s achievements. He was a renowned economist who created and managed a family of well-regarded and highly profitable venture and hedge funds. He was on the Economic Advisory Panel for the current president as well as his two immediate predecessors. His status as a fixture of New York society and his patronage of the arts was also duly noted.

Benedict Vickers caught the last few seconds of the bulletin as he walked into the living room from the kitchen, wiping his hands after washing his coffee mug. The news made him stop. He slung the dish towel over his shoulder and quickly grabbed the remote to see whether other channels were also discussing this development. None were.

Benedict returned to CNN, increased the volume and dropped the remote onto the leather armchair next to him. They’ll return to the story soon enough, he assured himself, and walked back into the kitchen. His phone rang just then and he picked up on the first ring.

“Did you see the news?”

“Just caught the tail end of it on CNN. That was unexpected.”

“Are you being sarcastic?”

“No. I really am surprised.”

“Are you okay?”

“I didn’t think he’d off himself. Poor Jennie. She doesn’t deserve this.”

“Does it change our plans?”

“I don’t think so. Although I’d rather leave the country today instead of waiting until Friday. Come with, won’t you?”

There was a long pause on the other end of the line.

“Please?” Benedict prompted gently.

“I’ll meet you at Grand Central and decide there.”

Benedict sighed with relief. “Right. By the information booth in the middle? In an hour?”

“See you there.”

Benedict hung up and headed to the third floor of his townhouse, taking two steps at a time. In his bedroom, he took a small suitcase out of the closet and checked its contents. It was nearly fully packed, and he decided it only required the addition of toiletries, a pair of socks, and a pair of cuff links.

After quickly showering and changing, he went downstairs and scanned his suitcase and himself for tracking devices with a hand-held wand, silently cursing his paranoia, but not willing to take a chance. Satisfied that he wasn’t a walking beacon, he armed the state-of-the-art alarm system he’d recently installed and left the house.


Chapter 1
October 14, 2010 (eight months earlier)

Terminal 1 at John F. Kennedy International Airport wasn’t busy when the chauffeured Lincoln Town Car dropped Benedict off. Having ascertained that he had all necessary documents, he grabbed the handle of his suitcase, hoisted his carry-on bag onto his shoulder, and proceeded to the Turkish Airlines business class check-in counter.

As the ticketing agent was printing his boarding pass, Benedict’s attention was drawn to the tall woman standing next to him, talking to an agent designated for coach passengers. The woman seemed excited, clapping her hands and beaming widely. Benedict, finding the behavior childish, raised an eyebrow and gave her a frosty, questioning stare.

“Upgrade to business class,” the woman informed him, still beaming and looking up at him with startlingly light blue eyes. At least she’d stopped clapping. “Sorry about the seal imitation,” she said, not looking sorry at all. Benedict sighed and said a silent prayer that his seat would be as far away from the woman’s as possible. Despite finding her attractive, she struck him as a talker, and he was in no mood for that.


Orangeberry Spring Fling - Dangerous Waters - Anne Allen


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Genre – Romance, Mystery (PG13)

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Website http://www.dangerouswaters.co.uk/

‘Oh my God, what’s happening to me? After all this time, please, not again!’ Jeanne Le Page, gripped by fear and panic, struggles to breathe as the ferry arrives in Guernsey, the island she had fled 15 years before, traumatised by a family tragedy. Now she has to return after her grandmother’s death. Jeanne has inherited her cottage and she plans to sell it before returning to the UK. Deeply unhappy after the recent end of a long-term relationship, she has no desire to pick up her old life on the island. Suffering traumatic amnesia after being involved in the accident that killed her family, Jeanne has experienced nightmares for years. The return to Guernsey triggers flashbacks which become frightening and Jeanne undergoes hypnosis to recover her memory, reliving the tragedy as the ghosts continue to haunt her. But someone on the island does not want her to remember, and she faces danger from an unexpected source... A contemporary story of love and loss that will capture the reader’s imagination, Dangerous Waters will appeal to fans of female fiction.

Orangeberry Book Tours – The Hunter’s Son by BE Jewell

Another work-related move has brought JC Mather and his father to the small town of Hawthorne Valley, Michigan. JC has resigned himself to another short, friendless stay in a drab rental house until he meets Abbie, a mysterious and electric blonde who turns his world upside down.

JC rejects his fate as a social outcast and begins to blossom–until a series of unfortunate events reveal the truth about his family’s history, his father’s real job, and his mother’s untimely death. These secrets will lead JC to question everything he thought he knew, and he will be forced to decide whether his life will be guided by love, family, or a centuries-old organization bent on destroying the things that go bump in the night.

The Hunter’s Son is a supernatural thriller exploring the dynamics between father and son, the power of love, the crippling effects of fear, and one’s ability to control their own fate.

The Hunter’s Son is the first book in the J.C. Mather series.

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Genre – YA Supernatural Thriller

Rating – PG13

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Website http://www.jewellbe.com/

Blog http://jewellbe.blogspot.com/

Review: The Hunter's Son (JC Mather, #1) by B.E. Jewell

The Hunter's Son (JC Mather, #1)The Hunter's Son by B.E. Jewell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tell in your own words the beginning of the book. JC & James had just moved into another new house. They were unpacking boxes.
Describe how the main character felt. JC was lonely and confused. He was always alone. Never had any other family or friends.
What did the title have to do with the book? James was a creature hunter and JC was his only son.

Disclosure - As a Quality Reads Book Club member, I received a free copy of this book from the author via Orangeberry Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.

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Author Interview – BE Jewell

Can you share a little of your current work with us? I am writing a sequel to my debut novel, The Hunter’s Son. The second book in the series, The Hunter’s Vengeance, picks up where the first left off. I also have some short stories working right now, but those will not be in the young adult genre. The things I am closest to completing are horror or crime/mystery.

Can you tell us about your main character? JC Mather is the name of my main character. At the beginning of The Hunter’s Son, he is a loner and an outcast because of moving around the country so much. As the book progresses, JC grows and has to make some very adult decisions about the rest of his life. Does he want to be a hunter like his father? Can he trust everyone around him? Is teenage love more important than family and history? I think it is easy to relate to JC and the positions he finds himself in, even if a few of those are more of the supernatural variety.

Who designed the cover? Originally, I designed the cover myself but was not very happy with the way it turned out. It wasn’t the worst cover in the world, but I feel like it held the novel back. I found a great cover artist named Cheryl Ramirez who is very affordable and does some great work. Her website ishttp://www.ccrbookcoverdesign.com/. I’m sure she would be glad to help anyone who is looking for some new cover art. The cover photo was taken by a good friend of mine named Jessica Houtz. Her photography website is http://jlhoutz.wix.com/jeslynartandphoto. She has some great photos if anyone is in need.

Why did you choose to write this particular book? I had the idea for some time and I just love reading supernatural style books and watching those types of tv shows. In fact, I have been a fan of the CW series Supernatural since its first episode. I would be lying if I said I didn’t find some inspiration in that show.

What was the hardest part about writing this book? The hardest part for me was getting started. I had never written anything that I ever intended to finish before this novel. I was so nervous I must have rewritten the first chapter seven or eight times before it was finished. Once I got going, I feel like the rest flowed pretty organically. I experienced some writer’s block, but not much. The first draft only took around seventy-five days to write.

Will you write others in this same genre? I plan on finishing the JC Mather trilogy up and will definitely continue to write young adult fiction. As long as my wife reads it, I will continue to write it. That being said, I have some serious ideas for a few things outside the YA realm as well.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? I want readers to make that judgment for themselves. I have talked to a few different people who have taken completely different things away from the book. The exciting part is when someone gets something from the book that I didn’t even realize myself. Makes rereading my writing even more exciting.

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Genre – YA Supernatural Thriller

Rating – PG13

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Website http://www.jewellbe.com/

Blog http://jewellbe.blogspot.com/

Friday, April 19, 2013

Orangeberry Free Alert - Coffee and Cockpits by Jade Hart


Coffee and Cockpits – Jade Hart

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre – Contemporary Romance

Rating – PG13

5 (5 reviews)

Free until 23 April 2013

By day, Nina Poppins is a professional flight attendant, who lives to travel, and isn’t afraid to chase her dreams. By night, she’s an award winning Salsa dancer who wears sexy corsets and garter belts. She wants to keep her two lives separate, but Liam Mikin knows her secrets.
Liam Mikin is a co-pilot used to getting any air-hostess he wants with one blazing look of his blue eyes. And he wants Nina. But Nina is adamant she won’t end up as another notch on a pilot’s wingtip.
However, fate intervenes when their airplane malfunctions on a routine flight to Samoa, stranding all the crew on the Pacific island. Liam has his opportunity to prove to Nina he’s not what she thinks, but he wasn’t counting on competition in the form of an engineer. Nikolai Rivers dances as well as Nina and is linked to Liam’s past. As Nikolai fights for Nina’s affections, Liam is forced to face what happened all those years ago.
Being island-wrecked in a five star hotel is anything but relaxing. Fraught with male egos, dancing, and secrets, both Nina and Liam aren’t ready for what fate has in store.


Chapter 1

I earned my wings.

This was it. I was qualified.

Stepping on-board the plane, fizzles of joy frothed in my stomach. I’d done it; one step closer to my dream and free to fly the skies. I was no longer a ground-dweller stifled in an office. My work day included prancing around fluffy clouds. It didn’t matter I wasn’t graced with a halo. For all intents, I was an angel of the horizon. Who needed stupid wings when gravity relinquished its hold in the form of a giant metal bird? Jet-fuel and combustion were my wings and were a lot faster than flimsy, fluttering things.

Acute, sharp happiness buoyed me and I swear I floated by sheer emotion.

A good day at work meant soaring above the globe. A bad day at work meant turbulence and…a horrific crash, flames, mutilation, and/or death. Um, I didn’t think this through, did I?

My heart stuttered at the thought of my body, crisp in its immaculate uniform, mangled and whooshing with fire. Great, I signed up for death by—

“Nina Poppins?”

“Here!” I shouted, running daintily down the aisle in a pair of brand new heels that were evil incarnate. I no longer just had ankles—I had blisters the size of golf balls on my ankles. The price of beauty, and in this case, my job.

“You’re late, young lady,” the airline examiner snipped. Her blonde hair was in a bun, sprayed to plastic hardness, and her perfect red-orange lipstick was primed to perfection. Not a face-fuzz or nail chip in sight.

I shrivelled inside. I spent much longer than usual dressing this morning, and yet I didn’t spruce up as nice as Ms. Klein.

She gave me a hoity-toity look down her nose.

“Sorry, Ms. Klein.” Swallowing, I slung my satchel over my shoulder and smoothed down my air hostess uniform, searching for the creases I knew had to be there. I wasn’t like the creature in front of me. She was a sharp-tongued-take-no-crap Barbie doll.

I presented well, but I could never compete with that edgy chic. I was more suited to vibrancy and music. A whimsical dancer’s soul lived within me, no matter how aloft and professionally aspiring my dreams were. I didn’t like the severe uniform; I liked freedom and colour. I didn’t want to work the back of the plane; I wanted the front seat. Spectator to storms and crystal blue horizon; in control of rudders, ailerons, and wings.

A small smile played on my lips. At least I wore something fun and flirty beneath my clothes. I had a serious obsession with lingerie: corsets, garter belts, lace, and organza. Didn’t know why I bothered, though, no men saw me, and I was too focused on my career to chase love and attention. Having a career equalled money. And money equalled freedom from my poverty past. Probably why I was drunk on buying finery… I’d never had the bank balance to do it.

Dodging past Ms. Klein’s piercing glare, I dashed down the aisle of the 737-300 Boeing. Checking, as I hustled, that all the seatbelts were neatly crossed on the seats and the magazines placed just so in the seat pockets.

“Hey, Nina,” Joslyn said as I arrived in the back galley. Her heart-shaped face was warm, green eyes deep as jade. If it hadn’t been for Joslyn, I would’ve died of tedium in the flight attendant course. She was as unpredictable as a pinwheel firework, and although some of what she said made me cringe, I enjoyed her company. She was the exact opposite of my doom and gloom family, and reminded me my life had just begun.

I shot her a smile, pretending to wrap a noose around my throat. “Do you think they’ll fire me on my first day?”

“What, and waste eight weeks of training they invested in you?” She punched me gently. “No chance.”

I bit my lip. “I hope so. I’d hate to go down in history for the shortest air hostess employment record ever.” Not to mention have my father rub my face in it. He disowned me when I got the job. His quote: ‘No daughter of his would be a slut in the sky.’ My stomach rolled, but I focused on other things. Important things like I hadn’t put lippy on this morning.

Fumbling in my bag for the Coral Crush lipstick, I found it and looked at Joslyn. My eyes zeroed in on her neck, covered demurely by a teal scarf. I frowned. “What the hell is that? You never wear scarves.”

She flushed, her cheeks glowing a bright shade of fuchsia. “What? I’m allowed a wardrobe change, aren’t I? No crime in accessorizing, Nina.”

Joslyn was a terrible liar. I leaned in, trying to stifle my chuckle. “You naughty bitch.”

She groaned. “No! How did you guess?” She opened the food trolley and grabbed the hand mirror hidden on top—a necessity of our occupation—we always had to look our best for the passengers.

I stole the mirror to apply my lippy. My blue eyes popped beneath a dusting of eye-shadow and my bronzy-chestnut hair behaved itself for once, staying in its plait. “It’s too obvious. You never wear scarves. Not even when it snowed last month.”

She hung her head in her hands. “Do you think Ms. Klein will notice? You being late won’t matter at all if she spots me.”

“Spots the giant hickey on your neck, you mean?” I giggled, pulling the material wrapped around her throat to expose the angry bruise left by audacious lips. “Ouch. That’s gonna linger.”

Her eyes grew dewy. “Ah, but it was worth it.”

I cocked a hip. “Which one? You do realise you signed up to be a flight attendant to travel the world and see exotic places right? Not to bang the pilots.” I had to agree with my father on that one. I was here for one thing only: career.

She gave me a fake, shocked look. “Really? Here I was thinking I had to earn my wings.” She snickered.

Oh, for heaven sakes. What was with girls and pilots? Every pilot I’d met was either ancient, married, or a sleazoid. No thank you very much. They did not interest me. Travelling did. This was a win-win. Travel—see the world—all while getting paid for it.

“What are you two gigglers doing down here?” Ms. Klein suddenly appeared down the aisle.

Crap. Strike two. First late, now loitering.

“Nothing,” Joslyn and I both chimed. She pinched my arm inconspicuously. I glared at her, and we struggled not to laugh. 

Ms. Klein narrowed her eyes, but didn’t comment on our disorderly conduct. “Boarding commences in two minutes. Go to your stations.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Joslyn nodded.

The minute Ms. Klein was out of ear range, I rolled my eyes. “Ma’am? What are you? Forty?”

She ran hands over her strawberry blonde hair. “Nope. I’m a healthy twenty-three-year-old who likes to boink pilots.”

I snorted, unable to keep a straight face. Bolting to my side of the plane, I tried to plaster a professional, vacant smile on my lips instead.

This was it.

I wasn’t in training anymore. My first day as a professional flight attendant, and I was…

Wait a sec?

I wasn’t nervous. Huh, that’s interesting. I guess the training drill yesterday dissolved my anxiety. That was nasty. Being forced inside a tube the size of a plane and then the seats being set on fire. Having to crawl out of the tiny space, swamped with black, acrid smoke was my worst idea of fun. I struggled with claustrophobia on a good day, let alone when I might become a s'more.

Passengers filed past me with their over-the-limit carry-on; ignoring and bumping me to put their bags into overhead lockers. One woman practically fell into my lap she had so much crap: a bag, a laptop, purse, and a toddler on her hip.

“Can you hold him?” she asked, shoving the kid in my face.

Nope. Not gonna happen. I’d never held a kid before, wasn’t gonna start now. I beamed my ‘I’m here to help you’ smile and took her bags instead. “Why don’t you hold your bundle of joy. I’ll put the bags away for you.”

The bundle of joy took that moment to sneeze and a giant geyser of snot expelled from his nose and dribbled down his chin. Lucky for me my gag reflex didn’t kick in.


“Oh, thank you,” the woman said, before sliding awkwardly into the window seat. I pitied the poor person who had the seat next to that drooling bag of germs.

“Excuse me,” a masculine voice said behind me. “I believe I’m 24B.”

Oh, the poor sucker. I turned and lost my voice.

A tall, well-built man with wavy brown hair, dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans, smiled. His hazel eyes twinkled when I didn’t move. He said, “You have to reverse if I’m to get into my seat.”

“Right. Sorry.” I took a few steps back and he stretched to put his black bag in the overhead compartment. “Um, do you want some help?” I asked belatedly; too focused on the small space of skin showing his lower back and stomach from his t-shirt riding up.

“No, I’m good.” He flashed me a smile. “Thanks, though.” He squeezed into the row, took one look at mom and toddler, and his smile fell.

I made a mental note to shift him if the plane wasn’t full. No person should have to put up with a snot-nosed kid. Especially a man as easy on the eyes as he was.

Samantha, the third and final crew member, and only one of us qualified, waved to get my attention up at the front of the plane. She was sweet as candyfloss, part Maori, with endless black eyes, ebony hair, and a tan to die for. She had been our mentor for the past week, ever since Joslyn and I were assigned a crew. If Jos and I passed our exams, we’d fly together on rosters. The airline thought if we became a unit, we were more likely to enjoy our job and perform better. I wasn’t arguing.

Moving away from hazel-eyed gorgeous man in 24B, I picked up the phone in the rear galley. “Yes?” I asked, making eye contact with her up the aisle.

She answered in a friendly voice, “Everyone’s on board. We’re just waiting on the manifest.”

“Okay.” I hung up and stayed in the back, watching the heads of people getting settled, and making last minute phone calls. I was here because of my will and determination. Ever since my father disowned me, I revelled in not telling him a single thing in my life.

Pride swirled in my chest. I’d achieved a lot in the last year, and not just this job. I wished Mom was still alive—she’d be proud of me.

The flight wasn’t long today. Our training exam would consist of a three-hour journey from Christchurch, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia. And yet, in those three hours, there would be tests and drills. All going on without the passengers’ knowledge, of course, and I had no clue what to expect.

Whatever came our way, it couldn’t be as bad as being almost set on fire like yesterday. Perhaps, I could raid the small liquor cabinet in the galley to calm my nerves.

That was a good idea… pity I had to be coherent to pass.

Orangeberry Spring Fling – Seven Point Eight: The Second Chronicle by Marie Harbon


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In the second installment of the five part Seven Point Eight series, the legacy of the OOBE project weighs heavily on the conscience of Dr. Paul Eldridge. Tahra Mamoun needs to muster all her courage and venture back into the alternate dimensions of reality. Through a series of challenging, surreal and frightening experiences, she comes to comprehend the destructive power she can yield and must face her own demons in the process.

Paul continues his quest to understand the ancient knowledge of the cosmos, while dark forces seek to hijack his research to further a secret agenda. With their lives in jeopardy, Paul and Tahra confront their enemies against an international backdrop featuring the pyramids of Giza and the peaks of Switzerland.

Meanwhile, Sam and Ava endeavour to uncover their past, even though it may irrevocably change their lives.

In a tale of courage and tragedy, love and betrayal, their lives are interwoven around the demons of one man, Max Richardson, who’ll stop at nothing to achieve his objectives.

Written in the style of a TV series, Seven Point Eight draws together quantum physics, psychic powers, alternate dimensions, time travel, past lives, ancient wisdom, and conspiracy in a soap opera for the soul.

It’s the ideal read for lovers of sci-fi, contemporary fantasy, the paranormal, metaphysics, ‘Lost’, ‘Fringe’, ‘Touch’, and Dan Brown books.

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Genre - Science Fiction (PG13)

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Orangeberry Book Of The Day - Collapse by Richard Stephenson (Excerpt)


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Genre – Dystopian

Rating – R

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Blog http://rastephensonauthor.blogspot.com/


In the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Howard Beck awoke in his massive bedroom in his palatial home.  Howard never hesitated when he woke; he didn’t stare at the ceiling and talk himself into starting his day.  Once his eyes were open, his feet hit the floor and it was time to begin the day.  Howard hated wasting his time and hated even more when others wasted it.  Howard had every second of every day planned to perfection.  It wasn’t a difficult task; Howard repeated the same routine every day with little deviation. The routine that followed his exit from bed had been the same for most of his five decades.  Toilet, shower, breakfast, in that order.   When Howard flushed the toilet, the shower came on by itself and achieved the exact temperature he had programmed.  After the shower, Howard stepped out, and like every morning, the shower slowly trickled to a stop.   He put on his robe and traveled through his cathedral sized home to the kitchen.  Every time he entered a room, the lights would come on; when he left, they would fade back down.  Once he was in the kitchen, the lights turned on and the curtains retracted to show a stunning view of the Rocky Mountains.   Howard grabbed his cup from beneath the coffee pot and sat alone at the breakfast table.

“Good morning, Hal.”  Howard spoke aloud, waiting for his computer to respond.

“Good morning, sir,” the world’s first truly Artificial Intelligence sprang to life and spoke in a male, British voice.

“What do you have for me this morning?”

“No relevant messages received during the night.  Your first vid-conference is at 9 o’clock with Director Mills.   When I contacted him last night to confirm the meeting, he indicated to me that he would be reporting on the recovery progress at the Atlanta factory.”

“Did he sound positive about it or like he wasn’t looking forward to it?”

“Based on his vocal patterns and word choices, I would say his report will be positive.”

“Or complete bullshit,” Howard muttered.

“I am sorry, sir, I have little success understanding deception.  If you would like, in the future I can...” 

“Never mind, Hal.  What’s going on in the world?”  Howard seldom ventured from the fortress he had designed.

“Residents along the Texas-Louisiana state line are preparing for Hurricane Maxine to make landfall in the next thirty-two to thirty-four hours.  Based on my analysis, I estimate a sixty-one percent chance that it will make landfall four point two miles east of the tip of Galveston Island.”

“You don’t say,” Howard muttered, not paying attention.

“Wildfires continue to spread across much of California.  Officials have reason to believe that arsonists are using the wildfires as cover to set even more fires.  Officials also suspect the arsonists are making the existing wildfires stronger.”

“Uh-huh.  Next story, please.”  Old news tended to bore Howard.   He made it a habit to ignore speculation and sensational news reporting until it became more grounded in fact.

Hal continued, “Recovery efforts along the Florida coastline continue to show little progress a month after the disaster.  Critics from both sides of the aisle continue to raise questions about why much of Florida is in a media blackout. The governor of Florida said in a press conference that Hurricane Luther carried a toxic chemical spill up the coast, rendering much of the region unsafe.  Governor Prince also indicated that over three-quarters of the roads in her state were impassable.  The governor also indicated that an unnamed aircraft carrier was off the coast of Merritt Island, some sixty miles from Orlando.   The Department of the Navy would not comment on search and rescue missions along the Florida coast.”

Hearing the same news day after day with only a few minor details added irritated Howard.  “Hal, give me something interesting that I can’t find on the Internet.”

“Of course, sir.”  The most sophisticated computer in the world, the first to shatter the Turing Test into irrelevancy, paused for less than half a second before continuing.

“President Powers, facing the defining moment in his administration, stands on the precipice of toppling the Great Empire of…”

Howard laughed, something he rarely did, and interrupted his friend.  “What?  Are you kidding me?  Did you really and truly,” Howard laughed again, “just use the word ‘precipice’ and actually speculate about something as unpredictable as an actual war?”

“I did indeed, sir.”

“I must say, Old Man, you never cease to impress me.”

“Thank you, sir.  I do try.”

“Mind telling me how you figured out that the president was at a ‘precipice’ in the war?”

“I would be happy to, sir.”

“Wait, how long will it take?”

“Forty-two and a half minutes, sir.”

“Can you just give me the condensed version?”

“Forty-two and a half minutes is the condensed version, sir.”

“Never mind, Hal.  I spoke with the president last night, and I’m positive I know what you’re about to say.  Tonight when I go to bed, I would be happy to listen to you for forty-two and half minutes and tell you if you got it right.”

“I look forward to it, sir.”

Hal did, of course send and receive all vid-cons to and from Howard Beck.  Hal recorded every conversation in intimate detail.  However, Howard had programmed Hal not to access the conversations without his permission.  If Howard needed Hal for anything while he was on a vid-con, he simply raised the level of his voice slightly and spoke the phrase “Hal, I need you.”   This would trigger another program, separate from Hal, and bring Hal into the conversation.  Howard felt he deserved a level of privacy from the computer he built.

“Continue, Old Man.  Anything happen on the compound last night?”

“No, sir, nothing of consequence happened on the property last night.  Some wildlife did make it on the property and caused damage to some of the landscaping on the south lawn.”

“Son of a bitch.  Please tell me it wasn’t the Middlemist’s Red.  What furry little shits did it?”

The Middlemist’s Red was his wife’s favorite.  They had met when they were seniors in college.   Howard immediately knew that Meredith was the woman he would marry.  When Howard was able to slow his brilliant, genius mind down long enough to focus on one thing instead of dozens, it was not something to be ignored.  It had happened twice before.  The first was when he was old enough to sit in front of a computer.  The introduction to the world of Star Trek was the second time.  Captain Picard was the coolest guy to grace both the big and small screen.  The richest man in the world could hardly manage to keep his composure when he met Patrick Stewart.  The kind Englishman managed to put Howard at ease and the two became friends.  Howard honored Mr. Stewart as being one of the few men in the world to say he had seen the inside of Howard’s $500 million home.  

During his senior year at MIT, Howard was relentless in his pursuit of Meredith.  When he finally found a piece of data that he knew would win her heart, he gave her the flower and asked her to marry him.  Meredith was deeply touched by the flower.  However, she smiled, kissed him on his forehead and explained to Howard that she couldn’t very well marry a fourteen-year-old boy.

Howard decided to wait until he was eighteen and finishing his second doctorate to ask again.  Meredith was twenty-six and engaged to another man.  She adored Howard and cherished his friendship.  Howard was not fazed in the slightest by his competition.   He knew it was only a matter of time before the engagement would end.  They were meant to be together.  Computers…Star Trek…Meredith.  It was going to happen; Howard just needed to wait.  Howard finally had his chance when the engagement ended just like he predicted.  Three years later he founded Beck Enterprises and asked for her hand in marriage a third time.  Meredith knew that Howard was a profoundly brilliant man who would change the world.  She also fully understood what made Howard the way he was.

Howard had Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism and a pervasive developmental disorder that seriously impairs social skills and the demonstration of empathy.   Aspies, as they like to be called, also have a hard time maintaining eye contact and understanding facial expressions and other social cues.  This makes interpreting subtle nuances like sarcasm and deception (playful or sinister) very difficult.  Aspies are very direct and speak their mind, often forgetting the impact that such honesty can bring to those around them.  Meredith did not consider it a “disease” or a “disorder” or even a “syndrome”.  She cherished Howard dearly and embraced every single thing about him.  She agreed to take things slow and the two became a couple.

A year later the two were wedded.  Meredith wore her grandmother’s dress, and Howard wore a Starfleet Dress Uniform from Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Meredith thought he was kidding when he mentioned the idea.  Howard’s reaction was to have a total meltdown and lock himself in his room.  When he finally calmed down, he was able to explain to her that the first time he saw the dress uniform in the seventh episode of season one entitled “Lonely Among Us,” he decided right then and there that he would wear exactly the same dress uniform at his wedding.  He then proceeded to try to describe the episode in detail and began to quote the dialogue when Meredith stopped him and kissed his cheek. When Howard made up his mind about something, it was set in stone and could not be changed.  When Howard made plans to do something, it was not easily deviated from.   Howard was heartbroken when he deduced that the only logical conclusion was that Meredith was going to call off the wedding because he was trying to ruin it.

Meredith simply smiled and told him that she loved him so much he could wear a potato sack to their wedding.  She stood beside her handsome Starfleet Captain and made her vows.  After the ceremony, Howard’s gift to her was a garden of Middlemist’s Red flowers.  She had forgotten the young fourteen-year-old Howard giving her the flower on his first of three marriage proposals.  For decades she regarded the flower to be a beautiful and symbolic representation of their marriage.  She told Howard he was unique and special, just like the flower.  Howard just saw the flowers as something that made his wife happy, even though they cost a fortune to bring to the U.S. and to keep alive.  He could not understand what was so special about the flowers.  The camellia named for John Middemist wasn’t even red; it was a deep pink and looked more like a rose than a camellia. 

“No, sir, the Middlemist’s Red are fine.  The offending creature was not a ‘furry little shit’ as you so eloquently put it.  It was in fact a Northwestern Great Horned Owl attempting to catch a mouse, which it did, I might add.”

“Really?  They come this far south?”

“Yes, sir.  In the winter they have been seen this far south.”

“Thank God the damned flowers are fine.  Her Highness would never let me hear the end of it.  Where exactly did we get those cursed flowers from this time?”

“From New Zealand, sir.”

“Yeah, that’s it, how on earth did I forget that?”

“I have no idea, sir.”

Howard’s estate was one of three locations in the world that featured the flower.  It was incredibly difficult to keep the flowers alive in Colorado.  They were kept in a greenhouse and when weather permitted, the greenhouse walls were programmed to retract.  Howard’s wife insisted on it; she felt that the flowers should be a part of nature when possible.  Botanists and flower enthusiasts from all over the country begged to get a look at them.  Howard wouldn’t hear of it.  The thought of his home becoming a tourist attraction made Howard sick to his stomach.

“Thank you, Hal.  Is that all?”   

“There is one more thing, sir.   A vehicle passed in front of the estate last night.”

“Really?  Belong to a nearby resident?”

“No, sir.  The vehicle had an out-of-state license plate.”

That got Howard’s attention immediately and frightened him.  He began to tap his fingers and rock back and forth.  “What?  Out of state?  Did they slow down at all or do anything suspicious?”

“No, sir.  They did not slow down or attempt any surveillance of the property.

This made Howard nervous.  In the year 2027, very few people traveled outside of their hometown, let alone out of their state.  Interstate travel was unheard of during the Second Great Depression. Few people could afford to travel long distances, and the ones that did have the wealth traveled by jet on the last remaining airline in the country.  Long distance travel was for the élite.

Howard snapped out of his train of thought and addressed his computer.   His eyes fluttered around the room, his speech became more erratic. Howard was not handling this well.

“Hal, what can you tell me about the vehicle?  What state?  Anything on the driver or passengers?”

“I’m sorry to report, sir, the only thing I was able to see was a small portion of the plate, enough to ascertain that the vehicle was not from Colorado.  I can report with eighty-four percent certainty that the only occupant of the vehicle was the driver.  This of course does not account for passengers not properly seated in the vehicle.”

“You mean you wouldn’t be able to tell if someone was lying down in the backseat?”

“Correct, sir.”

“Could it be an evacuee from Hurricane Luther?”

“No, sir, not likely.” 

“Based on what exactly, Hal?” 

“I have narrowed the license plate down to three possible states, none of which the hurricane had any impact on.”

“What are the three states?”  

“Iowa, Kentucky, and Mississippi.”   

“Hmmmm.   Hal, until further notice, I want you to notify me immediately of any out-of-state vehicles coming near the property.” 

“Of course, sir.”

Howard had never even considered that an out-of-state vehicle would be in the area.  He had not seen one on the road in years.  Most people simply could not afford to put gas in their vehicles.  Instead, they used mass transit, rode mopeds and bicycles.  It wasn’t uncommon to see vehicles on the road; it was however, uncommon to see an out-of-state license plate.

Howard had managed to calm down and stop tapping his fingers. “Anything else, Hal?”

“Yes, sir.  Several months ago you instructed me to remind you today to make arrangements to visit Meredith.” 

“That will be all, Hal.  Thank you.”  Howard said sharply.

“Very good, sir.  I would be happy to review the rest of your schedule over lunch.”  Hal went silent and began to study each room of the mansion to see what tasks needed to be assigned to his robots.

Howard did not respond to his assistant.  He wanted to scream at Hal for putting him in such a foul mood.  He knew that to do so would only raise his blood pressure and serve no real purpose. The elevation of Howard’s blood pressure would be known immediately to Hal thanks to the thousands of tiny nanobots coursing thru the billionaire’s blood.  Hal knew every intimate detail about his creator and alerted him of any medical concern, no matter how small. 

His trusted assistant, while very lifelike, was only a sophisticated machine, the first one of its kind.  Howard built the A.I. himself and still tinkered with him.  Howard was already approaching his first billion when he completed Hal.  When he decided to sell the first true A.I. the world had ever known, his net worth skyrocketed into the tens of billions.  From year to year, he moved around on the list of the richest people in the world.  He was currently at the top of the list. 

The A.I. came with a hefty price tag; only major corporations and a few of the world’s governments could afford it.  Hal’s siblings ran much of the day-to-day operations at Apple, Google, and Facebook.  Only two other private citizens in the world had a copy of the A.I.  The first was his friend, Bill Gates, the other being Mark Zuckerberg.  Wealthy billionaires around the world tried to buy one of the systems, but Howard refused to sell it to private citizens outside of the United States.  Howard sold not one, but two of the systems to the U.S. Government.  The first one was at the Department of Defense and kept tabs on the military forces deployed in the Middle East.  The Central Intelligence Agency operated the second. 

Howard even shocked the country when he donated a copy of the A.I. to the Office of the President of the United States completely free of charge.  This was out of character for Howard, who had never once donated any of his vast income to charity.  When public schools began to fire teachers at an alarming rate and replace them with “dedicated volunteers” the nation had looked to Howard Beck.  Howard simply ignored them.  When public schools in many states were no longer public and required parents to pay tuition, the public demanded that Howard intervene.  Howard could easily donate half of his wealth and still be third on the list of the richest people in the world.  Howard coveted his first place spot and couldn’t believe people seriously expected him to just give up the crown.

Howard had great respect for the nation’s leader, whom many thought had a successful campaign based in large part to the financial backing of Howard Beck.  Howard did not understand politics in the slightest, how people could say one thing and do another defied logic.  He thought that anyone who lied to their constituents even one time should be booted out of Washington and replaced with an honest person.  Much to his amazement, politicians were as dishonest as the day is long and did whatever they pleased.  The one thing he did know was that his good friend was the most honest, loyal, and trustworthy man he had ever known.  Once Howard Beck got behind his friend, he would not stop until he was in the Oval Office. He wanted to be the first to visit the newly elected president sitting behind the Resolute desk.

Many tech companies had tried to duplicate the A.I. and all had failed.  The only person in the entire world who understood how the system worked was Howard Beck.  The A.I. he designed required no human hands to conduct maintenance. The system was designed to run at all times, running self-diagnostic checks and even repairing itself if needed.

Howard was a very solitary man; many considered him a recluse on the same level of Howard Hughes.  He seldom left his fortress of a residence and had operated his multi-billion dollar empire, Beck Enterprises, from the safe confines of his estate in the Rocky Mountains for many years. Howard had long ago been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which explained why he wasn’t fond of people in general.  With some of the greatest men in history thought to have Asperger’s, this did not bother Howard in the slightest.  Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, and even his friend Bill Gates were all thought to be among the ranks of Asperger’s.  While most people considered Howard distant, rude, arrogant, and just downright odd, Howard celebrated having Asperger’s and considered himself to be in the company of intellectual giants.

Howard hated to be around people and most people were not fond of being in his company.  When someone has an IQ of one hundred ninety-five, it is difficult not to feel inadequate around them. Howard had little patience in trying to hold a conversation when he had to explain things over and over, no matter how far over someone’s head he was speaking.

The only conversations Howard liked to be a part of were the ones with Hal.  Since he created Hal, he not only considered Hal his closest friend, but also thought of him as one of his children.  He often enjoyed introducing his assistant to the infrequent guests of his home and business associates to see if they would understand the clever meaning of Hal’s name.  Few made the association to the HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey.   The ones that did get the connection impressed him.  Howard had a tough time giving his A.I. a name; he almost decided to name Hal after Data, the android from Star Trek: The Next Generation.   In the end, he chose Kubrick over Roddenberry and the name fit like a glove.  He had even thought of giving Hal the voice of Douglas Rain, the voice actor who played HAL in the movie.  Hal was given a male, British accent.  Howard knew that to do so was cliché, but Howard was a true sci-fi nerd and loved the proper and dignified voice.  Howard constantly teased the president that he needed to give his A.I. a proper name.  The president simply referred to his digital assistant as “Computer”.  He joked with Howard that he couldn’t very well name his A.I. after the homicidal computer from 2001; the American people, and more so the press, would not be in on the joke.

Howard continued to sip his coffee in anger and tried to talk himself out of the plans he needed to make.  He did not visit his wife at all last year, and it was time for that to change.

Orangeberry Book Tours – For Gods & For Men by James R Johnson

This bold new story written on an epic scaoe vibrates with its unique setting and time frame. Trapped in an alternate universe, the memorable characters set off on a quest to overcome nearly insurmountable odds.

The setting: 98 BC Rome. The story: Marcus Tegerius Castimus has just learned he is immortal. Together with an unlikely alliance that includes a vexed Vestal Virgin, he is the only hope to save the world from a trap that the Lifebloods had set centuries before. Pursued by two factions, Castimus can choose to help the Lifebloods and live in luxury and power, or he can fight them to save the human race from extinction. But doing the right thing is not always easy, and Marcus stubmles into the snare that the Lifebloods laid for him – a trap that has been centuries in the making and from which there is no escape. Or nearly none.

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Urban Fantasy

Rating – PG13

Connect with James R Johnson on Facebook & Twitter & GoodReads

James R Johnson – How to Make Your Characters Believable

How to Make Your Characters Believable

by James R Johnson

When I was a baby, the movie Jaws was in theaters.  My parents couldn’t find a babysitter so along I went.  The film is suspenseful and gripping.  But it seems that the audience of that particular showing got more than they bargained for.  As a baby, I stood on my mother’s lap, clapped and cheered ever time the shark ate someone.  I was a twisted child.  I identified with the shark.

This is a classic film with many classic scenes and lines.  One such line involves Roy Scheider’s character Chief Brody saying, “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”  This was right after we see the shark for the first time.  And more importantly, Chief Brody sees the shark.  What makes this line so classic?

Characters that are believable leave an indelible mark on an audience.  They are accepted and embraced by moviegoer and readers alike.  The litmus test of a believable character is reaction.  What does a character do in response to stimuli?  A character who stares down a twenty-five foot Great White shark and shrugs it off without fear is not believable.

But there is more to this than authentic reactions.  There are qualities in people, many qualities, many traits.  A well rounded character is a collage of traits that makes them unique.  Look at the villain who cares about beauty of life or the hero who has some struggle personally.  We, like the characters we search for, have a myriad of traits.  Some are good and some are bad.  And that is the key to a believable character.  Someone who displays many qualities, is grounded in those qualities, will react with a believable response.

To get the process rolling, let’s take a look at a few questions designed to get the character makeup kick-started.  First question: What does the character want?  This could be something as simple as peace and quiet or as complex as obtaining a specific item.  The idea here is to find what drives that character, not find out what they want for lunch.  This goal, this passion is the basest desire they have.  This encompasses their lives.  This will help you see what the character is moving toward.

Next question: Why will this goal satisfy the character?  Does the character want peace and quiet?  Why?  Is it because they have lived a life of war, military service?  Dig deeper, what is it about peace and quiet?  Is it because they feel like they have given enough, it is time to retire?  A realistic reason to obtain the life goal will help you see why a character is driven.

How does the character go about reaching the goal?  In the case of peace and quiet, does the character withdraw from everyone around him?  Does the character fight through obstacles?  The process by which a character moves toward their goal is as unique as the person themselves.  Each step leads the character closer or further away from that goal.  This will help you see how the character understands the world around them.

Finally, how does the character measure success?  Is this character satisfied that they are moving toward peace and quiet or are they only truly happy when they have attained it?  The perception of what constitutes success defines the character’s commitment.  This will help you see the determination of the character.

Take all these answers and formulate a character that has a past, who wants a life goal, whether they know how to get it or not, and reacts to life like you do.  This is the beginning of creating a believable character.  Finesse and polish your character by talking to them.  I know it sounds cliché, but it works.  A believable character will know how they will respond if you ask them.  Just like Chief Brody, they will reveal a real person.

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Urban Fantasy

Rating – PG13

More details about the book

Connect with James R Johnson on Facebook & Twitter & GoodReads

By My Side by Stephanie Witter

Talk about an intense, in-your-face, emotionally charged read! By My Side by Stephanie Witter is that and more!
~ Dianne, Tome Tender
I absolutely loved this story of love, loss, heartache and so much more. 
~ Melissa Ringsted, Goodreads.com

Lily Saunders sees her family falling apart. Her father is deserting her, and her mother is drinking more and more. Even sarcasm can't help Lily. When she thinks her best friend, Andy Green, will help her, she discovers how his blinding jealousy will mess everything up.

And then Gabe Green comes back home. She thinks it'll be like always between them—sarcasms and curses thrown at each other—but she's mistaken. He's different, and understands right away the problems she's trying to keep for herself.

But even if he's there for her, making her fall hard, they both know it'll end soon. Because at their age, you can't expect forever. Right?
Buy the book at Amazon!

Enter the Giveaway

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A GWR Publicity promotional event paid for by Anchor Group Publishing. Giveaway is sponsored by the author.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Orangeberry Free Alert - Be Good by Dakota Madison

Be Good - Dakota Madison

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre - Contemporary Romance

Rating - R

4.5 (10 reviews)

Free until 20 April 2013

This NEW ADULT ROMANCE contains language and content indented for adult readers (18+).
The Bad-Girl and the Boy-Next-Door
After getting completely wasted at a wedding reception, bridesmaid Anna Hart wakes up in a strange bed and can’t remember what she did or who she did it with.
The stranger in bed with Anna is Brett Conner, a nerdy guy who she vaguely remembers from college, but only because everyone called him Clown Hair. Only Brett isn’t quite as nerdy as Anna remembers. His clown hair is long gone and Brett is almost cute—and kind of sexy.
Over the course of four weddings, in four cities, in one crazy summer, Brett and Anna start a mismatched relationship. But is there a future for the bad-girl and the boy-next-door?

Orangeberry Spring Fling – Seven Point Eight: The First Chronicle by Marie Harbon


The Kindle Book Review Semi-Finalist in Science Fiction/Fantasy 2012


‘Out of Body, Out of Universe’

Seven Point Eight: The First Chronicle kick starts a five part series offering a twist of sci-fi intrigue, which poses some interesting questions. If you had special abilities to travel out of body, where would you go? What would secret organisations do with these abilities? And how far could you go?

A physicist begins a quest to measure the soul but soon finds himself drawn into the world of the enigmatic Max Richardson, where research is sold to the military at the highest bid. However, he soon discovers another purpose when an extremely talented young psychic enters his life. He devises a project and builds a team to stretch the frontiers of exploration, only to make a reality-shattering discovery…

Written in the style of a TV series, Seven Point Eight draws together quantum physics, psychic powers, alternate dimensions, time travel, past lives, ancient wisdom, drama, romance, and conspiracy in a soap opera for the soul.

Buy at Amazon

Genre - Science Fiction (PG13)

Connect with Marie Harbon on Facebook and Twitter

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Orangeberry Spring Fling – Earth-Sim by Jade Kerrion

Was the super-continent of Pangaea split because of a management dispute? Is the biblical flood the earliest evidence of why “technology and water don’t mix”? If you always suspected that mass extinctions, such as the Black Death, had an otherworldly reason, you just might be right. Is there a real message hidden in the mysterious manuscripts that human sages and savants have created through the generations? Is there life out there, beyond our planet, and why has none of it shown up on Earth yet?

Earth-Sim is a unique spin on the history of Earth and the history of mankind. What if Earth and the entire universe were actually part of a simulation program? What if the most iconic and memorable events in Earth’s history were decisions (or more frequently accidents) triggered by two college students, Jem Moran and Kir Davos, who are still sorting out the finer points of working together and more importantly, still arguing over the finer points of planetary management?

Bring your sense of humor. Earth-Sim is frequently whimsical and often irreverent. Either way, you finally have someone to blame for the state the world is in.

Buy at Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / Smashwords

Genre - Young Adult, Science Fiction (G)

Connect with Jade Kerrion on Facebook and Twitter

Website http://www.jadekerrion.com/

Orangeberry Book Tours – Lessons from the Lemonade Stand by James Berman

Lessons from the Lemonade Stand explains investing, stocks and bonds, risk, diversification, commodities, and other sometimes mystifying topics in the context of that most classic of all American businesses: the corner lemonade stand.

Rooted in the fundamental truth that common sense is the best investment tool, this book slices important concepts into simple sections, sweetening them with folksy, easy-to-read language.

The trials and tribulations of lemonade stand owner Lucinda highlight every concept from interest rates to retirement accounts to leverage. Readers learn investment basics as they follow Lucinda Lemonade Inc. along its sweet (and sometimes sour) journey as a start-up, from the squeeze of the first lemon to its initial private equity deal and its eventual foray into tech, all in the tidy town of Lemonville.

Lessons from the Lemonade Stand simplifies investment concepts without watering them down. A stock, for example, is not defined in financial gibberish but for what it truly is: a slice of the business that entitles the stockholder to a little drop of every dollar Lucinda Lemonade Inc. earns.

The book introduces ten simple Lemonade Laws:
1) Every topic in the investment world can be broken down to the basic concept of supply and demand.
2) If someone claims an investment is risk-free, run the other way.
3) Bigger returns mean bigger risks.
4) Hedging may help, but there’s always a cost to it.
5) As Warren Buffett says, “If you’re smart, you don’t need leverage; if you’re dumb, it’ll ruin you.”
6) You may not be able to count on your stocks, but you can always count on your taxes.
7) By the time you invest in a foreign country, it shouldn’t be foreign to you.
8) Owning a home is (still) the best investment of all.
9) Investing without work is gambling: treat the market like roulette, and you’ll land on zero.
10) Counterintuition, not intuition, is the investor’s best friend.
Entertaining and fun, Lessons from the Lemonade Stand supplies readers with the ingredients they need to become savvy investors.

“By abstracting out the ‘hard’ stuff about investing and focusing on the most simple of businesses, Berman (a finance prof at NYU and an investment advisor) is able to gradually introduce more complicated concepts without overwhelming the reader with jargon. Really, Lessons from the Lemonade Stand encompasses much of an introductory finance curriculum in book form that reads, well, more like a book of fiction than one on investing.”

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Business & Investing

Rating – PG

More details about the author

Connect with James Berman on Facebook & Twitter

Website http://www.lessonsfromlemonade.com/

Orangeberry Free Alert - What’s French for WTF? A Sitcom for Romantics: Paris Brats by Gwen Ellery

What’s French for WTF? A Sitcom for Romantics: Paris Brats - Gwen Ellery

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre - Chick Lit, Humor, Women’s Fiction

Rating - PG

4.8 (15 reviews)

Free until 18 April 2013

Check out the new cover and title! Same zany humor--with an edgy new look.
#1 Bestseller in Comic Fiction

--Amazon, November 2012
#2 Hot New Release

--Amazon, October 2012
What readers are saying about this wacky new sitcom for your e-reader
"Very funny ... zany, too, but in a likeable way."
"Wonderfully funny ... I'm happy to see this is a series and look forward to Fern's next adventure."
"I loved reading this story. It is funny and down to earth."
"Funny, entertaining, and fast-paced."
"Just the right length, this story left me eager for more in the future."
Love, hunger, and financial meltdown await Fern and her friends in the City of Light, where it's harder to raise cash than it is to raise heck. Will Fern's loyalty and romantic dreams survive the riot girls, a much-sought-after chamber pot, and the incident of the flying falsie?
Download book one now to find out...
Note: this is a novella, or short novel, and a complete story at 23,000 words. It's like a sitcom for your e-reader. During its first week on Amazon, it hit two bestseller lists in the Kindle Store and was picked as a Hot New Release.


First Place, James D. Phelan Literary Award
First Place, Romancing the Novel Award
Presidential Scholar in the Arts
National Recognition and Talent Search Award
Apprenticeships in Fiction, sponsored by the Arts Council England


"My stomach still hurts because I was laughing so hard. I love reading goofy humor! . . . I can't wait to read more. I forced my husband to read it too, and he said he'd read a book by you and he's allergic to romance."--Kate R.
"I was laughing so much in the long drive-up at the credit union, people were looking at me strangely."--Lesli L.
"I was giggling so loudly, my cat came into the living room to see if I was all right."--Stephanie T.
"It's rare to find an author who is both outrageously funny and seriously stylish like you. Keep up the great work!"--Marius J.
What's French for WTF? is rated PG due to references to off-stage sex. In essence, however, the story is good clean fun.
If you enjoyed this novella, consider signing up for Gwen's new releases email list! Just visit gwenellery.com.

Orangeberry Book of the Day – Perception & Volition by Lee Strauss

Eternal Life is To Die

For seventeen year old Zoe Vanderveen is a GAP—a genetically altered person. She lives in the security of a walled city on prime water-front property along side other equally beautiful people with extended life spans. Her brother Liam is missing.

Noah Brody is a natural who lives on the outside. He leads protests against the GAPs and detests the widening chasm they’ve created between those who have
and those who don’t. He doesn’t like girls like Zoe and he has good reason not to like her specifically.

Zoe’s carefree life takes a traumatic turn. She’s in trouble and it turns out that Noah, the last guy on earth she should trust, is the only one who can help her.

Want to read PERCEPTION? It’s FREE on Kobo itunes B&N Smashwords and on Amazon!

VOLITION is the exciting continuation of Noah and Zoe’s story from Perception.

What doesn’t kill you …

Zoe Vanderveen is on the run with her captor turned rescuer, Noah Brody. They’re in love. Or at least that’s what he tells her. Her memories have returned but her feelings are dreamlike—thin and fleeting. Her heart can’t be trusted. Just look at what happened with Taylor Blake.

Senator Vanderveen’s new team of cyborg agents are in hot pursuit, and a reward for their capture is broadcast nationwide. Record breaking cold and snow hinder their escape. Someone dies helping them.

And their fight for survival has only begun.

Mark to read on goodreads.

To celebrate Lee Strauss is giving away a $200.00 Amazon, Nook or itunes gift card!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the author

Lee Strauss writes historical and science fiction/romance for upper YA and adult readers. She also writes light and fun stuff under the name Elle Strauss. To find out more about Lee and her books check out her facebook page. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/elle_strauss To find out about new releases sign up for her newsletter at www.ellestraussbooks.com

Review: Lessons from the Lemonade Stand: A Common Sense Primer on Investing by James Berman

Lessons from the Lemonade Stand: A Common Sense Primer on InvestingLessons from the Lemonade Stand: A Common Sense Primer on Investing by James Berman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What did you think was the most interesting part of the book? Investing money. This book breaks it down to show you how to invest money and how to make a profit.

What did you enjoy about this book? This book is fairly easy to follow for the person who wants to invest money.

What are some of the major themes of this book? The main theme is to show how to invest money.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the author.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Orangeberry Book Of The Day - Forged in Grace by Jordan Rosenfeld (Excerpt)


I feel swimmy, high, adrenaline on full tilt, though I haven’t consumed a drop of alcohol. “We need to subdue him first,” I hear myself say. “Can’t just slap a hand on his face and hope it knocks him out.”

Marly nods, though she is too encumbered to move quickly, and me—there’s no guarantee of what I can do.

“I have pepper spray,” she fidgets with her purse as though she’s about to withdraw it. “And it’s not like we have to break in, Grace. He’ll let us in, when he sees it’s me. Think I’m coming to talk.”

“Okay, then,” I say, before I lose my nerve. And we get in her car and drive.

We park and walk four residential blocks. The streets are lit by yellow halogen lamps, but there’s also a nearly-full moon. Its bold light makes me feel bolstered, sanctioned. Marly points to his condo, one square box among many in a beige world of homogenous residences.

“This could have been my life,” Marly whispers, her face a portrait of disgust. “I should be in that kitchen right now making dinner, then go spread my legs for him. I can’t believe he thought he could get away with what he did to me.”

The guilt surges through me again. If only I hadn’t healed away the evidence. But we didn’t know. Nobody could have known.

“Let’s do it soon, before I chicken out.” My palms have begun to ache with heat.

“Damn straight,” she agrees, and the toss of her hair is so familiar it’s like we’re fifteen again.

Simultaneously, we take a deep breath.

Marly repeats her lines, “I’ll say we’re here to talk—that I brought you as my friend and witness. That will put him on his best behavior. And you?”

I choke a little on my own saliva, cough, and answer, “I’ll ask for a glass of water, say I got too much sun today. He’ll take one look at me and have a hard time refusing, right?”

Marly pats her purse. “Let’s go.” She’s always one step ahead of me.

Chapter One

Drake’s Bay

This morning my hands are so hot, sweat slides my mug out of my grasp and coffee spills down my right leg, like liquid fire. On the way to the bus in the pre-sunrise dark, a voice from the past drifts to me, as though I am a radio tower. “Grace, you’re mistress of your destiny.” Marly’s voice. “Come on! Tell the flame.” Whether the memory has been summoned by the pain or something else, I go to work cavalier as always, as though my heightened senses are not a portent, as if everything is not about to change.


At the office, Dr. Lieb—Adam to me—is hunched over the fax machine, jiggling it, the paper jammed. The thrum of its electricity beats inside me, like blood in my veins. If he tugs too hard, the fax—thin as laboratory-grown skin—will rip, and he’ll say “shit” and then look around as though he’s killed someone’s pet kitten. I marvel at how capable he is with patients, such steady hands, and how inept he is with the simplest of office equipment (and women).

He hasn’t caught sight of me yet. I’m about to impose myself between him and the machine, to keep him from breaking it, when Helen, party pooper on any moment that resembles intimacy, hurries into the office and flicks on the fluorescents. I cringe against their light.

“Oh, good lord, you two scared me,” she says, but scowls at me, as though her fright is my fault. She steps up so close to Adam that if he were to turn too quickly they might kiss. He frowns and almost hops backwards, which pleases me. When Helen has something to deliver to my desk, she drops it in a hurry, as though I am leprous. You can’t catch this, I want to tell her. But sometimes, I wish I could disfigure people with the slightest look.

“I’m glad you’re here early, Dr. Lieb, I need to consult with you,” she says, and touches a hand coyly to her businesslike bun. Behind her is a poster of the human musculature system, the body looking like a victim of torture, flayed down to tender bits.

He scowls at the fax and looks quickly at me with a plea in his eyes.

“I’ve got it,” I say, a knowing smile twisted on my lips. “Go ahead.”

I expect him to attend to Helen’s insistence—but to my surprise he pushes his dark brown bangs, always an inch too long, out of his eyes and sighs. “Helen, if it can wait? I need to talk to Grace.”

The princess snubbed for the toad. I try not to do a victory dance. Helen buttons it up and strides into the front office like a third place runner-up in a beauty contest.

I put my hands on the fax machine as a cue that I’m going to take over, and he slides his own away, before we can chance a touch. And oh, the kinds of touches we actually make are nothing like what passes through my mind: his callused fingers on the few smooth places left on my body: between my thighs, at the back of my neck as it curves into my spine.

“You’re here early,” he says, jarring me out of my fantasy. This is one of those moments when I’m glad it’s hard to read the expressions on my face. His smile etches a groove into his forehead, fanning out crow’s feet deeper than a thirty-nine-year-old man should have.

“I wanted to say goodbye to Hera before I got here,” I say, thinking of her keen eyes, the way she gazed calmly at me as though we were more alike than not.

He shakes his head in sympathy. Sometimes, a bird, even one as wild as the bald eagle, refuses to go from the Drake’s Bay Wildlife center, and I’m secretly glad even though I know that a life locked in a mesh-covered cage is no life for a wild animal. I see enough of their bloodied carcasses during my weekly volunteer visits. Surrounded as we are by reckless bird and rodent life in our little town, I’m glad I don’t drive.

“I’ll watch out for her,” he says. This makes me nervous; he’s already a distracted driver, the kind prone to missing his exit and running over curbs (though no people, yet) because he’s focused on thoughts of his work.

Before he has to ask, I pop the button, releasing the jammed paper, and his face softens with gratitude, as though I’ve laid a cure for cancer in his lap.

“What did you need to talk to me about?” I ask then, recalling his dismissal of Helen.

He dims whatever he’s viewing on his inner scope and turns his focus on me. “I said yes to a low-cost vaccination clinic next weekend. I was hoping you’d come keep me company, though I know you prefer the beasts to the people,” he says with the hint of a grin.

“You’re lucky you need me.” I shake a fist in mock-anger.

He does too much. It’s why his dark hair is tufted with early gray. My hands itch to smooth the wrinkles gathered at his shoulders, but I don’t dare for many reasons, psychosomatic pain and visions notwithstanding; sometimes I’m afraid of my own impulse control, that it will start as a dusting of lint and the next thing he knows I’ve got his torn open shirt in my hands.

“Oh come on,” I say, “It’s not that you want me there so much as you don’t want to sic Helen’s Imperial Attitude on the undeserving public.”

His smirk is a smile fighting itself, then quickly becomes a chuckle. “I’m awful to laugh,” he says.

What am I, then?

“Well, your taste in employees is a little questionable, I mean look at me.” I wish I could nudge him in the shoulder as casually as any other co-worker.

“Come on now,” he says. “You keep us all in line.”

Is that all? What do I expect him to say: “I can’t live without you”?

“Actually, there’s something else,” he says, and an old man’s worries shine through his young face—like his father handed down decades of anxiety along with his practice. “Do you know Jana Horowitz? She used to run that little consignment store downtown?”

I do know her—she has wild fly-away hair and lipstick that is never confined by her lips, always handing out home remedies and folk cures along with cheap clothing. I nod.

“She’s technically a patient here,” he says.

“What do you mean ‘technically’?”

“Well, she never comes in. But when pain in her abdomen got to be too much, her daughter goaded her into a blood panel and a CT Scan. Turns out she’s got cancer. Bad cancer.”

“As opposed to the kind and gentle version, you mean?”

“Haha.” He sticks his tongue out. “The problem is, she intends to treat it with vinegar and trips to her energy healer.” If Nurse Helen could see him like this, maybe her love of order would protest; maybe she’d stop standing so close to him.

“Oh yeah, those terrible energy healers with their mighty crystals and all-powerful chakra clearing kits,” I say. Yet I suddenly picture hearty Jana Horowitz whittling down like the flayed-open muscle man in the poster, a skeleton with a tumbleweed of hair.

Adam is used to my irreverence and knows when to press on to finish his point. “Her daughter wants me to talk her into treatment. I just… Grace, I’ll never get used to this Northern California attitude, where people think of medicine as a last resort. And I’m not saying it’s all crap, but this is cancer. She needs chemotherapy.”

“So what can I do to help?” I ask.

He smiles. “Talk to her.”

“Me? I’m not even a nurse.”

“But you could do your thing where you crack a little joke, break the ice, and then lay the seriousness on her. Let her know that all the folk remedies in the world won’t cure cancer, and what the consequences look like.”

It’s a painful death. I know this much from patients who pass through our doors, happy to have appointments for things that don’t involve radiation or poisons pumped through their veins. But I’m stunned he’s asking this of me. After the fire, I read all the stories I could find of spontaneous healings among monks and yogis and even civilians in near-death accidents. There were nights when I tried to conjure that same energy, holding my mother’s cats down, determined to heal their fight-born wounds, half serious about trying it on myself next.

The office phone rings then—a horrible seventies jangling sound, because Adam-the-Frugal still refuses to upgrade the phone system his father put into place.

“Don’t answer it yet,” he says, his hand reaching out as though to stop me but then he reels it in, remembering, and I swear I can feel the heat of his hand where it nearly caressed me. “We’re not open for another half hour.”

I nod, liking the way we feel in cahoots.

There’s a mechanical click as the old-fashioned answering machine begins, and we look at each other gleefully, as though we are hiding from someone, like Marly and I used to do after antagonizing a local boy.

“I’m calling to inform your office that my grandmother…” The woman’s voice splinters, and in its husky timber I swear I know her. The air in the office suddenly feels heavy. I remember the way my hands were hot this morning, and now all the patchwork parts of me light up with similar heat.

The woman clears her throat. “I’m sorry. My grandmother, Oona Donovan, has passed away.” Her voice is husky with grief. “Obviously, she won’t be able to make her appointment today. And you can cancel any others. Also, um, if anyone from your office wants to uh, pay regards, the funeral is tomorrow. Anthem Church. 5:00 p.m.”

Oona Donovan. That name, or more specifically the voice speaking it, burrows straight through me, unearthing Marly Kennet, and my last glimpse of her thirteen years ago through a veil of flames.

I am surprised to feel tears at the backs of my eyes, as I lean into the counter for support. For the eight years I’ve worked for Adam, Oona Donovan has come in for run-of-the-mill medications to battle the ailments of aging; sat, fidgeting in the waiting room, casting glances my direction but saying nothing, her face full of unasked questions. On a couple of occasions I came close to asking her if we could have tea, so I could put my hands on hers and see if the truth of where Marly went and why she never contacted me would come rushing through her skin.

“Grace? Did I upset you by asking you to talk to Jana?” Adam inches his hand toward me as though to stroke mine, but of course he can’t offer the kind of comfort I need. No powerful hug, no tender placing of his palm on my shoulder. The doctors say the pain I feel upon contact, and worse, the visions, are all just psychosomatic, PTSD gone unchecked, but it feels damn real to me.

“No, it’s just, I knew that woman,” I say. “The one who left a message about her grandmother. Marly Kennet.”

My former best friend. She’s in town. She must know I work for Adam; her grandmother would have told her. That phone call was meant for me: a coward’s invitation. This knowledge of her presence is an almost chemical feeling—like we are magnetic particles destined to scuttle together. What is it about that girl that she says “leap” and you’re already in the air? Ma’s voice from years ago.

I walk away from Adam and drop into my chair, dragged far away from this moment. I’m no longer twenty-eight but fifteen. Marly, staring down an oncoming car, wild blonde hair in stark silhouette. Me, tugging on her arm, pleading for her to move. In recalling her, I can remember what it felt like when my skin flexed with ease, when the pores on the top half of my body could sweat. When I had hair and both eyebrows.

“Marly. Why does that name sound familiar?” Adam says.

I’ve never spoken to him about her, not even to the people in my burn group.  I used to say her name to myself, the ‘M’ a smooth ride, tasting the ‘R’ on my tongue, her name a wave rolling over me just like she did, knocking me down, then righting me again.

“She was the one,” I say to Adam. “With me, the night of the fire.”

The only one who really knows what happened to me.


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Genre – Psychological Suspense

Rating – R

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