Release Blitz for Tiki Torches and Treasure (Gabe Maxfield Mysteries #2) by J.C. Long (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Tiki Torches and Treasure

Series: Gabe Maxfield Mysteries, Book 2

Author: J.C Long

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: November 6, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 60000

Genre: Contemporary, contemporary gay, romance, private detective, cozy mystery, law enforcement, Hawaii, humor

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Synopsis

Gabe Maxfield has reached a comfortable point in his life. His past troubles in Seattle are all but forgotten, he co-owns his own business, Paradise Investigations, with his best friend Grace Park, and he’s happy in his relationship with sexy cop—his neighbor—Maka Kekoa. Maybe the best part is, no one’s pointed a gun at him in weeks.

Knowing his luck, that is bound to change. Lack of clients and money forces Paradise Investigations to take a job helping Edwin Biers search for a treasure he promises will be worth their while. Gabe has a knack for finding trouble, though, and find it, he does.

Excerpt

Tiki Torches and Treasure
J.C. Long © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

I was drowning.

Salt water burned my nose as I flailed my arms and legs in the ocean, trying desperately to reorient myself. Every time I started to surface, the ocean waves broke over me again and again. I was done for.

When I finally surfaced and the water drained from my ears, I could hear my companions laughing at my expense—my best friend, Grace Park, sounded like she was going to asphyxiate herself from laughing too hard. My boyfriend, Maka Kekoa, at least had the decency to attempt to hide his laughter from me.

“I’m glad my near-death causes you such amusement,” I growled, glaring at them as best I could with salt water from the Pacific Ocean stinging my eyes. “I knew surfing lessons from you two was a bad idea.”

The three of us were floating in the ocean a ways off from the shore of Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, the city I now called home. Well, I was floating in the ocean, which was where I seemed to spend all my time in these lessons. Maka and Grace effortlessly straddled surfboards, Maka also keeping a tight grip on mine so it didn’t get swept away by the waves.

“Don’t get frustrated,” Maka told me supportively once he’d schooled his face to mask his laughter. “No one does it well on their first try. It’s kind of like sex.”

I didn’t take much comfort from his words.

“How about the four-hundredth time?” I grumbled, swimming to the surfboard. I managed to heave my body onto it, feeling the sun warm my skin. I’d gotten tan in my month of being out and about in the constant sunshine of Hawaii, and my hair had gotten longer, almost enough to give me the surfer image. Now if I could just stay on the damn board.

“Don’t be grouchy, Gabe,” Grace chided, splashing water my way. She looked beautiful in the morning sunlight, her dark skin glistening. She wore a teal bikini that showed off her trim, fit form, toned from a lifetime of exercise and the surfing she’d taken up in Hawaii. She was half Hawaiian and half Korean, which is what drew her to Hawaii after we both graduated college in Washington.

“We’ve been at this for two weeks, and I have improved exactly zero percent.” I probably sounded like a whiny kid complaining to them, but I couldn’t help it. I hated not being good at something. “I think I’m just not meant to be a surfer.”

“Everybody’s meant to be a surfer,” Maka said, as if I’d made the most ridiculous remark ever. Grace nodded her head in emphatic agreement.

“Easy for you to say,” I scoffed, flailing my arms wildly as a wave nearly displaced me from my board again. “You were a professional surfer, remember? And you,” I rounded on Grace, “were basically born incapable of being bad at something. Me… I’m just me.”

It felt strange having a pity party in the ocean on a beautiful mid-October morning. Hawaii was paradise in a lot of ways—the sunshine seemed constant, and at a time when Seattle would already be plunging into a chill that heralded winter, it was warm and pleasant in Hawaii. I wasn’t a morning person, though, and Maka and Grace insisted we have these lessons before work. That meant we were usually in the ocean by a quarter to seven.

“You’re more than ‘just you’ to me, babe,” Maka assured me with a wink, making me blush.

Maka was full-blooded native Hawaiian, and he had the complexion to prove it, bronzed by a life spent frolicking in the sun and waves. He had broad shoulders and narrow hips and was taller than my five foot eight, with perfect black hair and lush, full lips that were utterly kissable. His deep brown eyes always seemed to twinkle, as if a powerful light danced behind them.

“Ugh.” Grace rolled her eyes and pretended to gag.

“You’re jealous,” I teased, sticking my tongue out at her.

“Jealous of you having to eat the same meal every night, so to speak? I don’t think so.”

“Hey, if I could eat prime rib every night, I would,” I said.

“Did you really just compare me to ribs?” Maka asked flatly.

“Huh? What? No—I was referring to eating the same meal every night…” I trailed off, realizing how it must have sounded to Maka, even though I didn’t mean it that way.

“If I’m anything,” Maka went on firmly, “I’m loco moco.”

I gaped at him for a moment. He had a problem with being called prime rib, but wanted to be a rice bowl topped with a hamburger, a fried egg, and gravy.

“Actually,” I said after a moment, “I can see that.” And I could. Loco moco was something you wanted to splurge on, something that was decadent, almost sinful. That description fit Maka to the letter.

I tried to give him a smoldering look, but a rogue wave rocked under me, catching me off guard and dumping me once more into the sea.

“Can we please call it a day now?” I pleaded once I was back on my board.

Grace looked like she was in no hurry to bring my suffering to an end, but Maka took pity and checked his watch.

“Actually, we should call it a day. I still need to shower and get to work. It’s going on nine, now; I can only justify going in so late a few times a week, or the chief gets pissy.”

“We also have office hours,” I reminded Grace for what felt like the tenth time that week. She was really good at what she did—we were private investigators—but she didn’t have the mindset necessary to run a business. That had been handled by her partner before me, and Grace was still getting the hang of being in charge of both sides of the business. Well, partially, since we equally shared ownership and those responsibilities.

“This is what we have a secretary for,” Grace pointed out, though she reluctantly began paddling to shore, Maka and I following suit.

“Poor Hayley’s only been with us for a week,” I panted, tired from the lesson and making it back to shore. “Give her a break.”

“Best way for her to learn is to just throw her into the pool,” Grace said once we were back ashore.

I didn’t respond immediately; I was too busy sucking in sweet, sweet oxygen and hoping my wobbly legs didn’t give out as I trudged through the hot, sun-baked sand to the place we’d left our towels.

“I guess it doesn’t matter so much,” I said when I could. “Business has been pretty slow since we hired her. Not good, considering the office we’ve got now. Rent’s a bitch.”

When I’d agreed to be Grace’s partner at the private investigation firm she’d been co-partner in, Paradise Investigations, I helped finance a move to a new building, worlds nicer than the one she’d been in before.

We’d had a keen interest in us the first week or so after the move, considering how we were constantly in the news regarding the murder mystery I’d solved to get Grace off a murder charge. The interest had died down in the following weeks; as it stood now, we hadn’t taken on a new client in five days, and we’d finished the current projects three days before, which meant three days of no billable hours, and thus no money coming in.

“We could always fire her,” Grace suggested, tossing me my towel. “It’d be one less salary we needed to pay.”

“That doesn’t seem right,” I said, though I’d probably consider it after another week of no income being earned. “I’m sure we’ll get by.”

“We could always take an ad out on TV,” Grace suggested suddenly.

“Isn’t that tacky?” Maka wrinkled his nose a bit.

Grace shielded her eyes from the sun, squinting at Maka. “It’s not like we’re lawyers.”

“Even if it isn’t tacky, we can’t afford it,” I reminded her as I wrapped my towel around my waist and gathered my board under my arm for the trek back to our cars. “We’re going to have to pray someone comes in and offers us a job that isn’t finding a lost cat or staking out seedy motels—something we can get some money out of.”

Grace grunted, her spirits somewhat dampened by my pragmatism, but I knew she would get over it. This was our relationship, often consisting of her being flighty and dreamy and me being the cord that pulled her—sometimes forcefully—back down to earth.

“Okay, I’ve got to go,” Maka said when we reached his car. “Already running late.”

“See,” I said, pausing long enough to take a quick kiss on the lips—though I wanted much, much more than a quick kiss—before continuing. “This is yet another good reason we should just stop these morning surfing lessons.”

“Not gonna happen. Seeing you dripping wet is worth being late to work.”

And again, in the space of ten minutes, I blushed.

“You two are disgusting,” Grace muttered.

“Shut up, Grace.”

Purchase

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Meet the Author

J.C. Long is an American expat living in Japan, though he’s also lived stints in Seoul, South Korea—no, he’s not an army brat; he’s an English teacher. He is also quite passionate about Welsh corgis and is convinced that anyone who does not like them is evil incarnate. His dramatic streak comes from his life-long involvement in theater. After living in several countries aside from the United States J. C. is convinced that love is love, no matter where you are, and is determined to write stories that demonstrate exactly that. J. C. Long’s favorite things in the world are pictures of corgis, writing and Korean food (not in that order…okay, in that order). J. C. spends his time not writing thinking about writing, coming up with new characters, attending Big Bang concerts and wishing he was writing. The best way to get him to write faster is to motivate him with corgi pictures. Yes, that is a veiled hint.

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A Julia Review: Addict (The Cassie Tam Files #1) by Matt Doyle

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

New Hopeland was built to be the centre of the technological age, but like everywhere else, it has its dark side. Assassins, drug dealers and crooked businessmen form a vital part of the city’s make-up, and sometimes, the police are in too deep themselves to be effective. But hey, there are always other options …

For P.I. Cassie Tam, business has been slow. So, when she’s hired to investigate the death of a local VR addict named Eddie Redwood, she thinks it’ll be easy money. All she has to do is prove to the deceased’s sister Lori that the local P.D. were right to call it an accidental overdose. The more she digs though, the more things don’t seem to sit right, and soon, Cassie finds herself knee deep in a murder investigation. But that’s just the start of her problems.

When the case forces Cassie to make contact with her drug dealing ex-girlfriend, Charlie Goldman, she’s left with a whole lot of long buried personal issues to deal with. Then there’s her client. Lori Redwood is a Tech Shifter, someone who uses a metal exoskeleton to roleplay as an animal. Cassie isn’t one to judge, but the Tech Shifting community has always left her a bit nervous. That wouldn’t be a problem if Lori wasn’t fast becoming the first person that she’s been genuinely attracted to since splitting with Charlie. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of the police wanting her to back off the case.

Easy money, huh? Yeah, right.

Addict by Matt Doyle is going to be the first volume in a series about P.I. Cassie Tam and the cases she will find herself confronted with. I was especially curious to see how the author would handle the mixing between Sci-Fi and Fantasy elements. As it turns out, I was not going to be disappointed.

The story takes place in a not-too-distant-future-version of our world where technology has advanced to play an even more prominent role in people’s everyday lives. I very much appreciated the approach the author has taken to introduce the reader to his world: by show, not tell. For the most part we simply get to witness how the characters interact with the technology that surrounds them. Here and there the protagonist Cassie Tam, from whose perspective the story is told, will offer an explanation as to how and why certain technological as well societal developments have taken place. The world-building is pretty solid and one can see that the author put a lot of thought into creating a sensible connection between the past (in other words our current time period) and the present in which the novel takes place. It was interesting to discover the numerous and imaginative ways humans have attempted to improve their lifestyles through various gadgets and applications – some with rather questionable success.

I took a liking to Cassie from the beginning because of her direct, nonchalant attitude and demeanour. She is not some kind of newbie but has already a number of successful cases under her belt at this point and it shows. Therefore, she has confidence in her abilities and methods to get things done while on the other hand, there is the occasional blast from the past Cassie is forced to deal with.

Lori (or Ink as she is known in her animal form) is a Tech Shifter who can take on the shape of a panther. I found it very interesting to learn about this more recently emerged group of individuals that have formed their own kind of subculture at this point. The author did a good job in giving the reader some insight into their historical development, technological workings and position within current society. Lori herself is a woman of strong character and conviction who nonetheless needs a way from time to time to escape the harsh and corrupt reality that simmers beneath the surface of New Hopeland. She finds this kind of comfort by changing into her animal form and I appreciated how honestly she admits as much.

The two women play well off each other and the ever so playful, slightly cynical way the two interact with one another was fun to witness as well as the gradual development of their relationship amidst the dangerous events unfolding around them. 

The crime story itself is well-paced and not lacking in suspenseful moments as well as peculiar and interesting individuals that Cassie has to deal with in one way or another. Sometimes I might have liked even a bit more details on characters, their looks and living conditions. All in all, this novel represented an enjoyable read and solid start for a new series and I am looking forward to reading about Cassie’s next case.

The cover art by Natasha Snow is not mind-blowing but it still looks nice and since this volume is intended to be the first in a series focusing on Cassie Tam, it seems appropriate to display her on the cover itself. Nevertheless, I would have very much enjoyed seeing a drawing of Ink or another Tech Shifter.

Sales Links

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aBook Details:

ebook, 149 pages

Published May 8, 2017

by NineStar Press

ISBN: 978-1-947139-03-9

Edition Language: English

Matt Doyle Talks Play Lists and his latest release ‘Addict’ (guest post, excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Addict

Series: The Cassie Tam Files, book 1

Author: Matt Doyle

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 8, 2017

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 56000

Genre: science fiction, Sci-fi, futuristic, addiction, friends to lovers, private detective, lesbian

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Book Playlist by Matt Doyle

So, when I wrote Addict, I had a lot of different songs playing in the background, and each one played for different reasons. In fact, there were times that I was playing one or two songs on loop while writing certain scenes because they just felt ‘right’ for that moment. I’ll put a link to the list at the bottom of the post, but in the meantime, these are the songs that I was using:

New Hopeland City Themes

These are the songs that resonated with me in terms of reminding me of the book’s setting. New Hopeland was built to be a sign of hope for the future, but it fell into corruption quite quickly. That being the case, two songs by Canada’s The Tea Party spring to mind. Both Babylon and Temptation offer a good representation of how the city is for those that live there. Musically, they have a tech infused industrial feel to them, and they lyrically deal with the things that New Hopeland’s darker underbelly thrives on: tempting and seducing others, and the idea of falling low. If I was writing a scene that specifically dealt with glimpses into this side of the city, then these were my go to tracks. At the same time though, the city was always intended to be a positive, and many still try to make it as good as it can be. There hits a point for all of them where they need to decide whether to give in to the corruption or say, “Hey, I’m doing things my way.” In terms of that lingering feeling of hope and trying to be what they want to be rather than what the city wants them to be, I always hear Round Here by Counting Crows, in particular the extended live versions. There’s just something about Adam Duritz’s voice when he performs this live that really takes you on a journey and sucks you into it all.

Cassie Tam Themes

Cassie is such a joy to write because there are a lot of layers to her. Depending on who she’s speaking to or what she’s set out to achieve at any given time, there’s just so much to her, and I love that. Part of her character has been shaped by various tragic events, both in her distant and recent past. Being a Chinese-Canadian, I found that I stuck with The Tea Party for representation of that, in particular the track Walking Wounded, as I felt that Cassie really was walking wounded at times, especially in terms of letting people get close to her. Next is Second Chance by Shinedown. This one really plays into Cassie’s distant past and in particular her relationship with her mother and how that was affected by the way that she lives her life, at least in terms of her approach to her job. Shinedown are actually a band that gets mentioned directly by Cassie as one of her favourites too, and that is because she remains hopeful that she can be a good person. Shinedown’s lyrics here really encompass that. The other band that she mentions is The Wildhearts and I often turned to Geordie in Wonderland by them as a Cassie Song. Again, the song deals with taking the good and the bad, and there’s something wonderfully endearing about this live version with the crowd taking the lead.

Lori Redwood Themes

At the start of the book, Lori is confused by her brother’s death. She’s hurting, but she’s reaching out and trying to uncover the truth and to understand what happened. Alone You Breathe by Savatage always put me in this frame of mind when I needed to deal with Lori’s views in that regard. In sticking with the same band, Back To A Reason actually felt very representative of Cassie’s journey with Lori for me, from the giving what she could with the case, to the questioning of herself that Lori caused, and in the end the resolution of the heavier themes into admitting what you feel. By the end of the book, I see Lori as a character in Heal My Wounds by Poets of the Fall. She’s in a delicate state, and everything is teetering on the edge, but she can heal her wounds if she wants to try.

General Songs

Finally, there were a couple of tracks that I listened to a lot while writing the book, each far different reasons. Last Ride Of The Day by Nightwish was a constant favourite because it summed up part of the story for me. The idea of life being a bit of Carnival with so many acts going on, but trying to find ways to enjoy it and embracing what you can in it. Also by the Finnish rockers, was Storytime, a song about discovering yourself and what is important to you through the stories that you read. In the same way, Cassie has to discover what matter to her through the story that she’s living by investigating Lori’s case.

So, there you have it: The music that helped shape Cassie Tam and her world. If you want to check the songs out, then you can find the playlist here:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1P5KltuBriLysLz7hPmsIm57QZ9I7AqL

Synopsis

New Hopeland was built to be the centre of the technological age, but like everywhere else, it has its dark side. Assassins, drug dealers and crooked businessmen form a vital part of the city’s make-up, and sometimes, the police are in too deep themselves to be effective. But hey, there are always other options …

For P.I. Cassie Tam, business has been slow. So, when she’s hired to investigate the death of a local VR addict named Eddie Redwood, she thinks it’ll be easy money. All she has to do is prove to the deceased’s sister Lori that the local P.D. were right to call it an accidental overdose. The more she digs though, the more things don’t seem to sit right, and soon, Cassie finds herself knee deep in a murder investigation. But that’s just the start of her problems.

When the case forces Cassie to make contact with her drug dealing ex-girlfriend, Charlie Goldman, she’s left with a whole lot of long buried personal issues to deal with. Then there’s her client. Lori Redwood is a Tech Shifter, someone who uses a metal exoskeleton to roleplay as an animal. Cassie isn’t one to judge, but the Tech Shifting community has always left her a bit nervous. That wouldn’t be a problem if Lori wasn’t fast becoming the first person that she’s been genuinely attracted to since splitting with Charlie. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of the police wanting her to back off the case.

Easy money, huh? Yeah, right.

Excerpt

Addict
Matt Doyle © 2017
All Rights Reserved

I always did like Venetian blinds. There’s something quaint about them in a retro-tacky kinda way. Plus, they’re pretty useful for sneaking a peek out the front of the building if I feel the need. That’s something that you just can’t do with the solid, immovable metal slats that come as a standard in buildings these days. That said, a thick sheet of steel is gonna offer you a damn sight more security than thin, bendable vinyl, so I keep mine installed. Just in case.

Another round of knocking rattles the front door, louder this time than the one that woke me.

The clock says 23:47, and the unfamiliar low-end car out front screams “Don’t notice me, I’m not worth your time,” which makes for the perfect combo to stir up the paranoia that the evening’s beer and horror-film session left behind. This is my own fault. My adverts are pretty descriptive in terms of telling what I do: lost pets, cheating partners, theft, protection, retrieval of people and items, other odds and sods that the city’s finest won’t touch…I’ve got ways to deal with it all. That’s right, I’m a real odd-job gal. The one thing that I don’t put in there are business hours. The way I see it, even the missing pet cases usually leave me wandering the streets at half-past reasonable, so what’s the point in asking people to call between certain hours?

More knocking, followed this time by the squeak of my letter box and a voice. “Hello? Cassandra Tam?”

It’s funny, really. For all the tech advances that the world has made, no one has been able to improve upon the simple open-and-shut letter box. I stumble my way through the dark and wave dismissively at the frosted glass. The light switch and the keypad for the door lock are conveniently placed right next to each other on the wall to the right of the door, so welcoming my apparent guest is a nice, easy affair. The lock clicks a moment after the lights flood the room, and I pull the door open.

“Cassie,” I say, turning and skulking my way back into the room. “Or Caz. Drop the Tam.”

I hear a sniff behind me, and the lady from the letter box asks, “Are you drunk?”

“If I pass out in the next five minutes, then yes,” I reply, turning the kettle on. I’d left it full, ready for the morning, but I guess this is close enough. “Take a seat at the table. Would you prefer tea or coffee? I’d offer beer, but since I reek of it, I guess I must’ve finished it.”

Footsteps creep unapologetically across the room, and a chair squeaks on the floor. Good. If you can’t deal with a snarky response to something, don’t say it all, and if you can deal with it, then as far as I’m concerned you don’t need to apologise.

“Coffee,” the lady says. “So, do you always see potential clients in your underwear, or is it just my lucky day?” Her voice has a slightly playful edge to it, but with a sarcastic kick to round it off.

The business portion of my apartment comprises entirely of a small open-plan room separating my kitchen from my living room. And by open plan, I mean an allotted space that encroaches on both territories but is conveniently large enough to house what I need. Or, in other words, a table, four chairs, and nothing else. Since filing went near entirely digital, filing cabinets have pretty much become obsolete, so the two that I found dumped outside the building when I bought the place currently live in my bedroom, and contain a mix of quick access work stuff and personal files I’d rather not have floating on the net. Most things, though, I store electronically, the same as everything else.

I rarely use the business table to eat, read, or any of that junk, so until this evening it’s been entirely empty for a good few weeks. The lady sitting there now is studying me, I can see, and probably wondering if this was a mistake. Whatever she may have expected, a Chinese-Canadian gal of average height in a cami top and a loose pair of sleep shorts most likely wasn’t it. For what it’s worth, though, I’m studying her just the same. She’s a lithe-looking thing, dressed in a casual pair of jeans and a plain black fitted top under a leather jacket. If the metal plugs running down her shaven head like a shiny, rubber-tipped Mohawk weren’t a giveaway for what she is, the light scarring punctuating the outer edges of her pale blue eyes certainly would be. She’s a Tech Shifter, and like most of her ilk, she looks like a punk rocker gone cyborg.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Matt Doyle lives in the South East of England and shares his home with a wide variety of people and animals, as well as a fine selection of teas. He has spent his life chasing dreams, a habit which has seen him gain success in a great number of fields. To date, this has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler, completing a range of cosplay projects, and publishing multiple works of fiction.

These days, Matt can be found working on far too many novels at once, blogging about anime, comics, and games, and plotting and planning what other things he’ll be doing to take up what little free time he has.

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Release Day Blitz: The Visionary by Charli Coty (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  The Visionary

Author: Charli Coty

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 30

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 78600

Genre: Romance, NineStar Press, paranormal, age gap, gay, LGBT, ESP, erotic romance, private detective

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Synopsis

Colin Page, eighteen-year-old community college student, apple polisher and all-around goody-goody, has a secret. He sees things that aren’t there. Unfortunately, the Doc Martens on the floor of the mail vestibule in his apartment building really are there and attached to a dead body. Hunkered over the body is someone Colin had barely noticed before, Private Investigator Al Green. Most people scare Colin, but for some reason, Al doesn’t, even after he reveals that he knows about the hidden reality of their world.

Alonzo Green, despite his low-power mind, is determined to help right the wrongs he unknowingly contributed to. He’s also hopelessly smitten. He knows it’s wrong—probably even dangerous—to enlist Colin’s help with the investigation. And that’s before considering all Al has to fear from Colin’s fiercely protective and powerful mother.

Colin and Al put some of the pieces together, but as soon as one thing becomes clear, the picture changes. The search for the Big Bad takes them from Portland to Tacoma and Seattle, and eventually to San Francisco, but their journey into each other’s arms is much shorter.

Excerpt

The Visionary

Charli Coty © 2017

All Rights Reserved

Colin always hesitated before getting into the rickety old elevator. It didn’t seem safe to ride in something, even four floors, if you could see the individual boards―which looked suspiciously similar to two-by-fours―vibrating. Or maybe it had more to do with the dust, grime, and cobwebs coating every visible surface, or maybe the preconceived notion he’d had that college would be different from high school. He held his breath and stepped in as the door closed.

He looked around, and thought he was alone in the lobby until he’d made it halfway to the front door. Someone cursed, and Colin turned to see a pair of black Doc Martens lying on the floor, partially sticking out from the mailbox alcove. He recognized the white symbols hand drawn on the backs of the heels. The guy who owned those boots―Tattoo Guy―lived in the building, but he and Colin hadn’t done more than nod hello. Colin’s mom had warned him time and again not to talk to anyone in the building because he’d be dragged into some drama or other, and he needed to focus on school. Maybe Tattoo Guy was hurt and needed help. He couldn’t just leave.

He reached the juncture of the hallway and the alcove housing the tarnished little brass doors to everyone’s mailboxes and saw another familiar someone. The large man was hunkered down beside Tattoo Guy. He wore battered jeans and steel-toed boots with a hole in the leather of one toe. The neck of his dark-green T-shirt was stretched out of shape, and his black leather jacket looked a half size too small. Colin struggled to come up with a word to describe him but couldn’t think of an antonym to doppelganger. That man was everything Colin was not, especially tall and dark.

“What’s that purple mist?” Colin asked, startling himself. He never spoke to strangers, especially not about―

“It’s more a fog.”

Odd. The man didn’t seem surprised. It did remind Colin of pictures of fog rolling in around the Golden Gate Bridge. Only these misty tendrils were purple and gradually disappeared as they moved farther away from Tattoo Guy.

“Why won’t you answer me?”

“What else do you see?” He turned slightly toward Colin but remained hunkered down, studying Tattoo Guy but not touching him.

“Nothing.” Colin blinked, and that fast, it wasn’t true anymore. “Crap, his tattoo just moved.”

“The raven?”

“No. The flower.” The purple tendrils had decayed so much they’d stopped diverting Colin’s attention from the blood on Tattoo Guy’s arm and the back of his shirt. He was obviously more than hurt.

“The violet moved?”

“It slapped the cymbal. I heard it.” Colin thought about running, but his feet refused to move.

“Anything else?”

“Like what?”

“It’d help if one of them named the killer.” The large man stood slowly and brushed off his hands. A little over six feet tall and slightly bulky, his long shaggy hair and full beard shot through with gray made him look like a street person. “Some of these tats have mouths. Are they saying anything?”

“What?” Colin took a step back. “Aren’t you going to call the police?”

“Already have. But I plan on starting an investigation of my own. The police are busy. If he doesn’t have any family to make noise―and I know he doesn’t―they won’t put much effort into finding out who killed him.”

“Why do you think someone killed him?”

“Murder is purple.” He slowly reached into his jacket and smiled as he brought out a pastel-green business card. “I’m a private investigator. Al Green.”

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Meet the Author

Charli misspent a large chunk of her youth on the back of a Harley, meeting people and having adventures that sometimes pop up in her fiction. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during a drought, and found her true home in the soggy Pacific Northwest. Charli has survived earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods, but couldn’t make it through one day without stories.

Charli Coty is a pseudonym of the author known as Charley Descoteaux.

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