Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"When We Are Not Trying to Kill Each Other" - A conversation between Rex and Lara from Jill Cooper's 'Plugged'

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Rex Montgomery is the chief villain in the ewind Agency Series and Lara Crane is the hero in the story. Despite their better judgement, they have agreed to interview each other in a segment we have entitled When We Are Not Trying to Kill Each Other. 

Lara The Interviewer: I gotta say, this is weird. 

Rex: Stranger is that I’m your distant uncle. And, spoiler, I tried to kill your mother. Or did kill your mother, if we’re talking alternate timelines. 

Lara: I’m the one conducting the interview, so for once, how about you just shut up? 

Rex: Is that a question? I can’t even tell. *Smirk*
Lara: You’ve aligned yourself with Patricia James, a woman who wants to use time travel for her own purposes. To get ahead. Why did you decide to do that and not go in business doing something else? Like work with your brother, Jax? 

Rex: *Laughter* Other than money you mean?
Lara: It can’t just be about money. 

Rex: Oh, yes it very well can, Lara dear. Money makes the world go around. It fans the flame inside my heart. I’m too lazy to earn it any way else. We all have our limits and our plans. I always knew greatness was right around the corner for me. Jax was happy with a normal life. That’s his problem, not mine. 

Lara: So you have money. Gobs of it. What else do you want? 

Rex: Power. Women. The basics. 

Lara: And you think this is the best way to get it? 

Rex: Yes, and it’s working so far. I do have you, don’t I? Locked in a little cage. With aflick of a few fingers, I can instill as much pain on you as I want… 

Lara: Not right now, we’re on a time out. Remember? 

Rex: *sulks* I forgot. But when I get you back in that cage… 

Lara: You can’t be just a villain. There must be something good about you. 

Rex: Things are not so black and white. I’m not a villain. I…seize opportunity. And right now, Lara, when I look into your eyes, I see dollar signs. And dollar signs make my heart do this little pitter-patter thing that I quite enjoy. 

Lara: Like I said, villain….

Plugged: A Rewind Agency Novel

Lara Crane is stuck in her mind, in an indefinite stream of timelines where her life is perfect, just the way she wants it to be. But it's not real. It's all made up to give those who want to use time travel for their own personal ambitions. To give time to finish their experiments and turn Lara into a deadly time travel assassin.

If Lara wants to survive and to stop them, she needs to risk her own mind and soul to get out of a prison so perfect it completes the one dream Lara has always had.  


Preorder on Amazon for $2.99!

Read book 1 - 15 Minutes

jillcooperAbout the Author:

I could write this in the third person. I could tell you what I like, where I was born, and what my favorite things are.

But instead, I'll say I don't want to write like everyone else. I don't want to craft stories you've read a thousand times before. I want my novels to be a cinematic experience, blending themes, genres, and situations unlike any you've ever read.

I want to break the rules. I want you to break out in a cold sweat as you read my books out of fear, love, and excitement. I want my books to be an experience. When you finish, I want you to feel something. Good or bad.

If you do, then I'll have succeeded. If not, I'll keep trying.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

'Hometown Girls' by Tressa Messenger

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hometown girlLife for Marissa Lou was great. She was a popular senior in high school with great friends and an even greater boyfriend. She was on top of the world. That was until she made the greatest sacrifice of her life.

Daniel and Katie both loved Marissa Lou but neither of them could deny the intensity of their growing affection for one another, no matter how hard they tried to fight it.

Being the selfless person she was, Marissa Lou gave Katie and Daniel her permission to date. Little did she know it would be the first day of a hellish nightmare. One where, in her depression, she falls from grace and gets mixed up in a life she never would have expected.

With a growing addiction she fights to right everything that went so wrong, but will it be too late?

Buy on 
Amazon | Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing

About the author:

tressa-2Tressa Messenger grew up in a very small town in Eastern North Carolina called Reelsboro in a coastal county called Pamlico. Being as it was such a small area Tressa developed an immense imagination at a young age. That is where she harnessed her love for writing. To date Tressa lives in New Orleans Louisiana with her husband, daughter and an assortment of critters.

As a young writer Tressa has overcome adversity of Dyslexia and continues to exceed expectations.

Follow Tressa: 

FaceBook | Twitter | Website

The author is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card in celebration of the new release! Giveaway ends April 12th at 11:59 EST. Open World Wide. 

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Review of 'Feedback' by DL Richardson


by DL Richardson



Ethan James, Florida Bowman, and Jake Inala are three teenagers who need organ transplants. When they receive the organs of deceased CIA agent, Dylan Black, they inadvertently take on the task of completing the mission Dylan died midway through, that of deactivating bacteria bombs threatening millions of lives. The teenagers are kidnapped by a man who believes in the theory of feedback, that information is retained in the memory of organs, in this case those of the dead CIA agent. And their captor will stop at nothing to get the information retained inside their bodies. With their lives under threat, the memories stored in the CIA agent’s mind begin to awaken within each of them, except the one piece of information they are abducted for - the location of the bombs.

**My thoughts**

The concept of feedback, or muscle memory, is one that I heard about many years ago. I am sure that it has been done in other books, but this is the first one I have read about it. The concept is fascinating, scary, and almost unbelievable, all at once. It is usually presented as something simple, such as a vegetarian suddenly craving meat, because the person who donated the organ loved his steak. I never dreamed of taking it to the extreme that Richardson does. These kids get to experience full-blown memories, almost as if Dylan is a second voice in their own heads. 

Each one of them seems to remember different pieces from Dylan's memory. How those three pieces end up fitting together and working together is beyond me. It is as if the three of them are spiritually joined as one person [Dylan] and can easily work together. It also felt like the three of them are destined to work together in possible future installments of a series. It is one I would read.

Richardson spends a lot of time developing her characters. In fact, the entire first half of the book is dedicated to their stories, explaining their path to getting Dylan's organs. We also get Dylan's story from his point of view. That seems like such a long time for introductions, and is, but I appreciated getting to know all of them. I just got a little confused from chapter to chapter, needing to pay close attention to the title to know who was telling the story. As for the action, you are drawn in from the very first page. It plateaus a bit while the backstories are developing. Then, the action picks right back up again as the three teens race against the clock to try to locate and diffuse the bombs. I read it in two separate sittings and really enjoyed it.

Buy links
Amazon / Smashwords

Read about how the author researched her book here.
(Plus you can enter a giveaway that ends on 4/24/15!)

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

D L Richardson writes speculative fiction. She currently has three young adult teen novels published and one short story anthology. Her first two YA novels The Bird With The Broken Wing and Feedback were best sellers and highest ranked YA fiction at OmniLit. Her third YA novel Little Red Gem was runner up on Paranormal Books Best Standalone YA book of 2013 and the book trailer was featured on USA Today website.

Upcoming works include Curious, a limited edition bundling of three YA novels, a serialized science fiction novel, Fear of Falling Further the second anthology of short stories, and Poison in the Pond, a novella adapted from of an unpublished novel written in 1996.

She lives in Australia on the south coast with her husband and dog.

Author contacts

Email: dlrichardsonbooks@bigpond.com

Blog: dlrichardsonwrites.blogspot.com
Website: www.dlrichardson.com
Facebook: facebook.com/dlrichardsonbooks
Twitter: twitter.com/#!/DLRichardson1

Jill Cooper gives us insight into Lara Crane, from '15 Minutes'


Welcome to Literary Addicts' Spring into Books Event. It takes place March 25 - April 27!

Pick up a great read, enter to win prizes, and follow along on Literary Addicts for Fun Interviews, Guest Posts, and Exclusive Excerpts!

Today, Jill Cooper, author of 15 Minutes, gives us some insight into her character Lara Crane.

Lara Crane is being held against her will in a private hospital researching the effects of time travel on her brain. This is a list of her not so favorite things about being held captive.

1. The food. There’s only so much red and green jello a person can eat.

2. Restraints might be fun for some people, if you’re into that sort of thing, but the bruising has rubbed her skin raw.

3. The clothes. White scrubs and matching white sneakers make her stick out like a sore thumb, even among the orderlies.

4. The eyes. Everyone is always watching her, spying on her, and she never has a moments rest.

5. An object. Lara no longer feels like a person. She’s a test subject and nothing else.

6. Loneliness and despair. The longer she is trapped on the inside, the more Lara feels like less of a person and more like a case file. She’s losing her will to live.

7. The happy dreams. The happy dreams of the virtual reality they’ve created for her, remind Lara how much she misses her family, her sister. She misses everything about life, but does anyone actually miss her? Does anyone realize she’s gone at all?

8. The deception. Her captors never tell her the truth and Lara knows they are manipulating her, but she has to believe in something. It just sets her up for heartbreak.

9. The plans. Every plan she makes to escape, fails, just cementing her status as a no one who will never be free again.

10. The real world. The truth is the virtual reality that they’ve created for her is the only thing that can bring Lara comfort anymore. Parts of her want the fantasy instead of dealing with the harshness of her real life.

Can Lara fight against the will to give up and live in a fantasy world? Or can she fight back and stand to exist inside the real world again?

Click over to buy these fantastic reads!
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Prizes -

Kandle Candle from author Tawdra Kandle

Signed Outsystem and A Path in the Darkness paperbacks and swag from author MD Cooper

Survivor Swag pack from author Bonnie R Paulson

Signed 15 Minutes paperback and Swag from author Jill Cooper

$15 Amazon Gift Card from Literary Addicts

Secret Harbor paperback ARC from Taking Time for Mommy

Open to US residents 18 +. Ends 4/27/15 Fill out the form to enter

Jill is also doing her own giveaway!

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Seams and Cracks in Reality by Alex Siegel

Young Adult Fantasy / Thriller
Date Published: Sept 26, 2014 & December 25 2014

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SEAMS IN REALITY is the first book in the Seams in Reality Series.

As a freshman in a suburban college near Chicago, Andrew leads a mundane life until he meets a professor named Tonya. She is secretly a master sorcerer, and she invites him into a conspiracy of magic. Only those few who possess exceptional talent may join. A resourceful young woman named Charley has the same supernatural gift. She accompanies Andrew on his journey into a dark profession, and romance quickly blooms between the young apprentices. When Andrew meets Blake, a sorcerer who knew his grandfather, Andrew becomes embroiled in a game of lies and treachery. Blake's thirst for power leaves a trail of casualties, and in the end, only Andrew can stop him.

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CRACKS IN REALITY is the second book in the Seams in Reality Series.

The Vault is a fortress in the desert protected by the United States Army, and it contains the most dangerous, forbidden secrets of sorcery. Blake, master sorcerer and fugitive from justice, has a plan for robbing the place. He will create a tangled web of lies to trick the Army into delivering the treasure into his hands. He intends to use the stolen knowledge to destroy his enemies and become the most powerful sorcerer on Earth.

Two apprentices are on a mission to kill Blake. Andrew is a war mage, a genius at psychic combat. Charley is a young woman who commands physical sorcery. Their instructor, Tonya, will turn the two teenagers into warriors capable of defeating Blake, if they can endure the extreme mental and physical tests.

Tonya's training is just the beginning for Andrew and Charley. They must discover Blake's hidden objectives, and they don't have much time. A government agency called the Bureau of Physical Investigation has the same assignment, but the agents are unprepared for the dangers they will face. Other surprising threats await the apprentices as they pursue their enemy along a trail of bloodshed.

Purchase Links


About the Author

Alex Siegel grew up a math and computer geek. At the age of twenty-five, he received a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Cornell. He continues to make a good living as a software developer in Chicago. In his late twenties, he took up creative writing as a serious pastime with the intention of eventually making it his career. This goal has been elusive, but failure is not an option. In 2001, his wife gave birth to triplet boys. People often ask him how he still finds time to write. In 2009, he began the Gray Spear Society series, and he hopes it will be his key to literary fame.

Author Links

$10 Amazon Gift Card

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

'The Truth: Diary of a Gutsy Tween' by Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein

The Truth, Diary of a Gutsy Tween

by Barbara Becker Holstein



"I hate Angela and I wish she would move away tomorrow!" "I get so worried when I hear my parents fighting at night." "My mother thinks my crush is silly. I know I am in love!" "I have so many questions about growing up. Who will answer them?" "I feel so awful when Jake makes fun of me." "When I grow up I going to remember how to have fun with my kids and never look away." Growing up is tough. Adults don't always understand you (even though they were once kids), and children today face increasing pressure to be, look, or act a certain way. Written in the voice of a girl on the cusp of becoming a teenager, The Truth provides young girls with an opportunity to see how a girl, who is in many ways like themselves, handles her toughest problems and most personal thoughts. Each new page brings forth a discussion to help girls handle everyday problems: How do you survive a bully? How do you handle a crush on a boy? What can you do about relentless teasing by your peers? What really matters as you grow older?

In a positive and supportive diary-entry format, Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein encourages tween girls to carry the most precious parts of themselves into adulthood. A great book for mothers and daughters to read together, The Truth is aimed to improve communication, understanding, and self-esteem for young girls as they enter the rocky road of teenager-dom.

Read an excerpt:
Date: June 27

Dear Diary,

I can’t believe it. Today we moved, and I feel like I’m in a dream. I just keep walking around our new house and wondering when we will go home. It feels so different and strange. Everything is on one floor (that’s called a ranch house). The floors are all bare wood. My mom said our rugs would look terrible here so she let the people who bought our old house keep them. I think she was probably right. They were a dark maroon and the walls here are a light cream. I don’t think that would look good. I went to the bathroom three times since we got here and every time I used a different bathroom. I can’t believe it. Three different toilets in the same house! Only my friend Susan, my rich friend, had more than two bathrooms in her house. And four bedrooms! And a family room. I can’t believe we have this much space now.

When I look out of the windows I expect to see the shrubs and the Hudson’s house who were next to us on the left, but I don’t. Instead, I see a big open field that will probably have houses built on it by next year. That’s what my dad said anyway. And when I look out to the right I expect to see our clothesline and the Dixon’s driveway, but instead I see rose bushes and a wooden bench under a tree that the last owners said we could have.

Tonight, we had to eat supper off paper plates and use plastic forks, knives, and spoons because our boxes are still packed. My aunt made us a big picnic basket full of food and that’s what we ate for supper. It was delicious. There was fried chicken, potato salad and potato chips, cupcakes for dessert, and fruit salad. And at the bottom of the basket under the ice was a whole package of Hershey Kisses. Yum!

My brother already started to play with a kid next door who’s about a year older than he is. He’s so lucky. I have no new friends yet and that’s the truth!


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

I have been a positive psychologist in private practice for the past thirty years. In the course of working with my clients, I originated the idea of THE ENCHANTED SELF(R), a positive psychology therapy where I teach people how to recognize and utilize their strengths, talents, skills and even lost potential. I have developed a number of methods, including using our memories to rediscover what is right about ourselves and our lives, rather than what went wrong, helping people to overcome adversity, experience positive emotions and live the good life!

Since developing this concept, I've been able to use many tools to bring the Enchanted Self to everyone, particularly women and girls. I've written many books, starting with THE ENCHANTED SELF, A Positive Therapy, and then Recipes for Enchantment, The Secret Ingredient is YOU! My books for girls are very popular, as they are great fictional reads and also help deal with many of the questions that trouble kids as they move into the tween and teen years. The Truth, Diary of a Gutsy Tween and Secrets, Diary of a Gutsy Teen are the first two books in this series.

I really love to teach and educate about happiness and how to benefit from positive psychology in ways that let us lead lives of meaning and happiness. You can find me all over the place on the web. In particular, www.enchantedself.com, www.thetruthforgirls.com, on Facebook at Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein: Psychologist & Author, on Pinterest at http://www.pinterest.com/barbarabeckerho/ and on You Tube. Just look for me on You Tube via Barbara Becker Holstein.

Barbara will be awarding $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and a $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn host. Follow the tour for more chances to win!

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Friday, March 13, 2015

'Gore Girls (Twisted Tales & Poems)' by Jackson Dean Chase

Now available - the fourth offering from YA horror writer Jackson Dean Chase. Check out the poems and stories in Gore Girls.


Beware—here comes the Ultimate Bloodbath of Young Adult Horror! These pages are packed with zombies, demons, witches, and worse! Get ready for the most disgusting, insane tales ever, plus morbid poems for damaged minds...

You get 40 stories and poems for one low price: Two sisters hide in their attic from the zombie apocalypse... An unpopular girl's suicide leads to a father's ghastly revenge... An alien blob turn teens into slimy monsters... Evil spirits promise power to a face-stealing maniac... A crush on the boy next door becomes a deadly obsession... and much, much more!

Read a poem from the collection:
There are evil spirits that lurk
in far and distant corners.
Waiting to come in,
to be invited
by the bored and broken,
the desperate and angry,
by those too curious for their own good.
These spirits do not live,
yet they exist!
Their sole purpose to destroy
the weak and strong alike.
They are waiting
for your invitation,
that one welcoming word: 

Read an excerpt from "My Own Decisions":
I peeked out the window. I didn't much like looking outside anymore, not since the dead started coming back to life. It was pretty gross seeing strangers walking around all dead and rotting, but friends and neighbors were the worst. Like old Mrs. McGruder next door, who'd been like a grandmother to me, but now walked around in circles on her front lawn with half her face chewed off. Or that cute boy, Eric Westin, who lived two houses over. He'd been my first kiss last summer.

It hadn't worked out with him, thanks to stupid Angela Overton, who'd stolen Eric from me a week later. No, I wouldn't be making out with Eric again, and not just because he was a zombie. Angela still had him, and they were undead together, all vacant-eyed and drooly-mouthed.

I saw them now, stumbling up and down the street, holding hands like it still mattered. Nothing much mattered, but at least they had each other and that was something. What did I have? A smelly attic, a few days worth of food, and a sister who hated me. Something had to change...


Jackson Dean Chase brings you Bold Visions of Dark Places. He is the author of the Horror Writers' Phrase Book, The Haunting of Hex House, The Werewolf Wants Me, and Come to the Cemetery.
He lives near Seattle with two cats and no fear.

Check out Jackson Dean Chase's other YA horror books on Amazon!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

'The Infinite (Gates of Thread and Stone #2)' by Lori M. Lee

Release Date: 03/10/15
Skyscape Publishing
378 pages

Summary from Goodreads:

The walls of Ninurta keep its citizens safe.

Kai always believed the only danger to the city came from within. Now, with a rebel force threatening the fragile government, the walls have become more of a prison than ever.

To make matters worse, as Avan explores his new identity as an Infinite, Kai struggles to remind him what it means to be human. And she fears her brother, Reev, is involved with the rebels. With the two people she cares about most on opposite sides of a brewing war, Kai will do whatever it takes to bring peace. But she’s lost her power to manipulate the threads of time, and she learns that a civil war might be the beginning of something far worse that will crumble not only Ninurta’s walls but also the entire city.

In this thrilling sequel to Gates of Thread and Stone, Kai must decide how much of her humanity she’s willing to lose to protect the only family she’s ever known. 

Read an excerpt:
My hand felt sticky and heavy. I fumbled with the blanket, kicking it off my overheated body. I tugged at the damp warmth of my nightshirt and rolled onto my side.

Reev’s sightless eyes greeted me.

My mouth opened, but a scream wouldn’t come. Reev lay on his back, head turned to the side, blood flecking his jaw. More blood saturated his tunic, darkest at the center of his chest where a wound gaped at me. I’d mistaken the sticky warmth of his blood for sweat.

I scrambled away, my body shaking. My palms slipped off the mattress. I tumbled backward. Something clattered to the floor beside me.

It was a knife. The blade was stained almost black. I’d been clutching it.

Available on Amazon

Book One:
(cover linked to Goodreads)

About the Author

Lori is an avid writer, reader, artist, and lover of unicorns. She should probably spend less time on the internet (but she won't). She has a borderline obsessive fascination with unicorns, is fond of talking in capslock, and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, kids, and a friendly pitbull.

Author Links:
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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How the story of 'Becoming Andy Hunsinger' is still relevant today

Greetings to Andi's Young Adult Books followers and readers. Thanks so much for having me here.

My novel, Becoming Andy Hunsinger, is designated by my publisher, Prizm Books, as an "Edgy Young Adult" book. The story unfolds in the mid-1970's in conservative Tallahassee, Florida, where I attended law school at the time, at Florida State University. My book's not autobiographical; it's a work of fiction, but certain events appearing in my novel actually occurred during my three years in Tallahassee.

My main character, Andy Hunsinger, is a 22-year-old college student who has just realized he's gay, after a sexual experience with a serviceman while Andy was on summer break from school. When Andy returns to FSU for his senior year, he embarks on a mission: he will find himself a boyfriend, no matter what it takes. And it's not an easy undertaking. Along the way, Andy finds out who his real friends are when he's involuntarily "outed" to friends, family, ad co-workers.

For this guest blog, I was asked a question: Does the story of Andy's struggle, which took place forty years ago, still have relevance in today's world, where attitudes have changed dramatically with respect to same-sex relationships?

It's a good question, one I'll try my best to answer.

We live in a time when same-sex marriage has become legal in many U.S. jurisdictions. It's an era where popular entertainers like Neil Patrick Harris and Ellen DeGeneres live in openly gay relationships without any negative consequences. So I think there's popular misconception about just how accepting teenagers and young adults are about gay relationships, particularly between boys.

Through my website, I frequently hear from gay boys in their teens and young men in their early twenties, and I can tell you, most of the messages I receive are not upbeat. There's still a lot of homophobia in our middle schools and high schools. Gay kids are bullied and ridiculed, particularly in smaller towns and rural areas. And even on college campuses, many gay students remain in the closet for fear of rejection by their peers.

It's these boys and young men I want to reach out to with Becoming Andy Hunsinger. In the book's first pages I include two quotes, one from E. E. Cummings, and the other from The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss.

The Cummings quote says, "It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are."

The Dr. Seuss quote says, "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don’t mind."

And you know, those are statements that don't apply only to gay boys and men. In a sense they speak to all of us who are different, whether it's because of our ethnicity, our spiritual beliefs, our political creed, or even our sense of fashion. The message of Becoming Andy Hunsinger is, "It's okay to be different." And I think that message is still as relevant in today as it was back in 1976.

I want to thank Andi's Young Adult Books for hosting me today. It's been a pleasure, and if any followers or readers have questions they'd like to ask me, about my books or anything else, feel free to send questions through this blog and I'll answer them as best I can.

Happy reading, friends.

Becoming Andy Hunsinger

by Jere' M. Fishback

Genre: Historical romance, GLBT,
Historical,Edgy Young Adult
Publisher: Prizm Books
Date of Publication: December 30, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-61040-858-5
Number of pages: 208
Word Count: 65,800
Cover Artist: Fiona Jayde

Book Description:

It's 1976, and Anita Bryant's homophobic "Save Our Children" crusade rages through Florida. When Andy Hunsinger, a closeted gay college student, joins in a demonstration protesting Bryant's appearance in Tallahassee, his straight boy image is shattered when he's "outed" by a TV news reporter.

In the months following, Andy discovers just what it means to be openly gay in a society that condemns love between two men.

Can Andy's friendship with Travis, a devout Christian who's fighting his own sexual urges, develop into something deeper?

Read an excerpt:

On my seventh birthday, my parents gave me a Dr. Seuss book, The Cat in the Hat.

I still have it; the book rests on the shelf above my desk, along with other Seuss works I've collected. Inside The Cat in the Hat's cover, my mother wrote an inscription, using her English teacher's precise penmanship.

 "Happy Birthday, Andy. As you grow older, you'll realize many truths dwell within these pages. Much love, Mom and Dad."

Mom was right, of course. She most always is.

My favorite line in The Cat in the Hat is this one:

"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
Loretta McPhail was a notorious Tallahassee slumlord. On a steamy afternoon, in August 1976, she spoke to me in her North Florida drawl: part magnolia, part crosscut saw.

"The rent's one-twenty-five. I'll need first, last, and a security deposit, no exceptions."

McPhail wore a short-sleeved shirtwaist dress, spectator pumps, and a straw hat with a green plastic windowpane sewn into the brim. Her skin was as pale as cake flour. A gray moustache grew on her winkled upper lip, and age spots peppered the backs of her hands. Her eyeglasses had lenses so thick her gaze looked buggy.

I'd heard McPhail held title to more than fifty properties in town, all of them cited multiple times for violation of local building codes. She owned rooming houses, single family homes, and small apartment buildings, mostly in neighborhoods surrounding Florida State University's campus. Like me, her tenants sought cheap rent; they didn't care if the roof leaked or the furnace didn't work.

The Franklin Street apartment I viewed with McPhail wasn't much: a living room and kitchen, divided by a three-quarter wall; a bedroom with windows looking into the rear and side yards; a bathroom with a wall-mounted sink, a shower stall and a toilet with a broken seat. In each room, the plaster ceilings bore water marks. The carpet was a leopard skin of suspicious-looking stains, and the whole place stank of mildew and cat pee.

McPhail's building was a two-storied, red brick four-plex with casement windows that opened like book covers, a Panhandle style of architecture popular in the 1950s. Shingles on the pitched roof curled at their edges. Live oaks and longleaf pines shaded the crabgrass lawn, and skeletal azaleas clung to the building's exterior.

In the kitchen, I peeked inside a rust-pitted Frigidaire. The previous tenant had left gifts: a half-empty ketchup bottle, another of pickle relish. A carton of orange juice with an expiration date three months past sat beside a tub of margarine.

Out in the stairwell, piano music tinkled -- a jazzy number I didn't recognize.

McPhail clucked her tongue and shook her head.

"I've told Fergal -- and I mean several times -- to close his door when he plays, but he never does. I'm not sure why I put up with that boy."

McPhail pulled a pack of Marlboros from a pocket in the skirt of her dress. After tapping out two cigarettes, she jammed both between her lips. She lit the Marlboros with a brushed-chrome Zippo, and then she gave me one cigarette.

I puffed and tapped a toe, letting my gaze travel about the kitchen. I studied the chipped porcelain sink, scratched Formica countertops, and drippy faucet. Blackened food caked the range's burner pans. The linoleum floor's confetti motif had long ago disappeared in high-traffic areas. Okay, the place was a dump. But the rent was cheap, and campus was less than a mile away. I could ride my bike to classes, and to my part-time job as caddy at the Capital City Country Club.

Still, I hesitated.

The past two years, I'd lived in my fraternity house with forty brothers. I took my meals there, too. If I rented McPhail's apartment, I'd have to cook for myself. What would I eat? Where would I shop for food?

Other questions flooded my brain. Where would I wash my clothes? And how did a guy open a utilities account? The apartment wasn't furnished. Where would I purchase a bed? What about a dinette and living room furniture? And how much did such things cost? It all seemed so complicated.

Still . . .

Lack of privacy at the fraternity house would pose a problem for me this year. Over summer break -- back home in Pensacola -- I'd experienced my first sexual encounter with another male, a lanky serviceman named Jeff Dellinger, age twenty-four. Jeff was a Second Lieutenant from Eglin Air Force Base. I met him at a sand volleyball game behind a Pensacola Beach hotel, and he seemed friendly. I liked his dark hair, slim physique, and ready smile, but wasn't expecting anything personal to happen between us.

After all, I was a "straight boy", right?

We bought each other beers at the Tiki bar, and then Jeff invited me up to his hotel room. Once we reached the room, Jeff prepared two vodka/tonics. My drink struck like snake venom, and then my brain fuzzed. Jeff opened a bureau drawer; he produced a lethal-looking pistol fashioned from black metal. The pistol had a matte finish and a checked grip.

"Ever seen one of these?"

I shook my head.

"It's an M1911 -- official Air Force issue. I've fired it dozens of times."

Jeff raised the gun to shoulder height. He closed one eye, focused his other on the pistol's barrel sight. "Shooting's almost... sensual," he said. Then he looked at me. "It's like sex, if you know what I mean."

I shrugged, not knowing what to say.

Jeff handed the pistol to me. It weighed more than I'd expected, between two and three pounds. I turned the pistol here and there, admiring its sleek contours. The grip felt cold against my palm and a shiver ran through me. I'd never fired a handgun, never thought to.

"Is it loaded?" I asked.

Jeff bobbed his chin. "One bullet's in the firing chamber, seven more in the magazine; it's a semi-automatic."

After I handed Jeff the gun, he returned it to his bureau's drawer while I sipped from my drink, feeling woozier by the minute. Jeff sat next to me, on the room's double bed. His knee nudged mine, our shoulders touched, and I smelled his coconut-scented sunscreen.

Jeff laid a hand on my thigh. Then he squeezed. "You don't mind, do you?"

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About the Author:

Jere' M. Fishback is a former news editor and trial lawyer. He writes Young Adult novels, short fiction, and memoirs. A Florida native, he lives on a barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico, west of Tampa/St. Petersburg. When he's not writing, Jere' enjoys cycling, surfing, lap-swimming, and watching sunsets with a glass of wine in hand.



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