Tuesday, November 20, 2018

LOVE, LOSS AND LAGNIAPPE by Richard Robbins


LOVE, LOSS AND LAGNIAPPE by Richard Robbins, Literary Fiction, 186 pp., $3.99 (kindle)



Title: LOVE, LOSS AND LAGNIAPPE

Author: Richard Robbins

Publisher: Evolved Publishing

Pages: 186

Genre: Literary Fiction


Life is good for Dr. Drew Coleman, a successful young eye
surgeon living in Uptown New Orleans, and he knows it. Having met and
married his beautiful medical school classmate, Kate, the two settle
happily into the routine of raising their two young daughters.



Drew’s charmed life is soon shattered by devastating news, causing
him to go on a ten-year transcontinental journey of self-discovery,
during which he explores the nature of God and Man, the divine
inspiration for many of New York’s landmarks and artistic treasures,
and the relationship between the found and the lost souls passing on the
street. He meets a number of memorable characters, including the young
blue-haired runaway, Blue, who renounced her given name when forced
to leave her Minnesota home with her girlfriend, Anna.



In time, he discovers and explains the scientific basis for
the meaning of life, and is finally found, or finds himself, setting the
stage for a bittersweet and memorable ending.

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Spring
1982
Drew picked up
his pace as he walked across campus on a steamy Saturday morning. He was
scheduled to lead two Admissions Office tours for high school juniors and
seniors starting in five minutes. It would likely be a busy week, since seniors
had recently received their acceptance letters and the deadline to reply loomed
only weeks away. Furthermore, as Spring Break had hit for northeastern high
schools, there would be a roomful of well dressed New Yorkers and Bostonians
soaking in the “local culture.” And they did not like to be kept waiting.
Drew had no
time to stop for coffee on the way over, which might become a problem. Although
he could grab some standard coffee free from the student cafeteria, this
morning called for the good stuff. There would be pots of his favorite PJ’s
coffee in the Admissions office, but they reserved that coffee, along with
fresh croissants, strictly for the visiting students. Admissions required tour
leaders to follow three essential rules: don’t flirt with the visiting
students, don’t flirt with the moms, and don’t touch the refreshments.
At least he
still had enough time to admire a lovely New Orleans
spring morning. Spring in The Crescent City brought its own special feel. The
morning sun burned the dew off the grass, creating the humidity for which New
Orleans was famous—or infamous. The magnolia and
cherry blossoms had burst into full bloom, creating a white and pink pastel
background for the canvas of Victorian homes and buildings that gave Uptown New
Orleans its distinct character.
The morning was
typically quiet—few places as peaceful as a college campus at 8:45 on a Saturday morning. It would soon come alive
with the sounds of backpack-sporting students purposefully going about their
ways, but for now, he enjoyed having the campus to himself.
For an
eighteen-year-old from Florida—the land of strip malls and perfectly straight
roads, where each fountain-fronted community’s location was described as if on
a Cartesian grid—New Orleans, with its unique architecture and culture, felt
like a European movie set. Or a dream.
As he crossed
the quad and walked under the breezeway of the library, the massive outline of
Gibson Hall, which housed the Office of Admissions, came into view. Tour guides
had been taught extensively about Gibson’s checkered history. It bore the name
of Confederate General and US
Senator Randall Lee Gibson, the first President of Tulane University. The
massive Romanesque structure sat majestically across from the grand entrance of
Audubon Park, separated only by St. Charles Avenue, with its anachronistic but
still quite functional open-air Street Cars.
As he
approached Gibson Hall, a familiar voice called out to him. “Cutting it a bit
close, aren’t we?”
Drew looked
over at his friend Matt, who held a steaming cup of cafeteria coffee, calm and
sweat free, looking as if he had been there just the right amount of time.
“Made it with
almost a minute to spare. Why come any earlier than you have to?” replied Drew.
“What’s it look like for today?”
“A big group,
lots of kids from New Jersey and Maryland.
I talked to a few of them while they were signing in.” Matt blew on his coffee.
“That’s not
what I was asking. Anybody cute? Anyone from Hollywood
Hills High?”
“Dude, you know
the rules. Plus, you see them for an hour and a half, then never again. Why
even make the effort?”
Drew shrugged
and shook his head. Classic Matt,
perfectly rational.
Matt, along
with their friend Clayton, was one of Drew’s two best friends from Hollywood
Hills. As seniors, the three of them had decided to attend Tulane together.
Matt, at six feet four inches of solid steel, was the picture of youthful
vigor. Drew figured that’s what he got from eating a macrobiotic diet before
anybody had ever heard of macrobiotic, and from working out every day.
Matt was a
lefty and a heckuva baseball player, and such an intimidating presence that
during baseball practice, Drew would literally shake in his shoes hoping that
Matt would not hit the ball to him. He was also the most disciplined person
Drew had ever known, numbering all his shirts and wearing them in sequence so
that they each received the same amount of use.
Perfectly rational.
Although Drew
didn’t think of Matt as naturally funny, unlike most unfunny people, he
appreciated good humor, which made Drew like him even more. He could live a
hundred years and never find a better person or a truer friend.
Thursday
morning tours followed a routine schedule: half the group took a walking campus
tour from 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM, while the other half sat through an
information session. Then, from 10:30
to noon, they switched. As the clock
turned to 9:00 AM, the tour leaders
headed to opposite corners of the admissions office to divide up the large
group.
As Matt turned
to throw away his cafeteria coffee, Drew called out to him, “Hold on there, big
guy. Give me that cup.”
In the activity
of the moment, Drew took the cup, snuck over to the refreshments table, and
filled it up with a generous helping of PJ’s coffee.
None of the cafeteria stuff today. Time for
High Test!
As long as he
kept it in the cafeteria cup, he figured they would never discover his petty
theft. He also gave a longing eye to the Croissants, glistening in their
buttery glory, but thought better of pushing his luck.
Fueled and ready,
the sweat from his morning rush finally drying, he stood ready to give his
standard welcome speech to his group, complete with well-rehearsed laugh lines
and fake self-deprecation. Nothing made him feel bigger than giving admissions
tours as a college freshman to high school juniors and seniors. At that age,
each year felt like a graduation. The difference between being a high school
junior and senior had been big, but the difference between being a high school
senior and college freshman was huge.
Drew felt it,
and he loved it.
He took a long
sip of the forbidden coffee and put his Trojan Horse of a cup down on the long
mahogany table, as he had dozens of times before. He then turned toward the
group and looked up, and....
One particular
visiting student, standing eagerly near the front of the group, immediately
captured his attention. He became momentarily disoriented and his vision
blurred a bit, then sharpened directly upon her. Everyone else in the room—as
far as he was concerned—had vanished.
Petite, she
stood just a little over five feet tall, and wore a blue, checkered jumper with
a white Lycra t-shirt underneath. Small and curvy, she carried those five extra
pounds that looked so good on a young girl but less so on a grown woman. She
kept her short brown hair cut in a bob just below her chin, and her eyes....
What is with those eyes?
He couldn’t
really describe their color—he guessed the closest would be green—but they were
made up of so many different colors that they seemed to sparkle in the spring
sun.
She stood near
the front of the group along with her parents. Her father, a dignified looking
man, had a face that seemed to be balancing the forces of decorum and
tenderness. Her mother was a little taller than she was, beautiful in her own
right with long brown hair, an elegant cream blouse, and pants that flared
slightly more than expected, suggesting there might be more to her than
suburban mother.
Drew calmed
down, took a deep breath, and stammered his normally smooth welcome speech to
begin the tour. As they started walking, he covered the history of Tulane
University, its location in Uptown
New Orleans, and its proximity—or lack of proximity, depending on the feel of
the group—to the French Quarter. Although he mostly stuck to the standard script,
for some reason, every sentence he uttered seemed to have the word “great” in
it.
“How are the freshman dorms?”
“Great.”
“The meal plan?”
“Great.”
“Greek life?”
“Really great.”
His heart
raced, and he wondered if he’d drunk just a little too much PJ’s coffee.
As they walked
back and forth across the campus, he offered the usual—“Here’s the Science
building. There’s the Library. Look at the beautiful Magnolias.”—all standard
stuff. However, all the while, all he could focus on was, “Where is she?”
And... “Don’t flirt.”
At the end of
the tour came the questions. The first always came from some overeager kid who
imagined Drew might actually have some influence on his application. That kid
would then proceed to ask a series of questions to show everyone how smart he
was, or how well he could craft a question.
He began with
an anemic, “What is the student-to-faculty ratio?”
Really? That’s where you’re going with this?
The real
answers were either, “Dude, it’s in the
damn booklet,”
or, “Dude, is the
difference between 11:1 and 13:1 going to make you choose here or not?”

Nonetheless, he dutifully replied, “The student-to-faculty ratio is 12:1, which
is amongst the lowest in the nation.”
Once the little
gunner was sufficiently self-satisfied, the real questions began, ranging from
the routine to the unusual. Tour guides loved to report back to each other the
questions they had never heard before. They were well prepared for the common
questions, and well trained never to make up answers for the unusual ones. Drew
particularly loved, “Why did you choose
Tulane?”
That let him get into his discussion about The Great Universities of the South—Vanderbilt, Duke, Emory, and
Tulane. He was happy to compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of
each, which the group generally found interesting, but again, he carefully
avoided the real answer: “I didn’t get
into Duke or Vandy. And
Atlanta
vs.
New Orleans? No contest there.”
Finally, she asked a question. Looking directly
into Drew’s eyes, she leaned forward to make sure nobody else was about to ask
a question, and softly but confidently said, “Hello, my name is Kate. I’m a
senior from Virginia.”
Her voice was
different than Drew had imagined. Actually, he hadn’t imagined her speaking at
all.  “I’m Drew,” he said, “a Freshman
Biology Major from Florida.”
You don’t look at a Magnolia Tree and wonder
what it will sound like. You just admire its essence.
Drew focused on
the small details of her body language, the details that made each person
unique, but which others generally overlooked or ignored. Like how she kept her
hands folded in front of her waist in a slightly defensive position, yet still
leaned forward at the waist as if to hear his responses more closely. How she
nervously flicked at her nail polish with her thumbs as she switched her gaze
from his right to his left eye and back again. How she furtively glanced over
at her parents, perhaps making sure she didn’t seem more interested than was
appropriate.
Drew didn’t
remember her question in its entirety, and barely made it through the answer
without embarrassing himself. What he was sure he would never forget was the
eye contact.  People rarely made eye
contact when they spoke. Maybe it was a defense mechanism or a primitive way of
avoiding dominance contests, but people generally avoided it or kept it to a
minimum. While answering her question, Drew pointed at this or that building or
monument, but near the end, he looked towards her, and their eyes locked onto
each other’s for one beat longer than usual.
That was it.
Drew felt it, and more importantly, he could feel that she felt it too. He knew
she did, or at least he thought he knew.
Cue the Oxytocin. I’m hooked.
He remembered
that she was from Virginia, that
her father was some sort of high-level government official, and that she was
choosing between Tulane and the University
of Virginia.
That one’s a tough sell.
He could make
the case that Tulane was the better choice, but he couldn’t compete with the
in-state tuition.
As they
discussed the pros and cons, the Admissions Counselor called out, “Session one
tours, come into the auditorium for information sessions. Session two tours,
meet your tour guides in the main hallway.”
Damn, I forgot. It’s time for the next tour.
Is that it? Is it really over?
He didn’t want
it to end. If he finished his next tour quickly enough, perhaps he could be
back before her information session let out, and would have the opportunity to
see her again.
Rock and roll!
He proceeded
with the canned speech—history of Tulane, here’s the Biology building, here’s
the Library, nice school, nice town, yada, yada... good luck next year, guys.
Then the questions started, and they kept coming: student to faculty ratio,
Greek life, what’s the crime rate like here—lots of prep from the admissions
office for that one.
C’mon, c’mon, let’s move it, guys. Let’s go
back to admissions. Maybe the other group is still there.
The other group
was gone.
The information
sessions left plenty of time for questions and therefore varied in length. This
must have been a short one, and just like that, she was gone. An
emptiness descended upon him, and he felt like an hourglass with a hole in its
base. Should he have gotten her phone number or address? He could get in
trouble for that, but perhaps he could have done it in a way that would have
seemed helpful rather than inappropriate. Could he have found a reason to ask
someone in the Admissions Office for her information? No, that was strongly
discouraged, he remembered.
The hell with it! I’m having a leftover
Croissant. Shoot me.
He looked
towards the quad and saw Matt bringing his group back, his curly blonde hair
bouncing briskly above the crowd.
As Matt walked
back, he called to Drew, “Beat me today. That hasn’t happened in a while.”
Matt’s tours were always perfectly predictable in length, as he said just what
he needed to say—no more, no less, and all on point.
Drew’s varied
based on how late he was out the night before, whether he was able to score
some coffee, and the personality of his group, but however those factors came
together, they usually added up to a longer tour than Matt’s.
“I kinda rushed
it a bit today,” he said. “I wanted to get back before the 10:30 info session let out.”
“Why, do you
need to talk to someone in admissions?”
“No, to an
applicant.”
“Dude, don’t go
there. You know the rules. I’d rather them catch you with the coffee, and by
the way, are those croissant crumbs on your shirt?”
Drew ignored
the accusation. “Something happened today. I can’t describe it, but it was
overwhelmingly powerful. I met someone, someone special. We only said a few
words, but there was something there, something I’ve never felt before,
something I didn’t know I could feel or... that could even be felt.”
“I know, some
of them are pretty cute, and they look at you like you are the coolest kid in
school.”
“Yeah, she was cute, but that’s not it. Well,
that’s part of it, but there’s more.”
“And now she’s
gone, so let’s go back to the dorm, put on some shorts, and go play some ball.”
Exercise as the cure, and good for you too. Very
rational. Love that Matt.
This time Drew
glided across campus, not noticing the buildings, the trees, the bustling
campus, or Matt. People often said there were a few moments in your life for
which everything else could be described as either before or after.
Sometimes it was obvious, sometimes less so. Drew experienced this feeling
years ago when his father passed away prematurely. He would then have to be the
“man of the house,” with all its attendant responsibility and baggage. He felt
it when he was accepted to Tulane and realized his days of living in Florida
were over forever. Now, walking back to his dorm, he had the odd feeling that
this was another of those moments.
Clayton greeted
them as they walked into the room, wearing old gym shorts and a Miami Dolphins
t-shirt. Matt had been up at 7:00 AM,
worked out for an hour, showered, and made it early to Gibson Hall. Drew had
woken up at 8:40 AM, threw on some
clothes, and hustled there just as the tours were starting. Clayton still had
sleep in his eyes.
“Bro, its after
noon,” Matt said. “We’ve led four
tours, stolen a croissant and coffee, and fallen in love already. Throw on some
shorts and let’s ball!”
“I’m in,”
replied Clayton, as he opened his dorm dresser to retrieve slightly less worn
shorts and a different Dolphins t-shirt.
Drew loved that
Clayton was always in for whatever.
Clayton stood a
solid six feet tall, thin but not skinny, with dark black hair and a face that
looked vaguely Eastern European. Whip smart but not as funny as he thought he
was, he at least got points for trying, and was always up for fun. At the age
of thirteen, he’d achieved a minor degree of local celebrity by advancing to
the national finals in a basketball foul shooting contest. He routinely sank
between twenty-two and twenty-four out of twenty-five shots, including in each
round leading up to nationals. In the finals in Kansas
City, however, he made only fourteen out of
twenty-five. Nineteen would have won.
Clayton had
been devastated, but his friends were compassionate. They called him The Kansas City Bomber. Forever. It
really hurt his feelings. That made it funnier.
Boys.
As they walked
to the gym, Clayton looked over at Drew and said, “So you’re in love? It
happens to me every day here.”
He was right.
Ten thousand young students enjoying the first freedoms of living away from
home, combined with alcohol, made for a volatile mix. Crushes and broken hearts
routinely followed.
Drew shook his
head and sighed. “No, I’m talking about something different. You should have seen
her. I’m talking about something special, something lasting. I felt it in an
instant, and I can’t think about anything else.” He gazed glass-eyed at a worn
Larry Bird poster on the far wall, as if trying to see his own thoughts, and
asked Clayton, “Do you believe in love at first sight?”
Clayton
replied, “Dude, love at first sight is an illusion, an imaginary idea, like
Unicorns, or Abs.”
“I like them
taller,” said Matt.


















Richard Robbins has always liked telling good stories, but it was not
until his youngest child left for college that he was able to find the
time to put them into print.  His first novel, Love, Loss, and Lagniappe
was inspired by actual events in his life, and utilizes Richard’s
Medical and Business School background to explore the journey of
self-discovery after heartbreaking loss, while revealing the scientific
basis for the meaning of life (You’ll have to read it to find out!).



Richard is currently working on his second novel, Panicles, a
multi-generational story of the intersecting fate of two families and
the price of fame versus the simpler pleasures of a grounded life.

Richard lives in New York City with his love and inspiration, Lisa,
his wife of thirty years (and counting), near their beloved grown
children.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK

http://www.pumpupyourbook.com










Atlanta's Finest by Sharon C Cooper


Accused
Atlanta's
Finest Series Book 3
by
Sharon C Cooper


Genre:
Romantic Suspense

He
wants to forget his past… She’s hiding from hers…



Former
FBI agent Kenton Bailey traded in his badge when an assignment went
horribly wrong. Now he provides personal security to high-end
clients. But falling for Egypt Durand, the Queen of Supreme Security,
wasn’t part of the plan. She’s smart, classy, and ignites a fire
in him that only she can extinguish. Except she retreats from his
advances…and she’s shrouded in a veil of secrecy.

Egypt
has never met a man as sexy as Kenton. Funny and smart, he’s hard
to resist. But her past leaves no room for a happily ever after.
Still, with him, she dreams of a future.

Finally,
Egypt’s startling truths are revealed, throwing Kenton off balance
and forcing him to confront the past he left behind. And when threats
from a dangerous crime family send Egypt bolting, Kenton convinces
her to stay. Together they will fight to bring closure to their
pasts, but will they live long enough to explore the passion brewing
between them?








Indebted
Atlanta's
Finest Series Book 2


Even
when he does good, he’s bad…



Detective
Lazarus Dimas doesn’t play by the rules. On the streets, he’s a
force to be reckoned with, a dangerous man with a badge and a gun.
But he does have a soft spot — the sexy assistant district attorney
Journey Ramsey. There is something about the woman he can’t shake.
She’s irresistible and off limits. At least that’s what he keeps
telling himself, but one kiss leads to others and well…so much for
limits.

Journey
plays by the rules, normally. But she can’t deny the sexual tension
that sparks whenever Laz is near, even when he puts her professional
integrity at risk. Laz is complex. The type of man fathers warn their
daughters about. Yet, there’s a gentle, vulnerable side to him that
he lets no one see except her, and she can’t resist him.

Can
Laz prove he’s the man for Journey before a reopened case exposes
his true colors? Or will the danger they face show that the love they
share knows no boundaries?

*Indebted
is book 2 in the Atlanta's Finest Series, but can be read as a
standalone.
**Interracial
romance (BWWM).








Vindicated
Atlanta's
Finest Series Book 1


She’s
a distraction he can’t resist…



A
spark ignites the moment security specialist, Hamilton Crosby, meets
stuntwoman, Dakota Sherrod. She’s like no other woman he’s ever
met. But Hamilton never ignores his gut, and his gut tells him to
stay clear of the enticing beauty.

Dakota
is an adrenaline junkie. Leaping off buildings and running through
fire is just another day at the job. Hence when she sets her sights
on Hamilton, she goes after him full-force. Their attraction is
fierce, but he thwarts her advances at every turn. He’s the strong,
silent type who operates by a set of rules, but he’ll soon realize
she rarely follows rules.

Falling
for Dakota catches Hamilton off guard. So does the fact that she’s
attached to part of his past. A past that indicted him with shame and
loss. But when Dakota becomes the target of an unknown enemy,
Hamilton stops at nothing to protect her. In turn, vindication is his
reward, except it comes with complications.








Award-winning
and bestselling author, Sharon C. Cooper, is a romance-a-holic -
loving anything that involves romance with a happily-ever-after,
whether in books, movies, or real life. Sharon writes contemporary
romance, as well as romantic suspense and enjoys rainy days, carpet
picnics, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. She's been nominated
for numerous awards and is the recipient of an Emma Award for
Romantic Suspense of the Year 2015 (Truth or Consequences), Emma
Award - Interracial Romance of the Year 2015 (All You'll Ever Need),
and BRAB (book club) Award -Breakout Author of the Year 2014. When
Sharon is not writing or working, she's hanging out with her amazing
husband, doing volunteer work or reading a good book (a romance of
course).






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The Viscount's Promise The Twice Shy Series Book 2 by Christina Britton


The
Viscount's Promise
The Twice Shy Series
Book 2
by Christina Britton
Genre: Historical
Romance



Pub
Date: 10/30/18

Lady
Emily Masters has harbored a secret infatuation for the dashing
Malcolm Arborn, Viscount Morley since a childhood accident claimed
the life of her twin brother and left her own face scarred. But when
fate brings them together again for her brother’s wedding, she is
dismayed to find instead of the brave gentleman who sheltered her
after the tragedy, a surly rogue quick to quip and slow to trust.

To
the cosmopolitan and haughty Malcolm, few engagements could possibly
be more punishing than attending his friend’s country wedding―until
the groom requests he watch over his timid sister during the weeks
leading up to the ceremony. Fearful of her scar making her the center
of attention to the visiting lords and ladies, Emily proves to be a
difficult charge for the irascible bachelor.

Her
diffidence an insult to his sensibilities, he finds a new purpose
within his role: to bring out the bold woman within. But how can such
a gentle creature as Emily abide his own coarseness? At odds with
their natures, will these two willful souls be able to look beyond
their past hurt to build a promising tomorrow?










With
Love in Sight
The Twice Shy Series
Book 1

From
Romance Writers of America’s® 2017 Golden Heart® winner comes a
story of passion that is much more than meets the eye.


An
aging spinster at twenty-six, all Imogen Duncan sees ahead of her is
a life of servitude to her overbearing mother. Her London Season has
passed and her desperate shyness and reserved demeanor have destroyed
any chance for a match. As her younger sister Mariah begins her own
Season with a selection of suitors, Imogen believes her chances for
excitement are well and truly lost…Until a case of mistaken
identity and an accidental kiss brings her adventure.

Burying
his guilt from a decade-old tragedy beneath a life of debauchery,
Caleb Masters, Marquess of Willbridge, is content enough to meet
willing widows in dark gardens to numb the pain. But he is wholly
unprepared when an innocent miss stumbles into him, turning his
superficial world on its head.

Drawn
to the rogue that mistakenly stole her first kiss, Imogen finds not a
suitor, but a friend. Free to be herself for the first time, she
begins to see a new beauty in the world around her…and see a
strength in herself she never knew she possessed. But when friendship
turns to passion, Imogen will accept nothing less than Caleb’s
heart. Can a healing of the past lead to the promise of a future
together?











Christina
Britton
developed a passion for writing romance novels shortly
after buying her first at the tender age of thirteen. Though for
several years she turned to art and put brush instead of pen to
paper, she has returned to her first love and is now writing full
time. She spends her days dreaming of corsets and cravats and
noblemen with tortured souls.


She
lives with her husband and two children in the San Francisco Bay
Area. A member of Romance Writers of America, she also belongs to
her local chapter, Silicon Valley RWA, and is a 2017 RWA® Golden
Heart® winner. Her debut novel, With Love in Sight, was released by
Diversion Books in early 2018.










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Queen of Zazzau by J.S. Emuakpor


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Historical Fantasy/Mythical Realism
Date Published: November 20, 2018
Publisher: Afrocentric Books | Mugwump Press

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Amina is heir apparent to the throne of Zazzau and must prove she is worthy of the crown. As foreign invaders close in on them, she is all that stands between her people and destruction. Caught in a web of prophecies, she must defend Zazzau, but cannot do so if she wants to prevent the future that was foretold. She did not seek war yet it finds her. Unwilling to be the plaything of gods or men and determined to take control of her own destiny, she tracks down the god of war himself. But has her destiny already been written? Can she choose her own fate? And can she protect her kingdom, no matter what price she must ultimately pay? Because, gods always want something in return.

Queen of Zazzau is an Historical Fantasy that takes place in precolonial West Africa.  It chronicles the life of one of the most famous W. African queens, Amina of Zazzau (or Zaria). At 139,000 words, the novel features several W. African historical figures and a pantheon of W. African gods. The story is told in first-person and gives the reader an intimate look at some of the lifestyles and cultures--many of which are still alive today--of medieval W. Africa.

Excerpt

I dreamed. Not a dream of laughing brooks and water spirits; I dreamed of an empty plain. I stood in the field, yellow-green savanna grass swaying in the wind. As its soft whistle grew to a roar, the grass whipped my legs violently. But it wasn’t the wind roaring; it was men. Hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands suddenly surrounded me. Each man fought the other with murder in his eyes.

My uncle was among them. Sword in hand, he lunged at the nearest half-naked man and brought down his blade, cutting into the other man’s shoulder. His enemy howled in pain but did not fall. The soldier rushed forward, still howling, pushing the sword deeper into his own flesh, and stabbed at Karama with a long-knife. Karama swept the knife away with a braceleted wrist. Then his wrist came down on the howling man’s head, burying the raised, serrated edge of a war bracelet in his skull.

Dislodging his bracelet, my uncle pushed the corpse off his blade. He turned and saw me. Our eyes locked for only a moment before a spear sprouted from his chest. Screaming, I ran to him but was buffeted by a sea of men. The faster I tried to run, the farther away my uncle was.

“Uncle,” I cried. “No!” But the wave of men pushed me to the ground. Curling into a ball, I tucked my head under my arms, closed my eyes, and screamed as the men stampeded over me.

Silence.

I opened my eyes, confused, sweat slick on my brow, tears still damp on my cheeks. The men were gone, but I could hear their cries. Climbing to my feet, I scanned the vast savanna ocean. A mud altar that hadn’t been there before now stood beside me. Blood spilled from the edges of the altar like melting wax. The men’s cries came from the structure. From the thousands of tiny figures piled upon it. At first, I thought they were living dolls, but they were the miniaturized bodies of men suffering myriad violent deaths. These were the casualties of war.

I stared at the mangled bodies, some of which were writhing in pain, and somehow knew these men had died—were dying—in the battle many leagues away. Frantic and nearly petrified by what I might find, I searched for my uncle among the bodies. There were so many Zazzagawa and Kwararafa mingled in the pile; I couldn’t tell one fallen soldier from another.

Wringing my hands, I backed away and reminded myself not to let fear subdue me, but terror pounded in my chest. The stink of death hung over the altar like a horrible fog that choked my lungs. Retreating from it, I came up against something hot and solid.

I froze.

The thing behind me shifted. It spoke.

“Look upon Death, Beloved. And know it for what it is.”

I spun around, stumbling backward, to find myself staring at the chest of a very tall man. Still trying but failing to fully master my fear, I took another backward step and looked up at who stood before me.

Towering over seven feet, the man had skin like polished ebony. He wore a vivid red and gold kilt that hung to just above his knees and a black cloak so long it brushed the ground. Black leather bracers with gold clasps covered his forearms. The open cloak was slung back over his shoulders, exposing a lean, powerful torso that rippled with muscle under smooth, dark skin.

I followed the contours of his chest, his long neck, a proud jawline. Save for the pointed tuft of hair on his chin and the thick, black eyebrows, his face and head were bald. His gaze was not upon me, his chin raised, so I could not see his eyes. I didn’t need to see them. I knew that once he looked at me, I’d be staring into the roiling red eyes of War.

About the Author

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J.S. Emuakpor was born and raised in West Africa. She is a married mother of four, a scientist, and owner of Afrocentric Books. She currently lives in North Carolina and is very much allergic to it. Most of her writing draws upon the spiritual beliefs of the ancestors who frequently whisper in her ear and on the superstitions that she refuses to relinquish.





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Into The Riot by Karen Renee

Title: Into The Riot
Series: Riot MC #3
Author: Karen Renee 
Genre: MC Romance (Romantic Suspense)
Release Date: December 4, 2018



Tennille “Neil” Lyons has her hands full with Cecilia, her drug addicted sister who recently turned to prostitution to maintain her addiction. Having her sister commit to going to rehab feels like a stroke of luck, until the dealer/handler shows up making threats. While drowning her worries at a hole-in-the-wall bar, she meets a handsome biker. As much as she wants to dismiss him, she finds out he is rougher and tougher than any other man Neil has met before. Which may come in handy, because if Cecilia doesn’t pay her substantial debt, the dealer intends to collect from Neil instead.

Augustus “Razor” Richardson is prospecting with the Riot MC after being renounced from his old MC. He has a past and a reputation as a ladies’ man, but rarely does a woman so blithely give him the brush-off. He knows something is wrong, but she slips away before he can figure out how to help. When an unexpected phone call puts her back in touch, Razor will stop at nothing to protect Neil from harm. However, Razor’s past isn’t done with him yet. Can he prove to Neil that she can trust him before it’s too late?






I had finished the last of my second pulled-pork sandwich, and was debating on making an early exit when Volt approached our huddle.
“Hear you got some problems?” he asked me, as he took a seat in a chair next to Jackie.
“Beg your pardon?”
“‘Your sister’s problems are your problems’?”
Shrugging, I said, “Is what it is. It’ll work out one way or another. It’s what sisters do, share their problems with one another.”
His chin-lift seemed almost ominous in the flickering light of the fire pit. “It’s what the brotherhood does, too. My girl likes you, that means you should tell us about your sister’s problems.”
I scowled. Then, jerking my head at Vamp, I asked, “I thought she was his girl. So, how would you hear that? I didn’t share that with Frankie or any of the other ladies.”
From behind me, Razor’s deep voice said, “I shared it with him.”
My jaw clenched as I fought the urge to punch this guy. Seriously! Where did he get off telling these people these things?
I focused on Volt. “Really, it doesn’t matter. With any luck, those issues will go away in a few weeks.”
“Heard she’s in rehab,” Volt said.
I tilted my head toward the sky, realized Razor was still behind me, and turned my head to him. “You really do have a big a mouth, PB.”
Vamp chuckled and asked, “PB? What’s that about?”
I turned a triumphant look to Vamp. “PB. Short for Pretty Boy.”
Razor growled behind me as Vamp, Volt, and Cal roared with laughter.
“Maybe we should change his road name when he earns his patch,” Cal suggested.
I didn’t hear any of the responses to that because Razor was whispering in my ear, “I end up with that as a road name, you’ll pay. Dearly, you’ll pay. I’d verify that you got what I’m sayin’, but I don’t care. You’ll damn sure get it if that shit hits the fan.”
I should have restrained my smart-ass self, but my response could not be denied. “Oh! I’m quaking in my boots, Pretty Boy.”
The fire made Razor’s blue eyes glisten, but he shifted his gaze from me to Volt. “Don’t let this gorgeous smart-ass change the subject. Her sister’s got serious problems.”
My neck was beginning to ache from leaning back to look at Razor for so long, but I kept my gaze steady as I asked, “How would you know that? I didn’t tell you jack about her problems.”
This drew his eyes back to me. “You downed two G-and-T's in less than thirty minutes, and Ethel’s is not a place people go to for Happy Hour on a Wednesday night.”
My eyes narrowed and I wanted to stand up, but at the same time I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of getting such a strong response from me.
“My drinking habits on a random evening don’t give you any knowledge about any problems my sister may, or may not, have.”
“Mmmm, this is good. I wish Tasha were here,” Mallory said.
“Me, too,” I heard, and I turned to see Jackie with an ear-to-ear grin on her face.
“Stop it,” I snapped at them.
Razor spoke and I looked back at him. “You had answers for everything ‘except her problems.’ You said so. You’re pretty damn quick with retorts, so that tells me that her problems must be in the big leagues. Add rehab into that equation, you need people like Riot on your side.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I snapped.
Volt’s calm voice pulled my head around. “Neil, I had a sister who got caught up in the wrong stuff. She never made it to rehab, because the asshole she fell for got behind the wheel high and drunk, running them into a parked car on the curb of the road. But I do know what it’s like to see your sister make bad choices over and over and over again. If we can help, we will. Keep it in mind.”
“Thanks,” I said to him, hoping he could see the sincerity in my eyes, although what the hell a group of bikers could really do for me and Cecilia, I did not know.
“No problem.”
Razor’s hands clamped on my shoulders. “Was that so hard, Tennille?”
“Is it so hard for you to mind your own business, Augustus?”
I bit back my smile as I heard multiple gasps around the fire pit.
Warm breath was on my neck as Razor whispered, “You’ll damn sure pay for that.”
I grabbed my Styrofoam plate and shot out of my plastic chair. “I do not think so. Hate to break it to you, but the payment the last time was lackluster at best.”

His expression went from heated to crestfallen to angry in seconds at my blatant lie. It had been a short kiss on Wednesday and there was no tongue or anything, but it was far from ‘lackluster.’ I turned on my heel, and as I marched away, I said to the group, “Great to meet y’all and thanks for the pulled pork sandwiches. They were the best I’ve had in a long time. Thanks for the invite, Trixie. See ya.”






  



Karen Renee is the author of the Riot MC Series. She has wanted to be a writer from a very early age, and she’s finally bringing that dream to life. She has worked in advertising, banking, and local television media research. She is a proud wife and mother, and a Jacksonville native. When she’s not at the soccer field or cooking, you can find her at her local library, the grocery store, in her car jamming out to some tunes, or hibernating while she writes and/or reads books.



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