Pardon the Interruption—The Joy of Books

You thought bookstores were magical during working hours? The folks who brought you Organizing the Bookshelf show you just how magical bookstores can be after hours.


ReCOVERy Room: Operation Prince Charming

Click to see original cover copy

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. DayY’all!

It’s time for another ReCOVERy Room, and I’ve selected one of our African American Romance titles, Operation Prince Charming, by Phyllis Bourne. Phyllis is also a co-author of our African American Romance Anthology, Holiday Inn, so if you like playing with the cover copy here, go grab her books! Maybe Hunter, aka Mr. Prince Charming, learns more than he expected at finishing school. Everyday his secret crush continues to grow! Let’s just say,  he’s “hot for teacher!”

ReCovery Room_Operation Prince Charming

Reading on a Budget: Book Swaps!

Hey Y’all,

If your wallet is still recovering from the holidays, or, like me, you’re a savvy shopper, have I got some great ideas for you! Reading can become an expensive habit, but what would we do without this joy?! Enter book swaps. If you’ve never participated in one, a book swap is pretty much just what it sounds like:

n: “…Practiced among book groups, friends and colleagues at work, it provides an inexpensive way for people to exchange books, find out about new books and obtain a new book to read without having to pay. Swaps occur between individuals, without central distribution or warehousing…”

Book Swaps Across the World!

It’s just like trading clothes with your sister or b.f.f.! True, swapping books has been happening for a while, but now there are more and more organized book swappers with an online presence. E-book lovers, don’t fret, whether you prefer print or digital, there’s a book swap for all readers! I’ve compiled a few swapsites for all you avid, budget-conscious readers.

Meetup: If you prefer to see the books, meet swappers, and chit chat a bit, then Meetup might be the search engine for you. Meetup is “the world’s largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face.” All you have to do is type in “book swap” and your zipcode, and Meetup spits out the website for your local book swap.

BookMooch: If you’ve completed a book and want to use it as currency, BookMooch is the place to go! You earn a point every time you mail a book to a “Moocher,” and in turn, you can get any book you want from other “Moochers”. Once you’ve read a book, you can keep it forever or put it back into BookMooch for someone else, as you wish. You only have to pay for shipping books to “Moochers;” that’s it, no joining fee or anything! The only costs you incur are the mailing costs. They even include an option to give your earned points to different charities. Check out their website for more details!

eBookfling: If y’all have an e-reader, don’t worry, you can still swap, borrow and lend. eBookfling lets you swap, borrow, or lend ebooks using your e-reader device. Like other swapsites, it’s free to join. All you have to do is sign up, list the books you’d like to swap, earn credits, and start reading!

The whole swap mentality is pretty cool, and I feel like I’ve been living under a rock to have missed this trend! Also, if you prefer, many major e-retailers also have swapping programs. I’m sure I’ve missed some other creative swap ideas. What do y’all think—what are the other thrifty ways to get your read on?

Thriller Thursdays: THE RAPTURE OF OMEGA

Richland Metropolitan Police Department’s spitfire detective, CeeCee Gallagher, is back and on the hunt in The Rapture of Omega.

CeeCee reminds me of the star of TNT’s The Closer, Brenda Leigh Johnson. They’re both powerful women in a man’s world. They may look pretty, but they’ve got unique skills that get them to the bottom of any crime. Quick. And they can kick your ass.

In The Rapture of Omega (October 2011), the latest book in Dittrich’s detective series, CeeCee thinks she’s investigating three unrelated homicides, but when she notices that all the bodies have the same mysterious mark, the clues lead CeeCee to the work of a sinister local cult. You’ll get a taste of the horrifying events yet to come in the prologue previewed below. I don’t know about you, but all I could think while reading it was “DON’T DRINK THE KOOL-AID, PEOPLE!”

Thrill On,



Jonestown, Guyana November 18, 1978

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light. No one can come to the father but through me!”

The words, screaming over the microphone, pierced her ears like millions of tiny needles fighting to reach the darkest depths of her mind. Putting her hands over both ears did little to ease the pain. She saw her older brother also had his hands over his ears; and his eyes were closed tight, as if waiting for the bomb to drop. Hunkered down and hiding underneath the bed, one would suppose that was the most likely reason. But the truth of the matter was far worse.

The temperature in the cabin soared as the day went on, causing both Rebecca and her brother, John, to long for a taste of water. Oh, they could have easily gone outside and drank the red water to quench their thirst like everyone else, but their mother told them to hide and wait for her—no matter what. When the screams began less than an hour later, Rebecca held her breath. The fear that had slowly crept inside held her in its tight grip; her heart was racing, and the sweat poured into her eyes. She knew that a six-year-old girl hadn’t ever died of a heart attack, but she was scared just the same. Rebecca and John were holding each other now, praying together that their mother would come for them soon. Rebecca accepted the somber truth that her father would not ever come back. He was probably asleep by now, along with the others. Still, she wanted her mommy.

Her father brought them here six weeks ago. He was the one that said their salvation was in Africa with “Dad.” That was what Mr. Jones wanted everyone to call him, Dad or Father.

The Temple had all been practicing for this day for a long time. It was supposed to take place a month from now, but this morning, at prayer, “Dad” said, “Today is the day of salvation.” Rebecca never truly understood the motive behind it, although she knew it had something to do with the upcoming apocalypse; “Dad” said this would be their only way into heaven.

Mommy never liked “Dad.” Once in a while, Rebecca would see her mommy’s eyes roll during his evening teachings, or she would sneak a wink and a smile to Rebecca and John. Rebecca closed her eyes and imagined what was going on outside.

The lines would be long as the members stood to willingly accept their drink, their ticket to heaven. The dedicated mothers would hold their babies as the men shot the liquid into the infants’ mouths with large syringes. One by one, they would each lie down and go to sleep, only to awaken in the house of God. “Dad” said it would be miraculous. Those who decided not to seek their salvation would be taken anyway.

Rebecca felt a growing resentment toward her father for bringing them here. He had changed. Gone was the man who took them out for ice cream after dinner, the man that told her bedtime stories, and the man that could impersonate Donald Duck better than anyone. Mommy knew that, too. Rebecca could see it in her face when her mommy looked at her father. Mommy . . .

“Where is she?”

John’s breathless question gave her a brief reprieve from her thoughts, but brought her back to the nightmarish reality they were in.

“Ma-maybe she’s already asleep.” Rebecca’s voice quivered.

“Don’t say that, Becky! She’ll come back!”

The fumbling doorknob about six feet to their right ended their conversation. John promptly put his hand over Rebecca’s mouth and pulled her as far back against the wall as possible. Sheltered only by the soiled mattress above their heads, they waited. Rebecca could feel John’s heart pounding through his sweat-soaked shirt and noticed her own pulse had quickened so rapidly, she thought she might faint.

“John! Rebecca!” The loud whisper of their mother’s voice filled the room.

“Mommy! Mommy!”

Rebecca pushed her brother away and crawled out from under the bed, at breakneck speed, before embracing her mother around the waist.

“Shhh! You need to be quiet, we don’t have much time. John, come here!”

Rebecca saw her mother look toward the door. Her mother, like John and Rebecca, was soaked with sweat, and dirty. Her clothes  were disheveled and she had a look in her eyes that Rebecca had never seen before; her mother was terrified, and that made Rebecca cry.

“Becky, honey, shhh.” Her mother knelt down and embraced her. “It’s going to be okay, but I need you two to listen, please. There’s a loose panel in the wood over there. Push on it and crawl through it—but be careful no one sees you!” Her breath was quickening as she looked at the door again. “Run, as fast as you have ever run, straight back behind the cabin into the jungle. If you stay straight, you’ll come up to a big tree with red flowers growing around the bottom—it’s hollowed. Crawl inside there and wait for me. Don’t come out unless you hear me calling! Do you understand? Don’t come out at all!”

Rebecca and John nodded their heads furiously up and down as Rebecca continued to wipe the tears that flooded her eyes.

“Where’s Daddy?” John’s own eyes were watery.

Rebecca’s mother paused. “He’s asleep.”

John began to really cry as Rebecca’s own floodgate opened up, full force. Their mother pulled them both to her breast, holding them tightly, but not for very long. She gently pushed them out in front of her, arm’s length.

“I love you both very much, okay?” Her mother was fighting back her tears something fierce. “Do this, and I will be there—I promise, and we’ll leave this place and never come back again. Now, go. John, take care of your sister. Go!”

Her mother pushed them toward the wall of loose paneling. As Rebecca crawled through the hole, she took just a split second to look back at her mother. Standing in the doorway of the cabin, her mother was sobbing as she watched her children escape.

“I love you, Mommy!” Rebecca could barely produce the words.

“Go, Becky!”

John pushed her through the hole before climbing out behind her. He grabbed her hand tightly and pulled as they started a dead run toward the jungle. Not looking back, Rebecca heard her mother scream as they reached the edge of the trees. It was a death scream. Rebecca had been hearing them for the last hour. John stopped so suddenly, she ran into him and almost fell down. He turned to face her and grabbed her by the shoulders.

“Go! I’ll meet you there!”

“Joh- Johnny, noooo!”

“Now, goddamn it!”

It was too late. Her brother had already started back toward the cabin. Doing what John had ordered, Rebecca had only run ahead a few feet when the sound of gunfire caused her to stop. She turned just in time to see her ten-year-old brother fall to the ground, riddled with bullets. If only for the sheer will to live, Rebecca ran like she had never before, deep into the jungle, the sound of gunfire close behind her. Dizziness and the pain in her side overcame her as she reached the tree with the red flowers. Crawling inside she began taking deep breaths as she listened to the potent voice, far off in the distance, scream his last words.

“If we can’t live in peace, then let’s die in peace! We are not committing suicide—it’s a revolutionary act . . .”



“The National Weather Service has just confirmed a powerful cell forming o the coast of South Africa, expected to reach hurricane status within days. The remaining Florida residents are already making plans to evacuate. If the expected path reaches the coast of Florida by next week, Hurricane Stephen would make the fourth major hurricane to devastate the Florida coast in the last six weeks. Florida governor Randall Jimenez is expected to order a mandatory evacuation for aected areas beginning Friday. In other news . . .”

I reached over and turned the radio off before tossing my half- smoked cigarette out the window. I didn’t need to hear any more depressing news about other parts of the world. I had enough here, in Mansfield, Ohio, to keep me occupied.

Just thirty feet from my car lay the remains of a murder victim—young, pretty, and savagely brutalized. I’d say that allows me a significant amount of depression. Fifteen years of looking at bodies never gets easier. I’d give a number on this particular murder, but I quit counting a long time ago. Most people assume that I, Sergeant Detective CeeCee Gallagher, am made of steel. After reading newspaper accounts that have deemed me the ace detective of the Richland Metropolitan Police Department Major Crimes Division, they tend to look genuinely surprised when I show any type of emotion toward a victim. That fact alone disturbs me. I don’t want to be perceived as a coldhearted bitch that was born without tear ducts, or a soul, for that matter. But then again, why should I care what they think?

The warm stream of sweat that slowly made its way down the side of my face alerted me that the air-conditioning in my car had just conked out. I sighed.

“You gonna come out and look at this, or are you hell-bent on losing forty pounds while you sit in there and melt?”

So deep in my thoughts, I hadn’t noticed that my fellow detective, and dear friend, Jeff “Coop” Cooper, had walked up to my window. Boyishly handsome, and devilishly funny, Coop was married to the boss—Captain Naomi Cooper, formerly Kincaid. Naomi was on the riverbank with the others, processing the body and scene. Coop began running his fingers through his dark hair and fanning his shirt out.

“Jesus! I thought it was supposed to cool down a little today.”

“It has. We have officially cooled down to a balmy ninety-one degrees.”

I whipped my long, sweat-soaked blonde hair into a ponytail before grabbing my briefcase off the passenger seat. Coop opened the door for me, still whining about the temperature.

“Ninety-one degrees, my ass. I think this sucks.”

“Ah, the pleasures of global warming.” I slammed my car door shut and nodded toward the embankment. “What have we got down there?”

“Prepare yourself. She’s only been there about two days, but the heat has accelerated decomposition something awful. It’s not pretty, and you can only imagine the smell.” He crinkled his nose as if I needed a visual. “Coroner says it looks like some type of crude abortion. She bled out.”

I stopped walking, already smelling the body. “What? Is she young?”

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Western Wednesdays—OPEN RANGE by Lauran Paine

I have to admit, I saw the movie Open Range before I ever read the book by Lauran Paine. In my opinion, the film was successful in many ways in adapting the source material to the big screen. But, Lauran Paine is Lauran Paine. He’s a hell of a storyteller. His books have a rhythm all their own, and his words create a unique experience that film simply can’t replicate. I’m previewing two chapters of Open Range today because, well,  I’m of the opinion that the more time spent with Paine’s characters, the better.

Happy Reading,
Allison Carroll
Dorchester Publishing

Chapter One

A Gray World

Everything had a uniform drabness: the sky, the earth, and everything in between was gray. Sudden downpours from squall winds added to the dreary sameness. Even glimpses of some distant mountains showed them also to be gray.

The old wagon blended into the gloominess. There was a waterproofed texas someone had made by raising a pole underneath the cloth, high in the center so water would run downward instead of accumulating in the center of the top, causing a hazardous sag. There was a shallow shovel-width trench completely around the wagon, which carried off most of the water. The ground beneath the texas was wet but not soggy.

Everything seasoned rangemen could do to mitigate wetness had been done, but after the second day of steady rainfall nothing could keep the moisture out completely. Even the air inside the wagon was damp.

There had been very little warning. One night when the men bedded down they saw a few fleecy clouds in the sky. The clouds looked soiled around the edges but they were not numerous. Sometime during the night the storm had arrived. Its intensity gradually built up from one of those customary summer showers that cattlemen welcomed until it became a genuine gully washer that had not slackened for two days and nights.

The cattle were out there, invisible to the range-men whenever the cattle were more than a hundred yards away. The same with the horses—two half-ton bay harness animals and eight saddle horses.

This kind of a storm, out in the middle of a thousand miles of rolling-to-flat grassland with a monotonous view in all directions, had an effect on men whose thoughts, habits, and customs had made them individuals who coveted wide open spaces. Suddenly the weather had forced their horizons to shrink way back to the perimeter of the old wagon, along with most of their activities. By the second day of the downpour they had gone from inhabitants of an almost limitless world to being prisoners of an area no more than sixty feet long by about twelve feet wide.

They played poker with a greasy and dog-eared deck of cards. They slept as often as they cared to. They talked about other times, other places, other people and events. Finally, they took to smoking beneath the texas, coat collars turned up, shirts closed all the way to the gullet, hat brims pulled in front and back so water could run off down the sides. The rangemen buckled their chaps into place, leaving the part below the knee swinging free, because leather kept water out, for a while anyway.

The eldest of them was Boss Spearman. Sixty-odd years earlier his mother had named her beautiful little chubby baby boy Bluebonnet because his eyes were the color of the flower, but no one had called him anything but Boss for about half a century.

His mother wouldn’t have recognized him now. Boss was a little under six feet tall, lean, scarred, lined, craggy with a shock of rarely combed iron-gray hair. Like all orphaned Texans left on their own in the wake of a ruinous war, Boss Spearman had reached manhood by clawing his way. Whatever was said about him, he was resourceful. He was taciturn among townfolks and strangers, and he was as shrewd as they came, tough and sinewy. His thoughts, movements, and actions were those of a much younger man.

The youngest of the rangemen was a waif called Button, which was a common name for youngsters. Boss and Charley Waite had rescued Button from an alley fight where townsmen in western New Mexico had pitted him against another boy and placed bets on the outcome. Button was getting whipped to a frazzle when Boss and Charley broke it up and took him out to the wagoncamp with them.

Now Button was sixteen, doing a man’s work in a man’s world, growing like a weed, thin as a rail, with hair the color of dirty straw.

Charley had trailed cattle west with Boss Spearman. He was a little less than average in height, had muscle packed inside a powerful frame, had dark hair and eyes, and could do something few other men ever learned. He could rope equally well with either hand. Charley’s full name was Charles Travis Postelwaite. Before he’d reached twenty he shortened it to Charley Waite. He looked to be about forty-five but in fact was thirty-five.

The last of them was well over six feet tall and weighed better than two hundred pounds. He had nondescript dark hair and deep-set gray eyes, a wide mouth, and scars. His name was Mosely Harrison. They called him Mose.

Big Mose, leaning against the tailgate beneath the canvas, was the first to see the rent in the sky far eastward and say, “It’s goin’ to break up. Look yonder.”

But the storm didn’t break up. Not for another twenty-four hours, and then it ended the same way it had arrived, silently in the soggy night. When they rolled out in the morning to get a cooking fire started with damp wood, there was only a misty dampness to the air. The downpour had stopped.

For another few days, though, the ground would be too treacherous underfoot to do much, and there were seepage springs everywhere that underlying layers of rock would not allow water to penetrate.

Charley was frying sidemeat. The old pot held the last of their coffee. When the others squatted to eat in silence, Charley rationed out soggy fried spuds, meat, and three baking-powder biscuits to each plate. He sat down with his tin dish. “Nice little rain,” he said. “Grass’ll be strong all the way into July maybe.”

No one else spoke. They chewed, swallowed, and raised more food to their mouths. They washed the food down with the coffee, then put the tin cups and plates aside to roll smokes. The smoking was a ritual. It signified something: the end of a meal, the end of a day, the spiritual or philosophical girding up for something ahead. Maybe a self-reward for having survived a particular event.

Boss tipped ash into the little fire. “My maw used to say don’t anything happen it don’t bring some good with it.” He pointed with his cigarette hand. They’d been having trouble with the wagon’s wheels through a month of hot weather. “Them tires and spokes and felloes is as tight as when they was new.”

The next morning the sun arrived, huge and orange-yellow with a single cloud in its path toward the meridian. An hour later the ground steamed; the men shed coats and still sweated. They loafed around the wagon doing minor chores until the kid found the horses. One horse anyway. He’d gone out on foot with a bridle draped from one shoulder and a lariat in his right hand.

Boss walked out a ways, remained out there for a while, then returned to lean on the tailgate, scraping mud off his boots as he said, “Not a sight of anything. I got a feeling we’re going to set right here for maybe a week before we find all those damned cattle.”

Mose Harrison was rubbing mold off a saddle fender. “If the ground was harder, we could take the wagon wherever the cattle are instead of was-tin’ days finding them and driving them back here.”

Boss gazed at the hulking man. “Yeah,” he said dryly. “If. All my life it’s been, If.”

Charley went up front where the wagon tongue was held off the ground by a little wooden horseshoe keg. He sat up there until he saw distant movement, then returned to the tailgate area. “He caught one.”

Boss finished cleaning off the mud and pitched the twig into the dying coals of their breakfast fire. “You want to find the other one, Charley?”

When Button finally got back, mud to the knees and leading a roman-nosed, rawboned big sorrel horse with feet the size of dinner plates, Charley went out with an old croaker sack to dry off the animal’s back before saddling up.

The heat had been steadily, muggily building up for over two hours. It would have helped if there had been a little air stirring, but the air was stone-still. Visibility, however, was excellent as Charley reined away heading on an angling northwesterly course. Because there were no tracks, finding any animals would be by sight alone.

They would eventually find them. They’d been through worse situations than this many times. Grazing cattle constantly moved, and this sooner or later brought rangemen face to face with just about every inconvenience or obstacle nature or man could devise.

It was simply a matter of finding which way the cattle had drifted, with their heads down and their rumps to the force of the storm.

What made it unlikely that Charley Waite would find the cattle soon was the duration of the storm. The cattle could drift one hell of a distance in two days.

The roman-nosed horse sweated even at a steady walk. Charley did too. So did the ground, but its sweat was a rising faint mist as hot sunlight cooked soggy earth.

There was a lot of territory on all sides. The only barrier was a range of haze-distanced mountains to the north. They seemed to form around the big prairie in a long-spending curve, like a huge horseshoe.

There were no signs of two-legged life, but there were plenty of pronghorns and deer. Charley came up over a landswell and startled a young, tawny yellow cougar eating a rabbit. They looked at each other in surprise for a couple of seconds before the cat broke away with his belly hairs scraping the ground as he fled eastward. Charley could have shot him. He had his saddlegun along. Instead he turned northward along the rise and stood in his stirrups seeking movement. A rising heat haze shortened visibility a little but he could still see for miles.

The land was empty.

He zigzagged over a mile or two looking for tracks. When he found them, finally, he was about ten miles from camp. From this point on he followed cow sign toward those distant mountains. The cattle would not have got that far, but he loped a little anyway. He needed reassurance that they hadn’t got up in there, because if they had, it was going to be hard work finding them and driving them back to open country.

The mountains did not seem to be getting any closer no matter how far he rode toward them. What he sought was a sighting or, failing that, the scent of cattle.

What he found was a big calf lying dead. Squawking buzzards surrounded the corpse, too engrossed in feeding to notice his approach until he was close enough to yell and startle them. Most of the birds ran along the ground to get airborne, but several ignored the proximity of the man to tear at the carcass, too hungry to depart immediately.

They finally left when Charley was about a hundred feet from the carcass. He rode closer, sat his saddle studying the dead calf, trying to figure out what had killed it. He gave up on that because the body had been torn and dragged until there was little semblance of its original self. Charley rode northward on the wide, perfectly visible trail of a lot of cattle.

He had not found the brand back there. If he’d cared to dismount and roll the carcass over to expose the right side, he probably could have found it. Boss Spearman, for some private reason, used one C-iron to make three letter Cs on the right rib cage of his cattle. Charley Waite had been with Spearman six years and still did not know what the three Cs stood for.

Some coyotes appeared through stirrup-high grass following the scent of blood. Charley saw them, then lost them, only to see them again in other places. He thought there were about fifteen of the varmints. There was no doubt about what they were seeking and would ultimately find. When that happened the buzzards would leave, and would stay away.

With the sun coming down the far side of heaven to make Charley tip down his hat to protect his eyes, he finally detected dark movement far ahead.

The cattle.

By count there were supposed to be four hundred cows, mostly wet ones with sassy-fat calves, along with about two hundred and fifty big marketable steers and something like fifteen bulls, a bigger ratio than most cattlemen used. But then, most cattlemen had particular ranges; their cows were not always moving.

Charley turned back, satisfied with this part of his mission. Now he concentrated on locating the horses. With them a man could never be as certain of eventual success. True, there had been no lightning and thunder to spook them out of the country, but they could still be a long way off.

Chapter Two

Getting Back to Normal

He found the horses by riding the course of a crooked creek that had the only tree shade for many miles. The horses were absorbing filtered sunshine while simultaneously stamping and flailing their tails at myriads of flying insects.

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Pardon the Interruption—Got Blood?

Check out these stars-in-the-making in today’s Pardon the Interruption. The students of Brooklyn’s PS 19 wrote and recorded this rap video in support of NY Blood Center’s Little Doctors Program. Take the lead from these little rappers and donate during National Blood Donor Month. Even those of you with needle phobias will be warming to the idea once this catchy chorus gets in your head.

To find information on how to donate, visit the American Red Cross website.


Click for original cover copy.

Bring some adventure to your Monday with this week’s ReCOVERy Room featuring the action-packed Hunt Through Napoleon’s Web by Gabriel Hunt. The crew at Dorchester tested this one out at lunch, and I have to say it got a little crazy. But I guess that will happen when people start throwing out fictional places for geographic locations (but really, who didn’t want to travel to Middle Earth and Narnia when they were kids?). Take a stab at it with your lunchmates and see where the road takes you!

Allison Carroll
Dorchester Publishing

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Hunt Through Napoleon’s Web ReCOVERy Room PDF