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Now Available: Rock Til You Drop, a Lerxst Johnston Mystery

Now Available: Rock Til You Drop, a Lerxst Johnston Mystery

Rock Til You DropI am pleased to announce that the second Lerxst book is now available in eBook format! Print is coming soon, hopefully in time for Collingswood. Just a reminder, if you bought Dead Barchetta, this is the sequel to that book. Rock Deadly, the revised first book in the series, is still free in eBook format. It’s like getting two books for one price!

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Kindle ~ Smashwords ~ Kobo ~ OmniLit (Nook and Google Play soon)

Just when Matt “Lerxst” Johnston has settled back into a normal routine of strumming chords and squabbling with family, something happens to once again turn his life upside down. Betrayed by his best friends, Lerxst seeks to rebuild his tribute band Dead Barchetta and his career, but murder stalls his plans.

Though he swore never to get involved in another mystery, everybody wants his help to find the killer. Once again, Lerxst sets aside his ES-335 and searches for clues to catch a murderer before another unsuspecting victim faces the music.

~*~

Excerpt (c) Kathryn Lively

A familiar mop of light hair bobbed in the front door window. Jack Kline played drums in our Rush/Grateful Dead tribute band, Dead Barchetta, and was also a partner in the music studio I co-owned with our bassist. Why he picked this formal route baffled me; he’d spent most of his life barging into our home unannounced. “Come on in,” I invited him, but he hung back and shook his head.

“I need to talk to you for a second,” he said, hands in jacket pockets and bouncing on his heels. “I know you have a full house tonight, and I’d rather not be heard by anybody else.”

Que? Jack looked shifty and nervous, like he had a dead body stuffed in the cab of his truck. I’d seen enough of those this year. “Sure,” I said, and closed the front door for good measure. “Let’s talk.” I gestured to the stoop and sat down next to him.

Jack wouldn’t look at me. He fixed on a spot of gravel on the pathway leading to the house. “Joel and I have been talking,” he said, referring to our third musketeer, “and we’re sort of on the same wavelength about a lot of things. The band, the business, stuff like that.”

“Okay, what about them?” I couldn’t follow if I didn’t know where to turn. Business peaked for us now, with enrollment for music lessons higher than it had been in years. As far as the band went, we were in the envious position of turning away offers for gigs because we nearly had a full calendar. I’d like to think that many local venues finally came to acknowledge the genius of my three favorite Canadian musicians and our ability to emulate them so well, but surely my recent celebrity played a part in the uptick of offerings. Few locally based musicians could claim to have escaped certain death in a situation worthy of a TV movie.

Not that I play up the fact for my benefit. I’m happy to have my life return to the bizarre level of normal to which I’m accustomed.

Jack seemed to struggle for words. He wrung his hands and sighed a lot. Whatever he had to say, he probably expected me to explode. It worried me, to be honest. Business was good, but we were by no means millionaires. In this questionable economy, we all knew parents viewed music lessons as a luxury more than a necessity, so we were prepared for a sudden downturn any time. It hadn’t happened yet, but the look on Jack’s face had me thinking of other disastrous scenarios.

“Jack, what is it?” I asked. “Is there a problem with the studio? Do you need money?” Please say no, I thought. Instant wealth didn’t come with the type of celebrity I’d earned.

He shook his head. “It’s not easy for me to say. I’ve known you forever.” His eyes glassed over, scaring me shitless now. This sounded more like an “I have cancer and it’s terminal” announcement.

“Lerxst,” he said, “Joel and I want to take the band in a different direction.”

“Oh.” This necessitated tears? “What does that mean, less Dead and more Barchetta or the other way around?” Our last few gigs had us doing more from our Grateful Dead playlist—not our strength, but we play what the person writing the check wants.

“It means less of both and more of…well, Jack and Joel,” Jack said. “We’ve been working on some original songs, and they’re good. They should be heard.”

“Okay.” I had to admit it sort of hurt to think my two band mates were writing songs without my knowledge. It’s no secret I prefer to play than compose, but I’m sure I could have offered some input on writing the music I’d eventually play. “Well, I’ve never had a problem with that. You know me, I’m always up for whatever you two want to try out. So, you want to bring some of these songs to our next rehearsal?”

Jack sighed again. Any minute, I expected him to slap the back of his hand against his forehead and emit a woeful wail. What the hell?

“We were thinking, Lerxst, of playing them ourselves. In our own band, independent of Dead Barchetta. In fact, we want to leave the group.”

The pound cake I’d eaten churned with the bile in my stomach and threatened to resurface. “Go on hiatus, or just go?”

Jack only looked at me. I wanted to believe I didn’t hear him right, because truthfully this conversation made little sense. Only last weekend we’d played to a packed crowd at an Oceanfront club, and Jack and Joel had neither said nor did anything to indicate they were unhappy with me or the band. I couldn’t figure this out at all.

“Why?” I wanted to know. “It sounds like you want me out of the picture altogether. What the fuck did I do to you guys to deserve this?”

“Lerxst, it’s not you. It’s us.”

“Jesus H.—”

“You’re not making this easy on me. Neither of you are.” Jack shot up and paced the gravel walkway. “Joel was supposed to come with me, but he chickened out. Said he thought it’d hurt less with just one of us here, and I’ve known you longer.”

Yes, I was supposed to feel bad for Jack because he drew the short straw and had to come alone to wrench a knife in my heart. “It was my idea to form a band,” I told him, trying to keep my voice from cracking, “and now you’re dumping me for no reason.”

“It’s not like that, guy. You got a good thing going with Diane now, and you’re going to want to see more of her. That means more trips to Jersey—”

“Which has not interfered with my work or the band,” I was quick to point out. “She is not a Yoko, so don’t even think of pegging her like that.”

“I never said she was, Lerxst. I like Diane, she’s great for you. Me,” Jack rocked on his heels again, eyes skyward and blinking away tears, “I want something like that, too. I don’t think I’m going to get it playing Rush songs fifteen to twenty nights a month.”

“Jack, I don’t care what we perform onstage. I do this because I love the band and you and Joel are my closest friends.” I stood now. I wanted to shake some sense into my friend. “I don’t understand why you feel it’s necessary to eject me from the group or leave it, whatever. The quality of my guitar playing hasn’t declined…is this because of what happened earlier this year?” Seriously, I didn’t ask to become involved in a cult-directed murder-suicide. At least it ended well for me, until this point.

“That’s not the issue. I’m glad you found your dad and sister and all that. We’ve just grown apart and want to do something else.”

“Grown apart? Fuck, Jack!” He looked genuinely frightened by how my voice carried in the night, but I didn’t care. Let them hear me in Williamsburg—I wanted the world to know how my heart broke to hear this.

I did oblige him by adding more softly, “If you’re leaving the group, I’m keeping the name. I came up with it, and you have no business using it if you’re not doing Rush covers.”

“That’s fine, man. We were going to let you have it.”

Well, fuck you very much for tossing me that bone, I almost said.

Jack reached into his jacket for a large manila envelope, which he handed to me. Inside I found a thick sheaf of papers and a check made out to me for twenty-five thousand dollars. “What the hell?” I cried, and thumbed through the thick contract of legalese. My heart numbed with every sentence I read.

They wanted to buy my share of the business. The fuckers might as well have sat shivah for me; they obviously considered me dead to them.

“You’ll find that’s a fair amount,” Jack was saying. “It covers your share of the studio and the equipment. Also, the PA system and all shared rigs. We…” he faltered and continued after swallowing, “we figured we could use them more quickly.”

“I don’t believe this.” I flipped to the end of the dissolution agreement and saw that Jack and Joel had already signed it. “You’re taking all the equipment and leaving me with nothing?”

“You’re getting twenty-five grand, Lerxst. It’s not like we’re taking your stuff away. You have plenty there to start over.”

I didn’t want to start over! I was happy with the status quo. “How long have you two been planning this?” I asked.

Jack looked down. “For a while now. You’ve been so busy with Diane lately, I don’t blame you if you haven’t noticed.”

“I notice plenty, Jack. You and Joel really know how to keep things quiet.” I rolled up the sheaf and batted it into my hand. “So, what? You found another guitar teacher? You’re going to take my students, too?” I’ve had some kids coming to me for lessons since they literally learned to walk. What were they going to think when they showed up at the studio to find a stranger in my chair?

“We’re going to let people know to call you if they still want lessons from you, Lerxst. We’re not trying to ruin your livelihood, we’re just…we’re making some changes.”

“Funny way of showing it. I still have some personal effects at the studio,” I said, thanking Ged I hadn’t left behind my Alex Lifeson signature ES-355. “Can I least come by tomorrow and pack up?”

“Uh, you know,” he scratched behind his ear, “we can drop it off later…”

“Fine. You know what? Fuck you, and fuck Joel. Both of you, up the ass with red hot pokers by a Dominatrix with bad eyesight. Give me a pen.” Of course he’d have one at the ready, and when he pulled it from his jeans pocket I snatched it and signed the damn thing on a raised thigh. Shoving the check in my pocket, I threw the agreement at Jack and turned without saying goodbye. Jack, my best friend since elementary school, wanted nothing more to do with me, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why. I didn’t see the sense in asking again, or saying anything more.

“Lerxst?” he called after me, but I kept walking.

“Matt?” he tried again. I couldn’t remember the last time he used my given name. Just as well he went back to using it. Everybody calls me Lerxst, except for strangers who don’t know any better.

I pulled the front door behind me so hard the foundation rattled. It did the trick, though. I couldn’t hear Jack’s voice anymore.

Interview with Author Sarka-Jonae Miller

Interview with Author Sarka-Jonae Miller

Please welcome guest author Sarka-Jonae Miller to the blog!

Thanks for stopping to chat! Please tell us a bit about your latest release, or what’s coming up.
I recently published my debut novel entitled “Between Boyfriends.” It’s a chick-lit story about one of those girls who simply cannot be single. She is always dating someone and changing herself for every guy she is with. In the beginning of the story Jan gets dumped over the phone by a guy she thinks is “the One.” Soon afterward her mother finds out that Jan dropped out of college in favor of massage therapy school. She is so furious both at Jan’s decision and at being lied to that she cuts her daughter off financially and takes back her American Express card. Jan has never worked a job or paid a bill in her life. She doesn’t even know how much her rent is because all her bills get sent to her parents. With her world turned upside down, Jan wonders what does she miss more: her ex or her AmEx?

How did you become inspired to write this work?

I knew a lot of Jans in high school and college. I had friends who would blow me off to go hang out with their boyfriends and then would be inconsolable when the jerks they picked treated them terribly. All women have a friend like Jan. I never completely understood what motivated that extreme behavior. I wanted to shake my friends and yell, “STOP. Just stop dating for five minutes and figure your life out.” Since that probably would not have gone over well I decided instead to write a novel from the perspective of one of “those girls,” a story in which the girl realizes what she is doing and takes steps to figure out what truly makes her happy instead of thinking some new guy is the answer.

Do you prefer to write one specific genre, or are you a bit all over the map? What is your favorite genre to write and why?

I write chick lit and fantasy. I could not tell you why I love those rather different genres. I adore chick lit because it is light and fun. It makes me laugh and it’s easy to relate to. As I writer, I appreciate the opportunity to introduce some heavy subject matter within a fun, humorous context. I do not particularly enjoy books that bum me out, but I do like books that make me think or teach me something about human nature. Fantasy, oddly enough, is another great genre for commenting on society or teaching life lessons in an indirect way. Fantasy allows a writer to make thoughtful and entertaining parallels to the real world without turning people off with a bit too much honesty. Plus I have quite a vivid imagination and if I don’t use that for my writing I suspect I may instead go a tad bit crazy.

Are you published primarily in print or eBook, or both equally? Which format do you prefer and why?

“Between Boyfriends” is only an eBook at the moment, but I recently found an affordable means to release a print version in the near future. I promised myself never to do a large run unless it was on recycled paper because I am a recycling nut. I love eBooks because they save trees and they are so much more convenient. I used to be a diehard print book fan who thought I would never get into eBooks. I loved everything about holding a real book in my hands. That all changed when I got my first e-reader and realized I could take my entire library traveling with me instead of only a couple of books. What I really love are audio books. I’m working on one of those for “Between Boyfriends” as well.

Do you own an e-reader, or maybe two? How do you like it?

I have a Sony Pocket e-reader. It was a gift from my dad and my boyfriend, though neither intended it to work out that way. I absolutely love it. I literally can fit it in my back pocket of my jeans, though I usually carry it in my laptop bag. I stare at a screen all day either writing my books or writing health articles so I originally thought I would hate staring at an e-reader screen. That was before I realized that the e-ink screens are exactly like print books and do not hurt your eyes at all.

What do you have planned writing wise for the rest of the year?

I am working on the sequel to “Between Boyfriends.” Jan goes to Thailand to study abroad and learn how to do Thai massage, which is one of my favorite modalities. I was a massage therapist, briefly, and my favorite type of massage to give was Thai massage. I have been to Thailand twice now, for a month each time, to do “research.” I visited the Wat Po temple in Bangkok, which is the home of Thai massage. They teach classes there. It’s a beautiful temple.

In addition to writing the sequel, I am working on a stand-alone chick-lit novel that is split between San Francisco and Paris. I go to San Francisco quite frequently to stay with friends and was inspired to write a book while there. It was the perfect excuse to finally go to Paris as well, which I did for one week. I must go back though: more “research.”

Do you have any social media profiles/pages where readers can follow you?

Bien sur (of course). I have a Facebook author page where I post all my updates on my work, interviews, character interviews, cover ideas and my health articles. I also like to share interesting articles about publishing and other authors I like. I have a blog onGoodreads and Word Press. I also have two Twitter accounts that I tweet from daily:@sarkajonae and @boyfriendsnovel.

Who are your favorite authors in your primary genre?

Sophie Kinsella/Madeleine Wickham, Lauren Weisberger, Risa Green, Candace Bushnell, Marian Keys, and Helen Fielding. I have also recently become acquainted with the works of Juliette Sobanet, Lucie Simone, Wendy Nelson Tokunaga, and Nancy Scrofano. I recommend other people do so as well.

Do you have a favorite charity? How does it appeal to you?

Farm Sanctuary is my favorite charity, though Soi Dogs, PETA, World Vision and the Humane Society are close seconds. Farm Sanctuary helps abused and abandoned farm animals. They have a farm in California and one in New York where they take care of animals. I am a huge animal lover. I’ve been vegan since 1999 and was a vegetarian for a year before that. Factory farming practices in the US are disgusting and I fully support charities and companies that do all they can to lessen the suffering of farm animals. I’m vegan not because I think drinking milk or eating eggs is a crime; I am vegan because I believe hacking off beaks of chickens without painkillers and forcing them to live in tiny, filthy cages where their nails grow so long they cannot even walk and the space is so packed they cannot extend their wings is criminal. And that’s just the chickens. That does not even account for what the hormones and conditions do to the product and how gross that is for people to consume. I’m all for eating dairy if you treat the animals kindly and create a product free from pus, blood, antibiotics and other nasty stuff that makes people sick. Just saying. I am a health nut too and I want people to have healthy food free of pesticides, drugs and other “additives” that make them sick. Of course I also want to see people fed, especially children, so I support World Vision and other charities that provide food and healthcare to impoverished people.

~

Jan Weston is boy crazy, emphasis on crazy. But when “The One” breaks her heart, Jan vows to change. She quits dating, starts exercising and tries to be a better friend.

Her progress is derailed when her mother finds out that she dropped out of San Diego State University to attend massage therapy school. Furious at being lied to, Mrs. Weston cuts Jan off. Now Jan is without a guy, her American Express card and a way to pay for school. She has to do something so despicable, so vile, so cruel, she almost cannot imagine it: Jan has to find a job. With the support of her real friends and the hottie from her massage class Jan is able to survive, barely. But can she really change, or is she temporarily between boyfriends?

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Read an eBook Week

Read an eBook Week

This is Read an E-Book Week. I could use this time to pimp the ones I have for sale, but I also want to take this time to acknowledge my many author friends and acquaintances who have published primarily in eBook format, who seek new readership. I will read just about anything, and as it happens the people I know write everything. If you received a digital reader for Christmas, or have downloaded a reading app to your tablet, phone, or computer, let me help you build your library.

Contemporary Fiction

Once Beneath the Stars – RS Lentin

Daddy Left Me Alone With God – Robin Slick (more from Robin)

Mystery Authors

Dick Francis (not all his books are available via Kindle, but many of the later ones and the ones by son Felix are)

Judi McCoy (also romance)

Rita Mae Brown (I like the cat and foxhunting mysteries)

Action/Adventure

L.A. Banks

Romance Authors

Bridget Midway

Yvette Hines

Denise Jeffries

Tilly Greene

Cat Johnson

Eliza Gayle

Erotica Authors

Alessia Brio (lots of free stuff here to try out) 

Helen E.H. Madden

Publishers For Whom I’ve Worked (as writer or editor)

Mudania Press

Phaze Books

Silver Publishing

Breathless Press