Book Blitz & Excerpt: Pickoff, by GP Hutchinson

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Pickoff
America’s Pastime, Book 3
by GP Hutchinson

Sports Thriller, Crime Thriller, Romantic Thriller

Published: April 2021

Publisher: The Hutchinson Group

A ballplayer. A diva. The mob. Trouble, 1920s style.

Ace major league catcher Joe Rath suddenly finds himself riding the pine when team management decides they’ve got to have slugger Frank Walsh on the roster. Only, Walsh brings along more baggage than anybody bargains for.

Meanwhile, Rath’s troubles multiply. With his wife already discontent back home, he keeps bumping into a certain breathtaking showgirl whose dangerous situation he can’t ignore. A Chicago crime boss enters the picture, and things snowball.

Before he knows it, Rath finds himself not only running the base paths but also running for his life.

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Excerpt from Chapter 3

Just then, a lone spotlight came on, casting its smoky beam to the baby grand piano on stage. As the piano player commenced the introduction to a slower number, a drop-dead gorgeous blonde in a glittering silver dress drifted into the curve of the piano.

Pinky’s jaw fell open. “Hubba hubba,” he murmured.

Hubba hubba, indeed, Joe mused.

She began to sing, and her voice was as captivating as her appearance. “There’s a saying old, says that love is blind . . . ”

This is that new Gershwin song.” Pinky wiped his lips with the back of his hand.

Shhh.”

Pinky stared at him. “You’re a married man, Joe. You need to leave this one to me.”

He was right, of course. But that voice.

Only man I ever think of with regret . . . ”

Joe stood spellbound. The girl was stunning—fashionable waves crimped into her chin-length hair, smoky eyes, perfect lips. She made the melody ebb and flow, seemingly without effort. Yet just beneath the surface, there was something he couldn’t quite put his finger on.

In a fuller voice, the lovely diva carried the tune along to its elegant chorus. And all of a sudden, there it was. “I’m a little lamb who’s lost in a wood . . . ”

That was it—an air of vulnerability, Joe thought. Despite the aura of sophisticated sensuality, something in the way she held her hands, something in the way she rendered each phrase said she wasn’t so secure.

Come on, he said to himself. How do you know that? It’s a song about a woman in need—

Someone to Watch Over Me.’ That’s the way she’s gotta sing it.Nevertheless, he couldn’t shake the notion. He knew insecurity. He’d felt it himself in some ball games. He’d picked up on it in other ballplayers, even called for a certain pitch to take advantage of it when he sensed it in a batter.

The song ended, and the room resounded with applause.

The girl gave a demure smile, a bashful bow. And then she sashayed off the stage to a dark fellow in a dark suit who gave her his arm and led her through a curtained doorway.

Wow!” Pinky’s gaze was still on the curtains. “I’ll watch over you, sweetheart. Come to Papa.”

Joe glanced Pinky’s way. “Wipe your chin, buddy. You’re drooling.”

Pinky ran his fingers over his chin, then looked Joe in the eyes. “Whatcha talking about, funny guy? Dry as a bone. Anyway”—he pointed—“I saw the way you were looking at her, too. Don’t make me have to tell the little missus back in Baltimore your eyes are wandering when you’re off away from home.”

He knew Pinky was only kidding. Nonetheless, he was right. Mena was already bothered by all their time apart. Joe wondered whether she secretly feared he might fall for some pretty young doll he met along the way and return to Baltimore with divided affections.

One more beer,” he said, “then I’m gonna ankle it back to the hotel, call it a night.”

Hey, I was only joking about you and Miss Little Lost Lamb. Don’t you wanna stick around and see if she’s gonna sing another number?” Pinky clasped Joe’s shoulder.

I don’t know . . . ”

Really. Why hurry off? It’s not like you and me are gonna work a lot of innings tomorrow.”

A flurry of thoughts whirled through Joe’s mind—Mena, the singer, asking Cap Irwin to trade him to a team where he’d have a shot at becoming a star catcher once again. “Probably not,” he admitted.

There you go, then. Let’s get us another coupla drinks.”

Just one more.


About the Author

“GP Hutchinson has the gift to tell a compelling tale, enlighten you without preaching and keep you on the edge of your seat. He takes you on unexpected trails populated by flesh and blood characters of depth and substance,” says Western TV & movie star Alex Cord. Nick Wale of Novel Ideas says, “With great mastery GP Hutchinson paints a West I can see, feel and smell. [He] knows how to write, and he knows instinctively.”

Hutchinson’s first Western novel, “Strong Convictions,” won the Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award for Best First Western of 2015, as well as a gold medal from the National Indie Excellence Awards. “Strong Suspicions,” the second volume in the Emmett Strong Western series, garnered a gold medal in the 2016 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards. And “Strong Ambitions” took silver in the 2017 Readers’ Favorite Awards.

In addition to his interest in the Old West, GP Hutchinson has been a longtime enthusiast of baseball, America’s first true national pastime, a game played from coast to coast by the late 1800s. While he enjoys the game as it is played today, his most recent novels are tales of players caught up in life-and-death struggles during the early years of professional baseball. Steeped in the actual history of the game, as well as societal realities of the times, these stories feature both fictional and actual characters, teams, and leagues.

A graduate of Louisiana State University and Dallas Theological Seminary, Hutchinson has lived in Costa Rica and Spain. He currently resides in upstate South Carolina with his wife, Carolyn. Besides writing, he enjoys spending time in the mountains and horseback riding whenever the opportunity arises.

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Spotlight & Excerpt: Dahlia + Giveaway

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Dahlia:
The Velvet Witch and Her Dark Spirit
by David Minutillo
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Romantic Thriller

 


Making a pact with the underworld isn’t a problem …
but change the deal and hell breaks loose.

Dahlia’s world was turned upside down as a child and her innocence taken. But she chose to fight back with her own blend of magical mayhem. Levi has been let down by every person he’s ever loved. He’s betrayed, lost and about to end it all.

London, 2019. Our star-crossed lovers meet at a tattoo festival on the Thames. Big Ben might look the same, but magic is spilling onto the streets as Dahlia’s dark spirit begs for blood. Can she keep her raging orbit in check long enough to survive? Are they doomed? Or can Levi save them both?

You’ll love this paranormal thrill-ride of beauty, chaos and despair which will keep you guessing until the bitter end.

** Only .99 cents!!**
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dahlia vw- excerpt

We bounce from tent to tent, gawking at the wondrous displays on show. The buzz of tattoo guns is thick in the air, along with the smell of sterilised steel and ink. Only in a hospital would you find more bloodied body parts.
We stop to watch a lady have her inner thigh carved up with a vibrating weapon. Between the way the artist has her positioned and her very short skirt, nothing’s left to the imagination. But it’s his design that really has us drooling.

This festival is about so much more than tattoos. It represents an entire subset of society, the counterculture movement, those that choose not to conform and are proud of the fact. If it’s considered taboo, you’ll find it here. Each stand is an ode to the odd. One heavy-set man is flogging body rings and offering to, “throw the piercing in for free”. A husband-and-wife team stand behind a pyramid of homemade soap, each block coming with precise instructions on how to scrub your soul clean. Another display is merely hundreds of stacked plastic cages filled with docile rodents being cared for by a boy who barely looks thirteen.

We wander on, pushing each other and giggling like idiots. We’re riding high from our earlier escape and the cocktail of additives in our systems. The drugs are working nicely now. Our minds are on a spicy teapot ride. We stare endlessly at everything and focus on nothing. People’s faces roll in and out of our gaze and one lady even bothers to ask, “Are you two alright?” Probably not, but God, don’t it feel good.




A small travel journal on a family holiday to Italy in 2005 would become the catalyst for my first book. After bad weather forced us inside, I found myself scribing a story about a fictional character named, Lucca from Portofino. Balcony Nights – Tales of a Moonlit Guitarist was born, and for the next year, my keyboard took a beating as my imagination leapt into print.

But my downfall was self-belief. And eventually, niggling inadequacy won the battle, and I shelved the project. Over the next decade, I would get random hot flushes of enthusiasm and open the manuscript from time to time. Though inevitably, after a day’s tinkering, I would see a complete rewrite was in order and quietly back away from the near finished draft.

Ironically, another holiday would change all that, when I read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (the Holy Bible for anyone suffering with procrastination). It was time to kick my own ass into submission and get a book finished. The idea for Dahlia came into my head a few days later, and once again, I spent morning and night, before and after long days of work, bashing away at the keys. One day I looked up and there it was. A 120,000 word, completed manuscript.

Not long after, came the redundancy call from Egan. And just like that, I was a full-time writer. It’s now been a year and change since that day, and I couldn’t be prouder of sticking to my guns and working my ass off to make this dream come true. In that time, I’ve started and finished a novella called Travel Infinity, completed a second, 100K manuscript called Scarecrow and have just published my first novel called Dahlia – The Velvet Witch and Her Dark Spirit on all major sites.

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Critical Density + Giveaway

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Critical Density
by Desiree Holt

Word Count: 74,658
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 276

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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Book Description

 

Running for her life, saved by a hunky former SEAL, she never expected the sex to be as hot as the danger zone.

Hannah Modell thought she had life by the tail—a great job as a drone engineer at top-notch Lowden Tactical with one successful project after another…until it all blew up in her face. Literally.

Now she’s on the run. If she hadn’t met the sexy stranger, she has no idea what would have happened. But former SEAL Matt ‘Viper’ Roman turned out to be both an answer to a prayer and the sexiest man alive.

As the men of the mysterious Galaxy agency race against time to prove her innocence and find the real culprit, things heat to the boiling point between Hannah and Viper.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, death, murder, inprisonment, and political corruption.

Excerpt

How fucking long can they keep me here?

Hannah Modell looked out of the window of her hotel suite to the esthetic view of…the parking lot. Beyond it, she could see other buildings in downtown Houston, accented by the sparkle of the evening lights just coming on. Traffic filled the streets as people came and went, punctuated by the impatient honking of horns. She’d be happy to be in that irritated crowd. She’d be happy to be anyplace except this hotel. Scratch that. Anyplace except for Houston.

How in hell had this happened? One minute, she’d been doing her dream job. The next, she’d been one step away from being arrested and tried for murder. Or whatever they decided to call it.

Fourteen days since it happened, and she was still shocked by the whole thing. She and the rest of her GO-Team had been in a remote location, delivering explosives via drone to take out a key terrorist figure. They’d been told the man was hiding out in a house on Chesapeake Bay. The word was that he’d planned a strike on a major United States city and their assignment was to take him out first.

Her GO-Team had been flown to an isolated location to launch the drone, which had been outfitted with special equipment because of the explosives and had a long-range capacity. This was a black ops assignment, so only the top brass at Lowden and Hannah and her team had the details. It was only the third time she’d been tasked with doing something this enormous and she’d spent hours checking and double checking everything to make sure nothing would go wrong. She knew she’d probably driven her team nuts, but she didn’t care. There was no room for error in a situation like this.

She’d been stunned when the helicopter carrying Greg Kingsley, Lowden’s executive vice president, had shown up at their site. He never came out to remotes. Jumping out of the chopper, he’d told them they had to shut down the job. Right. Now. Right that minute. Finish packing everything up so they could get the hell out of there.

For a moment, she’d just stood there, shocked.

“But—why?”

“There’s a situation, Hannah. Something went wrong big time with the drone delivery. A fuckup and we have a tragedy on our hands.”

“A tragedy?” She’d stared at him like he was speaking a foreign language.

“Worse than that. A disaster of epic proportions. No, bigger than epic.”

Fingers of panic had curled in her stomach. “Greg. Please, please tell me what happened. You know how carefully I check everything before we even leave the campus.”

“Okay, but right now we have to get everyone out of here while we sort this out. Especially you.”

“But—”

“No buts, Hannah.” His voice had had a hard edge to it. “Lowden needs to see you ASAP, since this is your baby. He’ll go over everything with you. I’m just the delivery guy.”

What the hell?

On the flight back, she’d pestered him for details, but he’d had little to say beyond what he’d already told her. He’d just kept repeating that she should wait until they were back at Lowden. She’d been baffled at how this had happened. Misdirect a drone to dump its payload in a different place? Me? Hell, no. She was committed to her job, her country, her patriotism. That was why working for a paramilitary company that—among other things—did black jobs for the government had been so satisfying. Because she got to serve her country in a way a lot of people never could. She didn’t even have friends outside of the job, and those she could only categorize as acquaintances. How disgusting was that?

The moment they’d landed at the complex, Kingsley had hustled her right to Eric Lowden’s office, where he’d told her she was off the job until the situation was resolved.

“Situation?” She’d repeated the word. This was a hell of a lot more than that.

“Your drone flew off course.” Lowden hadn’t minced any words with her. “I don’t know if the programming got screwed up or something else did. The fact remains that somehow, instead of taking out the terrorist, which was your assignment, that drone ended up at Senator Mark Hegman’s summer house and blew it all to shit. Including the senator. We’re just damn lucky his wife wasn’t there at the time.”

“What?” Her stomach had cramped and a chill had slithered down her spine. “I don’t understand. How did this happen?”

“That’s what we have to find out. Right now. There’s a shitstorm you wouldn’t believe.”

“But I double and triple checked all my settings,” she’d assured him, “and we tested it several times before leaving the campus. I always do. You know that.”

“Like I said, we’re being bombarded with questions,” he’d told her. “From all sides, including the fucking government that contracted this. We can’t let them near you until we have answers. I’m doing my best at the moment to avoid everyone, including the media, and juggle everything else. I managed to get the story out that the drone veered off course, which is how this terrible tragedy occurred.”

“But we have to figure out what really happened,” she’d kept insisting. “I want to know what happened. I should be involved.”

“We’ll do that, of course, Hannah,” he’d assured her, “but we have to keep you tucked away.”

“Do you think it was my fault?” she’d demanded. “Mr. Lowden, you know my work. It’s always impeccable.”

“Yes, but that doesn’t matter to the outside world. And for the sake of Lowden Tactical, I have to get answers without you in the middle of a media frenzy.”

At least they weren’t throwing her to the wolves. She supposed she should be grateful for that.

“We’ll probably have eighteen kinds of federal agencies crawling up our butts,” he’d continued. “It’s important for you not to be available to them while we manage this.”

“But—”

Lowden had shaken his head. “We can’t chance it that somehow they’ll trap you. It’s for your own good as well as ours. Better it be the story that the drone malfunctioned than that you made a mistake or someone sabotaged the flight. That works the best.”

The word sabotage had made her feel physically ill. Was it even possible?

“But it didn’t,” she’d insisted again. “It was programmed perfectly. I want to know what happened, too.” She could hear her voice in her head now, edged with desperation.

“I understand you, but listen to what I’m saying. I’m trying to keep everyone off your ass. That’s why you’re on leave for the moment. With you being the pilot and engineer, they’ll look to you first. And nothing you say will mean a thing to them. That drone killed the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, for Christ’s sake. We have to keep you out of sight.”

She remembered the feeling of nausea choking her as he’d continued talking to her in a low voice, but underneath his quiet tone was hard anger at what a disaster this was for Lowden Tactical. Of course. To him, that came first.

“Eric’s on top of it,” Greg had assured her. “He just told you that. But to make this work, we need to keep you away from the media. Nothing good can come of you being interviewed.”

She’d certainly agreed with that. And now, as she stood in her hotel room, his words kept replaying in her head.

‘Don’t worry, Hannah. We’re planning to keep you hidden away for your own good, until we get a public relations handle on this. And get some answers. We’ve got nice accommodations ready for you, Hannah. You’ll be very comfortable while we sort this out. We just need to keep you away from the media while we figure out how it went wrong. You understand. If you’re not guilty, you have nothing to worry about. Besides, you might not be safe at home.’

Not safe? Who would she be in danger from? Did they know? Or was the evidence not that conclusive? It was, after all, as Lowden had pointed out, her drone, her controls that had supposedly misdirected the drone to dump its payload on the vacationing chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Now, as she paced the living room of the suite, she went over it again and again in her mind, trying to make sense of it. The stated target was supposed to have been an ISIS leader. That was what they had been told. The government had received word that he was hiding out on the estate of a known sympathizer, plotting an attack of some kind on the United States. Lowden had been tasked with delivering the payload because the government was afraid of leaks in its own system.

Mistake! This has to be a mistake.

Except…she’d never made a mistake. Ever. The drones were her life. Was it something with the equipment? Something she’d somehow missed? Except that was verified and calibrated regularly. And all the questions. So many questions. And cooped up in this hotel, that was all she’d been able to think of.

They knew her. They had to know someone else had done this, had committed what could actually be classified as espionage. Espionage. Just the word made her sick to her stomach, as she had been almost every day she’d been tucked away in this upscale jail.

‘You’ll be safe. We have people guarding you.’

Guarding. Right. Private security sitting outside her door at all times. She snorted. Bodyguard, my ass. Despite what they said, they were more like jailers, and the comfortable suite, the cable television with streaming channel and anything she wanted from room service, didn’t make up for the fact that she knew she was a prisoner. The windows might have drapes on them instead of bars, but the result was the same.

She wondered what Lowden had even told the rest of its employees, and what they thought. Had he brought up the espionage possibility with them? She considered them her friends, sort of, but would they buy into it or swear she couldn’t have done it? It occurred to her that she didn’t have any kind of social life beyond Lowden, but until now that hadn’t bothered her…but it meant there was no one to deny the charges or defend her.

When they’d taken her to her apartment to pack up what she’d need for what they’d called ‘a possible extended stay’ elsewhere, she’d loaded everything she could. Of course, her unsmiling guards had checked everything including her undies before letting her fill her suitcases. What the hell did they think I was hiding in them? Secret plans? A payoff? If she’d taken one, for the love of god, she’d have it in a secret offshore bank account where no one could find it.

Wait…that—that wasn’t what they thought, was it? That someone had been paid to drop the load on a non-target and she was the most likely candidate? Supposedly she wasn’t under suspicion. If she hadn’t done this—big if—then she was possibly in danger from whoever the guilty person was. Or persons. Oh, yeah? She guessed that was why they were hesitant to dump her in a jail cell. If everything pointing to her didn’t stick, Lowden could be in for a huge lawsuit. Maybe the company would be shut down.

And no one seemed to want to give her any information. Three times a day, when one of the ‘guards’ wheeled in her food, she badgered them with questions, but they might as well have been mute for all the info she got from them. She asked to please meet with Greg Kingsley, and each time was told he was busy doing damage control. What about the damage to me?

With each passing day, she became more nervous. More desperate. More convinced she was being set up to take the blame for everything.

Her life, like the movement of the planets, had reached critical density. What had she read when studying the mathematics of space? If the expansion of your life has suddenly contracted and movement has halted or turned, you have reached your critical density. Yeah, that was her all right. Stuck in time with no answers and no way forward.

She turned from the window and paced the room, hands shoved into the pockets of her jeans. How in the everlovin’ hell did this even happen?

She had been so excited to get the job interview with Lowden Tactical and it had gone well. She knew she had an unusually high aptitude for spatial awareness and action that made her an expert in the field of drones. Eric Lowden had seemed impressed with her and soon, from the air-conditioned comfort of her control room, she’d been able to kick butt all over the world.

When Lowden had assigned her to one of their GO-Teams, she’d hardly been able to contain her excitement and pride. These were the highly trained covert teams that took drones into enemy territory to surveil or deliver payloads in places where the government politically could not. Positions on the teams were considered highly restricted. She’d made it through the rigorous training and managed to earn the respect of the others. She was one of only two women assigned to the teams and she wore the selection like a badge of honor. She would never do anything to bring shame on it. Ever.

Someone had done this and manipulated things to place the blame on her. Someone who was going to make a lot of money for getting the payload dumped on a different target. She was discovering in a most painful way there was a big difference between having brains and being smart.

One thing she did figure out was how precarious her situation really was. After all the hours she’d spent taking everything apart bit by bit, starting with when she’d been hired by Lowden, she’d come to some frightening conclusions. They’d wanted her brain and her skills, which were the best in the company. They had planned this well in advance. And they could not afford to let her talk to anyone. She had no idea why they hadn’t just gotten rid of her to begin with, but she figured they had some use for her. After that, she was now convinced not even her body would be found.

The story of Hegman’s death was front and center on the news every day. She’d watched for a while on television, but she reached a point where she couldn’t stand it anymore. Although her name had not been mentioned specifically, reporters continued to refer to “a member of the Lowden GO-Team responsible for the drone.”

She had to get out of here and try to figure things out, but how? She was never allowed out of the suite and both doors were guarded twenty-four-seven. All her food came from room service, the trays minutely examined before she was allowed to receive them, and even then, one of her keepers wheeled in the table. The waiters weren’t allowed to enter. When housekeeping came to clean the rooms, one of the men dogged her every footstep. She was surprised they didn’t follow her into the bathroom, for god’s sake.

She had her laptop, but she wasn’t allowed an internet connection. No cell phone, and the desk had been told not to accept any phone calls from this room. She was completely shut off from the outside world. And she had become so immersed in her job that the only people in her life were those on her GO-Team and others at Lowden. How sad is that? And frightening. No one would be banging on doors asking where she was and what was going on.

She stopped pacing for a moment to look out of the window again. It was darker now, the outside lights brighter, more people moving in the area filled with hotels and restaurants and shops. She might try to climb out of a window, except the windows were sealed and she was on the fifteenth floor. But there had to be a way out of here. No one was going to try to prove her innocence except her. Can I just catch a break here, please?

A knock sounded on the door, breaking into her train of thought, not that it was much of a train.

“It’s Santos. Your dinner is here.”

She opened the door, something that was just a formality. She was told—ordered—not to put the chain on the door in case she had a problem and they needed immediate access. It was for her safety.

Right. She’d almost snorted when they told her that. It wasn’t her safety they were worried about. They just wanted to make sure she couldn’t disappear on them.

She opened the door and found Paul Santos standing there with the room service table bearing her meal.

“If you wouldn’t mind stepping back from the door,” he told her in the even, measured voice she’d gotten used to, “I’ll just wheel this into the room.”

Step back. In other words, don’t try to make a run for it. Everything they did made her feel more and more like a criminal and gave the situation an increasingly hopeless slant. She had to figure this out. She couldn’t just wait here in this hotel while incorrect evidence was gathered about her to frame her and the person who was really behind this got away with it.

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About the Author

Desiree Holt

A multi-published, award winning, Amazon and USA Today best-selling author, Desiree Holt has produced more than 200 titles and won many awards. She has received an EPIC E-Book Award, the Holt Medallion and many others including Author After Dark’s Author of the Year. She has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and in The Village Voice, The Daily Beast, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The London Daily Mail. She lives in Florida with her cats who insist they help her write her books, and is addicted to football.

You can follow Desiree on Facebook and Twitter and check out her Blog.

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Desiree Holt’s Critical Density Giveaway

DESIREE HOLT IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GET YOUR FREE DESIREE HOLT ROMANCE BOOK! Notice: This competition ends on 23rd March 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.