Book Blitz & Excerpt: Whisper + Giveaway

Whisper

Whisper
by Tracy Bilen
Publication date: May 8th 2021
Genres: YA Romantic Thriller

Stop him.

After her friend Samantha is murdered, seventeen-year-old Olivia is the only one who still hears her voice.

Years ago, Jacob closed his eyes. In a park. Playing hide-and-seek. His little brother is still missing. And Jacob’s mom is the FBI agent who couldn’t find him.

Now Jacob has dreams he can’t explain. And draws faces of those about to die.

In a town terrorized by a serial killer, Jacob meets Olivia. Sparks ignite.

Until the voice in Olivia’s head echoes the warning in Jacob’s dream…

You’re next.

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Whisper

EXCERPT:

CHAPTER 1: OLIVIA

My dad used to tell me there are people inside of marbles. They were always talking to him. Whenever I wanted to play a game, he would pick the one with marbles. Only we wouldn’t actually move the marbles. My dad would just stare at them. Finally I stopped asking to play games. But that didn’t matter. My dad would still get out the game with the marbles, and he’d put the marbles in their little resting spots and watch them. And listen.

At Samantha’s house, her three-year-old sister, Cara, is playing a marble game with one of her friends. They’re off in a corner by themselves, probably wondering why all these people are stuffed inside the house, wearing dark clothes, crying randomly, and talking in hushed voices. Cara wasn’t at Samantha’s funeral. Does she understand that her sister is never coming home?

I move away from Cara and fill a plate with cubes of cheese, triangles of salami, and round crackers. I chew, swallow, and make small talk. But mostly I just stare out the window at the pool and remember the last time I was here. Sixth grade. A pool party for Samantha’s birthday. She and I were friends then. We stopped being friends sometime in seventh grade. I think it had something to do with green slime, a ham sandwich, and a guy we both liked, though I’m not really sure anymore. It all seems pretty stupid now, which gives me a lumpy ache in my throat, and makes me feel like a fraud for being here. But the whole junior class was at the funeral, all ninety-eight of us.

Make that ninety-seven.

Plus a good part of the rest of the high school. And although not everyone made their way here after the funeral, the house is still packed, with people spilled out onto the lawn, hovering by the pool, and clutching their paper plates as if they’re life preservers.

My best friend, Julia, slides up next to me. Her chestnut brown hair is arranged in its usual French braid, except a lot of strands that she missed are poking out today. She takes a loose bit and wraps it around her finger.

“Brings back memories, huh?” she says, following my gaze to the pool. “Remember that sleepover in sixth grade?”

“Yeah, that was fun.” Except now my brain jumps right from sleepover to sweet dreams. The Sweet Dreams Strangler.

I shake my head, trying to blot out the images seared into my mind by the news media. Images of Samantha, lying in a field wearing a beautiful dress, her head on a pillow, hair neatly arranged, hands folded.

Beautiful. But dead. Strangled. I don’t know what to say, even to Julia. I look back out the window. A cardinal is perched on the feeder, picking through seeds, scattering debris on the ground.

“It sure is stuffy in here,” Julia says.

I’m about to agree when a wall of cold air hits me. “Mrs. Young must have read your mind. Wow. That feels good.”

Julia scrunches up her face. “What are you talking about?”

“The air. She turned on the air. Don’t you feel it?”

“No. Are you under a vent or something?” Julia peers up at the ceiling.

“Here, switch places with me.”

“It’s just as hot here—”

“It’s just as cold—”

We say it at the same time. “I guess it’s just your wishful thinking.” Julia pats my shoulder. “Enjoy. I’m going to get some more to drink.”

I nod and head across the room, by the TV, where hopefully it’s warmer.

Goose bumps pop up on my arms. I rub them, but it doesn’t help.

Next to me Josh Wallace tosses a cube of cheese into his mouth. Is that sweat dripping off his forehead? Why am I the only one shivering?

I spot a decorative blanket on the couch. Should I? I tap Marcus on the shoulder. “Sorry, could you lean forward? I just need to get something behind you.” I tug at the blanket and drape it over my shoulders.

Julia is back with a drink in her hand. “Why do you have a blanket wrapped around you? Are you feeling okay?”

“Not really,” I answer. “What’s that noise?”

“What noise?”

“That buzzing sound. Is that the TV? Maybe someone turned it on without switching on the cable box.” I fumble with the buttons on the TV. An image flashes across the screen, and a voice blares.

Funeral services were held today for Samantha Young, the fourth victim of the Sweet Dreams Strangler.

Mrs. Young hovers in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room. All the color drains from her face.

I can’t seem to move. Julia turns off the TV. The buzzing grows louder, and then I realize that it’s voices I’m hearing, lots of them, all blending together into one big buzzing sound.

And then the buzzing fades away until I hear only one voice.

Olivia.

It’s not real. I know it’s not real.

Olivia.

It’s not real because the voice is Samantha’s, and Samantha is dead.

Olivia!

It’s not real because the voice is not coming from a person. It’s coming from a fricking figurine on the mantel. From a yellow bird with black wings and a black head. I pick up the figurine, and I hold it in my hands. This is what my dad meant when he said there were people living in marbles. And then it speaks again.

Olivia! Stop him!

Even though I’m kind of expecting it, Samantha’s voice scares me all the same. It makes me jump and my hands open up and that figurine smashes on the floor and breaks. And I’m a little glad because maybe now the voice will stop. But suddenly I’m burning up, the salami and cheese rumbles around in my stomach, and before I can sit, the room spins all around me and darkness sets in.

Author Bio:

Tracy Bilen is the author of What She Left Behind and Whisper. She is a high school French teacher in Michigan where she lives with her husband and children. Tracy studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and taught Spanish at a high school ski academy. She loves biking, traveling, and red velvet cake.

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Book Blitz: Parker’s Choice + Excerpt

parkers choice

 

Parker’s Choice
by Mike Nemeth
Suspense, Mystery

Published: March 2021

Publisher: Southern Fried Karma

Framed for murder and on-the-run an innocent man is forced to become an outlaw. Hiding from his troubled past in Atlanta, Parker can’t escape his enemies. His former business partner blackmails him and when she’s killed, Parker becomes the chief suspect, but he fears his wife did it. His boss coerces him to commit fraud, but he and his clever colleague, Sabrina, uncover evidence that his elusive birth father is involved in the scheme and Parker’s innate moral code is stressed to the limit. Parker must solve a riddle within a quandary within a puzzle within a mystery to save the lives of those he loves.

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Excerpt:

Three Years Ago

Parker watched her on the doorbell camera on his phone. It shouldn’t have to end this way; his future shouldn’t depend on the risky odds that he was right about what would happen tonight. He weaved around over-sized furniture and peered through the small square window in his front door. She wore a red, V-neck sundress exposing two inches of cleavage, reminding Parker once again that this woman’s sexual magnetism radiated like heat waves off a blacktop road. Her body an eye-catching confluence of tanned, sweeping curves, her hair long and blonde, and her eyes sapphire blue, she was a woman in her prime who Parker knew enjoyed the attention of men of all ages. He wiped his sweaty palms on his shorts and opened the door. On-time and all smiles, Meredith walked into his arms as though she were his lover arriving for a romantic evening.

Awkwardly, Parker extricated himself from her embrace. He led her to the dining room in his cramped beach bungalow where the papers to dissolve their partnership in Advanced Fraud Analytics, LLC were laid out on the table.

You surprised me by agreeing to this,” he said.

She shook her head, and her long hair flew off one shoulder and onto the other. “Time to get off the investor-schmoozing merry-go-round and kill our ‘baby.’”

Sad it’s come to this, but it’s a good deal for you. You’re relieved of all company debts and obligations and indemnified against any lawsuits; in return, I retain full ownership of the fraud detection algorithms and computer programs. Okay?”

She tapped the stack of papers with her ruby nails but did not take a seat. “Let’s do this outside. It’s such a lovely evening.”

Outside, Parker knew he would lose a measure of control, but he had planned for this situation. He swept up the legal documents and carried them to the pebbled glass table in his lanai. Five feet beyond the wall of screens, a swimming pool filled the backyard that ended in a gentle slope to the Intracoastal Waterway. A wooden shed, in which his center-console boat sat in a lift sling, flanked his rickety dock and to the right of the pool a large, four-person hot tub squatted on a slab, shielded from his neighbor’s sight by thick hibiscus. The sun was a dying ember on the horizon, so Parker turned on the underwater pool lights. It wasn’t a romantic gesture; he wanted a little indirect lighting.

Do you have any wine, Parker? May as well make this pleasant.”

He hesitated; he had no weapons in the house. “White or red?”

White if you have it.”

He nodded. “You can read the documents while I’m pouring the wine.”

When he returned to the patio with a chilled glass of Chablis and a sweating bottle of Tecate, he found Meredith standing at the edge of the pool with her naked back to him. She stepped out of red thong panties and flipped them with her foot onto the Cool Crete surface surrounding the pool where her outer garments and lacy bra were strewn in disarray. Naked, she grinned at him over her shoulder. He returned her smile as he admired the perfect contours of her high ass and the smooth tapering of her legs.

Come on in,” she said. “You can’t have a free show.” Then she dove into the pool.

If he didn’t suspect that she wanted him in the water so he’d be less mobile, Parker would have been tempted to join her. He squatted at the edge of the pool and extended the glass of wine to her. He couldn’t resist watching her wade toward him, her breasts parting the rippled water like the prow of a ship plowing through ocean waves. She gave him permission with her eyes, but she couldn’t resist a quick glance over her shoulder at the bottom of his property where it met an inlet off the Intracoastal Waterway. He followed her gaze and saw it then, a white Boston Whaler silently drifting up to his dock. He had thought the odds would be in his favor, and now they weren’t. She noted the look of recognition on his face and made a grab for her purse at the edge of the pool, but Parker was quicker. He snatched the unusually heavy bag and tossed it into the deep end of the pool. Then he kicked her clothes into the water.

Shrieking, “Help! Rape!” Meredith climbed out of the pool and dashed into the house.

A rangy man in military fatigues, wielding a double-barrel shotgun as though it were a natural extension of his hand, leapt onto the dock and advanced toward Parker.

Get the fuck off my property,” Parker snarled.

The man raised the shotgun with one hand as Parker ducked to evade the blast that shattered the sliding glass doors at the back of the house. Bent at the waist, Parker hustled into the protective shadows at the side of his house. Cowering behind his hot tub, he watched the man slowly approach in a stealthy semi-crouch, like a big game hunter stalking his prey. The terror Parker felt was what an antelope feels when it is about to be eaten alive by a pride of hungry lions. Now would be good time to rescue me.

When the hunter reached the hot tub and crept around the far side, Parker shuffledclockwise to remain on the opposite side. He took shallow breaths through his nose to mask the sound of his breathing as he listened to the blood coursing through his carotid artery—whoosh, whoosh. Where is she?

When they had made half a turn around the hot tub, and the predator’s back was to the boathouse where she had been hiding, he saw her emerge in the crepuscular light, fifteen feet away on his dock, and assume the shooter’s stance she’d been taught at the gun range. She never said a word, gave the hunter no warning, just fired her compact Beretta once, and the man crumpled onto the Cool Crete surface with a thud and a rush of expelled air. That hadn’t been the plan. She was only supposed to balance the threat Parker suspected Meredith had posed. She wasn’t supposed to shoot anyone. But Meredith had out-schemed him. It’s so easy to get these things wrong.

A scan of the house’s back windows revealed no sign of Meredith. Parker motioned for the woman to hurry into the shadows and put a finger to his lips—don’t talk. The wounded man moaned softly, and Parker’s quick glance confirmed that he was semi-conscious and neither moving nor watching. Parker took the woman’s pistol and shoved her toward the neighbor’s property. The snowbirds who owned the place were away enjoying the Canadian summer during the Florida off-season.

Run,” he whispered.

She did as she was told. He counted to twenty—one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi—then he dialed 9-1-1.

 

About the Author


Mike Nemeth is an Army vet and former high tech executive who lives in suburban Atlanta with his wife, Angie and their rescue dig, Scout. He is the author of the Amazon bestselling and award-winning novels “Defiled” and “The Undiscovered Country.” Creative Loafing Atlanta named him Best Local Author for 2019.

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