3 days to GO! Countdown to New Year’s FREE PROMOTION for MOTHER TONGUE and DEGREES OF OBSESSION

free kindle ebooksTUESDAY TEASER –

FIRST CHAPTER OF DEGREES OF OBSESSION

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For an exciting start to 2016 and a thank you to the hundreds of fans and followers of my Doc Flamingo’s Blog, my Facebook Page, and my @docflamingo Twitter page, I am offering a FREE KINDLE PROMOTION for BOTH of my suspense novels. The Kindle versions of DEGREES OF OBSESSION and MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA will be FREE on Amazon worldwide on January 1st through 3rd.

book trailersCan’t wait? View the heart-pounding DEGREES OF OBSESSION trailer and the suspenseful MOTHER TONGUE trailer.

degrees kindleChapter One

DEVILISH DELIGHT

Peering into the rear view mirror, I scrubbed a fleck of lipstick off my front tooth, then ran my little finger over my lower lip to even out the color.  I wiped the residue on a Jack-in-the-Box napkin stuffed between the bucket seats.

I hadn’t thought of it at the time of purchase, but this Devilish Delight lipstick complemented my devil-may-care mood.

As luck would have it, the color was an exact match for the scarlet streaks in the très cher Hermes scarf I’d tucked under the lapels of my equally out-of-budget black Jones New York suit.

My justification for overspending?  The no-brand lipstick was under two bucks, and even sitting down I could appreciate the elegant cut of the Jones New York jacket.  More importantly, the tailored pleats in the silk-lined slacks disguised the few extra pounds I’d added over the years.

The result?  Dressed to kill.  How could Danny resist?

I checked the mirror one last time, rearranging a stray hair and dabbing with the napkin at the beads of moisture collecting on my upper lip.

Sucking in a lungful of air and determination, I swung open the door of my new baby, a gleaming white Lexus sport coupe with gold alloy wheels.  I adored my jazzy, totally impractical present to myself for my fiftieth birthday the month before.  It fit the Charlie side of me.  I had vetoed my husband’s more conservative choice of the Honda sedan.  But then again, Harold, along with my mother and my boss, were the only people in the world who insisted on calling me Charlene.

Head erect, I headed across the parking lot to the entrance of Danny’s office building, placing each foot a measured distance in front of the other, that smooth glide I’d mastered at modeling school back in my teens.

I had reached my five-foot-nine height in the eighth grade, towering over my peers and awkward as hell.  So Mom popped for a self-improvement course at John Robert Powers after the requisite begging on my part.  But she drew the line at my going on to professional modeling.  Her official explanation had to do with saving money for college, although I suspected that Mom didn’t think I had the body for it.  At the time, I didn’t think I had the body for much of anything.

I detoured around tufts of grass sprouting up through the asphalt in the parking lot, almost tripping over a discarded Budweiser can.  Given the condition of        the lot, perhaps Danny Shapiro’s life hadn’t turned out as upscale as I had imagined. But the sleek glass exterior of the fifteen-story building looming up in front of me belied that, even with its current shell of scaffolding–added, no doubt, to repair damage from the recent Northridge earthquake.

It had all seemed so natural, so innocent on the drive over from our hotel, near the Los Angeles convention center. Tooling along the Ventura freeway as it sliced through the San Fernando Valley, I had found myself laughing out loud. Ahead of me, a grime-encrusted Pontiac, spotted with gray primer, had been jockeying for position with a chauffeur-driven Rolls.  Only in Los Angeles.

My eyes had been on the traffic, but my mind had been filled with visions of Daniel Hirschborn Shapiro, my first love and, I’d begun to think lately, my only love.  I kept seeing myself as the shy, naive college freshman seduced, with her full and utter cooperation, by the mature, or so I had thought at the time, and handsome Jewish junior.

Even after the passage of more years than I cared to remember, body memories of our lovemaking steamed to the surface.  The touch of his fingers threading through my hair…the smooth feel of the hollow above his collarbone…the small pleasure of toying with the gold Star of David nestled in the soft curls of his black chest hair.

As I approached his building, the silk lining of my slacks swished against my inner thighs, heightening the tension in my belly. Ducking under the iron scaffolding crisscrossed over the building entrance, I found myself in a dimly lit lobby.  My eyes flitted from wall to wall, searching for the building directory.  Huge cracks zigzagged through the green travertine marble covering the walls.  Missing chunks of the emerald-hued stone gave the lobby the pockmarked look of a war zone. Gaping holes at the four corners of a faded rectangular spot near the elevator revealed the directory’s last resting place.

The bile gurgling in my gut confirmed that I was up to no good.  Worse yet, my plot had been foiled.  Without the directory, I wouldn’t be able to engineer an accidental encounter with Danny.  I had counted on using it, not only to locate his office, but also to select a random name to employ as an alibi for being there. The bile ran back down my esophagus into a pool of disappointment, tinged with relief. What was I thinking? Marching into his office uninvited had been out of the question from the get-go.  At fifty, I had sufficient brainpower to avoid total humiliation.  It was a lark, I told myself, forgetting what an utter mess life had become when I had last pursued Danny.  But I had reasoned, and I use that term loosely, that an accidental meeting might fly.  I had the oh-my-God-it-can’t-be-you speech at the ready.  It could go either way.  My heart hoped he would be bowled over and swoop me up in an impetuous embrace.  My brain knew he’d dial 9-1-1.

I felt a flush creep up over my cheeks when I realized that a rent-a-cop, hunched up in the far corner, was scrutinizing my every move. His cadaverous hands hung like dead chicken feet from the billowing sleeves of his navy sateen jacket. It was highly unlikely that he was admiring my costly Jones New York suit with his beady stare. I felt like a deer caught in the headlights as he headed my way at a funereal pace.

“Can I help you, ma’am?” he asked, touching a bony finger to the brim of his hat.

“No…nothing…I mean, I left something in the car.”

I affected a nonchalant air and sauntered out the way I’d come in, chiding myself for pulling such a sophomoric prank.  A woman nearing midlife, and a therapist to boot, should have better sense. I imagined Marietta, my best friend, wagging her finger in my face and, in the background, my entire caseload of patients doing the same.

The botched encounter squelched my sexy mood.  I beat a path back to my car, the model swing to my hips transformed to a jerky retreat. As I fumbled for my keys in my pricey, but deeply discounted, Gucci bag, I knocked the pencil-thin strap from my shoulder. The bag bounced on the asphalt. Bending to retrieve it, I popped the front button off my slacks.

“Shit!” I said, to no one in particular.

Clambering back into the car, I stabbed at the ignition, ramming the key home on the third try. I squirmed in the creamy-colored leather seat as my expensive panties—the last of my extravagant purchases—now clammy, stuck where they shouldn’t.

“Shit!  Shit!”

My hand dropped from the ignition and I sank back into the seat, shoulders drooping, staring at Danny’s building, trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey in its framework of iron.  Last month’s massive earthquake had certainly taken its toll, not only on his building but on thousands of other structures in the San Fernando Valley. God must have foreseen my foolish plan to track down an old flame and arranged an appropriate natural disaster to subvert it. Seemed a shame, though, to sacrifice all that property just to get rid of one directory and keep me on the straight and narrow.

I snapped back to reality when I saw the creepy old guard crossing the tarmac toward my car.  God forbid that I had parked in Danny’s private space. I glanced at my watch. Damn, how did it get to be eleven?  Harold was going to be pissed. Turning the ignition key, I slammed down the gas pedal, nearly bowling over the ancient guard as I squealed out of the parking lot.

4 days to GO! Countdown to New Year’s FREE PROMOTION for MOTHER TONGUE and DEGREES OF OBSESSION

free kindle ebooksFor an exciting start to 2016 and a thank you to the hundreds of fans and followers of my Doc Flamingo’s Blog, my Facebook Page, and my @docflamingo Twitter page, I am offering a FREE KINDLE PROMOTION for BOTH of my suspense novels. The Kindle versions of DEGREES OF OBSESSION and MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA will be FREE on Amazon worldwide on January 1st through 3rd.

book trailersCan’t wait? View the heart-pounding DEGREES OF OBSESSION trailer and the suspenseful MOTHER TONGUE trailer.

degrees kindleDEGREES OF OBSESSION

Charlie Pederson, fierce but flawed like all women who have loved deeply and lost, takes a dangerous thrill ride from risky infatuation to the edge of disaster when she stalks her still suck-the-breath-out-of-you handsome college flame.

As a therapist, Charlie knows she should abandon her crazed obsession over Danny Shapiro. But as a woman turning fifty and stifled in her marriage to deadly dull Harold, she finds herself driven to take a dicey last chance to find all that her heart needs.

Little does she suspect that an impulsive visit to Danny’s law office will make her the target of a homicidal erotomaniac. As she chases Danny down, she jeopardizes her professional reputation, infuriates her best friend, alienates her husband, and risks exposing the most painful secret of her life.

DEGREES OF OBSESSION has it all—juicy romance and heart-pounding suspense. Best of all, it shines light on the fears, follies, and fantasies that drive the choices women make and on the love that redeems them.

mother tongue kindleMOTHER TONGUE:LINGUA CORSA

Child advocate attorney, Liz Fallon, desperately needs a break after legal blunders and her own negligence lead to the kidnapping and death of a mother and daughter she represents. Fluent in her mother’s native Corsican tongue, she nabs a job at a Paris newspaper as a lingua corsa translator for Pierre Benatar, whose coverage of the explosive Corsican Nationalist movement has enraged every separatist faction.

When Benatar and his seven-year-old son disappear, she resolves to prevent another tragedy and cons her way to Corsica under the ruse of researching a tabloid story about the mazzeri, the isle’s ancient harbingers of death. She cozies up to the prime suspects using her secret knowledge of lingua corsa and the aid of an elderly Brit and a courageous teen Corsican cousin. The hunters suddenly become the hunted when Liz’s inquiries arouse the suspicions and passions of both the separatist leader and the French police chief. When the mazzeri story also takes a chilling personal turn, she has to wonder whether Corsica intends to reclaim her as its prodigal daughter or destroy her.

Independence and the Colonna’s…a Corsican connection past and present

IldeRe-FranceMy family on my father’s side came to America two generations before the Revolutionary War. There is some evidence that they came originally from Île de Ré, a Hugenot stronghold in France, perhaps for religious freedom  So I suppose stories of independence have always been in my blood. Perhaps this is one reason why I have written a novel about the Nationalist movement in Corsica as they also strive to maintain their culture, language, and political freedom from France.

But what is interesting is that Corsica’s centuries of striving for independence is closely tied to the American story of independence from England. The Corsican Constitution, written by Pasquale Paoli, directly inspired the American Constitution. Apparently, American revolutionaries rode to attack shouting, “Viva Paoli”. Several US cities were named Paoli or Corsica or in memory of the Constitution of the innovative small Corsican nation.

colonna posterAs this celebration of our Independence Day approached, I have had an incredibly interesting exchange of letters with two men, a father and a son, struggling against what they consider the ultimate loss of independence, unjust imprisonment. Yesterday marked the 12th anniversary that Yvan Colonna has been incarcerated in a French prison. He was convicted of assassinating Claude Érignac, the prefect of Corsica, on 6 February 6, 1998.

jean huguesHe is the son of Jean-Hugues Colonna, a former deputy (MP) of the French socialist party in the Alpes-Maritimes constituency and a recipient of the French Légion d’honneur. On 20 June 2011, Yvan’s conviction was upheld on appeal. Yvan is currently serving his life sentence in a prison in Arles.

colonna long hairOn his website, Yvan posted his prison address and since my novel is about a Corsican separatist unjustly accused, I thought I might send him a copy of my novel. The other reason was that when I decided, back in about 2007, to turn my 1996 screenplay “The Coriscan Dagger” into a novel, I happened across a photo of a Corsican separatist on the internet which looked exactly like what I had imagined that my main character, Antoine Scafani, would look like. It was a photo of Yvan, I believe shortly after his initial arrest. He had been the subject of the biggest manhunt in French history, and was thought to have left the country, possibly for South America. However, an infrared camera set in the mountains of Corsica, near Vico as surveillance of a “bergerie“, a traditional Corsican stone hut, yielded evidence that Colonna was hiding here. He was arrested on the 4th of June 2003. As I read more about Yvan’s life, I saw many other similarities. So perhaps my imagination had been right on.

colonna - CopyWithin a week I received a cordial hand written letter back from Yvan stating that although he could not read English that “he would be my man” to translate the novel into lingua corsa if I could first get it translated into French.

And just this past week another package arrived from France. This time from Jean-Hugues Colonna, his father, who at age 80 has taken on the task of writing to those who have contacted his son. His love and unswerving support for his son is quite evident. He included two books that have been written about Yvan’s case. The main gist of their argument is that he was presumed guilty before the trial and therefore a full investigation of other suspects or even the gathering of sufficient evidence again him was not done. He believes that this would never have happened in America, although I’m not sure about that!

Jean-Hugues also shared some other fascinating information about his family back when he was a child during WWII. They had harbored a Jewish family (the island had been occupied by the Italian fascists) and the son of that family became a famous industrialist leader in the United States. He also told me about a camp of American liberators in Cargèse (the Corsican town where he now lives) who gave the children of the village good white bread and tinned pineapple, which they had never tasted before.

Jean-Hugues also offered to translate my novel, or at least a synopsis, into lingua corsa if I can first get a good French translation. An exciting possibility. Even if it all comes to naught, I have been intrigued by this Corsican connection to independence and imagination.

Keeping my fingers crossed…

Paperback cover finalTHE AMERICAN LIBRARY IN PARIS is pleased to confirm your nomination of MOTHER TONGUE for the 2015 Book Award.

We are in receipt of all requirements – nomination form, nomination fee, and 5 copies of your book. These have now been passed to the screening committee.

The longlist will be announced in mid-June 2015 and the shortlist in mid-July. The winner will be announced October 2015.The Book Award jury for 2015, drawn from the Writers Council of the American Library in Paris, is: Laura Furman (chair), novelist, professor at the University of Texas, and editor of the O. Henry Prize Stories series since 2002; Lily Tuck, novelist and biographer; and Fredrik Logevall, professor of international relations at Cornell University and the first winner of THE AMERICAN LIBRARY IN PARIS BOOK AWARD for “Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam”

Thank you for your submission,
The American Library in Paris

http://americanlibraryinparis.org/
10, rue du Général Camou
75007 Paris | France
t:   +33 01.53.59.12.67
www.americanlibraryinparis.org
@alpbookaward

They fight…Excerpt from MOTHER TONGUE

Liz doesn’t know whether to fear Antoine Scafani or be fearful for him. A chance meeting after a funeral only confuses her more.

DSC02945For nearly an hour, I wandered Corte’s empty streets. I found a cemetery on the outskirts of town, which, unfortunately, was equally deserted. Almost all the town’s businesses, even family-owned groceries and cafés, were closed, a Corsican flag or a black-edged portrait of Henri Soriano plastered on their doors.

Near exhaustion, I sat down on a high stone curb, holding my head in my hands and letting some well-deserved tears pour out. Maybe it was the curb, like the one I’d sat on as a child, but I hadn’t truly cried since the bombing.

Suddenly two strong hands seized my shoulders from behind and lifted me to my feet. I prepared myself for arrest or worse as my abductor forced me into the shadows of a nearby alley. When I finally managed to twist around, I saw not LeClerc but Scafani. His lips quivered with rage. “What the hell were you thinking? You had no business being there.”

“I just wanted to see what was happening along with everyone else.” My explanation sounded lame, even to me.

Scafani shook his head and released me.

I broke the long silence that followed. “How is Jean Louis?”

Scafani seemed not the least surprised that I had heard of his family’s tragedy. “He is being taken care of. Jocelyn and Pierre are with him.”

“I just—”

“You just didn’t think. You aren’t back in the States. This isn’t some Wild West TV show with cowboys and Indians.”

“If it isn’t a game, why did you bring me into it? I saw exactly what Jean Paul and Carla had stored in their living room in full color on the evening news. And the romantic bit? Please.”

“You don’t understand.”

“You have no idea what I need to understand. But if it has to do with why your uncles were shot, then you need to tell me.”

Scafani pulled over a couple of crates for them to sit on. “Why is anyone shot who stands up for their beliefs?”

“It had to be more than that.”

He glared at me, sarcasm filling voice. “A bit of wisdom gathered on your little lover’s tryst to Cap Corse?”

“How did you know about that?”

“He follows us. We follow him,” he said with a frankness I had not expected.

“And you both follow me. Why?”

DSC02918A police vehicle rolled slowly by. Scafani leapt up and pulled me with him to the darker recesses of the alley. If I was going to get information about Benatar out of him, I had to do it fast before he took off again. I decided to take the sympathetic route. “Shouldn’t you be in hiding? I was worried that you’d been arrested because of that scene at the funeral, the gun salute and all.”

“I was.”

“You were what?” I asked in my most innocent voice.

“Grabbed by LeClerc’s men on the way to the cemetery. Pulled right from under Uncle Henri’s coffin. Got interrogated by LeClerc, or should I say by your lover, Philippe. I was released a half-hour ago. They had nothing to hold me on.”

“I don’t know why you keep referring to LeClerc as my anything. There’s nothing going on between us.”

I sank down onto the back-entrance stoop of a store. Scafani hesitated and then turned a trash can upside down and sat beside me. My usually glib escort seemed to be struggling with his words, so I broke the silence again. I wanted to know more.

They meet…excerpt from MOTHER TONGUE

Liz Fallon has inveigled her way to Corsica by taking a fluff assignment to cover Professor Nicoli’s announcement at the Università di Corsica Pasquale Paoli about the mysterious mazzeri and quite unexpectedly meets Antoine Scafani for the first time.

NPG Ax39646; (Frederica) Dorothy Violet (nÈe Carrington), Lady Rose by Francis GoodmanThe Professor’s voice turned tremulous. “I am currently seeking funding for an investigation to be—”

The same voice, louder and more agitated, drowned her out. “You expect the Corsican people to provide funds for this hogwash. We have more important issues to deal with. We are waging a war for independence. Several hundred voices are being raised outside these doors at this very moment. While we sit listening to fairy tales, they are out marching in solidarity for self-determination for all of us.”

flag and hillsAn even deeper male voice boomed out from the aisle. “You underestimate the importance of the Professor’s work. She is a true heroine, as much as any bearer of the Moor’s head. For decades, she has been dedicated to the preservation of our history and culture.”

mazzeri8I watched as the owner of the voice, whose words had silenced the interloper, strode toward the podium. I couldn’t see his face but the mass of dark curls dangling above a set of self-assured shoulders captured my attention. As he addressed the audience, I studied his chestnut-colored eyes and the pulsating muscles of his jaw. “Every invader from the Romans to the Visigoths to the French has tried to eradicate our spiritual beliefs—whether it is the signadoras who bring healing, or the mazzeri, who announce impending deaths. Suppressing local customs and beliefs is an invader’s way of keeping a people subjugated. Our comrades outside understand this well.”

I felt my throat go dry as the man paused and looked directly at me, the corners of his mouth turning up ever so slightly.

As another derogatory comment flew at the Professor, the man on the stage curled a protective arm around her frail shoulders and spit out a long string of expletives in lingua corsa. I twisted in my seat just in time to see the gatecrasher’s face twist in anger as he hurled back an insulting rejoinder.

linguaSuddenly, the noise of slamming of doors and rankled voices erupted from the back of the auditorium. I spun around to see a flood of protestors storming down the side aisles, their Moor’s head banners cutting through the air like scythes through ripe wheat. As I looked back to the podium, a second contingent thudded in from behind the curtains and took up a military stance across the front of the stage causing the professor’s champion to whisk her away. I muttered a few choice words of my own as the opportunity to meet the Professor and finish up my phony baloney research assignment got blown to hell.

I hadn’t given a thought to my own safety until that very moment. But as the chants of the protestors became more frenzied, I started scanning the room for camouflage clothing, masks, or gun muzzles, anything that could presage a hostage situation. I saw only Levis and passionate faces, more fervent than threatening.

flnc10Just as I let my shoulders relax, a loud bang echoed from the wings. A shot? I couldn’t tell. The audience wasn’t waiting to find out and broke for the exits. I jumped out of my own seat, threw my backpack over my shoulder, and shoved my way through the line of demonstrators filling the aisle. I was about to reach for my duffle bag when one of our placards smacked me across the cheek. The next thing I knew, a strong hand was gripping my upper arm and jerking me back against the wall. I wrenched myself free only to discover that I was being manhandled by the Professor’s defender. He scolded the man with the placard, who instantly offered up a sheepish nod of apology.

“Forgive my friend, Mademoiselle. We should be more welcoming to our English friends.”

“I’m not British.”

“Ah, American. My apologies again. Permit me to introduce myself. Antoine Scafani. Can I help you get out of here?”

LE FLNC REVENDIQUE UNE TRENTAINE D'ATTENTATS COMMIS EN CORSE AU MOIS DE MAIThe name Scafani set off alarm bells in my head. Hadn’t I just read about a man named Scafani in one of Benatar’s reports? Something about an unsolved assassination. This could turn into my first lead about Benatar and his son’s disappearance. I started to introduce myself as Lisabetta Falcucci but thought better of it. “Liz Fallon,” I finally said. “I’m here to cover the Professor’s announcement about the mazzeri.”

NEW RELEASE! Trailer for MOTHER TONGUE

FWT Homepage Translator

MOTHER TONGUE by Karen Stephen
New cover 10.20 Finalin the Kindle (English) version
can be PRE-ORDERED NOW at Amazon.com for $2.99.
Or at Amazon.fr
The RELEASE DATE is December 6, 2014
Paperback cover finalPAPERBACK VERSION AVAILABLE NOW AMAZON.COM
Enjoy the TRAILER and pass it on to anyone you know
who enjoys a great suspense novel
loaded with romantic and thriller elements!
 

 

 

Desperately seeking…beta readers!

I have just finished a complete revision of MOTHER TONGUE, changing the protagonist to a child advocate attorney and using the first-person voice to add punch. I’d love feedback, especially from readers who have commented on prior versions.I have posted a portion of the First Chapter on my website.

If this story of a child advocate attorney who gets blown out of the water when one of her young clients is kidnapped and murdered and ends up seeking refuge in Paris as a translator, only to find herself caught up in the Corsican separatist movement and yet another child kidnapping, then contact me and offer to be a beta reader.

MOTHER TONGUE is finished and almost ready for publication. I’d love your input. It will appeal to readers of suspense novels that have romance and thriller elements, such as Anne Patchett’s State of Wonder.

Researching the Corsican Nationalist Movement

In the mid 1990s when I first got the notion to write a fictional account about Corsica, I asked a colleague of mine, who visited France often, if he knew anything about the island that would provide a source of dramatic conflict in my novel. He asked if I had seen the State Department travel warnings mentioning numerous bombings, attacks, and assassinations connected with the Corsican Nationalist movement, although they were careful to point out that no tourists had ever been harmed.liberation I began my search for more information about the situation by perusing a copy of Liberation, the radical French newspaper, where I found articles by Guy Benhamou, the premier journalist covering the Corsican situation at that time. I wrote him (these were pretty much pre-internet, pre-email times) and received back copies of his articles in French and a lovely letter wishing me well in my writing endeavors.

book coverIn the year 2000, that same journalist authored a book, Pour Solde de Tout Compte: Les nationalistes corses parlent, which essentially was a “final accounting” byJean-Michel Rossi and François Santoni, the most predominate of the movement’s rival leaders. Both suggested that even the Corsican rebels were weary of the fight for independence, and of the corruption and crime which that fight had engendered. funeral santoniWithin a year both of these men had been assassinated and Guy and his family were put under police protection. This photo shows Santoni as one of Rossi’s pallbearers prior to his own death.

The conflict is not over. In 2012 alone there were twelve assassinations on the island, all related in some fashion to the ongoing conflict between separatist factions. In my novel, I touch on some of the themes of the Nationalist movement as it existed back in 1996 but, as an outsider and as a writer of fiction, I do not pretend that my portrayal is at all accurate or fair to any of the parties involved. It’s as if a foreigner were writing about our American Revolution, in which my own ancestors took part. I can only pray that through the struggles of my fictional characters, readers will understand a bit more about the political and social struggles of Corsica’s Nationalists, especially their goal to preserve the Corsican language, lingua corsa, and that they will get a glimpse of the overriding beauty of the island, its fascinating customs and history, and the courage and determination of its people.

flag and hillsThrough the centuries, Corsicans have withstood many invaders, often by taking to the maquis. My hope would be that they would tolerate and forgive the invasion of this American author into their customs and conflicts.