Courage to Stand

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Non-Fiction / Law
Published: May 21st, 2019

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Success Through Passion and Endurance

As a leading expert in trial law, Sandra Spurgeon masterfully outlines the art and science of case-winning strategies inside and outside the courtroom.  Having successfully litigated thousands of cases, with over 120 of them litigated to verdict in both state and federal jurisdictions, she reveals the secrets of successful litigation techniques.

You will learn her highly effective strategies for:

Case Selection

Discovery Process

Trial Preparation

Execution in the Courtroom

Spurgeon not only clearly describes these methods, but also demonstrates how to apply them – through real examples of courtroom “war” stories.  Based on her vast experience spanning nearly two decades, Courage to Stand – Mastering Your Trial Strategy, is designed to not only help the beginning attorney, but to also sharpen the skills of veteran lawyers.

This work goes far beyond theory and reaches into the trenches to reveal how some of the most difficult cases can be won by utilizing a proven synthesized plaintiff and defense litigation practice which has collected millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for her clients.  Having successfully litigated 1000s of cases with 120+ litigated to verdict in both state and federal jurisdictions, she reveals the secrets of successful litigation techniques.

About the Author

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Sandra Spurgeon has been a practicing trial lawyer since 1990. In that time, she has successfully litigated in excess of 120 cases through verdict in both state and federal jurisdictions.

Throughout her career, Sandra has synthesized a plaintiff and defense litigation practice that has afforded her great insight and a unique perspective in “getting to the heart” of the case from the beginning stages thru trial. Thru experience, she has achieved trial excellence in the courtroom.

From a defense perspective, Şandra’s includes not only the handling of commercial litigation but also, the defense of insurance claims, healthcare professional liability claims, coverage and extra-contractual issues and fire & casualty claims.

In Kinney vs. Butcher, 131 S.W.3d 357 (Ky. App. 2004), her successful argument presented to the Kentucky Court of Appeals resulted in the decision delineating the standard for an award of punitive damages. In Pike vs. GEICO, 174 Fed. Appx. 311 (6th Circ. 2006), she successfully litigated the prescribed time period for filing an underinsured motorist claim in KY.

Sandra’s practice also includes the representation of victims and families who have suffered catastrophic losses and has collected settlements and judgments in excess of $50,000,000. In 2016 & 2017, she collected in excess of $16,000,000 in settlements and/or judgments. In 2017, Sandra litigated a Federal Tort Claim to judgment with the verdict in excess of $2,000,000. Chrispen vs. United States of America, 7:16-132. Although she has always allowed her verdicts and results to speak for themselves, she considers the verdict in Dotson vs. Sony Electronics, 7:02-CV-35 among one of her biggest accomplishments. Sandra successfully litigated this res ipsa loquitor products liability claim to a multi-million-dollar judgment unanimous verdict in federal court on behalf of a burn victim.

Through experience Sandra has developed a systematic approach for handling of complex litigation matters beginning at case selection, through the discovery process, trial preparation and execution in the courtroom. Additionally, she serves as an expert witness and lectures before various organizations and clients on trial practice, evidence and Kentucky law. Sandra is adept at handling complex legal issues and is a skilled legal writer. Sandra is active in her community where she currently serves on the Board of Directors for Foster Council and Women Leading Kentucky. She has also served as parent representative for the Fayette County School Systems. She is an advocate for children and families in her community and was instrumental in the drafting of the Michelle P. Waiver program for children in KY. She is the proud mother of two adult daughters, Victoria and Elizabeth.

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A Savage Kultur

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Historical Fiction
Date Published: May 1, 2019

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In Oxford, England, Ava, a Jewish art student at Oxford University, receives a heart-wrenching letter from her grandfather after he dies. From the letter, she learns that her grandfather has given her his London art gallery, which he says will secure her future, as well as provide a place for her to grow her artistic talents and follow her passion for art. The letter also describes his one last wish—that she find a treasured Vincent van Gogh painting, The Lovers: The Poet’s Garden IV, that belonged to her grandparents and was deemed degenerate and looted by the Nazis in 1937.

Arriving for the first time at the gallery, she discovers old photographs in a secret room that recount the harrowing past—a Nazi propaganda parade in 1937. She quickly becomes aware that the room and the gallery, with an empty frame for the missing van Gogh, hold such rich memories of her grandparents. As conversations with her family members and those connected to the painting spur memories, the book switches back and forth between the current timeline and the timeline during the war to tell the stories of those affected by the painting and its fate.

On the train to her grandfather’s funeral, she meets Gordon Rose, an FBI agent, disguised as an art restitution lawyer. He helps her track down the missing van Gogh, while at the same time, he goes after an Neo-Nazi albino art forger named Luther.

Ava pays several visits to her grandmother, her only living relative who lived through the war, hoping she remembers something about the past that will be a clue to the missing painting and their lives in Germany during the war. It is in these hours that she sits with her grandmother that she learns about her grandparents finding refuge on an Austrian farm after they flee Munich and of Charlotte, a local farm girl who lives at Lake Toplitz.

Ava’s grandmother who struggles with dementia recalls Charlotte’s last name. With this information, Ava tracks down Charlotte at her home at Lake Toplitz and questions the old woman about what happened at the lake. On her last breath, Charlotte speaks of the secrets hidden in the lake.

When Gordon breaks into Luther’s Austrian hideout, he believes Luther has forged the missing van Gogh painting. Luther claims it is the real deal. To right a wrong and under the duress of Gordon and law enforcement, Luther returns the painting to Ava.

Ava takes the van Gogh painting to her grandmother. Still not sure if it’s the real thing or not, Ava wants to bring her grandmother closure during her last days. Gordon wonders if they should call an art expert to examine the painting. She believes it was meant to be there, whether real or fake. In the end, Gordon and Ava reveal their true feelings for one another.


Ava stared at the envelope and then at her mother.

“What do you mean by ‘change my life?’”

 “Just open it, darling. I believe what’s inside will shape your life in so many amazing ways.”

The envelope was sealed close and Ava took the knife from the table and gently passed it under the seal.

“I have not read this letter,” Vivienne said. “This was left for your eyes only.”

Ava’s heart began to pound in her chest. She pulled out a handwritten letter and a gold key.

“A key?” Ava asked, looking up at her mother.

“Read the note, daughter.”

Hands shaking, Ava opened the letter and began to read.

My dearest Ava:

I have wanted to give you this special key to a remarkable place—my gallery—for a long time. Do you remember eight years ago when I sold the gallery? How very sad I was, but I stayed with that decision because, at the time, it was the right thing to do. It was a thorn in one’s side, to a degree, too much work and responsibility for an old man like me. Then, your grandmother became ill and so I sold the gallery. In an extraordinary circumstance, I was walking by the gallery many months ago and I discovered it was for sale. The current owner had fallen ill and no one in his family wanted the gallery. I stood in front of my old gallery as I did the day I bought it 30 years ago. Tears in my eyes and a flutter in my heart, I always knew that showplace was my destiny. Well, dear Ava, I had to have it and so I bought the salon that very day. Now it is yours, and while I am not there to see you flourish and grow in the most special of places, I know you will thrive in that gallery, as I did. You, my darling, are the only person who can carry on this legacy. Art links us. It makes us human, almost spiritual.

You are truly unique and gifted with a beautiful mind and an extraordinary artistic talent. You will be finished with school one of these days and now you have a way to make a living and I know you can make this burgeon. Daunting…yes…but always remember that I am always with you in your heart, an angel to guide you, and keep in mind what I always said that nature has no straight lines. A Beech tree does not grow straight and smooth, but twists, sprawls, and bulges. I have always believed, and more and more towards the end of my life, that the shortest distance to somewhere, to something, is never a straight line, instead it is a curvy one, zigzagging in the course of life amid conflicting forces. A very complex path; indeed, and the path you take will not be easy and straightforward. It’s twisting and bumpy, but it offers the greatest opportunity. Keep the gallery safe and make it vibrant. Give it a boost, and make art thrive in this ever changing, complex world. Without art, the world would be less bright, less beautiful. N’est-ce pas?

Listen carefully now, granddaughter. I dislike speaking of the past, a grievous time I buried deep inside the darkest cavities of my soul. The war caused your grandmother and me a great amount of angst and suffering. I have never felt terror like I did then, and I hope you never will. At night, I often would wake in a cold sweat from awful, vivid dreams, and unfortunately, when I opened my eyes, reality did not seem much better. We lived in a horrific world filled with extreme hatred during the war. When it was all over, it was far easier to close that part of me off and never speak of it again. These wounds don’t heal; they are forever ingrained in my soul.

A monster of the worst kind, Hitler’s greed was unlimited, his Nazi reign of terror horrifying. As evil spread across Europe, I saw the death of humanity and I witnessed a world where owners of great art exchanged their treasures for their lives—the plunder of Europe was the greatest art theft in history. The Nazis waged a cultural war on Europe’s Jewish community, and it is quite ironic how ardent and persistent they were about collecting and preserving art works as they went about completely ruining the lives of their Jewish owners. Art became a symbol of status for the Nazi regime. Hitler’s pillaging armies snatched countless pieces of valuable art off museum walls and from private collections across Europe. Hitler wanted to create the greatest collection of art in the world—a Führermuseum—his mission became stealing art from the rest of the world. Of the 600,000 works of art looted during the Nazi era, tens of thousands are still missing and unidentified. Amazing, isn’t it? Stealing art is like stealing someone’s soul. This is the final unfinished business of the war, and it will take the persistence and fortitude of your generation and future generations to continue to locate pieces adrift in the teeming and complex art world. My hope is that every piece the Nazis stole is found and returned to their Jewish heirs. Justice must be sought, and you and others of your generation and even those who come after you, must help to awaken the present to realize the wrongs of the past.

The events of the war are losing their immediacy; they are being shelved like any other major event in the history of time. Questions about it will remain probably forever and some will never have answers. The Jews of today have inherited the obligation to provide future generations with information so they can better understand the past for a better, more peaceful future. I only know of and see the past, Ava, but you are the present. Going forward, you must help right the wrongs of the past—a very dark and haunting time. I believe that an understanding of the past and preserving the memory of the past, can bring an understanding of the present and the future.

 This is my last secret, my last wish: A great family heirloom—a splendid painting by Vincent van Gogh, The Lovers: The Poet’s Garden IV— was confiscated from our family by the Nazis in 1937. It was declared “degenerate” and it has been missing ever since they took it in 1937. Your great-grandfather, Joseph, bought the piece at an auction. As you can imagine, it cost a large sum of money even then, and today, it is worth a great sum of money.

After the war, your grandmother and I put forth an immense effort and all of our energy into rebuilding our lives and starting a family, rather than tracking down lost art. We needed a break from the past and looking ahead at a brighter future somehow helped us slowly forget the past and hide it away deep inside. It was a time for us to heal and find peace, and a time to heal our saddened souls. I could not speak of my experiences for a long time, and nor could your grandmother, and until now, I did not want my experience with the past to contaminate you in any way. Some things remain secrets because there isn’t really a great way to tell them to the ones we love. It was meant to protect you. Now I believe these secrets are crucial to your life and your identity.

I have searched for this painting for quite some time, and now I must turn that extraordinary task to you, Ava. Searching for lost art is very different today than it was when I tried. Today, the internet is filled with articles about looted art, as well as searchable databases to locate missing and looted art. So many resources are now available to you. Ava, you have the energy and the determination to seek what we lost. I hope this is not a burden, but a quest to find something of tremendous value and beauty—just one of countless cultural treasures that vanished without a trace. This painting is part of your heritage and is something you can pass on to your children, and so forth.

There is much to tell about this wonderful work of art—The Lovers: The Poet’s Garden IV. I’ll begin with a letter the talented van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo, in October of 1888. He wrote a fabulous description: “Here is a very vague sketch of my last canvas, a row of green cypresses against a pink sky with a pale lemon crescent. The foreground is vague land and sand and some thistles. Two lovers, the man in pale blue with a yellow hat, the woman with a pink bodice and a black skirt.”

The painting was completed in 1888 as an oil on canvas. In February of that same year, van Gogh arrived in the southern Provencal town of Arles, France. With the financial help and support of his brother, he moved into the Yellow House. His bedroom overlooked Place Lamartine, a small public park. This lush oasis provided much inspiration and joy for the artist. The Poet’s Garden IV was the fourth work in a four-painting series as a decoration of linked pictures for the guest bedroom Paul Gauguin would occupy in the Yellow House. Unfortunately, sweet Ava, this house no longer exists as it was destroyed by bombs in the 1940s during World War II.

I think this glorious painting expresses so many things, such as emotions of mourning and loss and immortality. The garden’s vitality still lives somewhere with someone who is probably undeserving of its infinite beauty and value; for someone who steals art; therefore, steals its brilliance, its soul, its life. Stolen art is a great theft to an individual, to society, and to the world.

Art can make us feel small in the most beautiful way, the same way that man can make us feel insignificant in the absolute worst way.

We need more beauty in this world, Ava. Embrace this, my dear. Be determined, courageous and steadfast in this journey and in all you do. It’s transformative. Believe me. You are always up to a challenge, so why not this one?

And always remember that everything goes by like a dream, Ava…life can be fleeting, so use your beautiful eyes to capture all the most precious moments…flashes in your memory that create heartfelt moments. I love you ‘til the end of time and beyond.

Follow your heart and live your dreams.

Forever yours,

Your Dearest Poppy

Ava read every word through tears. “Oh, Mother,” Ava whispered, her head in her hands. “How beautiful.”

She took deep breaths to stop herself from crying out. She would be stronger than that, she told herself. He would want her to be stronger, to not break down. Something in those words awakened her. With her eyes closed, she vowed from within that with all the might and strength God could give her that she would fight to recapture the priceless van Gogh painting her grandfather, and even her great grandfather, admired and loved.

About the Author

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Monique’s passion for writing began as a young girl while penning stories in a journal. Now she looks forward to deepening her passion by creating many unique stories that do nothing less than intrigue her readers.

Monique holds a degree in journalism from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She is the author of a middle-grade book Once Upon a Time in Venice, historical fiction novel Across Great Divides, and historical fiction novel A Savage Kultur.

Monique was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and her grandparents were European Jews who fled their home as Hitler rose to power. It’s their story that inspired her to write Across Great Divides, her first historical novel.

Historical fiction lets you escape to another time and place; and Monique likes to explore the past so that we can potentially better understand the future.

Monique resides in Dallas, Texas, with her husband and son. She also works as a freelance writer.

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Teddy and Teri

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Literature, Fiction

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Theodore Roosevelt Crenshaw, “Best Heart-Throb” of his high school class, now in is early thirties is looking to get what he wants out of life regardless of what anybody thinks.

He meets Pamela White, a sharp 38-year-old business woman whose sexual hunger cannot be drowned in bourbon. She makes him an offer he can’t refuse.

At nearly the same time he runs into Beverly Simons, a slightly neurotic, rather plump high school classmate with whom he once had a one-night stand. She is now widowed with a strikingly beautiful six-year-old daughter.

Enter Jerry Weinstein, Esq., a rotund, gourmand bachelor lawyer specializing in criminal law and a very dead Bradford Vincente, the 17-year-old son of pizza king Tony “Pan-a-Mint” Vincente of Palos Verdes…

Set in the South Bay beach communities of suburban Los Angeles some thirty years ago, the novel is a lurid tale of murder, lust and the inevitable consequences of ravenous appetites that can never be satisfied.

About the Author

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I’ve been a soldier, a newspaper reporter, a high school English teacher, a day trader and a poker professional. I’ve written literally millions of words in my career as a writer, and think of myself primarily as a writer. My work has appeared in popular publications like Playboy and Smoke magazines and in literary journals where it has won some minor awards. My novel A Perfectly Natural Act gained royalty publication from G.P. Putnam’s in 1973 and was brought out in paperback the following year by Pinnacle. First Artists was considering an option on it when they went defunct. The novel would make a rather good movie. (Maybe I’ll write the screenplay one of these days.) Additionally, I’ve written over fifteen hundred reviews (over a million words in all!) for various Web sites, most notably Amazon and the Internet Movie Database. Some of my reviews are among the best appearing anywhere (or so I have been told). Over the years I’ve also written about a dozen book-length manuscripts. My project now is to present perhaps eight to ten of these manuscripts before the public in book form. I was graduated from UCLA in 1969 with a major in Political Science and minor in English Literature.

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Seeing Angels

Title: Seeing Angels
Author: Harmony Lawson
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance/Fantasy
Publication Date: April 19, 2019
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR
Camille Harper sees angels all around. They watch her. She is not sure why she was born with this ability but believes the knowledge will present itself in due time.
When she witnesses a confrontation between a beautiful angel and a dark winged creature, the strange event signals the end of her world.
Then she meets Jason and they enter an exciting but forbidden relationship. Her strange ability complicates things and puts her loved ones in danger. Camille wants a normal life, but changes lead to some apocalyptic event. Can Camille continue Seeing Angels without her life going to Hell?
Harmony Lawson and her family live in Northern California in the beautiful foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. She is a self-published author and self-taught in drawing, painting, and writing. She is fascinated by angels, Nephilim, and fallen angels. She incorporates her research into her fictional stories.
While she has endured many hardships in life, she believes she learns something new from her experiences. Life has its ups and downs, trials and tribulations, and Heaven and Hell. She believes the bad times are a test to prove a person’s worth. Her books reflect on that concept. Writing also helps her heal from past traumas. In the meantime, she cares for her family, loves her pugs, and remains silly through all that life throws at her. Her goal is to be an introverted hobbit.
Author Links:  Amazon:
I give him a quick peck on the cheek and open the car door. “See you tomorrow,” I say. He can relax and go home.
“I’ll pick you up.” His touch is soft and electrifying, making my core shiver and pulse race. I’m halfway out of the car when he reaches out to grasp my hand and I stop to gaze at him. His eyes are so full of emotion and he’s struggling with something internal. When our eyes connect, I move closer to him and touch the side of his face. He closes his eyes and I lean in to brush my lips against his.
His eyes flash open when I pull away. Illuminated passion flares in his eyes, making his hazel tone brighter. His hand rubs the side of my right shoulder as he turns to face me. My left arm goes around his neck as he pulls me in. His chest is hard against mine as our lips dance in a heated kiss that has the promise of forever etched within. I want my soul to melt with his. My breath mingles with his and my pulse is high. Then the kiss slows and we both know this needs to slow down.
“Have a good evening. Again, happy birthday. Thanks for inviting me.” He rests his forehead against mine as our breathing is fast like we ran a mile.
“You’re welcome and thank you.” Our hands gently pull apart as I climb out of the car and watch as he drives away.

Heaven Denied

Contemporary Romance / Metaphysical Fiction
Date Published: 12/22/18

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For just a few, brief days on the Pacific Crest Trail, Matt Murphy fell in love and came to understand what was really important in life – until the woman he fell in love with died.

Where that left him, Matt couldn’t know. His only recourse would be to meet the man who had first married his love and understand what that love had meant to him.

The results of which could change Matt’s life forever…


Matt was so hungry he didn’t consider if his phone was ready. He was ready to face the music at La Blithesome Listhe if it also meant facing breakfast.

He wasn’t inside for two minutes before he noticed people looking at him, giving those sideward glances that people give when they don’t want to be seen looking. They were probably already talking about him in the kitchen. The waitress who sat them at a table did not appear to recognize Matt and he didn’t recognize her, either. Truth be told, he didn’t recognize too many people. He wasn’t particularly good with faces.

But as he perused the menu, a face he recognized very well came strolling in his direction from the farthest end of the restaurant. Annias Listhe, Diva’s old boss and owner of La Blithesome Listhe. Still dressing like she’s a burlesque dancer, Matt thought, although the days when she could pull it off were far behind her.

When Annias flashed Matt a smile, Matt smiled back at her. After all, despite her many quirks, Annias had always been good to Diva and, by extension, to Matt as well. “Mister Diva Murphy,” Annias announced, which was so typical of her Matt barely batted an eye. “How wonderful to see you back in these four walls.”

Hardly four walls, Matt thought as he said, “I’m sorry it has been so long, Annias. I just – ”

“No. No,” Annias told him. “No need for explanation. You’ve had a difficult year, Matthew. I understand. It’s just wonderful to see you again. We miss your Diva, our Diva, so very much.”

Her graciousness left Matt feeling a little like a schmuck. He stood up so they could embrace – he did his best not to breathe in her perfume bath – and Matt offered, “She made the best scones in the world. I only hope you found someone as good.”

“Well,” Annias replied, stepping out of their embrace, “our Baxwell is no Diva but he does have his charms.”

“I’m sorry. Did you say Maxwell?”

“Baxwell,” Annias corrected.



“Baxwell,” Eric repeated from his seat, speaking as though Matt was the jerk. Little did he realize that Matt was about to say “Back sweat.”

“Exactly so,” Annias complemented. “Who is your friend, Matthew?”

“Name’s Eric,” Eric offered, his hand outstretched.

Annias took it. “Charmed,” she told him. “Now, you two boys order whatever you like and don’t worry about anything. You’re like family, Matthew. You should know that.”

“Thanks, Annias,” Matt said, and he meant it. He felt like an idiot showing up after all this time but Annias was the perfect host. After she walked away, Matt sat down at the table. “That woman has always given me the creeps,” he said to Eric, leaning forward so he could speak softly. “She’s nice enough but I don’t think she’d recognize an authentic moment if it choked on her perfume.”

“She’s okay,” Eric chided. “Besides, she did offer to pick up breakfast. Let’s see what kind of damage we can do.”

Matt lifted an eyebrow as Eric dived into the menu, waiting for the moment that he was sure would come when… Wait. There it was. Eric’s face went from pleased to perplexed to downright embarrassed.

“What is all this?” Eric asked.

“High class food,” Matt confided. “Don’t worry. I’ve got this.” He called the waitress over and said, “Can we get two coffees – just coffee – with cream and sugar. Some orange juice. A couple croissant. Some melon, whatever you have that’s in season. And a couple of danishes, if you have them?”

As the waitress walked away, Matt saw the disappointment on Eric’s face. “What?” he asked. “It’s called a continental breakfast. We’ll pick you up a McMuffin later on.”

“Okay,” Eric said. “But only if you promise.”

About the Author

Author and occasional philosopher and monologist, Ken La Salle’s passion is intense humor, meaningful drama, and finding answers to the questions that define our lives. Ken La Salle grew up in Santa Ana, California and has remained in the surrounding area his entire life. He was raised with strong, blue collar roots, which have given his writing a progressive and environmentalist view. You can find a growing number of his books and performances available online. Find out more about Ken on his website at

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Girls of Yellow

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Mystery, Thriller
Elise De Jong/Sami Ali Book 1
Publisher: Penwood
Published: May 2018

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Imagine a world where modern governments failed their citizens and long-simmering conflicts escalated into global war. Imagine if its survivors migrated toward those who share the same faith. Imagine the continents are ruled by religions.

When the mysterious death of a teenage girl triggers memories of a similar childhood event, police Detective Sami Ali becomes consumed with solving her murder. Persecuted by the shame of his past, Ali will stop at nothing to find the killer, even if his investigation puts his wife and daughter at risk.

As he follows the clues, Ali collides with another lost soul – a foreign spy. Elise De Jong’s official mission in Eurabia involves the acquisition of a priceless item that could shift the balance of power among the theocracies. But she also has a personal objective – to find her last living relative, the little sister whom she hasn’t seen since her birth.

To succeed in their missions, Elise and Ali must find common ground despite their religious differences, for they can depend only on each other.

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Major Sami Ali knew he’d been assigned the dhimmi’s murder because he was the worst detective on the Budapest police force. And he understood exactly what his boss expected him to do – use minimal departmental resources to conduct a basic investigation, find no evidence of religious cleansing, and bury the case.

Ali knew such a weak effort rendered him a fraud and he didn’t care. Pride didn’t pay his daughter’s tuition. His job was to follow orders and provide for his family. Also, his father had made him take an oath as a child to hate Christians and Jews for the rest of his life. He didn’t give a damn about the dhimmis.

The body had been found at the Matthias Catholic Church, one of only three remaining Christian churches in the section of the city known as Dhimmi Town. Gothic  spires decorated with gargoyles towered above a diamond-patterned roof, green and brown ceramic tiles glittering in the sun. Ismael, the crime scene technician, was kneeling beside the corpse near the altar when Ali arrived inside. His friend reminded Ali of a mongoose – unassuming at first glance, but pity the snake who dared to test his mettle.

“First comes Saturday,” Ismael said.

“Then comes Sunday,” Ali said.

The salutation had originated in the Middle East during the early twentieth century, long before the third world war, the collapse of governments and economies, and the migration of survivors toward people who shared the same faith.

First we’ll take care of the Jews, who pray on Saturday, and then we’ll take care of the Christians, who pray on Sunday.

The old prophecy had been fulfilled in Arabia. Then, after Muslims flooded Europe, Sharia law had been enacted throughout the continent. Only the dhimmis prevented the prophecy from being true in what was now known as Eurabia, too.

And now there were one fewer dhimmis.

Ali couldn’t see the corpse. Ismael was hovering over it, blocking his view.

“What are we celebrating?” Ali said.

“Death by strangulation,” Ismael said.

“What? No machete?”

“No blood. He strangled her with his hands.”

“No blood. You’ve got to be kidding … Wait. Did you say her?”

“Bruising on both sides of the neck but no actual prints. He must have worn gloves.”

“Signs of struggle?” Ali said.

“None that I can see.”

Ismael stepped back to reveal a girl’s corpse, a lithe figure with hair the color of sun-drenched wheat. “Look, A. She can’t be more than fourteen or fifteen.”

“Ish,” Ali said. The first syllable of his friend’s name was the only sound he could muster because the sight of the girl had taken him to the place he hoped to never revisit.

“What a waste,” Ismael said.

Ali’s childhood memories were secured in an impenetrable vault protected by imaginary barbed wire, steel walls, and padlocks. Whenever something or someone prodded the vault, its protective devices tightened. This time, however, its defenses disintegrated and the locks sprang open. Out streamed the vision he loathed so much it made him long for sudden death.

It was all in the past, Ali tried to tell himself, but no one could detect a lie more easily than a cop, even a lousy one. A similar-looking girl was lying before him. And she, too, was dead.

“The eyes,” Ismael said. He reached over and lifted the dead girl’s eyelids.  “You see the eyes?”

They looked like aquamarine jewels.

Of course Ali had noticed the eyes, as surely as he’d noticed the girl’s oval face, alabaster skin, and golden locks. It wasn’t their beauty that shocked Ali and Ismael, but rather their presence in their sockets, because the typical religious cleansing involved their removal. Lower your head – submit to Islam – lest your eyes be snatched.

Ismael nodded for Ali to come closer, then glanced in both directions to make sure the other two technicians taking pictures of the church interior couldn’t hear him.

“She wasn’t killed here,” Ismael said. “She was brought here after the fact.”

“How can you be sure?”

Ismail lowered his voice further. “Because there was a witness.”

Ali lost his breath. “A witness?” There were never any witnesses in Dhimmi Town, at least none brave or stupid enough to come forward.

“The caretaker who called it in. He was here when the killer brought in the body. Point of entry, front door. Point of exit, front door.

“He saw the killer?”

“He was taken to headquarters to give his statement and for his own protection. But I don’t think it’s his protection your boss will be worried about. Especially not with the world leaders in town for that conference. Think about it. The heads of all four kingdoms – the Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and us – all in the same place. Can’t have religious cleansing when the religions are trying to find a way to get along, can you?”

Ali heard the question and understood Ismael’s point. His boss wanted the case buried quickly. But that mattered less to Ali than Ismael’s previous implication, that the higher-ups would do everything necessary to make sure the witness was silenced. To Ali’s own amazement, something compelled him right there and then to do everything in his power to make sure the witness was heard.

But was he too late?

Ali told Ismael he’d be in touch and rushed out of the church.  As he ran toward his car, the call to prayer sounded. It was the second such call of the day which meant it was just past noon. The sound of the Muezzin’s mellifluous voice always slowed Ali’s pulse, drained him of angst and sorrow, and lifted his spirits. The thought of not stopping whatever he was doing to contemplate the substance of his Islamic beliefs five times a day was unthinkable.

Yet that’s exactly what he considered doing the moment the initial call sounded. The image of the dead girl from his youth gripped him so tightly that he wanted – no, he needed  – to begin a thorough investigation of this girl’s murder immediately. One death bore no relation to the other. More than twenty-five years had past since the first girl had died. The victims merely resembled each other.

Ali realized this but it made no difference to him. To say that he’d failed the first girl was a gross understatement. He couldn’t contemplate repeating the mistake. Did he even have the skills to solve a murder? Ali wasn’t sure himself. The other cops called him the Dhimmi Lover precisely because he had no love for them. It was a joke well-known throughout the force. What would they say if the worst detective in Eurabia started acting like a real police? The Dhimmi Lover actually trying to solve the murder of a dhimmi? They’d all get a laugh out of that one.

When the second call came for prayer to begin, Ali didn’t stop to face Mecca. Instead, he climbed in his car, hammered the gas pedal and raced toward the station. Never before had he thought of the streets of Dhimmi Town as his own. Who in his right mind would want them?

But they were his, he realized, whether he liked them or not, just as surely as he was among the few Muslims not prostrating themselves before Allah in the capital city of the central region of the Eurabian Caliphate.

Ali hoped like hell no one recognized him behind the wheel.


About the Author

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Orest Stelmach is a mystery and thriller writer and the author of the Nadia Tesla series. His novels have been Kindle #1 bestsellers, optioned for film development, and translated into numerous foreign languages. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Orest was an institutional investment portfolio manager for twenty-five years. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

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The Optical Lasso

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Sci-fi Fantasy Thriller
Publisher: Page Publishing
Published: February 2019

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A creature lying dormant beneath the Earth’s crust for over 35,000 years, waits patiently to transform a dying young boy into one of mankind’s greatest leaders in a time of dire need.

In the year 2140 CE, Planet 9, more commonly known as Vixus, has resurfaced on the edge of the Milky Way… the only known planet that periodically reverses its rotation. Last seen in the middle of the Kuiper Belt in 2066 CE, it mysteriously disappeared after being discovered by a Galactic Corps scout ship. The unknown energy source enabling Vixus to spin in opposite directions represented great power which could help turn the tide in a war Earth was losing.

The Fighting Fury, the Corps’ finest platoon, has been called in to conduct a search and rescue operation for several missing landing parties. Following a fierce battle on the planet surface, Lieutenant Janet “Cat” Miles, leader of this elite group of combat women, was captured. She soon found herself imprisoned with the Corps’ most fabled leader, Commander Jason Cody. His name would forever be linked to the infamous wormhole hidden on Neptune’s dark side; an area of space now cautiously avoided by all due to the menace which lurks within.

Paranoia raced through both leaders’ minds. Could he trust a woman who seemingly had no imperfections? Could she trust a man who had vanished from sight years ago? Earth’s future laid in the balance as they struggled to overcome their mutual distrust and acknowledge what those before them understood: “If you live long enough, the wisdom will come.”

About the Author

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Marc Corwin is a retired entrepreneur and chief financial officer whose imagination has been broadened by a childhood immersed in comic books. His first publication has merited the following commentary: “The story’s quick cuts and ever-complicating plotline will keep readers entertained” – Kirkus Reviews

Half the royalties earned from the sale of “The Optical Lasso” will be donated to the Grace Science Foundation to aid in the development of cost-effective cures for the over 7000 known rare diseases currently afflicting an estimated 350 million people worldwide.

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