Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss
David Hirshberg | JACOBO’S RAINBOW
Author Guest / May 12, 2021

You’re a big believer in the importance of opening paragraphs. Please elaborate. I’ve got two favorites. The first is from A Tale of Two Cities, whose first sentence is, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I also really like: “Fear presides over these memories, a perpetual fear.” That’s from Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America. When I open a novel for the first time, I want to be intrigued or amazed or unsettled—right from the start. In addition, within a few sentences, I’m eager to get into the rhythm of literary language, which encourages me to continue to turn pages. The opening line of my debut novel in 2018—My Mother’s Son—has been commented on by almost all of the reviewers: “When you’re a kid, they don’t always tell you the truth.” It’s followed by, “They tell others that they don’t want to hurt you or they think you won’t understand. But in reality, it’s just easier if they tell you what makes them feel good, or what gets them out of a jam.” Readers tell me that this braces them for the unexpected, and this is precisely how I wanted them to react. Here’s…

Maddison Michaels | Exclusive Excerpt: THE BACHELOR BARGAIN
Author Guest / May 11, 2021

Exclusive chapter excerpt from THE BACHELOR BARGAIN by Maddison Michaels, for Fresh Fiction. Being hauled over the back of Sebastian’s shoulder like a sack of coal, with her derrière resting high near his head, was not how she imagined the evening ending. In fact, some would think it rather mortifying, even though Livie found it a tad thrilling. She’d never been carried by any man before, well, at least not since she’d been a child. Though it was slightly uncomfortable being jostled on his shoulder while he stalked down the street, presumably to where her carriage was waiting. Hearing some horses in the distance, Livie knew her assumption was correct. Just as quickly as he’d scooped her up, he swung her down, careful to keep one hand of his on her waist as she steadied herself while he placed her cane in her other hand. Her breath caught in her throat from the touch of his hand against her own; even through her gloves she could feel the heat radiating from his skin. His hand was so large and work-worn, so very different from the manicured and soft hands of the gentlemen she knew. It was a hand capable of…

Nancy Naigle | Exclusive Excerpt: THE SHELL COLLECTOR
Author Guest / May 7, 2021

Maybe it was the low cloud cover this morning, but the ocean sounded so much louder today. She had a feeling it would be a brief stay the way the wind was whipping. The kids ran in circles at the shoreline, letting Denali chase them until he needed a break and ran to lie by her feet. She got up and met them at the water with their pails. “Y’all ready to find some shells?” They began scouring the sand. She knelt down and picked up a handful of tiny vibrant-colored shells. Most of them were broken, but a purple one caught her eye. She tucked it inside her pocket while the children quickly filled their pails with shells at every step until their buckets got heavy. When she looked up, she noticed they’d walked farther down the beach than they’d ever gone before. “Let’s head back,” Amanda said. Denali lay down in the sand. “We can’t leave him,” Hailey whined. “He’ll catch up.” At least she hoped so. There was no way she’d be able to carry him. “Do you want to stop and go through your shells? Lighten the load by getting rid of a few?” Jesse lugged…

James R. Hannibal | Exclusive Excerpt: THE PARIS BETRAYAL
Author Guest / May 3, 2021

Home Paris Ben climbed the stairs from the metro station at Saint Germain and turned north on Rue Bonaparte under the late morning sun. Its rays did nothing to ease the winter cold, and he altered his route to his flat in the 16th arrondissement to take him past a favorite café. In the ten months of Ben’s posting there, Paris had stolen his heart. He loved his country, certainly, but his American roots had thinned. His parents had him late in life and passed while he was still muddling around in his six years at Rice University, deciding what he wanted to be when he grew up. He knew he didn’t want to be a cabinetmaker, so he’d sold the family business, the last tie binding him to his hometown, and moved on. No siblings. No connections. The Company sought out people like him. They’d recruited him—­rescued him—­during his first year as a commodities trader. Life at the schoolhouse ended nine months later with his death. Drug overdose. Tragic. His professors at Rice would have never guessed. The Company resurrected him in London as Ben Calix, and he’d never looked back. With a fresh cup of tea to warm…

P.J. Manney | Exclusive Excerpt: (CON)science
Author Guest / April 29, 2021

CHAPTER EIGHT Peter Bernhardt woke up again. He felt odd, unlike anything he had yet experienced as a digital entity. His peripheral vision registered a clean engineering room’s wipeable acoustic tile ceiling and walls. From the ceiling hung three accordioned mobile ventilation ducts. He focused on the square mouth of one duct. The image was clear but edgy, as though his digital vision tried to blend each pixel together into an approximation of human sight, but had not quite succeeded. He lay supine in the center of the room, probably on a workbench or table. Raising his index finger, he tapped the surface three times and heard the muffled thud of a thick silicone skin on metal. The table seemed real, tangible, yet his finger felt jerky, electronic. He lifted his head and heard the faint sound of servos as he stared down along the length of the table at an android body. The skin appeared to be high-end silicon, with body hair tastefully punctured into the surface. The build was athletic, but not pumped. Slim, but not skinny. Pecs had definition and the stomach was flat, with a subtle six- pack. He lifted his head two centimeters more. Below…

Isabel Cooper | Exclusive Excerpt: THE NIGHTBORN
Author Guest / April 29, 2021

It seems you played a few cards right, a familiar mental voice said as the butler opened the door to Branwyn’s room. I can’t enjoy a room like this as I once did, but it’s a much finer view than the inn. Yathana was lying across the foot of Branwyn’s bed, three feet of straight, razor-edged steel in a scabbard covered with midnight-blue silk, with thin golden chains connecting small amethysts and garnets. Her hilt appeared gold too—a thin layer of gilt did wonders—and the eye-sized fire opal in the center of her guard was now flanked by two chunks of amber on the quillons and another on the pommel. Seventeen years of partnership had given Yathana’s normal form time to sink very deeply into Branwyn’s consciousness, and even after two months of practice, the additions stood out whenever she had occasion to examine the soulsword. Adapting to the shifts in balance had come more easily, praise the Four. “It looks wonderful,” she said to the butler, though she really hadn’t even noticed the room save for marking a window opposite the door—real glass, not shuttered, and framed by heavy rose-pink curtains. “Thank you.” “The maids will have put your…

Eve Calder | Exclusive Excerpt + Recipe Share: A TALE OF TWO COOKIES
Author Guest / April 26, 2021

Excerpt from Eve Calder’s latest Cookie House mystery, “A Tale of Two Cookies,” exclusively for Fresh Fiction! Pastry chef and recent Manhattan transplant Kate McGuire is loving her new life on the laid-back island of Coral Cay, Florida. Now a junior partner in the Cookie House bakery, she’s thrilled when old pal Desiree announces a visit — and an impromptu beach wedding. When the marine biologist groom disappears on the eve of the wedding — after spotting criminals in a protected cove — Kate resolves to help her friend find out what really happened. Was it a case of cold feet or something much more sinister? *** Kate wheeled up to the Cookie House just as Andy Levy’s yellow van was pulling up to the curb. He hopped out with two brown-paper carry-out bags. “Don’t tell me you’re making deliveries now?” Kate asked the pub owner. “Hey, from what Sam said on the phone, it was a spaghetti-and-meatball  emergency,”  the pub owner returned,  his face lighting up. “So two specials coming up. And you might recognize the garlic bread—we used Sam’s baguettes.” “That smells wonderful,” Kate said. “But I’d have been happy to pick it up.” “Nah, we need a…

Heather McCollum | Exclusive Excerpt: HIGHLAND WARRIOR
Author Guest / April 23, 2021

In this scene, Kára’s best friend, Brenna, is enduring a very difficult birth, and Joshua gets roped into helping. *** “You are the strongest here, and we need her up,” Hilda said. “The babe is coming finally, but it will be easier on them both that way.” She beckoned quickly to him, and he found himself walking over, inhaling fully to gain strength. But the heat and smells did not help him. ’Tis like birthing a foal, he told himself, which he had done many times before. He stepped up onto the bed, his boots planting behind the heavily burdened woman. “Do not let her slip,” Kára said, letting him grasp Brenna under her arms. He had no choice but to hold her under her ample bosom. Just like a mare in trouble. Like a horse. That is all. Done this dozens of times before. If Brenna could only neigh, he would have little problem with this. He opened his mouth to ask but decided against it. No woman he had ever met responded well to being asked to neigh. Joshua lifted and Brenna groaned, a sound torn from her straining body. Kára leaped up to loop her friend’s arms…

Jesse Q. Sutanto | Exclusive Excerpt: DIAL A FOR AUNTIES
Author Guest / April 23, 2021

How can I describe the chaos that is a dim sum restaurant in the heart of San Gabriel Valley at 11 a.m.? The place is filled with close to a hundred round tables, each one occupied by a different family, many of them with three to four generations of people present—there are gray-haired, prune-faced Ah Mas holding chubby babies on their laps. Steaming carts are pushed by the waitresses, though if you called them “Waitress” they’d never stop for you. You must call them Ah Yi—Auntie—and wave frantically as they walk by to get them to stop. And once they do, customers descend like vultures and fight over the bamboo steamers inside the cart. People shout, asking if they’ve got siu mai, or har gow, or lo mai gai, and the Ah Yis locate the right dishes somewhere in the depths of their carts. My Mandarin is awful, and my Cantonese nonexistent. Ma and the aunts often try to help me improve by speaking to me in either Mandarin or Indonesian, but then give up and switch to English because I only get about 50 percent of what they’re saying. Their grasp of the English language is a bit wobbly,…

Royaline Sing | Exclusive Excerpt: BETTING ON A DUKE’S HEART
Author Guest / April 21, 2021

She’d been searching for William and found the duke. And how she found him. A magnificent undressed chest hit her line of vision. No lady would keep looking, but she couldn’t close her eyes. Sweat beads from the tips of his black tresses, now wet and mussed, traversed his temples to his strong neck, chest, trickling to a muscled abdomen, and…dear Lord. She sucked in her breath. The warm buzzing in her ears heightened, as did the rush of blood in her head. This…this was…an onslaught on her senses. No amount of ancient texts she’d read or sensual paintings she’d studied or her time outside of England had prepared her for the sight of a real, vibrant, half-naked man. Liar. I have seen countless laborers and servants toiling undressed. She huffed. All right, this man then. She was breathless at the sight of Saxton. And whyever was he standing in their stables in such an indecent state? “You want something, miss?” William’s voice broke through her mindless state. Drat. She had frozen. They had stopped their work and had been looking at her for a while. Worse, she only stared at Aetius. And he knew it. She could tell by…