Friday, April 28, 2017

Book Launch Q&A: Shelley Schanfield, author of The Mountain Goddess

Shelley Schanfield’s passion for Buddhism and yoga arose sixteen years ago, when she and her son earned black belts in Tae Kwon Do. The links between the martial arts and Buddhist techniques to calm and focus the mind fascinated her. By profession a librarian, Shelley plunged into research about the time, place, and spiritual traditions that 2500 years ago produced Prince Siddhartha, who became the Buddha. Yoga, in some form, has a role in all of these traditions. Its transformational teachings soon prompted Shelley to hang up her black belt and begin a yoga practice that she follows to this day.

Because she loves historical fiction, Shelley looked for a good novel about the Buddha. When she didn’t find one that satisfied her, she decided to write her own novels based on the spiritual struggles of women in the Buddha’s time. She published the first book in the Sadhana Trilogy, The Tigress and the Yogi, in 2016 and will publish the second, The Mountain Goddess in early 2017.


About the Book:

Author: Shelley Schanfield
Publisher: Lake House Books
Pages: 471
Genre: Historical Fantasy

A beautiful warrior princess. A tormented prince. A terrible choice between love, duty, and spiritual freedom.

In ancient India, rebellious Dhara runs away to a sacred mountain to study with the powerful yogi Mala, a mysterious woman with a violent past. Flung by war onto an adventure-filled journey, Dhara meets and captures the heart of Siddhartha, whose skill in the martial arts and extraordinary mental powers equal her own.

Worldly power and pleasure seduce Dhara, creating a chasm between her and her husband, who longs to follow a sage’s solitary path. She takes on the warrior’s role Siddhartha does not want, and when she returns wounded from battle court intrigue drives them further apart. As Siddhartha’s discontent with royal life intensifies, Dhara’s guru Mala, who has returned to her life as a ruthless outlaw, seeks her former pupil for her own evil purposes.

Dhara’s and Siddhartha’s love keeps evil at bay, but their son’s birth brings on a spiritual crisis for the prince.  If he leaves his kingdom to seek enlightenment, he turns his back on love and duty and risks destroying his people. Only Dhara can convince him to stay. 


Amazon | Barnes & Noble

After your book was released, what was the first thing you did when getting ready for your book launch?

The first novel in my trilogy about women in the Buddha’s time, The Tigress and the Yogi, was released January 2016. Then I did what any introverted writer who prefers to be alone with her computer and her cats would do. I retreated to my writing cave and vowed never to come out!

Fortunately, I had a supportive writers’ group and my colleagues urged me to set up readings at local bookstores. I have a friend who teaches drama who coached me on the excerpts I’d selected to read, which helped enormously in making them dramatic and entertaining. I had a terrific time and sold a lot of books at the launch for Tigress, at Bookbound in Ann Arbor, and I’ve continued to sell on consignment through them. It spurred me to plan other activities—both on-line and at other local stores. I will release the sequel to the first book, The Mountain Goddess, at Bookbound on March 3, 2017. 

After that, what was your next step?

With  my first book, I advertised via the very friendly and easy to use author platform on Goodreads. It’s also very easy to organize a giveaway on their site. LibraryThing also offers a giveaway service, but I definitely got more mileage from Goodreads. I’ve been running a targeted ad campaign on their site pretty much continuously for several months for Tigress in preparation for the launch of The Mountain Goddess.

Did you do anything different to spice up your website in lieu of your upcoming book release?

My website (  has two main purposes: as a landing page with links to retailers, and as a link to interesting books and on-line resources on yoga and Buddhism. I use Siteground running Wordpress to host it. I plan to update it after my second book has been out a while, so that I don’t mess with the “Buy the Book” links.

Did you ever consider using a PR agency to help you promote your book or did you prefer the DIY route?

I would love to use a PR agency, but my sales don’t justify the cost as yet. I used Pump Up Your Book for a book blast to advertise the first book in advance of the Virtual Book Tour they are running for the second book beginning March 2017.

For more useful DIY advice:

C.S. Lakin’s

Penny Sansevieri’s recent post on Book Marketing Trends

And a very recent post on a 10-step book launch from Derek Murphy, which looks great!

Were finding reviews a top priority for you and, if yes, how did you approach that?

My local bookstores told me Foreword Reviews was an honest source that they used to get recommendations on indie-published books. So I spent some money on a package that included a review from them and Blue Ink Reviews. Both gave my work high marks, which helped garner publicity. Since then, readers have posted good reviews (averaging between 4-5 stars) on Goodreads and Amazon. I’m pursuing the same strategy for the second book.

What are your views on social media for marketing your book?

Like many writers, I break out in a rash at the mere idea of marketing. But in the year since Tigress was released, I’ve started to work with social media consultant Leslie McGraw, and that has made all the difference. She helped me shift focus from the idea that social media is for marketing to using it as a way to make connections with people who shared my interests in Buddhism and yoga.  I’ve come to enjoy being active on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. When I feel like I’m on full speed with these, I will get more active with my profiles on LinkedIn and Google+.

Did you revamp your author’s page at Amazon in any way to prepare for the launch?

I would highly recommend C.S. Lakin’s, site:, for useful advice on this, especially her 8 Essential Steps to Selling Big on Amazon for great ideas on how to write profile and book descriptions that attract readers.

Any tips for those authors wanting to set up a successful book launch?

Define what would be a successful launch for you then set your goals and budget. It can be simple, for example just a few readings at regional bookstores, or more complex, including purchasing reviews, using social media marketing, or signing up with a book publicity service for a virtual book tour, all things that I’ve done and am glad I did. All of these are really pretty easy steps.

Whatever you decide to do for your current book’s launch, keep writing the next book!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Are You There Krishna? Book Cover Reveal

We're happy to host Rachel Khona's ARE YOU THERE, KRISHNA? IT'S ME, RESHMA, OR RACHEL. OR WHATEVER Book Trailer Reveal today! Enjoy the trailer!

About the Book:

Author: Rachel Khona
Publisher: Thought Catalog
Pages: 257
Genre: Humor/Memoir

Rachel knew even as a young child that she wasn’t like the rest of her Indian family. While her parents were plotting how she could make it into med school with her mediocre grades in chemistry and biology, she had other things on her mind, including such gems as:

• Why can’t she go to the temple on her period?
• Why don’t her Indian cousins like her?
• Why was it OK to be sexualized at a beauty pageant but not for herself?
• How can she straddle two cultures while retaining her sense of self?
• Why are women considered sluts and men considered studs?
• Why do people keep asking her if she was born in
• Should she wax down there?
• Why does she have crazy eyes?

After leaving home, Rachel got high in
Amsterdam, met her pop singer idol in a bathroom, argued with a ghost, and got lost in the Pyrenees. But that didn’t stop her from questioning while men still tell her to smile. 'Are You There Krishna? It’s Me, Reshma. Or Rachel. Or Whatever.' weaves stories of Rachel’s life with observations on race, class, sex, feminism, and culture with humor and candor.



About the Author

Once upon a time in an exotic land called New Jersey, Rachel Khona used to dream of one day playing tambourine in an all-girl rock band. That never happened.
Instead she became a writer. She has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Playboy, Penthouse, Maxim, and Cosmopolitan among others.
When she’s not writing or designing, she is busy drinking wine and singing off key, bike riding, pretending she’s friends with Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler, eating absurd amounts of cheese, or listening to rock music at an appallingly loud volume. Sometimes all at once.



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book Launch Q&A: Doug Cooper, Author of The Investment Club

Doug Cooper is the author of the award-winning novel Outside In and The Investment Club available October 2016. He has a BS in Mathematics Education from Miami University and a MA in American Studies from Saint Louis University. Always searching, he has traveled to over twenty countries on five continents, exploring the contradictions between what we believe and how we act in the pursuit of truth, beauty, and love. Originally from Port Clinton, Ohio, he has also called Cleveland, St. Louis, Detroit, New York, and Oslo, Norway home. He now lives in Cleveland working on his third novel Focus Lost.



About the Book:

Forty million people visit Vegas every year but most never get past the strip. What about the people who live there? What brought them there? What keeps them there?

Told from the perspective of a seasoned blackjack dealer, The Investment Club tells the stories of a self-destructive, dwarf entrepreneur, a drug-addicted musical performer-turned-stripper, a retired, widowed New Jersey policeman, a bereaved, divorced female sportscaster, and a card-counting, former Catholic priest before and after their fateful meeting at the El Cortez Casino in downtown Vegas.

As the five learn the greatest return comes from investing in one another, their lives stabilize and take on new, positive directions. But their love and support for each other can take them only so far before they must determine the meaning and value of their own lives.


Amazon | Barnes & Noble

After your book was released, what was the first thing you did when getting ready for your book launch?

I shared the release information via social media with information where to buy.

After that, what was your next step?

I held a book release party in my hometown and organized signings in other cities..

Did you do anything different to spice up your website in lieu of your upcoming book release?

I added the book to my Books and Buy sections and posted a blog announcing a virtual book talk and signing for those interested in getting a signed copy and discussing the book.

Did you ever consider using a PR agency to help you promote your book or did you prefer the DIY route?

My publisher Rare Bird Books has a publicity division called Rare Bird Lit that does the marketing & publicity, and I supplement as needed.

Were finding reviews a top priority for you and, if yes, how did you approach that?

Rare Bird reached out to all the review channels.

What are your views on social media for marketing your book?

I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, LinkedIn, and Snapchat. Social media is an integral part of our strategy and provides a great way to not just push your message but interact with readers as well.

What social media has worked best for you?

Facebook seems to get the most traction.

Did you write a press release and do you think it worked for you?

Rare Bird did a press release for the release, and I write them for other news like events, awards, etc.

Did you revamp your author’s page at Amazon in any way to prepare for the launch (

Nothing special. Just added my book and have my new blog updates appear on the page.

Did you have other books you offered for free in order to help sell your present book?

Rare Bird organized a Goodreads Giveaway. I also held a few contests through social media. In addition, I formed a beta-reading team before the ARC was published to include readers in the development by sending them an electronic copy with ten questions in exchange for a free copy of the final published copy and their names in the acknowledgements.

Did you set up booksignings and, if so, how did that work for you?

I did a release party and try to do one at least once per month. The events are really up and down. Sometimes we sell 30-40 copies, sometimes only a few.

Did you create a book trailer?

I did a book trailer for my first book Outside In (, but for The Investment Club, I decided to invest that money in other areas. I created other short videos from events and gifs with content to promote the book.

Did you time your book launch around a certain holiday?

We chose a fall release in October to get it into the market and be ready for the holiday retail season.

What was the best money you ever spent on your book launch?

One of the special SWAG items I created was a black $100 casino chip with the title on one side and my info and website on the other. If I was playing blackjack or out and about and asked what I did or when the book would be out, I would give them a chip. Works so much better than a business card.

Any tips for those authors wanting to set up a successful book launch?

Following are some things an author should do to set up a successful book launch:
1.      Stay engaged with your readers throughout the year, not just when you have a new book coming out.
2.      Understand your market and the value your book delivers to readers.
3.      Build a platform from which to sell. Why are readers going to be interested in you and your book more than all the others you are competing with?
4.      Craft and hone your pitch: an elevator version, a medium one if they want to hear more, and an extended one if they are really interested.
5.      Consider partnering with other authors. Don’t compete. Collaborate and sell together.
6.      Be resilient. Don’t get discouraged and don’t take no for an answer. The demand for you and your books will not materialize on its own volition. You have to create it and maintain it until it develops its own power to sustain.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Churchkey Kid by Carla Baughman


by Carla Baughman

256 pages 
About the Book

A story about childhood, hardship and determination to find the truth.

Imagine you’re an innocent five yr. old in a home of constant conflict and never ending changes. As you begin to understand more about the world around you, the accusations and insults about who you are and where you came from eventually compels you to search for the truth. Hints are thrown around like the many objects hurled in the room, confusing you even more. In the heat of the violent arguments you have been forced to endure, you learn not to trust anyone or anything. You’re only safehaven is a familiar river, where life itself teaches you change and transformation are the only real truths you will ever need to know in order to survive.

Carla was a shy, timid, introverted child who preferred to be alone. However, her life would have it otherwise as she struggled to fit in a world of poverty, insecurity, sexual abuse, alcoholism and many other uncertainties.

Follow Carla’s journey from birth to later in life when a Churchkey, (a 1950’s slang word for a metal beer bottle opener), reveals the secret of who she really is and how she got here.

Carla eventually discovers everything does happen for a reason, just as her mother used to tell her. The pain and suffering she endured helped her grow and adversity gave her the gift of compassion and the ability to forgive those whom she’d spent most of her life blaming.

Her hope is to inspire others who have grown up in a dysfunctional family, and for you to believe you can survive anything life throws at you and come out stronger. If Carla could paint a picture of her life, it would be the spitting image of the one she has already lived. The only difference would be to leave it unsigned, for the best is yet to come.

 The Churchkey Kid is available at Booklocker.

About the Author
Carla Baughman Carla Baughman grew up in Riverside, California in the 1950’s and 60’s. An average baby boomer of that era, she was the middle child of three sisters and two brothers. She now lives in Henderson, NV with her husband Dave. They have 11 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Beethoven in Love by Howard Jay Smith

Beethoven in Love
by Howard Jay Smith

At the moment of his death, Ludwig van Beethoven pleads with Providence to grant him a final wish—one day, just a single day of pure joy. But first he must confront the many failings in his life, so the great composer and exceedingly complex man begins an odyssey into the netherworld of his past life led by a spirit guide who certainly seems to be Napoleon, who died six years before. This ghost of the former emperor, whom the historical Beethoven both revered and despised, struggles to compel the composer to confront the ugliness as well as the beauty and accomplishments of his past. As Beethoven ultimately faces the realities of his just-ended life, we encounter the women who loved and inspired him. In their own voices, we discover their Beethoven—a lover with whom they savor the profound beauty and passion of his creations. And it’s in the arms of his beloveds that he comes to terms with the meaning of his life and experiences the moment of true joy he has always sought.

Available at Amazon

Book Excerpt:

The Death of Beethoven
Vienna, 5:00 pm, March 26, 1827  
Outside Beethoven’s rooms at the Schwarzspanierhaus, a fresh measure of snow from a late season thunderstorm muffles the chimes of St. Stephens Cathedral as they ring out the hours for the old city.
    Ein, Zwei, Drei, Vier… Funf  Uhr.  Five O’clock.
    Beethoven, three months past his fifty-sixth birthday, lies in a coma, as he has now for two nights, his body bound by the betrayal of an illness whose only virtue was that it proved incurable and would, thankfully, be his last. Though his chest muscles and his lungs wrestle like giants against the approaching blackness, his breathing is so labored that the death rattle can be heard over the grumblings of the heavens throughout his apartment. 
     Muss es sein? Must it be? Ja, es muss sein. Beethoven is dying. From on high, the Gods vent their grief at his imminent passing and hurl a spear of lightening at Vienna.
     Their jagged bolt of electricity explodes outside the frost covered windows of the Schwarzspanierhaus with a clap of thunder so violent it startles the composer to consciousness. 
     Beethoven’s eyes open, glassy, unfocused. He looks upward – only the Gods know what he sees, if anything. He raises his right hand, a hand that has graced a thousand sonatas, and clenches his fist for perhaps the last time. His arm trembles as if railing against the heavens. Tears flood his eyes.
     His arm falls back to the bed… His eyelids close… And then he is gone ...

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

New release: Little Girl Gone, by Margaret Fenton

Title: Little Girl Gone
Genre: Mystery
Author: Margaret Fenton
Find out more on Amazon

About the Book:

When Little Girl Gone opens, it’s September in Birmingham, Alabama, and Claire Conover is steeling herself. September—with its oppressive, unwelcome heat, back-to-school newness worn off, and skyrocketing reports of abuse and neglect—is a time of year Claire has come to dread.  As the crime rate increases, so increases the work load for Claire and the Jefferson County Department of Human Services Child Welfare Division. Seems this year is no exception.
When she takes into custody a 13-year-old girl found sleeping behind a grocery store, Claire is swept up in a case that turns out to be far more complicated, and far more dangerous, than initially meets the eye. Struggling to piece together the young girl’s identity, Claire finds herself with few answers and no shortage of questions.  Is the young girl a runaway?  An abuse victim?  Or something else?   But things go from bad to worse when the young girl’s mother is found murdered—and then the girl disappears.  Claire soon discovers that the mother was involved in an illegal gambling industry in Birmingham.  But even with this clue, the case becomes more complicated.  Could the young girl have pulled the trigger?  Is that even possible?  And where could she have run?  Did she run at all? In the midst of all the questions, only one thing is certain: Claire has to find the answers, and the girl, fast.

A swiftly paced, suspenseful, and shocking story, Little Girl Gone earns Margaret Fenton a solid spot among today’s best mystery writers.  Masterful plotting, extraordinary character development, and a pulse racer of a plot combine to create an extraordinary mystery resplendent with twists, turns, and surprises.  An unforgettable story informed by Fenton’s near decade of experience as a social worker, Little Girl Gone also shines a light on the plight of at risk children and the dedication of those tireless and compassionate workers who serve them.  A stellar entry into what Booklist hailed “a promising new series,” Little Girl Gone is mesmerizing.

About the Author:

Margaret Fenton grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and moved to Birmingham in 1996. She received her B.A. in English from the Newcomb College of Tulane University, and her Master of Social Work from Tulane. Fenton spent nearly ten years as a child and family therapist before taking a break to focus on her writing. Her work tends to reflect her interest in social causes and mental health, especially where kids are concerned. She serves as planning coordinator of Murder in the Magic City, a one-day, one-track annual mystery fan conference in Homewood, Alabama. She is President of the Birmingham Chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of the Mystery Writers of America. Margaret lives in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover with her husband, a software developer.

Connect with the author on the web:

Chapter One

            I dread September every year.  The summer heat lingers, oppressive and unwelcome.  The kids in Birmingham have been back in school for two weeks, long enough for the excitement of new teachers, clothes, and school supplies to wear off.  Classes and homework have become things to be endured.  The lush green hills surrounding the city begin to fade to an unappealing dull brown, and it seems the crisp cool nights and the red and gold foliage of fall will never arrive. 
            Other typical late summer colors emerge, too.  Like the black and blue of bruises on a child’s legs, peeking out from under a pair of shorts at recess.  There’s the chalky complexion of the child who never gets enough to eat in the cafeteria, or the rusty skin of the one who never gets a bath.  Reports of abuse and neglect made by teachers skyrocket in September, swamping the Jefferson County Department of Human Services, Child Welfare Division, where I work. 
            To no one’s surprise the murder rate also spikes. The woman found in the ravine was the area’s forty-fifth homicide of the year.  I’d like to say the news of the poor woman’s death was more than mere background noise read by the perky morning anchor while I half-dried my hair in my usual scramble to get to work.  I’d like to say I paid attention.  Paused for reflection, a moment of silence, a prayer, anything.  But I didn’t.  It was Tuesday, the first of September, and another school year was well underway.  It was the busiest time of the year for me, and I was struggling every day just to keep my head above the flood of new investigations and everything that went with them.           
            I parked in the lot behind our downtown office at five to seven.  Russell, my cubicle-mate, trudged in ten minutes later.  As usual, his highlighted blond hair was still wet from the shower, his newspaper was tucked under his arm, and he clutched a cup of to-go coffee. 
            Russell and I are not morning people.  Both of us usually start out in a bad mood, but lately his had stretched into a day-long thing.  His boyfriend of nearly a year, Heinrich, moved back to Germany recently to be with his family.  They were trying to decide whether to maintain a long-distance relationship and Russell was miserable.  I was on the verge of placing a call to Munich and begging Heinrich to get on a plane back to Alabama.
            I updated my To Do list for the day as Russell settled himself at his desk.  Every day he sipped his coffee, perused the paper, and read me little bits of news before he checked his voice and e-mail messages.
            “You hear about the body they found?” he asked, skimming the front page.
            “There was something about it on TV.  She was found in a drainage ditch or something?”
            “Uh-huh.  Behind that fancy new golf resort they’re building in Homewood.”
            “Russet Ridge?  Strange place for a body.”  The half-completed complex would feature a world-class golf course, five-star restaurants, and a hotel with a shopping area and a spa.  It was going up in one of Birmingham’s more affluent suburbs where murders weren’t supposed to happen.
            “Yeah, it doesn’t sound like the usual stuff.”
            The “usual stuff” was drugs and domestic violence.  They were two of the most common causes of death in Jefferson County.  And two of the most prevalent reasons why caseworkers like me and Russell took children into the State’s custody.
            Russell continued reading.  “It says here she was shot in the head at close range.  Found by some kids out playing over the weekend.  Poor things.  If she was in the water in this heat for more than a day, even it was shallow--”
            The bagel with cream cheese I’d wolfed down for breakfast suddenly lurched in my stomach.  “Russell, please.”
            “I don’t really want to hear the details.”
            “I didn’t know you were squeamish.”
            “Can I at least finish my first cup of coffee before we discuss decomposing bodies?”
            “Sorry.  Anyway, your boy Kirk Mahoney wrote this story.”
            At the mention of Kirk’s name, an uninvited image of his spiky black hair and blue eyes flashed into my mind.  I felt a strange tightening in my chest and a tingling sensation just in front of my left ear where he’d kissed me last.  I rubbed the spot, then tucked a strand of blonde shoulder length hair behind my ear.  “He’s not my boy.” 
            Kirk was anything but my boy.  More like my nemesis.  One who had dogged me relentlessly after the tragic death of one of my young clients this summer.  He’d turned out to be quite an ally, though, when it came to putting the pieces of that case together.  I hadn’t seen him in over a month.  “Besides, I have a boy, remember?  Grant.”
            “Oh, right.”
            “What’s that supposed to mean?”
            Grant was my boyfriend.  As much as he could be.  We hadn’t seen much of each other lately due to my thirteen hour days and his computer firm being awarded a contract to outfit an entire new medical clinic.  Grant owned a company called High Tech, and they were installing all of the facility’s new PCs and other equipment.  We’d squeezed in a handful of dates in August before the days got so crowded.  Our relationship now consisted of a lot of sleepy late-night phone conversations.
            I focused again on the list of tasks in front of me.  I prioritized it into things I had to get done today, things for tomorrow, and stuff I’d get to when I could.  Russell logged on to his computer, and I picked up the phone to arrange some IM’s with clients.  IM’s were intervention meetings, during which the caseworker and the clients worked toward addressing the problems that had led to the department’s involvement.  Strict guidelines dictated when they had to be done, and I was falling behind in scheduling them.
            I was on my third phone call when Jessica, our unit secretary, appeared in the doorway of the cubicle.  In her hand was a thin brown folder.
            “Oh, no.  Come on.  You’re kidding, right?”
            “Sorry.  You’re next on the assignment rotation.”  She said it with a smarmy smile.  Jessica was the type of person who enjoyed giving people bad news.  “Mac says tag, you’re it.” 
            Mac McAlister was my boss, the Unit Supervisor.  He and I have kind of a love-hate relationship.  Okay, maybe not that strong.  More of a like-dislike relationship.  His somewhat tepid support of me after my client’s death in June still rankled.  I had no doubt that if that case had gotten any uglier, he would have thrown me under the bus.
            “Damn,” I muttered, and held out my hand for the file. 
            “He’ll be by in a minute to give you the rundown.”
            “Thanks so much.”
            “No problem,” she called as she walked back to her desk.
            I could feel stress tightening my shoulders.  Mac entered the cubicle and leaned his own beefy shoulder on the filing cabinet.  His ring of white hair needed a trim, and his out-of-style tie hung inches too short.  He fingered the cigar in his pocket, no doubt longing for the good old days when he could light up at his desk.  I picked up the folder Jessica had brought me and read the highlights while he talked.
            “One of the Homewood police officers found her sleeping under a cardboard box behind the Piggly Wiggly on Highway 31.  They thought for a second they had another body on their hands.  The reporting officer, Mary Nobles, thinks she’s about thirteen.  The girl won’t give her name or address.”
            “That’d be my guess.  Or a throwaway.  That’s all I know for now.  Go over to Homewood and pick her up, get her something to eat and see what you can do with her.”
            “Wonderful.  I suppose HPD can’t be bothered to bring her here?”
            “I didn’t feel like arguing about it.  They said they were busy.”
            “Like I’m not?”
            “Touch base with me after you get her some breakfast.”
            I kissed my plans for the day goodbye and gathered my purse and briefcase.  I drove my aging white Honda Civic to Third Avenue North and made my way to the Red Mountain Expressway.  The morning commute traffic was at its peak, but I was headed south out of the city so it didn’t slow me down.  I took the expressway and within ten minutes pulled up to the square, beige-bricked police department headquarters.
            I checked in with the officer at the desk, and as I was signing in I heard a familiar voice.
            “Well, hey there, Miss Conover.”
            I looked up from the sheet to see an officer enter from the back of the station.  He was in uniform, his gun dangling from his right hip. 
            “Oh, hi, Officer Ford.”
            “Chip, please.”
            “Chip,” I repeated with a nod.  Chip and I had worked together on a couple of pickup orders, taking kids into custody.  He loved his job as a cop, worshiped his badge, and probably slept with a loaded gun under his pillow.  He was a big ball of us-against-the-scum-the-earth, Dirty-Harry-movie fueled testosterone.  I couldn’t stand him.
            Chip ran a hand over his dark blond high-and-tight.  “You here for the girl?”
            “She’s in the break room.  I’ll take you back.”
            I clipped a temporary pass to the pink and white lanyard around my neck that held my DHS ID and entered the back of the station with Chip leading the way.  “She’s not real talkative,” he said.
            “So I hear.”
            “Mary’s one of our best officers and she hasn’t been able to get jack out of her.  I told the girl that if somebody had messed with her, all she had to do was tell me and I’d take care of him.  Put him under the goddamn jail, you know what I mean?”
            I winced in frustration.  Chip had just made my job a hell of a lot harder.  If this girl was a victim of sexual abuse, the last thing in the world I wanted him to talk about was what could happen to the perpetrator.  First, prosecution in most cases was unlikely, and second, most kids didn’t want the abuser to go jail, especially if it was a loved one.  For many kids the thought of putting daddy or uncle in prison was too much to bear, no matter what he’d done.  I needed to figure out what had happened first, make sure she was safe, and let justice sort itself out later.
            A small room off the narrow hallway held two tables and a couple of vending machines.  An old color TV was perched on top of a humming refrigerator.  A fluffy morning talk show played with the volume muted.
            A uniformed black policewoman sat in silence at one of the tables, writing on a thick clipboard, next to a teenaged girl.  The girl had an open can of Diet Coke in front of her.  Standing in the doorway of the break room, I got my first look at my new charge.