Thursday, January 19, 2023

Assumed by M.H.R. Geer | Blog Tour with Excerpt, Guest Post, and Giveaway

Assumed by MHR Geer

Assumed by MHR Geer
1st in Series
MG3 Publishing (December 2, 2022)
Paperback: 296 pages
ISBN-13 ‏: ‎979-8987115923
Digital ASIN: B0BLXK18LR

About Assumed

When her friend Sandy asks for help, Anne Wilson leaves her small, lonely life in Miami for the picturesque island of Saint Martin. But as soon as she arrives, Sandy is murdered, and her death exposes lies: an alias, a secret past, stolen money. Suspected of murder and trapped on the island, Anne is shocked when a cryptic message arrives:

Find the money. Take it and run.

She follows Sandy’s trail of obscure clues, desperate for proof of her innocence and must decide if she can trust the two men who offer help-the dark, mysterious Brit or the American with a wide grin and a pickup truck. When memories resurface-dark truths she’d rather leave buried and forgotten, her past becomes intertwined with her present.

Her only way forward is to face her own secrets.

About the Excerpt

A constant stream of jubilant holiday-goers jostled my suitcase as I paced the arrivals gate, but Sandy’s mobile went to voicemail a fourth time. I hung up without leaving another message and strolled past the baggage carousel. Again. 

“Where are you, Sandy?” I muttered under my breath. 

A man in a white Panama hat vacated a bench, and I collapsed onto the cold metal and hugged the handle of my suitcase. The other passengers exchanged greetings and gathered their baggage, and the automatic door slid open with a swoosh to receive them. Every time the door opened, humid air blasted my face. 

The man in the white hat reappeared but saw me and turned away, presumably to find a bench without a slouching, scowling American. I raised my shoulders from a slump and crossed my legs. 

“What now, Anne?” I asked myself, tapping the screen of my phone and resisting the urge to check the time. 

A young boy, about five years old, wandered over and climbed onto the bench next to me. We exchanged nervous smiles. Couples and families regrouped near the door, and I watched their faces, expecting someone to claim the boy, but the door opened and closed, over and over, and he remained. 

I was just about to ask where the boy’s parents were when a tall woman entered and rushed toward us, shouting in French. Her profile was dark against the bright sunlight outside, and her long hair swirled in the vortex of the doorway. The boy pressed against me, and I almost wrapped my arm around him, but the door closed, and she smoothed her hair back into place.
She pulled the boy from the bench, gripping his arms with long, slender fingers. I couldn’t understand her words, but her reprimand was clear. Her green eyes flashed with fear and anger. She blamed me for his disappearance. I shrugged, trying to remember how to apologize in French. Je suis desole? But I was unsure of the words, so I didn’t say anything, and she didn’t wait for my explanation.

He left with her, his little hand firmly inside hers, and when the door opened and whipped her hair back into the air, the boy turned back to me with a smile. I waved.

And then I was alone again.

I jumped when my phone buzzed. 

Sorry, Sandy texted. Can’t make it. Take a taxi to 16 Rue de l’Aile Perdue.
I stared at the text and considered purchasing a ticket for a return flight, but my phone buzzed again with a second text. 

Please, Anne. 

I squared my shoulders and pulled on my sunglasses. Then I walked through the whoosh of the doorway and into the sunlight. 

The taxi line had already thinned; it took only a few minutes before a lively man ushered me into the back of a bright green sedan. The driver offered a brusque “Welcome to Saint Martin,” and turned up her radio. Taxi code for no talking. Fine with me. 

We sped through narrow streets, dangerously close to sunburned tourists wandering street markets. Stalls spilled out from under a rainbow of awnings, hawking loud shirts and oversized beach towels. The air was thick with cardamom and curry, mixed with the yeasty smell of a patisserie. My stomach rumbled. In my rush to make the early morning flight, I’d skipped breakfast. 

We left town and traveled up and down winding roads that cut into the hillsides. The villas grew larger and farther apart and then disappeared into thick foliage behind security gates. I caught occasional glimpses of dirt lanes and even fewer paved driveways. When the driver pulled off the road, I leaned out the window to watch the tops of towering palm trees lining a long gravel driveway. We stopped on a cobbled motor court in front of a massive house.

I stared up at the imposing facade from within the safety of the taxi before I bravely stepped into the blazing sun. I thought there must be some mistake, but before I could say anything, the taxi drove away. Why had Sandy sent me to a dismal mansion and not to one of the dazzling resorts I’d passed?

Beyond the house, the sea stretched to the horizon. Sunlight reflected off the water, awakening childhood fantasies of pirate ships and mermaid tails. But the hot sun quickly melted the daydream, and I retreated into the shadow of the mansion. 

Up close, the house was shabby and weather-beaten. Peeling gray paint revealed a history of more colorful choices. The porch railing leaned at a precarious angle, and as I cautiously climbed the rotting steps, the wood complained but held, and I reached the front door and knocked. The sound echoed within the house, but only silence followed. I knocked again, louder, and waited. Nothing. 

“Now what?” I asked the house.

The house ignored me, but a piece of paper stuck between two floorboards fluttered in the ocean breeze. I stepped over and picked it up. She’d left a note—an inconsiderate welcome, even for Sandy. I exhaled loudly and unfolded the scrap of paper.

About the Guest Post

I am not a puppet master

The pandemic taught us surprising things. Some people tried new hobbies. Some people baked bread. All of us learned to respect teachers. Some of us had to get creative to entertain our children. Early in the pandemic, I decided to make sock puppets. We were all taking long, boring walks just to get out of the house, and I thought it might be exciting for the neighbors to enjoy a pop-up puppet theater in my driveway. I pulled out my sewing machine and gathered fabric scraps and felt scraps and my googly eye collection and got to work. In only an hour, I’d made a few puppets. But then I ran into an issue. I didn’t have a theater. I popped my head out the door to the garage where my husband had been tinkering on something or other and said, “Can you build me a puppet theater?” His response was typical of his magical-unicorn-husband status. “Sure,” he answered, as easily as if I’d asked him to take out the trash. I closed the door and went back to sewing. Another hour passed while I made two more puppets. Then the door to the garage opened, and my husband asked, “Is this what you had in mind?” In an hour, he’d built a puppet theater. It was just over four feet long, with 30 inch sides. The particle board frame was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, and my love for him grew. He painted the frame light gray while I found a discarded curtain rod and ornate black finials, and I fashioned curtains from some old red velvet curtains. (Don’t judge me for having velvet curtains on hand. We all make bad choices sometimes.) When it was finished, we took turns putting on puppet shows. To be honest, I took more turns than anyone else. The kids humored me and played puppets occasionally, but their excitement didn’t live up to my expectations. One of the reasons I like putting on a puppet show is that I enjoy telling stories. When the pandemic hit, I’d already finished one draft of a novel, and I was working on a rewrite. Back then I had a few ridiculous ideas of what it meant to be a writer. I was wrong about so many things, but the thing I got really, really wrong was the idea that I had control over my characters’ choices. Initially, my characters made a lot of inappropriate decisions. For example, I wrote a short story about a woman that lost her partner during escrow on a house that she never wanted. It was her partner’s dream to restore the massive house, but in my story, the grieving widow moved into the house anyway. One of the critiques of my story pointed out that the woman was strong-willed and determined and asked, “Why would she move in if she hated it?” The entire story fell flat because I’d forced her into a decision she never would have made. Her character would have put that house back on the market and sold it–even at a loss. The story wasn’t salvageable. I’d written beautiful imagery of the dilapidated house and described the grouchy, middle-aged woman perfectly, but the story didn’t make any sense. It was a hard lesson and a turning point in my writing journey. I learned that as a writer, I am not a puppet master. Well developed characters have backstories that drive their decision making process. They have desires and fears. Just like all of us, they are defined by their experiences. Even though I’m the one telling their stories, I cannot make them do whatever I want. In the case of the grieving widow in the rotting house, I had to move her into a two bedroom condo with a restrictive HOA. She was much happier there, but her story was quite dull. Now that I’ve learned this lesson I ask myself quite often, “What would [insert name here] do?” The protagonist in my novel ASSUMED is a naive, sheltered woman named Anne. She’s too trusting because everyone in her small life has treated her fairly, older men unconsciously remind her of her father, and she’s lonely. These factors drive Anne’s decisions, and some of her choices are not very smart. Throughout the story, she learns about betrayal, and we see how this affects her future choices. I find this process fascinating. Learning enough about your characters to determine exactly how they will react in every situation can also be very time consuming and frustrating, but when my characters won’t do what I tell them, I can always crouch inside the puppet theater and put on a show for my neighbors without worrying about any troublesome backstory.

About the Author

MHR Geer was born in California but raised in the Mid-West. After studying Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, she started a bookkeeping business. MHR enjoys reading suspense and is always delighted with an unexpected twist. ASSUMED is her debut novel. She lives in Ventura, CA with her two sons and her unicorn husband (because he’s a magical creature.) 

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