Sunday, October 18, 2015

"Merry Mary" by Ashley Farley

INTERVIEW and GIVEAWAY
Merry Mary
by Ashley Farley


Merry Mary is a new holiday novella by Ashley Farley, available for only $0.99. This book blitz and giveaway is brought to you by Xpresso Book Tours.


Description
A young woman longing for a child stumbles upon a Christmas miracle.
Investigative journalist Scottie Darden is photographing the homeless for her Lost Souls series when she makes a discovery that could change her life forever. Under a makeshift tent in subzero temperatures in a downtown city park, she finds a woman’s dead body with her infant child. Without her cell phone to call for help, Scottie makes the split-second decision to take the baby home. Her initial instinct is to provide the baby with food and shelter until her family can be located. But as her fondness for the baby grows, she finds herself facing a life on the run or worse - prison time for abduction.

Excerpt
Chapter 1
The first rays of pink sunshine ushered in another day of suffering for the people who called Monroe Park in downtown Richmond home. An early winter storm had dumped six inches of snow on the city. With no clouds to blanket in warmth, temperatures had dipped into the teens for the third night in a row.
Scottie Darden parked her 4Runner alongside the dirty snowbanks on Main Street. She pulled her stocking cap down over her blonde mane and tucked her camera inside her down coat. Grabbing the two Bojangles’ bags and carton of coffee from the backseat, she trudged through the snow to a cluster of men and women huddled around a burning trash can.
Eyeing the bags of food, the group of five homeless people navigated toward Scottie. She handed out sausage biscuits and paper cups of coffee.
Scottie had stumbled upon the Five by accident a year ago while investigating a series of muggings in the area. Their despondent faces had such a profound impact on Scottie that she’d returned the next day with warm blankets and buckets of fried chicken from Lee’s. Their gratitude had moved her even more, and over the next twelve months, she’d stopped by on a regular basis, always delivering nourishment and supplies. She’d seen others come and go, but this core group of five banded together like a family.
“I brought extras today.” Scottie held up the second bag.
Mabel gestured toward a row of makeshift tents fifty feet in front of them. Her name wasn’t really Mabel. At least not as far as Scottie knew. With gray hair pulled back from her café au lait face, the old woman reminded Scottie of the housekeeper who once worked for her grandmother.
Scottie had never exchanged names with any of the Five. She’d grown to know them by their physical appearances instead.
Buck was a strapping black man of about thirty, the one Scottie feared the most because of the temper she sensed smoldering just beneath the surface Then there was Pops, the oldest male, with leathery skin the color of dark chocolate. While he never showed his teeth, Scottie often detected the hint of a smile tugging along his lips. She’d named the woman with the plain face and dull green eyes Miss Cecil after her third grade teacher. She referred to the man in the wheelchair, with both legs amputated at the knee, as Dan, after Lieutenant Dan in the movie Forrest Gump.
Scottie offered each of the Five another biscuit before moving to the makeshift tents. She passed out biscuits to women and men who were buried under blankets and sleeping bags. She heard the faint sound of crying outside the fourth tent. She tapped lightly on the cardboard door. When no one responded and the crying grew louder, she pulled back the cardboard and peeked inside.
“Hello in there,” she called in a soft voice. “Can I interest you in some breakfast?”
The crying intensified to a squall. Beneath a threadbare blanket, Scottie made out the unmoving form of an adult-size body and the flailing limbs of a smaller figure next to it.
“Hello.” Scottie dropped to her knees and crawled inside. “Can I hold your baby for you while you eat a biscuit?”
When the adult body remained still, Scottie peeled back the blankets to reveal a baby—three or four months old if she had to guess—with blonde peach fuzz on top of her head and a beet-red face. A girl, judging from the dirty pink fleece sleeper she was wearing. She pulled the covers back the rest of the way and gasped at the sight of the woman’s gray skin and purple lips. Scottie assumed the woman was the baby’s mother. She backed slowly out of the tent. “Someone, please help!” she cried. “I think this woman in here is dead.”
The Five fled the scene, along with every other homeless man and woman in sight. Scottie patted her pockets for her phone, then remembered she’d left it connected to the charger on her bedside table. She surveyed the area for help - a policeman, a student, a businessman on his way to work - but the park was deserted.
Scottie crawled back inside and picked up the baby, rocking her back and forth until she settled down a bit. She scooted over closer to the baby’s mother and checked her wrist and neck for a pulse, but there was none. The woman had been dead long enough for her skin to grow cold. Her eyes were closed, but her rosy lips were turned up into a smile, as though she’d seen an angel. Poor woman was probably no more than twenty years old.
Scottie pulled the blanket over the woman’s face and said a silent prayer.
Getting to a phone to call for help was the only thing on her mind when she zipped the baby inside her coat and made a dash for her car.

Praise for the Book
"This book brought the old idea back into my head, what would I do if I was in the same situation. And truly I can't even imagine being in the same shoes as our main character, Journalist Scottie finds during one of her investigations, a dead woman, with an infant child. In that split second she must decide whether the child must be given to Social services or if she should take the child. She did what she thought was the best for the child. She took the child home. And soon she is struggling with the consequences of her decision. I really enjoyed the book, and it left me with a heart warming feeling. Highly recommended." ~ T Brough
"In Merry Mary, Scottie is a photo journalist facing some tough decisions. I enjoyed reading this snapshot in time of her life, and I was thrilled to read at the end of the book that Ashley Farley is working on a full length novel featuring Scottie that is due out in 2016. This was a quick read and well-written. I also enjoyed the Richmond, VA location for the setting. I look forward to reading what Farley does next with Scottie." ~ Tarheels

Interview With the Author
Tell us about Merry Mary in one sentence.
Merry Mary is a heartwarming story about the powerful connection between a caring soul and an innocent child in need.
What do you think readers will enjoy most about your story?
I hope readers, especially mothers, will identify with my protagonist’s desperate longing for a child and empathize with the decisions she makes. I also believe they will enjoy the close relationship Scottie shares with her brother, Will.
Are you working on a new novel?
Yes, the sequel to Merry Mary, which I plan to release in Spring 2016. My currently untitled WIP is a full-length romantic political suspense starring Scottie, Will, and the charming Guy Jordan.   
Who or what was the inspiration for your story?
I created my protagonist, photojournalist Scottie Darden, out of my love for photography and my desire to see the world. Understanding some of the technical aspects of photography adds credibility to my story. All of my plots focus on familial relationships. My first novel, Saving Ben, which I wrote as a tribute to my brother who died of a drug overdose in 1999, depicts a college-aged brother and sister. Her Sister's Shoes portrays three middle-age sisters struggling to balance the demands of career and home while remaining true to themselves. Scottie Darden shares a close relationship with her brother in Merry Mary and the upcoming sequel. Certain aspects of their relationship remind me of my brother and me, but mostly I created them out of the special bond between my own children, who are close in age - 21 and 20 - as well as spirit.
What is your favorite thing to do to get ready for the holidays?
Definitely not shopping. Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, I put my small artificial tree up in the corner of my kitchen, where I spend most of my time, and decorate it with food-related ornaments. I enjoy this tree so much more than the live tree I put up in the living room, which stresses me out and makes me a bah humbug.
What is your favorite holiday movie?
I’ve seen The Holiday with Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Jack Black at least a dozen times. Jack Black is lovable. Cameron Diaz wears the most amazing clothes. And Jude Law steels my heart every time when he cries at the end.
What is your favorite holiday novel?
The Christmas Train by David Baldacci. Disillusioned journalist Tom Langdon meets a host of interesting characters as he travels from Washington to Los Angeles by train for Christmas
What is your favorite holiday song?
What is your favorite holiday tradition?
It’s all about the food for my family. We have many traditions for the holidays, but our Christmas Eve meal is the most important. We invite the whole family over for a formal sit-down dinner. Even though we have the same dishes every year, everyone always raves about Emeril Lagasse’s Twice Baked Potato Casserole, which I thought you might enjoy.
10 large russet baking potatoes (about 7 pounds total)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
1/2 pound sharp white Cheddar, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 pound mild Cheddar, grated (3 cups)
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Scrub the potatoes well and rinse under cool running water. Pat dry with paper towels and prick the potatoes in several places with a fork. Place the potatoes in the oven and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until tender. Remove from the oven and set aside on a wire rack until cool enough to handle.
When the potatoes have cooled, cut each potato in half and, using a spoon or a melon baller, scoop the flesh out of the skins, leaving as little flesh as possible. Place the potato flesh in a large bowl and add 1 stick of the butter, the sour cream, heavy cream, salt, and pepper and mash until chunky-smooth. Add the bacon, cubed white Cheddar, half of the grated Cheddar, the green onions, and eggs and mix thoroughly.
Butter a 9 by 13-inch casserole with the remaining tablespoon of butter and reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.
Place the seasoned potato mixture in the prepared casserole and top with the remaining grated Cheddar. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until bubbly around the edges and heated through and the cheese on top is melted and lightly golden. Serve hot.


About the Author
Ashley Farley is a wife and mother of two college-aged children. She grew up in the salty marshes of South Carolina, but now lives in Richmond, Virginia, a city she loves for its history and traditions.
After her brother died in 1999 of an accidental overdose, she turned to writing as a way of releasing her pent-up emotions. She wrote Saving Ben in honor of Neal, the boy she worshipped, the man she could not save. Saving Ben is not a memoir, but a story about the special bond between siblings. Her Sister's Shoes is a women's novel that proves the healing power of family. Her latest release is Merry Mary, a heartwarming story of the powerful connection between a caring soul and an innocent child in need.

Giveaway
Enter the blitz-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $75 Amazon gift card.

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