Hard Luck Girl

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Topshee Johnston and his mystery/thriller novel Hard Luck Girl.

Author’s description:

Hard Luck Girl is a mystery about prostitution in a location better known for gardens than gangsters — Victoria, British Columbia.

Rose’s life has never been easy. When she finds her pimp murdered it gets a whole lot harder. At first, she sees it as an opportunity but discovers the status quo has been disrupted and she’s not at the top of the food chain, not even close.

Avoiding psychopaths, police, and friends like thieves, there is no one she can turn to for help not once she discovers a pimps life is cheap, a prostitute’s even cheaper.

Stuck between the desire for a better life and holding on to hers, is a needle she’s not sure she can thread. But maybe Hard Luck is better than no luck at all?

“A gritty novel with a surprising and strong female lead. Johnston offers all the expected hard-boiled elements in this mystery—including shady characters, near misses with the police, rampant sex, drug use, and violence.” – Kirkus Review

My Review:

In Hard Luck Girl, Topshee Johnston tells the story of a young prostitute who finds her drug-dealing pimp dead on page one. More importantly, he manages to  keep the reader (or at least this reader) cheering for this unlikely hero as she deals with the body, the customers, the other girls, the rival dealers, the cops, the slimy hotel manager, the nosy cleaning lady and the real money behind the entire sordid mess. No small feat, Mr. Johnston. Well done.

I appreciated how this book contained enough description to make it seem as if I was there, riding on the ferry, or there, in the run-down lobby of the hotel, and yet it never bogged down. The initial characters were all believable and their actions made sense, giving the plot an urgency that felt like real life. Honestly, I had trouble putting it down.

The book stumbles when it nears the end, however. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll only say the major villains didn’t ring as true as the other characters, and their motivations remained murky to me even after the last page. Parts of the ending were were confusing, and threads that mattered (to me at least) were left hanging.

Yet, it was a heck of ride up to that point. So, I recommend Hard Luck Girl to to anyone who enjoys hard-boiled crime novels and to other mystery fans willing to be a bit morally flexible with their story’s hero. This book will also appeal to those who like novels about women finding inner strength they didn’t know they had, and to people who enjoy tales of the downtrodden triumphing over those with more advantages. That’s a pretty good market share, I think.

About the Author:

Topshee Johnston, author of Hard Luck Girl, writes because it’s the only way to get his characters to stop talking to him. He lets them tell their story and trusts their voice. Once a story is finished, he moves on to the next in line.

He lives in Victoria, B.C with his wife and daughter and when he’s not writing, he’s skateboarding, playing guitar, or fly-fishing.

Connect with Canadian author Topshee Johnston on Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or on his website.

Check out the book on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and Indigo/Chapters!

Yes, there is a giveaway.

Topshee Johnston will be awarding a $20 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt:

As I closed the door, the squeaky wheels of the cleaning lady’s cart came around the corner. A sound I’d heard many times, disregarded until now. In my rush to get here, I’d forgotten to put the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the handle of my room. To run back upstairs and take care of it would look crazy. Instead, I shut the door, because to neglect Linden Aubrey for a second was a second too long. The door’s latch clicked shut, extinguishing the daylight, my chance to make it back to my room before the cleaning lady, and a clean way out.

A Personal Note:

Besides enjoying this book, I got a kick out of reading Topshee Johnston’s reason for writing. I have a similar problem, and a queue of people in my own head, insisting their stories be told.

I hope he makes his way through all of his characters before he’s done, and I wish him and the stories he’s compelled to tell the very best!

Single Chicas

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Sandra C. Lopez and her collection of stories entitled Single Chicas.

Author’s description

Single Chicas is a collection of stories about modern Latinas being in, out, and around the zany hurdles of relationships. One woman receives strange calls from a lonely soul, another seeks advice on how to love herself, and another wakes up in a parallel universe to a man she’s never met. These chicas will make painstaking effort to survive the complexities with humor and grace. Once again, López dazzles audiences with her brilliantly candid craft. Smart, witty, and funny, these stories will explore the true endurance of singlehood.

Read an Excerpt

Dear Single Chicas,
Hey, hey, love your site! I was wondering if you could help me. I have a boyfriend I’m crazy about, but he has a tendency to call me at work. It’s getting annoying. Any advice?
Sincerely, Looney Cell

“Ah, a typical relationship conundrum,” Simone said with a mouthful of pizza.
“Yeah, a typical headache,” Georgia added.
“So what do we say?” Chrissy asked.
“Try this,” Simone said, waiting for Chrissy to start typing.

Dear Looney Cell,
Your boyfriend needs to realize that, when you are at work, you are NOT his girlfriend. You need to give him specific hours, just like in any other job. Lay down the line with him. Point out that each time he calls you at your job, it keeps you from doing the work—work you’re getting paid to do and work that in no way, shape, or form involves him. Besides, it may get you in trouble with your boss, if it hasn’t already. Instead tell him to send you a simple text, but be careful not to overload your phone memory. Thanks for the shout out!
Single Chicas

The next email read:

Dear Single Chicas,
What’s up! Problem: I’m engaged and I’m totally freaking out about it. Would I be a fool to ask if we could postpone the big day until I’m less freaked?
Yours truly, Runaway Bride

Reply:

Dear Runaway Bride,
Absolutely not! Don’t do anything you don’t feel ready for. Be honest about it. If nobody can understand that, then you would save yourself the headache and the hassle, not to mention the time and money, for that whole shindig. If it wasn’t meant to be, then so be it. If, however, you have a guy that is willing to wait, then, by all means, let him wait. Wait, wait, wait until you are sure you can make it down that aisle without breaking out in hives. Just make sure you bring your running shoes on the big day….just in case. 😉
Sincerely, Single Chicas

The next email read:

Hey, Single Chicas,
I saw this one episode of “I Love Lucy” where Lucy suggests a vacation from marriage. What are your thoughts? Yay or Nay?
Sincerely, TV Addict

Dear TV Addict,
Yay! A vacation from marriage allows for the re-discovery of one’s individuality―the “I” before the “we.” There is such a thing as spending “too much” time together. Lucy said it best in that episode: “I’m sick at the sight of your face.” Take a vacation to avoid this sickness.
Sincerely, Single Chicas

About the Author:

Sandra C. López is a writer, artist, blogger, and book reviewer. She is one of today’s funny and influential authors in YA and chick lit. Her first novel, Esperanza, was published in March 2008 WHILE she was still in college. Her most recent and bestselling book is Single Chicas, a collection of humorous short stories about zany chicas. She is currently working on the next installment of the Single Chicas series called Holiday Chicas. Release date coming soon! When not writing her stories, Sandra supports the art and literary communities with freelance work and book promotion.

Website: http://www.sandra-lopez.com
Book Review Blog: http://sandrasbookclub.blogspot.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SandraLopezAuthorArtist/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ArtistSandraL

The book is free during this tour!

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Single-Chicas-Sandra-C-Lopez-ebook/dp/B01KG85F1Y/

And yes, there is a giveaway too …

Sandra C. Lopez will be awarding a $15 Amazon or B/N gift certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter the Giveaway

See the other stops on the tour.

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions.

 

Rock House Grill

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author D. V. Stone and her romance/suspense novel, Rock House Grill.

Author’s description:

One man’s choices—One woman’s impact

Aden House, successful but driven chef and TV personality, refuses to slow down. His life implodes one night, damaging him both physically and emotionally. He’s rescued by a woman he thinks of as his angel.

Shay McDowell has rebuilt her life after her divorce. She juggles volunteer EMT duties and her job, while dreaming of becoming a chef. She finds her way to Rock House Grill and back into the life of the man she helped save.

Can love be the ingredient needed to survive the many obstacles they face?

My Review:

In Rock House Grill, D.V. Stone has written a novel sure to appeal to those who enjoy stories about good people who face challenges and ultimately enjoy happy endings.

What I liked best:

Although the suspense part of the novel plays second fiddle to the various romance stories, it is well done and engaging. There were enough creepy moments to create goosebumps and to keep me turning the pages, and the resolution of the suspense elements was satisfying.

I’ve worked in restaurants over the years, and I also enjoyed the accuracy and detail with which the food service industry was presented. They author knows her stuff. There was nice attention given to the descriptions of food and cooking techniques, as well as to the decor of various places.

What I liked least:

I’ve heard we all consider anyone who drives slower than us to be an idiot and anyone who drives faster than us to be a maniac. I wonder if there is a parallel for how we feel about behavior in novels. I’ve been known to complain about casts of murky characters in which no one has a moral compass and everyone cusses like a sailor. Explicit erotica makes me cringe and I like some happiness in my endings.

However, this is a book in which people don’t cuss at all (bat crap crazy is actually substituted for bat shit crazy) and they don’t even have implied sex, at least within the pages of this novel. Everyone except for the few designated bad people are more upstanding than the best people I know. (And I do know some really good folks.) It was interesting for me to discover I have a zone of behavior in which characters seem believable yet likable, and this book was outside my zone. I at least appreciated having them outside the zone in the less usual way.

I do recommend this book to all who enjoy sweet romances. I think such readers will appreciate the added bonuses of a well-done suspense side-plot and of fine attention to background detail.

Buy Rock House Grill on Amazon.

About the Author:

Born in Brooklyn, D.V. Stone has moved around a bit and even lived for a time on a dairy farm in Minnesota before moving back east. Despite her wandering, she always considered herself a Jersey Girl. She met the love of her life and moved, this time to Sussex County. Her husband, Pete, is a lifelong Sussex County man. They share their home with Hali a mixed breed from a local shelter and Baby a small gray cat who bosses everyone around.

She’s had varied career path from working with the disabled led to becoming a volunteer EMT, which in turn led to working in hospital emergency rooms and then in a woman’s state prison. After a few years, she took a break from medical tasks and became the owner of Heavenly Brew, a specialty coffee shop in Sparta NJ, and small restaurant in Lafayette. Life handed some setbacks, and she ended up back to medical field, but this time in a veterinary emergency hospital.

During the poor economy, she was laid–off from a long-time position she cared about. Devastated, D.V. wondered what to do with her life. Finding comfort in her love of reading, she realized it was now time to follow her dream of writing. It’s been a long road but worth every minute of it. Now a published author she also works in a people medical office again.

V. D. Stone says “Thank you for taking the time to read about me. Each time you open the pages to one of my books I hope you’ll be swept away by the story and to, never in the real world give up on hope.”

Find the Author on Facebook, Pinterest, or on Twitter. 

Visit the Author on her website.

 Yes, there is a giveaway.

D. V. Stone will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour..

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt:

“Easy, you’re going to be okay.” A soft voice eased through the chaos around him. The owner of the voice grabbed his arms and held them in a firm but gentle grip. “I’m right here with you. You are not alone.” “Can hardly m-move.” His voice slurred. “C-can’t see anything.” “You’ve been in an accident. I’m an EMT with the ambulance squad,” the velvety voice calmly explained. “You can’t see well because we’re under a tarp. Hold still, okay?” “‘K.” A small light flickered at the edge of his vision. It shone into a bag next to him. Penlight. “You’re restrained to a board. It’s to keep your head from moving and causing more injury.” She continued to talk to him. The voice reached down somewhere inside him, calming and peaceful, so he focused on it. A glow from spotlights on the outside lit whatever covered them. The shadow gave the woman the appearance of a halo—like an angel.

Murder at Eagle’s Nest

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Pat Duggan and her cozy mystery novel, Murder at Eagle’s Nest.

Author’s description:

Murder at Eagle’s Nest is a gentle mystery novel set in a peaceful vacation resort in Apalachicola on Florida’s Forgotten Coast. The area is still reeling after Hurricane Michael made landfall only thirty-five miles to the west, on Mexico Beach. It uncovers fraud, driven by greed and arrogance. However, everything changes when a body is discovered. The police detective brought in from Tallahassee, quickly enlists the help of two women staying at the resort, who have unusual insight. They ultimately uncover critical evidence, which unmasks the perpetrator.

 

Pat Duggan Tells Us a Little about Herself:

Originally from Manchester, England but moved to the U.S. over 30 years ago.  I have an accounting background in both countries.  Several years ago, I discovered an interest in writing.  My two previous books, Finding God in an RV and The Power Within, document my spiritual journey.  However, as a longtime lover of murder mysteries, with a passion to follow plots and figure out the perpetrator, it was time for a new direction.  I decided to ‘try my hand’ at weaving my own story, and true to my character, I had to tie up all the loose ends.  Murder at Eagles Nest is my first mystery novel, and I am already working on the next mystery for my amateur detectives, Hazel and Anna to solve.

Find Pat Duggan on Facebook.

Buy Murder at Eagle’s Nest on Amazon.

Yes, there is a giveaway.

Pat Duggan will be awarding a $10 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt:

Hazel remembered seeing the Comfort Suites Inn as they drove through the outskirts of Panama City.  The Airforce Base was located on the main highway and although it had clearly suffered damage during the hurricane, it appeared to be operational.  They pulled into the hotel parking lot and made their way to the front desk.

They decided to continue with the story of trying to find a lost friend and approached the front desk manager.  Hazel began, “Good Morning.  We are sorry to trouble you, but we are hoping you can help us.  We are looking for a friend of ours who seems to have gone missing.  His name is Randy Jacket and this is his picture.”  Hazel held up the photo, then continued, “A young man out at Dugger Field seemed to think he may have stayed here for a couple of nights last week.  Do you remember him?”

The manager looked at the photograph and answered, “You say he is missing?  Because we don’t normally give out information about our guests.”

Hazel said, “That’s right. And it sounds like he did stay here.  Is there anything you can tell us about his visit?  We are just trying to gather information.”

The manager, realizing he had been caught by his own words, said, “Well, yes, he was here.  Interesting gentleman.  He was telling us that his company is going to rebuild Mexico Beach.  They are going to build a super new, high class condominium complex, it is going to be the flagship property for his company, he said.  He was clearly excited by the whole thing.  They have bought all the land and he was going to check it out on the Thursday.  Must have been a big property to inspect, because he left after breakfast and didn’t get back until about three o’clock in the morning.  I just happened to be working the nightshift and saw him come in.  He looked exhausted.  I don’t think he even saw me as he walked past the desk.  He looked a mess too.  His clothes were all dirty.  But I guess if you have spent your day on a building site, it is to be expected. “

c3: synopsis and my 6 favorite mini-excerpts

I’m talking a close look at all of my blogs, making sure that they are up to date and that they represent my novels well. I’ve placed a few of my favorite short excerpts on a page for permanent reference, and thought I would post these improvements as a blog post as well. Enjoy!

c3 is the third novel in the loosely interrelated collection known as 46. Ascending. Each novel tells the tale of an otherwise normal person coming to terms with having unusual abilities. The stories are designed to be read in any order as they overlap in time and build upon each other in all directions.

This page contains a short description of the book c3 followed by six of my favorite excerpts from the first part of the novel. To read more, please purchase c3 at smashwords.com, at amazon.com, or at Barnes and Noble.

Book Description:
TeddieTeddie likes her country music and her old pick-up truck and she’s not sure how she let her best friend talk her into spending a semester abroad in Darjeeling India. Once she arrives, her innocence quickly collides with an underworld in which young women are bartered and sold. As she fights to understand a depravity that she never dreamed existed, Teddie finds that her own mind develops a unique ability for locating her friends and that an ancient group is willing to train her to save others by using her innate skills for out of body experiences. It will require trust in ideas she barely believes, and more courage than has ever been expected of her. When it becomes clear that the alternative may be her friends’ deaths and the unchecked growth of an evil crime lord’s empire, Teddie accepts the challenge and shows those guilty of unspeakable crimes just how powerful a young woman can be.

Excerpt 1:
At night, Teddie took refuge from all the strangeness. The collage of colors and faces and smells that permeated her world now by day subsided into the comforting greys of darkness. She lay in her bed and thought of how much she missed boots. Western boots, on her and others. Pickup trucks and country music and bar-b-que and dead armadillos in the road. Now wasn’t that stupid? Pine trees and Tex-Mex food and front lawns and churches everywhere even though her family didn’t belong to one. It was her world, and she missed its familiarity.

Luckily she had been able to keep her MP3 player, and sometimes she thought that the music was saving her sanity. She fell asleep that night crying softly and listening to the song “Texas Kind of Way” while she smelled the musty non-flower smell of her mother’s geraniums in her head. And that was the night that she starting sleepwalking.

She didn’t remember getting out of bed, or walking down the hall or going out the front door of the school. Didn’t they keep it locked at night? She thought that they must. Maybe she had climbed out the window? Could she even do that in her sleep?

Yet there she was, walking down the street in front of the school in the middle of the night. Lights were mostly off and half a moon was high in the sky. A group of older boys stood huddled together a couple of blocks away, smoking cigarettes. If they noticed Teddie they paid her no mind.

She looked around, enjoying the chance for once just to soak up the view without people jostling her and trying to move her along. The mountains in the distance glistened with snow. The boys down the street all wore jackets, and Teddie wondered if she had thought to grab a coat as well. She glanced towards her arm, and the next thing she knew she was back in her bed, not the least bit chilled, and with no memory of how she got back there at all.

Well, sleep-walking was supposed to be an odd phenomenon, she thought. It had probably been set off by homesickness, to be honest. Luckily her subconscious seemed to have found ways to safely navigate her in and out of bed. This time. Hopefully this wasn’t something that was going to become a habit.

Excerpt 2:
Lhatu came to India often, and he had become adept at absorbing the noise and chaos without allowing it to warp his inner peace. He tried instead to gain energy from the surroundings, energy to do the bidding of those he served.

His large size made travel slightly harder on him, but he recognized that it also made him an unusually capable operative on behalf of his group’s needs. At thirty-one years old he was tall and physically strong by the standards of any race. He could see over the crowds to find others, and thanks to clearly visible muscles he was seldom a target of the pickpockets or scammers that preyed on those who traveled. The simple robes he generally wore bought him a certain amount of automatic respect from those of any faith. The deception of dressing much like a monk bothered him slightly, but he reminded himself that his costume was merely a means to an end.

Today he arrived in Bagdogra, and he had been told to take the train to Darjeeling. He liked Darjeeling. It had a certain spirit about it. There was a girl attending a school there, a young woman whom he had been asked to observe. Do not make contact. Just bring back information.

Very well. Lhatu was used to such odd assignments. He did not question the wisdom of those who directed his life.

Excerpt 3:
So when the three American girls came to her office begging for help to find their friend, Amy sighed. This had all the markings of just the sort of case that would get her in trouble with the agency. The involvement of the three American students only made it more probable that this whole thing would reach the press and ultimately the ears of Amy’s superiors back home. So many reasons to give these girls the brush off.

And only one not to.

“What did you say her name was?” Amy asked.

“Usha.” It was the girl with the East-Asian ancestry who spoke up first. “She’s really smart and so happy to be in school, and she has these beautiful big trusting eyes and you’ve got to help us find her.”

The tall confident girl with the long blond hair jumped in. “The school’s been really busy with the aftermath of the earthquake all week. Last night they finally got a hold of her mother who says she has no idea where her daughter has gone and so the school now says that she is just a runaway who couldn’t handle the advanced classes and they are washing their hands of it!”

The pretty one with the head full of black curls added, “We know better. There is no way that’s true. Usha was doing great in her classes. She is in some kind of real trouble.”

“Okay,” Amy sighed. “Start at the beginning and tell me honestly everything you know. No holding back.”

The three girls sat down eagerly and starting talking all at once. Amy smiled at their vehemence, their innocence and their concern for their friend. There was an uncle from another city, and huge debts to be paid. There was no one local to help. The girl wasn’t even from Darjeeling. Amy looked at the photo one of the girls had on her laptop. She sat for a minute in silence as she carefully studied Usha’s face.

A young hopeful human being, full of potential. Just as all young people were. Was that reason enough to get involved? Of course it was.

Excerpt 4:
“So why not kill her?’ Vasily persisted as they finished their lunch. “You don’t want her. She’s useless.” He was talking about the American girl of course, in which Pavel had no interest and who now sat bound, gagged and heavily sedated in a walk-in closet in a vacant rental home in Manali.

“Because if she is dead, we know that she is useless,” Pavel said. “If she’s alive, it remains to be seen. Get her out of here, far away from this town. In fact, get her to Southeast Asia where she looks like the other girls and won’t stand out. We have a business in Bangkok, send her there. I do not—repeat, do not—want any trouble to come from this one. Make sure that you don’t lose track of her, just in case she turns out to be any kind of bargaining chip down the road. Now go. I need some peace and quiet to drink my coffee and think about what to do next.”

“Okay,” Vasily sighed. He had been looking forward to killing the girl.

Pavel, who knew him too well, admonished him as he started to leave. “I don’t want you or any of your goons laying a hand on her either. I’ve told you before. Your guys do not know the meaning of the word restraint.”

“Plenty of others gonna lay hands on her where she’s going,” Vasily muttered.

“Yeah well most of them don’t like to do so many things that leave marks,” his boss glared back. “I mean it, Vasily. Get her to Bangkok where she can earn her keep and be out of our way. If we can use her, we’ll bring her back.”

“Yes boss.” Vasily thought sadly that power did strange things to men. There had been a time not that long ago when Pavel not only would have okayed the kill, he would happily have joined his men in the fun.

Excerpt 5:
The next time Teddie went sleepwalking, it occurred to her that she wasn’t really walking. She was floating. And she was pretty sure that she was headed towards the train station. It was the middle of the night and this was no time to catch a train. What was she doing going there? Wasn’t this the same way she had gone to check on her brother Zane, when she was only four years old?

She was moving fast now, almost like she was in a car, and certainly like she knew exactly where she was headed. How did she know where she was going?

She thought that maybe she should go back to her bed when it occurred to her that if she actually got to the station, she could take a train all the way to the airport. And if she could just get to Bagdogra where the airport was, then she could get on an airplane and fly far, far away to a place where eleven-year-old children didn’t have to be scared when their mother got a cold, and girls didn’t have to plead to get admitted to classes for men only, and high school juniors from Texas didn’t have to cough up their entire allowance just to keep a roommate from getting taken out of school by evil uncles.

Was the uncle really evil? He must be.

And then she thought that she felt the uncle grab her arm and she jumped. But it was just Usha grabbing her arm, and she was in bed.

“You were making noises in your sleep,” Usha said worriedly. “You were having a bad dream?”

“I didn’t think I was dreaming at all,” Teddie muttered as she turned over, and then she felt confused. So she wasn’t going places in her sleep? She was just having dreams about going? Why?

Excerpt 6:
I want to go to Usha and see if she is unharmed. It was a simple command and Teddie had no idea what to expect. But she began to move, not by force, but by what felt like her own choice, down the hall and out the door and down the street. Teddie had never been particularly comfortable with heights, so she was relieved that while it felt like she was flying, she was flying in just the manner that she personally would have chosen. She was skimming really, just maybe ten feet above the ground, close enough that if she fell she would be okay. She made her path down roads rather than over buildings, but she was certainly picking up speed as she went. It seemed like she was guiding herself, that a part of her that knew Usha’s location was leading the rest of her to where she wished to go.

She was headed north towards the mountains, speeding now over the major road that leads out of Darjeeling into the Himalayas. Weren’t those some of the renowned tea fields off to the left? Teddie looked closer, and the next thing she knew she was standing in the middle of the tea field, examining the beautiful green tea leaves up close and personal. Great. She’d stopped moving and she had no idea of what to do next. She was stuck in a field.

She felt herself about to snap back. No. If my body is safe then I want to go to Usha and see if she is unharmed. With that, she was back on the road and moving again. This time she concentrated on not looking around and becoming distracted, and she picked up more speed as she went. Finally she found herself slowing back down as she entered a large city. Gangtok? She made her way through streets to a far edge of the town, where she found herself standing next to a small old pick-up truck parked outside of a little roadside hotel. Usha was sleeping in the back of the truck. Oh dear. Her friend was homeless, and had stopped to sleep in the relatively soft, warm hay that lined the back of a stranger’s vehicle.