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Friday, May 26, 2017

New Release: Against the Wall by Mara Jacobs

I am so happy to welcome my guest Mara Jacobs. I've known here for years. We both belong to the same writing chapter, Mid-Michigan RWA. She is such a talented writer, and I envy her promotion ability. She's sharing her new release with us today. I was so excited when I learned about this new entry in her Anna Dawson series that I pre-ordered the book and read it the same day. Of course, I didn't do anything else that day. LOL I asked Mara to tell us how this series about an addicted gambler came about.

Here's Mara Jacobs.

It’s kind of a funny story how this series came to be…the kernel of it all:

In 2007 I was with my family in Las Vegas cheering on my father as he played in a large World Poker Tour event. He was doing well, and returning each day to continue. As the event got closer to the Final Table, players dwindled, so you ended up seeing the same family and friends of the remaining players each day. My mother and I started sitting with a woman who was the mother of one of the few remaining female players. This player, let’s call her Anna, had come to Vegas a few months earlier right after she turned twenty-one. Her mother told us that Anna left a very prestigious university one semester shy of graduation to come to Vegas and try her hand as a pro poker player.

“How did you handle that?” I asked her mother.

“Not very well,” she replied.

Um, yeah, no. I would guess not.

I looked at the field of players and realized that more than half of them looked to be in their early twenties. Had they all left school early to roll the dice?

That night, once we got back to the apartment my parents were staying in, I started thinking about all the Annas. The buy-in for that tournament was $25,000. How did all those kids get the buy-in money to play? Did they play their way in? (Which is what my father did.) Was their college fund being wagered on the table?

And the biggest question I asked myself—Where are they all going to be in ten years?

And thus, Anna Dawson was born.

My family has been going to Las Vegas for many years, and once my parents retired, they’ve been spending their winters there. I’d visit them a couple of times a year and really fell for the place, so when I became a full-time writer I also became a “snowbird” spending the winters in Las Vegas and the summers in Michigan. It’s been a lot of fun continuing this series now that I live in Las Vegas half the year. Let’s just say I do a lot of “research” on sports betting – ha!

There is some poker in the books, but not a ton, so don’t think that if you don’t like poker you won’t like this series.

The main theme is the family of choice that Anna has surrounded herself with, and her own personal journey. And of course, being a mystery series, there’s a murder to solve.


My head ached as I woke up. Came to, more than woke up. Was that bourbon I drank last night? I didn’t think so. I couldn’t imagine drinking so much of that stuff that I’d get blackout drunk. What I could remember was beer. But I’d never felt like this after a beer-drinking night.
I moved slowly out of the bed, careful of the sleeping body next to me.
Jesus, what happened last night? It wasn’t entirely unexpected that I woke up next to him, but the way the evening had started last night, if I had to have guessed whom I’d wake up next to, my money would have been on the other horse in the race.
It wasn’t unusual for all of us to get a little out of hand, but this? I looked down at my naked body, expecting to see, what? Scars and blood?
But no, it was just my normal body, though it felt so alien to me. And the fact that I was naked was a bit of a surprise too.
I moved off the bed and grabbed his shirt, which was still on the floor. I’d been to his apartment before last night, but never here in the bedroom. The shirt let me know for sure whose bedroom I was in. After buttoning up the long-sleeved white cotton shirt, I gently padded into the bathroom and did my business, then used my finger and some toothpaste to brush my teeth. I spied some Listerine in his medicine cabinet and swished that around a few times, trying to clear my mind as I cleared the foulness from my mouth.
It didn’t work.
It was as if my thoughts were at the back of a foggy tunnel. I could see them, hovering, mocking me, but I couldn’t get to them. They were always slightly out of reach.
I splashed cold water on my face, and it helped a little, but I still couldn’t quite bring my brain into focus.
God, how did a drinker like Jack do mornings like this on the regular? And then get up and go catch murderers? At least when I binged on my particular vice, my head and body were just fine physically. I was just broke. Or in debt. Or paralyzed with shame. Okay, yeah, we all had our cross to bear.
He hadn’t moved from the bed when I left the bathroom. I walked across the room and grabbed my phone from on top of the chest of drawers by the small window. Almost noon? What the hell happened last night?
Not sure if he needed to be woken—I assumed he would have set an alarm if he had—I let him sleep on. Quiet and unmoving, I watched the back of his head, wondering if we hadn’t made a huge mistake last night. How would things play out now?
I took my time getting dressed, not trying to be quiet any longer. If I had to deal with this nightmare of a hangover, so could he.
I pulled back the curtains, letting in the midday Vegas sun. Mistake. I shielded my eyes before my retinas burned off, if that was even possible.
It felt possible. It felt like the sun could melt me where I stood. And like the Wicked Witch, I would shrink to the ground, leaving behind nothing but cargo pants, a Henley, and pockets full of discarded bet slips.
Not just in my pockets, but on the bedside table, too, apparently.
Holding my head in my hands as if it would fall off if I didn’t, I moved back to the bed and sat down on my side, not being careful about landing too softly, though I was more worried about my state of being than waking him up.
Like most people would look for a condom wrapper after a night they couldn’t remember—whether hopefully or regretfully—I was looking at the pile of bet slips that were scattered on the nightstand by where I’d slept.
What the hell had I done last night?
Apparently I’d thought that LeBron was going to have the game of his life if the amount of money—and the number of different bets—on the Cavaliers was any indication.
It was June, and the NBA was deep into playoffs, but I hadn’t bet on any of the games thus far.
Hell, I hadn’t even been following it other than how I’d happen to see it on the front page of the papers. I’d even avoided papers for the most part over the last couple of months.
Had any of these bets won?
Still holding my phone, I clicked on the ESPN app and went to the box score, as I gathered up all the slips and fingered through them. Game winner, over/under, prop bets…Jesus, I’d made over ten different bets on one game.
Then had gotten too drunk to even watch it?
Something wasn’t kosher, as Ben would say.
Mishegoss, Saul would say.
“Hey,” I said, bouncing a little on the bed, my back still to him as I matched up the different bets with the stats I was reading on the phone. “Wake up and tell me what the hell happened last night.”
Nothing from him. Dead to the world. Lucky bastard.
Winners. Every single one of them. I went an astounding ten for ten on bets in last night’s game. That had never happened to me before. Would never again. Simply unheard of.
Even the obscure bet of which team would score the most free throws was a winner.
But why would I have bet on something so stupid?
I very seldom made prop—proposition—bets. Oh, sometimes Lor and I would do the fun ones for big games together, like would a safety be scored in the Super Bowl, or something like that. They were just for fun. Fifty-dollar bets, max.
But the ones I held in my hand were for a shitload of money.
I couldn’t recall how I’d gotten the money to bet them all, but as of this morning I was getting it all back, plus another eighty-six thousand dollars in winnings.
Not bad for a night I couldn’t remember.
What was the saying about God watching over drunks and fools? Add in gambler, and I was the trifecta last night.
“Hey,” I said again, placing my phone on top of the now neatly stacked bet slips, setting them all on the nightstand. “I need to get going. Where did I leave my car?”
I didn’t drive to his place, did I? I wouldn’t be that stupid to drink and drive?
Ha! A glance at the bet slips assured me that my stupidity level was off the charts last night.
I left the bed once more and went to the window, the sun still stabbing into my eyes, but this time I looked down, to the parking lot below his apartment. My Porsche wasn’t there and I sighed in relief. So, not that stupid. I vaguely remembered getting an Uber at some point. From my house? That didn’t make sense. It’d be more likely that I’d gotten one from the Red Rock, where I’d placed the bets.
“I’ve really got to get going,” I said, more loudly this time. Still nothing.
Now I was starting to get pissed. If I had to deal with this massive hangover, he shouldn’t get to skate by and sleep it off.
I turned from the window, a little too quickly, because I had to place a hand on the wall to balance myself. Then the whole room started to spin and I sank to my knees, crawling around the bed to his side.
“What happened last night?” I asked, coming to believe that this was more than just a hangover. Something was seriously wrong with me.
Had I taken something last night without my knowledge?
Faces of college basketball players floated past me, spinning and laughing. Christ, had I been roofied?
“Seriously,” I said, shaking the bed now as I made my way up along his side. I batted at his hand that hung out from the underneath the sheets. “What the hell happened last night? The last I remember was meeting you at Distill.”
Batting at his hand again, I was surprised at how cold it felt. It was late June in Vegas, and though I could feel that the air conditioning was on in his apartment, it was still warm in his bedroom. And he was under the covers, too.
Slowly, I took his hand in mine. The word lifeless came to mind, and though my fuzzy brain was three steps behind, I knew that I meant the word in the literal sense.
Oh, God. Lifeless. Dead.
I pulled myself up to my knees, not wanting to, then pushing the sheet down to see his face. So handsome. I’d thought so since the first time I met him. I placed a hand on his cheek. So cold. His eyes were closed, and I sent up a silent prayer of thanks for that.
I knew it was too late, that he’d been gone for a while, but I pulled down the sheet to bare his chest, thinking I could do CPR while I called for an ambulance.
But once I peeled the sheet lower, I knew CPR would do no good.
There was a bullet hole right through his heart.

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Against The Wall is the 4th book in the series. Against The Odds is the first in the series and is currently free at all ebook vendors.  Each book contains a mystery that is solved, but there are some ongoing threads throughout the series, so it’s probably best to read them in order.

Mara Jacobs is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Worth series.

After graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in advertising, Mara spent several years working at daily newspapers in advertising sales and production. This certainly prepared her for the world of deadlines!

She writes mysteries with romance, thrillers with romance, and romances with…well, you get it.

Forever a Yooper (someone who hails from Michigan's glorious Upper Peninsula), Mara now splits her time between the Copper Country, Las Vegas, and East Lansing, where she is better able to root on her beloved Spartans.

You can find out more about Mara’s books at  www.marajacobs.com

Mara loves to hear from readers. Contact her at  mara@marajacobs.com


  1. Hi Diane and Mara, Mara's book sounds cool, love the title and the cover.

    1. Thanks, Rachna. The story grabbed me from the beginning and wouldn't let go.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Thanks, Rachna, I'm a big fan of the covers, too! The first book in the series is free for readers to see if it's their cup of tea.

  2. Wow, sounds like an excellent series! Heading over to get book 1 now. Love the excerpt, and the way the idea came about. Best wishes!!

  3. Great story, Mara. I love how your story idea came about. Good luck with your latest book.

    1. Thanks, C.B. It was a really fun event to watch my father play, and the stories that came out of it are the gift that keeps on giving.


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