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Kiss or Tip By Mary Carter

I walk into a movie theatre for a matinee. It’s one of those indie movie theaters with a lot of character. It’s a trip back in time gazing at the painted dome ceilings, thick red velvet curtains, brocade carpet, and decorative gold moulding. It smells like popcorn and feet. They recently played the classic movie, GODZILLA. Maybe that’s why a two-foot Godzilla is propped up on the concession counter, baring his teeth and holding a handmade sign. It reads: KISS OR TIP.

When I saw this sign, propped up in front of a very cute twenty-something-year-old man, I wanted to shout, “I’ll kiss you.” I’m much more attracted to men in their twenties than I was when I was in my twenties. But I didn’t shout anything or even pucker up. Because that would make me the ubiquitous cougar. And because I didn’t want him to reject me, and I’m not sure whether I really wanted to kiss or him or just see his reaction if I said I wanted to kiss him. I stuck a dollar in the plastic cup next to Godzilla instead. But see what three simple words can make you think and almost make you do?

That’s what I love about stories. Words can jump off a page. Words can make characters come alive and do something. I like mysterious signs, envelopes slipped under doorways, and messages written on matchbooks. You’ll find such signs, and letters, and messages in my upcoming novel, Meet Me in Barcelona. Please, do, meet us there. You’re all invited. I love words. And miniature Godzillas daring me to kiss strange boys behind counters, and mysterious invitations to Spain. If I were writing about a character in a novel who came across this sign, I would definitely have her threaten to kiss the boy. Because characters in novels have to take more risks than I take in my safe, everyday life. They get to live out loud, be bold, and brazen. They get to hold up signs of their own. Love me! Don’t leave me! Follow me to the ends of the earth. And oftentimes they have to face up to things that terrify them.

Even when they want to turn and run, they must face the music. That should be easy for country singer, Grace Sawyer. She’s on holiday. In Spain with her gorgeous boyfriend, Jake. Only the way they won the trip never sat right with Grace. And lately, she’s been getting these clues. Clues that suggest this wasn’t just a happy accident. Someone is pulling the strings. Taunting them. Asking for a kiss or a tip. And Grace Sawyer had better be careful which one she chooses. Because you never know when one wrong tip could trigger a landslide, or one innocent peck turn out to be the kiss of death.

Mary Carter is a freelance writer and novelist.  Meet Me in Barcelona is her eighth novel. Her other works include: Three Months in Florence, The Things I Do For You, The Pub Across the Pond, My Sister’s Voice, Sunnyside Blues, She’ll Take It, and Accidentally Engaged.  In addition to her novels she has written six novellas: Return to Hampton Beach in the anthology, Summer Days, A Southern Christmas in the upcoming 2014 anthology Our First Christmas, A Kiss Before Midnight in the anthology, You’re Still the One, A Very Maui Christmas in the New York Times best selling anthology Holiday Magic, and The Honeymoon House in the New York Times best selling anthology Almost Home. Mary currently lives in Chicago, IL with a demanding labradoodle. She wishes she could thank her gorgeous husband, but she doesn’t have one. In addition to writing she leads writing workshops. 

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A surprise trip to Barcelona with her boyfriend, Jake, seems like the perfect antidote to Grace Sawyer's current woes. The city is dazzling and unpredictable, but the biggest surprise for Grace is discovering who arranged and paid for the vacation.

Carrie Ann wasn't just Grace's foster sister. Clever, pretty, and mercurial, she was her best friend—until everything went terribly wrong. Now, as she flees an abusive marriage, Carrie Ann has turned to the one person she hopes will come through for her. Despite her initial misgivings, Grace wants to help. But then Carrie Ann and Jake both go missing. Stunned and confused, Grace begins to realize how much of herself she's kept from Jake—and how much of Carrie Ann she never understood. Soon Grace is baited into following a trail of scant clues across Spain, determined to find the truth, even if she must revisit her troubled past to do it.

Mary Carter's intriguing novel delves into the complexities of childhood bonds, the corrosive weight of guilt and blame, and all the ways we try—and often fail—to truly know the ones we love.

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