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Cheryl L Reed: Map of My Escape

Cheryl L Reed launches a new mystery, Map of My Escape

Guest Post + Excerpt + Book & Author Info

Don’t miss my interview with Cheryl L Reed. Click the link here.


Map of My Escape by Cheryl L Reed

The shooting of a homicide detective is captured on film by a mysterious figure from a second-floor window, implicating Riley Keane, an anti-gun activist and a school shooting survivor. Riley flees Chicago for a frozen island in Lake Superior. A race to find her ensues between her secret lover—Chicago politician Finn O’Farrell—a corrupt police lieutenant, and the mysterious cameraman who extorts Riley’s family and Finn. Finn’s entanglement with Riley and the extortionist threatens his ambitious political career.

On the island, Riley ingratiates herself into the close-knit community, but when she witnesses both an islander’s murder and another death in a suspicious boating accident, the local sheriff starts asking questions that begin to unravel her true identity. As the sheriff and the FBI are closing in on Riley, Finn faces media pressure to reveal his mysterious role in that long ago school shooting. If the facts come out, Finn may go to prison, but his biggest fear is that the truth will forever sever his relationship with Riley.

Praise for Map of My Escape:

“Atmospheric and gritty, Reed’s tale of a woman on the run from her own shocking past will keep you rooting for her until the end. A dark thriller with a redemptive ending from a master of suspense.”
~ Jamie Freveletti, International Bestselling author of Blood Run

“Taut, atmospheric and unputdownable. Reed knows how to keep you turning pages!”
~ Candice Fox, International Bestselling author of Crimson Lake, now an ABC series Troppo

“Bending genres of police drama and adventure thriller, The Map of My Escape is both original and breathlessly page-turning!”
~ Wendy Walker, International Bestselling author of Don’t Look For Me

“Cheryl Reed’s Map of My Escape is a character-driven thriller, a poignant opposites-attract love story, and a journey of self-discovery. As secrets unfold and twists abound, Reed keeps us on a razor’s edge. An absolutely gripping read!”
~ John Copenhaver, award-wining author of The Savage Kind and Dodging and Burning

Map of My Escape combines tragic events, engaging characters, and unique locations to give readers one hell of a ride.”
~ Elena Taylor, author of All We Buried and the Eddie Shoes mysteries.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery and Detective
Published by: Running Wild Press
Publication Date: June 18, 2024
Number of Pages: 402
ISBN: 9781960018175 (ISBN10: 19600018175)

To purchase Map of My Escape, click any of the following links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads


Guest post from Cheryl L. Reed, author of Map of My Escape

What I Would Tell My Younger Self

In my home office above my desk is a white board with this message scrawled in blue ink: “Everything, eventually, works out.”

It’s an axiom I continually must repeat to myself as an author and writer. Like many creative people, I suffer intense anxiety about my work and finding a home for it. There are so many aspects of writing and publishing that are completely out of our control. Some people like to call it luck. Others say it’s timing. But those are not aspects you can really bank on or anticipate. It’s sort of like trying to game the stock market.

And it’s not just the market. Getting a manuscript into the hands of an agent, then onto an editor’s desk without your vision, concept, characters or even plot changing is virtually unheard of. An experienced author once told me that the book you conceive is rarely the book that you end up writing or publishing.

Even if your book makes it to the publishing stage, you are frequently met with a fickle and crowded market, all vying for the same reading eyes. The process can be grueling and ego crushing. 

Shortly after my first book, Unveiled: The Hidden Lives of Nuns, a nonfiction work about the four years I spent living on and off with religious women, was bought by a big house, my editor was fired and my manuscript wound up in limbo. I agonized to the point of stomach upset every day for months. Then my worst fear happened: The publisher killed the book. That was it, I thought. That was the end of my nascent career as an author. I was miserable for many more months.

And then one day my agent called and said she had two bids for the manuscript. The book was published by a respectable press with modest success in hardcover and paperback. Six years later it was republished with a new cover—a piece of luck that I couldn’t have predicted.

My second book, Poison Girls, a novel about daughters from political families playing a deadly game using fentanyl-laced heroin, garnered the interest of a handful of big houses. But because the story involved teenage girls doing drugs, the book was deemed too controversial. One editor told me the book was ahead of its time. She was right. Had that manuscript circulated two or even three years later as our society became more aware of the opioid epidemic, it likely would have had a different reception. After the rejection, I again worried for months thinking that this book, which had taken me more than ten years to write, would never get in the hands of readers.

Six months later, one of those editors, who had fallen in love with the book, jumped to a small press and mine was the first book she bought. The small publisher later turned out to be a chaotic mess and my book got lost in that poor management. I, and other writers, had to fight to get our rights back. I published the book again under my own imprint and learned a lot about self-publishing in the process, a valuable experience. I’ve since made more money on my own than I ever did with that publisher.

And, so, here I am with my third book, Map of My Escape, about a female fugitive and school shooting survivor who shoots a cop and must flee to a frozen island where she remakes herself to elude the police, the FBI, and a blackmailer who filmed the shooting. The manuscript went through multiple changes and was eventually acquired by a small press. Actually, it was acquired by two small presses. The first press, which shall remain anonymous, seemed like a slush factory. When my current publisher expressed interest, I bought my rights back so the second publisher could acquire the book. 

This year, marks twenty years since my first book was published. I still worry about all the small stuff, but I also know that this is publishing. Answers in this industry take time—months, something years. Things never go as planned. There is no such thing as a perfect book launch. When small disasters occur—and they always do—I urge myself to wait a few days, sometimes weeks, and see if things work themselves out. They usually do.  

If there is one message I could go back and tell my younger self, it would be to enjoy the ride. Be happy that your book got out into the world, when so many don’t. Enjoy each accolade and praise, even if it is just a handful of compliments and positive reader reviews online. 

All we can do, really, as authors, is write the best book we are capable of, then swallow our dignity and drive publicity as hard as we can. The rest is up to readers, publishers, reviewers, and booksellers. Be patient. Give the world a chance to respond, for book karma to come your way. Eventually there will be a resolution to your current book dilemma. It most likely won’t be what you wanted or what you predicted, and, sometimes, it’s even better.


Read an excerpt of Map of My Escape by Cheryl L Reed:

I had often wondered what it would be like to disappear. As a teenager, I read books like Famous Female Fugitives and pored over stories in my mother’s magazines about women who had committed crimes with their boyfriends and ran. They changed their names, plucked birthdates off gravestones of dead babies to obtain new Social Security cards, and created new lives. I was never curious about the men who disappeared. The FBI’s Most Wanted lists were full of men who’d eluded cops for years, only later to be discovered as the quiet loner next door. The women fugitives, though sparse in number, were seldom quiet. They married, raised kids, built careers. Sara Jane even joined the PTA, acted on stage, and made speeches before her state senate. They lived their new lives in public as if they were flaunting the authorities in plain sight. I admired their tenacity.

There had been times in my life when I desperately wanted to disappear, when I dreamed of slipping away from the present and starting over somewhere else under a new identity. The pull became stronger after forty-four of my classmates, including my brother, and five of our teachers were killed by a guy in combat boots re-enacting his favorite video game.

I remember that day vividly. We were all at an assembly in the gym. I was sitting somewhere in the middle of the bleachers—they were the old-fashioned, accordion kind that pull out from the wall. I was reading index cards, trying to memorize trigonometry theorems for a test. Principal Brown was at the podium talking, but it was all background noise until a loud crack resounded through the gym. The metal doors at the front of the gym—the only way in or out—opened and slammed shut. Everyone turned to look. Even Principal Brown stopped talking mid-sentence. Darren Wallack, a guy no one paid much attention to, was standing at the gym entrance dressed like a Ninja warrior, a gun and ammo strapped across his chest, a rifle in his hands. He looked almost comical, except it wasn’t Halloween.

Nancy Greene, a whisper of a girl with thick glasses and braces, let out a high-pitched squeal. She was his first victim. Then pandemonium struck. Everyone moved at once. People climbed over others, trying to get away. Some hunkered down, attempting to hide. The air smelled of desperation and fear. Everyone was screaming, panicking. The gun blasted, again and again, loud, sharp cracks, like a whip cutting the air.

I noticed a guy slide his feet in between the thin slats of the bleachers. Our eyes met. He hesitated, then offered me his hand. We climbed down the support scaffolding. A few others chose to hide beneath the bleachers, too. We spread out in clumps of two and three as if we were safer with space between us. The stranger and I crouched in the corner, peaking through the gaps of the bleachers watching as Darren fired continuously, swinging his rifle from left to right like some character he’d seen in a bad movie.

“He’s going to kill us,” I whispered. I couldn’t breathe.

I’d never met this guy next to me, but his eyes were kind, reassuring. He was black. At our charter school, Blacks, Asians, Mexicans, and Whites didn’t mix.

“It’s going to be okay.” He patted my back. He seemed so calm.

Through the crack in the bleachers, we could see our classmates scrambling back and forth across the basketball court, shrieking terrified screams. Darren stalked them, firing a barrage of bullets until they slumped to the floor. I looked away. I couldn’t take it anymore.

Several rounds flew over our heads. “He’s coming toward us,” the guy said. “Get down.”

I lay on my stomach on the cold floor, the stranger next to me, convinced we were about to die. I thought about my family, my mother and father, and my older brother, who had just started college. And for a quick moment, I mourned for them. Then I thought about my younger brother, Ross. He was out there somewhere. I tried to remember where he was sitting. When was the last time I saw him?

“What is your name?” I whispered.

“What does it matter?”

“Because I don’t want my last minutes on earth to be spent with a complete stranger.”

“I’m Reece,” he said. “You’re Riley.”

“How do you know my name?”

“Everyone knows who you are.” He reached over and draped his arm across my back, his upper body forming a protective shield.

Darren’s boots stomped above our heads. Kids screamed, scuttled to get away. The gunfire sounded like firecrackers. I plugged my ears with my fingers. I couldn’t bear to hear it anymore. If Darren came down under the bleachers, we were dead. There was nowhere to run. It was the most horrifying fifteen minutes of my life.

Then the footsteps stopped.

We didn’t know if we could come out. We heard hard footfalls, police hollering as they hunted down Darren. It seemed like we were huddled down there for hours. When the police announced it was over, we walked out from under the bleachers like horror movie zombies.

That’s when we saw them.

Bodies were sprawled on the bleachers. They covered the gym floor, piled in some places. I recognized many of their faces, kids I saw in literature class or passed in the hallway. I stepped around them, my sneakers sticky with blood, looking for friends, anyone I knew. Then I recognized his mousey brown hair. His face looked serene as if he were taking a nap. He was wearing his new White Sox jacket with black sleeves and white on the torso. Our parents had given it to him for his birthday two weeks earlier. He only took it off to go to bed. Now the white part was ruby red. And my brother was never going to wake up.

 

For years afterwards, I dreamed about disappearing. Just up and walking out of my life—what was left of it. I hadn’t thought about my fugitive fascination in a long time. Of course, now it’s much harder to evade police in a digital age when a person’s every movement can be tracked. But I didn’t consider any of that the day I ran after shooting Reece.

Running is the natural reaction—even if you do not know where you are running to. The adrenaline and animalistic self-preservation kick in, leaving your brain a scrambled mess while your body takes over.

I drove in a daze, focused on the yellow line that I hoped would lead to a better future. Running from the cops is challenging for a normal person. But when you’re an activist and your mug shot is floating on police and FBI computers, vanishing is a lot harder. We are all electronic files, avatars moving from screen to screen, followed by one entity after another.

I had to jump off those screens. That meant no electronics of any kind—no phones, no GPS, no computers. If I wanted to escape, I had to do it old school, like the women in the Famous Female Fugitives.

***

Excerpt from Map of My Escape by Cheryl Reed. Copyright 2024 by Cheryl Reed. Reproduced with permission from Cheryl Reed. All rights reserved.

 


Cheryl L. Reed — Author of Map of My Escape

Cheryl L. Reed is the author of the nonfiction book Unveiled: The Hidden Lives of Nuns and the novel Poison Girls, which won the Chicago Writers’ Association Book of the Year.

A former staff editor and reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times and other publications, Reed’s stories have won multiple awards, including Harvard’s Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.

She has twice been awarded a U.S. Fulbright Scholar fellowship by the State Department, first in Ukraine and then in Central Asia.

She splits her time between Washington, DC and her home near the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia.

To learn more about Cheryl, click on any of the following links: CherylReed.com Goodreads, BookBub – @cheryllynnreed, Instagram – @cheryllynnreed, Twitter/X – @AuthrCherylReed & @JournoReedFacebook – @CherylLynnReed

Don’t miss this Interview Cheryl L. Reed on #BookTok!

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Elena Taylor/Elena Hartwell

 

Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Wendy Barrows

    Wow, interesting guest post! You have been down a long rocky road!
    I think you are finally on your way.
    Map of my Escape was fantastic! 🙂

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