In the Mood by MW Arnold – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. M W Arnold will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

During a hectic couple of weeks in February 1944, the girls of the Air Transport Auxiliary Mystery Club must face devastating personal loss amongst their number. A member of an illegal faction blackmails Betty, whilst a mystery at Mary’s ancestral home threatens to cause more trouble than anyone thought possible. In the midst of what should be the happiest of times, the portents seem to be catching up and little is what it seems to be. Can the girls find the strength to battle forces both internal and external, yet still maintain their dignity and friendship?

Enjoy an Excerpt

Jane slumped back into her seat, tore the headset off, and threw it onto the desk next to the radio she’d been about to attack. “I suppose you’re right. It only makes sense if she can’t receive what we’re sending. If I didn’t know her voice so well, I’d think someone was playing a trick on me.”

“Plus,” Betty added, “it’s on our frequency.”

Jane nodded in agreement. “Still, remind me to tear her off a stripe when she gets back…calling Hamble. This is Aston.” She ended with a nervous chuckle.

Betty joined in, eventually saying, “Still, you’ll have to give her points for originality, if nothing else.”

“I’ll give her something, all right,” Jane replied. “I’ll give her…”

“Mayday! Mayday! This is First Officer Aston. Am under attack by two Me109s!”

Jane and Betty stared at each other with open mouths, as the shocking statement blared out of the radio’s tiny speaker in Thelma’s unmistakable voice. When she’d simply been trying to get through earlier it had been in her normal, albeit frustrated, tone. Now unmistakable panic coursed through it.

The radio came to life again, only the first thing they heard this time was the chilling staccato chatter of gunfire! “I repeat, this is First Officer Aston of the ATA! I’m under attack. Rudder control is gone! My port engine’s on fire! Am going down, roughly northeast of Oxford…”

White as a ghost, Jane automatically made a grab for the microphone, “Thelma! This is Jane Howell. Do you receive? Over.”

After a few seconds, a voice came out of the speaker, barely audible, yet clearly that of their desperate friend, “Jane? Is that…”

And then, deathly silence…

About the Author:

M W Arnold lives near Northampton, UK and is known to his family and friends as, Mick. He was in the Royal Air Force for 16 years, visiting many different countries and very much enjoying himself. If he ever meets the Queen, he will have to thank her. He began writing as these characters needed their own voices. For a few years now, he’s been a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, a wonderful group of writers who’ve welcomed this bloke into their fold with open arms.

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Lessons Katie MacLeod Taught Me by Frank Zafiro – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Frank Zafiro will be awarding Winner #1 a box set of River City series 1-3 (Kindle version) AND Winner #2 a surprise package of out-of-print versions of Zafiro titles (paperbacks) – US Only. International readers may substitute digital version of any title in the author’s back catalog to two randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Lessons Katie MacLeod Taught Me

Katie MacLeod is the core character in my River City series of police procedurals. I’ve learned a few things from her that I’d like to share, but fair warning—I can’t completely avoid spoilers. If that’s something you want to be careful about, stop here. Bookmark this post, get the first River City novel, Under a Raging Moon, and come back when you’re finished with the newest one, The Worst Kind of Truth (#11).

Still here? Let’s go, then.

Life Doesn’t Always Go The Way You Plan

When I wrote Under a Raging Moon in 1995, I envisioned a four-book arc featuring Stefan Kopriva. Kopriva was a brash, young patrol officer who could handle anything thrown his way, whether it came from criminals or his own bosses. Looking back, I can see now that he was my unintentional avatar, an idealized version of who I thought I wanted to be.

Kopriva as hero was the plan I started with, but by the time Under a Raging Moon was published in 2006, things had changed. There were still four books and Kopriva was still the hero. But Katie MacLeod had become a strong secondary character. I didn’t plan that. Originally, her storyline was shared by two separate women. But I realized neither one was fully developed and so I combined them into one. Quite honestly, that might have been the smartest thing—albeit, unplanned—I ever did with this series.

When the second book rolled around, Katie’s role expanded beyond plans. Her first “big” event happened as a counterpoint to Kopriva’s. I thought they’d both overcome their challenges. But that didn’t happen. Katie prevailed; Kopriva failed.

And left the department.

I didn’t plan that.

I also didn’t plan that the books would continue beyond four, or that Katie would become the core of the series. But you know what? Those unplanned outcomes has been a good thing.

It’s Okay To Be Vulnerable

From the beginning, Katie has been willing to admit her own fears and doubts, at least to herself. Unlike the brash Kopriva, she recognized when she was afraid or when she was unsure of herself. When I first wrote those aspects of her character, I was twenty-seven years old. Now I’m fifty-four. I don’t remember but I have no doubt that back then, I saw those traits as okay to write into a female character precisely because they were feminine.

Only they aren’t.

They’re human.

It didn’t take long for me to recognize this. Maybe I wasn’t quite as willing as Katie to admit it, or as open about it with others, but I still learned from her that it was okay to feel those fears and doubts. They don’t make you weak.

They make you human.

Courage Is Doing It Anyway

One of Katie’s traits I’ve often heralded in interviews about River City is her grit. She’s tough, I’d say. But her courage doesn’t come from not being afraid. Her courage—which I would argue is true courage—comes from being afraid and doing what must be done anyway.

Katie does this, time and again. She doesn’t overcome her fears so much as she strides forward in spite of them. And she gets results. Isn’t that something we can all aspire to?

Sometimes You Have To Change Things Up… Because Things Change

This is akin to the first point about plans, except that it is more of a conscious decision and/or recognition. When the River City series begins in 1994, Katie is a three-year officer on graveyard patrol who loves her job. Her aspirations are simple—catch bad guys every night. She idolizes, and is mentored by, the veteran Thomas Chisolm. If you were to ask her during those first few books, Katie would tell you that she had every intent to be a career patrol officer, working “graveyard to graveyard”—in other words, staying on graveyard shift until retirement.

But police work has a grinding nature to it. As time passes, Katie realizes that she needs a change. First she goes to day shift, where one of her former platoon mates is now a sergeant. Then she promotes to detective, all in an effort to do what is best for her psyche.

Along the way, Chisolm retires. This, and other changes, help her recognize that not only is she making changes, things are changing all by themselves. By the time we get to The Worst Kind of Truth, the world she inhabits is a very different place. To punctuate this, a new recruit named Hattie Mayer idolizes Katie in much the same way she admired Chisolm.

And all of this is okay. That things are different today doesn’t change how good (or bad) it used to be. Things change. That’s just life.

People Matter

Katie MacLeod is an idealist. She is also a realist and, at times, borders on cynicism. But one constant throughout her career (fourteen years in-universe for her, twenty-seven for me in real time) has been that she cares for people. This includes the cops at her side and the people she serves in her job. Understanding that people matter is a fundamental aspect to being good at policing, and it is a baseline belief that drives every interaction and decision you make. Katie gets that. She is always there for her partners, and she does her absolute best to serve the civilians she meets.

Okay, truth time—I already knew this one. I saw it on display around me every day while I was on the job, and I believed in it myself, too. I strove to live up the standard every moment I wore the uniform. I wasn’t perfect (who is?) but I can say without reservation that I did my best, and I cared.

So it’s possible that I taught this one to Katie instead of the other way around.

Maybe. But she is still teaching me how true it is.

 

Detective Katie MacLeod has her hands full.

It has been four years since her promotion to detective, and after paying her dues in property crimes investigations, she has made it to the Major Crimes unit. This is where the highest profile cases land—homicides, robberies, serious assaults, and sexual assaults.

Katie catches two rape cases almost back-to-back. One victim is a prostitute with an unknown suspect… who Katie fears may be gearing up for more assaults. The other victim is a college student who has accused her boyfriend, a popular baseball player, of raping her at a party.

Both cases have their own set of perils. Katie juggles her time investigating each one, encountering many obstacles—a lack of evidence in one, and wondering how to parse conflicting statements in the other.

As she battles past these difficulties, Katie faces another fact… that both cases hit home with her in very different ways. Solving them becomes more than just a job for her, but something deep-seated and personal… something that may exorcise some of her own demons from the past.

Or will they consume her?

 

Enjoy an Excerpt

“Thanks,” Nicole said.

Katie looked at her. “This wasn’t your fault, Nicole. I wish I could change that it happened to you but I can’t. But I am going to do my best to catch the man that did this to you.”

“You’ll catch him,” Nicole said.

“I’ll do my best,” Katie repeated. She knew better than to make promises to victims, no matter how tempting it was.

“You’ll catch him,” Nicole repeated. “I know it. You’ve done it before.”

Katie cocked her head. “What do you mean?”

Nicole looked at her intensely. “I know who you are. I recognized your name as soon as you came in.”

That didn’t surprise Katie. She’d been involved in a number of high-profile incidents during her career. The media coverage wasn’t always favorable, either. But Nicole’s stare didn’t have the anger or blame that came with that sort of attitude. Instead, it resonated with belief.

“This happened to my mom,” Nicole said. She looked away to pluck more tissues and wipe her eyes. “A long time ago. I was fifteen at the time.”

Katie did some quick math. That meant her mother was assaulted in 1996 or 1997. And ninety-six was the year of—

“What’s your mother’s name?” Katie asked. Her heart-rate quickened as she waited for the response. Her mind flashed back to that case, back when she was a patrol officer. She ran through the names of the victims of that man, all of them indelibly imprinted upon her memory… and then she knew what Nicole would say.

“Maureen Hite,” said Nicole, just as Katie expected. “She was attacked by him. The Rainy Day Rapist.”

“I remember,” Katie said, quietly. Images of her and Thomas Chisolm searching a parking lot on the north side flashed through her mind. Of her finding Maureen Hite huddled near the front wheel well of a Chevy Blazer. She could still see the stark blue and white stripes of the quarter-panel and the door beside the woman. Maureen’s baffled expression, lost and fearful. “How is she now?”

Nicole shook her head. “She died six years ago. Pills.”

“I’m… I’m sorry.”

“She never really got over it,” Nicole said.

Katie nodded. “I don’t think it’s something you get over. It’s not a cold. You just learn to live with it.”

“Yeah, well, she didn’t really learn how. Or only for a while.”

“I’m sorry, Nicole.”

“Don’t be. It wasn’t your fault. You caught him. You caught him and you killed him.” Nicole’s jaw was set and her eyes burned brightly. “I know you’ll do the same for me.”

Katie Macleod stared back at her, unable to answer.

About the Author:

Frank Zafiro writes gritty crime fiction from both sides of the badge. He was a police officer from 1993 to 2013, holding many different positions and ranks. He retired as a captain.

Frank is the award-winning author of over three dozen novels, most of them crime fiction. These include his River City series of police procedurals, Stefan Kopriva mysteries (PI), SpoCompton series (hardboiled), Jack McCrae mysteries (PI), and Sandy Banks thrillers. He has also co-authored multiple series with other authors, including the Charlie-316 series (procedurals with Colin Conway), Bricks and Cam Jobs (action, dark comedy with Eric Beetner), and the Ania series (hardboiled with Jim Wilsky).

In addition to writing, Frank hosted the crime fiction podcast Wrong Place, Write Crime. He has written a textbook on police report writing and taught police leadership all over the US and Canada. He is an avid hockey fan and a tortured guitarist. He currently lives in the high desert of Redmond, Oregon.

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As an author, what scares me the most is… by Leah Cupps – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Leah Cupps will be awarding a $50 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

As an author, what scares me the most is…

As an author, what scares me the most is that my readers will be disappointed in my story! When I am writing I try to not only sit in the story and absorb what’s going on in the scene, but I also think about pacing. What is going to keep the reader engaged in the story. What’s going to hold them in their seat until the next chapter.

The hardest part about writing for me is developing the characters while keeping the pace of the story moving forward. In Never Play Fair, I tried to reveal who the cast of characters are by how they reacted to certain events in the story. What is Sydney willing to do to help her boyfriend Alex? How does Ethan react when he encounters his brother once again?

For me, a story with terrific characters and exciting action is a home run. I love to see the person next door, put under intense pressure because it often prompts our own self awakening. If my boyfriend went missing in Costa Rica, would I fly down south to help the FBI find him? Even if my own life was at risk?

By asking these questions and revealing the answers through the story, my hope is that we can find a little bit of Sydney Evans in all of us!

Can Sydney find her boyfriend in time, or will they both sink to the bottom of the Caribbean Sea?

Instagram Influencer Sydney Evans finds herself entangled in a criminal operation, orchestrated by the Department of Defense in order to bring down an online casino crime ring.

But she only has one motivation: find her FBI boyfriend Alex before he becomes collateral damage.

Sydney must navigate her way through an exclusive Casino yacht party in the middle of the Caribbean sea put on by none other than the notorious Costa Rican gangster, Vincente Estavez.

Never Play Fair is a fast-paced standalone thriller. If you like real-world issues, lavish socialite parties, and electrifying twists and turns, then you’ll love Leah Cupps’ provocative cozy mystery.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Just two boats were left now, one already sidled up to the side of the ship, guests boarding one by one. Another waited about fifty feet away, giving the ship wide berth.

A woman with long blonde hair and a tight-fitting black cocktail waited anxiously with the others.

A few moments ago, she had noticed a drop in temperature, a few darker clouds and a rumbling in the distance.

There was a storm coming.

She moved closer to the man who was standing beside her. His cell phone had been taken from him at some point, as had hers. So, they both had little to do but stand and wait. Talking about what had just happened might give them away. And they were so close.

The last passenger boarded the boat in front of them. She was an older woman with white hair that was slicked back against her skull. The last lights from the yacht reflected on her sequined gown, the sparkles glimmering in the dark. Sydney watched her as if hypnotized.

After she had landed clumsily in her seat, the boat pulled away, and the last idling boat took its place. Sydney gripped the hand of the broad shouldered man next to her. Despite his size, his grip was weak.

They exchanged a quick look. His eyes were clouded, but she could see the relief softening his features.

Almost there.

As they moved forward to board, she noticed the sudden silence in the air. The fire alarm had stopped. A jolt of fear ripped through her stomach.

They must have put out the fire down below. Sydney looked around wildly.

Will the evacuation stop?

She pulled his hand towards the idling boat. They would be the first to board. The crew member on the boat gave her companion an odd look when he noticed his bloodied, swollen face.

“He fell on the steps,” she said, trying to assuage his alarm. The man simply nodded and gestured for him to move forward. The waves had gained strength in the last few minutes and the ropes from the boat stretched to their full length. The crew struggled to keep the smaller boat under control.

Another rope was tethered to the cleat alongside the massive yacht. A crew member reached for Sydney’s hand.

About the Author:Leah Cupps is an entrepreneur and author. She writes Middle Grade Mystery Adventure Books as well as Thriller, Mystery, Suspense for Adults.

Leah’s novels are fast-paced mysteries that will keep you up at night as you can’t wait to see what happens in the next chapter.

Leah lives in Indiana with her husband, three young children and three dogs. When she isn’t losing sleep writing her next novel or scaling her next business, she enjoys reading, golfing working out and spending time with her family.

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Balancing Life with Writing by Kevin R. Doyle – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Kevin R. Doyle will be awarding one physical copy of the book, U.S. only to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

*****

The topic presented to me for this post is balancing writing with living. There’s probably as many ways to do that as there are writers lurking around. In my case, the method of balancing the two is going to shift drastically in about nine months, but more about that later.

In many ways, I’m almost the total cliché of a fiction writer in the real world, as opposed to the glamorous image most people think of. For the last quarter century, I’ve worked as a teacher of English and communications at both the high-school and community college level. Not to sound like a whining teacher, but it really is difficult for most people to comprehend the amount of working hours that goes into the profession.

Once the school year is up and running, I usually spend between fifty-five and sixty hours a week focused on teaching. Sure, the actual school day only lasts eight hours or so, but factor in lesson prep and grading and the hours really pile on. The grading, in particular, is more onerous in some subjects, such as English and math, than in others.

Again, this is not to complain but to point out the demands of a regular work week, and that doesn’t even get into spending time on other aspects of life. Because of that, balancing it all with a writing career can take quite a bit of effort.

And no, unlike what some may assume, I don’t do all my writing when I’m off in the summertime. True, I get a lot done then, but I write year-round, so I’m having to balance the mix all the time. Then how to do it?

The way that works for me, and as said above there are probably as many variations as imaginable, is to ensure that I produce at least a page or two a day, no matter what. Even if it’s around eleven o’clock, and after a night of grading I’m ready to hit the sack, I take the time to do at least a page or two, maybe only half a page if it manages to finish a chapter.

It’s amazing at just five hundred words a day or so, how quickly you can rap out a first draft.

Even so, it’s possible for someone to get in over their head and every now and then have to take a break. A few years back, I began the school year with contracts for two books, that I hadn’t started on yet, due by May. I was still in the stage where I hesitated to say “no” to offers that came my way and ended up taking on what could have been too much. Now, a few years later, I just wrapped up writing my fifth book in three years, and a few weeks back I decided it was time to take a creative break. I decided to cut myself off from starting any new projects until the first of the year.

Time to breathe a little bit.

And in about nine months, I’m going to be doing a whole lot of breathing. Come May, after a quarter century of teaching with the last twenty years being at the high-school level, I’m going to be calling it quits and retiring.

When that happens, I’m guessing that the whole balancing writing with life thing will be quite a bit easier to handle.

Released from prison for one murder, only to be arrested for a second, Sheila Hampton has no one to turn to save Sam Quinton, local private eye, who sets out to prove her innocence and uncover the knot of corruption that entangled its victim for over two decades.

Enjoy an Excerpt

The do-gooder organization must have found something because they somehow managed to get an emergency hearing in front of the state appeals court and, not too long after, the appellate court overturned her conviction and ordered a new trial, at least nominally setting Sheila free after over two decades of incarceration.

Exactly six days later, Bernie Lyman sauntered into my gym and offered me some work.

***

“What news?” I asked.

“You’ve heard of Robert Harris, right?”

“Sure. The DA who prosecuted Hampton back when. So what?”

“Former prosecutor.” Bernie’s eyes were practically dancing in their sockets. “He got quite the splash for the Hampton trial, eventually made it up to Executive Assistant, then retired a few years back.”

“Wasn’t he a sure thing for the top job at some point?” I asked.

Bernie shrugged. “Everyone thought so, but he never went for it.”

“So what’s your point?”

“The point, my boy, is that six days ago Sheila’s conviction was overturned, the conviction brought about, primarily, through the efforts of former ADA Harris.”

“Uh huh.” I felt a sinking feeling in my gut that I was about to hear something bad.

“And this morning, Sheila was arrested for Harris’s murder.”

About the Author: A high-school teacher, former college instructor, and fiction writer, Kevin R. Doyle is the author of numerous short horror stories. He’s also written three crime thrillers, The Group, When You Have to Go There, and And the Devil Walks Away, and one horror novel, The Litter. In the last few years, he’s begun working on the Sam Quinton private eye series, published by Camel Press. The first Quinton book, Squatter’s Rights, was nominated for the 2021 Shamus award for Best First PI Novel. The second book, Heel Turn, was released in March of 2021, while the third in the series, Double Frame, came out in March of 2022.

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The hardest part about writing is believing by Gillepsie Lamb – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Gillespie Lamb will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

The hardest part about writing is believing

Belief is a floater that drifts across our conscience. It’s a balloon of our own creation, the walls of which grow thinner and thinner as it expands in us. In short, belief can mean everything and still prove ephemeral.

Writers must believe. They have no other option. Believing in ourselves is the critical component in writing success. All other parts of the writing life are dependent upon it. Belief is so fragile, yet so important.

Why is it so hard to believe in ourselves and our individual skill sets? Because belief is not a scientific assessment. It’s a feeling. It is conviction constructed mostly of unprovable hope.

We cannot pull from our wallet an official certification that testifies to our creative writing bona fides. Can’t do it. The closest we come are awards on shelves or walls that affirm we have won something. Such official recognition might validate us, but it does not certify us.

It’s like manufacturer Brand X that produces a shiny, functioning widget. It looks good. It functions as advertised. It’s a top-seller. But Brand Y over there also is pleasant to behold, gets the job done and is popular. Which is the better product? Consumer Reports ventures an opinion, but it never is definitive.

In the same way, Author A pleases readers but do does Author B. Who is the better storyteller? Poets & Writers magazine gives a nod to Author A. Harvard Review likes Author B. In split decisions like that, we like to think whichever author piles up more plaudits breaks the tie and is the winner. Maybe, but nothing short of unanimity is decisive in contests of opinion.

I remember judging journalistic competitions and usually having to pick a winner from among two or three accomplished writers. They each produced well-researched and effectively presented articles or delivered persuasive commentary pieces. How did I choose among them? Simple. One of them used a favorite word of mine or alluded to something dear to my heart. Every judgment about writing skill is similarly subjective.

So, what are we to believe? Well, once we more-or-less master the mechanics of the discipline, I think each writer has to answer this question: Do I like how and what I am writing? That’s the test. Don’t ask, will anyone else like what I am writing? Is my writing what judges are looking for? Will the “the literary community” approve?

Let’s get personal: Do I think everyone who reads my two novels, The Beamy Courage of Gerta Scholler and my new one, The Junkyard Dick, will conclude they are the best books ever? Unlikely. I have my fans and they are growing in number. But my #1 Fan is… me. I stood by me as I developed my skills, never budged from my side when indifferent agents and publishers looked past me, always prodded myself to try new things. Thanks, self. I couldn’t have succeeded without you.

**

As an addendum, let me add that I believe in something else, something that hadn’t even crossed my mind before last May. That was when the Texas town of Uvalde suffered the horror of a mass shooting. I live in Uvalde and, of course, it impacted me emotionally. It also affected my marketing plans for this reason: My just-published novel, The Junkyard Dick, is set in Uvalde. The story is full of references to the multi-cultural town—its live oak trees in the middle of streets, clear-water river swimming holes on the edge of town, favorite eateries and so on.

Marketing that sense of place became problematic because I knew some people would conclude that I was capitalizing on tragedy. I wanted neither the perception nor the reality of that. So, I formed a nonprofit into which will go my royalties from The Junkyard Dick plus a contribution from the publisher. Those moneys will launch a fund to support new programs that will foster creative-writing skills in elementary-age children in Uvalde. The organization is called The Story Inventors Club Inc.

I believe starting the organization was the right thing to do under the startling circumstances. I believe it will enhance the writing education of Uvalde children and I believe in them. You can learn more about this by visiting the nonprofit website, storyinventors.com. Thank you.

Salvage yard operator and part-time sleuth Tak Sweedner is asked by a buddy, Roque Zamarripa, to investigate a murder. Tak says OK and for his trouble is assaulted with a tire iron. Then he’s run off the side of a cliff-the investigation really goes downhill at that point!
Tak calls up gal-pal Emma to help him and soon discovers his feelings for the woman go beyond palling around. When she asks him to give up his investigation and concentrate on her, Tak balks. She might better have asked a bulldog to give up its bone. It would be like quitting, Tak said, and he wasn’t a quitter.

Can this blue-collar crime-solver hang in there to get the bad guy… AND win his girl?

Enjoy an Excerpt

Sunday stroll with dog…

I scratched behind the dog’s ears when it strolled over for companionship. We were a lazy pair. His eyes pleaded with me for a walk. So, I carried the bowl inside, rinsed it, grabbed a hat, and we headed out to the pasture behind the house. Otis trotted ahead and periodically ran back to jump against me and trot away again. A fun, fun dog.

I unhooked the pasture gate for us, and we moseyed north into my thirty-five acres of south Texas soil. We moved past clumps of blackbrush and sumac, through stretches of buffalo grass, and under a live oak whose branches seemed to defy gravity in their undulating horizontal reach. I admired several Beauty Berry shrubs near the western edge of the property that were favorites of wandering white-tailed deer. Certain times of the year, hungry deer virtually stripped the plants of their lavender fruit.

Otis padded down the bank of a dry gulch that foamed with runoff after heavy rains, but normally was no more than a pleasing variant in the landscape, cutting southeast across flat terrain. The dog poked its head into a guajillo thicket on the other side. The bush wasn’t good for livestock but was great for honeybees. Preserving it was my contribution to the local honey industry.

Otis lifted his leg to fertilize the bush and we began to walk the gulch back toward the house. A black-tailed jackrabbit sprang from hiding and Otis gave chase for half a minute before returning to my side with tongue lolling from the side of his muzzle.

About the Author: Gillespie Lamb developed writing skills as a newspaper reporter, editor and columnist before leaving journalism to become a freelancer and pursue less formulaic writing. He published his first novel in 2017, a middle-grades reader about a girl who rode an “orphan train” from New York City to Kansas. It is titled The Beamy Courage of Gerta Scholler. This second novel is his initial foray into the mystery genre. The setting of The Junkyard Dick is the rural Texas region where Lamb lives.

Gillespie Lamb

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NOTE:
My latest novel, The Junkyard Dick, is a mystery set in Uvalde, Tex. It contains numerous allusions to Uvalde streets, restaurants, swimming in the Nueces, and so on, and positively characterizes this multicultural, county-seat town where I happen to live.

One week before I began marketing the book through my website (gillespielamb.com), Uvalde became a national byword for school shootings. A minor consequence of that tragedy is that suddenly my book became awkwardly positioned in the marketplace. Many people naturally will see promotion of a book about Uvalde at this time as shamelessly cashing in on the tragic event. I want neither the perception nor the reality of that.

So, I have created a nonprofit that will benefit elementary fiction-writing programs in Uvalde—or create such programs out of whole cloth. Any royalties I receive from the book will go into the fund along with contributions from the publisher, Black Rose Writing. That will just be seed money. I will be soliciting donations to the fund from the literary industry and associated artistic ventures, from local and regional community organizations and businesses, and from readers anywhere who find comfort, escape or inspiration in fiction.

I am calling the nonprofit “The Story Inventors Club,” which is appropriately juvenile so that it might appeal to young people. It will be dedicated to the proposition that young imaginations are capable of producing fictional stories of merit and enduring value. The hoped-for legacy of the Club would be creation of a new generation of prose (and poetry) to delight readers, and the instilling of enhanced cognitive, language and communication skills in some young people.

So, as a consequence of all of the above, I now will be promoting two things: (1) a novel that I believe in on its literary merits, and (2) a Club that I believe can build a new and creative legacy upon the ashes of misfortune.

For more information on this Club, please go here.

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Kat Out of the Bag by Wendy Kendall

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From designer bags to body bags. When celebrated international purse designer, Katherine Watson hosts the party for her Purse-onality Women’s History Museum, she never expected the next day’s headline to read: ‘Murder at the Gala Premiere.’ A dead body is discovered during the event. Working to solve the murder, Katherine matches wits with a local cop Jason Holmes and his K-9 partner Hobbs. Although Holmes and Watson disagree often, there’s an undeniable attraction between them. They’ll have to put feelings on hold and focus on solving the murder, before Katherine becomes the killer’s next knock off.

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Trent’s Redemption by Bailey Thomas

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Trent Jacobs had everything he wanted in life until the flash of a muzzle ripped his world apart. Now he only has guilt. Permanently removed from fieldwork due to questionable events, Trent retires from the FBI. He retreats to the small town of Mill Creek, Idaho, to become the town sheriff.

Margaret King knows what it’s like to be alone and isolated. Losing her parents as a child was impossible, but the death of her brother damn near killed her. When a strange van appears on her street and her apartment is broken into, she turns to Trent, the only man she knows she can trust.

After Maggie shows up terrified and haunted, Trent’s guilt explodes. She makes him want things he doesn’t deserve, including her. As their past collides with the present, Trent is forced to face his demons to protect her. Or risk losing her.

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Brother of Interest by Karina Bartow

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There’s nothing more heart-warming than a brother and sister’s bond—or is there?

In Minka Avery’s case, her relationship with her brother, Robin, has been strained for years, but never more than it is in “Brother of Interest”.

For the past fourteen months, Minka’s been basking in the joys of new motherhood, a far cry from the life she had as a deaf police detective. She sometimes misses the rush of chasing criminals, but she finds more excitement than she ever wanted when Robin ends up at the top of the list of suspects in a high-profile assault investigation.

She may not have a badge anymore, but the sister and law enforcer in her impel her unofficially explore the matter on her own. Will she find her runaway brother? Will the evidence she unearths exonerate him…or point to his guilt?

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Bring the Light by Annette Montez Kolda

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Sister Bridget Ann Rincón-Keller is known as the crime-fighting nun of East Austin’s Latino Community. But her heartstrings may be pulled beyond their limit when she finds a newborn by the statue of the Virgin Mary. The baby’s mother is an undocumented, teenage immigrant. ICE separates the girl from her baby, and Sister Bridget tries to reunite them. But little does she know, there are five other girls, victims of Mexico’s kidnapping epidemic, who also need her help. Sister Bridget puts her life on the line. Can she rescue the girls…and herself…from the clutches of evil?

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Mystery on Spirit Mountain (The MacKenzie Chronicles book 2) by Brenda Whiteside

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The past never sleeps, and the truth never dies.

Only Harlan MacKenzie can sense the troubled history of the Big Purple House. When he’s hired to restore the historic mansion, he doesn’t foresee the insidious secrets—secrets that entangle his family in deceit and murder.

Phaedra is selling the house that has been in her family for decades. As her friends-to-lovers relationship with Harlan escalates, she’s forced to choose between her way of life or his, even though she risks losing him forever.

After a stranger comes to town, weaving her web of deception, hell-bent on correcting an old grievance connected to the house, dark revelations of the past implode the present. Harlan and Phaedra are plunged into a dangerous mystery, risking their love, their future, and their lives.

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