A Bold Third Act by Marcia Rosen – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Marcia Rosen will be awarding a $25 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.

NO! I do not want to retire because I’m a senior. Absolutely not!

More than ever, seniors are living full and engaging lives. More than 45 million Americans are over the age of 65 and millions of them still work— some by choice, some by necessity.

In what I consider my BOLD THIRD ACT, I’m writing mysteries. I’m bringing my passion for writing together with my rather unusual upbringing. In doing so, I am writing with more insight and purpose. As seniors, we can use our life experiences—whether failures, challenges or successes—to bring about enjoyable and productive lives filled with doing something we relate to and love. This is why the seniors in the mysteries I write are strong, smart and active main characters.

Mysteries and crime are in probably in my DNA. It never occurred to me my father and his friends were doing anything illegal. The environment I grew up with seemed perfectly natural to me. It’s what I saw everyday: My father was a bookie. He also owned a gambling hall where the men played pool in the front and poker in a private back room. My father and his partners would count the take from sports bets at our kitchen table. Once there was a raid on his partner’s apartment, which was right across from ours!

My father’s close friends had names like The Gig, Gimp and Doc. So, it makes sense that I’m fascinated by slightly shady characters, and crime and mystery stories. Once, I wrote a memoir story and referred to my mother as my father’s “gun moll.” Believe me, she was a character as well!

I’ve been a business owner for more than 40 years, which includes having a successful marketing and public relations agency for more than 20 years. I used to explain to clients that I was a “business detective,” finding solutions to problems that seemed a mystery to them. Of course, people and life in general are often a mystery.

My kids have encouraged me to, “Go for it!” They do not want me to slow down, sit around and dream of days past. They don’t want me to use age and going to doctors as a social outlet as so many elderly people do. They don’t even want me to have grey hair!

To those who do not agree: Sorry! I think I still have much to offer and enjoy. Positive aging is important to me, and writing is my way of showing it.

I used to tell friends that I was too old to see my dreams and ambitions to be a successful author come true. Yet, I refused to give up trying, and now my new mystery series The Gourmet Gangster: Mysteries and Menus has been published and more are on the way with my publisher, Level Best Books.

When I was doing consulting and public speaking, I’d often ask business and professional women to ask themselves: “What voices in your head do you need to eliminate? Get rid of the negative voices that say, ‘Who do you think you are?’ and ‘You can’t do it.’ ”

Now in my senior life, I’m reminded through conversations over a cup of coffee with my friends, my age and some younger, “We all matter.” What you want and who you are matters. We can make a difference at any age. Moreover, as we grow older, we can also share our experience, knowledge and, even at times, a good bit of wisdom.

In my mystery series The Senior Sleuths my senior characters represent my beliefs with energy and enthusiasm. These characters are my voice and reflect my truths.

A body is tossed into the lion’s habitat at the zoo where Miranda Scott is the senior vet. She and Detective Bryan Anderson join forces to unravel that mystery and several more murders. A fan since childhood of Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, and Sherlock Holmes they seem to live in her head frequently telling her what to do…and not do. Murders, family, deceit, revenge and a gangster father and godfather often get in the way of a fine romance between Miranda and the Detective.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“Miranda, get to the zoo! Visitors are pointing at a human arm in the lions’ enclosure.”

“Hmmm. This is intriguing. A body in the lions’ den. What are the facts?”

“Agatha, Raymond, facts if you please,” Sherlock demanded.

“All of you shut up!”

It was not the first time Miranda shouted to the voices in her head. Sometimes they seemed so real to her. She had read nearly every book of every famous mystery writer and had seen movies made from them many times. She was often absorbed and obsessed by the stories and the characters.

Miranda loved their ways of thinking, analyzing problems, finding solutions, and delving into the dark spaces hidden in humanity: Raymond Chandler’s tough Detective, Philip Marlowe, who always found a dame he could lust after and distrust and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, and her Tommy and Tuppence. Their gossip and ways of finding clues and uncovering secrets swirled in her head, while the famous Sherlock Homes demanded facts and attention to the tiniest of details.

There were other geniuses of mysteries who stopped by to give Miranda their “two cents” at times, especially when Agatha, Raymond, and Sherlock were disagreeing with each other. Miranda was sure they would have plenty to say about the murder at the zoo.

About the AuthorMarcia Rosen (aka M. Glenda Rosen), award winning author of eleven books including The Senior Sleuths and Dying To Be Beautiful Mystery Series and The Gourmet Gangster: Mysteries and Menus (Menus by her son Jory Rosen). She is also author of The Woman’s Business Therapist and award winning My Memoir Workbook. For 25 years she was owner of a successful national marketing and public relations agency, Marcia has frequently been a speaker and/or program moderator at organization meetings and conferences, bookstores, libraries and Zoom Programs. Topics she has taught and presented over the past twenty years include: Encouraging the Writer Within You, Marketing for Authors, Writing Mysteries…Not A Mystery, Writing Your Memoir and recently “Anatomy of Writing A Murder.” Many articles on these topics have been published on mystery reader blogs and in newsletters and magazines including “Mystery Scene Magazine” and “Mystery Reader International Journal.”

She is a member of Sisters in Crime National and New Mexico (Croak & Dagger), Southwest Writers, New Mexico Book Association, Women Writing the West, Public Safety Writer’s Association, and National Association of Independent Writers and Editors—for which she is also a board member.

“Marcia Rosen’s new book is hard to put down! The characters are engaging and you enjoy getting to know them as you read this mystery. I enjoyed discovering the world and people in Murder at the Zoo and can’t wait to read more from this author!”

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Bells and Bombshells by Trixie Silvertale – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Trixie Silvertale will be awarding a $75 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other hosts on the tour.

A pattern of murder. A threadbare case. Can our psychic sleuth pick out the guilty before time spools out?

Mitzy Moon is finally tying the knot. And she’s loving the whole town’s excitement for their upcoming big day. But when their tailor is found buttons up behind a jazz lounge, the almost-newlyweds will have to hem in a murderer before their dreams rip apart at the seams.

Knowing they’ll get no help from the new sheriff in town, the couple embarks on a tightly woven undercover assignment. But Mitzy fails to heed ominous warnings from her mentor, Ghost-ma, and her entitled feline. When another body drops, she could be the next target erased by the mounting powers in the darkness…

Can Mitzy and Erick unravel the twisted clues, or will their wedding be eclipsed by a funeral?

Bells and Bombshells is the first book in a hilarious new paranormal cozy mystery series, Harper and Moon Investigations. If you like snarky heroines, supernatural intrigue, and a dash of romance, then you’ll love Trixie Silvertale’s wedded whodunit.

Buy Bells and Bombshells to stitch up a killer today!

Enjoy an Excerpt

Dear Diary, in less than a week I’ll be married! I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. Sheriff Erick Harper is the kindest, handsomest man in all the land.

“Oh, Mitzy! You’re such a hoot!” The ghost of my not as dearly departed as everyone thinks grandmother pops into the visual spectrum directly above my bed.

“Grams! Get out of my head! How many times do I have to tell you, thought-dropping is against the rules? If these lips —”

“Spare me the lecture, sweetie. It’s the only way I can get your attention lately. For weeks, you’ve been acting like a girl trapped in a, what do you call it, Rom-Com?” The ethereal specter crosses her bejeweled arms over her burgundy silk-and-tulle Marchesa burial gown.

“Don’t play innocent with me, Myrtle Isadora. I was in my safe space. Snuggled under the comforter of my cozy bed, enjoying my own personal thoughts. No invitation was extended.”

“Reow.” Can confirm.

“See, even Pyewacket agrees with me.” It’s not as though my half wild tan caracal can actually speak, but the longer I live in Pin Cherry Harbor the more I understand the subtle variations of his intonations.

The glowing apparition scoffs. “You know I don’t approve of you two ganging up on me. I simply came in to see if you needed help selecting the right outfit for this morning’s breakfast.”

“Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!” I fling my legs toward the floor and attempt to leap out of bed. Bad idea.

If you know me, you know what happens next. If you’re new in town, let me cut to the chase. My legs do not spring clear of the bedding, and I tumble into a puzzle of reindeer onesie pajamas and mortification on the floor beneath.

About the Author:

USA TODAY Bestselling author Trixie Silvertale grew up reading an endless supply of Lilian Jackson Braun, Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew novels. She loves the amateur sleuths in cozy mysteries and obsesses about all things paranormal. Those two passions unite in her Harper and Moon Investigations series, and she’s thrilled to write them and share them with you.

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Killing Your Darlings by Ryan Lawrence – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Ryan Lawrence will be awarding a $10 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.

Killing Your Darlings

I was once asked if it was difficult to “kill one’s darlings.” Let’s look at this more broadly than just the mechanism of “killing off a primary or popular character for plotline purposes,” but I will get to that in a moment, not to worry. Now, it takes courage and fortitude to cut storylines you’ve worked tirelessly on and edit out characters you believe add flavour and personality to your work. How can you think only some of what you’ve written is gold–it’s all great stuff! Maybe it is, but it’s likely not, and here’s the thing–not everything you write is essential for your story, anyway. And all of this is okay. Still, it is hard to accept, especially for new writers. I know it was for me.

Recognizing that something is unnecessary, too long or derivative can be difficult because you initially think everything you write is best-selling stuff. The idea that something you’ve worked hard on should be removed because it doesn’t contribute to a tighter plotline or a more coherent narrative is a tough pill to swallow. The act of editing can feel discouraging and daunting, but it will eventually, sooner than later, trust me, begin to feel freeing, if not invigorating. Cuts are necessary to produce the cleanest, best work possible. Once you see the story’s plot flow more fluidly and the remaining characters’ personalities and poignancy are given more time and space to flourish, the discouragement will disappear. Remember, before discarding (or deleting!) the remains of edited-out text, including dropped characters, see if anything can be reworked into the story another way. Cleaner. Or keep it around for use in a future project. You never know.

As far as orchestrating the demise of a beloved or entertaining character–or characters, I can’t speak for anyone else on this, but for me, it’s never been much of a problem. Regarding the villain, it can be a lot of fun to think of creative and exciting ways to off them, so they get their just deserts. It’s amusing for a writer. But when you realize the death of a main character, like your protagonist, or even just a likeable one (who doesn’t deserve it), will create a better, more satisfying ending or plot twist, I can see how it would be difficult to “let go.” But writing is emotional, which means heartbreak and unfairness as much as justice and satisfaction are fair game. Even when a character wasn’t intended to perish in your story’s outline, but as you wrote further, their death becomes organically necessary or perhaps unexpectedly exciting, what must be done must be done. The best story possible shouldn’t be derailed by personal character attachment.

So in answer to whether it’s difficult to kill one’s darlings, yes, it can be. Admittedly, it was a bit in the beginning, with my first novel, Vindictive, but only because I wasn’t sure if I was killing the correct characters off or even if I was killing enough of them off. (How shocking!) With subsequent work, like Vindictive Too, I fully understood the necessity of not playing favourites or holding back. If the death of a character, ANY CHARACTER, will evolve my story into something more significant, satisfying, entertaining, and unexpected than “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!” Of course, my mother has warned me that there’s a particular hunky character she’s grown very fond of whose death would make her VERY UPSET. I might need to consider this as I write the third book in the series. (Or not! HA!)

The best revenge never includes forgiveness. To truly punish the guilty, something worse must be done to them.

A chain of vengeful events is set in motion when a man’s brutally murdered body is found in an alley behind a seedy bar. Inspector Declan James is put on the victim’s case, only to discover his intimate connection to the slain man. After a not-by-chance meeting with the mysterious Véronique, a woman on a mission to right a terrible wrong, Declan finds himself mired in an intricate web of corruption, lies, and coverups.

Marie and Jacques Bergé, the owners of the internationally renowned Château Bergé, act publically as the pinnacle of society and wealth, but behind closed doors, their lives are in turmoil. From Marie’s erratic behaviour and bizarre disappearances to Jacques’s not-so-secret love for another woman, Fairporte’s “it” couple teeters on the edge of destruction.

In the shadows, a bearded man, powerful and dark of heart, secretly orchestrates his machiavellian manoeuvres from a place of sadism and despair.

From the bustling core to the rustic outskirts of Fairporte, ON, secrets, suffering, and rage are found everywhere. As the cruel desire pain, the wronged seek retribution, and the fragile break, will anyone get their revenge before death or madness claim them?

Enjoy an Excerpt

The alley was off Vanier Avenue in a less-than-savoury section of Fairporte continuously ignored by developers, including the Bergé family and Cartell Worldwide. Plans for gentrification had yet to be proposed by city officials. Declan was familiar with the area, having frequented several of its local watering holes.

This part of the city was home to many of Fairporte’s undesirables and unwanted. The seedy bars, the strip clubs, and most non-white collar criminals thrived here.

Declan was looking for anything he might have missed. He had a feeling, a hunch that something small but pivotal during the initial lookover had remained unnoticed. He had to find that obscure piece of evidence. Declan made it his mission, his responsibility.

He recalled the male victim’s clothes were nothing but tatters of fabric: slashed, ripped, and bloody. They held no discernible shape or style to offer aid in identifying the poor bugger. Even the tags and labels had been removed.

Severely beaten, the body had been robbed of all identification and personal belongings. All digits had had their pads burnt off. Declan thought that was excessive, but it could suggest a professional hit. Worst of all, the victim had been shot in the face and skull several times.

His detective prowess exhausted, Declan considered the body currently unidentifiable. He had faith that Forensics would eventually discover its identity.

It? Declan quickly corrected himself. Him! While a lack of respect for a victim’s corpse had infected many of his colleagues, Declan refused to give in to that dehumanization. He fought to stay compassionate, and sometimes he failed, but he refused to stop trying.

About the Author:Ryan Lawrence was born and raised in Guelph, ON, and he is a graduate of the University of Guelph in English Literature. Ryan lives in London, ON, with his husband, Todd, their cat Dora, and his massive comic book collection that once fell on Todd. He’s okay.

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The File by Gary Born – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Gary Born will be awarding a $20 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.

Debut author Gary Born erupts into the literary scene with a nail-biting thriller centered on international espionage in “The File.” Leaning into his experience as a preeminent international lawyer, Born weaves an exciting tale that spans Africa, the Middle East and Europe in a relentless pursuit of WWII Nazi intel that will enthrall the reader from the first page.

Enter Sara West, a tenacious botany graduate student on a scientific expedition in the heart of the African jungle. During her research, she stumbles upon a cache of WWII Nazi files in the wreck of a German bomber hidden deep within the jungle. Those hidden files reveal the location of a multibillion-dollar war chest, secretly deposited by the Nazis in numbered Swiss bank accounts at the end of WWII. But Sara isn’t the only one interested in the war chest. Former KGB agent Ivan Petronov and Franklin Kerrington III, deputy director of the CIA, both have deeply personal reasons for acquiring the files Sara has found.

With two dangerous men — and their teams of hit men — on her trail, will Sara be able to escape the jungle alive?


EXCERPTS (Please choose only ONE to use with your post):

Excerpt One:

She spent the afternoon in the car, trying to make sense of the past four weeks. She still hadn’t fully digested what had happened. She wondered if she ever would. Her life had been ordered and comfortable — a fiancé and a promising career. She had been a relatively normal, well-adjusted graduate student, with a predictable, reasonably settled life. Exotic treks in obscure jungles were a little out of the ordinary, but tenure at a good university, marriage and kids lay reliably ahead. And she had been happy. Or at least content.

That was all gone now. Two teams of trained killers were probably still hunting her, willing to stop at nothing to get their hands on the files that she had found in the jungle. She was having tea with another killer in the middle of the Libyan desert, and she was about to be smuggled into Italy by yet other killers. And, truth be told, she was not that different from any of these men, not anymore, as her bamboo spears and the grenades had revealed.

She realized, with a sort of clinical detachment, that she didn’t know herself anymore, that she didn’t really know who she had been or who she had become. Which of the people was really her — the geeky botanist and happy girlfriend, the terrified victim, running for her life, or the killer with the bamboo spears and machete? She wasn’t sure anymore.

About the Author:Gary Born is widely regarded as the world’s preeminent authority on international commercial arbitration and international litigation. He has been ranked for more than 20 years as one of the world’s leading international arbitration advocates and authors. “The File” is his debut novel. Connect with Gary on LinkedIn.

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On the Sly by Wendy L. Koenig – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Wendy L. Koenig who is celebrating the recent release of On the Sly. Wendy will be sending a signed copy and a pair of sunglasses to a winner in the US or Canada.

Sylvia Wilson, a bar owner in St. Louis, Missouri, arrives at work to discover the body of an ex-police officer in her locked bar. The police focus on her as their primary suspect, so she decides to launch her own investigation into the dead man and his accomplices. But when the killer sends her clear messages that she and her loved ones are on his radar, she knows it’s just a matter of time before someone ends up dead.

Enjoy an Excerpt

I moved to the front again, checking shadows before dodging into them. Reaching the door, I leaned into it, listening. Silent as a ball of cotton. The key slid smoothly into the lock and turned. I eased open the door. Watched and listened for any movement or noise. Nothing. I slipped my arm in and turned on my lights. The alarm was already off.

Mayhem erupted from my backyard as my dogs snarled and threw themselves at the sliding glass door with angsted fervor. I hadn’t let them out there. Maybe Aaron had stopped by. But the dogs were clearly upset, and they wouldn’t be if it had been my brother who’d visited.

Even if there was a noise, I wouldn’t hear it over the violent ruckus. I sidled into the room. Nothing but my blue furniture and beige carpet. Through the glass door, I saw Ruffles was foaming and standing stock still. When he moved, it was with the stiff-legged, high-toed, movements of a mechanical being. His upper lip was curled completely over his nose and the resulting sound came through the glass like an outboard motor. I’d never seen him so livid, and I honestly wondered how he could breathe like that.

Satan was throwing herself at the door again and again, as if she were a small missile that would weaken and eventually punch through the glass. I could picture the trauma her body experienced every time she made contact. If I didn’t do something fast, she would be covered in bruises, maybe even broken bones.

Something had upset them so much that even my presence didn’t calm them. Moving quickly through my home, I cleared all the rooms; no one was hidden anywhere. Then, I put the safety back on the gun, set it down, and went to focus on my poor dogs. I pulled out the rod I kept in the track. That’s when I noticed the dark brown handprint on the sliding door.

Unless I missed my guess, that was dried blood.

I pulled my cellphone and dialed Eccheli. It took him a long time to answer, and he didn’t sound too happy, but his sleep-cracked voice got animated the moment I explained what had happened.

He said, “Don’t touch anything. We’ll be right there.”

“My dogs might be injured. I need to go out there and check them.” Satan had calmed a little, but she still paced the window in agitation. Ruffles was standing stock still, growling.

He hesitated. “Do you have kitchen gloves?”

“I have painter’s gloves.” Actually, I didn’t. But I did have some of the gloves the police left behind at the bar. Close enough.

“Perfect. Go out to them, don’t let them in. We’ll get there right away.” He disconnected.

I probably was working my way back up Johnson’s ‘person of interest’ list with this middle of the night phone call. Nothing to be done about it.
When he’d said they’d get there right away, he wasn’t kidding. I’d managed to find my gloves, put them on, and had only been outside a few minutes. I was sitting in the soaked grass, trying to calm a frantic Satan so I could inspect her for injuries when my cellphone vibrated against my thigh.

Eccheli asked, “We good to come in?

“Yeah, we’re out back.”

The minute the front door opened, Satan became all claws and teeth and twisted out of my arms. She threw herself at the glass door, ballistic missile at work again. As for Ruffles, I was used to his snarls, but the intensity of the one he gave at that moment scared me.

I watched Eccheli and Johnson as they entered my house. Saw how he noticed my Colt Python on the counter, pointed it out to Johnson, and how she nodded and pocketed it. I certainly hoped she was going to give that back; it had cost me a pretty penny.

As the two detectives cleared the house, again, flashing lights of an arriving squad car ricocheted off the back fence of the yard. I would probably be as popular in my neighborhood as a scorpion. At least there was no siren.

Mr. and Mrs. Detective returned to the front room. Eccheli leaned close to the glass, studying the handprint. Johnson stared out the glass at me and pointed at the door handle. When I shook my head, she pulled out her phone and called me. “How are the dogs?”

I shouted over the violence of growls and barks. “Ruffles has no injuries, but I can’t get Satan to hold still to check her!”

“Want me to call animal control to tranq her?”

I hesitated. I didn’t want to do that to my dogs, but I didn’t foresee Satan letting me check her any time soon and that bloody handprint scared me. I nodded to the woman staring out at me, feeling somehow like a traitor.

About the Author Wendy Koenig is a published author living in New Brunswick, Canada. Her first piece to be printed was a short children’s fiction, Jet’s Stormy Adventure, serialized in The Illinois Horse Network. She attended University of Iowa, honing her craft in their famed summer workshops and writing programs. Since that time, she has published and co-authored numerous books and has won several international awards.

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The Menagerie by Judy Willmore – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will award a $15 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

FranÇoise-AthÉnaÏs de Rochechouart de Mortemart had to have Louis, King of France, but his other mistresses stood in the way. Then she meets the very helpful sorceress and AthÉnaÏs gets her wish. But soon Louis hears tales of witchcraft and poison, a conspiracy spreading through his court—like the beasts in the Versailles menagerie, courtesans are clawing their way to his favor, and his bed. He orders Lieutenant General of Police Gabriel-Nicolas de la Reynie to investigate. Mysterious deaths mount while La Reynie presses on, hauling in witches, charlatans, and the nobility alike. Grimy fingers point to AthÉnaÏs, the King’s mistress, with whispers of a black mass celebrated over her naked body. Then La Reynie discovers a plot to kill her.

Enjoy an Excerpt

They were about to alight when Athénaïs shrank back into the shadowed corner of the coach. “Look—could that be?” A man built with the broad shoulders and determination of a bull walked briskly past them towards the first coach in line.

Her maid gasped, but quickly squeezed Athénaïs’ hand. “I told you, madame, tout Paris consults the famous La Voisin. Come along, now.” In a rustle of brown silk, the laughing mademoiselle got out of the coach, followed by the wary Athénaïs.

They were greeted at the door by a girl of about fifteen, her frowzy hair peeking out of her lace-edged cap. “Bon soir, mesdames,” she curtseyed. “Please come into the parlor.” Light from a chandelier and a few candles pierced the shadows, reflected in a crystal ball on the tea table near the settee. Next to the crystal ball was a deck of tarot cards lying on a square of purple silk. “Please be seated,” the girl announced. “I will fetch my mother.”

“Isn’t this exciting,” whispered Mlle Claude as she looked around the room.

Athénaïs stared at the murky crystal ball. “How can anyone see anything in there?”

“Only someone with my gifts can see the future,” boomed a woman’s voice behind them.

Startled, both ladies turned to see La Voisin in the doorway. Although short and plump, she radiated authority in her magnificent sea-green velvet dress and crimson velvet cloak embroidered with hundreds of double-headed, wingspread eagles. Even her slippers were stitched with gold thread in the same motif. What stunned Athénaïs were the woman’s eyes: black as night, so piercing as to invade one’s soul.

About the Author:

Judy Willmore is a former journalist, then private investigator, and now a psychotherapist who practices in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her historical mystery The Menagerie was published in 2021 by Artemesia Press, and she is now working on a sequel.

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Assumed by MHR Geer – Spotlight

Long and Short Reviews welcomes MHR Geer who is celebrating the recent release of Assumed.

When her friend Sandy asks for help, Anne Wilson leaves her small, lonely life in Miami for the picturesque island of Saint Martin. But as soon as she arrives, Sandy is murdered, and her death exposes lies: an alias, a secret past, stolen money. Suspected of murder and trapped on the island, Anne is shocked when a cryptic message arrives:

Find the money. Take it and run.

She follows Sandy’s trail of obscure clues, desperate for proof of her innocence and must decide if she can trust the two men who offer help-the dark, mysterious Brit or the American with a wide grin and a pickup truck. When memories resurface-dark truths she’d rather leave buried and forgotten, her past becomes intertwined with her present.

Her only way forward is to face her own secrets.

Enjoy an Excerpt

A constant stream of jubilant holiday-goers jostled my suitcase as I paced the arrivals gate, but Sandy’s mobile went to voicemail a fourth time. I hung up without leaving another message and strolled past the baggage carousel. Again.

“Where are you, Sandy?” I muttered under my breath.

A man in a white Panama hat vacated a bench, and I collapsed onto the cold metal and hugged the handle of my suitcase. The other passengers exchanged greetings and gathered their baggage, and the automatic door slid open with a swoosh to receive them. Every time the door opened, humid air blasted my face.

The man in the white hat reappeared but saw me and turned away, presumably to find a bench without a slouching, scowling American. I raised my shoulders from a slump and crossed my legs.

“What now, Anne?” I asked myself, tapping the screen of my phone and resisting the urge to check the time.

A young boy, about five years old, wandered over and climbed onto the bench next to me. We exchanged nervous smiles. Couples and families regrouped near the door, and I watched their faces, expecting someone to claim the boy, but the door opened and closed, over and over, and he remained.

I was just about to ask where the boy’s parents were when a tall woman entered and rushed toward us, shouting in French. Her profile was dark against the bright sunlight outside, and her long hair swirled in the vortex of the doorway. The boy pressed against me, and I almost wrapped my arm around him, but the door closed, and she smoothed her hair back into place.
She pulled the boy from the bench, gripping his arms with long, slender fingers. I couldn’t understand her words, but her reprimand was clear. Her green eyes flashed with fear and anger. She blamed me for his disappearance. I shrugged, trying to remember how to apologize in French. Je suis desole? But I was unsure of the words, so I didn’t say anything, and she didn’t wait for my explanation.

He left with her, his little hand firmly inside hers, and when the door opened and whipped her hair back into the air, the boy turned back to me with a smile. I waved.

And then I was alone again.

I jumped when my phone buzzed.

Sorry, Sandy texted. Can’t make it. Take a taxi to 16 Rue de l’Aile Perdue.

I stared at the text and considered purchasing a ticket for a return flight, but my phone buzzed again with a second text.

Please, Anne.

I squared my shoulders and pulled on my sunglasses. Then I walked through the whoosh of the doorway and into the sunlight.

The taxi line had already thinned; it took only a few minutes before a lively man ushered me into the back of a bright green sedan. The driver offered a brusque “Welcome to Saint Martin,” and turned up her radio. Taxi code for no talking. Fine with me.

We sped through narrow streets, dangerously close to sunburned tourists wandering street markets. Stalls spilled out from under a rainbow of awnings, hawking loud shirts and oversized beach towels. The air was thick with cardamom and curry, mixed with the yeasty smell of a patisserie. My stomach rumbled. In my rush to make the early morning flight, I’d skipped breakfast.
We left town and traveled up and down winding roads that cut into the hillsides. The villas grew larger and farther apart and then disappeared into thick foliage behind security gates. I caught occasional glimpses of dirt lanes and even fewer paved driveways. When the driver pulled off the road, I leaned out the window to watch the tops of towering palm trees lining a long gravel driveway. We stopped on a cobbled motor court in front of a massive house.

I stared up at the imposing facade from within the safety of the taxi before I bravely stepped into the blazing sun. I thought there must be some mistake, but before I could say anything, the taxi drove away. Why had Sandy sent me to a dismal mansion and not to one of the dazzling resorts I’d passed?

Beyond the house, the sea stretched to the horizon. Sunlight reflected off the water, awakening childhood fantasies of pirate ships and mermaid tails. But the hot sun quickly melted the daydream, and I retreated into the shadow of the mansion.

Up close, the house was shabby and weather-beaten. Peeling gray paint revealed a history of more colorful choices. The porch railing leaned at a precarious angle, and as I cautiously climbed the rotting steps, the wood complained but held, and I reached the front door and knocked. The sound echoed within the house, but only silence followed. I knocked again, louder, and waited. Nothing.

“Now what?” I asked the house.

The house ignored me, but a piece of paper stuck between two floorboards fluttered in the ocean breeze. I stepped over and picked it up. She’d left a note—an inconsiderate welcome, even for Sandy. I exhaled loudly and unfolded the scrap of paper.

About the Author:MHR Geer was born in California but grew up in the Midwest. She attended the University of California, Santa Barbara to study Physics. After school, she moved to Ventura, CA and started a small bookkeeping business. She lives with her two sons and her unicorn husband (because he’s a magical creature).

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Unleashing Your Inner Muse by Dan Padavona – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Dan Padavona will be awarding a $25 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.

Unleashing Your Inner Muse

Athletes often speak about entering the zone and tapping peak performance when the match is on the line. To reach the zone, these high performers develop strength, endurance, and sport-specific skills. Notice no athlete ever says she trained by sitting in Starbucks, waiting for inspiration to hit.

Unleashing your inner muse is the creative’s version of entering the zone. You won’t get there by waiting for the right words or story arc to strike you lightning from the sky. The muse shows itself when you’re operating at your peak, and you won’t reach your peak without daily vigorous training.
That’s why most writers never complete that novel they’ve been talking about, or if they do, they fail to take the next step and graduate from newbie to accomplished.

Writing is hard work. Just as athletes train their bodies, so too must authors train their minds. If you write a few days a week, or worse yet a few days a month, you’re not putting in enough effort to tap your muse. Would you expect to become an Olympian by running on treadmill twice a month?

Stephen King puts it simply. ”If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

There are no shortcuts. Several studies of the most successful company leaders show CEOs read an average of 60 books a year. Why of all professions would writers not have this prerequisite for success?

If you want to unleash your inner muse, begin reading widely and often, including books outside your genre. Write every day (or at least five days a week) for no less than 45 minutes to establish a healthy habit, and don’t let yourself stray.

The muse won’t show up automatically, but if you put forth consistent effort, she’ll appear when least expected and infuse your chapters with magic.

Every mind holds a secret. Some are more deadly than others.

Nightshade County Sheriff Thomas Shepherd is a successful model for every law enforcement officer with autism. He leads an idyllic life in his uncle’s old home along Wolf Lake and is planning to marry private investigator Chelsey Byrd.

But when a star athlete’s girlfriend disappears while camping, everyone blames the boyfriend. He’s volatile and dangerous. Did he murder the girl and bury her in the woods?

The sheriff’s gut tells him there’s more to the story than the boyfriend is willing to admit. The more he digs into the case, the more he worries someone is hiding a dark secret.

Is the boy a killer? Or is he the next victim?

Enjoy an Excerpt

McKenzie Ossman twirled a length of blond hair around her finger and took in the stars. Here, five miles beyond Kane Grove’s city lights, the sky was a frozen portrait of fireworks. She shivered against the chill and puffed out a condensation cloud, the cold already deep enough to penetrate her bones. By morning, frost would cover the landscape.

She accepted the bottle of Jack Daniels from Marshall and sipped. This was a terrible idea. As much as she wanted to get him away from the pressures of Kane Grove University and the constant attention he received from being a future NFL draft selection, she didn’t like it when he drank. Hazel-skinned, strong, body painted with tattoos, he was a Greek god when he was sober. But lately he’d taken to drinking too often. He changed after the alcohol hit his bloodstream, turning angry and short-fused, a bomb ready to blow.

Then there was the problem of getting back to campus on his motorcycle. She couldn’t trust him to drive buzzed. Sometimes he pushed the motorcycle past eighty in the dark, her arms wrapped around his waist, Marshall one wrong move from disaster.

Marshall Prisco was the proverbial diamond in the rough. Few small college football players attracted professional scouts, yet dozens attended Kane Grove football games for the chance to see him play. A senior wide receiver, he was unstoppable on the field, too fast and strong for the poor fools tasked with covering him.

McKenzie sipped from the bottle and winced when the alcohol burned her throat. Marshall held out his hand, and she wasn’t sure she should give the bottle back to him.

About the Author:Dan Padavona is the author of The Wolf Lake series, The Logan and Scarlett series, Darkwater Cove, The Scarlett Bell thriller series, and The Thomas Shepherd Mysteries. Many of his novels rank in the top-10 in Amazon’s thriller and mystery categories. He is a husband, a parent, and proud member of the International Thriller Writers Organization.

When he’s not writing, Dan enjoys photography, biking, weightlifting, and storm chasing. Dan has videotaped tornadoes from New York to Oklahoma and Texas and was nearly swept up by a strong twister outside Sweetwater, Texas. A self-proclaimed ice cream and gelato lover, Dan admits to spending too much time in the gym, compensating for his questionable nutritional decisions.

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Winter Blogfest: Marilyn M. Baron

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win an audiobook copy of The Case of the Missing Botticelli.

Give the Gift of Reading this Holiday Season by Marilyn Baron

Spring, summer, fall or winter, instilling the joy of reading in a child is always in season. I have two granddaughters and I’m determined that both of them grow up to be readers.

I’m already making inroads with the 1 ½-year-old. I read to her all the time. She knows how to “turn the page,” and if I ask her to get a specific book, she can pick it out and bring it to me. She picks out a book for her parents to read her every night at bedtime. Our favorite book to read together is “Hippos Go Berserk,” by Sandra Boynton. My husband bought her a stuffed hippo and when she visits us the first thing she does is head for the special place I keep the hippo and the book, and we read together. Her parents take her to the library for story time and got her a library card. We’ve come full circle. I remember when my mother took me to get my first library card. It opened doors to a world of reading and sparked my imagination.

My other grandchild is only three months old but it’s never too young to read to them.

When it came time for their baby showers, we requested books instead of cards and both grandchildren have bookshelves full of wonderful books.

They’re too young to read my books but I became inspired to be an author when I read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series. Maybe my books will inspire my grandchildren to become writers. I hope so.

Reading can provide a lifetime of learning and enjoyment. Giving a child the gift of reading is the greatest gift you can give the children in your life this holiday season.

In this cozy mystery, American art history major Hadley Evans joins an art detective agency in Florence, Italy, working for Massimo Domingo, once a major player, now the ‘Inspector Clouseau’ of the art world. Determined to save the flailing agency and prove her worth, Hadley and her sexy Carabinieri boyfriend, Luca Ferrari, take on a mysterious client behind her boss’s back. Hot on the trail of a missing masterpiece, they discover a hidden cache of stolen Nazi art in a Venetian villa and encounter an enemy with a link to an evil past.

Marilyn Baron writes in a variety of genres from women’s fiction to historical romantic thrillers and romantic suspense to paranormal/fantasy and cozy mysteries. She’s received writing awards in Single Title, Suspense Romance, Novel with Strong Romantic Elements and Paranormal/Fantasy Romance. She was also The Finalist in the 2017 Georgia Author of the Year Awards (GAYA) in the Romance Category for her novel, Stumble Stones, and The Finalist for the 2018 GAYA Awards in the Romance category for her novel, The Alibi. Her latest novel, The Case of the Missing Botticelli: A Massimo Domingo Mystery, released January 24, 2022, is her 28th work of fiction. Book 3 of the series, The Case of the Forgotten Fragonard, will be released in 2023 by The Wild Rose Press, Inc. A public relations consultant in Atlanta, Marilyn is past chair and current member of Roswell Reads (a one-city, one read program) and serves on the Atlanta Authors Series Committee. To find out more about what Marilyn writes, visit her website at: www.marilynbaron.com/

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Winter Blogfest: Lori L. Robinett


This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

Ways to Celebrate The Holidays: No Expectations by Lori L. Robinett

The holidays . . . a time filled with a home bursting at the seams with family, with festive decorations throughout the house, a table laden with turkey and all the trimmings, and happy music floating through the air.

But that perfect image we see on television, the movies, and social media isn’t the reality for everyone and sometimes we get caught up in comparing ourselves to unfair expectations.

In my own case, my stepdaughter is pulled in many directions at the holidays, trying to make time for us, her mom and her husband, her significant other’s mom, and her significant other’s dad and his significant other. Additionally, our daughter estranged herself two years ago, leaving us to nurture a relationship with her now-ex-husband and our granddaughter. Our situation isn’t unusual – blended families are pretty common these days. That means the holidays aren’t the picture-perfect vision of family and togetherness we’re led to believe is normal. My mantra is “No expectations!” – and that mantra has allowed me to accept what is and live in the moment, enjoying the journey.

Besides blended families, many people find themselves either alone at the holidays or with a smaller family than in the past.

So, what does that mean? How do we deal with these not-so-perfect holidays?

Simple – we find joy in the little things. Here are a few things to try if you find yourself dealing with a blended family or a smaller-than-in-the-past family:

Create a new tradition. My husband and I started taking my parents out on Christmas Eve several years ago. We usually have pizza together, then drive around and look at the holiday lights. It’s always fun to find those little gems – like the house waaaaayout in the country that has gone all out (and I do mean ALL out) to create a festive display. (see the pic – that house is in the middle of nowhere!)

Buy or make an Advent Calendar. This year, I bought myself a puzzle advent calendar, with holiday-themed puzzles that I hope to put together throughout the month of December. I’m also making myself an alcoholic Advent Calendar (I’m really excited about this one, but it took some planning throughout the year). I saved 25 Pringles cans, then wrapped them in holiday paper and glued them into a pyramid shape. Throughout the year, I occasionally bought single beers, wines, or champagne and socked them away. I’m going to put the singles in the Pringles cans and each night, I’m going to surprise myself with a drink. I’m thinking about making my 3-year-old granddaughter a book Advent calendar for bedtime.

Listen to music. Listen to holiday music. It never fails to brighten my mood.

Watch holiday movies. Go all-in and watch all the sappy Hallmark movies. Stream your favorite movies and buy them if you can’t find them streaming. My two faves are Christmas Vacation and Love, Actually. Oh, and by the way, Die Hard is totally a Christmas movie!

Splurge on good coffee (or tea). Bonus points if you make it at home.

Read. Allow yourself at least half an hour before bed to curl up in your favorite chair in front of a roaring fire (or a favorite candle) while reading a holiday-themed book throughout the holiday season. I like to mix mine up – a romance, then a mystery. This is a great way to remind yourself to slow down and enjoy life.

Read to others. Take one of those holiday-themed books to a local nursing home and offer to read to residents. This is even better than audiobooks, because having a real, live person sitting next to a resident is a gift in and of itself.

The most important thing to remember is that the holidays are about celebration and gratitude. Open yourself to the simple joys that are sometimes missed in the pursuit of the ‘gram-worthy holiday images. You may well find a new tradition that means the world to you!

This fun cozy mystery features a “colorful display of Christmas suspense and intrigue” perfect for lovers of true crime and mysteries.

Jessica Barker blogs about true crime for an online magazine. But blogging for others is far from her dream job. Someday, she wants her own true crime podcast.

While working one night, Jess witnesses her next-door neighbor in distress and Jess is the only one who seems to care. When the cops dismiss her as a bothersome true crime reporter with an overactive imagination, Jess must delve into the life of her mysterious neighbors, Rory and John Regan – with hints at embezzlement and gambling – before Rory ends up dead.

Lori L. Robinett introduces a new series about the adventures of an aspiring podcaster that will appeal to fans of true crime and cozy mysteries.

Lori L. Robinett writes mysteries and contemporary western romance. She also mentors aspiring writers in her online school, WriteScouts. She lives in central Missouri with her husband on a small hobby farm, maintained for the comfort and enjoyment of their Beagle and Snorkie, and two rescue cats.

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