LASR Anniversary: M Pepper Langlinais

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This post is part of Long and Short Review’s 9th Anniversary Celebration. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win a $100 gift card or other prizes.

Books in Season: Summer – M Pepper Langlinais

I’ve always felt that books, like movies, have a season. For summer, I prefer lighter fare, the stuff I can speed through, the “popcorn” of books. If I want a mystery, I’ll reach for Agatha Christie (John Le Carré is strictly fall/winter reading). If I want a thriller it had better be Michael Crichton or Tom Clancy or some similarly plot-driven tome. And I have a very particular memory of reading The Godfather while in Cancun one June. I also very much enjoy indulging in Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series while sitting outside on my chaise lounge.

My sense of books having seasons began with my father who each fall would pick up The Hobbit and read it and The Lord of the Rings trilogy over winter. Then in the summer he would return to things like Stephen King or the Conan the Barbarian novels. On summer nights we would sit out on the deck together, and Dad would set up the telescope so we could search for planets. And while we did that, Dad would tell me the stories from his books. I first learned of Bilbo and Frodo and Galadriel—oh, how I was obsessed with her power and beauty!—from my dad’s oral history, and I first heard the terrifying story of the rabid dog Cujo that way, too. (I still have never read Cujo, though I’ve enjoyed many Stephen King stories since.)

One particular night when I was in fifth grade, Dad told me a mesmerizing story of time traveling Nazis and later slipped me his copy of Dean Koontz’s Lightning with the caution, “Don’t let your mother catch you with this.”

My parents were both readers, my mother leaning more toward torrid romance until the day she decided it was too sinful and she switched to what would be called “sweet” romances now. I did eventually develop my own taste for Regency romances, and those are also good summer reads, or most of them anyway. The Christmas ones are better for the holidays, naturally. Victoria Holt, however, is fine summer fare, as is Jane Austen.

In truth, summer books really are like summer movies. They move fast and don’t require too much work on the part of the reader (or viewer). Just like summer itself slipping past at an impossible speed, the long days getting shorter, the darkness closing in so slowly we pretend it will never come, summer books fly by like pages ruffled in a stiff breeze. And that breeze grows just a little bit cooler, day by day, as we rotate toward autumn. So enjoy summer now, and the books that go with it. Because there’s almost nothing worse than picking up a book and realizing it’s out of season and you can’t read it yet.*

*Of course you can read a book any time. I realize that. But, at least for me, the mood has to be right. Ripe. Hence my sense of books having a season.

The_Fall_and_Rise_of_Peter_Stoller_by_MPepper_Langinais-500In 1960’s London, British Intelligence agent Peter Stoller is next in line to run the Agency—until he falls in love with cab driver, Charles, and his life goes off the road. When Charles is accused of treason, Peter is guilty by association. Peter manages to extract them both, but the seeds of doubt have been planted, and Peter is compelled to find out whether his lover really is his enemy. Is ignorance truly bliss or merely deadly?

About the Author: M Pepper Langlinais is the author of several Sherlock Holmes stories as well as a produced playwright and screenwriter. Her latest project is the YA fantasy series CHANGERS. She lives with her husband, children, hamster, and cat in Livermore, CA. Find her at PepperWords.com.

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LASR Anniversary: Jaye Watson

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Watson Cherries

Cherries are in season right now, so I baked a cherry pie, the first of several fruit pies I’ll bake this summer.

The recipe for traditional cherry pie is easy: fresh (or frozen) tart cherries, sugar, cornstarch, and butter, and a crust to put it in, another to cover it. Some recipes call for vanilla or almond extract to be added, because they enhance the cherry flavor.

But almonds are poison.

Well, actually, wild almonds are poison, but the tame variety, the ones we eat, aren’t. But the almond extract is derived from the bitter ones. Carefully. A handful of nuts from a bitter almond tree, ingested all at once, could kill you. If, that is, you actually ate them. They are reputed to be extremely bitter.

I needed a murder weapon for my first try at mystery writing and it had to be a plant poison. Because I detest the scent of almond extract/bitter almond oil, it was an easy choice. Every mystery fan knows the symptoms of arsenic poisoning, and most could probably tell you how to test for the presence of arsenic in a nearly empty coffee cup. But who would suspect a cherry pie?

After that the story’s title was obvious.

But back to almonds. And their relatives, all members of the rose family (which includes apples, prunes, almonds, and cherries and a bunch of other delicious summer fruits). Most of their seeds contain hydrogen cyanide (HCN). Cyanide, in other words. And it’s a pretty potent poison.

Since that first mystery I’ve learned a lot about plant poisons. Especially the unsuspected ones, the ones that hide in common fruits and vegetables, just waiting for someone to prepare them incorrectly, or perhaps add more than a recipe calls for. Summer, with its abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, offers all sorts of possibilities. Green rhubarb stalks, for instance. Potato sprouts in a salad. Hmmm.

Why don’t you come over for a snack one of these warm afternoons?

cansheba_epubEmaline has been taking care of her elderly, cranky grandfather for so long, she wonders if she’ll ever have a life again. When he demands a sumptuous meal, she obliges, even baking him his favorite pie. It’s Johnny Banister’s last meal, but the medical examiner finds nothing suspicious. So why does Emaline seek a way to dispose of the almond extract bottle? And why does she worry that Detective Harry Jordan wants more than the pleasure of her company when he asks her to dinner?

About the Author:Jaye Watson is the alter ego of a sweet little old lady who doesn’t want her grandchildren to know what dark and bloody thoughts she harbors in her heart of hearts. She would rather write about serial killers than romantic lovers, and much prefers a good treatise on deadly poisons to any collection of homestyle recipes. For amusement, Jaye plots new and different ways to kill off the people who cut in front of her in grocery lines and crowd her on the freeway.

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LASR Anniversary: Lesley A. Diehl

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The Perfect Summer
By Lesley A. Diehl

Summer is my favorite time of year and always has been. As a kid, it was when school was out, although there was always Vacation Bible School which was less about studying the Bible and more about getting ice cream after the morning study let out. That was two weeks of trying out every flavor of ice cream provided by our local dairy store, and Mom let me have a cone every day. After those two weeks, the summer stretched ahead with seemingly endless possibilities of playing with my friends, wandering the pastures and fields of the farm or, when I was older, going to a local lake to swim. Fourth of July brought firework displays and a carnival to town. It seemed everyone in the area went to the carnival. As teenagers, my girlfriends and I would sneak peeks at the young men who worked the rides. And they ogled us in return.

When I was in college the summers meant working in the local printing plant to earn money to pay tuition. One summer I worked as a “stripper,” not the enticing job you might think. I stripped the covers off paperback books for a company who bought he books from vendors such as drugstores and department stores then sent the stripped covers back to the publishing for a percentage of the face value of the book. The books were taken to the dump and discarded, which seemed criminal to me, so although we were not supposed to take the books once the covers were removed, we all did. Aside from the pay check for the work, those books were the best thing about the job. The books weren’t always good literature, but they were great summer reading. I must have gone through over a hundred of them in those three months.

Those college summers began a transition from being connected to my hometown to becoming an adult with another place I called home. My friends from high school felt this too as friendships seemed to slip away to be replaced by new ones.. Graduate school meant classes continued through the summer months, and with my first position as a college professor, the summers from my hometown life became mere memories.

Yet I was lucky, able to recapture some of the nostalgia of the summers of my childhood and adolescence. My contract at the college was for teaching two semesters with the summers off. I taught summer sessions for several years, but soon the number of students attending decreased as tuition costs meant they were forced to seek summer employment. I didn’t mind having the summer months stretch before me. I lived on a small lake and spent the sunny days down on my dock, you guessed it, indulging my love of reading.

I switched positions late in my career and became a dean and vice president at the university level. The pay was substantial compared to that of a professor, but there were no summers off for administrators. I still can’t figure out why they needed to “administrate” for the three months when there were no students attending classes. I found I missed being in the classroom with students, couldn’t tolerate the politics of administration and, boy, did I miss those summers.

When I returned to the classroom, I began to spend my summers writing, so that when I finally retired, I had begun a career as a mystery writer. Again my summers stretch before me filled with reading as before, but now I get to create my own stories. It’s fun watching the fireworks and thinking about how I’m going to murder someone in my next book. This is indeed the perfect summer.

sporting_murderIt’s smooth sailing for Eve Appel and her friend Madeleine, owners of Second to None Consignment Shop in rural Florida’s Sabal Bay, land of swamps, cowboys, and lots and lots of ’gators. Eve and her detective boyfriend Alex have joined Madeleine and her new beau David Wilson for a pleasure cruise on his boat. But cloudy, dangerous waters lie ahead. A near fatal encounter with Blake Reed, David’s supremely nasty neighbor, is soon followed by a shooting death on the dividing line between David and Blake’s land. Both men run sport-hunting reserves, but Blake imports “exotics” from Africa and promotes gator killing, while David stays within the law, pointing clients toward the abundant quail and turkey as well as the wild pigs that ravage the landscape. Nevertheless, when a mutual client is killed, it is David who is arrested and charged with murder. Blake’s nastiness is only exceeded by that of his wife, Elvira, who forces Eve and Madeleine out of their shop, intending to replace it with a consignment shop of her own. It seems that bad luck looms over them all, even Eve’s brawny and hard-to-resist Miccosukee Indian friend Sammy, whose nephew has disappeared. As the case against David grows stronger and his friends’ misfortunes multiply, Eve and her strange and diverse group of friends, including her ex, a mobster, her grandma, and Sammy’s extended family, band together to take on the bad guys. But the waters are getting muddier and more troubled, and Eve and Madeleine may end up inundated in every sense of the word. Book 3 in the Eve Appel Mystery series, which began with A Secondhand Murder and continued with Dead in the Water.

About the Author: Lesley retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport. Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse. When not writing, she gardens, cooks and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work.

She is the author of a number of mystery series (Microbrewing Series, Big Lake Mystery Series, Eve Appel Mystery Series and the Laura Murphy Mysteries), a standalone mystery (Angel Sleuth) and numerous short stories.

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LASR Anniversary: Nikki Andrews

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This post is part of Long and Short Review’s 9th Anniversary Celebration. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win a $100 gift card or other prizes.

SUN TEA
Ah, summertime. Don’t you just love those long days, vacations, open windows? Not to mention the food. Sweet corn, tomatoes, peaches, strawberries. Cold beer, cream soda, and iced tea.

Delicious, real iced tea is so easy to make. You don’t even have to put a kettle on. Just dump 10-12 teabags in a gallon jug, fill it almost full with fresh, cold water, and set it out in the sun. In a few hours, when it turns a rich, deep reddish-brown, add sugar and lemon juice to taste and maybe a sprig of mint. Serve over ice. Heaven.

Nothing at all wrong with that recipe, but how about a few tips to make it even better? I’ve been making sun tea for twen–thir–fort…er, a long time, and I’m happy to pass along a thing or two I’ve learned.

First, use a glass jar. Plastic ones are cheap and easy to find, but they have a nasty tendency to develop an unpleasant aftertaste. Glass stays clean and unscented. Plastic heats up fast and cools down fast; glass coddles your tea, warming and cooling it gently, so the tannins don’t get overcooked and bitter. If you can find a jar without a spigot–like the ones old-fashioned deli pickles come in–so much the better. The spigots inevitably leak and they’re almost impossible to keep mildew-free. If all else fails, remove the spigot, take the jug to a good hardware store and find a seal that fits. Wash it well and use a little silicone to hold it in place.

Try different tea blends. If you like a tea hot, you’ll probably like it iced. Replace a couple of the black tea bags with herbal teas or fresh herbs. Mint, lavender, and rosemary make lovely tea. (If you use fresh herbs, start with small amounts until you learn how you like them.) Try sweeteners other than sugar. With the tea brewed so gently, you may find you need less or even no sugar. Stevia is very sweet and calorie-free. Some people like honey. Use a few berries or other fruit instead of sugar, but put them in each glass. They’ll get kind of goopy in the jug. Substitute orange or lime juice for all or part of the lemon; my favorite is about 1 part lime to 3 parts lemon.

One last thing. Try making moon tea. Start it before bed and it will be ready when you get up. Because it won’t get as warm as sun tea, it will have a delicate, subtle flavor. Use a light hand on the add-ins, and serve it to your sweetie for a little romance under the stars.

perf5.000x8.000.indd When a long-lost painting turns up at Brush & Bevel, a decade-old mystery is reawakened. What really happened to artist Jerry Berger and his model Abby Bingham? Was it a murder-suicide, as the police proclaim, or was it something far more sinister?

Gallery owner Ginny Brent and her loyal staffers, Sue Bradley and Elsie Kimball, each take a different path to unravel the mystery. Together, their discoveries start to form a cohesive whole. But as they get closer to the solution, they discover to their horror that art is not the only thing that can be framed.

About the Author: Nikki Andrews has worked as a picture framer, craft store clerk, and admin assistant, but in her real life she is a writer, editor, and songmaker. When she’s not at her desk, she may be releasing salmon fry on the Piscatquog River, making jams or sweaters, or exploring her surroundings on foot, bike, or snowshoe. She lives near a waterfall with her amazing husband, their persnickety cat, and assorted wildlife.

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LASR Anniversary: Julie B Cosgrove

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Waking and Walking
Julie B Cosgrove

In the first Bunco Biddies mystery I wrote, Dumpster Dicing, two of the retired citizens at Sunset Acres discover a body in the community dumpster on their daily morning power-walk! Walking in the early morning was one of the ways they stayed fit and healthy up into their sixties and seventies.

No matter your age, the more you can keep moving the better. Studies show just a brisk thirty-minute walk first thing in the morning can do wonders for your health, psyche and metabolism. So, recently, I decided to emulate my characters and get up, get out and get going.

Here in Texas, summer heat can be brutal by 11:00 a.m., so the earlier you can throw on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt and lace up your walking shoes the better. I have chosen to rise with the sun. I have my half hour of devotional and reflection time, down 16 ounces of water, then open my apartment door and greet the day. Here are a few of the benefits I have discovered during my early A.M. trek so far:

1. I am meeting more neighbors. I can offer a friendly wave or say, “Good morning” and help get their day started off on a positive note. That helps me do the same.

2. I hear birdsong, watch squirrels dashing across the branches, and even notice small insects going about their work.

3. I notice my stature is more erect. My shoulders slump less. My lungs fill with air. It always seems fresher in the morning.

4. I am sleeping better at night. Unless of course, one of the rafter-rumbling Texas summer storms roll through.

5. I have some nice conversations with my Maker as I stroll and enjoy His creation around me.

In my youth, I associated summers with sleeping in, being lazy and basking. Then life, work, raising a family and volunteering filled my days. Now, as I get older, I see I have missed out on a lot of the beautiful quiet times. True, we have to schedule them. But I am glad I decided to be more like my Bunco Biddies, Janie, Ethel and Betsy Ann, by getting out there daily and moving….hopefully I won’t find a body in my complex’s dumpster!

dumpsterdicing-w1000-oDid the newest resident of Sunset Acres have a dicey past? On their early morning power-walk, Bunco Biddies Janie and Betsy Ann discover him in their community dumpster…diced into pieces! They are determined to discover why, whether the local police want their help or not.

About the Author: Julie B Cosgrove is an award-winning novelist, freelance writer and public speaker. When she isn’t writing suspense romance and cozy mysteries she enjoys reading them. An avid word game player, Julie also writes regularly for eight faith-based publications and websites.

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LASR Anniversary – June Summers

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Mud Gutter
When I was a kid in the fifties, I couldn’t wait to play Mud Gutter with my friends. On a late summer afternoon we would gather in front of my house. Standing on the curb beside the bricked surface of the street, we would determine who would be IT and where the boundaries of the game would be. Everyone except IT would line up on the curb parallel to the street. IT would stand in the middle of the street and call out the number of steps (actually, jumps) we were allowed to take. The object was to get to the other side of the street without IT catching us. Thus, we wanted to take the biggest steps possible so that we didn’t have too much more distance to negotiate. The rule was that the curb was the departure point. I would go back from the curb as far as I could to enable me to get a running start. Then I would leap – one, two, three – and stop suddenly. If I didn’t stop on that very mark, IT could tag me and I would also be IT. After stopping, I was allowed to walk horizontally on an imaginary line in the street within the boundaries, waiting for my chance to dash across to safety on the other side. Sometimes I would fake IT out by pretending to start to run. However, I always had to keep one foot on that imaginary line. If I deviated from that line, IT could also tag me IT . Finally, I would take my chance and dash to the safe side. Every time IT caught someone, that person became IT also and had to aid the original IT in catching everyone else. This procedure went on, back and forth across the street, until there remained only one person – the winner. I was so proud of myself each time I won.

It was a fun and exciting game that we would play over and over night after night all summer long.

When I became an adult, I was curious to find the original rules of Mud Gutter, for we had made our own changes over the years. I actually did find similar rules to our childhood game in The James T. Callow Folklore Archive. However, I was astounded and shocked to find an entirely different meaning in the Urban Dictionary – “Mud Gutter A poop smeared ass crack. Usually the result of improper wiping or cleaning. May also be the result of a shart or fart in which you get more than you bargained for.”

LetFreedomRing_w10591 high resolutionWhen Avery Archer, an eleven-year-old boy, telephones Ken Driscoll, a young accountant, and pleads for help in escaping from his kidnappers, Ken thinks the boy is playing a sick prank. But after several daily calls, Ken truly believes the boy is in danger. When Ken contacts the local police for assistance, he learns Avery was abducted sixty-seven years ago and eaten by alligators in a nearby lake. Were they just prank telephone calls in the middle of the night, or were they desperate cries for help? The calls eventually force Ken to examine what is important in his life – his lob, his relationship with his fiancée, or the life of the boy at the end of the telephone line.

About the Author:I am a mature woman living in unincorporated Orange County, Florida, with my daughter, her family, four dogs, seventeen chickens, six Nigerian Dwarf goats, one horse, and 80,000 Italian honey bees. Graduating summa cum laude from Youngstown State University, I was an art teacher for several years. Now I am a part-time accountant working primarily from home. My daughter, Wendelin Saunders, who co-authored Let Freedom Ring, passed away from cancer in 2009. She graduated from Illinois Benedictine College with a major in math. Before her death, she and I ran an animal shelter in our home for forty dogs, twenty-two cats, and four rabbits.

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LASR Kim McMahill

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This post is part of Long and Short Review’s 9th Anniversary Celebration. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win a $100 gift card or other prizes.

Adventures In Gardening

Almost every activity is an adventure in Wyoming, including gardening. While growing up in this beautiful state, my family planted everything that would grow in Wyoming’s less than ideal conditions. We usually yielded enough to feed six families for at least a year which meant a fall of canning, freezing, drying, and storing vegetables. In my adult life I’ve scaled back considerably, but have found new challenges nearly everywhere I’ve lived.

Between the vog (volcanic smog) and banana slugs the size of my index finger on Hawaii’s Big Island, paradise was my least successful gardening adventure. With a small dog, poison wasn’t an option, so I spent many a nights armed with a flashlight and tweezers squeamishly picking slugs off plants, trying to trap them with beer (this was relatively effective), and experimenting with a host of other natural remedies, but in the end I lost. Jackson Hole was another bust. No amount of carrying pots inside at night and covering those that couldn’t be moved with blankets could compensate for about a 60 day growing season. And, even that was no guarantee, as I learned one July 4th while watching fireworks in the aftermath of a summer snow storm.

South Dakota had similar climatic conditions to Wyoming, but the deer loved to dine on my plants. I tried deer repellent spray and apparently they found that to be merely a seasoning spritz for their salad of my flowers (including thorny rose bushes), vegetables, fruits, and shrubs. We enclosed the garden in a six-foot high chain-link fence. Problem solved? Not quite, I forgot about the chipmunks, squirrels, birds, and baby bunnies (these little guys are particularly fond of cauliflower and cabbage). However, I could grow tomatoes in mass quantities if protected from the deer.

Next, Nebraska, this had to be the place, right? Honestly it was pretty good, but I did have a constant battle with insects and moles burrowing through my tiny garden plot, and didn’t have the space to really take advantage of the heat, humidity and low elevation. But, my affinity for growing tomatoes continued in epic proportions.

Now, I feel like I’ve nearly come full circle. I’m not quite in Wyoming, but just across the border in Colorado. The jury is still out on how successful my inaugural garden season will be, but I keep trying and will always enjoy my adventures in gardening.

For a fictional romantic suspense adventure made even more deadly due to Wyoming’s challenging conditions, be sure to check out A Dose of Danger, book 1 in the Risky Research series.

ADoseofDanger_1000x1500When researcher Grace Talbot and her team discover a possible solution for weight loss they are targeted by a group dedicated to controlling the multi-billion dollar a year diet-product industry. Her unsanctioned testing methods bring tragedy to the family ranch and the attention of the local sheriff’s deputy. With her colleagues either dead, missing, or on the run she soon realizes she must trust the deputy with her life, but can she trust him with her heart?

About the Author: Kim McMahill grew up in Wyoming, which is where she developed her sense of adventure and love of the outdoors. She started out writing non-fiction, but her passion for exotic world travel, outrageous adventures, stories of survival, and happily-ever-after endings soon drew her into a world of romantic suspense. Along with writing adventure novels Kim has also published over eighty travel and geographic articles, and contributed to a travel anthology and cookbook. When not writing, Kim enjoys gardening, traveling, and spending time with family. She currently resides in Colorado.

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Character Creation by Kayla Krantz – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Kayla Krantz will be awarding to a randomly drawn winner, via rafflecopter during the tour, one of the following: a paperback copy of Dead by Morning OR a ebook copy of Dead by Morning and a second RRPI ebook. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Character Creation

Creating the characters in Dead by Morning was a fun process from beginning to end. A handful of them, Max, Violet, and Amy, were based on real people, but Luna and Chance were created completely out of thin air. The interesting thing about my protagonist and antagonist is that they were made to be two halves of one mind.

Luna, my protagonist, loves to study and do her thing. She isn’t worried what others think of her, and she likes to follow the guides and rules set up by those around her to be a model citizen because she wants to be respected by her peers. Chance, the antagonist, is the complete opposite. He’s a rebel, destructive, and carefree. He’s manipulative, and gets what he wants only because he has nerve enough to break all the rules Luna spends her life carefully sticking to. He does what he can to not be alone, because deep down, he fears what his life will be.

While Luna is innocent, Chance is evil.

Together, Luna and Chance not only form two halves of a whole, they show the confliction of the need for good and bad that occurs inside everyone—protagonist and antagonist alike. They were created in this manner to show that not all people have black and white thinking. Good people have evil thoughts and those who are deemed evil may have good thoughts. Dead by Morning shows that who a person truly is depends solely on the voice that they choose to follow.

MediaKit_BookCover_DeadByMorningObsession is deadly. No one learns that better than Luna Ketz, a pessimistic high school senior. She wishes more than anything to graduate but things don’t always go as planned. Luna quickly finds herself trapped in a web of lies and murders, spun by the least suspected person in her hometown. It’s not long before she realizes she’s being targeted by the person she despises most in the world. When Luna figures out who is behind the killings, things make a turn for the bizarre when she is contacted by a friend she has not heard from in years. It is then Luna realizes she is very much in danger, but although she can avoid the killer in reality, she cannot avoid him in her dreams.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

There had to be something in the house that would better explain him. If there was, she would find it. She walked over to the beginning of the hall and set her hand against the wall. Once she reached the bathroom, she peeked over her shoulder to make sure Chance wasn’t paying attention. After a brief pause, she continued down the hallway.

All the doors along it were closed.

When she reached the end of the hallway, she turned to walk back toward the living room, checking the doors as she did so. They were all locked, until she pushed on one of them, and it swung open quietly on its hinges. Luna opened the door the rest of the way and stepped inside the room. Like the living room, candles lit the small space. Her eyes focused on two blood-red candles which sat in golden candle holders on the floor. At the base of the holders sat random bones which she guessed had belonged to the animals Chance had hunted.

The candles were lit—wax ran down them to drip onto the gold, looking like blood.

The two candles illuminated the wall above them, and Luna stared at it in horror; a five- pointed star had been drawn on the wall in bright red.

About the Author:MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_DeadByMorning22-year-old Kayla Krantz was raised in Michigan but moved to Texas and has experienced the best and worst of both. Since a young age she has be spinning tales. Kayla has interests in the dark and macabre. She enjoys ’80’s music and movies. When she has the chance, she loves to read books by Stephen King who inspired her to write. She was always interested in horror as they held a certain realism that fairytales lacked. While writing, she found herself drifting more toward Thriller which surprised her. Kayla describes the day she discovered that she would become a published author like so: “It’s hard to describe. I spent so many years climbing toward my goal, and when it finally happened, it was like all the burdens of stress and agony and uncertainty were just gone. I felt light, like I could run for the rest of my life off of the energy it gave me.”

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Writing Tips by Simon Cann – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Writing Tips

There’s only one writing tip that matters: write a good story.

And that’s it! All an author has to do is to tell a good story.

But let’s be more practical for a moment—if you want to tell a good story where do you start? For me, the place to start is with a scene.

A scene is the basic building block for a story. Any story—a short, a novella, a novel, or a whole series—is just a collection of scenes. Of course, you need to right scenes in the right order, but writing a great scene is a start.

Writers are often told to start with short stories—I disagree. Start with a scene—done right, it’s a novel in miniature.
So what is a scene?

In short, a scene is a self-contained unit of story. It is not a unit of backstory. It is not a unit of world building. If a bunch of words do not move the story forward, then they fail as a scene.

Every scene needs several elements:

1. A beginning. The beginning of a scene is the status of the main character in the scene before anything happens. This status does not need to be spelt out—it will likely be obvious from the preceding scene(s).
2. A middle—more of this in a moment, but in essence, this is where stuff happens.
3. An end. The end is reached by default—it is the status of the scene character after the middle.

At the end of scene, a character should be in a different place from where he or she was at the beginning of the scene. But more significantly, the character should be incapable of returning to that beginning status.

The middle—the change—doesn’t need to be a big thing, but there needs to be an irrevocable change. So for instance, shooting a gun is not an irrevocable change. Shooting a person, however, is a step from which a character cannot return.

To take this point further, it’s not the action that matters, it’s the consequences. It’s not the fact that the character has pulled the trigger—it’s the fact that a bullet has hit a person that gives the act its significance.

Once the change has occurred—so in this example, once the bullet has hit the person—the scene should end. The scene doesn’t need to resolve the issue—it’s enough for us to know that a bullet was fired and it hit a person. As readers we don’t need to also know what happened to the person who was shot. The consequences of the action are for another scene.

Leaving unresolved matters (such as the consequences for the person who is shot) is generally be a good thing. These unresolved issues are what make a reader turn pages wondering what happened. However, a scene does need something to change for a character, and for that character to matter in the context of the whole story.

MediaKit_BookCopy_ClementinaLeathan Wilkey has been hired to babysit Clementina, a seventeen-year-old whose rich daddy is going through a messy divorce and is over-compensating.

Leathan soon tires of her spending habits, her selfie obsession, and her social media preoccupation as his ward drags him from shop to boutique to jeweler, approaching each with the self-possession that comes from a lifetime of getting her own way and never once having to worry about money.

But when Clementina snaps her fingers and her boyfriend doesn’t come running, something is up. He doesn’t appear because he’s been murdered.

When Leathan investigates, he finds that the boyfriend has no background and met Clementina through a connection made by daddy’s business partner.

Daddy’s business partner who has been slowly and progressively putting daddy in a vice, grabbing more of the business, and who is now menacing Clementina directly to manipulate daddy.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

Clementina was clearly offended.

Offended by my apparently uncouth utterance. Offended that I was not paying due reverence. Offended that I was thinking money, when I should be appreciating the art. Offended in the way that only a seventeen-year-old can be offended.

She was able simultaneously to be both a child and a world-weary adult. Neither of whom was accepting of my situation; both of whom were deeply saddened by my obvious circumstances.

She was saddened that I could live in a world like this.

Some people are saddened about famine in Africa. Some are saddened about wars or religious fundamentalists imposing their unyielding doctrines on populations, killing and mutilating children and innocent adults. Clementina was saddened and offended—on my behalf—that the world of jewelry and the exquisite pleasure of fine gems set in delicate pieces of lovingly shaped precious metal had been withheld from me.

She knew—as only one who had been indoctrinated into the secret society knew—that if I had been exposed to the world of bijouterie, then I would appreciate the treat that was waiting for me.

What she didn’t know was that I hated being patronized by seventeen-year-olds. Even if their father was paying me. Not that her father and I had actually done anything as tedious as agreeing a fee.

Or meeting.

Or talking. Even on the phone.

About the Author:MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_ClementinaSimon Cann is the author of the Boniface, Montbretia Armstrong, and Leathan Wilkey series of books.

In addition to his fiction, Simon has written a range of music-related and business-related books, and has also worked as a ghostwriter.

Before turning full-time to writing, Simon spent nearly two decades as a management consultant, where his clients included aeronautical, pharmaceutical, defense, financial services, chemical, entertainment, and broadcasting companies.

He lives in London.

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The Empty Room by Sarah J. Clemens – Spotlight and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Sarah J. Clemens 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.

MediaKit_BookCover_TheEmptyRoomThe small town of Eastbrook, Maine seemed like the close-knit community where newlyweds Dean and Elizabeth Montgomery could begin their lives together, and the 1901 Victorian seemed like the house they’d always dreamed of owning. The only condition for purchasing the property was that it was sold in “as-is” condition.

When the couple arrives in Eastbrook, they receive anything but a warm welcome from the local residents. And when they realize that as-is condition meant that the previous owner of the house had left every worldly possession behind, the dream of the small town life starts to take a mysterious turn.

Day after day, Dean and Elizabeth uncover more truths than they could have ever imagined, or ever wanted to know about the secrets that were hidden in the small town of Eastbrook. And as neighbors become growingly hostile with every encounter, this young couple searches furiously to uncover what the residents are trying to hide.

As their journey unfolds, Elizabeth goes missing and Dean must turn to the very neighbors he fears may have known what would happen to her from the moment the couple arrived for help. Because in this town, some secrets are better off hidden.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

The car grumbled to a stop at the end of the gravel driveway. The three-day car trip was finally over. The gas station food and bathrooms stops were all behind them. They were home. The house might have been filled with someone else’s belongings, but they owned it now.

The house looked like a postcard from the outside. Small shrubs lined each side of the driveway as it suspiciously winded its way to the front porch. The grass was wet with dew after the recent rain.

As though looking at a piece of abstract art, Dean and Elizabeth both leaned forward in their seats toward the dash and squinted from inside the window of the car. Their eyes moved from left to right, making sure to taste every detail that first met their view.

“It’s gorgeous.” Elizabeth peered out from beneath the windshield.

With her eyes squinted and her mouth opened slightly, she studied every feature of architecture as though the house would greet her with an exam before allowing her to enter. She broke her concentration from the house and pressed her hand to the passenger side window, looking up and down to visually imprint every detail that awaited.

About the Author:Sarah J Clemens is the author of the debut novel, THE EMPTY ROOM. She began writing THE EMPTY ROOM in 2008 and formed her own publishing company in 2016 called Off the Page Publishing.

Sarah was born in California and now lives and works in Boise, Idaho. In addition to writing fiction, she is a legal assistant with an Associate of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.

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