Last Words, by Rich Zahradnik: New York City on the Brink in 1975

last_wordsLast Words ($13.95, 248 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-207-8), by debut author Rich Zahradnik, is book one of a new hardboiled detective series featuring newsman Coleridge Taylor. In Last Words Taylor struggles to keep his job and repair his tarnished reputation as he pursues a story about a dead teenager. The series is set on the mean streets of Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs in 1975.

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“A fast-paced, deeply entertaining and engrossing novel. Last Words is the first book in a mystery series featuring the intrepid investigative reporter. Readers will be glad these aren’t the last words from this talented author.”

Robin Farrell Edmunds, ForeWord Magazine, Winter 2014

“I didn’t realize how much I missed seedy gritty corrupt crime-ridden New York City of the 1970s till I read Zahradnik’s debut thriller. Last Words captures the palms-out politicians, the bully cops, the not-so-hapless homeless, the back-stabbing reporters of a city on the brink. The pace speeds up; the whispers and clues and leads all come together for a big empty-the-revolver and fling-the-vodka bottle finale. Well worth the trip back in time.”

—Richard Zacks, author of Island of Vice and Pirate Hunter

Last Words sizzles like the fuse on a powder keg. Hero reporter Coleridge Taylor is gritty and unstoppable as he plumbs the mean streets of New York City during its darkest days.”

—Paul D’Ambrosio, author of Easy Squeezy, winner of the Selden Ring investigation prize and a Pulitzer Prize gold medal finalist.

“Rich Zahradnik is a superb craftsman. Like a painter, he adds layers of detail to a canvas he loves until he has created a picture that enthralls. Last Words has both beguiling landscape and revealing portraits and is a picture worth all its thousands of words: Rich in intrigue.”

—Jeff Clark-Meads, author of The Plowman and Tungol.

“In 1975, as New York City collapses into a financial and violent sinkhole, journalist Coleridge Taylor dodges bullets and bounds from borough to borough to find the killer of a seemingly homeless boy, a crime that the NYPD can’t or won’t solve. The Bronx is Burning meets The Poet in Rich Zahradnik’s Last Words, a taut debut novel that keeps you guessing until the very end.”

—Vito J. Racanelli, author and journalist

“Like any great crime thriller, Last Words keeps the pace frenetic, dangerous, and surprising at every turn. Zahradnik delivers an intelligent, flawed hero in Coleridge Taylor while showcasing the darkness of New York in the ’70s that devoured the weak and unsuspecting. A visual, visceral debut from both the author and his lead crime reporter. I’m looking forward to more pulpy chapters.”

—Diane Becker, Producer, FishBowl Films

Last Words is as hard to put down as a grisly tabloid murder story. And indeed that’s what the story is about. Despite his literary name, Coleridge Taylor is the ‘Columbo’ of beat reporters, suffering no fools and pursuing the facts at all costs. Set in 1975, the discovery of a deceased kid, presumed homeless, sets in motion Taylor’s chilling odyssey.”

—Claire Atkinson, senior media reporter, the New York Post

In March of 1975, as New York City hurtles toward bankruptcy and the Bronx burns, newsman Coleridge Taylor roams police precincts and ERs. He is looking for the story that will deliver him from obits, his place of exile at the Messenger-Telegram. Ever since he was demoted from the police beat for inventing sources, the 34-year-old has been a lost soul.

A break comes at Bellevue, where Taylor views the body of a homeless teen picked up in the Meatpacking District. Taylor smells a rat: the dead boy looks too clean, and he’s wearing a distinctive Army field jacket. A little digging reveals that the jacket belonged to a hobo named Mark Voichek and that the teen was a spoiled society kid up to no good, the son of a city official.

Taylor’s efforts to protect Voichek put him on the hit list of three goons who are willing to kill any number of street people to cover tracks that just might lead to City Hall. Taylor has only one ally in the newsroom, young and lovely reporter Laura Wheeler. Time is not on his side. If he doesn’t wrap this story up soon, he’ll be back on the obits page—as a headline, not a byline.

Says Zahradnik, “The year 1975 and the city of New York intrigued me because of the very striking parallels to America today. Then as now, an unpopular war was finally coming to its sad end. A major institution, the city itself, tumbled toward bankruptcy, threatening a cataclysm on the entire financial system. This as banks and ratings agencies ignored the warning signs or willfully misled the public. I chose this time period for the differences as well as the similarities. Solving a mystery in 1975 required good old fashioned legwork and serious brainwork, rather than science fiction-like instant DNA typing and surveillance video available from any and every angle. Taylor has to find a pay phone when he needs to call someone. There’s something satisfying in that for me.”

Rich Zahradnik has been a journalist for 30-plus years, working as a reporter and editor in all major news media, including online, newspaper, broadcast, magazine, and wire services. He lives with his wife, Sheri, and son, Patrick, in Pelham, New York, where he teaches elementary school kids how to publish online and print newspapers. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“You’re the best goddamned reporter in the place.”

The passion in her voice forced Taylor to raise his eyes from his plate. Laura’s porcelain white skin reddened delightfully at any sort of emotion—anger, embarrassment, happiness.

He didn’t have a good answer. “I don’t need your pity.”

“No, you don’t. You’re wallowing in it fine all on your own. I stopped by again this morning. How can an obit writer be out of the office so much?”

“I was over in the South Bronx.”

“South Bronx?”

“I’ve got a lead on a good story, believe it or not.” He couldn’t help it. He needed to talk to someone. He told her about the search for Joshua Harper and Mark Voichek, all to ID a dead kid at Bellevue. He threw in the Street Sweepers for good measure.

“Man, Taylor, I’d hate to see what you’d do if they put you on the society desk.”

In spite of himself, Taylor chuckled and shook his head. “What do you want from me, Laura?”

“I’m worried about you. You’re one of the smart ones in that place.”

“That’s not saying much.”

“And to be honest,” she sipped her coffee, “I need your help.”

“Help?” It surprised him. He was having a hard enough time helping himself.

“They’re sticking me with all the nickel-and-dime stories. Two alarms, B&Es. Half don’t even make the Metro Briefs. Worse, they’ve got me doing research for other reporters. You know why? Because I’m a woman. Merton is covering a multiple on the Upper West Side. He just got out of grad school. Even I’ve been there longer.”

“He doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

“He’s a man. That’s all he needs. I talked with Kathy Loring on the political desk. Unless I want to work the society beat, girls end up doing research at the mighty MT, beacon of reform and liberality.”

Grandpop set Laura’s plate and coffee down. She took a bite and smiled. “Mmm, that’s so good, Stamitos. Your food is amazing.” Her cheeks tinged pink. “My plan is to uncover my own leads. I want your help.”

“Welcome to the find-your-own-story club.”

Grandpop topped off their coffee cups. He was visiting the table at least twice as often as necessary. He squeezed Taylor’s shoulder as he went back to the counter.

“I like your grandfather.”

“Such an old dear.”

“I don’t mean it that way. He cares about you. It’s obvious.”

“He’s the best my family has. Left, that is.”

“Your family did pretty well by you.”

He stabbed a couple of fries and a piece of his omelet. He so missed talking to Laura. Was she interested in him or his story ideas? He had never been sure. Christ, trying to figure out what a woman wanted turned him into a complete idiot. Everyone seemed to be playing by a different rulebook. The younger women, certainly. The sexual revolution and all that. The ones in their thirties, like him? They’d settled down long ago with other men after adding up the hours and pay of a newspaperman.

 

Marco and the Devil’s Bargain, Book 2 of The Spanish Brand, a new Historical Romance Series by Award-Winning Author Carla Kelly

marcoMarco and the Devil’s Bargain ($14.95, 256 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-229-0) is a new historical romance by Carla Kelly that takes place at the end of the 18th Century, during the decline of the Spanish Empire in the New World. A brand inspector and his wife fight the scourge of smallpox by bravely venturing onto the Staked Plains, stronghold of the Comanche. As part of a devil’s bargain, they must put themselves at the mercy of these dangerous enemies and try to inoculate them, also a risky proposition. Marco and The Devil’s Bargain follows The Double Cross as the second book of Kelly’s all-new Spanish Brand Series.

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The trade paperback of Marco and the Devil’s Bargain is distributed by Epicenter Press/Aftershocks Media.

Kelly is the recipient of two RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America for Best Regency of the Year; two Spur Awards from Western Writers of America; a Whitney Award for Best Romance Fiction, 2011; another Whitney for Best Historical Fiction, 2012; and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Romantic Times.

“Marco Mondragón, a lawman on the New Mexican frontier in 1782, fears that his young wife, Paloma, will be stricken by the smallpox epidemic. When their Comanche friend, Toshua, rescues Anthony Gill, a white physician, from the desert, they strike the titular bargain: Anthony will inoculate Paloma and their neighbors, and Marco and Toshua will escort Anthony to a Comanche hideaway that he suspects harbors his kidnapped daughter. Kelly brings historical verisimilitude to the setting, and her story brims with compassion for the human condition…. [There are] powerful themes of disease, infertility, strength in the face of loss, and kindness between individuals whose cultures are at war. Though la viruela is, in some ways, the story’s main character, the love between Marco and Paloma, equal parts strong attachment and mutual high regard, takes emotional center stage, a satisfying oasis of beauty in the midst of stark harshness.”

—Publishers Weekly, 9/2014

Grade A: “To begin with, Marco and Paloma are a wonderful couple. They know each other very well, and in spite of not reading the first book, in which their characters were initially developed, I came to know them well too. Paloma is a strong, sweet woman, perfectly suited to her honorable, Spanish husband. They are both at their best when they’re together—not because they get outrageously maudlin when apart, but rather because they work as a team when they’re together, supporting each other as all good couples do. However, if Marco and Paloma were the only two characters I loved, this book would only make it to B+ territory for me. What made Marco and the Devil’s Bargain a DIK for me was the cast of secondary characters. Every single one of them, from Anthony Gill down to the Comanches Marco and Paloma met, was amazingly complex and realistic. I cannot think of the last time secondary characters seemed so vivid to me. There are some series which need to be read in order if they are to be understood. Carla Kelly’s Spanish Brand series is not one of these. Although I didn’t read The Double Cross first, as I should have, I still managed to fall head over heels for Marco and Paloma. To me, that is a good testament to Ms. Kelly’s amazing writing. I can’t wait to get my hands on another one of her books.” Read more ….

—Alexandra Anderson, All About Romance

“I found this book a pleasure to read, the characters well-formed and credible. Her knowledge and understanding of the era are excellent. I look forward to her next in the series. Highly recommended.”  Read more ….

—Historical Novel Society

“Marco and the Devil’s Bargain is Book Two of the “Spanish Brand” series, but it stands alone well. The time period is 1782 on the Spanish frontier of New Mexico, and Marco Mondragon has settled in on his land grant with his new wife Paloma Vega. All seems well, until the Dark Wind, smallpox, comes barreling down on them from the Comancheria. The Indians got it from the white man, who is busy sorting out the results of the American Revolution. A fascinating and different premise, with an arrogant English physician as the antagonist, and Comanches as surprising allies—a romance in the middle of a really good Western novel.”
Roundup Magazine

The year is 1782. Marco Mondragón, brand inspector in Spanish New Mexico, and his wife Paloma Vega have settled happily into married life on the Double Cross. And yet Paloma is convinced their joy will not be complete until she has a child. She longs to give her husband a baby to soothe his grief over the death from cholera of his first wife and twin sons.

Marco’s land grant stands at the edge of the most dangerous region in the Southwest: Comanchería. Both Paloma and Marco have suffered at the hands of the fierce Comanche, losing beloved family members in raids.

Despite their fear and mistrust of the Comanche, one lives among them. Paloma rescued Toshua from slavery and near death. As much as she respects the man now, Paloma wishes he would return to the Staked Plains, Comanche stronghold to the east in Texas. No one knows why Toshua remains at the Double Cross. Is it because his own tribe shunned him, or is he genuinely attached to its owners?

Now a new enemy threatens the Mondragóns’ domestic bliss: the Dark Wind—la viruela, smallpox—barreling down on the defenseless royal colony from Comanchería. A mysterious and arrogant English physician named Anthony Gill offers their one hope at salvation … but only if Marco agrees to his Devil’s Bargain.

Says Kelly, “There is something so fun about revisiting characters from an earlier book. I’ve come to know Marco, Paloma and Toshua well, and want to know more about them. The only way that happens is if I keep writing about them! I also understand why readers like series.”

A well-known veteran of the romance writing field, Carla Kelly is the author of thirty-one novels and four non-fiction works, as well as numerous short stories and articles for various publications. Carla’s interest in historical fiction is a byproduct of her lifelong study of history. She has a BA in Latin American History from Brigham Young University and an MA in Indian Wars History from University of Louisiana-Monroe. Click here to find Carla online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

He must have noticed her hesitation, because he calmed himself, even as she watched. He took her hand and it trembled in hers.

“What, my love? Surely there is nothing worse that Señor Gil could have told you than what we already know is coming our way.”

Alert now, wary even, she watched his expression change into precisely that look of false good will that she had been thinking of practicing on him. This would never do. She grasped his hand and tugged him down the hall into Luisa Gutierrez’s sala, which she knew was empty now, all the knitters gone. He did not resist as she towed him along, a little woman dragging a tall man who put up no resistance. Good thing the governor could not see his juez de campo now.

She closed the door behind them and sat down on the earthen bench that was part of the inner adobe wall. She patted the spot beside her. When he sat down, she took his hand and clutched it to her breast. “What is it, Marco?”

He tried to smile, then obviously gave it up as a bad business. She could almost see him thinking something through; she knew him that well.

“I have very good news, my love. That man”—he nearly spit out the word, then collected himself with great effort—“that man is a physician. He has the capacity to inoculate you, and he will.”

Paloma closed her eyes and felt herself melt like butter, so great was her relief. “Gracias a Dios,” she murmured, and touched her forehead to his shoulder. She opened her eyes and looked at him again, mystified by the expression of vast disquietude. Surely he should be happy at this news. True, inoculations themselves could be dangerous, but that was a chance everyone took. There must be more.

“What else?” she asked.

“Nothing else,” he said too quickly. “We’ll take him with us and see how many of our people, Toshua included, will agree to inoculation. We’ll probably have to wait here a day while he inoculates my nephews, but then—”

She put her fingers to his lips, stopping the flow of words. “What else?” she asked again.

“Nothing else.”

“Don’t you dare lie to me!” She hadn’t meant her words to come out with such force. He winced, and Paloma knew he had never heard that tone of voice from her before. Well, too bad. He was not telling her what was written so clearly in his eyes and in the way his hands still trembled. “Not to me, Marco. Not ever to me.”

He leaned back against the wall, something he seldom did, this man who sat so straight, as though he were always in the saddle. He banged his head gently against the wall with increasing force until, horrified, she put her hand behind his head to cushion the blows. He stopped.

“What is he making you do?” she asked.

Deadly Shuffle, by Norma Lehr: Sudden Death at a Card Game

deadly_shuffleA Palm Springs poisoning stirs up the past.

Deadly Shuffle ($13.95, 218 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-979-4) is the second mystery by Norma Lehr featuring retired show dancer and Sacramento dance business owner, Abby Rollins. This adventure takes Abby to Palm Springs, where instead of enjoying a much-deserved weekend off, she must delve into her reckless mother’s past to find out why she has disappeared.

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I RECOMMEND this fun, energetic, chick-lit mystery that keeps you enthralled and guessing. It features a seventy-ish show-biz mother and several of her past beaux, any one of whom might be fifty-ish daughter Abby’s father, and Abby’s new boyfriend, private eye Blade Garret, whose mother was a figure skater — hence the unusual first name. There is romance, murder, several family secrets, mob connections and a possible half-brother of Abby’s. You know, the usual family drama.”  Read more …

—Barbara B. Oliver, I Love a Mystery

Trish Malone is a member of the Malone Sisters’ singing trio, which rose to fame in the ’60s. She is also the mother of Abby Rollins, a retired dancer and owner of Starduds, a flourishing dance supply business. When Trish’s sister Ginny drops out of the Palm Springs Follies because of hip surgery, Trish wants to take her place, but first she must learn some basic dance moves. Abby gives her a few lessons, and her mother is hired.

Abby’s new beau, private eye Blade Garret, wants to whisk her away for a romantic weekend. What better destination than Palm Springs, where Abby can also visit her aunt Ginny and see her mother perform? Upon their arrival, things get complicated. First an old flame of her mother’s keels over dead during a poker game attended by several other men from Trish’s past. Then Trish vanishes, leaving an unlocked car and a briefcase full of papers from her real estate business. Dr. Thomas Levine, a plastic surgeon, was poisoned. Did Trish kill him? Is she hiding from the killer? Or is she dead, too—silenced to prevent her from revealing a terrible truth in her memoirs? Abby is determined to find out.

Trish Malone spent much of Abby’s childhood on the road, leaving many questions unanswered. Now Abby must fill in the blanks in time to save her mother’s life without losing her own.

A former nurse and health food store owner from the Bay Area, Norma Lehr has four children and five grandchildren. She lives in Auburn, California, in the beautiful Sierra foothills with her husband. Norma is a multi-genre author of short stories, a middle-grade ghost series, and an adult supernatural suspense novel, Dark Maiden (Juno Books, 2007). For more information, go to www.normalehr.com.

Says Lehr, “I’m an old movie buff. Whenever I visit Palm Springs, which isn’t often enough, my imagination reels back to the desert playground of the glamorous stars of the past. I find myself floating in a pool where Elvis once swam, then having a drink at a bar where Marilyn once sat. And then there’s The Fabulous Follies at the Historic Plaza Theatre. I’ve loved every sellout performance I’ve attended and I’m more than saddened that their final performance will be May 2014.”

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“Dawson’s still out by your mom’s car taking notes. We should probably join him.”

Abby grabbed his hand. “No, you don’t. You said this might be info about Trish. Stay here until you finish telling what happened.”

Blade nodded. “Okay, okay. But I’ll hurry. One drink led to two more before he admitted driving to the Palms to meet the client’s wife and escort her to the ball.

“The guy shrugged and said, ‘That’s as far as it goes, man. She’s staying with friends until she drives back home. Her old man wouldn’t take her to the ball.’ He snorted. ‘So what did he expect? You tell him if he’s got a beef, I’ll be waiting for him.’ ”

Abby waited. “So now what? How does this tie in? Is your job here finished?”

“Not quite. It all sounded innocent enough. If the guy was on the level, he’d let his client’s wife sort it out. So I decided to call the husband, send photos, and return my party suit. But not before I got paid. The Philly guy hung around. Figured he must like me or else he was drunk.”

Blade leaned across the table. “Now listen up. This is the important part. Before another round was ordered, he started grumbling about a poker game he’d attended the night before where one of the players keeled over. Dead!”

Trish’s game?

I put down my beer, ordered black coffee, sobered up and listened to the guy’s story. Crazy coincidence? You bet. And you’ll find this hard to swallow. He’s your mother’s literary agent.” Blade squinted. “You do know she’s writing her memoir?”

Abby nodded slowly. “She mentioned it. I didn’t take much notice at the time.”

“Well, she is. Seems back in the day she was involved with some big shot in the mob. Her agent says that if she includes that part of her life in the book, some mobsters aren’t going to be too happy.”

Abby closed her eyes. Mobsters. Good grief. No. Bad grief! Her mother was more trouble than her teenage twins ever were. What was it brought her to Palm Springs in the first place? Not specifically to see her mother on stage. Or to visit with family. She came here to get away from the stress and responsibility of her store for a couple of days. Maybe, just maybe enjoy a little romance with Blade at the Caliente. Now all of this was blowing up in her face.

Go Go Gato, by Max Everhart: A Ballplayer Vanishes

go_go_gatoGo Go Gato ($14.95, 278 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-911-4), by Max Everhart, is the first book in a new mystery/suspense series set in Asheville, North Carolina, and featuring Eli Sharpe, a former baseball player turned detective.

Go Go Gato is the debut entry in a promising new series by Max Everhart, and it’s a fast-paced, entertaining tale. Eli Sharpe is a very appealing character who combines just the right amounts of wit, humor, intelligence and courage, and it will be fun to watch him in action as the series continues to grow and develop.”

—James L. Thane, author of Until Death and No Place to Die

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“The author really created a world that has so many interesting characters that he will have no problem with future books in the series. The ex-fiances were my favorite characters and the fact that Eli still talks to them really says a lot about his character. The Private Eye Genre is getting smaller and I am glad that there are authors out there still writing about them.” Read more….

—Deal Sharing Aunt

The author really created a world that has so many interesting characters that he will have no problem with future books in the series. The ex-fiances were my favorite characters and the fact that Eli still talks to them really says a lot about his character. The Private Eye Genre is getting smaller and I am glad that there are authors out there still writing about them. I – See more at: http://dealsharingaunt.blogspot.com/2014/10/go-go-gato-by-max-everhart-review.html#sthash.MPh4rAGA.dpuf
The author really created a world that has so many interesting characters that he will have no problem with future books in the series. The ex-fiances were my favorite characters and the fact that Eli still talks to them really says a lot about his character. The Private Eye Genre is getting smaller and I am glad that there are authors out there still writing about them. I – See more at: http://dealsharingaunt.blogspot.com/2014/10/go-go-gato-by-max-everhart-review.html#sthash.MPh4rAGA.dpuf
The author really created a world that has so many interesting characters that he will have no problem with future books in the series. The ex-fiances were my favorite characters and the fact that Eli still talks to them really says a lot about his character. The Private Eye Genre is getting smaller and I am glad that there are authors out there still writing about them. I – See more at: http://dealsharingaunt.blogspot.com/2014/10/go-go-gato-by-max-everhart-review.html#sthash.MPh4rAGA.dpuf

“From its hero to its milieu to its eccentric, three-dimensional characters, Max Everhart’s Go Go Gato is a terrific read. The North Carolina minor-league baseball scene feels authentic and beloved, and I was always rooting for protagonist Eli Sharpe. The best news is that this excellent mystery is first in a series. Fans of Harlan Coben will want to check out Max Everhart, a major new talent!”

—Steve Ulfelder, Edgar finalist author of Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage

“Max Everhart scores a homerun with this first novel in his new Eli Sharpe mystery series. Eli finds much more than he bargained for in his search for a missing baseball player in this fast read, best enjoyed with a glass of George Dickel in hand since that’s Eli’s favorite ‘poison.’ Like a good curveball you won’t see the twist ending coming at you.”

—Paul D. Marks, author of the Shamus Award-Winning novel, White Heat

“A missing persons case turns deadly. In Go Go Gato, Everhart executes the classic mystery with ease and more than a few twists. All the modular scenes are there—the sleuth’s office, first encounter with the femme fatale, the victim’s lair, digging up the past, witness interviews, suspect interviews, and that essential—the corpse. But we’re not in LA or Boston. We’re not in SF or NYC. Everhart sets this fine novel in Asheville, NC, and he breathes new life into an old form with a convoluted plot, detailed characters, and a very flawed detective. Chandler would be proud.”

—Jack Remick, poet, essayist and author of several novels, including Montaigne Medal and ForeWord BOTY Finalist Gabriela and The Widow

When Almario “Go Go” Gato, a handsome young Cuban baseball player, goes missing mid-season, his agent Veronica Craven hires a private investigator to track down her best client. No police. No press. Enter Eli Sharpe, an Asheville, North Carolina-based ex-ballplayer turned private detective who specializes in investigating professional athletes.

Eli begins by questioning Maria Gato, Almario’s roommate and fraternal twin. Maria watched while both her parents drowned on the boat ride from Cuba to America, so she is naturally desperate to get her only brother back. She tells Eli a secret: Almario may have a problem with drugs and alcohol.

Eli tracks down Almario’s supposed girlfriend, a rich sorority girl, but is soon led to another woman in his life, Sheri Stuckey, his cocaine supplier and fiancée who works in tandem with a gay bartender named Dantonio Rushing. Stuckey, a drug abuser and single mother, claims Almario split because she wanted the two of them to check into rehab. But Rushing, dazzled by Almario’s boyish good looks, tells a different tale: Almario has taken out a $500,000 life insurance policy on himself and named Stuckey as the primary beneficiary.

With the help of his a mentor—a former homicide detective—and five ex fiancées who still care about him, Eli follows Go Go’s trail, determined to locate the elusive ballplayer before one of the nasty people in his life—or his own bad habits—do him in.

Says Everhart, “Eli Sharpe is an amalgamation, a Frankenstein I cobbled together out of spare parts just lying around the junkyard in my brain. From television, I constructed my detective from Atlanta Braves games circa mid-1980s, reruns of The Rockford Files, the first season of The Wire, andthe Fletch movies. From hard-boiled PI books, I borrowed elements from Lew Archer, Philip Marlowe, C.W. Sughrue, Archy McNally, and dozens of other fictional detectives. From my own life, I drew on half-remembered conversations between my father and me, fragmented images from my time in Asheville, and god-only-knows what else. But in the end, Go Go Gato is the kind of story I like to read, and Eli Sharpe is the type of detective that I, as a reader, would become obsessed with. Hopefully, other readers will share my obsession.”

Max Everhart has a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Alabama, Birmingham. His short stories have been published in CutBank, Elysian Fields Quarterly, Slow Trains Journal, and juked. His short story, “The Man Who Wore No Pants,” was selected by Michael Knight for Best of the Net 2010 and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web Anthology. Currently, he teaches English and Creative Writing at Northeastern Technical College and Coker College. Go Go Gato is his first novel.  Click here to find Max on the Web.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Veronica pushed her sunglasses atop her head and produced a key. She unlocked a little red box above the other elevator buttons and pressed the only button inside. “The penthouse,” she said. “Top floor.”

“So you’ve already seen her today?”

“Yes, I drove from the airport to DMSI Investigations and then straight here.”

“So you lied to me.” Eli stood on his tiptoes and looked down. “You’re taller than six feet.”

The elevator opened directly into the fifth floor penthouse.

“This way,” Veronica said, and Eli followed.

The apartment was open concept with more white marble floors and walls. The main living area had twenty-foot ceilings and a large glass window overlooking the downtown cityscape and the Blue Ridge Mountains beyond. There was a 50-inch plasma screen TV mounted on the wall, and a red velvet loveseat and matching armchair arranged around an ultra-modern coffee table made of dark wood with a white lacquered surface. Marquez’s novel Love in the Time of Cholera lay dog-eared on the coffee table along with a Statistics textbook. Eli shuddered at the memory of taking STATS 215—all those nights spent guzzling instant coffee and staring at a blank sheet of graphing paper. Something spicy was cooking somewhere, and his stomach groaned.

“Wait here,” Veronica said and clicked her heels into the kitchen, which was separated from the rest of the space by a wall that only reached halfway to the ceiling.

Eli sat down in the velvet armchair and picked up Marquez’s novel. He didn’t read Spanish, but as he stared at the opening paragraph, he remembered the book’s opening, something about death and the smell of almonds. He put the book back where he found it and walked to the large picture window. The traffic inched along Biltmore Avenue below. Sunlight gleamed off the hoods of cars and neighboring buildings. A small band of Phish fans milled around the fountain, strumming guitars for spare change and smoking cloves. Eli walked to a door leading out to the terrace. A selling feature for most, but he didn’t care for heights. Or stainless steel furniture. He returned to the red velvet armchair and waited.

Several minutes later Veronica waved Eli toward the kitchen. She leaned in close, grabbed hold of his jacket lapels, and stared into his eyes. “No bullshit, Almario is all she has.” She bit her lip and let go of his jacket, smoothed out the wrinkles she’d made. “At the moment, he’s all I have.”

Eli got his first look at Maria Gato in the kitchen, which was massive and cold like the rest of the apartment. Raven-haired with a dark brown face sprinkled with pimples, Maria stood over a steaming sauce pan, her marble-black eyes focused on what looked like chicken bubbling in a reddish sauce. Her skin tone was much darker than Almario’s, and standing next to Veronica, Maria appeared dwarfish and plump, bordering on fat. Her clothes weren’t flattering either: a baggy tie-dyed T-shirt splattered with flour and red sauce and Jordache blue jeans that hung loose off her wide hips.

Eli introduced himself, and Maria lowered her eyes as she shook his hand. Firm grip. Strong, callused hands.

Veronica opened a drawer, removed a clean white apron, and slipped it over her pencil skirt, tying it off in the back. She put a hand on Maria’s shoulder. “Eli Sharpe, the quiet one here is Maria Gato, Almario’s twin sister. Maria, Mr. Sharpe is the private investigator I hired to find Almario. He needs to ask you some questions. Don’t worry, he’s here to help.”

Maria nodded a second time and continued stirring her pot with a wooden spoon.

Veronica nodded at Eli.

Eli said, “Veronica tells me you received an email from Almario yesterday. Is that right?”

“No, it isn’t,” Maria snapped. “The email was from Almario’s address, but it wasn’t him.”

“Do you mean someone other than Almario wrote it?”

“Yes, someone else wrote it.”

“How do you know?”

“The grammar. It was full of mistakes.”

Dead in the Water, by Lesley A. Diehl: A Mob Hit in the Swamps of Rural Florida

dead_waterBetween the pressures of her consignment store and her uncle getting whacked, Eve’s feeling a little swamped.

In Dead in the Water ($13.95, 246 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-937-4), a new cozy mystery by Lesley A. Diehl, consignment shop owner Eve Appel vows to find the killer of her wise-guy uncle after he is shot in the head on a sightseeing trip.

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Dead in the Water is the second Eve Appel Mystery, set in rural Florida. The series began with A Secondhand Murder. Lesley has five other published mysteries: A Deadly Draught, Poisoned Pairings, Dumpster Dying, Angel Sleuth, and Grilled, Chilled, and Killed.

“A well crafted cozy mystery that has action, adventure and detective work involved through a few interesting and fun characters to read about. While reading the book I got intrigued enough by Eve and her list of quirky friends that I’d like to read more books in the series. Especially about Eve’s Indian friend.”  Read more….

—Mystery Sequels

“There is action galore. The plot becomes more convoluted as new developments take place just as answers seem evident. Each twist is followed by a further twist, the action is continuous, and Eve is suitably confused…. RECOMMENDED.”  Read more ….

—Michael F. Hennessey, I Love a Mystery

“How can you not love a cheeky Yankee-chick-consignment-shop-entrepreneur who’s willing to fight alligators, the Russian mob, and treacherous blackmailers to avenge her uncle’s murder? Eve Appel is strong-willed and sassy and will stop at nothing to save her kidnapped friend and learn the truth, even it means putting herself in danger or ruining her Jimmy Choos. Eve does it all with class and a gaggle of smitten lovers and quirky friends. Dead in the Water is a laugh-out-loud cozy with just the right balance of suspense, plot twists, romance, and airboat rides.”

—Sharon Potts, author of South Beach Cinderella

“Lesley Diehl has outdone herself with Dead in the Water. She still has her carefully drawn characters you enjoy knowing and the sense of humor that makes you laugh out loud. But in Dead in the Water, Diehl has developed her most involved plot. With murder, kidnapping, the mob and alligators, you won’t want to put the book down. This second Eve Appel Mystery is a must read.”

—James R. Callan, author of Cleansed by Fire and A Ton of Gold

“Like the biblical Eve, Eve Appel, the main character in Lesley Diehl’s Dead In The Water, is an impulsive, curious, and determined woman who doesn’t always live by the rules. Those characteristics place her in extremely dangerous situations and add to the intriguing plot in this second book in the series.”

—Patricia Gligor, author of Mixed Messages, Unfinished Business, and Desperate Deeds.

Sabal Bay consignment shop owner Eve Appel is fit to be tied—family tied. Just as she is basking in the warmth of a renewed relationship with her long-lost Uncle Winston, disaster strikes. He and his less welcome companion, Darlene, have come for a visit, and their request to participate in one of rural Florida’s most popular tourist activities, an airboat ride through the swamps, ends with her uncle being shot in the head. The killing looks suspiciously like a mob hit.

Turns out Uncle Winston was “connected.” Was he simply a bag man, or something more? Who is Darlene, really, and how did Winston acquire three Russian stepchildren, one of whom has been kidnapped by yet another mob family—this one Russian? Winston claimed to prize family above all else, but what “family” was he talking about: his niece Eve, his relations by marriage, or his mobster employers?

When Eve’s best friend Madeleine is kidnapped, Eve doesn’t know where to turn. Her mob-boss buddy Nappi Napolitani? Her new Miccosukee Indian friend, the long, lean, and luscious Sammy Egret? Her ex-husband, Jerry, who is in Nappi’s employ? With two mob families on her tail and her boyfriend, PI Alex Montgomery, mostly away on assignment, Eve has to act fast. Before whoever wrecked her car and left her to the mercy of the alligators finishes the job they started.

Says Diehl, “In A Secondhand Murder sassy gal Eve found she a lot to learn from mob boss Nappi Napolitani, and she’s still learning. I had so much fun with Nappi, I knew I’d feature him in Dead in the Water, but add another crime syndicate, the Russian Mob to make things even crazier. Then I introduced Eve to a very different kind of man by tossing her into the swamps with a hunky Miccosukee Indian. Of course, Eve discovers she likes him for more than simply his survival skills. American mob, Russian mob, handsome Indian. Boy, will Alex be mad at this turn of events.”

Lesley A. Diehl 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. Back north, she devotes her afternoons to writing and, when the sun sets, relaxing on the bank of her trout stream, sipping tea or a local microbrew. Click here to find Lesley online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“You need something?”

“A ride on your boat. How much?” Why else would I be here? Not for the polite conversation.

He uncrossed his arms and stepped forward. “It’s kind of late in the day. And it’s cold. You sure you wouldn’t want to come back another time?” He looked me up and down, then settled his gaze on my boots. His surly attitude swept my hesitation to one side. I was determined to have a trip on that boat today.

“I need to go now.”

His sweeping visual assessment of me made me feel as if my clothes hid nothing.

He nodded. “Emu?”

“I’m sorry. I don’t understand the Seminole language.”

“I’m Miccosukee. I wondered if your boots were made of emu.”

“Oh.” I gave a nervous laugh. “Ostrich.”

“Well, we were both wrong then, I guess. That’ll be twenty bucks.” He held out his hand for the money.

I extracted the bill from my jeans pocket. When he took it, he held onto my hand just a moment too long. The touch was electric. When he let go, I felt as if my hand had been branded. The heat of his touch remained. He gestured to follow him to the boat.

I walked behind him, marveling at his height. He had to be at least six feet six. I’d never seen a native this tall. Most were shorter, rounder.

As if he could read my thoughts, he turned and stopped. “My mother was white. Tall like you, but she had more up top.” He then continued down the path.

“Listen, you—”

“What?”

He stopped and walked back toward me.

“You want to go someplace in particular.” It was a statement, not a question.

How did he know that?

If the first airboat was like being on a carnival ride, this smaller boat slipped and slid over the surface of the water like a toboggan on ice. I hung onto the side of the boat as if expecting to be thrown into the water at any moment. Just when I told myself I had adjusted to the swaying motion and could move with it, the boat made a sudden jerk to the left. I gripped the side with both hands. I could almost feel the pilot smirking at my fear.

I had told him where I wanted to go, simply describing the place as the one where the other airboat company visited the resident gator. I didn’t have to provide anything more in the way of directions. My guide nodded. “I know the place. It’s the one where the Hardy boy likes to annoy Mathilda.”

“Mathilda?”

“Mama gator.”

“He told us they were all mamas.”

“Yeah, well, he’s dead wrong or will be when he chooses one of the big ones to hassle during mating season. What that boy knows about gators wouldn’t fill a shot glass.”

City of Tigers, by Leif Chappelle: A Fantasy World Where Machines Prevail Over Magic

city_of_tigersCity of Tigers ($14.95, 280 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-973-2) is a work of fantasy by debut novelist Leif Chappelle about a street musician who conjures music out of the air, despite the disapproval of the authorities.

City of Tigers is Book 1 of a new fantasy series: Under the Sunstone.

“Mr. Chappelle has crafted a dark and moody journey through an alternate Earth filled with interesting characters, intriguing magic, and creative alternative technology.”

—John Patrick Lowrie, author of Dancing with Eternity

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Raised by his mother in the small town of Havlandsby, young Sigurd watches the projektors make their rounds, keeping the town lit and warm in the dark, cold winters, ensuring that water fills the wells. Their communion with the elements is as old as the world itself, but the projektors are losing their influence, and fewer of them are being born. Their duties are slowly being taken over by inanimate objects—the machinae—and the people they serve are fleeing their homes in droves for the cities.

After Sigurd’s mother dies, he joins the exodus to Tigrebyn, the City of Tigers, where he must fend for himself among the petty thieves and heartless merchants. Finally Sigurd meets Ragna, who has taken it upon herself to track and protect the remaining projektors, now punished for practicing the ancient art of projeksjon and labeled conspirators against the Crown. Sigurd’s particular art is nothing as mundane as bringing forth light, warmth, and water. Sigurd can command the very air to transform the sounds in his head into complex musical compositions, conducting an invisible orchestra of instruments and effects.

The professors at the University, who answer to the Queen, wish to use Sigurd’s gift to invent the greatest machina yet—but first they must bend the young man to their will.

Says the author, “I envisioned a world where magic is practiced that is not a form of sorcery, but a natural part of everyday life—utilitarian. It started with the question: ‘What if we never needed to invent modern technology?’ But then the secondary question arose: ‘What happens when the magic—control of the elements—goes away?’ A lot of current fantasy literature centers around post-apocalyptic worlds where technology goes away. The most human reaction, of course, is to replace what has been lost by any means necessary. Thus, the creation of ‘machina.’ From there, I imagined what sort of conflict would arise if the replacement for magic grew in popularity while some magic users still existed and were trying to earn a living. What social stigmas would be placed upon them? What kind of oppression would they fall victim to? What sort of uprising would take place? These are the questions that set the stage for City of Tigers.”

Leif Chappelle was born and raised in Seattle, WA, and studied music composition at Cornish College of the Arts. He has written accompaniments for a number of collaborations with dance choreographers, music for classroom education software, and a number of video games. Most notably, he has contributed to critically acclaimed PC game Guild Wars 2, writing music and contributing all manner of nefarious plot developments in the game’s ongoing story. His music can be found on his studio’s website, www.woodlandalien.com, as well as Soundcloud and Bandcamp. For more information, go to www.leifchappelle.com.

Keep Reading for an excerpt:

It is becoming very warm. Sigurd loosens his collar, unfastening the first button. The motion shakes the droplet free, and it falls, landing directly on the incomplete chord. The ink runs, dragging its tail along the rest of the page. Sigurd swears. It’s enough to let the music leave his ears. Other sounds drift in to replace them. A low bass that is not a bass. A roar that is no instrument.

Sigurd tears the thin door open, eyes flitting across every surface of the burning landscape. He attempts to spring up from his kneeling position, but his foot hooks under the edge of the table, sending him sprawling halfway out of the room. He lands stomach-first on the jagged step up, pressing the air from his lungs. Gasping, he drags himself out of the side room and into the inferno. From all directions, scents of charcoal, oolong, and chai waft over him. He hears every small creak and pop of the wood expanding and bursting while the flame engulfs it in its monstrous roar. His only coherent thought is, Where am I?

Sigurd takes several short breaths, wincing from the pain they cause. Nothing serious. Just winded. Think, Sigurd! Exit. Find the exit. A loud crack like breaking bone rings out from above. Disoriented, Sigurd hears the sound of the beam falling before he sees it. It strikes a table, which collapses under the weight of the flaming mass. It is all he can do to stand his ground.

Thoom. The sound of something large crashes against what he now recognizes as the front door. Thoom. Instinctively, Sigurd dives for cover behind the front counter. With a resounding crash, the door bursts open, revealing a terrifying sight: a creature, pitch black like the stories of The First People, wide eyes reflecting the blaze. Its gaping mouth leads not to a throat, but outward into a tube, twisting around to its hunched back. It stomps into the structure, dominating the doorway, his only way out. Three more follow, their faces as grotesque as the first.

A crazy thought pops into Sigurd’s head as he crouches there, creatures on one side, stairs on the other. He remembers the words of the professor: all you do is based on lies and deception. Not true, he thinks, as he focuses his attention on the sounds around him. When he closes his eyes, rear-eyelid patterns swirl and jolt to every small irregularity in the air. The patterns begin to reform themselves into a landscape of sound. The white noise of the fire is easy to isolate. He fades its oppressive roar to a faint hum, and then it’s gone. A puzzling thought buzzes above all the rest of the chaos in his ears: Where is everyone? It was as if two versions of the teahouse existed: the one he entered, and the one now burning. What has happened?

Dancing with Eternity, the Audiobook, Read by Author John Patrick Lowrie and Ellen McLain

HaettenschweilerOptima2400x2400LrThe audiobook version of John Patrick Lowrie’s amazing sci fi novel about the perils of immortality, Dancing with Eternity ($21.95, ASIN: B00KWGBHUO), is finally available for download on Amazon.com, iTunes, and Audible.com.

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**Watch a video about the making of the audiobook**

Author John Patrick Lowrie provides the narration and male voices and his wife Ellen McLain the female voices. Both are voiceover artists of note. Lawrence Albert, Producer, Jim French Productions DBA Imagination Theatre produced. The unabridged recording is in the style of a radio play, with ambient sounds and sound effects throughout. Because John is also a composer, his piece for orchestra, In a Strange Land, and his piece for chamber orchestra, Conversations With Piltdown Man, were chosen to lead into and out of each chapter, as well as supplying music pads in the scenes that called for music. Illustrator Philip Howe provided the cover art.

John Patrick Lowrie has played Sherlock Holmes for Imagination Theatre’s The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for the last fourteen years, so it was no surprise when Larry Albert suggested that Imagination Theatre produce the audiobook of Dancing With Eternity. Imagination Theatre has been producing radio plays since the ’70s and possesses an encyclopedic library of sound effects. Ellen McLain, the award-winning voice of GLaDOS in the hugely popular video games, Portal and Portal 2, was brought on board to play Steel and all of the female roles.

The novel, Dancing with Eternity, first published in 2011, earned rave reviews.

Dancing with Eternity (A++, top 10 novel of 2011) is a stellar debut that shows why science fiction is still the most interesting genre of today,” wrote Liviu Suciu of Fantasy Book Critic.

Dancing with Eternity was the inaugural winner in ForeWord Magazine’s ForeWord Firsts contest. J.G. Stinson wrote in the five star review: “Readers of the genre will likely recognize the influences of Olaf Stapledon, Fred Pohl, Cordwainer Smith, and other writers from the early years of American science fiction. Lowrie has taken those influences and kneaded them into his own life experiences to produce a story that is at once fantastic and recognizable, populated by real people with real dilemmas against a backdrop of stellar travel and adventure.”

“In the best tradition of A.E. van Vogt’s Voyage of the Space Beagle ….” wrote Robert Enstrom of New Myths, “the author explores human relations in a future without death–or nearly so. In some ways, perhaps unintentionally, the book conveys an almost religious message: Beliefs and sorrows spring from the past, and hope looks to the future, but only love transcends time.”

What would happen if Odysseus met Captain Ahab in the Fortieth Century? Only Captain Ahab is a beautiful woman named Steel who owns her own starship and Odysseus is an unemployed actor named Mohandas who’s stuck on the backside of a backwater moon because he won’t pay his taxes. Oh, and everybody—well, almost everybody—lives forever, did I mention that? And there’s a telepathic Internet that allows the entire population of the galaxy to communicate at will and even experience the world from another person’s perspective. Dancing with Eternity is a sprawling galactic odyssey that takes Steel, Mo and the crew of the starship Lightdancer on an incredible voyage of adventure, self-discovery, and revelation … And they get to go to a lot of really cool planets, too.

John Patrick Lowrie, voice of The Sniper in Team Fortress 2 and characters in over 25 video games, was born in 1952 in Honolulu, Hawaii and raised in Boulder, Colorado. At 16 he left home to make his way as a singer/guitarist/flautist/trombonist in a rock ‘n’ roll band, sleeping in parks and communes and getting to know several hippies. Surviving the draft, he graduated with highest distinction from the Indiana University School of Music and for a few years managed to make a living as a composer and guitarist in his acoustic fusion duo The Kiethe Lowrie Duet, garnering critical acclaim and opening for people who were much more famous than he was. He then decided to become an actor because the pay was better and the work was steadier. To this day he remains the only person he knows of who has done this. He met Ellen McLain, his wife of twenty-eight years, in Arnhem, Holland on a European tour of a Broadway show and started his acting career in Palermo, Italy, telling jokes to an opera house full of Sicilians who didn’t speak English. John and his wife now reside in Seattle, where they divide their professional time between acting in live theater and voice acting for computer games and radio dramas. You can find him online at lowrie.camelpress.com.

Ellen McLain, the voice of GLaDOS, the passive-aggressive AI in Portal (2007 AIAS Interactive Achievement Award for Outstanding Achievement in Character Performance) and Portal 2, (2011Spike Video Game Award in the category “Best Performance by a Human Female”) is also the voice of Gipsy Danger in Guillermo del Toro’s film, Pacific Rim. Ellen has worked in theater and opera for over thirty years. Her professional career began on Broadway with Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady and with the legendary Peggy Lee in her show, Peg. Ellen’s credits range from Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman to Mimi in La Bohème. McLain provides voices for many characters in several video games from Valve. Among them are the Administrator in Team Fortress 2, and the voice of the Combine Overwatch for the Half-Life 2 series. She also voices Broodmother and Death Prophet for DOTA 2. McLain is the only person to have her voice in all the games in The Orange Box. She sang the ending credits song to Portal, “Still Alive,” and Portal 2, “Want You Gone,” both written by Jonathan Coulton, and Ellen sang all the voices in the Turret Opera “Cara Mia Addio” by Mike Morasky featured at the end of Portal 2.

Mrs. McVinnie’s London Season, by Carla Kelly: An Outspoken Scotswoman Makes a Splash in Society

mcvinnieMrs. McVinnie’s London Season ($15.95, 344 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-955-8), a regency romance by Carla Kelly, was first published in 1990. It features a pretty young widow whose no-nonsense attitude enchants London Society and helps to put a chaotic household of unhappy children to rights. Along the way, she discovers it is possible to love more than once.

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Carla Kelly is the recipient of two RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America for Best Regency of the Year; two Spur Awards from Western Writers of America; two Whitney Awards, 2011 and 2012; and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Romantic Times. Kelly’s Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand reprint was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the top 5 romances in 2012.

“An enjoyable Regency romance bringing to life the dandified world of Almacks and Beau Brummel.”  Read more ….

–The Historical Novel Society

In the near future, Camel Press will also reprint Carla’s With This Ring. Miss Whittier Makes a List, Miss Chartley’s Guided Tour, Miss Billings Treads the Boards, and Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind are already available. Camel released Book 1 of Carla’s all-new Spanish Brand series, The Double Cross, in August of 2013 and will release Book 2, Marco and the Devil’s Bargain, in September of 2014. These stories feature life, love, and danger on America’s southwest border in the 1780s.

Carla Kelly is particularly celebrated for her regency romances. The Romance Reader has called her “the Grandmistress of the [Regency] genre.” According to Romantic Times, “Carla Kelly’s Regency Romances are always superb and a timeless delight.” Library Journal wrote, “one of the most respected Regency writers.”

Widowed at 24 by war, Jeannie McVinnie wishes to free her father-in-law to join his old regiment for a Highlands fishing trip. She practices a small deception by accepting an invitation issued to another Jeannie McVinnie: a plea for help from Captain William Summers to his former nursemaid to oversee the London Season of his spoiled ward. Their chaotic household also includes the captain’s snobbish sister, a boy eager for adventure, and a desolate child.

The task is daunting, but Mrs. McVinnie finds herself aided by her Scottish brogue, country-bred beauty, plain-speaking, and Beau Brummell himself, that supremely influential dandy of all dandies. Tempting as the Beau might be, Jeannie is drawn to gruff, quixotic Captain Summers. But what kind of future can a man so shackled to life at sea offer a woman who yearns for her own Scottish hearth? And how can she explain the secret she is hiding from those dear to her?

Says Kelly, “I’m a fan of the Regency, and the quixotic Beau Brummell has always interested me. I’m also a student of the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Combining the ultimate dandy with a seafaring man—a hard man in a hard service—seemed like an interesting writing challenge. So it proved.”

A well-known veteran of the romance writing field, Carla Kelly is the author of thirty-one novels and four non-fiction works, as well as numerous short stories and articles for various publications. Carla’s interest in historical fiction is a byproduct of her lifelong study of history. She has a BA in Latin American History from Brigham Young University and an MA in Indian Wars History from University of Louisiana-Monroe. Click here to find Carla online.

Keep Reading for an excerpt:

A small group of men stood at the assembly-room entrance, laughing and talking with one another and scanning the ballroom. One raised a quizzing glass to his eye; another languidly consulted a pocket watch tethered to an enormous gold chain. A third man tugged at his flamboyant waistcoat, a coat of many colors that should have cast Joseph himself into the shadow.

She gulped. It was Sir Peter Winthrop, minus his blue paint.

The fourth man wore no lace or waistcoat of biblical splendor. He was dressed soberly in black, broken only by the almost startling white of his shirtfront and the single gold watch chain that stretched across his chest. He was a crow among peacocks, and she could not tear her eyes from him. He was understated, underdressed, and elegant, from his brilliantly polished shoes to his carefully arranged hair. He was the man she had raked down so thoroughly in the menagerie only that afternoon.

The man was the picture of perfection. Jeannie looked about her in amazement. Everyone was watching him, even the couples who had already begun the waltz. If the musicians scraped and twiddled at their instruments, she did not hear it. Jeannie McVinnie watched the elegant man in silence and she began to be afraid.

Without even seeming to turn his head, the man looked about the room and raised his hand to one of the group surrounding Larinda. He started in that direction and then stopped and looked at Jeannie, bowing and smiling.

Without taking her eyes from him, Jeannie tugged at Captain Summers’ sleeve. “Captain, who is that man over there, the one, oh, you know, that one?”

Amused, Summers looked where she nodded. “I cannot say for sure, considering that I have been at sea for too long, but bless me, Jeannie McVinnie, you must mean the Beau. No one else is as beautiful. Not even me.”

Jeannie managed a slight smile at his joke. The blood drained from her face as she noticed that the man in the doorway was watching her. “Who … who?”

“Beau Brummell, you owl,” said the captain. “Yes, I am sure that is who you mean.” He gently lifted Jeannie’s hand from his arm, where she was digging into the gold swirls on his sleeve. “People say he is the most elegant thing in London, and a great friend of the Prince Regent.” The captain motioned to his sister, who stood with her friends nearby, also mesmerized by the man in the doorway. “Agatha, come sit you down with us and tell us—is that Beau Brummell?”

Lady Smeath accepted the proffered seat. “Dear me, yes, William,” she said, her voice so full of reverence that Jeannie could only stare. She tapped Jeannie playfully with the fan. “And let me warn you, Mrs. McVinnie. That man has the power to ruin a woman’s chances at a come-out with only a word or a glance.”

Two Dogs Lie Sleeping, by Lia Farrell: A Dead Visitor Stirs up the Past

2_dogsTwo Dogs Lie Sleeping ($14.95, 282 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-969-5) is the second cozy mystery by Lia Farrell in a series featuring Mae December, the successful owner of a dog boarding business in Rosedale, Tennessee. When a well-loved former resident who spent fifteen years in hiding turns up dead, a small town police force looks back in time for answers.

4.5 Stars: “The story is told from several points of view—Mae’s, July’s, Ben’s, and others—and each point of view adds greatly to the story. Not only do the different viewpoints bring more information to light, but more characters are developed and the reader is drawn into the lives of a number of them. And through it all, there are a number of dogs who add even more charm to a delightful cozy mystery. This is the second in the Mae December Mystery series and I have read the first as well. The books stand alone just fine, but my choice would be to read them in order so that the growth in some of the personal relationships can be fully savored. Mystery readers can’t go wrong if they take a trip to Rosedale, TN, to meet Mae December and the entire cast of Two Dogs Lie Sleeping.”  Read more….

—Cyclamen, Long and Short Reviews

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“I have read both books and really enjoy Lia Farrell’s cozy mysteries. This is the kind of book, where from start to finish it is hard to try and figure out who committed the murder. Ms. Farrell brings back most of the characters from the first book. This is one item I really like about an author. Even if you haven’t read the first book in this series, some give you the back ground on the characters so that you are not confused as to who is who.” Read more….

—Sharon Salituro, Fresh Fiction

“A mix of drama with some comedic moments (well, there are dogs; and a four-year-old), TWO DOGS LIE SLEEPING is an enjoyable read.  You really want to know how Mae and Ben get along; if Dory will move up in the police and if Mae’s sister will – at last – get over Tom Ferris and make peace with her husband.”

—I Love a Mystery Reviews

“The dog days of summer have never been quite like this. From its opening with a single gunshot on a sultry August evening to its satisfying conclusion, Lia Farrell’s tale of greed and murder explores a compelling range of human (and the odd canine) relationships with an intriguing cast of characters and an imaginative plot. Fast paced, multilayered, and thoroughly enjoyable.”

—Kathleen Hills, author of The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies

Book three in the series, Three Dog Day, will be released in December, 2014.

“Mae’s second adventure is even better than the first …. The mystery was quite suspenseful, while still fitting accurately within the cozy genre. If you’re looking for a compelling mystery, then this series is for you. I was kept guessing right till the end trying to figure it out before Mae and Sheriff Ben did. Lia Farrell writes very character-driven mysteries. All my favourite characters from One Dog Too Many are back and there is a new canine to love. ‘Tater’ is Mae’s new corgi puppy and she’s just adorable! Animal lovers everywhere will fall in love with Tater. Two Dogs Lie Sleeping was another fantastic whodunnit from Lia Farrell. This series is now one of my firm favourites and I’m really excited to see where she takes the series next.” Read more ….

—Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

It’s early August in Rosedale, Tennessee, and July December Powell is alone at the historic Booth Mansion, putting the finishing touches on the Showhouse room she designed for tomorrow’s grand opening. A loud noise draws her to the nursery, where a man lies dying. Not just any man, but Tom Ferris, the love of her life, who she hasn’t seen since he disappeared with no explanation some fifteen years earlier.

Who shot Tom in the back? What drove him away in the first place and made him stay away, even after his parents were killed in a car accident? What was he trying to tell July with his last breath?

The gossip mill is in high gear in the small town of Rosedale, and July is the sister of Mae, a dog breeder and kennel owner who happens to be dating the sheriff, Ben Bradley. Ben’s close relationship with the December family has thrown a wrench in his investigation, forcing him to rely on Detective Wayne Nichols, his deputies, and his office manager Dory to do most of the legwork. Meanwhile July’s marriage is imploding, and Mae already has too much to deal with—including a new corgi puppy and Ben’s four-year-old son. Mae is torn between loyalty to her boyfriend and her sister as she does her darndest to get the bottom of a case that just seems to involve more and more of their friends and neighbors.

Says Lisa, “We were inspired to write our second mystery by thinking about the expression ‘Let sleeping dogs lie,’ and just how dangerous old secrets can be.”

Mother and daughter writing team Lyn Farquhar and Lisa Fitzsimmons live in Michigan and Tennessee respectively. Both are life-long readers who are also dog lovers. Lyn owns two Welsh corgis and Lisa has two pugs and a Siberian husky. Lisa works as a Muralist and Interior Designer and her mother, Lyn, is a Professor of Medical Education. Click here to find them online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

She pushed Matthew’s car seat out of the way. Carrying the dog beds under one arm and the Tater wriggling in the other, Mae walked into the kitchen. Popping the Tater into her crate, she asked her sister, “Should I put these two in the laundry room with the other dogs?”

“Yes, please.” July was avoiding her eyes. “I was hoping you could keep them for me for a week or so.”

Or so? Could this day get any better?

July followed her into the laundry room with Soot and Ricky. The puppies jumped happily on Tallulah, their mother, who was napping in her bed beside the utility sink. Tallulah growled. Mae set the dog beds down on the other side of the room.

“Listen, July, this might not be the best time. Matthew and Katie are upstairs right now and I’m expecting Ben any minute. I’ve got the Tater to potty train and Matthew’s here all weekend.”

“I’m sorry, Mae,” July said. Her face was tight. “I’m going to the lake house. I need a break from Fred.” She was frowning. “If you can’t keep them, I understand. I just don’t have a fenced area for them at the lake. The man who was going to build it can’t get to it until September. He’s all covered up with work this summer.” July leaned against the wall and began to cry.

“Its fine, July, don’t worry. I can keep them.” Mae looked at her sister with alarm. July hadn’t cried in front of her in years. Now, for the second time in three days, her normally self-contained big sister was dissolving in tears. July put the bag of kibble on top of Mae’s dryer, unhooked the leashes from her exuberant young porgis and turned to leave the room.

Ben appeared in the doorway with a quizzical look on his face. “Hey, July. Thought we said ‘no backsies’ when you took these two in the spring.”

“Funny,” July said. She did not sound amused. Two spots of color appeared on her cheeks. “You know what, Ben? I sure would have appreciated a heads-up on the fact that you were sending your people to trash my house today.”

Mae stepped forward, hands on hips. She glared at her boyfriend, who was staring at her sister. “Hello, Ben. Your son and his mother are upstairs. And I would have appreciated some notice about you having July’s house torn up, too.”

Ben looked at Mae. His face began to flush. “You can’t be serious—either of you. This is a murder investigation. I don’t let suspects know that we’re going to be showing up with a warrant. That gives them time to hide evidence! I’m not going to compromise an investigation that I’m already getting grief about for my involvement with your family.”

Her sister stepped around Ben as if he wasn’t even there and walked out. In the silence, Mae heard the slam of the door.

 

Stealing the Moon & Stars: The Heat Is On for a Team of Scottsdale PIs

Stealing_moon2Stealing the Moon & Stars ($13.95, 242 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-983-1), by Sally J. Smith and Jean Steffens, is Book One of a new romantic suspense series set in Scottsdale, AZ. A well-heeled beauty and a graduate from the school of hard knocks struggle to resist their chemistry as they try to solve an apparent case of embezzlement.

Click here to follow the Tribute Books blog tour from May 1-30.

** Click the Cover Image to Order Online **

** Or order it in Kindle, Nook, or other eBook formats on Smashwords **

“Smith and Steffens is the team to watch or better yet, the team to read. Stealing the Moon & Stars is a smooth and clever story. But don’t get too comfortable because it is also a well-crafted, suspenseful ride with unexpected twists and riveting characters. By the way, hands off. I have dibs on Eddie.”

—Maria Grazia Swan, bestselling author of Mina’s Adventures and the Lella York Series.

“A sassy maverick heiress and a sexy good guy making amends for his bad guy past form a dynamite PI team in this promising debut from Sally J. Smith and Jean Steffens. A fun, romantic read, Stealing the Moon & Stars will keep you engaged all the way through its action-packed climax, and make you wish for the next book in the series. A winner!”

—Kris Neri, author of Revenge on Route 66 and Magical Alienation

“With an action-packed, tightly crafted puzzler of a plot, Stealing the Moon & Stars is an impossible book to put down. Smith and Steffens have created delightful characters in Jordan Welsh and Eddie Marino that keep the reader laughing as well as shouting out warnings. Jordan and Eddie are the best mystery solving duo since Nick and Nora. Is there a fire alarm ringing? Because their relationship is smokin’ hot!”

—Jenn McKinlay, New York Times bestselling author of the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries and the Library Lover’s Mysteries

“The action and sexual tension are as hot as an Arizona summer. The Shea Investigations team put their lives, and their hearts, on the line in this action-packed crime novel.”  Read more ….

—Lesa Holstine, Lesa’s Book Critiques

“Take a private investigator who is one smart, independent lady, add a sexy business partner with a mysterious and none-too-savory past, throw in a dash of embezzlement, a dollop of betrayal, and a pinch of organized crime, and it all equals a suspenseful and witty tale that will keep you reading way past your bedtime.”

—Donis Casey, author of the Alafair Tucker Mysteries

“The romantic/sexual tension between Jordan and Eddie is palpable, but it doesn’t detract from the story at all. STEALING THE MOON & STARS is an excellent start to a brand new series with a straightforward mystery and compelling characters.” Read more ….

—The Bibliophilic Book Blog

“Enjoyed it so much it was hard to put down. Got caught up in the investigations and the love affair …. Quite a few surprises that take everyone for a turn. Throw in a mix of family members and you got a good read. Light romance and sex but enough to help move the story along and it’s the forbidden love that will make this series continue as they work together on more cases.”  Read more ….

—Julie Barrett’s Blog

“This is a great, lighthearted read. I highly recommend it for those readers who like PI, mystery and light romance!”  Read more ….

—Hily’s Beehive

“If you enjoy a fast paced romance, this will fill the bill. Add suspense and spice and you have a romantic suspense with a bit of a twist. If you are in the market for a great beach or escape reading experience then this is the work for you. It seems that we may have a new dynamic duo in private investigations.”  Read more ….

—Leslie Ann Wright, TicToc Reviews

“Their romance certainly had my heart pounding, and I can’t wait to see how their relationship evolves in book two, especially since Jordan’s left wondering if he’s being completely honest with her about his actions. But throwing more obstacles in their way only seems to bring these two closer together.”  Read more ….

—Connie Char, The Character Connection

“It was a treat reading about warm and sunny Arizona while toiling through an extremely long and cold winter. Between the desert heat and the sparks flying off of Jordan and Eddie, this book definitely made me feel all tingly inside.”  Read more ….

—City Girl Who Loves to Read

“I found this to be an adventure filled romp, sometimes a dangerous endeavor when it comes to solving this crime. As the investigation goes on, you are taken deeper into the mystery of it all. Smith and Steffens keep you guessing at every turn. If you like a thrilling suspense novel with a steamy romantic twist, you will definitely enjoy this book.”  Read more ….

—Tribute Books Mama

Jordan Welsh and Eddie Marino, Scottsdale private eyes, are hired to find out who’s stealing from the Moon & Stars Children’s Foundation. Foundation employees are suspected, but just as the pieces start falling into place, Jordan discovers a hidden agenda that puts her in the crosshairs of a crime lord. Who can she trust?

Everyone has a dangerous secret, and the bodies are piling up. Even her partner, Eddie Marino, has a dark and mysterious past. Does she dare act on their attraction? Will it destroy their partnership?

The two have landed in a hornets’ nest. Nothing to do now but stir it up.

“Jean and I met via Desert Sleuths’ Sisters in Crime,” says co-author Sally J. Smith. “We had been friends for a while when one day, over coffee, we had the idea of writing together. Scottsdale, home of the rich and famous as well as the calculating and criminal, is the perfect setting for the Jordan Welsh and Eddie Marino Novels. A newspaper article about embezzled funds from a local charity delivered the plot idea for Stealing the Moon & Stars. We work together side-by-side, word-by-word, literally finishing each others’ sentences. Laughter and sarcasm abound during writing sessions, with occasional disagreements, sometimes involving right crosses or karate-ninja moves. Partners in crime have never had it so good.”

Arizona native Sally J. Smith lives in Scottsdale with her husband. She stays busy at her chosen professions of writing (novels, short stories, and articles) and freelance editing. Other works include The Ghost Wore Polyester. Jean Steffens also lives in Scottsdale with her family. Her published work includes “The Night Before Christmas” in the Desert Sleuths Sisters in Crime Anthology, How Not to Survive the Holidays. Both authors are members of Romance Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. Click here to find Sally and Jean online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

To cool her jets and keep him from seeing the burning spots on her cheeks, she wandered over to an abstract acrylic on his wall. “New painting?”

“Mmm,” he mumbled. “You like it?”

“Yes, I do.” She headed back to his desk. “Great splash of color. Intense. It figures.”

He pulled the laptop around and flipped up the top. “It figures? How’s that? I assume you want me to burgle my way into this, as usual.”

“If you please.” She answered his last question first. “Well, you like intense art because you’re an intense person.”

He raised his eyes from the keyboard. “You think I’m intense?”

She was compelled to look away from his laser-like stare. I rest my case.

“Sometimes,” she lied.

He went back to work on the laptop and chuckled under his breath. “Intense, huh? Nah. I’m such a softy, especially where you’re concerned, angel.”

“You know my name’s not ‘Angel,’ Mr. Marino.”

“And you know my name’s not Mr. Marino. We gonna get in trouble hacking this hardware?”

“Afraid not.”

“Oh darn. That takes away all the fun.”

“I didn’t mean to ruin your day.”

“You could never do that. Just hearing your voice perks me right up.”

While Jordan watched him work, she imagined herself slinking over, grabbing him by the shirtfront and planting a kiss that would make his ears smoke.

The computer beeped several times.

“How’s it going?” Her voice sounded husky, even to her.

“Slow.”

She paced but stopped in her tracks when he exclaimed, “Bingo!”

He spun the laptop back around. The desktop was open and active. “His middle name and birthday. Not very imaginative. It looks like there are a bunch of deleted files. You want them?”

“Deleted? Can you get them?”

“Forget who you’re talking to, darling? I’m the magic man. No problemo.” He pulled a small external hard drive from the bottom drawer of his desk and hooked it to the laptop. “Just give me a second.”

Jordan watched, marveling at the speed and competence of his invasive attack.

Eddie had worked as a Special Ops cryptologist in the military. He never talked about it. Every time she asked him about any of his cyber miracles, he said, “If I told you my secrets, gorgeous, I’d have to kill you. Wouldn’t that be a shame?”

Yes sir, cryptic. That was Eddie Marino all right, but his skills certainly came in handy. At times like this, for instance.

“You’re a genius. Thanks! This could give us the break we need.”

She leaned across the desk and gave him a peck on the cheek. The kiss was innocent enough, just a spontaneous display of thanks and affection.

The response she got was totally unexpected.

Eddie latched onto her arm and got to his feet so their faces were on the same level and thrillingly close. “Have dinner with me tonight.”

Jordan was surprised. “Dinner?”

“Yes. I’ll pick you up at eight.”

“Tonight?”

He’d thrown her off balance.

“Dinner?” she asked.

“Sure. Why?”

At that very instant Eddie’s office door flew open and banged against the wall.

Before she could draw a breath, Eddie yanked her to the floor, threw himself on top of her and pulled his gun.

She twisted her head. The FedEx deliveryman quaked against the wall, three packages on the floor in front of him.

She looked at Eddie. “Overreact much?”