Six Dogs ’til Sunday, by Lia Farrell: A Shooting Sheds New Light on Past Events

six_dogsSix Dogs ’til Sunday ($15.95, 256 pages, 5×8 Trade Paperback, ISBN: 978-1-60381-250-4) is the sixth and final cozy mystery by Lia Farrell in a series featuring Mae December, the successful owner of a dog-boarding business in Rosedale, Tennessee, her sheriff fiancé and his staff, and her friends and family. The shooting of a man in an old house being used as a movie set casts new light on past cases investigated by the Rosedale Sheriff’s Office.

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Six Dogs ’til Sunday is another deftly crafted mystery that will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections.” —The Midwest Book Review

“The mother/daughter writing team of Lia Farrell, does a great job of seamlessly bringing everyone up to speed on the characters and their roles. The main characters are likeable, and I felt sympathy for all that Mae had to process to move forward with her marriage. […] While “Six Dogs ‘Til Sunday” by Lia Farrell is a light mystery, there is still a great deal of depth in these pages and it will keep you guessing. The dogs play a small role in this story, but I enjoyed the parts they did play. Bringing that past into the present really gave the plot a nice twist. I know that dog loving mystery fans will enjoy reading this one. As for me, I have five more books to read!” Read more…
—Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

It’s January in Rosedale, Tennessee, and Mae December is preparing for her March wedding to Sheriff Ben Bradley. Mae, who boards dogs for a living, is also busy tending to her pregnant dog and scouting locations for the movie featuring the music of her former fiancé Noah West, who died in a car accident four years earlier. Fortunately the picturesque old house at the end of Little Chapel Road is for rent.

Just as filming is about to begin, a man is shot on the set, but manages to drive himself to the hospital, where he dies before he can ID his killer. He was a member of the film crew, but also a local, and circumstances point to his being a confidential informant for Ben’s predecessor, Sheriff Trey Cantrell, also the owner of the house turned movie set. At the time of the shooting, the victim had been stealing a large sum of money from a safe on the premises. Whose money is it, and where does it come from?

The Rosedale Sheriff’s Office not only has another murder case on its hands, but one that will dredge up a past long buried. How far will the guilty parties go to protect their secrets?

The first five books in the Mae December Mystery series, One Dog Too Many, Two Dogs Lie Sleeping, Three Dog Day, Four Dog’s Sake, and Five Dog Voodoo have been enthusiastically received by readers and critics:

Five Dog Voodoo: “The story was clean, the dialogue nice and tight, with an ending that leaves one as satisfied and happy as a recently fed puppy!” —InD’Tale Magazine

Four Dog’s Sake: “There is a lot of action in this book, and the author gives a wonderful view of the motivation of a real killer. This is one fast-paced cozy that keeps you on your toes.”
—Suspense magazine

Three Dog Day: “A wonderful cozy mystery, and a great addition to a lovely series. It is sure to offer a lot of entertainment for mystery fans.” —Long and Short Reviews

Two Dogs Lie Sleeping: “Another fantastic whodunit from Lia Farrell. This series is now one of my firm favorites.” —Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

One Dog Too Many: “A lively tale with plenty of twists, turns, and unexpected situations to satisfy the most ardent cozy mystery lover.” —Fresh Fiction

Lia Farrell is the pen name of the mother and daughter writing team of Lyn Farquhar and Lisa Fitzsimmons, who live in Michigan and Tennessee, respectively. Both are life-long readers who are also dog lovers. Lyn owns a Welsh corgi and Lisa has a Siberian husky. Lisa works as a Muralist and Interior Designer and Lyn is a Professor Emerita of Medical Education who has retired to write full-time. For more information, click here.

Says Lyn, “Finishing Six Dogs ’til Sunday was bittersweet. There is always a moment when we feel relieved to have a book behind us, but that is quickly followed by a sense of satisfaction, even pleasure. This time, though, we are saying goodbye to characters who are almost members of the family. As we wish Mae, Ben, Wayne and Dory farewell, we hope our readers will remember them as fondly as we do.”

Keep reading for an excerpt:

After Connie left to retrieve her children, Ben moved to the opposite sofa, facing Mae. “You’re quiet today,” he said, cocking his head and narrowing his blue eyes. “You okay?”

She busied herself with spreading the napkin across her lap and glancing through the menu. “I’m fine. Do you want to share a salad and one of the pizzas?”

“That sounds perfect.” He paused. “But you don’t.”

Mae looked across the table at him. “I don’t what?”

“Sound perfect. Or even good, for that matter. And I may not be the world’s best fiancé, but even I know to worry when you say I’m fine. Do you want to talk about it?”

Mae put down her menu, blinked back tears, and cleared her throat. “Did I ever tell you that Noah was friends with the guys who used to rent that old house?”

The waiter appeared beside Ben, who quickly ordered the Margherita pizza with prosciutto added and a Caesar salad. After the waiter’s departure, he shook his head. “I don’t think you mentioned it.”

“A couple of wannabe musicians rented it then. Noah used to go over there, and they’d try out new songs, play some old stuff—just hang out. My uncle went along sometimes. I did too, now and then.”

“Not too often, I hope.” Ben frowned. “That place has a bad reputation.”

Mae was startled. “The last time I was there was a few months before Noah died. I never heard anything bad about the house, though. What do you mean?”

“I heard rumors about drug dealing.” Ben gave her a serious look. “Trey Cantrell used to own it. I don’t know if he still does.”

“Sheriff Cantrell owned that house? But he wouldn’t put up with drug dealers. That doesn’t make sense.”

Ben raised his eyebrows, but kept quiet as the waiter put their salad down in front of them.

“Pizza will be out in a few minutes,” the young man said with a smile before returning to the kitchen. They were still the only customers in the place.

“Did you ever see anything shady when you were there?”

Mae shook her head. “No, just musicians. They can be a flaky group, not always the most practical people, but I never noticed anything that made me uncomfortable.” She looked down at her lap, then back up into Ben’s watchful eyes. “It just … brought back a lot of memories, being there today.”

Her fiancé was making steady inroads on his half of the salad, without taking his eyes off her. “Are you sure that house is right for the movie location, Mae?”

“I am, but there’s no reason either of us needs to spend any time there, right?” She took a bite of crisp romaine lettuce and garlic dressing, giving Ben a reassuring look.

“That’s right,” he said quietly. “We … and especially you don’t.”

Best of Luck, by Corinne Scott: Rival Pub Owners Clash and Burn

best_luckWhen you’re an O’Brien, you shun the owner of the fake Irish pub. Even when his love might be the real thing.

On February 14, 2018, Camel Press will release Best of Luck ($14.95, 248 pages, 5×8 Trade Paperback, ISBN: 978-1-60381-383-9), the second book in a romantic suspense series by Corinne Scott featuring the irresistible siblings of the O’Brien family, whose parents own an Irish pub in the Bronx, New York City. The lead-up to a St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl turns nasty when a handsome interloper enters the contest with his faux-Irish pub.

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“One of the jewels of Best of Luck for me was the development of the relationship between Siobhan and Crew. This is no run-of-the-mill boy-meets-girl story.” —Back Porchervations

“What a great romance novel! . . . The Irish details are enchanting but when added to the romance it really added a nice twist.” —Books a Plenty Book Reviews

“This is a romantic story of a handsome man and a beautiful no-nonsense woman. . . I liked the narration which is casual and friendly.” —Fantastic Feathers

“This was a great journey to go on and I would go back and visit them again and again! Can’t wait to see what is next for the O’Brien’s!” —Community Bookstop

“The love story between Siobhan and Crew has everything. . . It’s a joy to watch these two grow from enemies to friends to soulmates.” —Socrates’ Book Reviews

“It was fun to read about the Irish pub scene in Brooklyn. […] The reader just might end up on the edge of the seat waiting to see how this turns out!” —My Reading Journeys

“I am impressed with the author’s talent to mix her steamy romances with a nice suspenseful mystery and keeping a comfortable balance between the two. She gives her readers a very entertaining story.” —Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book

“Romantic tension and competitive suspense fill each page as Siobhan struggles with her ethical dilemma and her personal emotions. The pace is quick and the writing flows easily.” —Laura’s Interests

Crew Costa isn’t Irish, but for a kid from the school of hard knocks, he’s had the luck of the Irish with his chain of faux-Irish pubs, O’Shaughnessy’s Shenanigans. Number 13 is set to open in time for St. Patrick’s Day. The Bronx is already the site of several authentic Irish pubs, including The Lion O’Brien. Started by Liam O’Brien, the pub is now managed by his youngest daughter Siobhan, but only after her four older brothers refused the job. Now Siobhan has to prove she is worthy.

Siobhan falls for Crew, literally, after they collide while he is moving into her apartment building. Their attraction is immediate and powerful, but they are rivals. Siobhan is counting on the Lion winning the St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl, which Crew has entered as well. The lead-up to the event involves “pranking” your competition, and the older pubs band together against the gaudy newcomer, with its McNaughty the Leprechaun and other cultural clichés. For Crew and Siobhan, the pranking quickly gets personal and expensive.

Siobhan and Crew can’t resist the electricity between them, but can Siobhan trust this streetwise charmer? Can Crew trust this daddy’s girl whose overriding passion is her pub? And will the rage brewing among the other pub owners put their lives in danger?

Says Corinne, “It was a blast telling Siobhan’s story. She has a tough time of it, being the youngest in a family of brothers, with a strong father who loves her but doesn’t appreciate her abilities. As a result she’s always had to fight for recognition and respect. It was interesting to explore how that feistiness stands in the way when another headstrong man enters her life.”

Corinne Scott was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Her parents were teachers, so of course she grew up to be a teacher as well, proving that the apple does not fall too far from the tree. Corinne has a bachelor’s degree from Texas State University and a master’s from the University of North Texas. She is passionate about books, which led her to her current occupation as a librarian and author. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“Let’s save the lies, shall we? All that’s going to do is embarrass you and frustrate me.” She went silent. “Good. Now, can we agree you don’t like my pub?” She did the bobble-head thing again. “All right. Can we agree that you don’t want my pub entered with the others for the pub crawl?” More nodding. With each question, he was stepping in closer. “Can we agree that you find me extremely attractive?” Mid-nod, she stopped suddenly.

“Hey!”

“Remember what I said would happen if anyone tried pranking me?” he asked, menacingly. She shrugged, trying to look unaffected. “Is sabotaging my opening professional in your personal definition of professional?”

“We didn’t—”

“I thought you weren’t going to lie, Siobhan.” He paused, hands on his hips, and blew out a frustrated breath. “Look, I get it. You guys hate chains like mine, but I have as much right to open a business here as anyone else. And I have a right to promote my business by joining your pub crawl. I’m sorry if that upsets or threatens you—”

Threatens me? You think your knock-off, diet, generic pub could ever compete with the real deal?”

“Since I have thirteen pubs and you have one, I’m going to guess yes,” he replied.

“We’ll see about that. Game on.” She stepped into his space, hands on her hips, matching his stance.

“Are you saying you want to compete against me?”

“If you can take it, absolutely. Whoever has the better sales the night of the pub crawl, wins.”

“Aren’t those the rules already set by the committee?”

“Side bet. Your pub versus mine.”

“And what do I get if I win?”

“We’ll back off and let you run your business without interference. You can be in the pub crawl every year if you want.”

“But until then, all bets are off?”

“It’s every man for himself.”

“Or woman,” he murmured. Siobhan realized he was standing way too close and took a large step backwards. He smirked.

“What do I get if I win?” she asked, defiantly.

“What do you want?” he asked, menacingly.

“I want you to admit to all the pub owners that our business is better than yours, and since you’re capitalizing on our brand, we’ll take a portion of all sales you earned that night too.”

“I think you end up coming out ahead in all this.”

“Scared you’ll lose?” she taunted.

“Honey, I don’t lose. Thirteen locations, remember?”

“It’s about quality, not quantity. You’re about to find that out.”

“Can you agree to go easy on the pranks? Because I don’t play fair, Red. I may be new to all this, but if I retaliate, you’re going to wish I hadn’t.”

“We’ll see about that.”

Crew leaned in close. Too close for Siobhan to think clearly. Her emotions were all over the place. She could have sworn she’d been angry at him two seconds prior, but now all she could focus on was the fire in his eyes and the chance that he’d put his lips on hers.

She didn’t have to wait long.

Crew swooped in, pinning Von to the file cabinets in her office—no space between them, no air to breathe.

Before she could even get used to the kiss or drown in it—which is what she really wanted to do—Crew pulled back, breathing heavily.

“I always win. Remember that, Red.”

With a wink he was gone.

The Identity Thief by R. Franklin James: Lies and Consequences

identity_thiefThe Identity Thief ($15.95, 256 pages, 5×8 Trade Paperback, ISBN: 978-1-60381-671-7), is the sixth and final book in a mystery/suspense series by R. Franklin James featuring Hollis Morgan, a young probate attorney whose past as a pardoned white-collar ex-con makes her a magnet for trouble. A young computer hacker and compulsive liar unknowingly steals the identity of a serial killer and is accused of murder. In Hollis’s first venture into criminal law, can she clear her client and keep him safe from the real killer?

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Four Stars: “Plenty of twists and turns but not one hiccup. Nothing here that throws off your rhythm of reading; makes you have to turn back a page or two to see what you missed. Clean, clearly written, crime fiction.” Read more….
—Long and Short Reviews

“An action-packed and exciting tale that blends the legal thriller and murder mystery genres. James’s characters are authentic and well-defined, and her plot is original and compelling. I haven’t read any of the preceding books in this series, but had no problem getting involved in the story and appreciating Hollis’s background as well as the importance of the Fallen Angels Book Club to her and to the story itself. [….] Most highly recommended.”  Read more….
—Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite Reviews

“Two complex legal cases occupy Hollis Morgan in James’s bustling sixth and final mystery featuring the San Francisco lawyer (after The Bell Tolls). … Hollis’s relationship with Homeland Security agent John Faber adds a welcome touch of romance. Fans will be sorry to see the last of this fine heroine.”  Read more…
Publisher’s Weekly 

The Identity Thief is the sixth and final book in the Hollis Morgan Mystery series, which began with The Fallen Angels Book Club and continued with Sticks & Stones, The Return of the Fallen Angels Book Club, The Trade List, and The Bell Tolls.

The Bell Tolls continues to document [R. Franklin James’] genuine flair for originality and her complete master of the mystery genre.” —Cowper’s Bookshelf, The Midwest Book Review

The Trade List’s two story lines are strong, detailed, with plenty of twists to keep readers turning pages. [….] A strong use of details throughout the book gives readers a feeling they are a part of the story.” —Edie Dykeman, reader, writer, reviewer

“The Return Of The Fallen Angels Book Club is well crafted, the writing is top-notch and you can see just far the author has come from her first book. The confidence in writing shows every step of the way.” —Mystery Sequels.com

Sticks & Stones: “Readers are sure to be captured by this plot-twisting, exciting mystery. It is a real page turner and I certainly am going to keep reading this series.” —Long and Short Reviews

The Fallen Angels Book Club: “This is a remarkable, well-rounded mystery and I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys crime fiction.” —Books, Books, and More Books

Probate attorney Hollis Morgan is branching out into criminal law. Pardoned after serving time for her then-husband’s white-collar crime, she knows something about the workings of the criminal mind.

Hollis’ first criminal case quickly gets complicated. Her client is a young man initially accused of identity theft, but his charge soon includes murder. Hollis has a knack for detecting lies, and although Justin Eastland lies with every breath, she doesn’t believe he is a killer. Eastland is let out on bail as bait, and Hollis struggles to keep her client alive. She enlists the services of her young friend Vince, a former addict she helped get back on track, telling him to not let Eastland out of his sight. At the same time Hollis is handling a sensitive probate matter for a whistle-blower hiding from a revengeful cartel.

It has not been easy for Hollis to learn to trust again, and in both these cases, a surprising number of people are not telling her the whole story. She thinks she can sort the truths from the half-truths and the outright lies, but how reliable are her instincts? Hollis’ sense of justice does not always consider the law. If she’s wrong, her clients aren’t the only ones who could lose their lives.

Says James, “The inspiration for this book came about from today’s real life public intrusions by hackers. I thought it poetic justice if a stolen identity came with its own nightmare. Completing the final episode in the series left me feeling satisfied and a bit sad. Although I’ll miss Hollis, she doesn’t need me to tell her story anymore.”

Franklin James grew up in the San Francisco East Bay Area, graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, and flourished in a career of public policy and political advocacy. She and her husband currently live in Northern California. Click here to find R. Franklin on the Web.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“How did you really get your hands on the Nike bag?”

He held up his hands. “Now, this is the truth, I swear.” He scratched his nose. “It’s true I saw the Nike bag in the bushes, but … but I saw a dude leave it there.”

“So, let me understand … you can identify the real identity thief?”

“Well, no, because it was dark like I said, and I could only see his shape. But I did see him drop the bag.”

Hollis looked him in the eyes and scribbled more notes. “Okay, let’s move on. Did you open the bag?”

Eastland moistened his lips. “Nah, I just snatched it and ran to my car. And I was driving back to my place when the cops stopped me, and everything fell out of the bag.”

“So, until the police stopped you, you had no idea what you had picked up?”

He held up his hand. “I swear.”

He was lying.

“How did the stuff slip out on the floor of the backseat if you hadn’t left it open?” Hollis leaned back in her chair. “I find it really hard to bel—”

She was interrupted by a loud knock. Two uniformed officers and a deputy sheriff entered the room, followed by a suited man holding out a badge.

“Excuse me, Counselor,” the man with the badge said. “I’m Detective Cook with the county sheriff. We’re here for your client.” He nodded toward the young man. “Justin Eastland,” he said, “we are arresting you for the murder of Marguerite Fields.” He turned to one of the officers. “Read him his rights.” To Eastland, he said, “Please follow us.”

For a moment, Hollis stood transfixed as the officer droned on with the required wording, and then she spoke. “As his attorney, I can tell you that he is not talking to anyone. But who can I talk to? What evidence do you have?” She didn’t know what bothered her more, that she’d been caught completely off guard, or that her client was silently and without protest allowing the officers to cuff him and lead him out the door.

Detective Cook looked her over and said firmly, “Your client is a murderer, Miz …?”

“Hollis Morgan,” she answered quickly. “So you’ve mistakenly pointed out. How is he linked to this murder?”

“Did he tell you about the Nike bag he said he found?” Cook stepped aside for his deputy to pass through with his prisoner. “Fields’ murder was reported yesterday. When our officers went through the Nike bag, they found several pieces of Fields’ identification. We got a warrant this morning to search his apartment, and we found more IDs that don’t belong to Mr. Eastland. Eastland’s prints are the only ones on the bag and the IDs, and that’s why we have your client nailed as the killer.”

Murder of a Good Man, by Teresa Trent: a Texas Town’s VIP Bites the Dust

murder_good_manCamel Press will release Murder of a Good Man ($15.95, 256 pages, 5×8 Trade Paperback, ISBN: 978-1-60381-635-9), by Teresa Trent, the first cozy mystery in a series set in the fictional small town of Piney Woods, Texas, and featuring amateur sleuth and hotelier Nora Alexander. After a young woman arrives in town to deliver a sealed letter to the town’s most beloved citizen, the man is murdered, making her the prime suspect.

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“…funny, a page turner, and very unpredictable…. The plot and the vivid descriptions of the town and characters, give readers a warm, cozy feeling. If you think at any time during the reading that you know ‘who did it,’ you are in for a big surprise.” Read more….
—Carol Hoyer for Reader Views

4 Stars: “There is nothing more enjoyable than to read a book with no ‘hiccups’ in the rhythm. Well, this first book in the Piney Woods Mystery Series was a waltz. I enjoyed every moment of it and the author truly never missed a step.” Read more….
—Long and Short Reviews

“This story has a great vibe to it and fits the cozy mystery category perfectly. It starts off with a doozie of a murder to solve, but as Nora investigates, juicier small-town secrets come to light, making it much more than just that. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the twists in the story, some I did not even see coming. All of the characters were well-developed and each added their own touch to the story. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good cozy mystery.”  Read more….
—Llaph for Coffeetime Romance & More

“This is the first in Trent’s series set in Piney Woods, and it bodes well for the series. As cozies go, this is not only a fun read, but it moves along quite well. She has a respectable number of characters—not so many as to confuse the reader but enough to have a growing number of possible perpetrators! This is a keeper.”
—Judith Reveal for the New York Journal of Books

“Teresa Trent’s recipe for an outstanding cozy mystery: A mother’s dying wish. A mysterious letter. A dutiful daughter who shows up on the doorstep of the nicest man in town. A guy who suddenly turns up dead. Mixed well with small town Texas charm and a fabulous eye for detail.”
—Joanna Campbell Slan, author of the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series

“A delightful cozy romp!”
—Maggie Toussaint, author of the Dreamwalker mystery series

Teresa has written eight other cozy mysteries and contributed stories to six anthologies. Several of her short stories have won awards from Texas writers groups. Readers and reviewers have enjoyed her colorful, salt-of-the-earth characters and sleepy small-town settings.

When Nora Alexander arrives in Piney Woods, Texas, to fulfill her dying mother’s last wish, she has no idea what awaits her. First she is run off the road, then the sealed letter she delivers turns out to be a scathing rebuke to the town’s most beloved citizen and favored candidate for Piney Woods Pioneer: Adam Brockwell. Next thing you know, Adam has been murdered in a nasty knife attack. Suspicion instantly falls on Nora, one of the last people to see him alive. After all, everyone in Piney Woods loved him. Or did they? Nora learns that her mother had a complicated past she never shared with her daughter.

Told not to leave town by Tuck the flirty sheriff, Nora finds a job with Tuck’s Aunt Marty trying to get the rundown Tunie Hotel back in the black. The old hotel was Piney Woods’ heart and soul in its heyday as an oil boomtown. Now the secrets it harbors may be the key to getting Nora off the hook. She’s going to need to solve the mystery quickly to avoid arrest, or worse: becoming the killer’s next victim.

Says the author, “My brother has worked in the hotel industry for the last twenty years and I’ve enjoyed the many stories he told me about his job, from naked people ‘frolicking’ in the lobby to a stabbing in the carport area. I wanted to create a cozy mystery that would traffic a world of characters in and out of my fictitious hotel.”

Teresa Trent lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and children. She has been writing cozy mysteries since 2011. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“Tucker Watson, don’t tell me you finally have a date and you brought her to a funeral,” a woman with short, spiky salt-and-pepper hair said as she walked up to Nora.

“Aunt Marty. Should have known you’d be here.”

“Why not? Adam Brockwell had more money than God.”

“Yes, and sadly he’s one of the few people who didn’t buy real estate through you.” Tuck turned to Nora. “Aunt Marty, this is Nora Alexander. She … will be in town for a little while.”

“Yes, well, he calls me ‘Aunt Marty,’ but I’m only ten years older than he is. I was a late child for my parents.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“And you as well.” She tapped Tuck on the shoulder. “I like this one, sweetie.” Marty grabbed her key out of her purse. “Well, I’ve paid my respects. I need to get back to work. I’m a little overwhelmed right now.”

Tuck Watson reached over and kissed his aunt. “Don’t work too hard.”

Marty laughed and waved over her shoulder as she exited the funeral home.

Azalea Fredericks and her sister moved closer, as quiet as kudzu in the summer. “You came all this way to deliver your letter. What did it say, exactly?”

“Um ….”

Tuck jumped in before Nora could reply. “Nothing important.”

The crowd became quiet. “Who was your mother?” Violet Fredericks now asked. “Adam Brockwell was up for Piney Woods Pioneer, you know.” Violet’s voice was identical to her sister’s.

Azalea leaned forward. “Although our vote was going to be for Bubby Tidwell. I’m one of the fourteen, you know. One of the fourteen people Bubby has rescued. He gave me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. His lips were like pillows, they were.” She started blushing and bit her bottom lip while Violet sighed. Nora tried not to think of Bubby Tidwell’s lips, but it was difficult to brush that whole vision to the back of her mind. Azalea glanced around, “Where is Bubby today?”

“Getting fitted for that new suit he’s going to need when he is pronounced Piney Woods Pioneer. Going back to the subject at hand?”

Nora checked Azalea’s lips to be sure they weren’t moving.

“I don’t know,” Nora answered, trying to be polite. “I didn’t even know about the letter until right before she died.”

Azalea started fanning herself with her hanky. “And you’ve come here to avenge your dead mother ….”

Nora feared Azalea would get the vapors, if women still came down with vapors.

“No,” Nora snapped, “of course not. I didn’t know about her dislike for the man. I didn’t even know that she knew him. This is all news to me.”

A man in a crisp brown suit joined their cozy group. “I say, you’ve got a lot of nerve coming to the funeral of the man you killed.”

“I did not kill him,” Nora said through clenched teeth.

A woman stepped up beside him. “Of course you’d say that.”

Nora feared she was about to be lynched as more of the men and women around her started closing in.

“Listen …” Nora tried to reason with the crowd.

“Quit picking on her!” a man yelled as he stepped out from the group now crowding around her.

Nora recognized him as the drunk from in front of the hotel. The same man who’d run from her at the bar. He had on a worn suit and a green-felt fedora. She smelled liquor on his breath, but he seemed to be almost sober.

The man addressed the small crowd. “This is what’s wrong with this town. You’re all just a bunch of bullies, starting with the man in the casket. Bullies!” The drunk walked over and put his arm around Nora. As he did so, he stepped back and gazed at her. Tears formed in his bloodshot eyes. “It’s amazing,” the drunk said, staring at Nora.

“What is?”

“How much you look like your mother.”

“Excuse me?” Nora asked.

The man removed his tattered fedora. “Shpitting image. Just amazin’.”

The Judas Codex, by Mark Everett Stone: A Catholic Priest Leads the Battle to Defeat the Evil Descendants of Judas

The Judas Codex ($15.95, 280 pp, 6×9 ISBN: 978-1-60381-282-5) is the long-awaited follow-up to book2Mark Everett Stone’s highly acclaimed work of urban fantasy, The Judas Line. The third book in the Judas Line Chronicles, The Judas Revelation, will be published in June of 2018. Now in possession of the Sicarii’s unholy book, Father Michael Engle joins forces with Cain, a fallen angel, and mysterious new allies against the forces of evil.

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“An amazing group of characters that are both good and evil, adding to more intensity as the first one did. This is definitely, edge of your seat, page turner.” Read more….

—Amy’s Bookshelf

The Judas Line earned a starred review in Publishers Weekly, which wrote, “Stone’s depiction of magic is realistic and intelligent and his treatment of Catholicism refreshingly informed and three-dimensional. Even the obligatory near-apocalyptic ending is coherent, surprising, and exciting.”

Blaine Deschamps has succeeded Julian as head of the all-powerful family known as the Sicarii, the fearsome descendants of Judas, the apostle who betrayed Christ for thirty pieces of silver. These silver coins became a powerful artifact known as The Silver, giving the Sicarii an edge in the battle against the forces of Good. Jude Oliver, born Olivier Deschamps, renounced his family and stole the Silver. In an epic battle, he killed his father, Julian, putting a major crimp in the Sicarii’s plans.

Although Jude gave his life to protect mankind, his friend, the Catholic priest Father Mike Engle, survived, and is now in possession of the Codex Infernales, the Deschamps’ unholy book. The Sicarii will go to any lengths to kill Father Engle and retrieve the Codex, but the task proves far more difficult than they imagined. Mike is watched over by another arch-enemy of the Sicarii who has eluded their assassins for millennia: Cain, son of Adam, doomed to wander the Earth until he is killed, or the end of time, whatever comes first. Now Cain and Mike must fight the Sicarii, find a mysterious oracle, avoid ambushes, and ally with an old enemy of the Sicarii who has been fighting them for centuries. What could go wrong?

Says Stone, “What inspired me, or better yet was my genesis (pun intended) for writing this series was my desire to explore my own faith. As a Christian and a man of logic, I certainly don’t believe in magic, but as a writer, I always have magic at my fingertips. I wanted to write a fantasy that takes God and magic into account. Most magic was a reflection of the divine spark that God imbued upon mankind and the world and I wanted to play with that idea. I also felt this concept would be different enough and bold enough to attract readers.”

Born in Helsinki, Finland, Mark Everett Stone arrived in the U.S. at a young age and promptly dove into the world of the fantastic. Starting at age seven with The Iliad and The Odyssey, he went on to consume every scrap of Norse Mythology he could get his grubby little paws on. At age thirteen he graduated to Tolkien and Heinlein, building up a book collection that soon rivaled the local public library’s. In college Mark majored in Journalism and minored in English. Mark is also the author of the From the Files of the BSI (Bureau of Supernatural Investigation) series. Mark lives in California with his amazingly patient wife, Brandie, and their two sons, Aeden and Gabriel. Click here to find Mark online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Out in the dim light of the church proper, written on several pews, written in blood that shone black in the spare light, were the words “There is NO GOD.”

“Do you know how long I have waited for you?”

That voice floated from the darkness pregnant with menace. An Irish brogue so thick the words were barely understandable. A man’s deep baritone. I didn’t jump or twitch or scream. I was firmly in combat mode, training that ended over twenty years ago kicking to the fore in a rush of muscle memory. My switches flipped and I felt frosty, cold enough that I fancied the juices in my eyes froze solid.

“Come out, come out wherever you are,” I sang, mind clicking along like a clock.

“A priest with a sense of humor,” said the voice. “I like that, I do.”

“Who are you?”

What answered me was a sort of high-pitched warble, a fluctuation of tones that grated on my nerves. The man was giggling.

When the voice once again emerged, it was filled with a strange sort of hilarity. “Me? I’m the one having fun!”

“Come on out. Let’s have fun together.” Drip, drip. Fun. Eviscerating Father Paul and hanging his corpse in an obscene parody of crucifixion was fun for this guy. I was sorely tempted to put a few rounds into his skull the second he showed his face.

But that’s not the kind of guy I am. Not anymore.

Deep breaths, stay frosty, be the machine, no emotions. “Come out, Sicarius.” I flicked my eyes to Father Paul, whose dull, lifeless hazel eyes gazed fearfully at the blood-drenched carpeting. “Come out, Atheist.”

“Awww … who’s been telling tales?” came the mocking voice in a parody of a child’s whine. “Been watching the telly?”

“You’ve been making a splash in Chicago,” I replied, trying but unable to get a fix on the source of the voice. The only thing I saw were shadows and the twin rows of pews stretching toward the front door. It was a wide-open space, but there were plenty of places to hide. “A serial killer who targets priests, hangs them upside down from the cross and writes ‘There is no God’ in blood on the pews. Tends to grab the attention of my sort.”

“It’s good to be famous, isn’t it? Be that as it may, I’m glad you know what I am, who I answer to, although it takes away from a clever monologue I’ve been developing.” Giggle.

“Who’s the new boss, Mr. Atheist?” Any intel was good intel. Providing I survived. “Who pulls your strings?”

“We all have strings, giggle, little priest. Rome pulls yours.”

There you are. My gun rose as if it had a will of its own. There, fourth pew from the front, where the shadows were deep. Come on.

The Frenchman and the English Rose, by Carolann Camillo: Romance and Intrigue during the U.S. Colonial Period

frenchmanSworn to vengeance, Rive stole Catherine away on the eve of her marriage. Will this fierce Frenchman fight her countrymen to the death in the French and Indian War?

The Frenchman and the English Rose (ISBN: 978-1-60381-681-6, $14.95, 216 pp.) is a reprint of an historical romance by Carolann Camillo, originally published as Moonlit Desire. The story takes place during the U.S. Colonial period and culminates in the Battle of Quebec.

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“Camillo sets this dramatic standalone historical romance in the mid-18th century, during the French and Indian War. [….] Romantic tension simmers between Rive and Catherine as they travel toward his home in an Indian village and Rive prepares for Jeremy to follow them. The danger Rive and Catherine encounter throughout adds magnetism to the blossoming romance and the plentiful historical details.”  Read more….

—Publishers Weekly

“Carolann Camillo provides tightly woven narration with just enough period detail to make the setting and circumstances come alive for the reader. She describes the forest surroundings of rural New York in a way reminiscent of James Fenimore Cooper. The dialogue is true to the time period, yet it has a freshness we can all relate to today. Very captivating.” Historical Novel Society

“The progression of the story, the vivid descriptions of the scenery all keep the reader engrossed in the character’s plight. Camillo’s keen perception about human behavior, desires, and motivation show that she deserves to be on the pedestal alongside such classic romancers as Nora Roberts and Jude Deveraux.” Romantic Historical Lovers Blog

“Catherine and Rive have a chemistry that is astonishing.[….] Ms. Camillo pens a wonderfully inspired story of love, devotion and honor. This is positively a heart-warming gem with all the makings of a great book. Indeed a journey worth traveling in every page.” Coffeetime Romance & More

In 1759 Catherine Bradshaw travels from London to the colony of New York to join her future husband, Jeremy Flint, a man she barely knows but already fears. Immediately after the wedding ceremony, their coach is waylaid by Rive St. Clair, a French Army captain who has sworn vengeance against Flint. Rive abducts Catherine and heads north, confident that Flint will pursue. Sixteen years earlier, Flint instigated a massacre at an Indian village, and now Rive hopes to lure him back to that same village and make him pay for his crimes.

As Rive forges a path through the wilderness, Catherine’s indomitable spirit and resilience are put to the test. She is frightened of her surroundings and the man who holds her fate in his hands. Rive makes no secret of his desire for her, and she is determined to resist her own growing attraction. As for her scoundrel of a husband, Catherine harbors no more illusions, especially after his cowardly plot to rescue her fails disastrously.

Rive brings Catherine to Quebec City, the French stronghold he has pledged to defend against the British. There he proves himself worthy of her love, respect, and devotion. Catherine’s hard-won happiness may be all too brief. The French city falls to the British, leaving Rive to the mercy of his enemies. But Catherine will not surrender without a fight. The British have not bargained on her ingenuity or the depth of her passion for Rive.

Says Camillo, “Ever since I read The Last of the Mohicans, I wanted to write a novel that takes place during the period of the French and Indian War. James Fenimore Cooper’s classic totally captured my imagination. My goal with this book was to make that conflict come alive for a new generation.”

Carolann Camillo’s other novels include Southern Star, Forever Mine, The Very Thought of You, and Eyewitness (with Phyllis Humphrey). A member of Romance Writers of America, she was a finalist in the Windy City Romance Writers Contest. She won the Foster City International Writers Contest in the children’s story division. Carolann was born in New York City and graduated from St. John’s University. She lives with her college professor husband twenty miles south of San Francisco. Click here to find Carolann online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

A shiver rippled though Catherine’s body, a shiver having naught to do with the lack of sunlight or the cool, damp air. She had responded to him, and she could no longer deny it. It had something to do with the tilt of his mouth when he smiled and everything to do with his touch, now so surprisingly light, considering that he must be furious with her. When he threaded those long, sculpted fingers through her hair, her scalp prickled with the most delicious sensations. She wondered when he would stop, was afraid to contemplate where he would stop. It took all her willpower to smother the moan that was forming dangerously in her throat. She could still feel his body imprinted against every part of hers.

It also took a considerable dose of common sense, combined with a stout mental kick to the posterior, to gather her defenses. Admittedly, he treated her with some respect. He touched her, but in a far less intimate way than he might have done, and had been generous in sharing his breakfast. Still, she was loath to think of his actions as gallant. She had no guarantee he would continue playing the role of a gentleman if they were to spend many more days and nights together. Her body’s betrayal frightened her, and she resolved to give him no cause to abandon all decency.

After what seemed an eternity, he said, “Don’t ever do that again. There are dangers about far greater than any you will ever suffer from me.”

She pushed against his chest with her arms. “I cannot breathe.”

He tipped her face up and gazed into her eyes. “I cannot trust you. So, Catherine, it seems I had better keep you close.”

He lifted her into his arms and carried her to the stream, setting her on her feet at the water’s edge. A flock of wild geese flew overhead in a V formation. On the opposite bank, a doe and her fawn stepped out of the trees and approached the stream. Rive placed a finger against his lips, and together they watched the animals drink.

Having experienced such an idyllic scene only in books, Catherine stared, enthralled. The doe raised her head and stood perfectly still for a moment before she turned and bolted for cover, followed closely by the fawn.

Rive slipped free the lace ruffle Catherine had tucked into her bodice, dipped it in the water and dabbed at the tiny cuts on her arms and hands. Throughout his ministrations, she stood as still as one of the surrounding trees. Spent from her flight and desperately in need of refreshing, she let him cleanse her wounds. While he did, she deepened her resolve to allow nothing he said or did to affect her in that way.

The task completed, he led her to where he left his horse, saddled and ready to ride.

“Madame’s transport awaits.” Then he lifted her onto the horse’s back, gathered the reins and bounded up behind her. Looping one arm about her waist, he murmured against her ear, “Yes, from now on, I intend to keep you very close indeed.”

An Interview with Mark Everett Stone, Author of the Judas Line Chronicles

judas_line

Click to go to announcement

What inspired you initially to write The Judas Line?

What inspired me, or better yet was my genesis (pun intended) for writing The Judas Line was my desire to explore my own faith. As a Christian and a man of logic, I certainly don’t believe in magic, but as a writer, I always have magic at my fingertips. I wanted to write a fantasy that takes God and magic into account. Most magic was a reflection of the divine spark that God imbued upon mankind and the world and I wanted to play with that idea. I also felt this concept would be different enough and bold enough to attract readers.

How did you research this series?

Three words: Google, Wikipedia, Google. Then repeat. It also helps that my wife is Catholic and provided me with some insight, which is my connection to Catholicism.

book2

Click to pre-order on Amazon

Without including any spoilers, where do Books 2 and 3 take your characters?

Books 2 and 3 will take Mike farther into the past, to the beginning of the Family all the way to what could be called the Ultimate Confrontation. I also introduce new characters that I hope will prove intriguing.

What kind of fan feedback have you had?

Most of the feedback so far has been wonderful. To date this has been my most critically acclaimed book and I could not be more thrilled. My hope is that 2 & 3 will also be well-received.

judas_revelation

Coming in 2018

Were you surprised when some reviewers called it a Christian-themed book?

I couldn’t care less if the books are considered Christian-themed, although to be honest it would be a disservice to the trilogy because I believe they are more about friendship and the choices we make rather than God or the Devil. I think of the books as Fantasy against a Christian backdrop.

In this series, you combine the history of Christianity with several other mythologies. What was your initial exposure to Greek mythology?

My initial exposure to Greek mythology came from my Dad. He was an English professor and had an old copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology hanging about, and one day I decided to pick it up because it had some cool drawings. Within two minutes I was captivated and devoured the entire thing. I then went on to read the Odyssey and the Iliad. I believe I was about seven at the time.

What other mythologies or literary or cinematic fantasy worlds do you pay homage to in this series?

In this series I certainly pay homage to Norse and Greek Mythologies, as well as some of the fantasy works of Thomas Sniegoski. As for others, not so much, except an interesting take on artifacts and their powers.

Did you ever watch those old Hollywood movie blockbusters—like Ben Hur, The Robe, Jason and the Argonauts? Did they have any kind of impact on your writing?

You bet your sweet bippy I did. Watched them over and over again along with Spartacus, The Ten Commandments and every Sinbad movie ever made. Most of the old Cecil B. DeMille movies had a lot of action to keep the pace going, which I incorporate in my writing because, like the Jason and the Sinbad movies, I wanted to write purely to entertain, to provide a few hours of fun escapism. I only hope I have succeeded.

If The Judas Line were a movie, who would you like to see cast in it?

Toughie….

Jude present: Ian Somerhalder. Past: Tony Curtis

Mike present: Gerard Butler. Past: John Wayne

Cain present: Idris Elba. Past: Burt Lancaster

Maggie present: Gwendoline Christie. Past: Marilyn Monroe

Julian present: Jeff Goldblum, Past: Clark Gable

Anyone else is a grab-bag of your imagination.

The Judas Line, by Mark Everett Stone, 2nd Edition: A Priest and a Former Assassin Team up Against Evil

judas_lineBorn to evil. Trying to be good.

The Judas Line ($15.95, 280 pp., 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-282-5, 2nd edition), by Mark Everett Stone, is a work of urban fantasy about a magician and former assassin who, with the help of a tough-guy priest, sets out to thwart his family’s evil plans.

This special second edition of The Judas Line is now book 1 in the Judas Line Chronicles. Book 2, The Judas Codex, will be released on January 1, 2018. The third and final book, The Judas Revelation, will be released later in 2018.

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** Also available in Kindle and other e-book editions on Smashwords **

“This delightful Catholicism-infused quest fantasy stars a likable and original duo. Fr. Michael Engle, a pragmatic Catholic priest, and Jude, who has a considerably more uncertain relationship with God, are unlikely friends, but when a blood-covered Jude runs into Mike’s church asking for help, Mike listens to him, believes him, and joins him on a quest to find the Holy Grail, which Jude hopes will help him destroy a legendary and dangerous family heirloom. Along the way they encounter Cain, the Norse gods (drinking and watching Bridge over the River Kwai), and a Valkyrie with the requisite ‘chainmail-covered pillowy breasts.’ When Mephistopheles shows up, Jude manages to label him an Arch-Fiend of Hell without irony and without irritating the reader. Stone’s depiction of magic is realistic and intelligent and his treatment of Catholicism refreshingly informed and three-dimensional. Even the obligatory near-apocalyptic ending is coherent, surprising, and exciting.”
Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“A great read, filled with action and adventure. The writer was able to balance both the line between light and dark, adding humor to a story that was filled with intensity and evil.” Read more….

—Amy’s Bookshelf

“This evil mystery is a heavenly read! The Judas Line creates a believable mystery which links the ancient past to the present. By building on the ancient story of the betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas, Market Everett Stone crafts a dark versus light drama which will keep readers hooked. I loved how Stone makes Jude an unwilling member of the darkest family threatening mankind. Simply brilliant!”  Read more ….
—Elizabeth Crowley, Fresh Fiction

“A fast-paced book which does not lack for history or adventure. The inclusion of death and destruction are a given and it is good that there is a lot of humour instilled throughout. I would say that if you’re a fan of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, you will enjoy Mark Everett Stone’s work. Recommended.”
—Michelle Herbert, Fantasy Book Review

“Evil does not die so easily. The Judas Line is a novel following Jude Oliver and the long family line that lies behind him, specializing in assassination, using the artifact known as the silver. Jude Oliver must find the origins and stories of his family to be able to end the Silver’s legacy for good, with only a single Catholic priest by his side. Blending paranormal and biblical ideas, The Judas Line is a riveting thriller that should prove hard to put down.”
Midwest Book Review

“I have come to expect a lot from this remarkably talented writer, but Mark manages to please yet again by bringing new elements to his latest work. The Judas Line is, as anticipated, a lightning-paced thriller that is equal parts non-stop action and intelligent musing. This is, in fact, a surprisingly introspective book that delves into many interesting questions about the nature of good, evil, and faith. It’s an enthralling read certain to delight and entertain, a well-crafted gem worthy of a place on any bookshelf.”
—Michelle Izmaylov, author of The Galacteran Legacy: Galaxy Watch

“Mark Everett Stone takes the classic good versus evil plot line and puts his own unique spin on it. He effortlessly merges bible canon with the world and people he’s created, adding off-the-wall humor to help break the tension. This book makes you laugh while making you think about the nature of evil and the power of faith.”
—Jamie White, author of The Life and Times of No One in Particular

(5 Stars) “I found myself chuckling at some of the insane twists and turns of the plot and other times I was worried by the sudden turn of events …. A fast-paced read, with nail-biting moments and some humor thrown in. The characters were compelling, I often find myself picturing them in my head …. I can’t recommend this book enough.”
—Lisa McCourt Hollar, Jezri’s Nightmares

“Once in a great while, a book comes along that challenges you to think outside the box. The Judas Line is one of those books. I was absolutely amazed at the way Mark Everett Stone has taken religious stories and beliefs and intertwined his own tale of power, evil, friendship, sacrifice and redemption. The action is nonstop and the characters will stay with you long after you finish the last page.”
—M.E. Franco, author Where Will You Run?

“The pacing is flawless in every respect …. Never before have I found a work of fiction to be so captivating. It picks you up, sits you down, and it does not let you even think about getting back up. A word of warning: Hide your pocketbooks, because once you read this, you will spend your next paycheck on every Mark Everett Stone book available. And clear your schedule once you start, because, all of a sudden, that doctor’s appointment doesn’t seem so important.”
—Grace Knight, author of Sun And Moon (2013)

Mark is also the author of the From the Files of the BSI (Bureau of Supernatural Investigation) series. The first book in that series, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Un-dead, won the second place Forward Literature Award for Humor and was a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s debut fiction award, ForeWord Firsts. The series also includes What Happens in Vegas Dies in Vegas, I Left My Haunt in San Francisco, Chicago, The Windigo City, Omaha Stakes, and The Spirit in St. Louis. The final book in the series, Talladega Nightmares, will be released in 2018.

Jude Oliver hails from a long line of assassins. Tired of his family’s treachery and wanting more from life than power, he escapes with their secret weapon, the Silver—an ancient artifact so potent, so evil, that it could plunge mankind into a permanent state of ruin and despair. After fifteen years on the run, Jude receives a surprise visit from a cousin who planned to murder him to obtain the family treasure. So begins Jude’s desperate quest to find another artifact powerful enough to destroy the Silver. His traveling companion is an unlikely friend, Mike Engle—a Catholic priest who found his calling on the brutal sands of Iraq. In the course of their journey, the two men clash with evil in many forms. Mike learns the details of Jude’s incredible history and the family secret that reaches back 2,000 years. Before their final, earth-shattering battle, the duo will find surprising allies and the strength to carry on against seemingly insurmountable odds. Will the lessons Jude has learned about love, friendship and sacrifice be enough to save him from his family and his destiny?

Says Stone, “I have always been interested in the battle between good and evil and the issue of free will. Add those to my desire to explore the nature of friendship, of camaraderie, and you have The Judas Line.  It is my examination of friendship, personal choices and the sacrifices we make for those we love wrapped up in a thriller, tied with a fantasy ribbon.”

Born in Helsinki, Finland, Mark Everett Stone arrived in the U.S. at a young age and promptly dove into the world of the fantastic. Starting at age seven with The Iliad and The Odyssey, he went on to consume every scrap of Norse Mythology he could get his grubby little paws on. At age thirteen he graduated to Tolkien and Heinlein, building up a book collection that soon rivaled the local public library’s. In college Mark majored in Journalism and minored in English. Mark lives in California with his amazingly patient wife, Brandie, and their two sons, Aeden and Gabriel. Click here to find Mark on the web.

Keep Reading for an excerpt:

Mike held up the silvery crucifix that had dispelled the demon, twisting it to and fro in the harsh light of the room. Sighing, he placed the chain around his neck and let the crucifix dangle to rest between his pecs.

“Where to now, Jude?”

I rubbed my chin. “We go to see Leslie Winchester.”

His icy blue eyes grew wide. “Leslie Winchester? The Leslie Winchester?”

“That would be her.”

Cinnamon Relic Leslie Winchester, one of the greatest rock bands of all time Leslie Winchester?”

“Yes, that Leslie Winchester.”

He sat down abruptly on the corner of his rock-hard bed. I hoped he didn’t have hemorrhoids. “I used to listen to Cinnamon Relic all the time. I had their Greatest Hits record. Nearly wore the vinyl down to nothing listening to it.”

“Well, you’re sounding like a broken record, so there’s some synchronicity there.”

“Har-de-har-har …. What’s she doing in Las Cruces?”

“She lives here, well actually in Mesilla, in a castle she had built special.”

“A castle?”

“She’s crazy about them, fancies herself a noblewoman of the middle ages and wants to live as one, or some such nonsense.”

Mike pondered the insanity of aging rock stars for a moment. “I’m keen to meet her, but why are we going?”

“I believe she has the Grail.” I licked my dry lips and repeated, “The Holy Grail.”

Mike shook his head ruefully. “Of course she does. How silly of me not to have known.” He blew a sigh through his nose. “Well, let’s go.”

“That’s it?”

“What?”

I scratched my head. “I thought you’d be more—”

“Flabbergasted?” he asked.

“As good a word as any, but yes.”

Mike fingered his crucifix and stared at the ceiling for a beat. “Listen Jude, I’ve seen you summon elemental beings, use Words that give you amazing abilities, and I’ve read about an amazing device called a molecular knife that you say exists.” Another sigh. “I am quickly running out of skepticism. It seems that my reservoir of disbelief is running dry.”

 

Habitat for Human Remains, by Scott A. Lerner: A Creepy Old Mansion with a Legacy of Murder

habitatMirror, mirror on the wall, who will be the next you maul?

** Click the cover image to order online **

** Or buy it for your Kindle, Nook, or other digital formats on Smashwords **

Habitat for Human Remains ($15.95, 256 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-627-4), by Scott A. Lerner, is the fifth work of urban fantasy in a series featuring Samuel Roberts, small-town attorney and part-time nemesis of the forces of evil, and his computer/weapons/horror movie-geek friend Bob. The series began with Cocaine Zombies and continued with Ruler of Demons, The Fraternity of the Soul Eater, and The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest. In an effort to clear Sam’s mentally ill client from a murder charge, Sam and Bob delve into the rich and gory history of a local haunted house.

Five Stars: “The dialog that was created between Sam, the lawyer and Bob, his friend, had me giggling out loud half the time. One funny character and one relatively serious one were great creations by Scott Lerner. Lerner also pokes a little bit of fun at his own profession here but the legal world is not the focus of his story…. I can tell you that this is well-written and Sam and Bob become your friends. I have said many times that any author that can make characters your friends and/or your enemies is a talented writer. Once you are caught right up in a story with your buddies, you will never miss a word. Read more….

—Long and Short Reviews

5 Stars: “Filled with terror and horrifying details that jump off the page, this story is one this reader soon won’t forget. It’s filled with intrigue and even though you want to hide your eyes or look away, you don’t. Evil is around every corner, and the “Frost Home” is the perfect setting for this suspense-filled thriller.” Read more….

—Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews

5 Stars: “An urban fantasy tale that fits right in with The Dresden Files, the Eric Carter series, and the Iron Druid Chronicles. A locked room mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes, flavored with the spooky elements of Grimm and The X-Files. I love that Samuel and Bob are very nondescript characters rather than sexy, young (looking) characters. I like that too, mind, but it’s nice to see average-looking characters as the main ones. Between the two, they reminded me a lot of the Lone Gunmen conspiracy group from the The X-Files. There is great use of dialogue in the story, and each person has distinct accents and inflections, making them much easier to bring to life in the mind’s eye.” Read more….

— J. Aislynn d Merricksson for Readers’ Favorite Reviews

Cocaine Zombies won a Bronze medal in the 2012 IPPY Awards, mystery category.

This series has received enthusiastic praise from readers and critics:

The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest: “A fun, quick, and hard-to-put-down Halloween story. I recommend it to all urban fantasy lovers who look for a plot that will hook you from the start, engaging characters, and a twist that will surprise the reader.” —Reader Views

The Fraternity of the Soul Eater: “Not only is this an interesting plot full of twists and turns, but Lerner’s characters, Sam and Bob, are witty and endearing.”  —The News-Gazette

Ruler of Demons doesn’t feel like a horror story, but there’s strong tension and entertaining banter throughout the book. It’s the only novel about demons, mutilation, and the apocalypse that can potentially leave a smile on the reader’s face.” —The New York Journal of Books

Cocaine Zombies:  “Lerner has crafted a gripping tale, rife with colorful characters, to create a minor masterpiece of modern fiction.” —Don Gerard, Former Mayor of Champaign, Illinois

For the forces of evil, Sam Roberts is catnip. Even during periods of calm, Sam knows that evil is just biding its time before challenging him again. So when he is asked to defend a wealthy shut-in charged with murder, he is suspicious. Why is the largest and wealthiest law firm in town hiring an outside attorney who is a sole practitioner to represent Mr. Blake May?

Sam’s client resides in the sublimely creepy Frost Home, a “haunted” mansion given a wide berth by the residents of Champaign, Illinois. The house has been engulfed in rumors of death, missing children, and mystery since before the Civil War. Blake May is accused of not only murdering his girlfriend but decimating the remains until they look like marinara. But the agoraphobic middle-aged man rarely, if ever, left his rooms. If he indeed killed Heather, why can’t the police find a murder weapon? Everyone seems to want Blake declared insane rather than acquitted.

Sam and his buddy Bob Sizemore know that Heather’s grizzly fate can’t be blamed on something as mundane as murder. There is a force at work in the house, and it seems to emanate from the mirror hung in the room where the remains of the body were found. Can Sam and Bob end the Frost Home’s eerie legacy of evil?

Says the author, “I write books primarily to entertain my readers. At the same time I like to dig beneath the surface of society. Habitat for Human Remains brings in some of the history of Champaign County and the State of Illinois. Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War play a role in the origins of the mansion known as the Frost Home. So does the Native American Chief Black Hawk. Magic versus science, our treatment of the mentally ill, all these themes are woven in and add depth to the story for readers who are looking for it.”

Author and attorney Scott A. Lerner resides in Champaign, Illinois. He obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and went on to obtain his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. He is currently a sole practitioner in Champaign, Illinois. The majority of his law practice focuses on the fields of Criminal law and Family Law. Mr. Lerner lives with his wife, their two children, and their cat Fern. Lerner collects unusual antiques and enjoys gardening, traveling, reading fiction and going to the movies. Click here to find Scott online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Tiny versions of characters from Dr. Who, Star Trek, and Star Wars stared down at me. I guessed that the characters I could not recognize were from less popular movies, anime, and comic books.

There were props as well, hundreds of them. Some had tags from Hollywood prop houses; others were made for mass consumption. This was a collection that any science fiction geek would truly envy. “Geek” was probably an understatement. To say that Mr. May was a bit of a nerd would be like saying Fonzie is a bit cool. Mr. May was a nerd’s nerd. Perhaps the king of all nerds.

Bob interrupted my thoughts. “Do you have any idea what this shit is worth? There is not an action figure here that would sell for less than a hundred dollars. The movie props alone are worth twenty to fifty thousand. Not a one of them would go for less than a grand. Some of the toys from the fifties, the robots and ray guns—fucking priceless.”

“I have never seen you so excited.”

“Do you see that light saber and the cricket gun from Men in Black? The label says they were ‘screen used.’ How do you put a price on that? Dude, I am telling you, this is the holy grail of collectables.”

“Should I step out? Give you and the room some time alone?”

He did a little twirl, arms spread, as if he were a model presenting the contents at a trade show. “I’m just telling you, this is the big leagues.”

I was keeping an eye out for anything that might have been used as a murder weapon. Although, the police would have taken away anything obvious. There were loads of futuristic weapons: sonic screwdrivers, blasters, ray guns, phasers, and light sabers—none of which appeared to be functional.

There was a club from The Planet of the Apes, but it was made out of a harmless rubber. There was a Klingon bat’leth, but the blade was lightweight and unsharpened. There were also two curved knifes from one of the Riddick movies, but they were created for display rather than use.

When we left the room, I felt dizzy and disoriented. It was like going back in time. The transition from mid-nineteenth century home to science fiction room was jarring. This experience may not have helped me solve a murder mystery, but it told me quite a bit about my client.

Mr. May’s shut-in status might have had less to do with his agoraphobia and more to do with simply having no reason to leave the house. Bob had already indicated he would be glad to stay here. What was the point of leaving? He had everything he needed. In this space alone, he had a kitchen, a bathroom, and a laundry room, and more square footage than most houses. He was certainly strange, but nothing I saw seemed to peg him as the homicidal type—whatever that means.

Lights Out Summer, by Rich Zahradnik: City in the Dark

lights_out_summerIn the summer of 1977, New York City is cast into darkness. And Son of Sam isn’t the only killer in town.

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Lights Out Summer ($15.95, 296 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-213-9), by Rich Zahradnik, is book four of a mystery/thriller series featuring newsman Coleridge Taylor. The series is set on the mean streets of Manhattan and surrounding boroughs in the ’70s. While the rest of the media pursues the Son of Sam story in the spring and summer of ’77, Taylor investigates a murder that happened the same night as one of the serial killer’s attacks. The story will take him places he’s never gone before, including into Park Avenue society and onto the streets during a blackout when the city endures massive looting.

Read “Rich Zahradnik Reflects on Lights Out Summer” in the Mystery Tribune.

Book 1, Last Words, won Honorable Mention in the mystery category of ForeWord Magazine’s 2014 Book of the Year Contest, was a Bronze Medal winner in the mystery/thriller eBook division of the 2015 IPPY Awards, and a finalist in the mystery division of the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. ForeWord called it: “A fast-paced, deeply entertaining and engrossing novel.”

Book 2, Drop Dead Punk, was a finalist in ForeWord Magazine’s 2015 Book of the Year Contest, a Gold Medal winner in the mystery/thriller Ebook division of the 2016 IPPY Awards, and a finalist in the mystery division of the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. RT Reviews wrote, “Hours of engrossing entertainment [….] A thoroughly satisfying read.”

Book 3, A Black Sail, earned a starred review in Library Journal: “Fans of the late Barbara D’Amato and Bruce DeSilva will relish this gritty and powerful crime novel.” It is also a finalist in ForeWord’s 2016 Book of the Year Contest.

“Well-plotted [….] Zahradnik nails the period, with its pack journalism, racism overt and subtle, and the excess of the wealthy as places like Studio 54, as he shows how one dogged reporter can make a difference.” Read more….

—Publishers Weekly

“A descriptive, fast-paced story that is very well researched. Readers will fly through the pages in order to reach the climactic conclusion.” Read more….

—Keitha Hart for RT Reviews

“Taylor Coleridge is a protagonist who is well conceived and very, very well developed. Rich Zahradnik was himself a longtime and well-respected newsman and his knowledge, experience, and love of journalism pour through Taylor. It appears to me that this series is growing in focus and strength—the episodes are getting better and better. [….] Good reading.” Read more….

—Diana Borse for Reviewing the Evidence

“Lights Out Summer is a gripping multiple-murder mystery overlaid with tremendous atmosphere and action. Here’s hoping a fifth Coleridge Taylor adventure is in the works.” Read more….

—Rachel Jagareski for ForeWord Clarion Reviews

“The perfect visual and suspenseful mystery led by a believable and easy-to-like character.” Read more….

—Amy Lignor for Feathered Quill

“[Taylor’s] fight for justice creates a gripping murder mystery chock full of action and brimming with social consciousness.” Read more….

—Tribute Books Mama

“[Taylor’s] zest for doing what’s right while following such gory leads makes the reader root for him from end to finish. It’s wonderful to see Rich broaden the world he’s created around this determined character. […] The author has painted the emotions and situations these characters find themselves in so vividly that you can imagine yourself standing beside them as they dive deeper into the world around them. If you have yet to experience this series, I truly recommend it. More, please!” Read more….

—Lissette Manning, Simplistik.org

“[Lights Out Summer] contained a number of sympathetic and credible characters along with the well-paced suspense of the narrative. I’m glad I didn’t miss it.”  Read more….

—Shomeret, The Masked Reviewer Blog

“The beauty of the story is that the author makes the reader care. The characters are delineated well. They are real people. [….] You just may get hooked on the Coleridge Taylor mysteries.” Read more….

—The One True Faith Blog

“Rich Zahradnik’s gritty writing allows the reader to feel he is with Taylor going into rough territory in New York, digging to get his story. [….] Be ready to sit on the edge of the seat as the mystery unravels!” Read more….

—Belinda Wilson for InD’Tale Magazine

Lights Out Summer is the fourth in this series by Rich Zahranik. I have not yet read the first three, but if they are as well-written as the fourth, they shall be high on my must-read book list [….] How all this is resolved would make your heart stop for a moment or two.” Read more….

—Mary Ann Smyth for BookLoons.com

In March 1977, ballistics link murders going back six months to the same Charter Arms Bulldog .44. A serial killer, Son of Sam, is on the loose. But Coleridge Taylor can’t compete with the armies of reporters fighting New York’s tabloid war—only rewrite what they get. Constantly on the lookout for victims who need their stories told, he uncovers other killings being ignored because of the media circus. He goes after one, the story of a young Black woman gunned down in her apartment building the same night Son of Sam struck elsewhere in Queens.

The story entangles Taylor with a wealthy Park Avenue family at war with itself. Just as he’s closing in on the killer and his scoop, the July 13-14 blackout sends New York into a 24-hour orgy of looting and destruction. Taylor and his PI girlfriend Samantha Callahan head out into the darkness, where a steamy night of mob violence awaits them.

In the midst of the chaos, a suspect in Taylor’s story goes missing. Desperate, he races to a confrontation that will either break the story—or Taylor.

Says Zahradnik, “As Taylor enters 1977, I knew there were two major crime stories I could not ignore—the serial killer Son of Sam and the looting and rioting during the mid-July blackout. Taylor, of course, can’t pursue the Son of Sam case as his story in the book. The detectives who broke that case are a matter of historical record. But I wanted Taylor to dance in and out of the tabloid frenzy that surrounded the forty-four caliber killer, particularly as it was the year Rupert Murdoch took over the New York Post. So Taylor does what he always does best, he finds a victim the rest of press are ignoring. a victim whose story needs to be told. The blackout was a bit easier to work in, as I could portray those terrible hours—the moment when New York really hit bottom—by reading the news stories and history books and having Taylor observe the destruction.”

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 kids how to publish online and print newspapers. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“The killer lay in wait and came out of the stairwell after she returned from the chute. He must have been targeting her. That means a plan and a motive. Who would want to murder your sister?”

“No one.” Abigail began weeping. Her head tipped to one side like she couldn’t quite control her neck. Taylor looked for a box of tissues, but saw it was on a side table next to the couch. He waited.

After wiping her eyes, she said, “Makes no sense, someone doing that to her. She picked this neighborhood because it was safe. She worked hard to stay here.”

‘Makes no sense.’ The unending chorus of the families of the murdered.

Abigail went to a small black table crowded with pictures and handed him a portrait of a pretty black woman in a black graduation gown looking over her shoulder as people did in such shots. Her smile was on the edge of laughter, like she’d cracked up right after the shutter snapped. The eyes, a deep brown almost-black, were in on the joke, crinkled at their corners. Her hair was parted in the middle, wavy and thick, falling down around her shoulders.

“You don’t understand. Martha didn’t make enemies. She didn’t make mistakes. Her high principles wouldn’t allow her to stay at Manning. She moved on. She was going to get another office job. She was going to do whatever she wanted.” Abigail had probably been sitting here for two days, waiting for someone to tell this to. “I don’t have a job …. She was taking care of me.”

The phone rang. Abigail went to the kitchen to get it. The low mumbled conversation lasted a couple of minutes.

“That was her boss, Mr. DeVries. He wanted to know if I was okay. If I needed anything. I said I couldn’t think now. I’d let him know.”

Shows a lot of concern for the sister of a murdered maid. Is that normal?

Taylor didn’t know. He didn’t know much about big Park Avenue apartments and the maids working for the families inside them. The police beat rarely took him to such homes. Maybe this DeVries was being a good human being. Good people lived at all sorts of addresses in New York City. Still, he circled the name and address in his notebook. A visit to the victim’s workplace was always worthwhile.

He lifted his head from the pad, and as he did, Abigail, who was absently scratching her lower arm, yanked the sleeve of her thin red sweater all the way down, holding it in place with her fingertips. Before she could get her arm covered, Taylor caught sight of bruised blotches—the ruptures of needle tracks.

Drugs got you killed in New York City. Easy. All the time. Mess with the wrong pusher. Owe too much. Turn snitch or get accused of same. He observed Abigail with fresh eyes. He’d taken her for too thin and not thought much of it, but there were hollows in her cheeks and dark patches under her eyes. She’d been slumped on the couch and slow in her speech, which he’d thought was grief. Those were also signs of being high.

“You live here too, then?”

“When I’m not at my boyfriend’s.”

“When is that?”

“Here two or three nights a week. My boyfriend never comes over. Martha wouldn’t allow it.”

Without the thinning of the face and the dark areas under the eyes, she resembled Martha—as far as you could tell from a photo. Abigail’s hair was pulled back, so it was hard to guess at length.

“Do you think you two looked alike?”

“Some say. We didn’t think so.”

“Could a killer have been gunning for you?”