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Author Spotlight: Lora Lee

Author Spotlight: Lora Lee
New Pic Nov 2014
Bringing in the Thieves

Reflections From My Front Porch

by Lora Lee

Hey there, y’all! Come on up and sit a spell on my front porch. It’s a lovely Fall afternoon, so relax in that rocker over there and let’s visit.

Did you know there’s a Clergy Appreciation Day? You didn’t? Neither did I. I even checked my calendar. Nothing. Zip. Nada. However, I trust the Bell Bridge marketing department when they tell me there is such a day. After all, they’re pretty smart about that sort of thing.

Now, if any of y’all have read Bringing in the Thieves, my cozy mystery in the Joyful Noise Mysteries, you know that the main character is a preacher’s daughter. Yep, Frankie Lou is a PK and her halo is in dire need of polishing. Seems she didn’t appreciate her clergyman father during her rebellious teen years. Hmmm. I wouldn’t know anything about that.

What’s that you ask? Oh, of course, I’m a PK. Always have been, but I’m not at all like Frankie Lou, bless her heart. After all, I’m a lot older and I know better. Life when I was growing up was different for a PK. Frankie Lou’s modern day problems were . . . well, you can read all about her in the book. I’ll give you a brief inside look into my own childhood days and you can draw your own conclusions.

There was one period during WWII when daddy was a Captain and chaplain in the US ARMY that I remember well. That was a worrisome time ‘cause my big brother was in the US NAVY somewhere out in the Pacific during that time, too. Momma shed a lot of tears while both of them were gone.

The time came when Momma and I were able to move where Daddy was stationed. That meant attending a new school where I didn’t know a soul. Can’t say I liked fourth grade that year.

Daddy was so handsome in his uniform. I felt pretty special when we ate in the mess hall with the other officers. But one Thanksgiving, Daddy wanted us to eat dinner with the enlisted men. Momma agreed so that’s what we did. Daddy loved those young men like his own son and did his best to prepare them for what they might be facing if they were sent overseas. I’m pretty sure those men appreciated the clergy because the chapel was always filled every Sunday.

I only had eleven years to appreciate my clergyman father. I didn’t even appreciate God the day Daddy died, but through the years, Momma kept me on the straight and narrow with her unconditional love. My appreciation of the clergy has grown as I’ve matured. And believe it or not, God never gave up on me, either.

Thanks for visiting on the front porch with me today. Y’all come back, ya’ hear.

Lora Lee

 

Pick up Bringing in the Thieves, the first in the Joyful Noise Mysteries, today for only $1.99!

Author Spotlight: Howard Odentz

Author Spotlight: Howard Odentz

LOOK!!! A Highland Coo!!!


I just came home from a 10-day tour of Scotland. The whole country is beautifully bleak, with rolling hills in the lowlands and towering mountains in the highlands. By a very thin margin, the national asset is arguably the sheep or the highland cow (pronounced coo). The people are friendly. The shops are literally  bursting with tartan, and everywhere you look the ground is covered with heather, which our kilt-clad guide, Ian, described as a ‘disappointing brown’ this time of year.

It’s cold there, which the New Englander in me loves. The history is filled with blood, which the horror writer in me adores.

Still, I have a beef with Scotland, and it’s a big beef, roughly the same size as a shaggy highland coo.

My beef is Nessie.

I’ve literally spent my whole life dreaming of the day that I would stand on the dark shores of Loch Ness and look off in the distance, camera at the ready, to see Nessie rise from the depths in all her prehistoric splendor, just so I could get a selfie with her monstrous, slimy self.

The thing is . . . the locals don’t actually believe that Nessie exists.

Wait, what?

Oh sure, there are little stuffed Nessies at all the gift shops, and salt and pepper shakers shaped like a head and a hump. What’s more, there’s even a place called Nessieland on the outskirts of Inverness, with all the seriousness of the It’s a Small World attraction at Disney. Just the for record, the Disney attraction is far creepier and you all know what I think about creepy kids (See Little Killers A to Z among my recent releases).

Our portly guide on our Loch Ness boat ride giggled when he pointed out the tiny trailer across the loch where the resident crazy has lived for the last twenty-five years, scanning the waters daily for signs of the monster. He practically admitted that most locals cross the street when they spy him because he also believes in Bigfoot, aliens, and the fact that the majority of folks in the US government are really giant lizards intent on taking over the world.

Great. Just great. Go ahead and shatter my entire world view.

I suppose that witches, ghosts, vampires, and intelligent politicians are all fantasies, too?

I’m crushed, Scotland. I guess there’s nothing left for me to do but throw away all my old beliefs and maybe switch to writing romance novels. That, or shore up the walls inside my head and hold fast to the inarguable fact that Nessie is really down there in the depths somewhere waiting for that one person who will get that perfect shot of her.

I can be that person. Why not? I’m booking a trip back to Scotland soon and I’m going to rent a tiny, stucco bungalow near that equally tiny trailer across the Loch. Maybe the man who lives there will give me pointers on where to stalk the waters with my camera ready.

After all, someone has to win the Lottery. Why not me?

 

Pick up Little Killers A-Z today for just $0.99! This deal will only last until the 15th!

Bad things come in small packages . . .

EPIC Award finalist Howard Odentz has penned twenty-six disturbingly fascinating horror stories about the youngest predators among us.

From Andy and Boris to Yuri and Zina, this eclectic anthology is filled, A to Z, with psychopaths, monsters, and murderers!

So turn on the lights and huddle under your blankets because murder isn’t just for grown-ups anymore. Come meet our gallery of little killers.

After all, they’re dying to meet you!

 

 

About Howard Odentz:

Author and playwright Howard Odentz is a lifelong resident of the gray area between Western Massachusetts and North Central Connecticut. His love of the region is evident in his writing as he often incorporates the foothills of the Berkshires and the small towns of the Bay and Nutmeg states into his work.

Author Spotlight: Anthony Francis

Author Spotlight: Anthony Francis
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Author pic for web

When Inspiration Finds You, Pounce on it!

Alright, I’ll admit it: I didn’t start out liking steampunk. When The Difference Engine came out, I just didn’t get it. I mean, Charles Babbage’s Difference Engines actually working, much less changing Victorian society? I didn’t buy it. Looking back, I think I just didn’t like alternate history, as I found other, similar novels off-putting.

But as I grew, I watched the steampunk movement grow too, hand in hand with the burgeoning maker community. At the same time I started attending the Maker Faire and admiring all the amazing contraptions our modern independent inventors were coming up with, I started noticing more and more steampunk costumes expressing the same kind of gutsy do-it-yourself, throw-it-all-together flair.

It all came together for me at Dragon Con 2009, where from the very first day I encountered a cavalcade of steampunks in amazing costumes – men with coffee blasters, women with clockwork wings, a young female soldier with a gearwork gatling gun incongruously grabbing a burrito at Willy’s in the food court.

And every costume was covered with brass, gears, and goggles! Now, I started out writing Larry Niven-style hard science fiction, so I asked myself the question: what would make the technology used by steampunks so different from our own? And as soon as I asked that question, I was hooked.

The brass? Clearly they’d invented some lightweight supermaterial with a brass finish. The gears? Clearly they used clockwork computation (damn it, you win, William Gibson!) And the goggles? Why, of course, to protect their eyes from the ultraviolet rays—nay, the period-appropriate actinic rays—of their rayguns!

And the female soldier? Well, that was a harder nut to crack, given the attitudes of the Victorians, but soon I found the answer. Women’s liberation actually started in the early eighteen hundreds, promoted by Mary Wollstonecraft, the mother of Mary Shelley—but when Wollstonecraft died in childbirth, her movement died with her.

But what if antibiotics had been discovered in the seventeen hundreds?

Then it all fell into place. In my steampunk world, Mary Wollstonecraft survived. Women’s liberation flourished in the early eighteen hundreds, and women flooded the sciences. Many other scientists who died young in our world also survived because of antibiotics. With more than twice as many brains working on hard problems, their world became more advanced in 1908 than our world is today.

And that’s the world Jeremiah Willstone was born into … and the world of the Clockwork Time Machine.

I hope you have fun there!

Pick up Anthony Francis’s newest title – JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE today! Available at these retailers:

 

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2lhOxeD

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2ld3m1T

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/2lLRS9m

Google: http://bit.ly/2mhT3uK

About the Author:

By day Anthony Francis studies human and other minds to design intelligent machines and emotional robots; by night he writes fiction and draws comic books at the collision point of hard science and pure fantasy. He was inspired to study artificial intelligence by Douglas Hofstadter, to become a writer by Isaac Asimov, and to write urban fantasy by Laurell K. Hamilton and Richard P. Feynman. He got his Ph.D in AI and his brown belt in Taido from Georgia Tech; he currently supports his out-of-control reading and writing habits by working at the Search Engine That Starts With a G. Anthony lives in San Jose with his wife and cats but his heart will always belong in Atlanta.

Author Spotlight: H.W. Buzz Bernard

Author Spotlight: H.W. Buzz Bernard
Cascadia

IT PROBABLY HELPS TO BE A FEW FRIES SHORT OF A HAPPY MEAL

A few days ago, I came across some notes I made while plodding though the literary landscape in search of an agent who would represent my debut novel, EYEWALL.  The notes were compiled in 2009 – a couple of years prior to EYEWALL’s publication.  I had no recollection of making them, but there they were.

What they were was this: a compilation of comments agents had made about the manuscript, both pro and con.  I assume I kept them to remind me to focus on the positive remarks as opposed to the negative ones, since I tend to be a glass-half-empty kind of guy instead of a glass-half-full one.  In other words, I needed an antidote, the “pro” comments, to ward off the poisonous effects of negative reviews.

If you’re a published writer or are looking for an agent, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you aren’t, then what follows will provide a little insight into what authors face as they trek along the winding, unpaved road to publication.  In my case, the road turned out to be ten years long and strewn with four different manuscripts.

If nothing else, a review of the comments I received serves as a vivid reminder of how TOTALLY SUBJECTIVE the endeavor of assessing manuscripts is.  And I know this from both sides of the aisle now, since I occasionally judge writing competitions.

So here we go.

According to my notes, I lacked genuine talent as a writer.  One agent said she was “not that impressed by the writing.”  Another dissed my execution as “a bit dense and overwritten.”

Time for a big swallow of my antidote.  “You have a gift of description which is lushly depicted,” declared one agent.  Another pointed out: “Your language in descriptive passages really impressed me.”  Okay, perhaps there’s a glimmer of hope for me.

I apparently had trouble kick starting the story, however.  One agent pointed out the first two chapters were “not compelling enough.”  But another told me, “Very nice writing, especially the first chapter.”  Hmmm, maybe I sent out two different manuscripts.

Then there was the issue of driving the drama forward.  “More slow-moving than I’d hoped,” one reviewer complained.  Another griped, “The details get in the way of what should be more fast-paced and gripping.”

Happily, there was an opposite assessment: “Starts off fast paced right from the beginning.”

The body blows were relentless, however.  Agents were “not sufficiently engaged; not sufficiently enthusiastic;” or found the tale “a bit predictable.”

Thankfully, there were always the counterpunches to keep me going: “Great and timely concept, one with clear marketability,” and “you write well and deserve an agent with the time to properly represent you.”

It took me another year before I found such an agent.

In the end, I’d have to say the pro comments were more on target than the cons.  EYEWALL went on to become a number-one best seller on Amazon’s Kindle Store.

That’s just the kind of goofy business this is.  It’s a game with only self-defined rules, amorphous boundaries, and no referees.  One that’s both fun and terribly frustrating.  To play it, you have to be tenacious, thick-skinned, and probably a few fries short of a Happy Meal.

 

Pick up EYEWALL by H.W. Buzz Bernard today for just $1.99!

St. Simons Island, Georgia, has never been hit by a Category 5 hurricane. Until now.

No one predicted the storm’s sudden force. A crippled Air Force recon plane, trapped in the eye of a violent hurricane. An outspoken tropical weather forecaster, fired from his network TV job before he can issue a warning: the storm is changing course and intensifying. A desperate family searching for a runaway daughter on Georgia’s posh St. Simons Island, cut off from escape as the hurricane roars toward them. A marriage on the rocks; an unrequited sexual attraction; a May-December romance. All will be swept up by the monster storm.

Get ready for a white-knuckle adventure.

 

 

And don’t forget to grab H.W. Buzz Bernard’s other great Bell Bridge Titles as well!

  

 

About the Author:

H. W. “Buzz” Bernard is a best-selling, award-winning novelist.

His debut novel, EYEWALL, which one reviewer called a “perfect summer beach read,” was released in May 2011 and went on to become a number-one best seller in Amazon’s Kindle Store.

PLAGUE (“One of the best thrillers of 2012″–novelist Al Leverone) came out in September 2012, and won the 2014 EPIC eBook Award in the suspense/thriller category.

SUPERCELL (“Races along with the speed of a twister”–novelist Michael Wallace) was published in late 2013 and became a best seller on Kindle as well as the winner of the 2015 EPIC eBook Award in the suspense thriller/category.

Buzz’s fourth novel and third in his “weather trilogy,” BLIZZARD (“A terrific book”–novelist Deborah Smith) was released in February 2015. It led to his nomination for a 2016 Georgia Author of the Year award.

CASCADIA (“heart pounding”–Reed Farrel Coleman, NYT best-selling author WHERE IT HURTS) hit the market in July 2016.

Before becoming a novelist, Buzz worked at The Weather Channel as a senior meteorologist for 13 years. Prior to that, he served as a weather officer in the U.S. Air Force for over three decades.  He attained the rank of colonel and received, among other awards, the Legion of Merit. His “airborne” experiences include a mission with the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters, air drops over the Arctic Ocean and Turkey, and a stint as a weather officer aboard a Tactical Air Command airborne command post (C-135). In the past, he’s provided field support to forest fire fighting operations in the Pacific Northwest, spent a summer working on Alaska’s arctic slope, and served two tours in Vietnam. Various other jobs, both civilian and military, have taken him to Germany, Saudi Arabia and Panama. He’s a native Oregonian and attended the University of Washington in Seattle where he earned a bachelor’s degree in atmospheric science; he also studied creative writing. Buzz currently is vice president of the Southeastern Writers Association. He’s a member of International Thriller Writers, the Atlanta Writers Club and Willamette Writers. He and his wife, Christina, live in Roswell, Georgia, along with their fuzzy and sometimes over-active Shih-Tzu, Stormy.

Buzz’s Website can be found at www.buzzbernard.com.

Author Spotlight: Wally Avett

Author Spotlight: Wally Avett
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From WALLY AVETT, Martins Creek, Murphy, NC   Jan. 3, 2017

I wrote LAST BIGFOOT IN DIXIE for my friends and readers here in our little mountain town, sometimes compared to Mayberry. I still write a column for our weekly newspaper where I was editor during the 1970’s. So, I know them and they all know me.

And to a certain degree, their stories fuel my stories. Like all my books, LAST BIGFOOT IN DIXIE is inspired by true incidents that actually happened; some I witnessed, some I participated in, and some I was told about.

There’s a gentle love story, backwoods humor, and some mystery. Real, indigenous characters are easily recognizable to my local readers.

Yes, it’s fiction, but a little girl from Ohio was really killed and partially eaten by a black bear in a nearby U. S. Forest Service campground. And, there was a small-town doctor who sold hillbilly babies to rich couples from Atlanta and Chattanooga, and kept no records. There was even once a Yankee gold payroll stolen away by the bushwhackers, but only in LAST BIGFOOT IN DIXIE did it end up buried under Wal-Mart!

My “brain trust” consisted of four faithful buddies who did first readings of all my manuscripts. Some got testy about the title I had chosen. “Who is the real Bigfoot?” they nagged. “Was it the giant Cherokee or the killer bear?”

I politely answered that it could be either one. They got upset and said, “You wrote the damn book and you don’t even know?”

It is what it is. You, gentle critics, make the call.

Happy reading – hope you enjoy LAST BIGFOOT IN DIXIE.

Pick up LAST BIGFOOT IN DIXIE for just $0.99! Don’t wait! This deal ends 1/31/17!

Killer bear, Appalachian psycho, Yankee gold . . .

He’s on the trail of something big . . .

Deep in the Great Smokies, a huge black bear kills a child at a campground, and a hunt begins in a quiet mountain community where such threats are rare. Wade, an outdoorsman and backwoods columnist, is quickly deputized to find and slay the massive beast terrorizing tourists and locals alike.

While on the trail, he is wounded by a pot-grower’s booby trap and stalked by Junior, an authentic Appalachian psychopath. Two fellow deputies are gunned down, and rumors of buried Civil War gold surface. Wade gets unexpected assistance from a wannabe writer whose gifts prove helpful even after mushroom trances and spiritual quests—enhanced by a Minnesota Vikings horn-helmet.

The discovery of a mysterious doll ties into grisly murders from the past, and Wade meets a tough, old Marine with a puzzling treasure map. All the while, the looming threat of Junior’s lethal lunacy stalks Wade and his colorful allies.

 

 

 

 

 

And don’t forget to pick up Wally Avett’s other Bell Bridge title: MURDER IN CANEY FORK:

It’s the trial of the century in a 1940’s North Carolina town.
Murder and vigilante justice.
War hero and law student Wes Ross has to save his uncle–but hide the truth.

Taught to shoot in the rough logging camps of the North Carolina swamps, Wes Ross remembers his lessons well. Dodging hostile gunfire with dozens of other young Marines, he storms a remote Pacific island as one of Carlson’s Raiders in the first commando-style attack of World War II. He blasts several Japanese snipers from their palm-tree hideouts with buckshot before an enemy bullet sends him home.
The Carolina homefront includes a new girlfriend and a new occupation, learning to be a rural lawyer in his uncle’s law office, including courtroom intrigue and what goes on behind the scenes. Wes, like his uncles, is a good man, the kind who takes up for the poor and downtrodden, looking out for those who are easy prey for bullies.
Frog Cutshaw is the storekeeper in the Caney Fork backwoods, a swaggering ex-moonshiner who is deadly with his ever-present .45 auto pistol. Frog’s daylight rape of a married woman and the brutal killing of her husband bring on Bible Belt vigilante justice, an eye for an eye, a life for a life.

 

 

About the Author:

Wally Avett is a retired journalist living in the Great Smoky Mountains of extreme southwestern North Carolina.
“My father was a country preacher,” he says. “So I grew up with good storytellers all around me, friends and family.
“For me, good writing has to be based on truth. I write like my Granny used to make quilts, producing fiction which is actually fashioned from bits and pieces of raw truth, modified and shaped as needed.”
He is an avid reader and gardener, a Sunday School teacher and bluegrass gospel singer, hunter, fisherman and reluctant handyman. He likes history, sometimes sells mountain cabins to retirees fleeing the heat of Florida and often tells funny stories.

Author Spotlight: Katherine Scott Crawford

Author Spotlight: Katherine Scott Crawford
New Author Photo 2017

Walking the Story

By the time my debut historical novel, Keowee Valley, was published, I’d walked, hiked, trail run, swum, paddled, and climbed countless miles of rocks, roads, flatland and mountain trails, lakes and rivers in the foothills and mountains of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Some of this, I’d done as a child, because my family were outdoorsy types. Most, however, I’d done on my own: both as a camp counselor and backpacking guide in my teens and 20s, and on adventures with like-minded friends well into my 30s, the age I am now. Always, and until her death in 2015, I was joined by my faithful trail partner: my dog, Scout.

I go (and went) to the woods—and the forest, the lake, the mountaintop, the river—to “live deliberately,” much the same as Thoreau did in the mid-1800s (minus the wood-chopping). The “woods” bring me back to myself; there is no place I feel more authentic.

The heart of my historical novel, Keowee Valley, takes place in the woods—in the forests of the Southern Appalachians. In fact, nearly every scene in the wilderness sections of the novel occur in real spots: scenery in which I’ve hiked, rivers I’ve paddled (and fallen into), trails I’ve traversed, in all kinds of weather. It is a land I know intimately. I know it as well as the pages of my own heart.

Every time I write a story, place—or setting, as some like to call it—plays a vital role, as important as any character. Maybe it’s the Southern writer in me? Southern writers are such, of course, because of their place. Mostly, I think, it’s because I can’t separate from the land, and neither can my characters. After all, in Keowee Valley, Quinn falls head over heels in love with the dangerous, gorgeous, and wild Cherokee backcountry long before she ever lays eyes on the equally dangerous (and gorgeous, and wild) Jack Wolf.

 

Bio:

Katherine Scott Crawford is a novelist, newspaper columnist, college English teacher, hiker and mom who lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Her parenting and outdoor life column appears weekly in The Greenville News (South Carolina), and is often picked up by other newspapers across the country. She holds far too many degrees in English and writing, chases her children frequently through the Pisgah National Forest, and is currently at work (when she’s actually sitting down) on her next historical novel.

 

Pick up Keowee Valley by Katherine Scott Crawford today for just $1.99!

“A glorious debut from a gifted author.” – Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of Big Stone Gap and The Shoemaker’s Wife

“Keowee Valley is a terrific first novel by Katherine Scott Crawford–a name that should be remembered. She has a lovely prose style, a great sense of both humor and history, and she tells about a time in South Carolina that I never even imagined.” –Pat Conroy, bestselling author of The Prince of Tides and South of Broad.

On the edge of the wilderness, her adventure began.

She journeyed into the wilderness to find a kidnapped relative. She stayed to build a new life filled with adventure, danger, and passion.
Spring, 1768. The Southern frontier is a treacherous wilderness inhabited by the powerful Cherokee people. In Charlestown, South Carolina, twenty-five-year-old Quincy MacFadden receives news from beyond the grave: her cousin, a man she’d believed long dead, is alive–held captive by the Shawnee Indians. Unmarried, bookish, and plagued by visions of the future, Quinn is a woman out of place . . . and this is the opportunity for which she’s been longing.
Determined to save two lives, her cousin’s and her own, Quinn travels the rugged Cherokee Path into the South Carolina Blue Ridge. But in order to rescue her cousin, Quinn must trust an enigmatic half-Cherokee tracker whose loyalties may lie elsewhere. As translator to the British army, Jack Wolf walks a perilous line between a King he hates and a homeland he loves.
When Jack is ordered to negotiate for Indian loyalty in the Revolution to come, the pair must decide: obey the Crown, or commit treason . . .

Author Spotlight: Diana Pharaoh Francis

Author Spotlight: Diana Pharaoh Francis
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The Black Ship
The Cipher
Whisper of Shadows
Edge of Dreams

Making the New Year’s Resolution

Last year was an awful year on a lot of fronts. We lost so many talented people–actors, musicians, writers, artists. It feels like the Grim Reaper took an extra big haul–like he was taking notes from George. R. R. Martin. So many of those who died had a great deal of impact on me through their work. Losing them is like losing bits of myself, of my past, of the world itself. Many important moments of my life have been punctuated by their art.

It made me wonder what they were thinking as they created their works. Did they have any idea how much impact they could have? Or would have? I can’t imagine that they did. They each had something they wanted to say, some emotion or idea they wanted to capture. I know that when I write, I want to make the rest of the world go away. I want to entertain. I want good to triumph against evil, even though it doesn’t always. I always want there to be heroes, even when it seems there are none to be found. I look around in this world and I see those heroes everyday in the news. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things, is what some people like to call them. But they aren’t ordinary, are they? None of us are. We are all extraordinary in our own way. We all have the ability to be somebody else’s hero.

So that’s my New Year’s Resolution: to be somebody’s hero as often as I can, in all the ways I can.

Be entertained by Diana Pharaoh Francis! Pick up Trace of Magic! Only $0.99 until til the 14th!

4 ½ Stars TOP PICK –RT Magazine

“Best book of the year!” –Faith Hunter, New York Times Bestselling Author of the Jane Yellowrock series

Even the most powerful tracers can’t track you if the magical trace you leave behind is too old. But I can track almost anything, even dead trace. That makes me a unicorn, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and the Loch Ness Monster all rolled into one. In a word, I am unique. A very special snowflake. And if anyone ever finds out, I’ll be dead or a slave to one of the Tyet criminal factions.

Riley Hollis has quietly traced kidnapped children and quietly tipped the cops to their whereabouts one too many times. Now she’s on the radar of Detective Clay Price, a cop in the pocket of a powerful magic Tyet faction. When he blackmails her into doing a dangerous trace for him, Riley will have to break every rule that keeps her safe. Or become a Tyet pawn in a deadly, magical war.

“Diana Pharaoh Francis has crafted a winning paranormal mystery that mixes sizzling sex, magic, and a decades old search for artifacts that could change their world.” –Jeanne Stein, Bestselling Author of The Anna Strong Chronicles

“Trace of Magic caught me up fast and pulled me in tight for a fun, action-and-sass adventure full of deadly magic and dangerous romance. Diana Pharaoh Francis delivers a downright terrific read.” –Devon Monk, nationally Bestselling Author of Hell Bent

 

And make sure you pick up the rest of Diana Pharaoh Francis’s wonderful selection!

Diamond City Magic Novels:

The Crosspointe Novels:

The Dead (A Lot) Diaries: Roger Ludlow

The Dead (A Lot) Diaries: Roger Ludlow
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***LITTLE KILLERS is on sale for just $0.99!***

Each day, diary entries will be released from the viewpoint of secondary characters of the Dead (A Lot) Trilogy Universe, people we may not have met (yet!) but who still had Poxer issues of their own. . .

 

Roger Ludlow—Locked in Jolly’s Pharmacy—Guilford, Massachusetts

Diary Entry #1

My Millie got the cancer a long time before she told me.

I don’t rightly know why she didn’t say anything. Maybe she was afraid for me. Sometimes Millie was protective in a way that wives shouldn’t be protective over their husbands.

She stopped letting me mow the lawn when I was fifty-five because she was worried for my ticker.

She refused to let me shovel the sidewalk or the path leading up to the duplex, too. Instead, she scrimped and saved so she could pay that fat, lazy, turd, P.J. Marshall, to do it. Sure as shooting he used that money for reefer. He’s just that way.

Yes, Millie was afraid for me, but when she got the cancer she wasn’t scared that I might blow an artery or have a stroke doing things reserved for younger men.

She was afraid for my mind.

Lordy, she knew me so well.

After all, Millie and I went way back a long way, almost to the beginning. I was sweet on her from the moment I first set eyes on her back in Elvira Morely’s second grade classroom at Guilford Elementary School. There weren’t many other colored families in town back then, so it was a big deal that Millie’s family moved to Guilford.

Lord have mercy, but they were a big bunch, too.

Millie had seven sisters and four brothers, and there she was, smack dab in the middle of them all.

She liked me, too, even though I couldn’t string five words together to make a conversation. I was shy back then, but my Mille wasn’t. She did enough talking for the both of us. When we got hitched, and I worked on cars in Hap’s garage while she did the register and kept the books, she talked for me, too.

You see, she knew I wasn’t a strong man. I’m a good man, but I was never a strong man. As the years went on, I suppose shy gave way to reserved. As the decades layered one on the other like drifts of snow in the winter, reserved gave way to thoughtful, or just, ‘that sweet old, Mr. Ludlow’.

So now what’s ‘that sweet old Mr. Ludlow’ s’posed to do?

My Millie’s got the cancer, and now she’s got this other nonsense, too. I don’t know what it is, but Millie and the rest of the folks here in Jolly’s pharmacy, are sick.

Real sick.

I know one thing for sure. I can’t do this life thing without my Millie. She can’t leave me. She just can’t.

I won’t let her.

 

Roger Ludlow—Locked in Jolly’s Pharmacy—Guilford, Massachusetts

Diary Entry #2

My Millie and I had stopped by Jolly’s Pharmacy to pick up one of her prescriptions.

Millie didn’t like to talk about what Dr. McKee had her taking. She called that junk her special candy. I knew they were pain pills, but she didn’t want me to think she was in pain. Millie never wanted me to worry about her like that.

She’s the one who wanted to worry about me.

There were only a few other locals in the pharmacy when everything happened.

Nola Norris was working the front checkout. She’s been riding that register at Jolly’s for over ten years. Nola always told Millie that someday she’d settle down and find a husband, but I had my doubts. After all, she wasn’t much of a looker. Besides, lately she had been covered with angry, red, poison-ivy welts. My Millie asked her what happened. Nola just shrugged and told her there’re some things that you just shouldn’t do in the woods.

Then there was the druggist—John something-or-other. He’s been at Jolly’s since before I worked at Hap’s. As a matter of fact, he’s been there long enough for me to see his hair go from blonde to white, and the crow’s feet around his eyes to become permanently etched on his face like battle wounds.

That trouble-maker girl who went and got herself tattooed all over the place, was there, too. I don’t know her name, but I do know her parents. She ought to be ashamed of herself for the things she’s put them through. When we first came into the pharmacy, I noticed her reading a magazine in aisle six. She was probably getting ready to steal it.

That girl was always bad news.

Millie and I were slowly walking up the cosmetics’ aisle, arm in arm, heading to the front register. She couldn’t walk that fast, anymore, but she sure as shooting could hold her head up high. I don’t mind telling you, my Millie always walked with her head held high, like one of those beautiful carvings on the front of an old-time whaling ship.

I let her guide me as we walked, because I knew that’s what my Millie wanted and I would do anything for her.

I remember trying to decide if, when we got up front, I was going to buy one of those new-fangled Snicker’s bars with the yellow wrapper—the kind with peanut butter layered inside. Lordy knows they’re bad for me. Still, they taste so damn good.

As we walked, Millie started squeezing my arm. I didn’t quite notice at first, but her grip got harder and harder.

“What’re you doing, woman?” I asked her. That’s when I saw her eyes. They weren’t Millie’s eyes, anymore. They were someone else’s eyes—cold and gray.

I didn’t mean to pull away from her. I would never pull away from my Millie, but I was startled. Her beautiful skin—that soft, brown, cocoa skin that I had the privilege of touching for the majority of our lives—was gray.

I took a step back—then another. That’s when I noticed the others.

I keep playing it all back in my mind in slow motion. I don’t know why, because everything happened so quickly. Still, in my head, it takes a million years.

Nola Norris’s poison-ivy welts weren’t red anymore. They were white against gray skin, and her eyes were gray like Millie’s peepers. Pharmacist John was making a bee-line for me—not Millie—just me. He was walking down the cosmetics aisle like someone with cerebral palsy. I couldn’t understand why, because John was a healthy guy—and that trouble-maker girl—she was staggering toward me, too.

“What’s happening, Millie? Honey, are you okay?” I kept saying, “Honey—honey—honey,” like a broken record, the whole time, her grip squeezing my arm tighter and tighter, like a vice.

Finally, my Millie snarled at me. It was an awful sound, like the growl of a rabid dog in a dark alley, hovering over the bloody remains of a dead rat.

That’s when I knew there was something wrong with them all—not just my Millie, but everyone in the pharmacy.

Something was dead wrong.

 

Roger Ludlow—Locked in Jolly’s Pharmacy—Guilford, Massachusetts

Diary Entry #3

I needed to get help, but by the time I got my head screwed on straight, it was too late. There was no help to get.

The few people out in the parking lot had changed, too. Everyone was sick with whatever my Millie had—all with those gray eyes—staggering around like they were drunk, and all them looking like they wanted to eat me whole.

I ran to the back of the pharmacy, into the storage area behind ‘The Great Wall’.

‘The Great Wall’ was where all the condoms were displayed.

That wall has always been a joke in town. When I was younger—a lifetime ago, the other fellas would always head off to the pharmacy right after they cut out of work on Friday afternoons.

They used to say they were prepping to get their jollies at Jolly’s.

I bought my first box there when I was just shy of nineteen. My Millie made me do it. Don’t get me wrong, she was a good girl and made me wait until our wedding night. She said she wasn’t interested in having no babies until we weren’t babies ourselves, anymore.

Behind The Great Wall and in the back of the storage area, I found the basement door opened a crack. Maybe Nola Norris or Pharmacist John had been down there getting some more gummy worms or wax lips to fill the shelves. Candy always flies out of Jolly’s this time of year. Kids are back at school so they often come into the pharmacy to get their lined paper or pencils. The leaf peepers also start coming this way, hoping they’ll catch a glimpse of whatever colors New England is supposed to be famous for. I’ve been here all my life, so I don’t give no never mind about the colors. Still, the Quabbin Reservoir is beautiful this time of year.

There, or Hollowton, or even Apple.

I don’t mind telling you that anyone who’s anyone should know to stay away from Apple, Massachusetts in autumn. People get themselves killed there. Every year when the trees begin to die there are murders. I guess it’s the price people pay for living there.

Hap lives in Apple, so I asked him about the murders once. He just shrugged and said, “Yeah. Apple chews up and spits out a few seeds every year.” I wouldn’t want to live there, that’s for sure. Who would want to approach the fall every year, dreading that you might end up a seed?

Anyway, I got my Millie and the rest of them to follow me down into the basement. Nola Norris kept gnashing her teeth together as she staggered along. It didn’t take but a minute or two before I realized what Nola Norris wanted was to take a bite out of me. I didn’t know what would happen if she did, but I had a sinking suspicion that a bite from Nola, or any of them, would make me just like them.

My heart ached for my Millie. Maybe if I was bitten I would be just like them—just like her.

One bite—that’s all it would take—but I couldn’t do it. Someone had to take care of my Mille.

Once they were all down in the cellar, it was easy enough to lose them in the stacks of shelves with inventory on them like deodorant and tacky little stuffed animals that kids wail for their mammies to buy them, just to make them shut-up.

I took the stairs, catching one last glimpse of my Millie as I did, then closed the door behind them.

Then, without even thinking, I pulled some beef jerky off a spinning rack, cracked open the door and threw several bags down the stairs. After all, I couldn’t let my Millie go hungry, now could I?

And right then was just about the time the lights went out and I was smothered in darkness so black and deep that it stole the breath clean out of my mouth.

 

Roger Ludlow—Locked in Jolly’s Pharmacy—Guilford, Massachusetts

Diary Entry #4

I’m scared.

I’m tired.

I’m ready to start eating pills behind the pharmacy counter.

I’ve lost track of time, but I think it’s been almost a week now that my Millie and the others have been down in that basement. Sometimes, they can go for hours without making any noise, then all of a sudden I hear them moving, like rats beneath  my feet.

I’ve run out of food to feed them. Lordy knows there ain’t no more beef jerky. Soon I’ll run out of food to feed myself.

Now, there’s some fool outside in an ambulance flashing high-beams at me with Morse Code.

I’m not stupid. I know what Morse Code is.

Sure, I’ll play along.

If whoever is out there wants to come in, I’ll let them.

After all, My Millie and the others have got to be starving down there in that basement, with nothing to chaw on but beef jerky.

I’ll let them in, alright.

And if I have my way, My Millie is sure-as-shooting going to be eating well tonight, I’ll tell you that right now.

She is sure-as-shooting going to be eating well.

 

Novels by Howard Odentz:

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Dead (A Lot) (The Dead a Lot Trilogy, Book 1)

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2fwFMOt

BN: http://bit.ly/20IBtBn

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1Og6vIC

Apple: http://apple.co/1JS1H6v

Google: http://bit.ly/1DvyBrm

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Wicked Dead (The Dead A Lot Trilogy, Book 2)

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2f9zHDu

BN: http://bit.ly/2dprZXT

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2d4rbK3

Apple: http://apple.co/2e4P3cP

Google: http://bit.ly/2cRscl0

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Bloody Bloody Apple

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2erp8f2

BN: http://bit.ly/20IBq8D

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1EZhJ2i

Apple: http://apple.co/1D9txyj

Google: http://bit.ly/1gOKRhF

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Little Killers (Only $0.99 til 11/3)

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2f9xurS

BN: http://tinyurl.com/hhyrtm2

Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/hjjx462

Apple: http://tinyurl.com/zo3n8rc

Google: http://tinyurl.com/hawdd59

About the Author:

howard_odentz-jpgAuthor and playwright Howard Odentz is a lifelong resident of the gray area between Western Massachusetts and North Central Connecticut. His love of the region is evident in his writing as he often incorporates the foothills of the Berkshires and the small towns of the Bay and Nutmeg states into his work.

In addition to The Dead (A Lot) Series, he has written the horror novel Bloody Bloody Apple, the short story collection Little Killers A to Z, and a couple of horror-themed, musical comedies produced for the stage.

Beginnings

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don-donaldsonBEGINNINGS

 

I love to watch movies about how famous people got their start, especially singers.  The other night I saw a TV rerun of WALK THE LINE, the biopic about Johnny Cash. There’s something fascinating about how he barged into Sam Philips’ recording studio in Memphis and talked the man into giving him an audition.  Cash and his two buddies do a gospel song for Philips and he’s obviously not very interested. When they finish, Philips says, “I can’t sell gospel music. Got anything else?” That’s the big turning point.  Philips didn’t say Cash couldn’t sing.  He wanted to hear something different. Now, I’m on the edge of my seat.  What did Johnny Cash do next? He sang a little song he wrote himself, FOLSOM PRISON BLUES.  And that sealed the deal.  By the way, Joaquin Phoenix played Johnny Cash and really sang the songs himself.  Amazing.

My interest in big breaks that launch careers isn’t limited to singers. It also extends to writers (big surprise).  The story about how Stephen King sold his first book sounds as though it was scripted for dramatic effect.  As many of you may know, his first novel was Carrie, a tale of a bullied young girl with telekinetic powers who takes revenge on her tormenters.  Initially, he wrote three pages of what was intended to be a short story, then believing it was no good, tossed the pages away. His wife later took them out of the trash, read them, and encouraged him to develop the story into a novel.  After thirty publishers rejected the book, Doubleday picked it up for a modest advance. The hardcover sold only 13,000 copies, but the paperback rights went for $400,000, half to King, half to Doubleday.  The sale of this book rescued King and his wife from a barely solvent existence.  For more details on all this, see http://mentalfloss.com/article/53235/how-stephen-kings-wife-saved-carrie-and-launched-his-career

I also like to hear stories about how people met their spouses. Here’s mine. I first saw my future wife when my family traveled from our home in Toledo, Ohio, to Jacksonville, Florida, for my uncle’s wedding.  At the home of the bride to be, I was introduced to her incredibly gorgeous younger sister, Lois.  This dazzling girl was dressed in a sparkling white blouse and white shorts.  On the floor was a toddler eating some kind of soft candy that he had smeared all over his fingers and face.  Suddenly noticing that his mother had left the room, the toddler began to cry.  Thinking only about the welfare of the little boy, Lois picked the child up in her arms to comfort him. This of course soon led to the toddler smearing candy all over Lois’s white blouse. And Lois didn’t mind at all! I knew then that this girl was also beautiful on the inside.

For several years we communicated with each other by letter and phone calls (this was long before the invention of texting and Skype).  Then, for a variety of reasons, (rigors of college mostly) I stopped writing. One day I received a card from Lois.  On the front it said, I’D LIKE TO GET ON YOUR GOOD SIDE.  Inside, it read, IF YOU HAVE ONE.

Over fifty years later, I still admire her for choosing that card.  She humbled herself by letting me know she was still interested, but also, at the same time, managed to stick it to me.

In thinking about how people meet, I’m reminded of Carl and Beth, the two lead characters in my medical thriller, THE BLOOD BETRAYAL. (Yes, we’ve now come to the commercial portion of our program) Anyway, I’m willing to bet that no two people ever met in a more unusual manner than those two.

I can imagine Carl relating the story to one of his grandkids.

“Tell me how you and Grandma met,” the boy says to Carl.  Carl smiles, thinks back, and shakes his head.  “Well, I was driving away from this little town where I’d just upset the local doctor so bad that I was sure he wanted to kill me. Then the craziest thing happened.”

“What?” the boy asks.

Carl reaches for a book and hands it to his grandson.  “It’s all in here, my boy.  And better understood if you read about it yourself.”

I’d tell you more, but I agree with Carl that you should read the book for yourself and not depend on someone like me to interpret it for you. (Although if you were going to rely on a guide through it, I’d probably be a good choice.)

 

-Don Donaldson

 

THE BLOOD BETRAYAL is on sale for just $1.99! Grab it today!

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Summertime, and the reading is easy!

Summertime, and the reading is easy!
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Keiler Photo 1Summertime, and the reading is easy!

I vacation every summer in a beautiful beach town on the New Jersey shore, not too far from where my husband grew up. I start each day with a leisurely jog up and down the town’s boardwalk bordering the beach, which offers the best views of the sun rising up out of the Atlantic Ocean. The beach is always empty then—except for an occasional gathering of sea gulls—and the breezes lift off the water and keep me and the few other early joggers from getting too hot. It is the most peaceful time of day. While my sneakered feet stay on the boardwalk, my mind wanders in all directions. I get some of my best writing ideas during these tranquil morning jogs.

After I return to the inn where my husband and I stay, I wash up, Keiler Photo 2change into a swimsuit and coverup, and grab some breakfast, after which we head back down to the beach, armed with chairs, an umbrella, and books, books, books! My husband loves biographies, narrative history, and thrillers, many of which he buys in hardcover (which makes our beach tote bag weigh a ton.) I prefer women’s fiction, romances, and mysteries—the same genres I write—and I read them on my Kindle. Of course, this means I can bring hundreds of books down to the beach with me, all stored on my lightweight reading device.

 

Much as I love my morning jogs (and my evening ice-cream Keiler Photo 3pig-outs; our inn is a short walk from a fabulous ice-cream parlor), my favorite part of vacation is sitting on the beach and reading. I slide my chair into the umbrella’s shade, dig my toes into the sand, and gorge on books. My definition of bliss!

 

If you’re like me, and looking for some delicious new books to read while you’re on vacation, I hope you’ll give The April Tree a try, especially while it’s specially priced at only $1.99. Much as I love all the books I’ve written (one hundred so far!), The April Tree is the book closest to my heart. It contains drama, romance, sorrow, and laughter. It’s about life and loss, fate and faith. And it’s about the enduring bonds of friendship.

 

Some of you may be beach readers like me. Some may be hammock Keiler Photo 4readers. Some of you may be hopping on planes and traveling long distances this summer—but hey, you’ll need a good book or two to keep you company on the flight. So stock up on your summertime reading—and take advantage of any discounts you can find. I hope you’ll include The April Tree on your summer reading list.

 

Judith Arnold

 

 

THE APRIL TREE is on sale for just 1.99! Grab it today!