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Halloween Short from Howard Odentz

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Snow
Dead (A Lot)

Picture Perfect Meadowfield – 1987

by Howard Odentz

Thirteen-year-old Garrett McCarthy pumps the pedals on his ten-speed bike as he glides through the darkened neighborhoods of bucolic Meadowfield, Massachusetts. He weaves in and out of the shadows cast by street lights, whistling a tune that’s been stuck in his head all day.
It happens to be a song by The Talking Heads released four years prior, but Garrett doesn’t know that. He just thinks it’s strangely appropriate.

His parents aren’t home. Most nights Garrett is left alone. His mother, Maggie, is overly involved in town politics. His father, Gene, works late far too often, or at least that’s what he tells his family.

Garrett’s absentee parents suit him just fine. Being alone gives him breathing room. It also gives him time to work on his hobby, the one that he has been perfecting for a while now but keeps to himself.

Garrett McCarthy likes to watch things burn.

He likes it better than television, and he even likes it better than perusing the collection of old Hustlers that his father keeps stored in plastic bins underneath the basement stairs, supposedly hidden within stacks of Life Magazines.

There’s something about the erratic dance of flames that stokes Garrett’s inner furnace and ignites his passion. Simply put, watching white, hot death devour everything in its path floats his boat.

Most of Garrett’s fires have been small thus far, causing no real damage other than to things that don’t matter. Certainly no one has been hurt in his flames. Still, he is acutely aware that when the heat and light engulf everything and he watches, compelled and engrossed, he is missing something crucial and desired.

He longs to hear what will happen when fire and flesh meet. He imagines there will be frantic squeals like those that permeate a slaughter house when the other pigs realize that they might be next. He wants to relish the sound of screams—the popping of flesh—the crackling of hair.

That’s why tonight Garrett is on a mission. He wants to burn something big.

Last month’s torching of the attendant’s shack by the entrance to the town dump at the end of Miller Road was less than fulfilling.  So was the incineration of Father McQueen’s old Cadillac.

Garrett found the Father’s car in front of the park entrance to Prince Richard’s Maze. Everyone knows why middle-aged men skulk in the Maze at night but no one ever broaches the subject. Garrett lit up the Cadillac while the father was getting busy elsewhere, but the gas tank didn’t blow.

That’s why tonight Garrett McCarthy is after something much, much bigger. There’s a demon coiling inside his belly, demanding to be fed, and Garrett is acutely aware it can no longer survive on meager half-meals. He now must offer it a banquet of heat because that’s the only thing that will sate its ever growing appetite.

As Garrett meanders through the dark streets, riding his bike with no hands and a pack full of fixings on his back, he decides that his initial target, Journey’s End Senior Care, is too big and too well built for arson. Besides, he’s almost positive that there are sprinklers inside that will be activated the moment any smoke is detected.

His mind wanders to a new target—a disheveled old bungalow in a bleak corner of town, two streets in from the Connecticut border. A hundred years ago, the ramshackle eyesore belonged to a woman named Ma Irish who delivered babies and sold pickled eggs from her living room.

An unseemly family lives there now. They display rusted-out cars on cinder blocks in the front yard, and keep more than one pit bull chained in the back. People talk about how such a family doesn’t belong in a community like Meadowfield. Garrett has no opinion about that. However, he does think Ma Irish’s house is a bit of a town fixture. Removing that piece of local history may leave a hole better served un-dug.

Ultimately, Garrett decides on a different target. It is one he has been thinking about for a while now. Folks in Meadowfield will be sad to see it burn because, for some reason that Garrett can’t fathom, most people find fire tragic.

Still, they won’t be too sad.

He leans forward as he pedals, grabbing his handle bars and steering his bicycle this way and that before finally turning onto Sycamore Avenue. There is an old two-story colonial at the dead end, tucked up against the woods, with a handicapped ramp that zig-zags up to the porch.

A very small sign in front read ‘Happy Valley Group Home’ which sounds way cheerier than what lives inside.

The Happy Valley Group Home houses six developmentally delayed teenagers and two full-time staff. Garrett doesn’t know any of them by name, but he has seen the sad, little group at Cinema X before. Some are in wheel chairs and others stand quietly by the ticket taker with their hands on each other’s shoulders so they won’t get lost. After all, there is an ocean of ways one can disappear between the concession stand and the bathrooms.

Meadowfield will mourn the loss of the Happy Valley Group Home, but not really, and when the old colonial and those inside are nothing more than blackened ash, some will even breathe a sigh of relief that ‘those kind of people’ are no longer part of the fabric of town.

Although Garrett McCarthy doesn’t exactly agree with such a harsh sentiment, in some perverted way, he thinks dispatching the building and those inside is somehow performing a kindness. At least that’s what he keeps telling himself as he glides down Sycamore, ever wary that no one is outside in the darkness to see him

At the end of Sycamore, just past the Happy Valley Group Home, Garrett gets off of his bicycle and pushes it twenty feet into the woods.

There, he pulls his back pack off of his shoulder, unzips it and pulls out everything he will need to feed his glitch, even though he doesn’t think of pyromania as a glitch at all.

He thinks of it as magic.

After he gathers together a glass jar full of gasoline, newspaper, and wooden matches that he favors over a lighter, he pushes through the thick foliage until he is standing right inside the tree line. There, he studies the house from the shadows, poking and prodding at it with his deranged mind, seeking the perfect spot to set a fire.

His inner demon offers up a multitude of solutions.

‘Underneath the porch’, it whispers.

No.

‘The back of the carport,’ it prods.

No.

‘The basement.’

Yes.

Garrett’s eyes follow the side of the house to the backyard. There he spies a cobblestone patio with patches of weeds growing through the crisscrossed pattern between the stones, and a metal hatchway.

The patio’s disheveled nature gives Garrett’s inner demon fuel to urge him on.

‘The Happy Valley Group Home is so untidy,’ the demon says. ‘Cleanse it.’

Garrett’s eyes sparkle. Fire always rises, so starting a blaze in the basement might be the perfect way to create a tower of flames so tall that it can be seen from as far away as Skinner Mountain. He smiles, because someday he knows that he will also burn The Summit House on top of Skinner to the ground, hopefully while there is an event going on inside, like a wedding or a sweet sixteen party.

Thoughts of puffy dresses combusting makes his tongue wet. Garrett licks his lips and a slick of saliva drips down his chin.

‘Do it now,’ hisses his demon from deep inside his belly. ‘Feed me. Feed me. Feed me.’

Garrett crouches down low and quickly runs to the side of the house. There is a window there with a partially pulled shade. Slowly, with his fingers splayed and his heart pounding, he stands until just the top of his head and his eyes are over the windowsill.

Inside, some of the residents of the Happy Valley Group Home are watching children’s puppets on television, however, they seem as though they aren’t watching the dancing screen at all.

A boy with milky eyes, confined to a wheel chair, is playing air piano with weirdly jointed fingers that look better suited to a skeleton.

Another has his eyes half-lidded and his chin on his chest.

A third boy looks all wrong, like he’s been drawn by a third grader with poor anatomical skills. His head is misshapen and lopsided.

The three of them sitting there, dull and dim-witted, make Garrett a little angry.

They all look so off that he’s not even sure that they will scream when the flames begin shooting through the wooden floor. The residents of the Happy Valley Group Home might just stare at the fire with their vacant manatee eyes and not do anything, even when the deadly flower finally reaches them—searing their skin—making it bubble and burn.

‘Oh, they’ll feel it,’ whispers his inner demon. ‘They’ll feel it but good.’

A pleasant chill runs up Garrett’s back as he agrees with the monster inside. A fire will surely coax the residents of the Happy Valley Group Home out of their stupor.

That’s what fire does.

Without hesitating, he sprints to the back of the house and across the weed-filled patio to the metal hatchway.

Garrett holds his breath as he reaches for the handle, praying that it isn’t locked. Thankfully, his prayers are answered. He pulls open one side and gingerly descends the wooden stair case while holding the hatch open, then quietly lowers it back into place so no one will know that he’s there.

The basement is dark, but Garrett McCarthy is used to the dark. He stands still for several minutes, waiting for his eyes to adjust. He knows they eventually will.

Once they do, he sees shadows of boxes, storage containers, several wheelchairs and a workbench. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a chubby, unscented votive he has taken from his mother’s holiday closet. Then he strikes a wooden match and lights the candle. Immediately, the rest of the basement turns color and he can see. There’s a washing machine and a dryer against the far wall. There’s also an extra refrigerator and a freezer chest. Scanning the room, he sees separate cage-cubbies like in the nether regions of an apartment building, each with a name on it and a padlock. They appear to be filled with suitcases and trunks.

Garrett rightly guesses that these are the storage areas for each of the residents. It’s where parents have dumped the belongings of their family embarrassments, relieved that their burdens are someone else’s problem now and they can finally forget.

Garrett McCarthy smiles to himself. Once he has cremated the Happy Valley Group Home, the people of Meadowfield, Massachusetts, will forget, too. He knows he’s right to have chosen here. It’s an easy target. He can’t wait until he is back in the woods, watching the flames reach higher and higher until the whole place is blazing in glorious death.

Garrett walks across the room and puts the candle down on top of the freezer chest. Then he quickly surveys the rest of the basement to find exactly the right spot to start his work. Above him he hears the television blaring away and maybe the creak of a wheel chair slowly rocking back and forth.

He smiles again as he unscrews his jar of gasoline and splashes the floor with the acrid liquid. When he’s through, he bunches up wads of newspaper and wets them with what’s left in the jar, stuffing clumps between cardboard boxes and other things that look like they will burn easily.

Finally, with his heart pounding in his chest out of sheer anticipation, he strikes a match and drops it to the floor.

Immediately fire erupts and races across the cellar, hitting wet newspaper as it goes. Each damp pile bursts into life in front of Garrett’s gleeful eyes. Scant seconds after the fire begins, an alarm pierces through the basement so loudly that Garrett hears someone scream up above and footsteps running through the house.

‘Excellent,’ hisses his demon. ‘More.’

Garrett, however, is transfixed. He can’t help but watch his newborn masterpiece devour everything in its path, regardless of the alarm and regardless of the movement over his head. His inner demon devours each image alongside him as fire ignites wood and debris. Little beads of sweat start to pop out on his forehead.

Garrett pays no heed to anything but the flames and the delicious screams of Happy Valley panic in the rooms above.

Soon, very soon, the heat starts becoming too much for Garrett and he knows he has to leave. Reluctantly, he backs away from the flames and returns to the hatchway stairs, the alarm blaring, and the good residents up above panicking.

Unfortunately, the hatchway door is locked. He doesn’t know how and he doesn’t know why.

If he were older and smarter he would have studied up on safety precautions for residential facilities such as the one he is now burning. In doing so, he would have learned that all doorways and windows in places like the Happy Valley Group Home automatically lock from the inside to keep the residents from wandering away, or that the trained staff makes sure that everyone is out of the house and on the front lawn in less than a minute after an alarm is set off.

Unfortunately still, the path to the basement stairs leading to the first floor is now blocked with flames, and Garrett can’t exit that way either.

He can’t exit at all.

So while the residents of the Happy Valley Group Home watch their colonial go up in flames, one still nodding and another playing air piano, no one hears the screams of a fourteen-year-old boy locked in the basement, his skin crackling and splitting and his clothing melting onto his body.

No one that is, save for the hungry creature that Garrett McCarthy carries around in his gut.

‘Delicious,’ it wails. ‘Scrumptious. Give me more…more…mo…’


Read more of Howard Odentz’s work today!


Bloody Bloody Apple is on sale for $0.99 until October 31st!

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: A Note from Anthony Francis

Author Spotlight: A Note from Anthony Francis
Liquid Fire

Keeping it Real


Good news! Dakota Frost, Book 3, LIQUID FIRE, is on sale right now on Kindle—but if that’s not enough to tempt you, I wanted to let you know that there’s more to Dakota Frost than magic tattoos, teenage weretigers, political vampires, battling wizards, and the hatching of dragons!

The Dakota Frost series isn’t just an urban fantasy: it’s also a slice of real life. From the very beginning, I wanted to create the feeling of a real world, not the experience of reading a stage play in prose. That’s why I created the series as a “period piece” set in Atlanta in 2006—the last time I lived in Atlanta for any extended period.

When I create each new book, I dig into the history and locations, trying to set the story in real places I’ve been and to flesh out the story around real events. In FROST MOON, I used Atlanta’s counterculture mecca, Little Five Points, as a backdrop for the action, and the upcoming midterm elections as texture for my political heroine.

In the sequel, BLOOD ROCK, I had to create a wholly unreal place—the backwoods Georgia town of Blood Rock, based on that giant granite boulder, Stone Mountain. I drove out to Stone Mountain, Georgia, hiked through the park, navigated through nearby neighborhoods, and filled it with my experiences of small town life.

But for the third book, LIQUID FIRE, I wanted to do more. I had since moved to the Bay Area, and discovered “restaurants for vampires” like the dark red curtained Asia de Cuba in San Francisco and the quirky Nola restaurant in Palo Alto and all its nearby alleyways. I walked the streets and took extensive pictures for the Battle of Union Square, incorporating real features like the giant heart statue at its corner.

One of my favorite sequences is a diversion with magical alchemist Professor Narayan Devenger and the ensuing battle outside the Stanford Bookstore. A very real and creepy building with a medieval looking tower helped set the direction for the book; a fountain outside the bookstore became a setting for great action.

For the climax, however, I wanted something more, and I already had something special in mind: Maui. I had visited Maui for work and had spent an afternoon climbing through its mountains and forests, which impressed me far more than its beaches, which I hardly visited. And a volcano sparks the imagination. So for the climax of LIQUID FIRE … well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

So if you want to catch up with magical tattooist Dakota Frost, her weretiger daughter Cinnamon Frost, or just want to experience the nooks and crannies of Atlanta, the Bay Area and Maui as seen through the eyes of an urban fantasist, check out LIQUID FIRE!

-Anthony

 

Pick up the rest of Anthony Francis’s titles from Bell Bridge Books!

The Skindancer Series: Books One and Two

Jeremiah Willstone: Book One

Author Spotlight: Shereen Vedam

Author Spotlight: Shereen Vedam
A Devilish Slumber
Sleeping Beauty (Devilish Slumber) ad

Sleeping Beauty in Regency London?


A Devilish Slumber is Book 1 of The Rue Alliance series. Each of these three fairytale-inspired Regency romances have a paranormal twist.

What inspired the first book? It is a given that I love fairy tales, but I have always been particularly fascinated by Sleeping Beauty.

What woman isn’t touched by the romantic concept of a kiss from her true love bringing her back to life? And to have it happen in Jane Austen’s Regency London was a story I couldn’t resist telling.

The trick with re-making a classic love story, however, is to instill a fresh perspective on an age-old tale. So, in A Devilish Slumber, I aimed for a unique take on what first startles awake this beauty, and what perils she will face once she is completely present in her sinister new world.

As for the resident villain, Maleficent, she goes by a different name. But then, evil often wears many different faces. And it certainly does in this shape shifter book, in which people can, literally, magically, change how they appear.

The hero in A Devilish Slumber is a spy and so has a fine hand at the art of lying himself. But Sir Phillip Jones’s most difficult task won’t be simply winning the heroine’s heart, which will prove difficult enough. No, he must also uncover who she really is, in this switched identity story that will keep him on his toes to the very last page.

Excerpt from A Devilish Slumber

“You do not trust me.”

The hurt in her eyes struck him like a blow, and he desperately sought his fast-retreating rage. “Have you given me reason to trust you, Rose? You would not confide in me about that note.”

“Oh, that note again!”

“You made an assignation. You could have been killed.”

“Why should I confide in you? It has been two years, eleven months and ten days since you abandoned me.” She clamped her mouth shut as if afraid she had said too much.

Indeed she had. As swiftly as his fury had crowded in, now joy took possession of his soul. She had counted the days he had been away. That knowledge offered so many delicious prizes, but her swollen eyes and flushed cheeks drew his gaze and concern claimed victory.

She had been crying.

He walked closer and caressed her hot cheek. “I have missed you, too.”

She slapped his hands away. “I did not lie about my affections, sir. Not everyone uses people and then discards them. That set of behavior is entirely yours.”

He tipped her face up, wanting to kiss her, to tell her that he loved her, and had never stopped. “Rose . . .”

Her lips thinned, suggesting any well-thought-out words would fall on deaf ears.

She had closed herself off to his explanations and excuses. Yet, that counting of days suggested his betrayal of her trust had not completely destroyed her love. As did her earlier jealousy of Miss Warwick. So, what he had not had the wherewithal to do three years ago on their parting, tonight he showed no hesitation.

He drew her to him. Her startled green eyes grew wide and her mouth opened, no doubt to argue with him. He stole that breath in a kiss. To his shock, at his gentlest persuasion, she invited him closer. Her lips tasted of syrup and parted like a cloud until his impromptu kiss became wildly intimate plunder.

He tugged her tighter, his hands exploring the luscious woman she had become. At their every touch point, his skin electrified while his pulse hammered in delight and sent his emotions spinning.

Her eyes shut tight, Rose moaned in approval and shuddered within his hold.

The soft knock might as well have been the thunder of Thor’s hammer.

Rose whirled away, presenting her exquisite back while she readjusted her gown that looked half undone with ribbons hanging loose. Had he done that?

About Shereen Vedam

Once upon a time, Shereen Vedam read fantasy and romance novels to entertain herself. Now she writes heartwarming tales braided with threads of magic and love and mystery elements woven in for good measure. She’s a fan of resourceful women, intriguing men, and happily-ever-after endings. If her stories whisk you away to a different realm for a few hours, then Shereen will have achieved one of her life goals.

 

Pick up the rest of Shereen Vedam’s titles from ImaJinn Books!

The Rue Alliance – Books Two and Three

A Beastly Scandal

 

Author Spotlight: Diana Pharaoh Francis

Whisper of Shadows is the third book in my Diamond City Magic series. If you haven’t had a chance to look at them, they can be summed as:

In a world of diamonds, drugs, magical mafias, one woman must come out of the shadows, risking her life and even her soul, in order to protect her family and the man she loves.

Riley is the woman in the above description. She’s lived her whole live under the radar. She’s got a magical talent that is highly sought after by the mafia, the government, and anybody who’s every needed to find someone. She lives hand to mouth, taking small jobs and pretending to be a hack, while secretly using her talent to find kidnapped children.

Price is a cop. His brother runs one of the local mafias and Price does jobs for him sometimes. That connection alone makes believe he’s as corrupt as every other cop on the take–which is most of them. Riley’s been anonymously reporting the found children to him as in fact, he’s the least corrupt cop she’s every encountered.

She makes of point of trying not to let him notice her, but finds herself working with him, despite her best judgement. Their relationship is rocky. She’s been taught not to trust anybody, but especially cops and people associated with the magical mob. She frustrates Price because he knows she’s keeping secrets and he’s sure they could get her killed, and he desperately needs her help. He’s put between a rock and a hard place when he promises to protect Riley, and then his mafia king-pin brother demands that Price turn Riley over to him.

What I like about their relationship is that it’s based on a real appreciation and liking for one another. Price is alpha, but he’s not so alpha that he doesn’t realize he has to keep his autocratic tendencies under control if he wants to keep Riley in his life. She’s got a lot issues in her past that are coming back to haunt her–her mother’s murder and her father’s disappearance ten years later. She close to her step-mother and siblings, as well as a few friends, but she’s also a loner with a tendency to hold everybody at arm’s length.

In writing about these two didn’t want a lot of fights about stupid or predictable things. A lot of their difficulties have to do with how each of them work through their own troubled feelings. They both have to watch each other walk into danger (or run, as the case may be). They both have to make sacrifices and compromises to be together. They also have to figure out how to communicate with each other. Both have a habit of secrecy that that’s hard to overcome.

I like writing about Price and Riley. I like seeing their relationship grow and deepen. I like that their problems are natural and that a simple conversation doesn’t solve them. They take work and hard choices.

If you get a chance to pick up the Diamond City books about Riley and Price, I hope you enjoy and feel free to visit my website and drop me a line and tell me what you think: www.dianapfrancis.com  I’d love to hear from you.
 

About the Author:

Diana Pharaoh Francis is the acclaimed author of a dozen novels of fantasy and urban fantasy. Her books have been nominated for the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award and RT’s Best Urban Fantasy.Whisper of Shadows is the third book in her exciting new urban fantasy series–The Diamond City Magic Novels.

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
Wally_Avett.jpg

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
Author Pic
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: