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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
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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:

PURVEYOR OF GRINCHINESS THAT I AM . . .

PURVEYOR OF GRINCHINESS THAT I AM . . .

by H.W. Buzz Bernard

Okay, I admit it.  Even though I’m old and cranky, I still harbor a bit of nostalgia when it comes to the December holidays.  I love the trappings of a traditional Christmas: melodious carols, twinkling lights, a nip in the air.

 

(But egg nog?  Forget it.  Gimme a shot of Jack on the rocks instead.)

 

Anyhow, there’s a heartfelt, evocative Christmas scene in Blizzard, one I truly enjoyed writing. It flowed from memories of Christmases past in another time and another place, when I dwelled not in the South, but in a location closer to the North Pole, New England.  (Which is as near Santa’s digs as I ever want to get.)

 

Now I live in Atlanta—and have for many years—where frigid December holidays are as scarce as Democrats.  So to write my scene, I journeyed into times gone by.  I felt the warmth of blazes crackling in stone fireplaces, sniffed the aromas of gingerbread and fresh-cut fir wafting through happy homes, and peered out windows to watch Siberian winds whipping over icy ponds.

 

But why, you ask, would a thriller writer be, well, thrilled to paint a Currier & Ives scene with words?  I had a purpose, of course.

 

I placed my protagonist, a decent man and loving father and husband, in an “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” moment of holiday warmth and tranquility before thrusting him—purveyor of Grinchiness that I can be (ain’t being a novelist fun?)—into a frozen nightmare of violence and death.

 

Think he can survive?  You can find out for only $1.99. Just click the cover!

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

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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All Aboard!

All Aboard!
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vedam-new-2016Regency Sea Travel 101

Shereen Vedam

Hang on, there’s stormy weather ahead! And a bit of a history lesson.

The “Regency” era covers the period 1811 to 1820, when Prince George IV became Regent of England because his father, King George III, due to a malady, was declared incapable of performing the necessary royal functions.

During most of the Regency period and before, passengers who wished to travel by sea had to make do with paying for the privilege of boarding a vessel that primarily carried cargo and mail. It was only in 1818 that the Black Ball Line was founded to provide a regular service for passengers aboard its packet ships from the United States to England.

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“I shall go the way our brave Sailors do, so take care of my petticoates, Captain and chair the Bishop!” Is not She a Spunky one…or the Princess and the Bishop

Before then, the best way to travel from England to Europe or elsewhere was on board a merchant vessel. As an island, England needed to conduct trade to and from India, China, West Indies, Canada and elsewhere, bringing in raw goods like rice, rum and precious spices, and carting away manufactured textiles, pottery and metallic goods. Therefore, lots of merchant vessels plied their trade between Britain and many of its colonies.

These sea voyages came to a crashing halt once the Peninsula War between England and France began. You see Napoléon Bonaparte had placed his brothers as kings of neighboring countries in order to create puppet states and dominate Europe. The moment he tried that ploy with Spain and Portugal, it instigated a widespread populace uprising against French occupation. And thus began the Peninsula War.

This war lasted from 1808 to 1814, and during that time, travel by the general public to Europe was hindered by Britain imposing a series of decrees (Orders in Council) in 1807. These decrees restricted the movement of merchant vessels seeking to trade with European countries.

Side note: these trade restrictions imposed by Britain was partly responsible for the American War of 1812.

Moving on. After Napoleon Bonaparte abdicated in April of 1814, the Peninsula War ended, and trading vessels once again sought ways to make money through sea travel to Europe. Despite the war ending, however, travel by sea remained perilous and uncomfortable. Cabins were cramped, food was terrible and the cost exorbitant.

Nowadays, we can simply board an engine powered cruise ship or ferry knowing that if trouble arose, there would be lifeboats and marine evacuation chutes to take us to safety. We can be fairly confident the crew will be well-trained to combat emergency situations because regulations require that vessel crew regularly practice evacuation drills. We also know that when we are served a meal, the quality is covered by food safety laws.

During Regency times, however, travel by sea wasn’t so safe, well catered or easy. For a woman, simply getting on board was an impediment. Take a quick read of the excerpt below and see how my heroine reacts to having to climb up a slippery ladder in order to board a tall ship.

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EXCERPT from A Perfect Curse

As their skiff neared the Magdalena, sailors greeted them with shouts and cheers. Nevara was dismayed to see that she would be required to climb aboard by way of a long slippery rope ladder.

 

a-perfect-curse-200x300x72Lord Terrance strapped his dog to his chest with a rope he had brought for that purpose and scaled upward as if he did this sort of thing every day. His lordship’s valet, Ellison, a meticulously groomed slender man, stood ready to assist the others. Lady Terrance confidently tied her skirts higher, exposing her ankles but allowing her to climb the ladder and follow her husband.

Once his employers were out of earshot, Ellison began to mutter about the dire consequences of this accursed voyage. He bent to offer Nevara a hand up. On closer inspection, the valet’s proud manner did not match his red-rimmed eyes or his unsteady footing. She wondered if his swaying movement had more to do with the smell of spirits on his breath than the rocking of the skiff. He was more likely to tip her overboard than help her ascend the ladder. Behind her, the other servant, Lady Terrance’s maid, Mendal, a gaunt woman in her late forties, crossed herself and murmured a psalm.

Nevara hitched up her skirts as she had seen Lady Terrance do and grabbed onto the rope ladder. She then made her careful way up. Her skirts still proved a nuisance as they caught beneath her feet at the back. Taking one hand off the rope ladder to free herself, she swayed dangerously to the side.

“Careful,” Lord Terrance called from the top. “Keep both hands on the ladder, Miss Wood.”

Easier said than done. Her tight grip kept slipping on the slimy rope ladder. She hiked her skirts again until both her feet could find purchase on the steps. Still on the skiff, Mendal was reciting a gloomy biblical verse in rhythm to Nevara’s every slippery step.

At the top, Lord Terrance pulled her over the railing with a strong heave and a stout, “Well done, Miss Wood.” His mischievous grin and a glance down to his servants suggested he understood her misgivings. His beautiful wife, too, seemed to be hiding a smile.

Nevara was not amused. She had to share a cabin with Mendal during the upcoming voyage. She hoped the lady’s maid would desist from this worrisome praying. She had enough concerns to accompany her all the way to Cadiz.

 

Pick up A PERFECT CURSE for just $0.99! Only through the end of September!