Guest Blog Post – Did I mention that I teach creative writing?

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By KRISTI ABBOTT

If you talk to me for more than ten minutes, I’ll probably end up mentioning that I teach creative writing. I’m trying to tone it down, but it’s hard. It’s a relatively new thing for me so I’m still learning and it’s on my mind a lot. I’m always thinking about new ways to explain concepts or feedback I could give my students.

It’s also on my mind a lot because I really want to be a person who walks the walk. I want to be able to tell my students to do as I do as well as to do what I say. I want to live up to the standards I’m setting for them. I find myself reviewing whatever I’m working on with an eye toward whatever my class is discussing that week. If I’m telling my students to try to include as many senses as they can in their descriptions I have to ask if I’m doing that, too. Have I made sure that my protagonist — a chef who would be highly sensitive to smell — is aware of scents and aromas? If I’m trying to get the students to really put the reader in a scene, I have to see if I’m showing the right amount. Am I balancing scene and summary well?

Then there are the questions. While quite a few of them tend to be about when something is due, a lot of them center around further explaining concepts or helping them understand feedback from me or from their workshops. It makes me dig a little deeper. Again, I turn back to my own work to see if I can dig a bit deeper there, too. Can I reach down inside myself and make those concepts the foundation of my writing?

I went back to school to get my MFA in part because I wanted to teach at the college level. I was thrilled when it actually worked out for me. As Hannibal Smith would say, I love it when a plan comes together. This was a long game and it took a lot of time and effort to make it work, which just made the payoff that much sweeter.

Even though I was there in part to get the letters off my name that would give me the credentials I needed, I took the program seriously. I wanted to milk the opportunity for every drop I could get so I worked hard on my papers and the stories I wrote during those two years. After I finished my MFA, a lot of people asked me if it had changed the way I wrote, if I felt my craft had improved. It did, but teaching has changed it even more.

 

 

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Guest Blog Post – Are You A Santa Paws?

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9781101988589By Krista Davis

NOT A CREATURE blog 2_photo2Wagtail, Virginia is all about dogs, cats, and the people who love them. Our furry friends are welcome in the restaurants and lodging, and local stores and services cater to them. It’s also the place to shop for cats and dogs.

This year, there’s a German style Christmas market on the green. People can browse for ornaments that resemble their dogs and cats, as well as clothes, toys, and Christmas cookies just for them. The Sugar Maple Inn has a booth, but Holly Miller gets a little bit worried when a customer tells her that Thackleberry brand animal outfits are making dogs and cats itch and lose their fur. Her Jack Russell Terrier isn’t showing any signs of discomfort even though she’s been wearing an elf outfit every night.  But when the President of the company is murdered, Holly has to wonder whether the killer is an angry customer or a member of his curious family.

Speaking of shopping, I am a self-confessed Santa Paws. Are you? Answer these true and false questions to find out.

  1. Your cat or dog isn’t interested in toys but you buy new ones every holiday anyway.
  2. Your cat or dog has his own Christmas stocking.
  3. You just have to buy cat and dog treats when they’re in cute holiday packaging.
  4. Your cat or dog always gets a special holiday present, like a new bed or collar.
  5. Your cats and dogs wear special holiday collars.
  6. Your cat or dog has Christmas-themed clothes.
  7. You bake Christmas cookies that are for your dog or cat.
  8. Your dog or cat has an ornament that looks like him or has his name on it.

If you answered true to four or more of the questions, you are a certifiable Santa Paws!

If you answered true to one, two, or three of the questions you are well on your way to being a Santa Paws.

If you answered false to all eight questions—do you have a dog or a cat?

NOT A CREATURE blog2_Sunny in Christmas tree 5

Guest Blog Post – New England is the Ideal Setting For Traditional Mysteries

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9780425275832

 

By Sheila Connolly

I came late to writing—I’m still shy of half of my working life, published for only half of that time. I wasn’t one of those people who decided at the age of eight that I wanted to write a book, although I read plenty, early and often, including a lot of books that were far above my grade level. But it never crossed my mind that I could do it myself. Then a number of things kind of imploded after 2000, leaving me with a lot of free time and a quiet place to work, and I jumped into writing with both feet.

Somehow I knew I wanted to write books set in New England. I’ve always been drawn to that corner of the country, and once I got seriously into genealogy, I realized why: that’s where half my mother’s family came from. There are over 13,000 names in my family tree, and yes, they go back to 1620. Living in Massachusetts I’m surrounded by them. And that was just her father’s side: her mother never knew who her parents were.

The Orchard Mysteries, which first appeared in print in 2008, was the first series I wrote under my own name. They’re set in a small town in western Massachusetts, which is based on a real town there. My heroine lives in a 1760 colonial house, which is modelled on one built by my seven-times great grandfather, and I’ve visited more than once. It looks much the same as it did when it was built. The orchard I write about is no longer there, but there’s plenty of proof that it existed, so I put it back. (And put one in my own yard, so I could follow the apple seasons.)

In any case, New England is the ideal setting for traditional mysteries. There are still plenty of small towns with old houses and libraries and town halls around the village green, and half the time the people who live in those towns have the same last names that appear on the tombstones in the oldest cemetery. Which means that if a murder takes place in the town, somebody who lives there is bound to have a good idea why it happened and even who did it, if you ask the right questions.

Meg Corey wasn’t thinking about any of this when she moved to my fictional town of Granford. She wanted to sell an old house that her mother had inherited and leave as quickly as possible. But she’s still there, and now she’s married to her neighbor Seth Chapin. Together they’ve been solving murders through ten books. Or maybe I should say “deaths” rather than murders, because things aren’t always as they appear at first. That’s true in A Late Frost, the eleventh book in the Orchard series.

Meg’s no longer the new kid in town: now she’s part of it. She’d made friends, learned a new business, and gotten to know the local police chief and the county sheriff better than she would have expected. Despite the unexpected deaths, Meg thinks Granford is a good place to live.

 

Guest Blog Post: Seventh Magical Bakery Mysteries Has An Irish Connection

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9780399586996

A LITTLE FORTUNE TELLING,

A TERRIBLE ACCIDENT,

AND MORE

black cat

By Bailey Cates

Potions and Pastries is the seventh in the Magical Bakery Mystery Series featuring Katie Lightfoot and the ladies of the spellbook club – another name for her informal coven of witches. Katie, her aunt Lucy, and uncle Ben own the Honeybee Bakery in Savannah, Georgia. Katie and Lucy are both hereditary hedgewitches, also known as green witches, and add magically enhanced herbs and spices to their baked goods to benefit their customers.

After celebrating the second year of success at the Honeybee with a dinner out, Katie, her fiancé Declan, Ben and Lucy come across Orla Black, a friend who’s a fortune teller. Shortly after Orla hints at something in Katie’s future, she meets with what appears to be a terrible accident. However, between her instincts and a few otherworldly hints, Katie knows it was much more than that. Since the authorities don’t believe foul play was involved in Orla’s death, Katie dives in to track the killer with the help of her friends.

In the process, she learns the Black family is a group of Irish travelers, sometimes known as gypsies. They live in a series of connected townhouses and often busk along the busy Savannah riverfront. Their skill set is varied, with a mime, a unicyclist, a ventriloquist, and a hypnotist, as well as fortune telling.

Meanwhile, Katie’s tiny carriage house is getting cramped for her and Declan, so they’ve been house hunting the help of fellow-witch and real estate agent, Cookie Rios. The process is difficult for Katie because she loves her home so much. Still, they want to find someplace larger before moving forward with the wedding. Cookie has some new developments in her life, too, as does another spellbook club member, Bianca Devereaux.

It was inevitable that one of the Magical Bakery Mysteries would have an Irish connection. After all, there are already several. Katie has Irish blood from her mother, a freckled redhead (her father is Shawnee), and her fiancé, Declan McCarthy is not many generations removed from the Old Country responsible for his surname. Not only that, but Declan is occasionally visited by the spirit of an ancient leprechaun caught in a kind of supernatural purgatory. Can’t get much more Irish than a leprechaun!

Savannah also has a strong link to Ireland. The city received an influx of people fleeing the Irish potato famine, and many stayed. Today, there are nearly 200 names in the phone book that begin with O’, and the St. Patrick Day’s Parade in Savannah is the second largest in the United States with more than 400,000 people attending — pretty impressive for a city with a population of just under 150,000!

The recipes in the back of Potions and Pastries are for Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (mmmm!) and, for a savory option, Rhubarb and Ricotta Crostini.

For more information about the Magical Bakery Mysteries, the Enchanted Garden Mysteries I write as Bailey Cattrell, and my other books, please visit http://www.baileycates.com.

Guest Blog Post – When Is “Fake” Okay?

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by Kate Carlisle

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Kate Carlisle is the New York Times bestselling author of the Fixer-Upper Mysteries, featuring Shannon Hammer, a home contractor who discovers not only skeletons in her neighbors’ closets, but murder victims, too. Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is bringing the Fixer-Upper Mysteries to TV in a series of movies starring Jewel and Colin Ferguson. Visit Kate online at www.KateCarlisle.com.

Everyone in the homebuilding industry has run into a snob a time or two, I’m sure. My dad would bring home stories that made all of us roll our eyes. Like the gold-plated toilet handle.

Seriously???

Picture12pngIn my latest Fixer-Upper Mystery, Eaves of Destruction, contractor Shannon Hammer has been hired by rival neighbors to beautify their homes for the hotly contested title of Best of Show in the annual Victorian Home and Garden Tour. One client is outraged when Shannon suggests they buy wood onlays to replace carved panels.

Petsy shook her head in disbelief. “But these things are . . . why, they’re . . . they’re fake!”

 I was about to laugh—until I got a better look at her horrified expression. “Let me assure you that this is a perfectly acceptable way of creating the look you want. The pieces are manufactured in England.”

 I covertly rolled my eyes as I said the words. As if something coming from England made it more legitimate? But for some people, that fact made all the difference.

To show you just how foolish Petsy’s snobbery is, here’s an example of a beautiful onlay from ArchitecturalDepot.com.

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Many onlays are carved from wood—real wood—so there’s nothing fake about them. They’re simply made. . . elsewhere. And, by the way, as Shannon points out in the book, people in Victorian times used onlays all the time!

That got me thinking—when else is “fake” okay?

Hair Color

Honestly, I’ve been blond so long that at this point, my natural color would feel fake.

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Who is that strange woman?

 

 

3D Printed Tools

Did you know that the international space station has a 3D printer? So now if astronauts break or lose a tool, they can print another—even tools with moving parts! (I swear, we live in the future.)

Prosthetic Limbs

The advances in prosthetics have been jaw-dropping. It’s so heartening that loss of a leg—or even both legs—no longer means a person is facing a life of severely limited mobility. It’s still not something anyone would choose, but wow, what a difference prosthetics have made!

Can you think of any other examples of when “fake” is okay?

9780399586460

 

Murder is on the to-do list when construction contractor Shannon Hammer looks for a killer in the fifth Fixer-Upper Mystery….

At the annual Victorian Home and Garden Tour, Lighthouse Cove, California’s premier contractor, Shannon Hammer, realizes that the competition is about to turn deadly….

Shannon is in high demand among rival homeowners, who will do anything to win Best in Show. One-upmanship and even espionage break out among neighbors, construction crews, decorators, and landscapers. Thanks to several new hires, Shannon is sure she can handle the extra load—until murder throws a wrench in the works.

The small town’s corrupt building inspector is found dead on one of Shannon’s jobsites, and soon plenty of suspects are coming out of the woodwork. When another body is discovered, Shannon calls on her team of close friends and devilishly astute thriller writer Mac to help her nail down the details and build a case against the killer before the door shuts on someone else—for good.

Berkley Prime Crime Mass Market Paperbacks On Sale in November

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9780399586460

EAVES OF DESTRUCTION: A Fixer-Upper Mystery

by Kate Carlisle (978-0-399-58646-0; November 7, 2017; $7.99)

Lighthouse Cove’s annual Victorian Home and Garden Tour is only six weeks away, and handywoman Shannon Hammer has been busy with preparations. While Shannon juggles her tour responsibilities, her business is booming. She hires three new crew members, including Amanda, an expert carpenter who specializes in delicate decorative woodwork. When a snarly building inspector is murdered, Shannon and Amanda must work together to catch a killer.

9780399586996POTIONS AND PASTRIES: A Magical Bakery Mystery

by Bailey Cates (978-0-399-58699-6; November 7, 2017; $7.99)

It’s been two years since witch Katie Lightfoot opened the Honeybee Bakery with her aunt and uncle. After a dinner celebrating the bakery’s anniversary, they all take a stroll along the waterfront and meet Aunt Lucy’s friend Molly Black. Molly is one of the town’s most colorful characters, and she’s been telling the fortunes of locals and tourists alike for decades – and her talent with the tarot is as real as Katie’s own power. The next day, Molly meets with a terrible accident, but Katie’s witchy intuition tells her it was something more sinister. Together with her trustworthy coven and her firefighter boyfriend, she’ll race to find out what happened to the unfortunate fortune-teller, before the piping hot trail goes cold.

9780425275832

A LATE FROST: An Orchard Mystery


by Sheila Connolly (978-0-425-27583-2; November 7, 2017; $7.99)

The quiet town of Granford, Massachusetts, is in for a jolt when dynamo Monica Whitman moves in. Orchard owner Meg Corey Chapman is intrigued by the new arrival, who has already sold the town board on a new way to spice up the cold winter months. But tragedy strikes when Monica falls ill and dies. It looks like a case of food poisoning, but after all the food on the premises has been tested, including Meg’s apples, it becomes clear that there’s a more sinister explanation to the older woman’s demise. Meg’s investigation of the crime leads to some unlikely suspects, including a rival apple-grower, but the biggest mystery of all may involve the dead woman’s husband.

9781101988589

NOT A CREATURE WAS PURRING: A Paws & Claws Mystery

by Krista Davis (978-1-101-98858-9; November 7, 2017; $7.99)

Inspired by her German heritage, Holly’s grandmother, Oma, has arranged for her town to have a Christkindl Market featuring adorable booths selling goodies, beautiful decorations, and visitors from out of town. But Holly’s Christmas joy is nearly stolen when she learns that her old flame and childhood friend Holmes Richardson has brought his fiancée home for the holidays. A love triangle becomes the last thing on Holly’s mind, however, when her nose for trouble leads to the corpse of a beloved, pet-clothing business tycoon. It’s up to Holly and her dedicated detectives – Trixie the Jack Russell and Twinkletoes the cat – to snoop for the killer.

9780425280935ASSAULT AND BUTTERY: A Popcorn Shop Mystery


by Kristi Abbott (978-0-425-28093-5; November 7, 2017; $7.99)

Rebecca Anderson is surprised to discover an old diary in the wall of her popcorn shop. With the shop’s kitchen under repair and production of her treats on temporary hold, Rebecca hopes that the diary will be a welcome distraction. She’s surprised when the writer seemingly disappears under concerning circumstances – but that’s not the only mystery that Rebecca is involved in. When Lloyd McLaughlin is found dead, the police believed he was poisoned by Rebecca’s popcorn. There’s only one batch of popcorn Rebecca has made recently – and it wasn’t intended for Lloyd. Nothing about Lloyd’s death makes sense – until Rebecca discovers a startling connection between the diary writer and the murdered man.

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THE CHOCOLATE BUNNY BROUHAHA: A Chocoholic Mystery

by JoAnna Carl (978-0-451-47383-7; November 7, 2017; $7.99)

The approach of Easter means a rush of business at TenHuis Chocolade, and Lee and her aunt Nettie need all the help they can get to make their famous chocolate bunnies. New hire Bunny Birdsong is klutzy – dropping everything she picks up. To Lee’s surprise, she’s a whiz with computers and fixing the store’s website, so Lee decides to keep her on. But Bunny’s bad luck continues when she receives visitors that the team could do without. Bunny’s soon-to-be ex- husband, Beau, his wealthy aunt Abigail, and his new girlfriend all descend on the shop in a fit of anger. When Abigail’s body is discovered in the vacant store next door, it’s clear to Lee that a bad egg is in their midst.

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BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: A Library Lover’s Mystery

by Jenn McKinlay (978-0-451-48864-0; November 7, 2017; $7.99)

When the Briar Creek Public Library holds its first overdue book amnesty day – no fines for late returns – one tardy tome catches director Lindsey Norris’s attention: a copy of J. D.
Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, twenty years past due. When Lindsey looks up the borrower, she’s shocked to discover it was a murdered schoolteacher named Candice Whitley, whose killer was never found. Candice checked out the novel on the day she was murdered. Now Lindsey wonders if it could provide a clue to the decades-old cold case.

Two new Hardcovers

 

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CITY OF LIES by Victoria Thompson

Berkley Hardcover November 7, 2017 – Soft Cover November 7, 2018

An exciting new series featuring woman-on-the-run Elizabeth Miles—from the author of the Gaslight Mysteries.

Every woman plays a part—but some are more dangerous than others…

Like most women, Elizabeth Miles assumes many roles; unlike most, hers have made her a woman on the run. Living on the edge of society, Elizabeth uses her guile to relieve so-called respectable men of their ill-gotten gains. But brutal and greedy entrepreneur Oscar Thornton is out for blood. He’s lost a great deal of money and is not going to forgive a woman for outwitting him. With his thugs hot on her trail, Elizabeth seizes the moment to blend in with a group of women who have an agenda of their own.

She never expects to like or understand these privileged women, but she soon comes to respect their intentions, forming an unlikely bond with the wealthy matriarch of the group whose son, Gideon, is the rarest of species—an honest man in a dishonest world. Elizabeth knows she’s playing a risky game, and her deception could be revealed at any moment, possibly even by sharp-eyed Gideon. Nor has she been forgotten by Thornton, who’s biding his time, waiting to strike. Elizabeth must draw on her wits and every last ounce of courage she possesses to keep her new life from being cut short by this vicious shadow from her past.

9780399583759DEATH IN THE STACKS: A LIBRARY LOVERS MYSTERY

By Jenn McKinlay (978-0-399-58375-9; November 14, 2017; $25.00)

In the latest Library Lover’s Mystery from the author of Better Late Than Never, the library’s big fundraiser leaves director Lindsey Norris booked for trouble.

Lindsey Norris and her staff are gearing up for the Briar Creek Library’s annual Dinner in the Stacks fundraiser. The night of dinner and dancing is not only a booklover’s dream—it’s the library’s biggest moneymaker of the year. But instead of raising funds, the new library board president is busy raising a stink and making the staff miserable.

Although Olive Boyle acts like a storybook villain, Lindsey is determined to work with her and make the event a success. But when Olive publicly threatens the library’s newest hire, Paula, Lindsey cracks like an old book spine and throws Olive out of the library.

The night of the fundraiser, Lindsey dreads another altercation with Olive—but instead finds Paula crouched over Olive’s dead body. Paula may have secrets, but Lindsey and the rest of the crafternooners know she’s not the one who took Olive out of circulation. As the plot thickens, Lindsey must catch the real killer before the book closes on Paula’s future . . .

 

Blog Tour Stop – A Glimpse into World-Building And Endless Possibilities

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Bask Cover-1

 

 

–By Nathan Goyer

 

Since the release of my novel Bask, I have been asked a few times already just how I came up with a story this complex and large. It was a difficult task, but not as difficult as many readers would believe. This blog post will give you a bit of insight into how a certain type of fantasy stories are created, and how you have likely already seen it in action without realizing it.

World-building is a type of writing that is a bit different than your average fantasy-fiction book. It is a type of fiction that goes beyond what a reader can discover in only a single book most of the time. When writing a novel or series that has a focus on world- building, the author comes up with the history and natural laws of the world their story takes place in. Is this fictional world filled with monsters and wizards and dragons? Or is it mostly like the real world but with a few quirks? What interesting things can my characters do, and can they do it in a way that makes sense to the reader? A world-building author has to be able to answer questions like these before they can even get started writing.

The best example of a story that focuses on world-building is the classic series “Lord of the Rings.” Tolkien built an entire history in the Silmarillion that covers everything you could think to ask about the world of Middle-Earth. Anything important that happened in the “Lord of the Rings”   books made sense in the context of the Silmarillion, the same way that you can look at the history books of the real world and see how one event can lead to another.

All this may seem convoluted, but the key thing to realize is that if done right, novels where world-building took place by the author should still provide an enjoyable and easy to understand story for any reader. And then as the fans of the stories continue to read the author’s works, they can come to understand the big picture of the story as the author intended.

My own novel of Bask utilizes this method of writing. I wouldn’t dare consider myself to be a Tolkien, but the world that the story of Bask takes place in goes beyond what the novel has been able to show so far. Questions that the readers of Bask may wonder like “what are those ruins in the prologue?” and “where did the Bask stones come from?” and even “how does a normal modern day setting exist in the same story as the Kingdom of Nont?” all have answers! They may not be apparent right now, but hopefully readers will be interested enough to continue reading the stories of Bask, and other works to come, to learn all of these details over time!

World-building is used by famous authors like J. R. R. Tolkein, Brandon Sanderson, George R. R. Martin, and even christian authors like Wayne Thomas Batson. It adds more reason to stories on the why and how important events take place. And, most importantly, world-building offers the chance to bring readers right alongside the author in understanding the big picture.

— — —

Bask: City of Shadows is a story that shows the importance of God. That without him the world would continually degrade until all kindness, all life, and all hope disappears. It shows the dangers of what the world may be like if humans were to get their way and God was kept out of their lives.

This novel can be found exclusively on amazon.com at $3.99 for the Kindle edition, and $12.99 for a paperback copy.

Log onto the author’s page on Amazon (amazon.com/author/nathangoyer).

 

Book Review – A Tale of Two Kitties by Sofie Kelly, Magical Cats Mystery Author

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9780399584572

A Tale of Two Kitties

A Magical Cats Mystery

By Sofie Kelly

Berkley Prime Crime

Hardcover

Set in Minnesota (Mayville Heights)

Sept. 5, 2017

326 pages, which includes a short story

$23.00

I received the book in exchange for an honest review.

In Sofie Kelly’s new Magical Cats Mystery, Mayville Heights librarian, Kathleen Paulson takes on the task of reuniting a box of undelivered photos to their owners. The photos, along with other mail, had been found after a wall was torn down during the library’s renovations. The staff volunteered to handle the situation.

Shortly after, Kathleen takes a walk during her lunch break and happens to meet Victor Janes who needs directions to the library. Turns out that Victor, who is Simon Janes’ uncle, has been out of town for a number of years. He had an affair, years ago, with his sister-in-law and allegedly convinced her to run off with him. Whether that was the truth or a fabricated rumor, Victor’s sister-in-law died in a car accident.

Kathleen meets Leo Janes, who is nearly identical in appearance to his twin brother. The exception being, love and genuine warmth are part of who he is when it comes to his granddaughter, Mia, who works at the library, and his son. The first sign that something isn’t kosher in Mayville, with regards to Leo, is when Kathleen witnesses Leo arguing with Harry Taylor. Though she couldn’t hear what they were arguing about. The strange thing is that Harry got along with a lot of people and Leo seemed like a decent man.

A second mysterious situation arises when Kathleen picks up her friend, Rebecca, for tai chi class. Kathleen notices a woman rushing out of Rebecca’s boyfriend’s two-story Georgian brick house, where Leo lives. Then while attending the class, Kathleen learns that one of her friends was followed by a drone. Shortly after, Kathleen finds Leo Janes dead in his apartment.

Now, Detective Marcus Gordon, Kathleen’s boyfriend, has to learn who murdered Mia’s grandfather and why? Is there a connection between Leo and the photos? Did his brother arrive to right the wrong he committed years ago? Did the mysterious woman have anything to do with Leo’s death? Was Leo involved in something his family didn’t know about? Chances are Kathleen is going to do some investigating along with her magical cats Owen and Hercules.

A Tale of Two Kitties is a small-town mystery that has two curious magical cats working right beside Kathleen. Like most small towns, everyone knows everyone’s strengths and flaws and if there’s a rumor it gets around like electricity in an electrical outlet. These people also look out for each other. This book was tricky, setting you up with a car accident, told through a memory, that ends the life of Leo’s wife. That leads into the possibility of a confession in an undelivered letter, several possible suspects, and which has you wondering why they’d want to kill a man who lost his wife years ago and was a loving grandfather. Several possible explanations could lead to the truth so the reader really doesn’t know until the end. I liked that Kathleen was responsible and tapped into natural intuition. That she wasn’t afraid to stick her neck out for justice and to protect Mia. Would have loved to learn more about how she connected with her magical cats and their history. Would also have liked for Detective Gordon to have played a more official role. It always seems that amateur sleuths know more than the police department.

Three and a half Funky Chicken cat toys out of five

Denise Fleischer

gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com

September 24, 2017

 

 

 

Blog Tour Stop – Chapter One “Bask” by Nathan Goyer

Bask Cover-1

©Nathan Goyer

 

Chapter One

It’s a strange feeling when someone in your life vanishes, never to be seen again.

It makes you realize how much people affect each other. And, whether the interactions were good or bad, how much the loss of a single person can change your entire outlook on life.

This feeling is one that most people get at some point in their lives; it’s inevitable. But my question is, why do I feel it?

More importantly … why do I be feel it now?

 

Eric Dunst sat behind his post watching the same people move past his station as he did every day. He looked alert—that was his job. The people would sometimes comment on how he paid close attention to their every move as they passed by, making sure they weren’t breaking any codes. He would usually play along and hold up a pointed finger as they passed.

Truth was, he was lost in thought during these long shifts, and he paid very little attention to his actual duty. In his defense, he’d thought that a top-secret research facility would be more … exciting. They had their inventions, but most of the time the scientists talked and schemed and theorized about things they were too fearful to attempt.

Even worse, he wasn’t a scientist himself. Merely a Marine who’d been asked to secure the facility. It was secure. No one attempted to get in. His biggest adrenaline rush had come from a few squabbling researchers who’d been far too easy to wrangle.

            What am I doing here?

This wasn’t his passion. He’d joined the military because he needed a job, an income.

He wasn’t even sure what he wanted from life. He’d be willing to search, if he knew what he was searching for. Was finding a purpose in life too much to ask? And maybe a pretty girl to share it with?

Eric relaxed his shoulders, his spine. When no one was looking, he released a sigh, hanging his head. I wish I could have stayed back on the aircraft carrier. At least there I always had something to do. It wasn’t a purpose, but—

“Hey, Eric.”

Eric started. He wasn’t supposed to be at ease, no matter how worn out he was. Glancing up, he saw another security unit stride toward him. Just another macho guy who wondered what he was doing protecting secret labs of bubbling ooze.

Nick Barrier stroked his chin and paused in front of Eric’s cage. “Couldn’t wait a few more minutes to relax? Your shift is over, you know.”

            Finally.

“I lost track of time.”

“Oh, I understand how time flies as this exciting post.” The man playfully shoved him. Eric nearly tumbled off the stool, but he righted himself.

“Git. You shoulder the most boring shift. Go on and do something fun.”

Eric nodded. Then he hopped off the stool and headed down the hallway towards the exit.

            Something fun, huh?

He didn’t normally do anything. He didn’t have any friends in this town. Anyone he had previously called “friend” would not be someone he would associate with anymore. There was one person he tolerated more than others. And instead of heading back to his apartment, Eric made a snap decision and turned down a hallway, toward the offices.

The smell hit him first as he entered one of the labs, something he now referred to as “genius smell”—a mixture of body odor and the leftovers from a dozen different food items. He gagged and tried to cover his disgust as best he could.

Almost unchanged from when Eric first arrived for today’s shift, James was still plugging away at his computer keyboard. The wrappers from yesterday’s lunch cluttered his desk.

James was young, one of the youngest in the facility. From what Eric had been told, he’d been recruited while he was still only halfway through high school. A prodigy.

He was a nice enough kid, too. Eric had trouble understanding him when he started going into the details of his research, but he found they both shared a few common interests. He was as close to a friend as Eric had here.

But true friendship with James would require patience. Based on the volume of garbage scattered across the floor and his greasy unkempt hair, James probably hadn’t left the office in days.

“James. You’re leaking again,” he said with a smirk.

The young man seemed confused for a moment, having not noticed Eric’s arrival until he’d spoken. Then, with a smile, he twisted around in his swiveling chair, looking for the drink he had spilled. He found one tipped over on the floor and promptly tossed it into the already over-filled trash can.

“I swear,” Eric said, “they’re gonna quarantine your office one day. You really should clean up occasionally.”

“I don’t have time for that.” The boy grinned, waving him over like he often did when he’d discovered something. “Look at this! I just found something insane.”

“Oh yeah?” Eric tried his best to sound interested as he stepped the chair, looking at the screen. It was covered in various graphs that, while Eric was somewhat educated on the subject, were far above his intellect.

“I found these meteoroids just now. We didn’t see them at all, and we should have, based on where they came from.”

A chill traveled up Eric’s spine. “That’s comforting.”

James turned and changed screens on his computer. This one showed images of the rocks. “No need to worry. They won’t come too close. Close enough to see, but they won’t hit us. But if they did, that would be devastating. There’s a lot of them up there, enough to make us … well, all the USA would be wiped out for certain. The after affects would probably kill off the rest of the population in the following weeks as well …

James changed the window on his computer to a close-up image of one of the meteoroids. “Enough of that kind of talk. This is even more interesting—we’ve never seen anything like them. They look like they could be made of materials we haven’t seen before.”

“That is interesting. Could they have come from another solar system?”

“It’s not likely, but that would explain why they’re so different. We won’t know anything for sure until we get a closer look.”

“I hope you find out more about them and maybe see them coming next time.” Eric laughed. “Not to be paranoid, but how close will they come?”

“Not close at all. We won’t even be able to see them without a telescope on a day like today.”

A window popped open on the boy’s screen, instantly drawing his attention towards it. From the looks of it, Eric wouldn’t be able to pull him away a second time.

Shrugging, he turned and headed towards the door.

He walked, feigning purpose—a charade to the rest of the office that he had important things to do. Instead, he’d head home and sleep, like usual.

            This is my life, I guess. Eric exited the building and then hopped into his car with a grunt and half-heartedly jammed the keys into the ignition. The rusty old sedan started unusually quickly. It roared to life on the second try.

The skies above were a light gray, the clouds not allowing a single hint of blue through their canopy. Despite the warnings they gave, the clouds merely provided a drizzle over the city below. Not enough water to provide any real help for the vegetation, but the gray was as depressing as a real rainstorm.

A world of love, eh?

            His mother often said that when he was a child. She dreamed of the world’s potential. He had as well, long ago. But the pain of life had dashed those ideals. What love could there be when everyone who’d loved him was gone?

Eric turned and drove down a street. The sidewalks were covered by hundreds of people who scurried like ants over a rotting piece of fruit.

Eric looked up to the Space Needle in the distance, trying to recall the feelings of excitement it gave him when he’d first arrived. He looked at its magnificence, yet nothing inside him stirred. His soul felt as dreary as the streaks of clouds overhead.

Movement in the clouds caught his attention. A flash of red light that streamed in an arch. Even without a perfectly clear visual he could tell what it was.

            Didn’t James say they wouldn’t be able to see them?

Another larger one tore at the clouds, cutting a wide hole through the cloud blanket above.

Catching his breath, Eric cried out then made a U-turn at the next intersection, cutting off a white SUV. The driver blared his horn, but all Eric could think about was getting back to the laboratory,

He had to get back. He had to tell James—warn the others. When was the last time they’d done an evacuation drill on the building? Would anyone even know what to do?

Eric gripped the steering wheel, weaving his vehicle around those who’d stopped to watch the sky. He sped past a police officer, who was, like the crowd, gazing upward.

Eric’s heartbeat quickened. James’s predictions of what would happen if they hit were on the forefront of his mind.

City-wide alarms blared, confirming his fears.

            Something’s wrong.

James was wrong.

James was rarely wrong.

The people seemed confused at first, but all it took was one man running for a building for all the others to start to panic. The sidewalks cleared as people hurried into buildings. The street clogged with cars as an unfortunate amount of people attempted to merge. Most were in a rush to get out of the city, not to get back to work.

Eric turned on the radio. The warning service played a lovely screeching tune before the announcement. It advised everyone to remain indoors.  Eric pushed the car to its limits. He slowed briefly when a confused straggler scrambled down the street in a desperate attempt to escape. Eric passed the frantic man and then hit the gas again.

Finally, he arrived in the parking lot. The whole building seemed calm from the outside.

He ran up the steps leading to the front door, his hopes of a sane environment shattering at the top. He peered through the glass and watched as scientists ran from room to room, papers and documents in hand. They seemed to be looking for somewhere, anywhere to save themselves.

Eric swallowed hard. He pulled the glass door open, stepped into the chaos. He spotted James, wide eyed and pale, standing just outside his office. Eric approached. “What’s happening?”

James’s body trembled violently. “The meteoroids. They’re going to hit.”

“I know that already!” Eric grabbed him by the shoulders. “What do we do?”

James shook his head. “What can we do?”

“We’ve got to get underground, right?” Eric asked hopefully. “Just bunker down and hope for the best?”

“No, no … that isn’t going to help.” James’s eyes glazed over, and he looked past Eric. “From what I saw … hundreds, and very large …”

Anger, worry, fear rushed through Eric. He shook James harder. “James! Will it help? Can anything help?

“It’s better than nothing. But from what I saw, our very existence…”

“Attention!”

Eric recognized the voice of the director as it rang through the laboratory halls over the intercom. “As you know, a train of meteoroids have been spotted. They are on a direct collision course with earth. All personnel are ordered to stay in the building. Go immediately to underground testing section 703. Remain calm. All of you will be safe.”

703?

It was the room he guarded daily. Every time he’d asked, he’d been told the room housed a new, highly theoretical technology. He’d once heard a rumor that the device was supposed to allow the user to travel through space and time. He’d laughed at that thought. He’d believed they were pulling his leg, but now he wasn’t sure.

Could this be real?

Color rushed from James’s face. “703? But … it’s not ready for trials, let alone human trials …”

Did that mean this thing … was real?

People continued to rush past. No one seemed to have even heard the order. One woman cried. A man kept stumbling backwards as he held a hand to his forehead.

Eric turned back to James. “Go to room 703 like the director said. Forget everything else. Do not stop by your office.”

Surprisingly, James nodded and rushed down the hall. Satisfied, Eric turned back to the rest of the crowd. He spotted Nick. His co-worker wandered aimlessly in the center of the mob as if trying to figure out who to help first.

You would have been a lot more help at your post!

Eric ran up to him, shoving frantic people out of his way as he moved. “Nick! I need you to get the opposite side.” He motioned to the far side of the hallway’s entrance. “We have to direct the crowd to 703!”

Nick looked up, his eyes reigniting with life. He nodded and rushed to his designated location, tapping people on the shoulders and offering short directives as he moved past.

Eric moved back towards his spot, waving his arms. “People! Get to 703 now!” He grabbed a man who was frantically picking up papers scattered on the floor. “Leave those! Go to 703. Now.”

Finally, the scientists started to get the idea, allowing themselves to be directed. The progress was slow. There were many people in the facility, all attempting to pile through a single hallway.

Soon enough, the crowd had almost emptied from the foyer its end. Optimism buoyed in Eric until one woman made a sudden break for the door. “My kids! I have to go find my kids!”

            There’s always one.

Eric chased her. The female scientist was no match for his speed. He came upon her before she made it down the first step out of the building. He grabbed her shoulders firmly.

She cried out, pulling against his grip. “I have kids, a husband! I have to get them!” Her trembling hand reached toward the parking lot.

Sympathy shot through him, but how could he let her disregard her own safety?

“Your only chance is to follow directions. There’s no time.”

“I don’t care!” she wailed. “I won’t live if they can’t!”

Eric’s face darkened, and he lost the will to fight the woman any longer. He released her, and she scampered to her car.

            This could be it. He looked up to the sky. More flashes of light streaked across, only lasting a moment. They did no harm, but it heralded what was to come. The end for everyone.

Eric’s feet moved on their own. His body’s desire to live propelled him back into the facility.

            What do I do now? He didn’t have an answer, not now. But he still ran.

Eric entered the front doors of the large lab. He scanned the crowd. It appeared most people had made it into 703. He had to make sure though. With a jog that turned into a sprint, he moved from room to room to check for any stragglers. Thankfully there didn’t seem to be any, but he knew that he had just wasted a lot of time. Everyone was gone now, everyone except him. Seeing that his task was done and all the staff had been corralled, he made his way to room 703 and stepped into the elevator, finally going past the station he had guarded for so long.

The elevator whirred to a start and sped downward. Anxiety tightened Eric’s throat, making it hard to breathe. He’d wasted too much time. The meteoroids could crash at any moment. And if the facility lost power, he’d be done for.

            Would it really be that bad? Do I deserve to live?

He allowed thoughts—memories—to push into his mind. Ones he’d tucked away behind a brick wall around his heart. Money wasn’t the only reason he’d joined the Marine Corp—not really. He’d thought that maybe the only way to make up for his past sins was to give all of himself—to sacrifice his life for something useful. But it hadn’t worked out that way. He’d ended up here. Too safe.

Too safe.

He looked to his hands, hands that had caused so much pain. Why did he deserve to be here? After all he’d done…

The elevator opened revealing a massive room. Four large cylinders, one at each corner of the room, were filled with energy rhythmically pulsating through them. Connected to them with thick cords at the room’s center was a large machine.

It stood at least twenty feet high. Two large arches crossed over each other to form an X. A brilliant white light shone underneath them, giving the appearance of a large orb.           The last stragglers of the crowd fearfully made their way into the light. Good, he hadn’t been completely left behind yet.

 

Motion caught his attention, and he spotted Nick waving his arms from the machine’s base. “Eric! Quick! They said it’s unstable, we don’t know how long it will hold!”

A loud crack sounded from above. A great force rippled through the facility, rattling everything in the room. The generators started to grind, causing the light to fluctuate sporadically.

Only one explanation crossed Eric’s mind. The first meteorite has hit.

Eric frantically waved him forward, sprinting across the wide opening. Nick stepped into the light, melting into it during the last step as if he’d turned light himself. The sight stopped Eric in his tracks.

            I’m supposed to walk into something like that? Are they crazy?

Cautiously, he made his way towards it—the sheer brightness of the device now making his steps difficult. He lifted an arm to shield his eyes as he tried not to stumble up the last step.

His foot touched the step, and then the ground boiled and shook beneath him. The sickening sound of rock meeting rock thundered. They were deep underground. What did that mean for the world above? Did Seattle even exist anymore?

All four of the generators burst in unison, showering the entire room in sparks. The teleportation device wavered. Light and energy ebbed from it, twisting unnaturally. Yet despite losing its power source, it continued to run.

Eric’s whole body burned from the rivers of vibrations sent through him. It took all his strength not collapse. With a final effort, he threw himself forward, following Nick into the river of light.

White enveloped him.

And then, only darkness.

New Title – Whispers of Warning by Jessica Estevao

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