Monday, March 23, 2020

Unearthing the Past by W.L. Brooks

W.L. Brooks
The Wild Rose Press
282 Pages
Romantic Suspense

A single mother and owner of the town diner, Charlie McKay couldn’t be happier with her life in Blue Creek. Taking care of everyone around her is a labor of love, but the secret she’s keeping about her daughter’s parentage lurks beneath the surface. With the scars of the past still not healed, Charlie isn’t interested in adding a man to her life, even if that man is the oh-so-tempting Craig Sutton.

Determined to own his own bar, as his father had, Craig Sutton is a man on a mission. But wanting to enjoy small town life is only one of the reasons he moved to the mountains of North Carolina. Whether meaning to or not, Craig can’t keep from getting involved with the McKay family, and the closer he gets to Charlie and her daughter the more entangled he becomes.

 In Blue Creek secrets have always run deep, and someone is now trying to expose Charlie’s in a disturbing way. She isn’t the only one with something to hide, however, and deception threatens a possible relationship between her and Craig. As hidden truths are revealed and danger increases, Charlie must find a way to face the past or lose everything. 

Amazon →

First Chapter:

Someone was in his bedroom. Craig Sutton feigned sleep, even though the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. He rolled over, slid one hand beneath his pillow, grasped cold steel, and opened his eyes. He didn’t know whether to laugh or curse. Standing on the bed next to him was four-anda-half-year-old Mackenzie McKay. Her big black eyes were wide and unblinking. He released his weapon and sat up.
“Hi.” She twirled one of her white-blonde pigtails. Craig had come across Mack, the niece of his landlady, on a number of occasions. But…
“How’d you get in here, sweetheart?”
 She pouted. “I’m allowed.”
“Well…I don’t think anyone told you, but because I’m staying here, you need to knock first.” Craig didn’t want to scare her or, God forbid, make her cry. He’d never been able to handle female tears, especially the tiny variety.
 She crossed her arms. “Auntie Alex shoulda said.”
 “I’m sure she meant to…How about you go in the other room while I change, and then I’ll take you to find your aunt.”
 “Ohskay.” She jumped down and closed the door behind her. Craig went to the bathroom, brushed his teeth, and changed his clothes in record time. When he came out, he was surprised to find her sitting at the kitchen table, humming and swinging her legs.
 Craig shook his head and smiled; the kid was adorable. “Ready, sweets?” “Yep!” She hopped off the seat and took Craig’s hand.
He shivered the moment he stepped outside; he should have grabbed a jacket. It was freezing, and Mack didn’t have a coat on. He swung her up in his arms, she giggled, and his heart warmed.
She pressed her cold nose into the crook of his neck. “Grandpops does that too.”
 “He’s a nice guy then.”
“Uh-huh. You smell pretty. Kinda like my Uncle Ryan but with more pepper,” she said with a small nod, then her mouth pinched. “But you don’t itch my nose.”
Craig laughed. “Is that so?”
They walked across the gravel parking lot toward the bed and breakfast Alexandra McKay owned and operated. It was called Granny Vaughn’s, and the place was both massive and impressive, if one was into that kind of thing. There was a closed-in porch leading to the kitchen, which was off limits to B and B guests, but whose entrance he was told he was welcome to use if he needed anything—like paying his rent or chatting up his landlady.
 Craig had expected to come across Alexandra but found her sister Charlie, Mack’s mother, instead. It was a pleasant surprise. He enjoyed this particular McKay, with her short blonde curls, big brown eyes, and supple pink lips—kissable lips. Almost every time he was in her company, he’d been drawn to her mouth, not that she noticed. It was for the best; he had his own agenda here in Blue Creek, and he needed to keep his priorities straight.
 Charlie put her hands on her jean-clad hips. “Mackenzie Annie McKay, where have you been? I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”
 “Uh-oh, kid.” Craig put Mack down. “She used your full name; looks like you’re in trouble.”
 Mack’s gaze darted between the adults. “I went to the playhouse.”
“Do we need to talk again about going somewhere without telling me, or going into places without being asked?”
The child looked down and shuffled her feet.
Charlie offered him a small smile. “I’m sorry, Craig.”
“It was a shock to the system, but what the hell, it woke me up,” he said looking around the room. “Is Alexandra here?”
 “She’s running errands, but she’ll be back soon.”
She turned to Mack. “Do you want to help me or play with your doll babies?” It only took a second for the child to dash out of the room.
 Craig eyed the pot of coffee sitting on the counter. “Are there any guests?”
Charlie, the consummate hostess, poured him a cup. “This is the slowest time of year for Alex, but there was a sweet older couple staying here last night; they left a bit ago. I was helping them load their luggage into their car, hence my daughter slipping away.”

“Don’t worry about it.” He took the offered mug, then sipped. “You do make the best coffee.”
She gave him a shy smile. “There are muffins too, if you’re interested?”
 He homed in on the basket of baked goods, sat down at the table, and helped himself. “Keep me company?”
Charlie shot a quick glance in the direction her daughter went. “Okay, but just for a bit.” She poured herself a cup of coffee, then took the seat across from him. “How’s Blue Creek treating you, so far?”
He shrugged. “I can’t complain, but let’s not talk about me; tell me about you.” He eyed her over the rim of his mug. Was she debating what to divulge? How stimulating!
 “Well…I—” “I didn’t see your ride in the parking lot.”
 “No, my sister Casey took it for an oil change.”
“She’s the mechanic, right?”
Charlie nodded.
 “It’s an interesting choice,” he said around a mouthful of muffin.
Her brow pinched. “Sorry?”
He swallowed both his food and his grin. “Your SUV—not your sister’s career. A female mechanic is pretty badass, but so is your ride. It’s vintage, isn’t it?” Her lips quirked upward.
 “Yes. I saw one like it in a movie once. I’ve never really been into cars, but I wanted that Blazer! I asked Ward Jessup, who was the town mechanic at the time, how hard it would be to get one, and he said he’d look into it. It took him years, and I’d actually forgotten about the entire thing, but after I had Mackenzie, it showed up in my driveway.”

Craig’s eyebrows rose. “He gave it to you?”
A fine sheen glazed her eyes. “Yes, Ward was very special to my family—to me. He died over a year ago.”
And now he was a dick. “I’m sorry.”
 “It’s okay.” She shrugged. “You didn’t know.”
 He shifted in his chair. “What about your family?”
“What about yours?” A blush swept up her cheeks. “I didn’t mean to sound—”
He waved a hand. “Don’t mention it. My mother died when I was a kid. It was just me and my dad until college—two men trying not to let life knock them down, or so he always said. He owned a bar, so I’m continuing the tradition. I’m on my own now.” Sort of.
 “Oh, I’m—”
“What about Mackenzie’s father?”
 She flinched. Damn. “Sorry if that’s too forward.”
“He’s dead.”
Craig sat back. “I see…sorry.”
Charlie stood, dumped her coffee in the sink, and started loading the dishwasher.
 He drummed his fingers against the table. “So, tell me about my landlady.” She glanced over her shoulder. “Alexandra?”
“Yes, is she as—I don’t know—cold as she seems?”
“Alex isn’t cold; she’s shrewd—there’s a difference.”
“Yeah?” He smirked and stood.
 “She seems a bit stuck-up to me.”
“I wouldn’t say ‘stuck-up.’ ” She closed the dishwasher and smiled at him. “We’ve always described her as prissy, and that’s Alexandra to the core. She’s always been like that—she’s a trip. You seem to have a lot of opinions about my sister.”
Craig cocked his head to the side. Was Charlie jealous? “I’m the curious sort, but if you’re wondering if I’m interested in her, then the answer is no. She’s not my type.”
“And what is your type?” Her face went red.
“Why? Are you interested?” Wouldn’t that be stimulating?
 Her brow pinched. “I…” She was a picture with big doe eyes, apple cheeks, and pink, kissable lips.
He downed his coffee and walked over to her. Priorities be damned. “Well, Charlie, are you?”
 “I have a four-and-a-half-year-old and own a diner. I don’t have time to be interested.”
Craig leaned down and breathed her in. She smelled like cookies. Delicious. “Pity that.”
Her gaze searched his, and, God help him, she licked her lips.
“Good morning.” And there went all the heat. Craig winked at Charlie, then turned. Even with the cold stare in her dark blue eyes, Alexandra was breathtaking.
“Good morning, Landlady.”
She put her shopping bags down on the table and eyed him. “Was there something you needed, Mr. Sutton?”
 “Nope, and it’s Craig, remember?” He turned to Charlie. “Thanks for the coffee and conversation.”
Charlie’s cheeks were still flushed, but she smiled. “You’re welcome.”
He gave a curt bow to Alexandra, then headed out the door. Despite the dismissal, Craig smiled. Things were shaping up his way.
Craig Sutton…holy moly, but the man caused Charlie to pulse in places best not thought about. From the moment he walked into her diner, she had been taken by the sight of him. And today was no different; his tawny hair had been tousled by the wind, and his dark blue eyes were the perfect mixture of mischief and sincerity. Not to mention how his tight jeans fit his backside oh-so-snugly.
 Even a ratty sweatshirt couldn’t diminish the drool-worthy factor. Charlie shook her head and turned to her sister.
“Do you want to tell me what all that was about?”
Alex paused from putting away groceries. “What all what was about?”
 Charlie rolled her eyes. “Oh, you know very well what I mean.”
“I thought you’d sworn off men?”
She could only stare at her sister. A few years ago, Charlie’s choice in the opposite sex had sent her reeling into a black pit of shame and despair. She had promised herself she wouldn’t go down that particular rabbit hole ever again, but it didn’t mean she couldn’t enjoy the scenery. And she missed being in a man’s arms, not to mention kissing. Goodness, she loved kissing. If Alex hadn’t come in, Craig may have…Don’t even go there, Charlie girl!
“Cat—or something else—got your tongue?”
Charlie gaped. “What in the world has gotten in to you today?”
Her sister sighed. “Sorry, I’m not trying to be a bitch—”
“You could have fooled me!” She shook her head. Alexandra was more than a sister, she was Charlie’s best friend, and…and… “Do you like him?”
“Seriously!” She huffed and snatched a package of coffee filters out of her sister’s hands. “Do you like Craig?”
“We don’t know enough about him.” Alex held out her hand.
Charlie gave the filters back. “That doesn’t answer my question.” Most men fell over themselves when they first met Alex, and Craig was no exception. Charlie couldn’t blame him; her sister was like a goddess with her crown of fiery locks and unrelenting confidence. And Charlie wasn’t jealous, but this particular man’s reaction to Alex, and her sister’s odd behavior, did prickle under her skin.
 “Are you interested in him?”
 Charlie shrugged. “I can’t afford to get in a tizzy over any man.”
“Exactly! Men make a mess of things, and that’s all we need to say on the subject.”
“Fine.” Charlie began to help unload the groceries, knowing full well her sister hadn’t answered the question.
 “Did you get me a surprise?” Mack asked.
 “Yes, baby, but you have to wait till we get home,” Charlie said for the third time since they’d left her parents’ house. It was her own fault for mentioning she’d gone shopping after she’d picked their SUV up from the garage.
She pulled into the driveway, enjoying how the moonlight haloed their little house, a small white-sided ranch with navy-blue shutters and a wraparound porch. It was the house she’d always pictured having—a home of their own. Putting the vehicle in park, Charlie squinted at the package on the front porch. She didn’t remember ordering anything.
She got Mack out of her car seat and hurried up the steps after her. “Look, Mama!” Mack clapped. “It’s a present for us.”
“Let’s go inside first, then I’ll come and get it.” Charlie unlocked the door and urged Mack in. She waited a beat, then went back to get things she’d picked up at the store. She glanced at the box and rolled her eyes. It looked heavy.
Mack tried to take the bags out of Charlie’s hands the minute she walked into the kitchen. “Can I have my surprise now?”
Charlie handed her daughter the new coloring book. “Here, sweetheart. Now go to the playroom, and I’ll come in there in a minute.”
Mack shouted her thanks and skipped away.
 Charlie hated admitting it, but she couldn’t wait for preschool to start again. She understood the teaching staff had the flu, but how long did it really take to get better? Take a chill pill, Charlie girl! Twenty minutes later, she put the finishing touches on her meatloaf. She cranked the timer for another fifteen minutes and went to set the table. She had just put out the forks when she remembered the box.
Maybe one of her sisters had sent them something. Out on the porch, Charlie took a few minutes trying to figure out how to get the thing inside—it weighed a ton. Finally, she decided to open the package right where it was. From the smell, something had gone bad. There was no way she was bringing it inside her house, much less her kitchen.
Maybe if she hadn’t forgotten about the darn thing, it wouldn’t have had a chance to spoil. “It’s freezing out here, so it isn’t my fault,” she told the box. Shaking her head, Charlie used a paring knife to cut the tape. She opened the flaps, wincing at the stench, and looked inside. Charlie rushed to the porch railing and emptied her stomach.
She closed the box, her hands shaking. It couldn’t be! Oh, God.
“Mama, what—”
“Go to your room, Mackenzie, and don’t come out until I get you.”
 Mack hesitated.
Charlie shouted, “Now!”
Her daughter ran back inside.
Charlie rubbed her face. “Holy shit,” she whispered; she choked out a sob, then took a couple of deep breaths. She could handle this; she had to calm down. She pulled out her cell phone and dialed.
 “Fletcher, someone sent me a package.” She gulped for air. Do not fall apart, do not fall apart.
“Hells bells, just spit it out! I got a grave robbed out here, and you won’t believe whose it is neither.”
 “How the hell did you know that? Shit—”
 “That’s what I’ve been trying to say. He’s here…someone put him on my porch.”
“Holy fuck! Don’t touch anything! Jasper and I’ll be there in a few minutes.” Charlie shoved her cellphone in her back pocket. Not only did someone out there know her secret, but they’d dug it out of its grave, chopped it into pieces, and left it at her door.

About the Author
W.L. Brooks was born with an active imagination.  When characters come into her mind, she has to give them a life- a chance to tell their stories. With a coffee cup in her hand and a cat by her side, she spends her days letting the ideas flow onto paper.  A voracious reader, she draws her inspiration from mystery, romance, suspense and a dash of the paranormal.

A native of Virginia Beach, she is currently living in Western North Carolina. Pick up her latest novel, The Secrets That Shape Us- available now!


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Mocha, Moonlight, and Murder by MaryAnn Kempher

One night, 28-year-old, Katherine O’Brian, decides to walk to an all-night diner. The only problem? It’s midnight, but Katherine lives in Reno Nevada, a city that never sleeps; she can clearly see the diner’s lights in the distance. It’s no big deal, until she passes someone’s garage where a man is loading a dead body into the trunk of his car.

And now, she’s in trouble. She outran the man that night, and while she has no idea who he is, he knows who she is. And he wants her dead.

As if attempts on her life weren’t stressful enough, Katherine has gone back to college. She’s determined to finally finish her degree, but her lab partner is driving her crazy. He’s hot, but annoying. And she’s not sure which she wants more—a night of mad, passionate sex or a new lab partner. It varies from day to day.

Will Katherine give in to her lust for her partner or will she give in to her desire to throttle him? If she’s in the ground before graduation, it won’t matter.

Not your typical romance, not your typical mystery.


Monday afternoon, the raspy wind snarled Katherine O’Brian’s long hair and reddened her face as she quickly walked into the building. She pulled her gloves off and blew on her hands for a few seconds before weaving her way through the thick crowd in the college’s hallway. It was the first night of class and she was nearly late.
She looked around the classroom self-consciously; she seemed to be the oldest person in the room. Well, that’s what you get for putting off college. You get to take classes with kids barely out of high school.
All the desks had been placed in a circle and the professor was moving from one student to another, having them introduce themselves. Katherine’s eyes widened when the teacher got to the man directly across from her.
The day before she’d stopped at a nearby Starbucks. After placing her order, she’d casually looked around. Her eyes had met those of a woman sitting across the room. When the woman smiled, Katherine had blushed. She was a he, dressed in drag.
Slap on some eye shadow and a pair of high heels and that’s the guy I saw yesterday, minus the dress.
Once everyone had introduced themselves, the professor began talking about the term project.
“You’ll be working in pairs, and this assignment is worth seventy percent of your grade, so obviously you’ll need to work together to do a good job.”
Katherine quickly looked at her syllabus. There it was: the class term project. Very writing-intensive. Even PowerPoint slides were required. This was why she’d put off taking the class—writing wasn’t her strongest subject.
 “You’ll find your partner listed there,” the professor continued, pointing toward the chalk board, to which a piece of paper was taped.
After all the details of the project had been covered, class was dismissed. Katherine quickly looked at the paper on the board. Oh, this just gets better and better. She looked around for her new partner, but he was speaking to the teacher.
I’ll talk to him about the project on Wednesday.
She hugged her book to her chest and walked toward the exit. When she dropped her purse and stopped suddenly to pick it up, she heard a deep voice.
Katherine looked up—and up—to the face that went with the deep voice.
“Sorry,” she said, “I didn’t realize you were behind me.”
He was smiling. Not that it matters, but of all the men in the class, why do I get the one that wears dresses?
“I’m Scott Mitchell. We’re partners on the project.”
She turned back and held out her hand. “I'm Katherine.”
As he pulled on his coat, he said, “I was wondering if maybe you wanted to go get something to eat or drink, to talk about it.”
Katherine stalled by moving closer to the wall, as if to let other students hurry past. Her first instinct was to say no, but then she remembered her resolve to do well in the class.
“Sure, where?”
They started walking outside together.
“There’s a Starbucks near here,” he said. “We could meet there.”
Coffee was always the magic word for Katherine, or chocolate.
“Sure, I’ll see you there.”
As she sat in her car waiting for it to heat up, she noticed her hands were shaking slightly. She looked at her reflection in the rear-view mirror. Jeez, it’s just a guy. Get a grip.
They arrived at the same time. The hard part came after they’d gotten their drinks and sat down. Katherine could hardly put two words together; it had been a long time since she’d had a decent conversation, especially with a man. After a few minutes, Scott broke the silence.
“So, how about that project?” he said, a little too loudly. Katherine flinched and turned pink. When she answered, the words flew out. “Going to be an avalanche of work: slides and an oral presentation, thousand words each. A monster.”
“Yeah,” said Scott, “and not really what I expected from a history course. Doing a biography from birth to death is a big deal, especially with all the details the professor wants. Do you have any ideas who we should do it on?”
“How about van Gogh?” suggested Katherine.
“He committed suicide, didn’t he?”
Scott sighed. “Well, I don’t know. I’d just prefer to do the biography on someone I can respect. For me, it’s hard to respect anyone who kills themselves. Seems so cowardly.”
“That’s very presumptuous of you,” said Katherine. “To assume the man was a coward because he killed himself. And such a generalization. Sometimes people are just in pain, and that’s the only way they see to end that pain.”
Scott held his hands up defensively. “Sorry. Didn’t know you were such a fan of van Gogh.”
Katherine rolled her eyes. “That’s what you take away from what I said?” Jeez, this guy’s hot, but what an idiot.
Scott tipped his cup forward and backwards, side to side. Katherine held her cup to her lips, blowing on the coffee. Judging by the attention their cups received, Starbucks’ coffee had never tasted so good. Scott sat up, leaning forward, his arms folded in front of him. He seemed to take up the whole table. Katherine sat back in her chair.
“We should probably plan on getting together at least a few times during the week,” he said.
The prospect of seeing him so often filled Katherine with both dread and excitement - dread, because she wasn’t sure she even liked him, and excitement because his baritone voice made her unwilling heart flutter, and his mahogany eyes made her blush. He’s right, though, she thought, if I’m serious about getting a good grade, this project will need a lot of attention.
“You’re probably right,” she answered, her eyes avoiding his. “When do you want to meet?”
“How about tomorrow at the library,” Scott replied. “The one on Virginia Street near the mall, does five thirty work for you?”
After exchanging numbers, Katherine stood. “I should go,” she said. “It’s getting late.”
They walked out together, Scott holding the door for her. 


Amazon →

About the Author

For many years, MaryAnn Kempher lived in Reno Nevada where most of her stories are set. Her books are an entertaining mix of mystery and humor. She lives in the Tampa Florida area with her husband, two children, and a very snooty Chorkie.


Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Excerpt reveal: 'Riley' by Paul Martin Midden

Riley FRONT COVER hi-resGenre
:   Contemporary adult fiction
Author: Paul Martin Midden
Publisher: Wittmann Blair Publishing
About the Book:
Riley, a young writer, finally divorces her husband and begins a novel about a fictional couple in conflict. Supported by her best friend, Jennifer, she begins her life of freedom. In a complicated turn of events, she meets and beds Edward, a shy young man who falls for her instantly. She does not want to continue the relationship, however, and her refusal lays the groundwork for a series of dangerous events. Her conflicts and those of her characters play out in this psychologically intriguing story.
Head shot - color
About the Author:
Paul Martin Midden is the author of five previous novels, each of which explores different writing styles. He practiced clinical psychology for over thirty years. Paul’s interests include historic restoration, travel, fitness, and wine tasting. He and his wife Patricia renovated an 1895 Romanesque home in 1995 and continue to enjoy urban living.
Riley Cotswald sat at her desk staring at the blank screen in front of her. What do I write? she wondered. That’s a stupid question, came an immediate reply from somewhere in her head. Questioning myself about writing never helped anything. The only thing that matters is putting words on paper. I learned this with my first book.
She turned her head away from the screen and peered through the window of her small DC apartment. The sky was a Washingtonian blue, she observed, and if she looked down just a bit she could see the cherry blossoms beginning to burst. Just like me, she hoped.
But she did not feel herself bursting; all she felt was stuck at her desk, like a child in detention.
Knowing that distraction and procrastination were the two big things that worked against her getting anywhere with her writing, she forced herself to turn back to her computer screen. She had been able to do this earlier in her life, and she always associated writing with a special kind of experience, a mystical or even a spiritual one, whatever that meant. It was something she couldn’t put into words; the irony of that was not lost on her nonreligious self.
I can do this, she told herself; and she forced herself to place her hands over the keys. The only way to start is to start, she thought. And so she believed.
She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and commanded her fingers to move.
They weren’t listening.
Riley leaned back in her chair. This is harder than I remembered.
She lectured herself: It doesn’t matter that you have no idea what to write about. Remember when you started? When you wrote that first book? The one that sold? The one that allowed you to write full time? It wasn’t that long ago; just a year ago you were on a book tour, touting you image as an up-and-coming young author. And you promised yourself and your publisher that you would produce another. That is why you are here. To produce another saleable book.
She sighed. Back the, ages ago, writing just seemed to flow and took on a life of its own. All Riley had to do was channel it and type. This was, of course, the narrative she told herself. The fact is she cannot really remember how she did it. Not exactly.
But this mystical narrative seemed to her to be largely true, although in a corner of her mind she thought perhaps the whole experience was romanticized a bit by time. She believed that’s how it should happen. Magically. The stories are inside me and all I need to do is make my fingers move across the keyboard. The narrative will take care of itself.
But maybe not. Maybe there is some other way. An outline? A summary? No. Writing is an art. Being creative is just that: an act of creation, one that required, even demanded, discipline, but one which at base was artistic, creative. So create! Write!
She tried to stop thinking and closed her eyes once more. She knew what she was doing. All these thoughts were just distractions. And the more self-critical the thoughts, the more distracted she became and the further away she came from the act of creation.
Riley sprang out of her chair to move, to breathe, to stop the pattern of useless thinking that was preventing her from doing the writing she most wanted to do. She walked around her small apartment. If Cameron were there she would engage him somehow; she would whine to him. She wouldn’t call it whining, but that’s what it would be. It was always whining. It was saying out loud what went through her head, albeit in a more articulate voice. She would berate herself, and he would reassure her, no matter how dismal she judged her life to be at that moment or how crippled she felt putting words to paper. Or how little he actually understood what she was saying.
On reflection, that seemed like one of the best reasons to be with someone: having someone to complain to. And have that person reassure you, even if you knew that the soothing words were insincere, as in Cameron’s case. He tried to be sympathetic, but that trait did not seem to exist on his genome; the fact was dismal on the listening end. . . She shook her head. She didn’t need to go there.
Riley sat back down and repositioned her fingers over the keyboard. She took yet another deep breath. In the back of her mind, she could hear a familiar voice: Scream all you want, young lady. If this is what you want, this is what you must do. It’s as simple as that.
She straightened her shoulders.  Okay, this is what I want, so this is what I must do. She replaced her fingers over her keyboard and started typing.
Adam Wilkerson did not want to do what he knew he needed to do.
She sat back and checked in with herself. This is more like it.
He had been thinking about it for weeks, maybe even months. Definitely months. A year? Could be a year. He tried to avoid it; in fact, he tried everything he could think of to shield himself and his wife from what he needed rather than wanted to tell her. He wondered about how she would take it. He didn’t think she would take it well.
Adam was sitting at home, waiting for his wife to return. It was Saturday; she had gone shopping. Where or for what he had no idea. It was hard to imagine that she really needed anything. He thought she was just killing time until . . . until what? Until night fell and she could go to sleep and forget her own unhappiness for a few hours. That is, if she slept. That nocturnal pleasure has been coming hard for Mrs. Wilkerson recently. Adam knew this all too well; his wife wasn’t the only one lying awake in silence at night. What he didn’t know was what to do about it.
Touchy ground, Riley mused. She felt herself pale a bit, and she noticed her hands were sweaty.   Anxiety, she knew. And maybe excitement. Perhaps both. She did not take her eyes off the screen.
Adam wondered, even at this late date, if there were some way to avoid this, to somehow give his marriage yet another lease on life. Then he could avoid the discussion he promised himself he would have. But his mind was blank. He had tried everything. He tried being assertive and firm and then warm and kind; he tried to be inviting and disclosing and a little removed and distant. Nothing, absolutely nothing helped impede the belief that had been growing in his mind that he was just out of gas. By which he meant that the marriage was out of gas. No more fuel in the tank. Running on empty. The relationship platitudes were coming fast enough to fill a silly daytime advice show. 
Riley leaned back in her chair without taking her eyes off the screen. This was a habit of focus: looking at the screen was still writing, even if her hands were not tapping on the keys. She knew the anxiety was there and she knew why. She didn’t want to give her nervousness any space; nor did she want to draw comparisons to her current life. She was sure that would make it harder for her to write.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Excerpt reveal: Maximilian’s Treasure, by James D. Bell

Genre: Romance/Adventure 
Author: James D. Bell
Find out more on Amazon       
About the Book:
Rumors of a legendary treasure fuel a battle over possession of a Choctaw family farm.  Two young lawyers, John Brooks and Jackson Bradley, agree to help the family keep their farm.  Early legal success prompts the drive-by murder of the patriarch of the family.  The grandson chases the suspects whose bodies are found on the farm, scalped.  At the same time clues to a vast treasure are found on the farm.  Jackson, pursued by fortune seekers, adventurers, an exotic beauty and a homicidal maniac, follows the clues from a Caribbean reef to the Chiapas jungle.  John stays behind to defend the grandson and continue the fight for the farm.  His efforts are complicated by arson, murder, race riots, and the realization that he lost his one true love.  Though there is great distance between them, their adventures are intertwined as they rush toward a triple climax that could shake the world.  Join the adventure and discover your Maximilian’s Treasure.
About the Author:
James D. Bell is an award-winning author and retired Judge who received the highest bar association approval ratings ever given to a Mississippi Circuit or County Judge. He is listed in Preeminent Lawyers, Outstanding Lawyers of America and Top 100 Attorneys of North America.  He is the author of two novels, Vampire Defense and Maximilian’s Treasure.  His short story, The Adventures of Sherlock Hound, was published in Mardi Allen’s collection, Dog Stories for the Soul, alongside stories from Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Willie Morris and others.  The son of a Choctaw mother and a Mississippi businessman, Judge Bell is devoted to his wife, Joanne.  They live near Jackson, Mississippi and have four children.  Judge Bell returned to law practice but is frequently called back to the bench by the Mississippi Supreme Court for short term assignments.
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“Why did this have to happen?” cried Erma as she sat on the couch, her head in her hands.  Karen sat next to her with her hand on Erma’s shoulders, trying to comfort her.  The deputies were interviewing witnesses one at a time.  Most family members waited on the porch for their turn to be questioned.  Jackson, Peter and Karen sat with Frank and Erma in the den.
“It’s the treasure,” said Frank in disgust.
“How do you know it’s the treasure?” asked Jackson.
Peter sat on the edge of his chair and listened.
“He’s right.  It seems that everything bad that happens to this family has something to do with that old treasure.  I hate that treasure,” said Erma.  “It has brought nothing but sadness and tragedy to us.  It doesn’t even exist.  It never existed.”
“Yes, it does.  But I would give it up in a minute if I could undo all that’s happened,” said Frank.
“It doesn’t even have to exist to kill us.  People believe in it, and we get killed.  Nothing good has ever come from that old rumor.  I hate that treasure,” repeated Erma.
“I don’t blame you, after what I saw today,” said Karen.  “What else has happened?”
“The list is too long.  So many things have happened over the years.  There was the cave in at Hummingbird Well, where Frank found that coin.”  Tears filled Erma’s eyes. She excused herself and retreated to the bedroom.
Frank shook his head.
“I found the coin in Hummingbird Well, over near Pinishook Creek.  It was an old fashioned well.  We lowered a bucket on a rope.  One day, when I pulled the bucket up, I found the coin.  The one I showed Mr. Brooks.  I always believed the gold was in Hummingbird Well.  To me, it confirmed the rumors about the treasure.   We searched around the well and the creek, and then we started digging up the well.  The sides fell in.  Erma’s two boys were trapped.  We could hear them calling for us because the water was rising.  They drowned before we could get to them.”
“Oh, no!” said Karen as she rose and tapped on the bedroom door.  Karen cracked open the door, looked back at Jackson, Peter and Frank, and stepped into the bedroom, closing the door behind her.
Peter, Jackson and Frank sat in silence for a few minutes.
“Did you find any gold in the well?” asked Peter.
“No.  We never found the gold.  I believe it’s still there.”
As Frank said that, Erma returned to the room, wiping her eyes, followed by Karen.  “I’m sorry.  I’m alright.  I dealt with this a long time ago.  It’s just that the murder of Uncle German brought up old wounds.”  Karen put her arm around Erma, who gave Karen a hug and said, “Thank you.  Frank still believes that gold is in that old well.  He can have the gold, for what good it’ll do him.”
“Maybe Frank James lost one coin or dropped just one coin down the well,” guessed Jackson.
“No.  We were told that Sankky’s last words were something like, ‘You will draw the gold from the hummingbird.’ They say it was hard to understand her exact words when she died, but she said something like that.  We knew that she named the old well, Hummingbird Well, so I knew we would find the gold there,” said Frank.
“That’s why Frank was drawing water from the well,” said Erma.  “He always thought he would get lucky one day and draw gold up from the well.  One day he finally did.  We thought that was a great day.  But, then tragedy struck.  That gold is cursed,” said Erma, almost spitting out the word cursed.
A thought struck Karen, and she sucked in a little air. Her eyes darted around the room and came to rest on the hummingbird painting.  “She said ‘draw’ and ‘hummingbird.’  Erma, may I look behind Sankky’s painting?”
Erma starred at Karen for a moment, then she turned and looked at Frank, eyes wide open.
Frank said, “Well, I’ll be.”
“Yes, darlin’, you can look,” said Erma.
Everyone’s eyes were glued on Karen as she walked to the hummingbird painting.  She lifted the frame from the wall and laid it face down on the checker table.
“Can someone help me get the back off of this frame?”
Frank used a pocketknife to pry off the back of the picture.  Everyone leaned in to get a better look.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Chapter reveal: ‘Fortunate Son – The Story of Baby Boy Francis,’ by Brooks Eason

Fortunate Son front cover (3)Genre
AuthorBrooks Eason             
Publisher: WordCrafts Press, Nashville, TN
On the eve of the birth of his first grandchild, Mississippi lawyer Brooks Eason learned the truth about a mystery he’d lived with for nearly fifty years: the story of his birth and his birth mother’s identity.  Perhaps even more surprising was how the story was finally revealed:  It turned out that Eason was a potential heir to an enormous fortune from his birth mother’s family.  His original identity finally saw the light of day only as result of litigation in four courts in two states, initiated in an effort to identify and find the heir.  Eason, who was raised in Tupelo by loving parents, found out on the day his granddaughter was born that he began his life as Scott Francis, which remained his legal name for the first year of his life.  Fortunate Son – The Story of Baby Boy Francis is the story of how he learned the story. 
And what a story it is.
A truth-is-stranger-than-fiction memoir that unfolds in the Deep South, Fortunate Son is a deeply personal and deeply moving story about families, secrets, and choices.  Resplendent with intrigue, drama, and mystery—all the hallmarks of a blockbuster novel—Fortunate Son is a true story, unembellished, unpretentious, and at times almost unbelievable.  Eason, a gifted storyteller with an incredible story to tell, delivers a gripping, satisfying, meaningful memoir.  Told with candor, wit, and honesty, Fortunate Son is a thoughtful and thought-provoking first person narrative that will have readers turning pages. 
Though Eason was ultimately not the beneficiary of the fortune, he is quick to point out that he received a different kind of wealth:  knowing the truth and finally being able to dive headfirst into the story of his origin, uncovering fascinating blood relatives and stories along the way. 
Much more than a memoir about birth and adoption, Fortunate Son is a long love letter from the author to the parents who raised him, a heartfelt thank you to the birth mother who gave him the whole world when she gave him away, and a moving tribute to his beloved daughter who faced circumstances similar to those his birth mother faced and bravely chose to keep her baby.  A tale of two stories that unfolded in different times, Fortunate Son is an extraordinary story extraordinarily well-told. 
Brooks Eason - photo

Brooks Eason loves stories, reading and writing them, hearing and telling them. He also loves music, dogs, and campfires as well as his family and friends. His latest book is Fortunate Son – the Story of Baby Boy Francis, an amazing memoir about his adoption, discovery of the identity of his birth mother, and much more.

Eason has practiced law in Jackson for more than 35 years but has resolved to trade in writing briefs for writing books.  He lives with his wife Carrie and their two elderly rescue dogs, Buster and Maddie, and an adopted stray cat named Count Rostov for the central character in A Gentleman in Moscow, the novel by Amor Towles.  In their spare time, the Easons host house concerts, grow tomatoes, and dance in the kitchen.  Eason, who has three children and four grandchildren, is also the author of Travels with Bobby – Hiking in the Mountains of the American West about hiking trips with his best friendVisit Brooks online at  WordCrafts Press is an independent publishing company headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit WordCrafts online at



It was a Tuesday morning in June 2004. The day had started like any other. I walked the dogs, ate breakfast while reading the paper, then drove downtown to work. I was in my office on the 14th floor of the Trustmark Bank Building when my phone rang. It was my father, Paul Eason. He rarely called me at work but had just listened to an intriguing voicemail. He was calling to tell me about it.
Daddy was 82 and lived by himself in Tupelo, Mississippi, in the home where I grew up. It was the only home he and my mother Margaret ever owned. She had died five years earlier in the bedroom they shared for more than forty years. I lived three hours south of Tupelo in Jackson, where I had practiced law for two decades. 
The message was from a woman in New Orleans, also a lawyer. She said her firm was conducting a nationwide, court-ordered search for Paul Eason, age 46. I go by my middle name, but my first name is Paul and I was about to turn 47. I told Daddy I would return the call. 
Why a court in New Orleans would order someone to search the entire country for me was a mystery. A theory occurred to me, but after all these years it didn’t seem possible. Because I didn’t know the reason for the call, I decided not to identify myself as the Paul Eason the lawyer was trying to find. I would just say I was Brooks Eason and was returning the call she had placed to my father. But when she came to the phone, she already knew who I was.
“I can’t believe we found you.” 
“What is this about?”
“An inheritance.”
“Tell me more.”
*        *        *
That was the day I began to learn the story that had been a mystery to me all my life, the story of my birth and second family. In the days that followed, I found out that my name was Scott Francis – or rather that it had been – for the first year of my life. I was nearly fifty years old, but until then I didn’t know I had started life with a different name, much less what it was. My name, as well as the rest of the story, had been a secret. This is the story of how I learned the secret. But this story is about more than that. It is also about the wonderful life my parents gave me, about my exceptional daughter and granddaughter, who was born just days after Daddy received the voicemail. and about how times and attitudes changed from when I was born until she was born.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Excerpt reveal: 'The Fog Ladies,' by Susan McCormick

The Fog Ladies is a cozy murder mystery set in an elegant apartment building in San Francisco where old ladies start to die. Mrs. Bridge falls off a stool cleaning bugs out of her kitchen light. Mrs. Talwin slips on bubbles in the bath and drowns. The Pacific Heights building is turning over tenants faster than the fog rolls in a cool San Francisco evening.

Young, overworked, overtired, overstressed medical intern Sarah James has no time for sleuthing. Her elderly neighbors, the Fog Ladies, have nothing but time. Sarah assumes the deaths are the natural consequence of growing old. The Fog Ladies assume murder.

Sarah resists the Fog Ladies’ perseverations. But when one of them falls down the stairs and tells Sarah she was pushed, even Sarah believes evil lurks in their building. Can they find the killer before they fall victim themselves?

About the Author

Susan McCormick writes cozy murder mysteries. She is also the author of Granny Can’t Remember Me, a lighthearted picture book about Alzheimer’s disease. She is a doctor who lives in Seattle. She graduated from Smith College and George Washington University School of Medicine, with additional medical training in Washington, DC and San Francisco, where she lived in an elegant apartment building much like the one in the book. She served nine years in the military before settling in the Pacific Northwest. She is married and has two boys, plus a giant Newfoundland dog.


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The Fog Ladies


Mrs. Bridge did not like bugs. Perched high up on the stool, she peered distastefully into the kitchen light. Living in an apartment building in San Francisco, she usually had no problem with bugs. But the light collected the creatures, motionless black blobs above her head.

If Tommy were anything like old Mr. Lemon, the handyman he replaced, there would be no bugs. Mr. Lemon had come by every few weeks to see if she needed something fixed. He did it with all the tenants, right from the time she moved in forty years ago when she was twenty-five. Old Mr. Lemon wasn’t above cleaning out bugs. Old Mr. Lemon wasn’t above anything. Not like Tommy.

When she’d first suggested to Tommy that he should clean out the bugs, he actually laughed. What impudence! The few times he had come, he’d shown up a week later, long after she’d done the task herself. What did she pay her rent for?

The whole building had gone downhill since Mr. Lemon died. It was a beautiful building in Pacific Heights, built in 1925, elegant and solid, with a slate floor in the lobby and etched glass windows. Mr. Lemon had washed those windows every week, just like he polished the brass and oiled the mahogany hall table. Tommy thought his job entailed keeping the elevator running and changing the light bulbs in the back staircase. He didn’t understand about a fine building. And he certainly showed no interest in helping with her bugs.

So Mrs. Bridge climbed up there herself. It wasn’t easy. The ceilings were high. She used a stool she found in the garage by the dumpster. It was meant to be a barstool, but its height was perfect for reaching the light fixture. She wore yellow rubber gloves and used wads of paper towels. Even though they were expensive. The whole process left her winded and she only did it every few months.

Stepping from her kitchen chair onto the barstool was the trickiest part. She had done it many times before and could balance pretty well once she touched the ceiling.
She always felt nervous at this point, hand over head, feet tight together on the small stool. Today, though, she felt an inexplicable dread.

If anything happened, she would blame Tommy. She found it ridiculous and humiliating that a sixty-five-year-old woman should have to clean bugs out of a light. 

She had seen Tommy that very day up on a sturdy new ladder probably purchased with her rent proceeds. Why couldn’t he do this for her? Or at least offer her the ladder. No respect for his elders, that’s why.

“Insolent youth.” Mrs. Bridge said. “Damn that Tommy.”

The stool jerked from under her. Mrs. Bridge felt herself fall. It seemed like slow motion, like she was falling from the roof deck and not from a stool in the kitchen. Falling, falling, long enough for her to see the figure standing nearby. Long enough for her to see his detached expression.

She landed hard. She heard the crack. She knew she was going to die. She studied the bugs in the light far over her head. The figure started to turn away.

She managed to speak and was surprised at how strong her voice sounded. “Sarah,” she blurted. He whirled around.

Mrs. Bridge was satisfied to see the shock on his face as she stared up and said, “Sarah saw you.”