Monday, September 12, 2022

The First Chapter: Moon Deeds by Palmer Pickering

 

Title: MOON DEEDS: STAR CHILDREN SAGA BOOK ONE
Author: Palmer Pickering
Publisher: Mythology Press
Genre: Adult Fantasy/Science-Fiction

BOOK BLURB

“The path to power is cloaked in shadows, so if you avoid all the shadows, you’ll never learn anything.”

It’s 2090: the last outpost of freedom is the moon, the best defense against technology is magic, and the only hope for humankind rests in the hands of the Star Children.

Twins Cassidy and Torr must save Earth from a ruthless enemy at a time when the only force more powerful than alien technology is magic. Moon Deeds launches the siblings’ journey across the galaxy, where they must learn their power as the Star Children, claim their shamanic heritage, and battle dark forces that threaten humankind.

The Star Children Saga follows Cassidy and Torr as they slowly awaken to their destiny as the twin Star Children, born every millennium to reconnect with the source of all life. They come to discover the sheer enormity of their task: to find our ancestors on a lost planet across the galaxy and save humanity from a spiraling descent into darkness. The powers they must wield to accomplish this task are truly frightening and put at risk everything they love.

Come along with twenty-year-old twins Cassidy and Torr, who inherited deeds to land parcels on the moon. They want to use their moon deeds to get off Earth and escape a brutal dictatorship. But first they must unlock their shaman powers.

A rollicking yet poignant adventure in the not too distant future, when we have colonized the moon and nearly lost Earth to a dictatorship. Only the shamans remain free, plus the lucky ones who escaped to the moon.

Join the adventure! An addictive space opera, science-fantasy series.

Book Information

Release Date: May 25, 2019

Publisher: Mythology Press

Soft Cover: ISBN: ‎ 978-1732568808; 598 pages; $21.99; E-Book, $.99; Audiobook, FREE.

Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xt13Js_M-P4

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3uKWq2o

Barnes & Noble:  https://bit.ly/3rQteFx

Chapter One

Star Song

West San Jose, California, Western Free States, planet Earth

July 8, 2090

Cassidy stood in the backyard, staring up at the sky and listening to the music of the stars. The Shaman’s Shield of gray clouds loomed far overhead, covering the sky in a thick, impenetrable roof, and casting a gloomy pall over everything. Ever since the Shaman’s Shield had appeared three years ago, she had not seen the stars nor heard their music. But today the thin, ethereal strains wove through the neighborhood noise. The music was faint, but it was there.

It had been louder when she was a child, before Grandma Leann had shielded her. Cassidy had thought everyone could hear the music, a constant background noise of such poignant sweetness that sometimes it was painful to listen to. But she had realized over time that others did not hear it. Or perhaps they heard it subconsciously, or in their dreams, because sometimes she heard an echo of it when musicians played their instruments or choirs sang. Cassidy had tried to replicate the sound, studying violin as a child, then piano, but neither instrument captured the elusive tones.

The only one who understood was her twin brother, Torr. They had shared a room as children, and she used to sing to him.

“I recognize that song,” he had said one time in the middle of the night. She had been sitting up in bed humming the tune that was streaming through her head. Torr had awoken from a deep sleep and sat upright, staring at her. “I heard it in my dream.”

“You heard me humming,” she corrected him.

“No,” Torr said stubbornly. “The golden people were singing to me. Their song said you and I have to find them. We have to follow their voices.” Torr closed his eyes and sang the melody more truly than she ever had, picking out parts of the multi-layered harmony she had never captured before. And he added something resembling words that she did not understand, but which made her cry.

In the morning he had remembered the dream, but he could not remember the song. For days afterwards he had tried to get her to sing it back to him, but she could not get the melody quite right, and she did not know the strange language. Then when Grandma Leann laid the blanket of silence over her, the song stopped. As time passed, Cassidy forgot the tune she had always hummed. She could only recall hints of it, like wisps of clouds that slipped away as she tried to grab them.

Now the sky was singing to her again. The melody came to her, carried on the wind as though from a distant mountaintop. She was filled with joy to hear it, though the song was more mournful than she recalled. She still could not understand the words, but she remembered what Torr had told her that night in their attic bedroom, that the two of them had to follow the golden people’s voices and find them. She did not know who they were, or where they were, but they were still out there singing to her. Calling to her. Waiting.

About the Author

Palmer Pickering has been writing fiction since she was eight. She received her BA in American Studies from Wesleyan University, with concentrations in Religion and Race Relations.

She currently works in Silicon Valley in the gaming industry and high tech. In addition, Palmer holds a certificate in Chinese Acupressure, is a certified solar panel installer, and studied Tibetan Buddhism with the 14th Dalai Lama.

She lives and writes in the magical redwood forest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, California.

Her latest book is the scifi fantasy for adults, Moon Deeds: Star Children Saga Book One.

You can visit her website at www.MythologyPress.com or connect with her on TwitterFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

.com or connect with him on Twitter.

Monday, August 29, 2022

The First Chapter: Half Moon Lake by Steve Brock

 

Title: HALF MOON LAKE
Author: Steve Brock
Publisher: Steve Brock
Pages: 187
Genre: Suspense / Conspiracy

Crease Williams lived a charmed life with a bright future. Only in his junior year at Texas Christian University, his skills as a wide receiver had already captured the attention of NFL scouts.

Then a tragedy cost him his family and his desire to play football. Personally devastated, he left his old life behind and got as far from Ft. Worth, TX, and football as he could get.

Keeping mostly to himself, he became a float-plane pilot in the far north of Minnesota. Flying fisherman and hunters into remote locations was how he spent his time. When a group he had flown to Roudy’s Cabin goes missing, he faces accusations and more turmoil than he could have ever imagined. To make matters worse, his quiet existence is upturned by an element from his past bent on vengeance.

Half Moon Lake is Steve Brock’s first novel. A suspenseful mystery written with likable characters and a lighthearted flavor.

Book Information

Release Date: March 30, 2022

Publisher:  Steve Brock

Soft Cover: ISBN: 978-0578391977; 187 pages; $9.99; Kindle Unlimited FREE

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3knaPfd

Chapter One

What would it be today? Indigo, purple, or maybe some shade of green? It was something he had grown to appreciate, even anticipate during the last few years. Depending on the season and the hour of the day, the color of the water in Half Moon Lake changed. Ripples on the surface glistened and danced in the sunlight as he approached from the east. Billowy cotton-ball clouds floated high against the evening sky. Pine trees, majestic and tall, surrounded the lake. They seemed to stretch to touch the belly of the plane.

He lingered one last moment to admire the vista, but eventually keyed the mic.

“TC8750 to Half Moon Flight Service.”

The familiar voice of Rose Larson broke a few seconds of static. “This is Half Moon. Is that you, Crease Williams? I hope this is an obscene radio call.” No one ever accused Rose of ridged formality.

“I’m afraid it’s all business today, Rose. I’m here to pick up the floatplane to fly a load of supplies up to that group of fishermen at Roudy’s Cabin.”

“Fishermen? Do you mean those four CEO types who were through here last week? I saw the list of supplies they ordered. I don’t know about the fishing, but it appears the beer drinking is going pretty well up there. The runway’s clear, Crease.”

To call what serves to land small airplanes a runway was generous. A strip along the side of the lake a quarter mile long and maybe one hundred feet wide, it was a grass field dozed free of trees and rolled to flatten some humps. Crease coaxed his little Cessna to the north, taking a wide loop to a course parallel with the landing strip.

Just as he was straightening his heading, pointing the nose toward the windsock that stood just past the end of the landing field, his life changed. At once there was deafening silence and a violent lurch downward. The engine had stopped, and he thought he must have dropped at least five hundred feet. A quick glance at the altimeter said no, but his testicles said yes.

A dozen thoughts fought for attention in his mind. He filtered through the “whys” and concentrated on the one thought that mattered: How do I land a plane without power? He knew it could be done. The space shuttle always lands without power, he thought to himself. Sure, that’s right. Of course, an astronaut pilots the shuttle, not a washed-out wide receiver with a few hundred hours of flight time. Still, he believed he could do it, and it wasn’t like he had a lot of options.

Just as he had convinced himself, the plane jerked forward as the engine started running again. It appeared that his heading was fairly correct, and the desire to touch the ground overwhelmed the urge to swing the plane around to line up perfectly. He eased it down and, with a bit of a hop, came into contact with the grass. He taxied forward, slowing, and came to a stop at the end of the landing area. He sat motionless until his mind and his gonads agreed he was on the ground.

Crease climbed the three steps to the single door that opened into the small reception area that was also the Half Moon radio room. As he walked through the door, an office chair swung around and a well-nourished fortysomething lady sporting a bouffant hairstyle stood. With a big toothy grin, Rose said, “There you are, you big linebacker. Come here and give me a hug.”

“Just try and stop me,” he said as he met her in front of the desk. As they embraced he said, “You know I was never a linebacker. In fact, I tried to avoid them as much as possible.”

“Hell, Crease, all football players are linebackers to me. What have you been up to? I haven’t seen you in a coon’s age.”

“I’ve been down in Texas doing some maintenance on the home place. Which reminds me, I think I might have something for you here in my duffel bag.” He didn’t know everything about Rose. She was divorced twice that he knew of, and scuttlebutt was that at least one settlement was enough to set her up for life. He got the feeling the only reason she helped out around the field was because she was lonely. He liked her. The truth was, he was closer to Rose than anyone since the accident. “While I was home, I picked up a little something for you.” He reached into his bag and produced a two-pound box of Pangburn’s Millionaires.

Her smile increased as he handed her the box. “Are you trying to wreck my perfect figure?”

“God, no. It looks to me like you’re down a few pounds. I don’t want you to dry up and blow away.”

“You’re just oozing that old Southern charm, darlin’. How is it no one has claimed you yet?”

“I guess the bad outweighs the good. I’m not much for long-term relationships. How have you been?”

“I’m still walking upright so I can’t complain.” Rose returned to her chair, clutching the box of chocolate turtles.

Since he had moved up north, Rose was as close to a friend as he had. After losing his family and discovering he had no future, he determined he would maintain a certain distance from people. He had become a loner, and it suited him now. Rose was almost an exception.

He rested his hands on the counter. “Is Ol’ Pete around?”

“He’s here someplace. Walk through the showroom to the garage, and you’ll find him.”

With genuine concern, he asked, “Are you okay? Seriously, you look tired.”

“It’s nothing. I’ve not been sleeping well lately.”

“I’m planning to be around for a while, so I’m gonna keep an eye on you.”

“That just makes my day. Would you like for me to page Pete for you?”

“Nah, I’ll head back to the garage as you said. I’ll come across him.”

“You know you’re not exactly his favorite person, right?”

“Yeah, I remember. I’m not sure what I ever did to make him dislike me so much.”

“You know what you did.”

Crease did know. It wasn’t like he destroyed an aircraft. It could have happened to anyone learning to land a floatplane. Anybody with limited experience could bring a plane down a bit too hard. Yes, the hard landing on the water ruptured a float, and yes, the fuselage took on a lot of water, and yes, they had to use a come-along to drag the plane into shore. The bottom line was that the plane got repaired, and he had paid for it, every cent. That should be enough for any reasonable person, but Ol’ Pete wasn’t altogether reasonable. He had an unnatural attachment to his floatplanes. Three years later now, and Pete still hadn’t forgiven him for that little faux pas.

He had apologized, and he had learned his lesson, but that had little impact on Ol’ Pete. Pete had grown up around airplanes. His dad flew them, repaired them, and even created them. He had taught Pete everything there was to know about single-engine aircraft: what made them fly, and what made them crash. If there was anyone in the world who could make a bowling ball fly, it was Pete. By the same token, if anybody could explain why an almost new Cessna TTX, well maintained and treated with care, would suddenly decide to shut down on approach, that, too, would be Pete.

Following Rose’s direction, he began walking through the warehouse, toward the garage. The warehouse was a local wonder. Around here, if you wanted to do some shopping in a national chain big box store, you were in for a big disappointment. The closest Walmart was over one hundred miles away. The closest thing to that was the warehouse of the Half Moon Airfield and Wilderness Outfitters. Not that it compared to a big box store in ambiance. There was no nicely tiled floor or rows of pristine shelves stacked with goods. The “Outfitters,” as it was locally known, was a large open building with a bare concrete floor stacked with pallets. It was filled with anything useful in camping, fishing, hunting, or any other outdoor activity. Beyond the warehouse and to the right stood the door to the garage. He cringed a little as he rounded the corner.

He hated to ask Pete for anything. Every conversation they had since the “incident” always began the same way. Ol’ Pete sat behind an old metal office desk stained and dented by years of use and abuse. His feet were propped up as he leaned back in his rickety old wooden chair. On his head was the only hat he’d ever seen Pete wear. Ragged and stained with years of head sweat, it was adorned with hooks and fishing lures all around. Sure as spring rain, as if reading from a script, Pete said, “Well, well, if it ain’t the local football star. Sink any floatplanes lately?” He always followed that statement with a snicker. That was what Crease hated the most, the snicker.

Over the last couple of years, he had learned to take a beat before continuing the conversation. Deep down, Crease knew Ol’ Pete didn’t really hate him. Pete wasn’t that kind of person. Pete loved his planes like family, and his harassment at the start of every encounter was Ol’ Pete’s way of reminding Crease that the “incident” was not forgotten.

The truth was that Pete liked Crease a lot, despite the “incident.” Crease had become one of the better pilots he knew. He realized Crease had some rough times in his past and he respected him for coming through it and creating a new life for himself. He figured he would stop harassing Crease about the “incident” soon. Just not today.

After a brief, pregnant pause, Crease answered the sarcastic question with a humble response, “No,” he said with a weak smile, “I’ve learned my lesson.”

“Glad to hear it. So what brings you to our little neck of the woods?”

“I flew in to pick up a load of supplies for the campers up at Roudy’s Cabin.”

“Surely you didn’t come to see me about a beer run.”

“I did not. When I was making my approach today, I had problems with the Cessna.”

“What kind of problem?”

“It just stopped running. That’s an issue I haven’t seen before. There was no warning. One second it was running just fine, and the next second it just quit. Have you ever seen anything like that before?”

Ol’ Pete took a drag from the cheap cigar he was smoking, then took it out of his mouth and said, “Can’t say that I have, not without some symptoms first. Even then, engines don’t just stop completely. Did you put gas in it?”

Crease wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be funny or not, so he didn’t answer the question directly. “I checked everything before I took off this morning.”

“Did you land it without power?”

“No, that’s another odd thing. It started up again all on its own a few seconds later.”

“That’s odd all right, and kinda hard to believe.”

That comment did not surprise Crease. He had a hard time believing it himself. “Would you have time to look at it while I’m making my run?”

Ol’ Pete drew another long puff on his cigar, laid it down on the ashtray and finally replied, “Yeah, I’ll give it a once-over.”

“I appreciate that, Pete. Do you want me to bring it up here to the garage?”

“Nah, leave it where it is. I may take it up for a little cruise around the lake.”

“Thanks, Pete, I’ll check in with you when I get back.”

Crease headed back into the warehouse area and told one of the warehouse guys, Little Al, he was called, what he was there for. In about fifteen minutes, he was looking at a small pallet stacked with the supplies he was to deliver to Roudy’s Cabin. Mostly food items, including steaks, lobster, Crown Royal, and imported beer among assorted other items. The people who rented Roudy’s Cabin were not known for living on the cheap.

After he had confirmed everything was there, Al got an electric pallet lift and took the supplies out to the dock. Crease stopped by the office, got the keys to one of the floatplanes, and led his helper to load it. He did his preflight check and climbed into the pilot’s seat.

Taking off in a floatplane gives you a different feeling than taking off from a runway. The spray picked up by the prop and the gentle bobbing up and down in the water make you feel like you are driving a boat. Then, as you gain speed and the floats began to lift out of the water, you become a pilot again. It is a unique feeling that most people, even pilots, never experience. It was something Crease had come to appreciate.

The wings of a floatplane are set farther off the ground than land-based planes like his Cessna TTX. That gives them the ability to climb more steeply and turn sharper, attributes that are necessary when taking off from the surface of a small lake and clearing the surrounding trees. It was only a thirty-minute flight to Roudy’s Cabin. He could make the entire trip at one thousand feet if he wanted to. From that altitude, he could sometimes see herds of deer or elk in the openings in the tree line.

The job paid well, but that wasn’t why he chose it. He chose this life because his old one had died, and this was as far away from being a Texas football player as anything he could think of. That and it gave him a sense of freedom that he’d never had before, and freedom was something he needed very badly right now.

The sun still hung high in the sky as he approached Roudy’s Cabin. He brought the plane down, and gently, ever so gently, touched the floats down on the surface of the lake. He pulled it over and nudged the frame up against the dock.

Floatplanes aren’t particularly loud, as planes go, but out here in the wilderness where the closest automobile is over fifty miles away, it normally gets people’s attention. Usually, someone comes down and helps anchor the plane to the dock. He could do it and had occasionally, but it was unusual.

He walked up to the utility shed positioned not far from the end of the dock. He retrieved the ATV from within, hooked up the small trailer, and drove it down to the plane. He off-loaded all the supplies onto the trailer, climbed aboard the ATV, and headed toward the cabin.

Despite the image conjured by the name, Roudy’s Cabin was neither rowdy nor a cabin. The style of the structure could best be described as “rustic elegance.” Sitting just fifty yards from the water’s edge, the cabin was a well-appointed, 5,500-square-foot structure with five bedrooms, four baths, two fireplaces, and a game room complete with a billiard table and wet bar. The kitchen, with a full complement of professional-grade appliances, was the envy of every chef who saw it. The whole building was surrounded by a twelve-foot covered porch furnished with chaise lounges, rockers, a built-in grilling station, and a whirlpool tub. It was definitely constructed for leisure living.

The forest had been cleared all around the cabin, stumps removed, and a nice stand of grass nurtured to grow. Most people who stayed in the cabin probably never adventured beyond its lawn. The exception was those who wanted to hunt moose or elk. There were several places much better for that, however, so die-hard hunters rarely stayed here. Most people who used the cabin wanted to get out of the city and “get back to nature,” at least as long as nature came with five-star accommodations.

It was for that reason that it was unusual for Crease not to be met at the dock upon arrival. He thought perhaps they were grilling out back of the cabin, and since the back entrance led into the kitchen, where most of the supplies should go, he slowly drove around the cabin to the grilling station.

Finding no one, he shut off the ATV and just listened for a moment. He thought perhaps he would hear music or the TV from inside the house, but there was nothing but the sounds of nature around him. He picked out a couple of bags of frozen items and headed to the double doors. The doors were unlocked, but there was nothing unusual about that.

Out here, the visitors who showed up in the middle of the night would not turn the doorknob. Other than the residents of the cabin, there were probably no other human beings within twenty square miles. There were plenty of other creatures milling around in the dark. Raccoons, possums, skunks, foxes, and rabbits were always looking for any food scraps that might be left out. Those critters, as Rose called them, could be a bit of a nuisance, but not dangerous.

There were dangers in the north woods, but nothing was likely to break through the door. The most obvious concern, if you asked people, would be bears and wolves. Certainly, both species were present in the woods around the cabin, but black bears were shy around humans, and grizzlies didn’t inhabit the area. A pack of wolves could certainly ruin your day, but only if you presented yourself as a weak or wounded target.

What surprised most people was learning that the most dangerous animals in the area were elk and moose. Not that either is aggressive by nature, but many people who have never seen them don’t respect their space. The problem comes when people approach elk expecting Rudolph, but what they find are charging, pointed antlers propelled by a bristled, snorting, seven hundred pounds of pissed-off.

Crease walked through the door into the kitchen. He deposited the frozen items in the large freezer. He went about unloading the rest of the supplies, being intentionally loud, hoping to draw attention to his presence. With the last bag delivered, he stood silently for a moment. The beautiful house felt more like a derelict, abandoned mansion. It was creepy-silent.

He decided to do a walk-through to make sure no one was around. Walking room to room he found the same, a house that could have been a college dormitory, in desperate need of a maid. There was no question guys had been living here, but they weren’t here now. In one of the bedrooms, he found a journal. Someone’s musing about daily happenings. He knew it was personal, and he hated to read it, but maybe if he just peeked a little, he might discover what they’d been doing.

He decided to start with the previous day and only go as far as necessary to find a clue. He didn’t have to read any further. There was an entry that said the group had been doing some hiking through the woods, and yesterday they came across something interesting. All it said was it was they wanted to explore it further, but the daylight was fading so they came back to the cabin. They thought they might go back to continue tomorrow.

Crease gladly closed the book, he felt like he was a peeping tom as it was. They were probably traipsing through the woods at this very moment. The creepy feeling kind of went away as he made his way out of the cabin and back to the ATV. He drove back down to the dock, put the ATV back in the shed, and climbed into the plane. Looking at that journal made him feel better, but he would keep it to himself.

About the Author

I’ve been an author in search of a novel for just about forty years now. Writing was the first thing I ever wanted to do seriously. Over the years I’ve done quite a variety of things. My first real job, the kind where you have a schedule and get paid hourly, was as a cook at the local Sonic Drive-In. I’ve been a machinist, a forklift driver, a production worker, a computer programmer, an IT guy, an installation manager, a software trainer, and an education department manager. Those are just the employment highlights. Through it all, I was a husband and father, and I attended college at night to get my bachelor’s degree in technology management.

Before all that started, I wanted to be a writer. It just didn’t work out that way. Maybe that’s ok, I’ve had a good life and I have a wonderful family that I am proud to have. I don’t regret any of what I’ve done to support my family over the years. The desire to write has persisted, however, and I took a look at my odometer one day and it read 61 years old. None of us know how high our personal odometer will go, but I knew if I was ever going to be a writer, now was the time.

I’m bringing my lifetime of experience to my novel writing. Many of my characters are loosely based upon people I’ve known in real life. Some of my plot elements are also influenced by real-life experiences as well. As of this writing, my first novel, Half Moon Lake, will be published on Amazon in a few weeks. I have begun work on my second book as well. I hope you will take time to register your email address so I may keep you apprised of announcements and special offers. I’d be thrilled to count you as one of my first dedicated readers.

Steve Brock’s latest novel is Half Moon Lake.

You can visit his website at www.BrockNovels.com or connect with him at Twitter.

 

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Read A Chapter: Silent Little Angels by Jennifer Chase

 

Title: SILENT LITTLE ANGELS: DETECTIVE KATIE SCOTT BOOK 7

Author: Jennifer Chase

Publisher: Bookouture

Pages: 402

Genre: Crime Thriller

The water ripples as the girl’s body escapes the reeds and floats silently upwards. Her beautiful face—blue eyes frozen open, skin as white as snow—breaks the surface. But it’s too late, this innocent soul has taken her final breath…

When camp counselor Carolyn Sable’s body is found floating in a lake beside Eagle Ridge Summer Camp, Detective Katie Scott must dig deep to stay focused. As a child, Katie spent many happy weeks at that camp toasting marshmallows on the fire with her best friend Jenny… until the day Jenny disappeared. The loss will always haunt Katie, but Carolyn’s inconsolable family need answers.

Searching the area, the devastating discovery of two more bodies sends the case into a tailspin. Suddenly on the hunt for a serial killer, Katie’s blood turns to ice when she finds newspaper clippings about her own past cases planted near one of the bodies. Was this twisted killer banking on Katie taking the lead? And why?

Carolyn was adored by children and staff at the camp, so Katie thinks her sudden resignation is key to cracking the case. Uncovering a tragic accident involving a group of children in the weeks before Carolyn left, Katie knows she’s getting close.

But when the carefully laid trap Katie sets to catch Carolyn’s killer backfires, Katie finds herself in unthinkable danger and unable to even trust her own team. Can she stay alive long enough to crack the toughest case of her career, and how many more innocent lives will be lost before she does?

An absolutely unputdownable crime thriller from a USA Today and Amazon bestselling author. Fans of of Lisa Regan, Rachel Caine and Melinda Leigh will be sleeping with the lights on!

Everyone is talking about Silent Little Angels:

I still have goosebumps! Omg......... amazing…I flew through the pages with Olympic speed. I was hooked from the very first page.” NetGalley reviewer, 5 stars

One hell of an unpredictable rollercoaster ride with several twists and turns along the way… I almost had to read through my fingers… A brilliant, and highly recommended read.” Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

“It kept me guessing right until the end. There is plenty of action, suspense, and tension. I've become so invested in these characters. I was glued to this one and up way past my bedtime. I couldn't put it down.” Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

“I read this in one very short sitting, I couldn’t put it down. It was well written with well-developed characters and a gripping storyline that was full of mystery, tension and twists… a thrilling read.” NetGalley reviewer

All-time favoriteI was shouting in my head, don't go back therewow!” I Spooky's Maze Of Books, 5 stars

THERE WAS NO WAY I WAS PUTTING THIS BOOK DOWN!!!!!… I was literally holding my breathI HAD TO KNOW!!!!! As for the explosive ending: WOW definitely not what, or who I was expecting.” Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

Book Information

Release Date: April 19 2022

Publisher:  Bookouture

Soft Cover: ISBN: 978-1803142319; 402 pages; $11.99; E-Book, $3.99; FREE Audiobook with Audible Trial; eBook FREE with Kindle Unlimited Membership

Amazon: https://amzn.to/38HWeJ2  

Chapter One

1

Tuesday 0930 hours

The luxurious dark-gray sedan crept along the rural road that led up to where Eagle Ridge Camp was nestled in the beautiful, wooded hills of Sequoia County, California. In places along the track, large pine tree branches arched downward creating makeshift tunnels. As the car climbed, the views of the rolling hills and the picturesque town of Pine Valley became even more spectacular.

William and Jane Faulkner grew increasingly uncomfortable the closer they approached the property. They watched from the car as the beautiful forestry hills turned into a heavily wooded area that was almost impassable. The attraction of the potential investment property seemed to become less valuable the closer they got to Eagle Ridge Camp.

Mr. Faulkner glanced at the real estate agent Daniel Green, who had been highly recommended, and watched him grip the steering wheel tighter as he navigated around road hazards. He turned to the backseat and observed his wife as she strummed her long, polished nails on the door handle: sour expression with a downturned mouth. It was clear that she was not happy about being dragged this far out of town. He had second thoughts too.

“We’re just about there,” Daniel said, forcing a smile.

“The road is… barely passable,” said Mr. Faulkner. He gripped the handle of the door to steady himself.

“It’s nothing that couldn’t be easily cleared in a few hours with some bulldozers. It would be a cinch to clear the heavy brush—maybe remove a tree or two. The road itself is in pretty good condition, so it wouldn’t be difficult to scrape and level with a good construction company. There’s also another utility road that comes into the property from the other side. But…” he continued, mustering some zeal, “this road gives you the best view of the most beautiful fifty acres in the county. It’s an amazing investment opportunity.”

The couple stared silently out the windows—seemingly not convinced.

Daniel pushed the high-performance car up the last incline to where the land then leveled out and opened into spectacular views of stunning meadows and groupings of trees.

“Wow,” Mr. Faulkner said under his breath. Finally, he could see past the overgrowth and grasp the potential. “This is amazing. And thank you for making time for us today. We’re on a flight to France tomorrow.”

His wife leaned forward to get a better look through the windshield. Her face softened in wonder as she gazed at the rolling countryside unfolding around them.

Daniel pulled to the left and parked. “You ready for a bit of a walk? You brought your hiking shoes, right?”

The couple nodded.

“Great,” he replied and opened the car door while the couple changed their shoes.

He checked his pockets to make sure he had the keys that opened the main buildings. Filled with nervous energy, he jingled his own car keys against them as he paced in front of the car, surveying the area.

The pines arched and swayed around them in the breeze, blowing their sweet scent through the air. Daniel turned to look down the valley at the various towns he could see in the distance: pretty as a postcard. Fresh air, birds fluttering in the trees, and the warmth of the gentle rays of sun upon his face.

Mr. and Mrs. Faulkner emerged from the car and slowly closed the doors.

“How about we check out the main buildings and then have a look at the lake?” Daniel said.

“Sounds good,” Mr. Faulkner said, still surveying the area. “So, how long has this camp been closed? It’s been on the market, for what, almost two years?”

They began walking along a narrow trail. Before them were some large buildings, clustered around the main clearing, the gentle rolling hills visible behind them. Weeds crunched underneath their shoes as they weaved along the unkempt path.

“It closed about five years ago,” said Daniel.

“I see.”

“We’ve had several interested parties, but something always went wrong with the escrow. Investors pulled out. Money didn’t get transferred. Things like that. We’ve even had a foreign investor wanting to turn it into a family theme park for a while now, but it’s moving slowly.”

As they walked around the area, Mr. Faulkner felt his enthusiasm grow. He glanced at his wife, and she, too, smiled and raised her eyebrows in growing expectation.

Daniel made an abrupt left turn on the path and began to move downward. The trees clustered closely again around them, before the huge trunks opened into another serene clearing surrounded by gently rolling hills. “This is the south end of Echo Valley, where the lake begins.”

“Echo Valley?” Mrs. Faulkner asked.

Hello, hello,” he called out, letting his voice resonate around them before fading away.

All three of them stood for a moment and listened. The calmness and beauty of the area was worth a moment of silence.

“C’mon. You’re in for a real treat,” Daniel said. He quickened his pace around two large trees. An enormous lake glistened before them, surrounded by the hills. There was not a ripple across the surface, and the reflections of the nearby trees, grasses, and the partly cloudy sky were cast back at them like a visual echo. Just to Daniel’s left, a little boathouse and wharf sat at the lake’s edge.

“I told you,” said Daniel. “This is only one of many amazing views on the plot. Can you imagine taking a kayak out at sunset? Or building a dream house here? Just breathtaking.” He paused and took a gentle deep breath.

The Faulkners walked over to the dock to get a closer look at the birds swooping and diving around the lake. Daniel followed silently behind them, as the weathered boards creaked gently underfoot.

A soft bumping sound could be heard from within the boathouse at the end of the jetty, and curious, Daniel took a detour to take a quick look. He pushed open the door, which hung cockeyed off its hinges. They gave way with a prickling screech. Inside was revealed a long wooden deck along with several well-worn hooks, used to secure canoes and kayaks.

Hearing the couple behind him, he called out, “Watch your footing, one of the planks is missing.”

The couple followed him inside.

Mr. Faulkner looked closely at the structure. He wondered how much it would cost to build a proper boathouse. He saw Daniel looking down into the water at something dark, something that bumped against the underneath side of the deck with the lapping of the wavelets created from the mountain breeze.

“What is that?” asked Mr. Faulkner, straining to see.

Mr. Faulkner watched Daniel awkwardly kneel down to grasp the end of a piece of rope that was floating nearby. It appeared to be clean and new, totally out of place in a boathouse that had been abandoned for years. The agent pulled at it until there was a resistance.

The dark mass came closer into view with every tug of the rope. As it broke the surface, it rolled to one side and, to Mr. Faulkner’s horror, they stared at a woman’s face; dark eyes fixed open, skin opaque and shiny like artificial rubber. Brown hair swirled in the water around her pale cheeks, framing her face.

Daniel gasped.

“What?” said Mr. Faulkner, not believing what he was actually seeing.

“It’s…” Daniel couldn’t form the words. “She’s…”

“What?” demanded Mrs. Faulkner before leaning in for a closer look. There was a pause before she registered the face staring back at her, screamed, and then ran from the boathouse, her hurried footsteps crashing through the valley path.

“What the hell. Is she dead…?” Mr. Faulkner whispered over Daniel’s shoulder.

Daniel leaned forward. His eyes locked on the dead woman’s gaze.

Mr. Faulkner had never seen a dead body before. Sucking in a breath, he watched Daniel pull at the rope once again, dragging the woman’s body closer. Her torso, oversized from bloat, rolled over so her face was forced downward with one arm out to her side. The other arm was… missing. He could see that she was dressed in dark pants and a light short-sleeved shirt. Shoes missing, her feet ballooned and, cartoon-like, floated on the surface.

“Call the police,” Daniel whispered to Mr. Faulkner without looking back at him.

About the Author

Jennifer Chase is a multi award-winning and USA Today BestSelling crime fiction author, as well as a consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a bachelor degree in police forensics and a master's degree in criminology & criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience with a violent psychopath, providing Jennifer with deep personal investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling.  She is an affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists, and member of the International Thriller Writers.

Her latest book is the crime thriller, Silent Little Angels.

You can visit her website at www.AuthorJenniferChase.com or connect with her on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

The First Chapter: Dangerous Waters by Mike Martin

 Title: Dangerous Waters

Author: Mike Martin
Publisher: Ottawa Press and Publishing
Pages: 288
Genre: Mystery

Old habits die hard…

Sgt. Windflower tries his best to ease away from life as a Mountie, but the lure of an investigation is too hard to resist.

After a missing man turns up dead, Sgt. Windflower is pulled in to investigate. Meanwhile, the arrival of a group of unique foreign visitors during a snowstorm in Grand Bank offers up another mystery. Even with so much going on, Windflower can’t resist the enticement of a good meal and a trip to the island of Saint Pierre off the coast of Newfoundland.

But when things get rough, Windflower can always rely on Eddie Tizzard and the gang to have his back.

As always, Windflower’s wife Sheila and their daughters are beacons of love and support as he navigates dangerous waters.

Grand Bank beckons you to another great story in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series.

Book Information

Release Date: April 30, 2022

Publisher:  Ottawa Press and Publishing

Soft Cover: ISBN: 978-1988437828; 288 pages; $16.95; eBook $4.99: FREE Kindle Unlimited

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3RczNNA  

Chapter One

Eddie Tizzard looked down at the three files on his desk. Three men, all in their early sixties, reported missing from their homes and families in Grand Bank. One, Cedric Skinner, was found floating at the far end of Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John’s. The other two, Paddy Slaney and Leo Broderick, were still missing. 

He had just finished talking to Leo Broderick’s wife. She was doubly distraught, first by the unexplained absence of her husband, then by the death of Cedric Skinner and the disappearance of Paddy Slaney. “What’s going on?” she’d asked Tizzard. He had few answers for her or the other women in this small community on the southeast coast of Newfoundland. 

“We’ll do everything we can,” he told Leo Broderick’s wife. But truthfully, right now, there wasn’t much anything he or anybody else could do to bring her husband back. He only hoped that it wasn’t too late.

Tizzard leaned back in his chair and looked out the window. There was snow on the ground and more falling by the hour. Nothing unusual there. February in Newfoundland at the easternmost tip of Canada was cold, wet, and snowy. What was unusual was the fact that this wasn’t his chair, and it wasn’t his office. He looked down and saw something else that was new: corporal’s stripes on his uniform. Two chevrons, to be exact, and an Acting Corporal title to go along with them.

He was acting head of the Grand Bank detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Mounties. He had been a corporal before but was demoted when he had an altercation with a superior officer. But now they needed him, so they gave him back his stripes, at least on a temporary basis until they figured things out. What caused all of this to unfold was the sudden resignation of his old boss, Sergeant Winston Windflower. That’s whose chair Tizzard was sitting in as he looked out at the snowy morning in Grand Bank.

Winston Windflower wasn’t looking out the window, nor was he thinking about Tizzard or the Mounties this morning. He and his co-worker, Levi Parsons, were nearly done refinishing the hardwood floors at the beautiful old B&B that Windflower and his wife Sheila Hillier owned and co-managed. Levi was a shy and quiet young man who had somehow built a friendship with the much older Windflower, and under his tutelage, had been working at the B&B for a couple of years now. He was even taking hotel and hospitality classes to learn the management skills he needed to help run the B&B. 

But today the skills he needed were more of the manual labour type. They had already sanded and buffed the floors over the weekend, and now they were applying a new coat of stain. Tomorrow, they would start on the finish, and three coats of that later they would have perfect-looking hardwood floors to welcome their first dinner guests.

The B&B had been closed for over a year since the pandemic, and they were using this time, and Windflower had lots of it, to fix up the place before what they hoped would be a stellar tourist season. It had better be, thought Windflower. They would soon be without any steady income when his last few cheques from the RCMP dried up. Sheila had lots of business ideas cooking, but none were ready to provide them with the finances they would like to support their lifestyle and two small children. 

Levi went off to clean their brushes while Windflower poured himself a coffee in the kitchen and walked upstairs. He went to the small veranda on the second floor and opened the doors. The cool, fresh air flooded in, aided by the ever-present wind. He stared out, past the lighthouse and what was left of downtown Grand Bank, into the vastness of the ocean. It always calmed him to have this view, and today was no exception. He paused for a few moments, gave thanks for the view and the beautiful day, and went downstairs.

He went out the back door of the B&B so as not to disturb the good work they had done so far on the hardwood floors. He was going to head home when he saw a familiar face waving at him from across the street. Herb Stoodley was the co-owner of the Mug-Up café, the best and only diner in Grand Bank. Herb and his wife Moira were also self-adopted grandparents to Windflower’s two children. Stella was a bright and curious five-year-old and Amelia Louise was a two-and-half-year-old whirlwind. 

Herb and Windflower had hit it off from near the beginning when Windflower was first assigned to Grand Bank. They shared a love of the law, with Herb being a former Crown attorney, and under his tutelage Windflower was learning to share his love of classical music as well. The latest offering that Herb had provided was a version of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 recorded by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Windflower liked listening to classical music when he went on his weekly runs on Sunday morning with Amelia Louise on his back. This piece was perfect, thought Windflower as he thought about the swirling of the instruments and the haunting piano that pulled you back in.

“Morning, Herb,” said Windflower. 

“How are ya, b’y?” asked Stoodley. “You bored yet?”

“The B&B is keeping me going right now,” said Windflower. “Although I have to say that it’s hard to drive past the office without stopping in. My car just naturally wants to turn into the parking lot.”

“It may be like that for a while,” said Herb. “How’s Sheila and the girls?”

“They’re all well,” said Windflower. “Sheila’s working on getting some financing for some of her projects, and the girls are great. Stella is getting figure skating lessons in Marystown, and Amelia Louise is as rambunctious as ever.”

“They’re both so much fun,” said Herb. “Moira is knitting new hats for them, but don’t tell them, it’s a surprise.”

“They love surprises,” said Windflower. “Anyway, I gotta run. Sheila needs the car to pick up some groceries. We’ll see you soon. Oh, and thanks for the Rachmaninoff.”

“Glad you liked it,” said Herb. “It’s one of my favourites. When you’re ready, I have another one for you.”

“Thanks, Herb,” said Windflower as he waved goodbye to Herb and drove slowly home. He paused by the RCMP detachment, just for a moment. It looked busy, he thought, with one car pulling in and another leaving. With a small pang of something that might be regret, he passed by and headed for home. Sheila and Amelia Louise were glad to see him. Sheila, especially. She kissed him on the cheek and took the car keys from his hand. “I’ll see you soon,” she said. “There’s soup on the stove.”

The other one who was pleased that he was home was Lady, his Collie and four-legged ally. There was another pet in the house, Molly the cat. But Molly did not move from her basket in the kitchen, even when Lady started her happy dance around Windflower and Amelia Louise. Windflower looked over at her once and thought he could see her peeking, but she gave no indication that she could care one way or another that the so-called master of the house was home.

She and Windflower had a like-hate relationship. He tried to like her, but she clearly showed him only disdain. “Never mind,” said Windflower, mostly to himself as he looked around at the random display of toys in the living room. He understood immediately why Sheila needed to get out. Fast. Amelia Louise was adorable, but she was also a nonstop Energizer Bunny. Before she could loop Windflower into her next game, he preempted her with an offer of soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

They went to the kitchen, and he lifted her up so she could see the pea soup in the pot on the stove. 

“Pea soup,” he said. “My favourite.”

“My favrit, too,” said Amelia Louise.

She helped him get the sandwiches ready. Helping consisted of her eating a slice of cheese and telling him a story that really had no beginning and clearly no end. Windflower knew this game and played along by nodding at what he thought were the most important moments in his daughter’s monologue. He put the sandwiches on the frying pan, and while they were cooking, he took up a bowl of soup for her to cool as they were waiting.

When the sandwiches were done, he put her in her chair and tried feeding her the soup. That lasted about three spoonful’s and then she grabbed the spoon from his hands. There would soon be soup everywhere, but Windflower would clean that up later. He gave Amelia Louise part of her sandwich and sat to enjoy his soup.

The pea soup was excellent, and he savoured every drop of the thick and creamy broth with flecks of salt meat and chunks of carrot and turnip. He was just finishing up when Sheila came in with her bags of groceries. He helped her put the things away, cleaned up Amelia Louise and the kitchen and then got everybody, including Lady, ready for a walk around the neighbourhood. With Amelia Louise in her wagon and Lady on her leash, they walked down their street and then headed down to the wharf.

As Windflower and most of his family were enjoying walking around Grand Bank this snowy afternoon, Eddie Tizzard was on the phone with his new supervisor, Inspector Bill Ford. Ford was actually acting, like Tizzard. He had almost retired but was pressed back into service when the previous inspector, Ron Quigley, took a promotion in Ottawa. 

“I’m sorry, Eddie, but we haven’t got a body to spare over here either,” said Ford. “We’ve got two active drug investigations underway and a hit-and-run that needs to be looked into as well. We’re just getting by in Marystown as it is.”

“There’s no way I can do justice to this case by myself,” said Tizzard. “And we’re getting tons of pressure. Not just from the families of the men who are missing, but throughout the community. We need to figure this thing out.”

“Well, do your best for now,” said Ford. “I’ll call up the line to see if we can’t get you another body somewhere.”

“Thank you, Inspector,” said Tizzard wearily. He hung up and went to the back to get himself a snack. His dad always said never to try to think on an empty stomach. He quoted Albert Einstein to him once: “An empty stomach is not a good political adviser.” Good advice thought Tizzard as he poked around in the fridge and found a piece of leftover pizza that he popped into the microwave. He sat to enjoy his pizza when his cell phone rang.

It was Constable Rick Smithson, the youngest member of his RCMP team.

“Hey, what’s up?” asked Tizzard.

“There’s a body,” said Smithson. “I’m down by the brook, closer to the dam. I got waved down as I was coming back from Fortune. Roy Saunders found him. He was out walking his dog.”

“Do we know who it is?” asked Tizzard. 

“Roy says it’s Leo Broderick,” said Smithson. “I’ve called the paramedics.”

“Okay,” said Tizzard. “I’ll be right over.”

About the Author

Mike Martin was born in St. John’s, NL on the east coast of Canada and now lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a long-time freelance writer and his articles and essays have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online across Canada as well as in the United States and New Zealand.

He is the author of the award-winning Sgt. Windflower Mystery series set in beautiful Grand Bank. There are now 12 books in this light mystery series with the publication of Dangerous WatersA Tangled Web was shortlisted in 2017 for the best light mystery of the year, and Darkest Before the Dawn won the 2019 Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award. Mike has also published Christmas in Newfoundland: Memories and Mysteries, a Sgt. Windflower Book of Christmas past and present.

Some Sgt. Windflower Mysteries are now available as audiobooks and the latest A Long Ways from Home was released as an audiobook in 2022. All audiobooks are available from Audible in Canada and around the world.

Mike is Past Chair of the Board of Crime Writers of Canada, a national organization promoting Canadian crime and mystery writers and a member of the Newfoundland Writers’ Guild and Ottawa Independent Writers and Capital Crime Writers.

His latest book is the mystery, Dangerous Waters.

You can visit his website at https://SgtWindflowerMysteries.com/  or connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

The First Chapter: I Buried Paul by Bruce Ferber

Title:
I Buried Paul 
Author: Bruce Ferber
Publisher: The Story Plant
Pages: 304
Genre: Adult Literary Fiction

Jimmy Kozlowski has a regular gig playing Paul McCartney in the Beatles tribute band, Help!. The band is part of a cottage industry built around mimicry, where each group strives to be the ultimate Fake Fab Four. And none strives harder than Help!, thanks to Gene Klein, its John Lennon and leader. Gene’s just gotten his Medicare card and spends much of his time caring for his ailing mother. But he hasn’t lost a step on guitar or vocals, and is determined to take Help! to the top, his goal being to perform in Liverpool one day. Though the notion of the UK clamoring for a group of Long Islanders with fake British accents seems far-fetched, Gene has a plan.

Unlike his boss, Jimmy has limited bandwidth for high-quality Beatle wigs or bespoke Nehru jackets. He works a straight job, entertains at a nursing home, and yearns to connect with the daughter he’s never met. He also wants a shot at recording and performing his own original compositions. No matter the odds, Jimmy is determined to realize his creative dreams, even if it means “burying Paul” in the process.

I Buried Paul is a love letter to the power of music, a humorous yet moving exploration of the sacrifices its disciples are willing to make in service to its magic.

“Funny, heartfelt, and unafraid… A book for anyone who loves music or has ever tried to keep a dream alive.” — Ben Loory, author of Tales of Falling and Flying

“First, the good news: Paul isn’t dead, and this isn’t an autopsy. Rather it’s a funny, moving novel about trying to find your way home from the Abbey Road of your teenage fantasy life, while simultaneously escaping the shadows cast by your father, your older brother, many failed relationships, and a world that doesn’t like to see people doing what they love – such as making their own music. Reminiscent of Anne Tyler and Richard Russo (if either could keep a steady bass beat), Bruce Ferber writes humorous fiction for grown ups.” — Scott Bradfield, author of The History of Luminous Motion

“In his touching and funny novel, Bruce Ferber comes not to bury Paul McCartney but to celebrate his true believers, the dreamers who carry the torch of their youthful rock dreams well into pension age, and who refuse to sacrifice their passion despite high cholesterol counts and the possibility of embarrassing themselves. I Buried Paul is a tender paean to the music that changed us all, its revivifying and enduring power.” — Marc Weingarten, author of The Gang that Wouldn’t Write Straight: Wolfe, Thompson, Didion, Capote, and the New Journalism Revolution

“Funny, deep, and compulsive, I Buried Paul is a tribute to family, lifelong friends, and the Beatles tunes that unite them. Told with Ferber’s trademark wit, literary verve and big-heartedness, it’s a veritable magical mystery tour of growing up and finding love and meaning in a complex world.” — Michaela Carter, author of Leonora in the Morning Light

“Reading Bruce Ferber’s latest novel is like being told a great tale from your favorite and funniest pal ― the one who really seems to know stuff―the one you trust―the one who gets you when nobody else does. Long live Paul.” — Jason Alexander

“Bruce Ferber’s prose is music to my ears. I Buried Paul is very funny, and very insightful.” — John Densmore

“Bruce Ferber has captured lightning in a bottle, chronicling a generation’s obsessive attachment to The Beatles. His love for their music and legacy is evident on every page. And as the poets said, ‘With a love like that you know it can’t be bad.’ (Yeah-yeah-yeah.)” — Bob Spitz, New York Times bestselling author of The Beatles

Book Information

Release Date: June 14 2022

Publisher: The Story Plant

Soft Cover: 978-1611883282; 329 pages; $16.95; E-Book, $7.49, Audiobook, Free with Audible Trial

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3zeFK68

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/i-buried-paul-bruce-ferber/1140012044?ean=9781611883282

Chapters: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/i-buried-paul-a-novel/9781611883282-item.html?ikwid=I+Buried+Paul&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=1#algoliaQueryId=96d8ff50907af587efe58127490ab077

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/i-buried-paul

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/I-Buried-Paul-Bruce-Ferber/9781611883282?ref=grid-view&qid=1642224849678&sr=1-3

Chapter One

Milestones are seldom what they’re cracked up to be, unless you’re a charmed preppie who inherits the Hallmark gene. My first time kissing a girl turned out to be a mercy stunt, engineered by some douchey linebacker on the junior varsity. Th e most memorable thing about getting my driver’s license was that I had no car, and my parents’ station wagon was never available. When I put on the cap and gown for high school graduation, it felt like I was going to a Halloween party, dressed as a fraud.

As I went on to achieve my own versions of milestones, none of them would adhere to society’s definitions or timetable. Instead, they appeared out of the blue like stealth jack-in-the-boxes. How was I to know that the fourth kiss from my third girlfriend would be the portal to life-changing sex? Or that on my first solo plane trip at eighteen, I’d be moved to First Class and treated like a VIP, despite having accomplished nothing? Or that shortly after the plane touched down, I would never again look at the world the same way.
It’s not that I’m against the element of surprise. I’m just convinced it would be a lot less stressful to be the Hallmark guy.

Rarely has anyone so relished the opportunity to visit Bixby, Oklahoma, in August, where the average temperature hovers around ninety-one degrees with seventy-five percent humidity. But I hadn’t come for the sod-growing convention or to attend prayer breakfasts at Oral Roberts University. My mission was to spend a week with my big brother, Eddie Kozlowski, lead guitarist for the popular, small-venue cover band, Traction. Fourteen years my senior, Eddie had invited me to join him on a leg of his Midwest tour, and, after shameless begging on my part, Mom and Dad agreed to let me go. They spent most of their Sunday mornings praying for Eddie to come to his senses and reconsider an intern position with Bob Snell, an accountant they knew.
As far as I was concerned, my brother surpassed Neil Armstrong in the role model department. Perhaps if Neil had once slept on the top bunk in my room, he’d have the edge, but I had witnessed firsthand how hard Eddie worked to become a rock star. Even though his band didn’t write original material and might, on occasion, play a bar catty- corner to a wheat field, I was convinced that my brother had reached the Promised Land. He had figured out a way to not be a lawyer or a CPA and make a living doing the thing he loved most—which was the thing I loved most.
I’d never seen a better smile than the one on Eddie’s face the day he pulled up to Tulsa International in the band’s beat-up Econoline. To be fair, I couldn’t make out his upper lip, given the Lemmy Kilmister mustache he’d been growing since the beginning of the tour, but it took more than facial hair to contain Eddie’s spirit.
As I emerged from baggage claim, he shouted “Jimmy the K!”, bolted out of the van, and proceeded to hug me so hard I feared for my upper vertebrae. “Look at that hair!” Eddie exclaimed, tousling my shoulder-length locks that paled in comparison to his layered Bon Jovi ’do.
I felt blessed to be included in his world, and not just because of the music. Most of my friends had complicated relationships with their brothers, but Eddie and I were always stoked to be in each other’s company. Maybe we got along so well because the difference in age ruled out any sort of competition between us, but my guess is that even had we been twins, I could never compete with him.
“Gonna be a killer show tonight, little bro!” He slapped me on the back. “You’re gonna love Oklahoma!”

I already did. The first night would be Bixby, the next, Tulsa, the following night, the college town of Norman, then Oklahoma City. You always heard about musicians hating the grind of the road, but to Eddie it was salvation. Before he started touring with Traction, he’d spent most of his life on Long Island, so, to him, each stop was a new adventure, no matter how small the town, shitty the club, or meager the crowd. Since I’d grown up just like Eddie, I felt the same way, even though my stint on the tour would only amount to seven days. “So, what are the motel rooms like?” I had to ask.
“Phenomenal,” Eddie said. “Every night a clean bed, every morning a big-ass mess to remind us of all the partying we did.”

“I wish I didn’t have to go to college,” I muttered, lost in the moment. My musical abilities couldn’t hold a candle to Eddie’s, but after sitting in his van for two minutes, I wanted to ride around in it forever.
“Plenty of time to play music,” he assured me. “Your education is only going to help.”
I thought of how happy Dad would be to hear Eddie’s speech. Then it occurred to me that maybe they had cut a deal whereby I’d be allowed to visit, provided Eddie encouraged me to stick with my college plan. I decided to put the dark cloud of academia out of my mind, not wanting anything to spoil my first night on tour.
Soon we were driving through towns with names like Broken Arrow and Jenks, and, a few minutes later, pulling into the parking lot of the Bixby Holiday Inn. Eddie said that before we headed up to the room, he wanted to show me the lounge where he’d be performing that night. I followed him through the entrance and into a dark, smoky space out of a forties film noir. In front of us stood a nondescript bar populated by a couple of red-faced farmer-types who looked as if they’d been sitting there since the Korean War. The farmers glanced over in our direction, their expressions exuding “who invited this hippie scum?” Twenty years after the Summer of Love, these guys still held a grudge, wearing their entrenchment like a badge of honor. Eddie paid them no mind and led me to the other side of the bar where, at the center of the tiny stage area, sat a drum kit with the word “Traction” plastered across the kick drum beneath the Ludwig insignia. The guitar stands and mics were set up, the other instruments still in their motel rooms. “I think it’ll be a good crowd tonight, Jimbo,” he said, pumping his fist for good measure.
“How do you know?”
“I don’t know. I just think it’ll be good, and usually I’m right.”
I wasn’t about to question a professional. At the same time, I was clear-headed enough to recognize that a lounge in Bixby was not the most distinguished performance space for a guitar god to showcase his power.
What made my brother believe that a Holiday Inn thirty miles outside of Tulsa was worthy of his rock ‘n’ roll dreams? Eddie explained that there were a whole lot of Holiday Inns which, when you added up all the people who heard and enjoyed his music on a nightly basis, was nothing to sneeze at. “Keep your eyes on the prize, but while you’re looking—rock on.”
Normally the band didn’t have dinner until after the show, but once we dropped off my suitcase in the room, Eddie asked if I was hungry. I said yes, and he took me out for pizza. At the restaurant, we were treated to a few more disdainful looks, after which I asked about Gene Klein, the rhythm guitarist and leader of Traction, who’d grown up in our neighborhood and had planted the rock ‘n’ roll seed in Eddie’s head.
“Gene’s Gene. Found his calling as a toddler and never looked back. In Red Cloud, Nebraska, he’s like Van Halen.”
“That’s insane.” It really was when you considered the history. Gene’s father had been a Holocaust survivor whose approach to life was to be as invisible as possible, and here was his son, strutting his stuff across a swath of the country that viewed Jews as cheap novelty items. From my brother’s point of view, Gene Klein was bigger than bigotry. Rock ‘n’ roll supremacy had made him an exclusive, in-demand party favor.
I offered Eddie a slice of pepperoni, which he refused, explaining that the grease would screw up his stomach and get in the way of the evening’s guitar shredding. When I asked which songs the band would be playing, he said it would be cooler for me to be surprised by the setlist. Of course it would be cooler. My brother’s ideas were always one step ahead of mine.
Eddie wanted to know about things at home. I told him it was the same as always: Mom and Dad worrying about finances, missing him, wishing they could have come along. Suddenly, we both burst out laughing. It went without saying that if our parents had the money for two more plane tickets, they would have gladly made me sacrifice my coveted week of freedom so they could observe their other son “wasting his life.” A direct quote.
We returned to the motel, and Eddie excused himself to get ready for the show. Showers had to be taken, hair begged to be blown dry, outfits were in need of assembly. I volunteered to go down to the lounge while I waited for show time, and Eddie said I’d probably enjoy that more than hanging around the room.
It was an empowering feeling, returning to that divey place by myself, bellying up to the now farmerless bar; ordering the first of what would likely amount to four ginger ales. Little by little, the lounge started to fill up, an equal mix of Holiday Inn guests and local kids in their twenties,
ready for a night on the town in the only place that could deliver one. Traction was billed to go on at 8, but at 8:45 or so there was still no sign of Eddie or the rest of the guys. I managed to exchange a few glances with a cute redhead, who’d arrived with maybe five girlfriends. After a few cat-and-mouse volleys, she wandered over to my table to introduce herself.
“Hey, I’m Toni.”
“Jimmy.”
“Usually, the guy comes over to my table and asks to buy me a drink, but I guess there’s a lot of us, and you’re kind of shy.”
Shy and underage was the truth of it. “I would have come over to you but … I left my ID at home,” I explained.
 

“That won’t be a problem, since I have mine.” Pulling her license out of her bra, Toni went on to tell me that I would be buying her a vodka tonic, and would I like to buy myself one as well?
“Sure,” I said, as the beginning of Independence Week had gone from zero to sixty at warp speed. Still, when Toni held out her hand for the cash, it took me back to the mortifying Makeout Fakeout of 1985, and I began looking around for suspicious linebacker types. There didn’t seem to be anybody matching that description, and the last thing I wanted was to come off as a dweeb, so I slapped a ten and a five in her hand. Around 9:15, just as Toni stepped up to the bar, the room went black. Two or three minutes later, the crowd started to murmur, wondering if what they assumed was the start of the show was, in fact, a power outage.
“Jimmy?” I heard Toni’s voice shout out.
“I’m over here.”
“I have your drink.”
Power outage be damned, at least I wasn’t getting punked again. “I’m holding out my arm,” I told her, reaching around until my hand somehow connected with my drink. “Here’s the chair,” I instructed, guiding her to the seat next to me. Once Toni sat down, I found myself becoming intoxicated by whatever citrusy scent was emanating from her pores. I leaned in closer, figuring I could always blame an inadvertent head-bump on the dark.
“Cheers,” she said, and after two near misses, we managed to clink glasses. Then, after only one near-miss, she kissed me.
In a split second, my priorities changed from desperately wanting to hear my brother’s band to hoping the blackout lasted till morning. Having no clue as to when the lights would come on again, Toni and I acted as if we needed to accomplish as much as possible in Dark Time, however long that turned out to be. Deep, hungry kisses, the squeezing of breasts and seizing of crotches, all in what could’ve been five seconds or five minutes. Suddenly I felt Toni pull away. She dropped to the floor, unzipped my fly and set to work. Independence Week, Day One, had veered off the track and was now bound for the stratosphere. As much as I wanted to enjoy my good fortune, I was young and nervous. I tried deep breathing, which did the trick until my eighth or ninth inhale —when the stage lights came up. Toni jumped back to her seat and we both tried our best to compose ourselves. It turned out not to matter because nobody was interested in us anyway. All eyes were on Gene, who had launched into the opening chords of “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” Seconds later, Toni was up out of her chair, bouncing to the beat, and looking at me on the line: “you’re happy when I’m on my knees.”
It might have been a tiny room in Nowheresville, but to the Bixby crowd, this was the Roxy and the Bottom Line and the Fillmore all rolled into one. Gene took total command of the stage, and Eddie made him look even better, adding power chords, arpeggios—whatever managed to convey maximum energy without coming off showy. From what I could tell, the bass player and drummer didn’t have a fraction of Eddie’s talent or Gene’s charisma. Their playing was serviceable enough, but they were poseurs. The crowd didn’t seem to care as the band uncorked one pulsating delight after the next (“Addicted to Love,” “Jump,” “Vicious”), the adrenaline pumping faster with each successive tune. Then, just as the night looked as if it had peaked, Traction took it to the next level, dipping into the punk catalog. Eddie sang lead on the Dead Kennedys’ “Too Drunk to Fuck,” without ever uttering the f-word himself. He left that to the crowd, which gobbled up the bait.
Two hours went by in what seemed like twenty minutes, but the best was yet to come. Gene launched into the finale, a Ramones medley that started with “The KKK Took My Baby Away,” and closed with a sick cover of “Blitzkrieg Bop.” As the band took their bows, the crowd gave them a standing O, and Toni took advantage of the moment to give me a giant hug. We were several vodkas in by then, but she seemed a lot further gone, perhaps having gotten a head start earlier in the evening. “I loved that band so much,” she said, her voice sounding grief-stricken at the thought of never seeing Traction again.
“They’re the best,” I said. “Wanna meet them?”
“You know these guys?” Toni sprang to full attention at the prospect.
“The lead guitarist is my brother. I’m sure there’s gonna be a party after.”
“Omigod, you’re amazing.” Toni’s kiss was so intense, I wondered if it might be yet another portal to the beyond.
While I helped Eddie and the band break down the gear, Toni and her friends hung out in the bar, continuing to knock back cocktails. An hour and a half later, the whole bunch of us were hanging in Gene’s room, which he shared with the bass player, a quiet, Bill Wyman-type who, for reasons I had yet to learn, went by the name “Spoon.” Toni now seemed less interested in ushering me through uncharted portals than in getting to know the members of Traction. Much to her delight, Eddie was blasting Hüsker Du’s “Celebrated Summer” on the boombox, and drummer Larry Lizzardo (né Kantrowitz) earned her applause when he announced that it was “party time.” Although Eddie had prepped me for the nightly bacchanals of the road, I was nevertheless confused when Spoon whipped out what looked like a light bulb and a steel scrubber, not unlike the one our mother used to do the dishes.

My brother shot Spoon a disapproving look. “Can we not do this tonight, please?”
“You don’t have to. Nobody does, unless they want to. Anybody?”
Lizzardo and the girls were eager to join in. The light bulb turned out to be a crack pipe, the scrubber, its filter.
Eddie told me to go back to his room. He needed to stay to make sure things didn’t get out of hand. I told him I wanted to hang just a little while, since I was the one who had invited Toni and her friends. I was curious to see how the evening would play out, and if Toni would revisit the enterprise she’d initiated in the hallowed dark.
In addition to DIY crack opportunities, the room was fully stocked with all manner of alcohol and weed. This crowd was not only up to the challenge but would leave no trace. Spoon, Lizzardo and the girls chugged Wild Turkey in between hits, until a couple of them looked as if they were about to pass out. Somehow, they pressed on. I got up the nerve and went over to Toni to ask how she was doing, but rather than answer my question, she stood up, walked right past me, and planted her mouth on Gene’s. Once she began heading in a southerly direction, I turned away, only to find Toni’s friend, Robin, sitting on my brother’s lap, and Spoon and Lizzardo starting to peel articles of clothing off the other girls. As things continued to get hotter, Eddie kept one eye on the groupies and the other on me, until I finally gave up on Toni and headed back to his room. Naturally, it hurt to get tossed aside on what had promised to be a triumphant first night of freedom, but a part of me understood. Toni was older, plus these guys had already invested the time and done the work. They were the band.
Was it really like this every night? I had to wonder. I wasn’t crazy about the getting-wasted part, but the rest of it sure beat filling out 1040 forms with Bob Snell. I also knew that with my beginner’s musical skills, it would be an arduous climb to get anywhere near the level I needed to be. Yet despite the odds, in that moment, I, Jimmy Kozlowski, the brother from the lower bunk, made a vow to work my ass off, become a real bass player, and maybe somewhere down the line, find a Toni who would walk past another guy to be with me.

About the Author

Bruce Ferber built a long and successful career as a television comedy writer and producer. A multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominee, his credits include Bosom BuddiesGrowing PainsSabrina, The Teenage WitchCoach, and Home Improvement, where he served as Executive Producer and showrunner. In addition to being recognized by the Television Academy, Ferber’s work has received the People’s Choice, Kid’s Choice, and Environmental Media Awards. He is the author of two previous novels, Elevating Overman and Cascade Falls, along with the nonfiction book, The Way We Work. He lives in Los Angeles, CA with his wife, large dog, and assorted musical instruments.

I Buried Paul is his latest release.

Visit his website at www.Bruceferber.net or connect with him on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The First Chapter: Reversal of Fortune by F.M. Meredith

 

Title: REVERSAL OF FORTUNE

Author: F.M. Meredith
Publisher: 31 Months LLC
Pages: 190
Genre: Mystery

A fortune teller is murdered in the small beach town of Rocky Bluff, California. The RBPD’s investigation uncovers several suspects—all with motives and opportunity. But which one killed her?
The body of a suspect is discovered on the fortune teller’s property. Clearly, the two killings are related, but how? Who is responsible?

Meanwhile, the mayor’s daughter, Kayla, whose best friend is Detective Doug Milligan’s daughter, is upset because her mother’s sister wants her to leave Rocky Bluff to live with her in Los Angeles. Can her friends convince Kayla’s aunt to leave her there with her father?

Book Information

Release Date: April 8, 2022

Publisher: 31 Months LLC;

Soft Cover: ASIN: B09XLQCNZB; 190 pages; $12.99; E-Book, $2.99

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3EA50Eo

First Chapter:

“Dad, I need you right now.” Beth, Detective Doug Milligan’s daughter sounded desperate.

“What is it? Can’t it wait? I’m right in the middle of an….”

“No, Dad, it can’t wait. We found a dead woman.” He could hear another young voice in the background.

“Calm down. Who’s with you?”

“Kayla.”

Kayla Duval, the mayor’s daughter, was Beth’s best friend.

“Where are you?”

“You know that fortune teller or whatever she is…was? We’re at her place.” Beth’s words came out in a rapid stream. “The house on Valley Boulevard.”

Rocky Bluff P.D. had received several complaints about the so-called psychic or spiritualist, Bernadette Wolfort, and Doug had even gone to her home to interview her once. The complaints had been vague. Nothing really added up to a crime. If people were foolish enough to visit a fortune teller and pay her, they got what they deserved, didn’t they? He knew where to go. “You two stay put, and don’t touch anything.”

“We didn’t. I know better. We knocked, but when no one answered, we tried the door. It was unlocked, and we opened it. After all, Kayla was told to come here this morning. There she was, lying on the floor. We could tell she was dead.”

“I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

He’d no sooner finished the call when Doug and his partner, Detective Felix Zachary, were summoned to Chief Taylor’s office. She hadn’t given the reason for the meeting, but Doug guessed she wanted to discuss problems she was having with the Rocky Bluff City Council.

Fairly new to the department, Chief Chandra Taylor, Black and female, had proved to be a strong and steady leader. Seldom in uniform, she usually wore blouses, slacks, and tailored jackets. Today, the blouse was a bright print, much like the abstract paintings on her office walls.

Doug remained standing. “I’m sorry, Chief, but I have to go. My daughter, Beth, called a minute ago. She and Kayla have discovered a dead body.”

Chief Taylor didn’t comment but showed concern with her expression. Kayla, was the daughter of Mayor Devon Duval, whom Taylor’d been dating.

Felix, already seated, said, “I’d better come with you.”

“No, stay. I’ll give you both a call as soon as I find out what’s going on.”

Chief Taylor nodded. “Let me know as soon as possible. I’ll fill Zachary in on the department’s latest problem, and he can brief you. I don’t think it’s an emergency. However, I’d like both of your input.”

Though certainly curious about his boss’s reason for the meeting, a dead body, especially one found by his daughter, had first priority.

Driving an unmarked car, he used his emergency lights but not his siren to proceed swiftly down Valley Boulevard. Valley was the main street through the beach town of Rocky Bluff, where many businesses were located. The name of the town came from the bluff jutting high above the town itself. It held the large and expensive homes of the more well-to-do citizens.

The major, and older part of the city was built on a slope from Highway 101 flowing downward. It contained mostly small residential homes and a few apartment buildings. Closest to the ocean, a smaller road led to the entrance to the beach and a short row of six new condominiums.

A light fog had rolled in from the ocean, bringing with it the salty scent of the sea.

Doug drove past a lawyer’s office, the bank, the Mexican restaurant with the Chinese cafe upstairs, several older houses converted to offices and shops, one of them, the address he sought.

The small area in front of the tiny bungalow had been cemented and turned into a parking space, now empty. A white Acura RDX, with tinted windows and black tires, was parked beside the house on a gravel driveway. Doug guessed the car belonged to the fortune teller. The teenagers stood a few feet away from the simple cement porch. The bright blue front door gaped open.

His daughter had her blonde and purple hair in one thick braid that hung down to one side. He knew it was a school holiday, teacher’s institute or some such thing. It seemed odd for the middle of the week, especially since the schools had only recently resumed in-person classes.

Her friend Kayla’s hair appeared like a curly blonde halo. Racially mixed, she was strikingly beautiful. Despite the damp chill from the fog, both girls wore cut-off blue jeans and loose, colorful blouses and sandals. The pair never seemed to dress for the weather.

He parked the sedan next to the curb.

When he met Beth halfway, she threw her arms around him. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

“Before I go inside, tell me what brought you down here.”

Beth pointed toward Kayla, who joined them.

She took a deep breath. “I had an appointment, Detective Milligan. This is the second time I’ve visited Bernadette Wolfort. I’m trying to find out if I’ll have to move.”

Doug knew Kayla’s aunt had recently appeared in Kayla’s life and wanted the girl to move to Los Angeles to live with her.

“Okay, I get it. You came here for a consultation of some sort. Did this woman….” He thought for a moment trying to remember her name. “Wolfort, know you were coming?”

Kayla nodded. “I called her last night, and she said she could squeeze me in today before her first appointment. She told me the door would be unlocked.”

Doug took out his notebook. “What time did you make the call?”

“It was a little after eight. I called between TV shows.”

He jotted the information down. “I want you both to wait by my car while I take a look.”

The girls moved backward.

Doug stepped up to the open door. The medium-sized brass sign above the bell simply read “Bernadette Wolfort, Universal Life Counselor.” He peered inside. Except for the woman sprawled face down on the Oriental rug in the middle of the room, the space appeared to be much the same as when he’d visited her before. Horizontal blinds covered the windows, multicolored decorative hangings, embroidered with what Doug assumed were supposed to be uplifting messages, covered the walls. Instead of the usual movie set-up of a table and chairs for a fortune teller, the room was furnished like most living rooms with a comfortable couch and two large overstuffed chairs. Multiple candles in votive cups were crowded onto several small tables along with crystal balls of various shapes and sizes.

One large crystal ball lay on the floor near Bernadette Wolfort’s head. Crimson blood stained her long blonde hair.

He took out his phone, punched the number of the chief’s office, and identified himself. “We have a definite homicide. I’m calling Zachary now as well as the coroner’s office.”

“Thanks for letting me know.” Chief Taylor didn’t ask any questions. “I’ll wait for your report.”

He turned back to the girls. “Did you see anyone leaving as you arrived?”

Beth shook her head. “No, we really weren’t paying attention. We were deciding whether or not we wanted to go to the beach after Kayla’s appointment.”

“You’re going to have to stick around for a while. I need to ask you both more questions.”

An RBPD blue-and-white police car came into view. When it pulled to a stop behind the unmarked black sedan Doug had driven, he was surprised when Felix Zachary stepped out of the passenger side. The driver was Officer Gordon Butler, a longtime friend of Doug’s.

Zachary, with skin the shade of mahogany, was at least three inches taller than Doug’s 5’11”. He always made an imposing entrance. Dressed in snappy attire as usual, today a light gray-striped shirt tucked into creased gray slacks, and a lightweight darker gray sports jacket. He filled out his clothes. Not only was Felix a great partner, he’d been Doug’s friend since they both started working for the department.

“I had Butler bring me. Figured we could use him to keep back the curious.”

Officer Butler, in uniform, stood on the sidewalk beside the police car.

Zachary continued, “When we finally finish here, I’ll ride back with you.” He nodded toward the girls. “What’s the story here?”

“It seems the mayor’s daughter had an appointment with the victim. She and Beth are good friends, Beth accompanied her for support.”

“Did you go inside?”

“No, merely poked my head in to see what the girls reported to me. I’ve notified the coroner’s office. They’ll be here soon, I hope.” Located in Ventura, their response would take twenty minutes or more depending on traffic.

“Wasn’t the victim some kind of fortune teller?”

“A glorified one, at least in the manner she advertised herself. We’ve had some complaints about her, but no one has been willing to go to court. What they wanted was to get the money back they paid her but didn’t want anyone to know about it.” Doug shrugged. “In my opinion, they chose to spend their money on her services. Not getting their desired results isn’t enough for a lawsuit, or an arrest.”

“While we’re waiting, though I know you’ve asked them some questions, why don’t I talk to your daughter and you to her friend? Try to find out more about why they were here.”

“Good idea.” Perhaps Beth and Kayla might remember something more to mention when speaking with someone new.

About the Author


F. M. Meredith
, also known as Marilyn Meredith, has had 48 books published as well as two short stories, most are mysteries, but also a few Christian horror, a roman with supernatural elements, and a cookbook. She’s taught writing in many venues including for Writers Digest and many conferences. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra with her husband.

Her latest book is the mystery, Reversal of Fortune.

You can visit her website at http://fictionforyou.com/ or her blog at https://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.