Good day, book people. I missed this year’s regional book festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina because I was sick and I’m still feeling some kinda way about that, let me tell you. The Bookmarks Festival of Books and Authors took place on September 24, 2022. My plans were to hear the following authors speak and/or obtain signed copies of their books: Samira Amed, Sandra Cisneros, P. Djèlí Clark, Tracy Deonn, Jamie Ford, Megan Giddings, Oscar Hokeah, Tiffany D. Jackson, Tracey Livesay, Kwame Mbalia, Sarah McCoy, Brendan Slocumb, Tia Williams, and Rita Woods. If you haven’t attended this festival and live close by, I strongly encourage you to visit Bookmarks and put the 2023 festival on your calendar. (Psst, it is possible to purchase copies of books from this year’s festival via the Bookmarks Bookstore, just sayin’.) ♦
Later this month I’ll be attending a local book festival, the West Virginia Book Festival. This year’s festival will be in-person, YAY! The author lineup includes C.J. Box, Marc Brown, Elin Hilderbrand, Victoria V.E. Schwab, and West Virginia authors Charlie Ryan & Mitch Evans, and more. The WV Book Festival will be taking place on October 21st and 22nd at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center (aka the Charleston Civic Center). ♦
I’m still trying to figure out how to fit this event into my schedule due to commitments for a virtual book festival occurring at the same time. The 41st annual Kentucky Book Festival is scheduled for Saturday, October 29th at one of my favorite indie bookstores, Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington, Kentucky. The following authors are scheduled for this year’s event: Wendell Berry in conversation with Crystal Wilkinson (hey, I’d go for this event alone!), Barbara Kingsolver in conversation with Jan Isenhour (ticketed event, requires advance registration), David Bell, Silas House, Geraldine Brooks, Frank X. Walker, Tom Clavin, and many, many more. A book festival taking place IN a bookstore is probably the closest I’m ever going to get to a “dream environment.” And I haven’t even mentioned all of the wonderful menu items at the Bronte Bistro! ♦
Black Readers Con is partnering with Simon & Schuster to host an upcoming event: AuthorFest Fall 2022 with John Irving & Jason Reynolds, on October 13, 2022 at 7:00 PM ET. Both legendary authors are famous for crafting thought-provoking stories about the expression of self-identity through explorations of race, class, and sexuality. The conversation will be moderated by Simon & Schuster’s CEO, Jonathan Karp. This event is free but advance registration is required. Register for this event here. ♦
The second annual Black Readers Con will be taking place virtually on October 29-30. There are over 50 speakers/panelists lined up to appear including J.L. Seegars, Robert Jones Jr., Kwame Mbalia, Darby Baham, Alechia Dow, Shaunna J. Edwards, Laila Sabreen, Taj McCoy, Catherine Adel West, Chencia C. Higgins, Vincent Tirado, Kosoko Jackson, Vanessa Riley, Sadeqa Johnson, and more. The purpose of this event is “to enhance and amplify the voices of Black Readers and the Book Clubs they love.” This is a ticketed event, so please register early and purchase your tickets. Thank you to the sponsors: Mocha Girls Read, Black Men Read, Diverse Reading Book Club, and Rae Legacy Publishing, and all of the bloggers, podcasters, bookstagrammers, booktubers, and others that have worked ceaselessly to help organize and promote this event. ♦
I’m excited that the Books by the Banks – Cincinnati Regional Book Festival is returning this year on Saturday, November 19th at the Duke Energy Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. This festival hasn’t posted a schedule of events yet, but I’m still looking forward to attending. It is well worth the 8-hour round-trip drive. ♦
Will you be attending any bookish events over the next few months? Let us know, who knows your bookish event just might become an event I attend in 2023.
Happy Tuesday, my bookish peeps, and welcome to October. Do you audio (listen to audiobooks, that is)? I recently developed the habit of listening to audiobooks, especially during road trips. As an audiobook listener, I haven’t given much attention to things such as whether or not the author has the rights to the audiobook or not. However, publishing and rights can be very convoluted so it is definitely a good idea to know what you as an author own and don’t own for your writings. As a reader, I definitely want authors to receive their fair share for their hard work. I’m honored to welcome back, Jodé Millman, author of The Midnight Call to the blog today. Ms. Millman will be discussing audiobooks with us, especially from the perspective of the author. I’m sure this information will be helpful for all of you authors and aspiring authors out there. Thank you, Ms. Millman, for taking the time to join us today. I look forward to learning your thoughts on audiobooks. I’ll now turn the blog over to you.
Listen Up: Do you own the rights to your Audiobook? by Jodé Millman
As writers, we can’t help being excited about hearing our characters’ voices come alive on digital audiobooks. And audiobooks are enjoying a wave of popularity, which has only surged since the pandemic. According to the Audio Publishers Association, in 2021 the market grew by 25% to a $1.6B industry, following a trend of double-digit growth during the last ten years.
In 2021, nearly 74,000 audiobooks were published, representing a 6% growth over 2020, and now audiobook sales represent 9% of the total U.S. book sales. Of course, the 2022/23 picture will be different, given readers continued thirst for audio entertainment. And just so you know who’s listening, 54% of frequent listeners are under the age of 45, and new listenership and audiobook memberships have increased four-fold.
This good news means that digital audiobooks are creating a new revenue stream for writers. The great news is that the second-most popular genre is Mystery/Thriller/Suspense, after Sci-Fi/Fantasy, with Romance and Fiction taking a close third place.
Now that the optimistic industry trends have been covered, this article will examine whether authors own the rights to their audiobooks. The answer may surprise you.
Published Book versus Audiobook
First, let’s examine the difference between a “published book” and an “audiobook” which extends beyond their respective mediums – print versus digital recording. Be forewarned that understanding the concepts of “published books” and “audiobooks” is a bit like trying to get a handle on The Cat in the Hat‘s Thing One and Thing Two. The main premise is that “published books” and “audiobooks” are two separate legal and creative entities. Thing One (Published Books) is the original, underlying manuscript, which is owned by the author of the work and is protected under the Copyright Law. Thing Two (Audiobook) is considered a “derivative work” because it is a sound recording based upon a preexisting work – the manuscript. To create a sound recording, the publisher must first obtain the right to use the “published book” from the author, which will be covered later in the article.
Under the Copyright Law, a sound recording of the book must be captured in a medium from which it can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated to others such as a digital track, disk, tape or other format. To clarify, a sound recording is a “fixed” recorded performance of a preexisting work, such as the Hamilton soundtrack derived from the Broadway production/book of Hamilton or the performance of Davinia Porter reading Diana Gabaldon’s Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone.
Performance + Production = Audiobook
Typically, the sound recording of composed of two parts – the performance captured in the recording and the parties who captured and processed those sounds to create the final performance. Under the Copyright statute, an author owns the underlying material, however, the publisher who produces the audiobook owns the sound recording, which includes both the performance (voice recording) and the production (capturing and engineering the sound), which also carry separate copyrights. Other than the right to royalties negotiated for the use of the novel, the author generally has no legal entitlement to the audiobook.
Similarly, the voice-over artist may claim copyright ownership of their performance on the recording, unless they were employed by the publisher to narrate the audiobook. When someone is a “work for hire,” they possess no independent claim to the audiobook simply because they performed the narration. Think of the voiceover artist as being a backup singer for the Rolling Stones. Merry Clayton is best known as Mick Jagger’s amazing duet partner on “Gimme Shelter.” She was compensated for singing during the recording session but receives no subsequent royalties whenever the song is played or the record is sold. She was merely an “artist for hire.”
License to Thrill
As mentioned above, in order for a publisher or audiobook producer to produce an audiobook, they must first obtain permission from the book’s author, the original copyright holder, to use or record the book. This grant of permission is included in a publishing agreement as known as a “subsidiary right.” The Author’s Guild Model Contract suggests that the audiobook royalties be equally shared between the publisher and author – 50/50. However, publishers argue that they bear the cost of producing, marketing and distributing the audiobook, which could be substantial. When negotiating your publishing deal, be aware of this valuable subsidiary right as it may mean substantial revenue in this rapidly changing digital environment.
Under the Copyright Law, an author’s entitlement to assign or license a book for use by another party is among the many rights protected under the law. Briefly, “assigning” the rights to the book means that an author is transferring or divesting all of the rights to the work. A great analogy is selling a car; the car is something that will never be returned. In contrast, “licensing” the book means that an author is allowing the use of their manuscript under limited circumstances. It’s like leasing the car–it will be returned at the end of the term. Licenses can be exclusive (one producer) or non-exclusive (multiple producers), but generally, licenses are exclusive.
As in my situation, my original publisher included the right to produce an audiobook of my debut novel, The Midnight Call, in my publishing agreement. They were entitled to the exclusive license to produce the audiobook for a period of two years after the publication of the book. If they failed to produce the audiobook within that time, the rights reverted to me, and I was free to either produce the book myself or license/assign it to another party. The audiobook was released in May 2020, which was nine months after the publication date of the trade paperback, and my publisher and I shared the royalties from the project. When my contract with them ended, I received my audiobook rights from them, and now I am the audiobook publisher with my own account on ACX and I receive all of the royalties from the copies sold.
It is also the responsibility of the producer to create an end product, which meets the quality standards acceptable to Audible, iTunes, or any other distributor. Audible.com’s Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) will not release any audiobooks that fail to meet those standards, and during the pandemic, the review time expanded from ten to more than thirty business days after submission for review.
In June 2022, Spotify acquired Findaway, an audiobook publishing and distribution platform, as part of the streaming app’s plans to expand into audiobooks. This offers independent authors and small presses another resource for entering the digital audio sphere and reaching Spotify’s 162 million monthly listeners using an à la carte approach, rather than a subscription model.
Producing your own Audiobook
If an author has retained the right to produce the audiobook or is self-published, then the landscape is quite different. The author producing their own audiobook would be responsible for: bearing the cost of engineering, finding the talent, drafting and executing a talent “work for hire” agreement, and bearing the costs of the talent, marketing and distributing the product. It is akin to self-publishing in the audio realm. Audiofile.com is a great industry resource and maintains a directory of audiobook talent and publishers. Additional resources to assist the creation of an audiobook can also be found through the Audio Publishers Association at Audiopub.org, Authorsguild.org, Copyright.gov, and ACX.com.
The downloadable audiobook market is booming, creating new revenue streams and challenges for authors. When negotiating a publishing contract, don’t undervalue the potential of the subsidiary right of audiobooks. Be sure to negotiate your fair share of royalties in this category as well as all other technological methods for the delivery of your manuscript to readers. And if you elect to enter the Wild West of audiobook production, there’s plenty of sound advice available. ♦
The Midnight Call
by Jodé Millman
October 3 – November 18th, 2022 Virtual Book Tour
Who would ever suspect that their mentor, teacher, and friend was a cold-blooded killer? Jessie Martin didn’t—at least not until she answers the midnight call.
Late one August night, Jessie’s lifelong mentor and friend–and presently a popular, charismatic, and handsome high school teacher–Terrence Butterfield calls. He utters a startling admission: he’s killed someone. He pleads for Jessie’s help, so out of loyalty she rushes to his aid completely unaware that she’s risking her relationship, her career, and her life–and that of her unborn child–to help Terrence.
Does Jessie’s presence at Terrence’s home implicate her in the gruesome murder of the teenage boy found in the basement? Why does Terrence betray Jessie when he has a chance to exonerate her of all charges? Has he been a monster in disguise for all these years?
To reclaim her life and prove her innocence, Jessie must untangle the web of lies and reveal the shocking truths behind the homicide. The quest turns out to be the fight of her life: to preserve everything and everyone she holds dear.
Praise for The Midnight Call:
WINNER OF THE 2020 BRONZE IPPY AWARD, 2020 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHER BOOK AWARD FOR SUSPENSE/THRILLER AND THE 2020 AMERICAN FICTION AWARD FOR LEGAL THRILLER.
USA Today Network
“The tricky legal maneuvering intrigues…Millman writes with verve.”
“If you like courtroom battles, this legal thriller fits the bill!”
Chanticleer Reviews, Four Star Review. The Midnight Call won First Place in the 2014 CIBAs in the CLUE Awards
“An intriguing courtroom thriller.”
Top Shelf Magazine
“Friendship, insanity, the drama of a courtroom, with a touch of romance rounding out the narrative, will have readers struggling to answer the question: What happens after you answer that terrifying midnight call?”
Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Romantic Suspense Published by: Level Best Books Publication Date: September 2022 Number of Pages: 400 Series: Queen City Crimes, Book 1 ASIN: B0BGQK7DY2 (Kindle edition) ASIN: B088YJ7X43 (Audible audiobook) Purchase Links #CommissionEarned:Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook
Jodé Millman is the acclaimed author of Hooker Avenue and The Midnight Call, which won the Independent Press, American Fiction, and Independent Publisher Bronze IPPY Awards for Legal Thriller. She’s an attorney, a reviewer for Booktrib.com, the host/producer of The Backstage with the Bardavon podcast, and creator of The Writer’s Law. Jodé lives with her family in the Hudson Valley, where she is at work on the next installment of her “Queen City Crimes” series —novels inspired by true crimes in the region she calls home.
Hello, my fellow book lovers. I don’t know about you, but I’m loving the cooler weather. I enjoy curling up on my favorite reading chair with a blanket, a cup of tea, and a good book (or two). Of course, I curl up on my favorite reading chair every season, but Fall and Winter just seem different. My reading tastes also seem to change with the weather, as I gravitate more towards historical fiction at this time of the year. If you’re always on the lookout for something new in the historical fiction arena, then you’re going to love today’s guest author visit. Please help me welcome back Mally Becker, author of The Counterfeit Wife. Ms. Becker will be providing us with an introduction to her latest book. Thank you, Ms. Becker, for coming back to visit, I’m eager to learn more about your latest book. I’ll now turn the blog over to you.
I’m excited and honored to be featured here today!
My name is Mally Becker, and I’m the Agatha Award-nominated author of The Turncoat’s Widow and The Counterfeit Wife, which is out now wherever books are sold.
The Turncoat’s Widow introduces General Washington’s two most reluctant spies, young widow Becca Parcell and former British POW Daniel Alloway. Pressed into Washington’s service, this unlikely duo uncover a plot that threatens the new nation.
Combining mystery, a touch of romance, and history, The Counterfeit Wife opens months later as Becca and Daniel accept a new assignment from George Washington. Masquerading as newlyweds, they head to Philadelphia to uncover a ring of counterfeiters who are upending the wartime economy.
There, Becca comes face-to-face with a half-remembered woman from her childhood, which forces her to question everything she thought she knew about her past. When that woman becomes a suspect in the murder of one of the counterfeiting suspects, Becca and Daniel find themselves speeding to discover the real villain before he can kill again.
I can hear you asking why on earth Becca and Daniel needed to masquerade as a married couple.
It would have been quite a challenge for an unmarried couple to find “alone time” in the 18th century, a historian assured me. Society banned meetings between unmarried men and women without a chaperone.
Yet Becca and Daniel are amateur sleuths, in their 18th-century way. Without an ability to speak in private, how could they share their impression of suspects or evaluate the information one or the other uncovers?
A fake marriage seemed to me to be their only option. Martha Washington thinks it might work so long as they maintain all the proprieties, as she puts it in my story. General Washington is not as certain but approves the ruse, nonetheless.
When you read my books, The Counterfeit Wife or The Turncoat’s Widow, I hope that they entertain you. But I also hope that you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time, attending a society party at City Tavern, breaking into an 18th-century printer’s shop, or chatting with the wealthiest women in Philadelphia.
And I hope above all else that you feel a connection to my female characters especially. Customs may change; clothing certainly does. But I think the things that make us human and our emotions are a constant throughout time.
I especially strove to bring to life women like Becca who chart their own course. Because there have always been women who cheerfully ignore society’s restrictions: women spies; women business owners; female poets; even women who led 18th-century riots.
I included a few of those historical women in The Counterfeit Wife, including Benjamin Franklin’s adult daughter, Sally, and the wife of Pennsylvania’s governor, Esther Reed. She wrote that American women were “born for liberty” and led a group of women who knocked on every door in the city to raise money for the all-but-broke Continental Army.
As a friend of the Washingtons, Becca is invited to tag along on one of the group’s fundraising trips with Sally Franklin Bache, Benjamin Franklin’s adult daughter who was, in fact, an important member of the Ladies Association. The dramatic meeting between Becca and a woman who lives there sets in motion an important part of my book’s plot.
Philadelphia, June 1780. George Washington’s two least likely spies return, masquerading as husband and wife as they search for traitors in Philadelphia.
Months have passed since young widow Becca Parcell and former printer Daniel Alloway foiled a plot that threatened the new nation. But independence is still a distant dream, and General Washington can’t afford more unrest, not with food prices rising daily and the value of money falling just as fast.
At the General’s request, Becca and Daniel travel to Philadelphia to track down traitors who are flooding the city with counterfeit money. Searching for clues, Becca befriends the wealthiest women in town, the members of the Ladies Association of Philadelphia, while Daniel seeks information from the city’s printers.
But their straightforward mission quickly grows personal and deadly as a half-remembered woman from Becca’s childhood is arrested for murdering one of the suspected counterfeiters.
With time running out – and their faux marriage breaking apart – Becca and Daniel find themselves searching for a hate-driven villain who’s ready to kill again.
Praise for The Counterfeit Wife:
“The Counterfeit Wife by Mally Becker has it all — adventure, romance and deceit … [w]ith smooth-as-ice prose and pitch-perfect dialogue.”
Tina deBellegarde, Agatha- and Derringer-nominated author of the Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery Series
“The Counterfeit Wife is a not-to-be-missed adventure that gives new meaning to rebel and loyalist, spy and spouse.”
Lori Robbins, award-winning author of the On Pointe and Masterclass Mystery series
“As the young country struggles for independence, so does Becca, and she will have you turning pages well into the night … I highly recommended The Counterfeit Wife and I’m already anxious for the third of the series.”
Eileen Harrison Sanchez, award-winning author of Freedom Lessons—A Novel
Genre: Historical Mystery Published by: Level Best Books Publication Date: September 2022 Number of Pages: 300 ISBN: 9781685121587 Series: A Revolutionary War Mystery Book Links:Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Mally Becker combines her love of history and crime fiction in mysteries that feature strong, independent heroines. She is the Agatha Award-nominated author of The Turncoat’s Widow, which Kirkus Reviews called, “A compelling tale… with charming main characters.” Her first novel was also named a Silver Falchion finalist and a CIBA “Mystery & Mayhem” finalist.
A member of the board of MWA-NY, Mally was an attorney until becoming a full-time writer and an instructor at The Writers Circle Workshops. She is also a member of Sisters in Crime and the Historical Novel Society. Mally and her husband live in New Jersey, where they raised their wonderful son and spend as much time as they can hiking and kayaking.
Good day, my bookish divas and divos. I’ve had the pleasure (and agony at times) to participate in a wide variety of local book clubs. I’m amazed that people join book clubs to read outside of their comfort zone but then place stipulations on what they will or will not read (myself included – I have a thing against memoirs). Some book club members refused to read books featuring child or spousal abuse, while others adamantly refused to read anything that included a pet that died. We all have our reading quirks, but I didn’t realize how prevalent the idea of “don’t harm/kill the pet” was in the reading world until I encountered it in numerous book group settings. I’m pleased to welcome back Chris Patchell, author of The Perfect Brother. Ms. Patchell will be sharing with us her perspective on “never kill the dog.” Thank you, Ms. Patchell, for taking the time to join us today, I’m eager to learn your thoughts on this widely held opinion.
Never Kill The Dog by Chris Patchell
I was busy writing my first book when a good friend of mine who was reading some of my early drafts gave me a great piece of fiction writing advice. “Never kill the dog,” he said. “As if I would,” I responded with a slightly baffled and somewhat disconcerted grin. At the time, my husband and I had a beagle who we babied as if he was our firstborn.
I scoffed at the notion that I would harm a fictional pet, but truthfully, I had made some pretty unorthodox choices in my story so while I hid behind the pristine virtue of my good intentions, I could understand what might make him nervous about the fate of poor, faithful Molly.
Pets play a lot of different roles in fiction, as they do in our actual lives. In fiction, we are hard-wired to like a character who is kind to an animal, just as we instantly dislike other characters who mistreat or inflict harm upon a pet. How a character interacts with an animal can provide flashes of insight into their lives, like the cop living a solitary life who feeds a stray cat. Though she may have commitment issues, or be recently divorced, through her actions we can infer that she’s a little lonely and craving connection.
Pets are often depicted as having almost supernatural abilities to pick up on things that we mere mortals are unaware of. As such, they can be an effective source of ratcheting up the suspense in the story—like the dog staring out the window into the darkness growling with his hackles raised. As a reader, we immediately recognize the danger. We know that there’s someone lurking out there in the laurel hedge. Or worse, stories where the carcass of the family pet is found, and we know that the killer is sending a message.
In my latest book, The Perfect Brother, Indira Saraf is a young woman who longs to break free of her family’s expectations and assert her independence, but as much as she likes to think of herself as a lone wolf, Indira shares her condo with her beloved dog, Hazel. Throughout the story, as the stakes continue to rise and the pressure mounts on Indira, she presents a brave face to her family and friends, but it’s only when she’s alone with Hazel that she feels comfortable showing her vulnerable side. Hazel doesn’t judge. She’s there to provide comfort.
Some pets can also play the role of protector. Max, my 5-year-old Yorkie, barks like a big dog when anyone approaches the house. Woe be to the Amazon delivery person brave enough to drop a package on our doorstep, or the wayward sketchy plastic bag seen floating down the street. Max stands at the ready, fully prepared to protect his family at the slightest provocation. Now whether he could actually make good on his boisterous threats… Well… That’s another story.
The other thing I love about introducing pets into the storyline is the way you can use them to inject moments of levity into a stressful situation. There’s a delightfully uncomfortable scene in the book when a few characters stop by Indira’s place unexpectedly. Though the scene is painfully awkward, the only one who seems oblivious to Indira’s embarrassment is Hazel. She’s just happy to see more of her friends show up.
This is one way pets can amp up the humor in a story, but there are others, like the choice of an unlikely pet. Picture a straight-laced character who happens to have a foul-mouthed parrot. The opportunities are endless.
Pets are also a great way to show character development. In my book, Deception Bay, the protagonist, Austin Martell’s relationship with his mother’s cat is acrimonious, to say the least, but as the drama of the book unfolds, Austin and the cat form an unbreakable bond.
Pets can also present obstacles in the storyline, like the protector pet who scares off the antagonist, or a reason why a character has to leave a scene and return home. So unless you’re John Wick and the pet’s demise is the inciting event for an epic three-movie revenge story throw-down, like my friend Don, I would advise you to never kill the dog.
Reading books with pets in them brings me back to my childhood when I devoured stories written by James Herriot. Tales of the spoiled dog Trickie Woo, and a host of other delightful animal creatures imbued me with a love of reading.
Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog. I hope you enjoy reading The Perfect Brother. ♦
The Perfect Brother
by Chris Patchell
September 26 – October 21, 2022 Virtual Book Tour
A scandalous liaison. A killer on the loose. Can a young woman save her sibling from going down for murder?
Vancouver, Canada. Software engineer Indira Saraf refuses to march to her traditionalist parents’ old-world drum. Resentful of her brother’s golden-boy acceptance but still a devoted sister, she encourages him to confess his secret affair before he ends up married to a woman he doesn’t want. So she’s horrified when his student and lover is slain and he’s arrested for the gruesome crime.
Repurposing her own AI technology to prove his innocence, the unorthodox rebel scours the dead college girl’s life for clues. But when Indira discovers another missing co-ed and the suspects pile up, she learns the hard way that her digging has drawn deadly attention…
Can she hunt down the culprit before she takes a fatal fall?
The Perfect Brother is a chilling standalone suspense thriller. If you like dogged heroines, complex family relationships, and dangerous twists, then you’ll adore USA Today bestselling author Chris Patchell’s riveting tale.
Chris Patchell is an award-winning USA Today Bestselling Author who started writing to curb the homicidal tendencies she experienced during her daily Seattle commute. She writes gripping suspense thrillers with romantic elements set in the Pacific Northwest and believes good fiction combines a magical mix of complex characters, compelling plots, and well-crafted stories.
Over the years, she has written numerous popular books and series, including bestsellers Deadly Lies, In the Dark, and her most recent collection of small-town crime novellas, the Lacey James Series. Along the way, her writing has won several awards, including a 2022 Next Generation Indie Book Award, an IndieReader Discovery Award, and a Pacific Northwest Literary Award.
When she’s not writing, you can find Chris reading books, hanging out with her family, watching football, and struggling to keep up with her workout regime, all while shushing her incessantly yapping Yorkies. She lives in Oregon with her husband and two kids.
Forget Me, Forget Me Not Book 1, by Lisa Sherman ISBN: 9781645407362 (paperback) ISBN: 9781645407355 (ebook) ASIN: B0B8QQ91KT (Kindle edition) Publisher:Speaking Volumes LLC. Release Date: August 22, 2022 Genre: Fiction | Mystery/Suspense
How can you know who you really are if you can’t remember your past?
Wanda Dellas is living someone else’s life: that’s the sense she’s had since a mysterious accident robbed her of her long-term memory. Lost and barely scraping by, Wanda cleans offices at night in order to support her young daughter.
Then Wanda sees a news report about a presumed dead businesswoman, Claire Stanbrick. Bad enough that Claire bears an uncanny resemblance to Wanda. But it turns out Claire went missing around the same time as Wanda’s accident, too. Plus, she can’t shake the sense that Claire’s husband Jack, who’s serving time in prison for Claire’s murder, is innocent. And she’s beginning to develop feelings for him. But which feelings are real and which are just figments of her fractured memory?
Answers to the past often come at a price.
As Wanda learns more about Claire, she realizes Claire didn’t have the picture-perfect life Wanda imagined . . . a fact someone following her is determined to keep a secret. And the more Wanda discovers, the more she faces new dangers that threaten her life . . . or is it Claire’s?
My nerves fire hot beneath my skin as I wait for the security guard to vanish. I loop my cleaning bucket over my arm and inch the cleaning cart toward the door, nothing to see here. I’m nonchalant, until I am certain he is out of sight. Then I rush in, leaving the door slightly ajar behind me. The room smells of mold, of dust and mothballs, but mostly of secrets. I breathe in the air, the same air Claire used to breathe, and wonder what discoveries await me.
The office has a presence to it, of life lived, of love. The familiarity of the space butters my skin. But I’m not sure why. I feel warm and bubbly. I want to dance. It seems as if I’ve seen it all before: the desk chair with the wobbly arm, the triangular table wedged into the corner, the half-bookcase standing against the back wall. But have I?
Piles of files and folders litter the floor. Old computers sit in a mound, crammed in a heap against the back wall. A desk sits at an awkward angle in the center of the room, stacked high with boxes. A thick layer of dirt coats the desktop from end to end. I run my pinky through it. This place hasn’t been cleaned in years. I pull out a can of wood cleaner and wipe the desk down with a cloth, polishing the sides, pressing dust out of the carved crevices. But I can’t just spend my time cleaning. I need to see if there’s any information I can find that will shed light on whether or not I am Claire.
My fingers trace the base of the desk drawer. I tug it open. Inside, two picture frames rest folded up. One with a photo of Claire and Jack, facing each other laughing, the tips of their noses covered in butter- cream, a wedding photo. I giggle and wipe at my own nose. But of course, there’s no frosting there.
The other contains a picture of Claire in a graduation gown, shaking hands with a dean, receiving a diploma. In the photo, she is beaming, her dimples peppering her cheeks, her red hair bright against the black cloth of the gown. I squeeze my eyes shut and try to remember something, anything about that day. The smell of flowering spring leaves in the quad? Shielding my eyes as the sun reflects off the tops of the program covers? The sound of applause as graduates cross the stage? But I’ve got nothing. Even the name of the university evades me. I flip the frame around, slide the metal tab to the side, and pry the picture out. The photo crinkles between my fingers as I read the words on the back. “Class of 2000.” I spin the year around in my mind, to see if it triggers something. My shoulders fall. Nothing.
I stuff the photos back into the drawer when a box, its top partially open, catches my eye. Inside are stacks and stacks of notepads and pens, each with an orange and white SMG logo printed across the top. SMG, Claire’s now-defunct company. I grab a fistful of pens and stick them in my smock. Souvenirs.
The room suddenly feels suffocating. I walk over to the window, press my palms against the glass and look out. The city is peaceful. Most offices are still dark and only a scant few cars make their way along the empty streets below. I rest my hands on top of the ledge, the marble smooth and cool beneath my fingertips. The answer to who I am is not out there.
I am shaken from my thoughts when footsteps shuffle into the room. It’s Astrid, sweet, sleepy Astrid, rubbing her eyes.
“Is it almost time to go home, Mama?”
“How did you know where I was?” I ask.
“I looked in all the rooms. I’m an explorer.”
A panic washes over me as I think about Astrid roaming the hallways by herself.
“Astrid, please. Next time you have to stay put. You can’t go wandering around. It isn’t safe to do that. Someone could see you. I’m not supposed to bring you with me. I could lose my job or worse, you could get hurt.”
She pouts at me. I’ve bruised her feelings. But that’s too bad. I would die if anything happened to her. Die.
I rest my hands on her shoulders. “You’re not in any trouble. Just promise me you won’t wander off again.”
“Promise.” She chews on a strand of hair.
I kiss the top of her head. I’m a horrible mother. It’s my fault we’re even here. She should be at home sleeping securely in bed. But she’s not. She’s stuck here with me. I’m going to get to the bottom of this. I just need to find out what happened to me. How did I end up shot and in the Wisconsin River? The answer to those questions lies somewhere with Claire and this company. It’s got to.
Lisa Sherman has always had a passion for stories and the fictional worlds created by her favorite authors. Her love of words led her to pursue a BA in English Literature as an undergraduate. Her interest in jurisprudence led her to law school, where she attained her Juris Doctor degree. Later, Lisa rounded out her love of writing by obtaining an MFA. Lisa has always been fascinated with the “why” behind people’s actions. As a writer of psychological thrillers and women’s fiction, she hopes readers will enjoy getting a sneak peek into what makes her characters act the way they do, especially when faced with challenging or extraordinary situations. Find out more at: https://lisashermanauthor.com/.
A Brighter Flame by Christine Nolfi ISBN: 9781542038843 (paperback) ISBN: 9781799783862 (audiobook on CD) ASIN: B09WPKL13Q (Audible audiobook) ASIN: B09RK5VJLX (Kindle edition) Publisher: Lake Union Publishing Release Date: September 27, 2022 Genre: Fiction | Family Life
She’s always wanted a sense of belonging. The last place she expects to find it is home.
Vale Lightner’s dreams turn to ash when the Pittsburgh bar she owns goes up in flames. Just like the past she escaped, very little seems salvageable. Facing unavoidable change, Vale returns to her hometown of Philadelphia to stay with her grandmother.
She knows that returning also means facing everything she left behind: a mother and stepfather who shunted her into the background from the day they married, and her charmed and favored half-sister, Blythe, who has abandoned a perfect marriage and is now at a crossroads of her own. Everyone has their secrets, and this reunited family racked by them is about to reach a crisis point.
For a mother and her two daughters, this reunion is a chance for closure, newfound love, and forgiveness. As each of them reassesses her own memories of the past, only the truth can bring them together—in ways that could last forever. From the bestselling author of The Passing Storm comes a poignant novel about family secrets, healing, and the hope of second chances.
Vale Lightner is like so many others, in that she doesn’t feel that she quite fits in with her family. She is also constantly struggling to “fit in” various work environments. Vale is estranged from her mother, stepfather, and half-sister. The only “family” she currently has a relationship with is her father and maternal grandmother, but she strives to maintain those relationships no matter what. Sadly, Vale’s relationship with her father is tottering on the edge as they deal with their jointly-owned bar burning down. Vale isn’t quite sure what she wants to do with her life at this point, but owning another bar and returning to Philadelphia isn’t it. Vale is forced to accommodate her grandmother, who seems to be dealing with a major health issue. Returning to Philadelphia isn’t her first, second, or third choice, but she is used to starting over. This time around, she has to do it with her half-sister watching. As Vale begins to deal with the memories of her past, she comes to realize that there is a thin line between what we remember and what actually happened. Is it possible her relationship with her mother, stepfather, and half-sister was built on misperceptions? Is it possible for her to craft a new relationship with her sister? Vale has to decide if she’s willing to start over with her family? Can she forgive them as she seeks forgiveness for her own mistakes and start anew?
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Tolstoy
I found A Brighter Flame by Christine Nolfi to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. Vale was all-too-familiar in that she doesn’t feel like she quite fits in with her family. Vale is struggling on so many levels. She has to contend with the idea that her father is irresponsible and will never quite grow up and be the parent she wants. She is tormented by the idea that her mother didn’t really want to keep her but refused to give up custody to an irresponsible parent. She worries that her grandmother might be seriously ill. Vale also comes to the realization that her sister is dealing with just as many issues as she is and the only way to rebuild that relationship is by being the “big sister” her younger sister wants and needs. I won’t even get into the whole budding romance with her neighborhood pharmacist. I thought all of the characters were not only realistic but realistically flawed. Some were idealistic, others were pessimistic, and others were realistic with a touch of idealism. There aren’t any “bad guys” in this story, just a family filled with flawed individuals trying to make a way the best way they know how.
I have a huge list of “favorite” authors but only a handful that I will buy any and everything they write. Christine Nolfi is in both categories. A Brighter Flame is a multi-faceted multigenerational story that portrays relationships with all of their flaws. Each character is struggling with something major and it is only when they voice their struggles and fears that they are capable of moving forward with the help of family and friends. A Brighter Flame is not just about family or second chances, it is also about forgiveness, acceptance, and growth. If you can’t tell, I enjoyed A Brighter Flame. Even though I was afforded the opportunity to read this early via a digital review copy, I pre-ordered a digital copy for my personal library and ordered a print copy for my 87-y.o. mother (she loves reading Christine Nolfi books almost as much as I do). If you’re interested in reading a well-written contemporary story about family, hope, love, and second chances, then I strongly encourage you to go and get a copy of A Brighter Flame for yourself (I can’t wait to reread this one!).
Happy Friday, my bookish peeps, and welcome to Fall 2022. I know that there are plenty of good books, often excellent books, released throughout the year, but there’s just something about the cooler weather that calls for a comfy blanket, hot drink, and a good book. If you’re interested in something a little different, then please help me welcome Ash Bishop, author of Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc. The title and cover alone are enough to pique my interest. Mr. Bishop will be discussing with us characters and the importance of inner conflict. I hope you’ll enjoy what he has to share. Thank you, Mr. Bishop, for taking the time to join us today, the blog is now all yours.
On Inner Conflict by Ash Bishop
My debut novel, Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc is about a young man, Russ Wesley, who gets offered a job hunting dangerous aliens. A squad of ragtag misfits wants him to join their ranks. He’ll be a space exterminator tasked with removing displaced creatures that are doing harm to their new ecosystem. Remember the way Ridley Scott’s Alien laid its eggs in people’s stomachs and eventually the newborn critter had to burst its way out? That’s the kind of harmful cross-species behavior they want Russ to help them stop. It seems like an interesting, albeit dangerous, job. So why doesn’t Russ want to take it?
Russ is from Earth, and he doesn’t like responsibility very much. He struggled in school, probably due to a generous helping of undiagnosed attention deficit disorder. He doesn’t have much of a relationship with his father. Ironically, his mother was too busy working hard to reinforce any kind of work ethic. He begins the novel avoiding as much responsibility as he can. Instead of putting down roots anywhere, he drifts around the United States picking up temporary jobs and looking for ways to entertain himself. He uses disposable cell phones expressly so he can throw them away once too many people get his number.
There’s a sweet freedom to this lifestyle but there’s also a heavy cost. He’s avoiding all the complicated messiness of responsibility, but he’s also removing himself from the possibility of making deep connections, enriching other people’s lives, helping, mattering. Though it’s hard for Russ to articulate, he understands that up to this point, he’s been wasting his life.
When I was younger, I was really attracted to nomadic, lawless, emotionally distant characters. Puberty was complicated enough; I didn’t need my heroes to be navigating their own complex feelings. I was a big fan of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, with his acerbic wit and powerful indifference. Chandler never let anything get to him. He’d seen the worst of humanity and he knew that eventually, everyone would disappoint him. As such, he just muscled through the mess of mankind, searching for the elusive “truth.” I saw the same power in Batman. In the corniest of his comics, he palled around with Robin and Alfred, but the best stories were just Batman hunting for crime in the mean streets of Gotham, swinging from a bat-cable and being bat-ass. His aloof attitude and emotional distance made him virtually untouchable to the things that scared young Ash Bishop the most. I’m not talking about the Joker or Scarecrow. I’m talking about emotional connections, feelings.
Years later I’m now a father with two kids of my own who read Batman comics. A little while ago, on the recommendation of a friend, I picked up Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, thinking it would be fun to wade back into the fantasy of unobstructed freedom I’d so appreciated during my younger years. Reacher wanders around the United States, remaining loyal to his friends but only from a safe distance. He usually doesn’t come to their aid until they’re already dead. The books are clever and well written but I stopped reading midway through the second one. Despite his constant, violent altruism, Reacher’s emotional and physical distancing, didn’t appeal to me anymore.
So why does my main character begin the novel wandering the United States in a lifestyle so similar to Reacher’s? Because you don’t want to start your characters fully rounded. You want them to learn, and grow over the course of the story. You want them to have to fight against their own limiting impulses and become better people.
In the second chapter, Russ learns of his beloved Grandfather’s death. He drives from Louisiana to Wyoming to attend the funeral and his grandmother is very happy to see him. She’s been caring for her dying husband, alone, and she’s exhausted and her business is collapsing. Russ sweeps in, invigorated and ready to help her pick up the pieces. The other men in town admire Russ’s carefree lifestyle. They are shouldering so many burdens, paying their mortgage, running their own business, and doing their part to care for their complex families. As one tells Russ, “This is a gift, what you’re doing to help your grandma. But take my advice: avoid putting down roots as long as you can. Roots are just a fancy word for life-crushing responsibility. I didn’t have this gray hair until I had roots.”
Russ appreciates the compliment, but is it good advice? He’s sitting on an unsigned work contract of his own. One that will make him enough money to support his grandmother more permanently. Better yet, it will transport him to the farthest reaches of space and see him take incredible risks and make lasting friendships. If only he can muster the courage to walk away from the fantasy of Batman, Marlowe, and Reacher…
Pick up Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc after Sept 6th to enjoy the ride.
Intergalactic Exterminators Inc
by Ash Bishop
September 1-30, 2022 Virtual Book Tour
Finding work is easy. Staying alive is a little bit harder.
When Russ Wesley finds an unusual artifact in his grandfather’s collection of rare antiquities, the last thing he expects is for it to draw the attention of a ferocious alien from a distant planet. Equally surprising is the adventurous team of intergalactic exterminators dispatched to deal with the alien threat. They’re a little wild, and a little reckless. Worse yet, they’re so impressed with Russ’s marksmanship that they insist he join their squad . . . whether he wants to or not.
Praise for Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc:
“This book is so much fun it ought to be illegal in all known galaxies. Ash Bishop has written a wildly imagined, deeply felt, swashbuckling page turner. I loved it.”
Jesse Kellerman, New York Times bestselling author of The Burning
Ash Bishop is a lifetime reader and a lifetime nerd, loving all things science fiction and fantasy. He has been a high school English teacher and worked in the video game industry, as well as in educational app development. He even used to fetch coffee for Quentin Tarantino during the production of the film Jackie Brown. Bishop currently produces script coverage for a major Hollywood studio, but he spends his best days at home in Southern California with his wonderful wife and two wonderful children. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing from San Diego State University. This is his debut novel.
Good day, book people. I’ve recently noticed that I’m perfectly willing to suspend my belief and rational thought (to a certain extent) when reading fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, fantasy, or even romance stories. However, when I’m reading mysteries, suspense, thrillers, and even romantic suspense, I want the stories and characters to be wholly realistic and the action to be credible. If the story is too far outside of my brain’s comfort zone, I have a hard time enjoying the story. I know, strange reading quirk, but there you have it. Today, I’m pleased to welcome C.L. Tolbert, author of Sanctuary, part of the Thornton Mystery series, back to the blog. Ms. Tolbert will discuss the importance of “keeping it real” or realistic fiction. I hope you’ll enjoy what she has to share, follow along with the tour to learn more about this book and its author, and don’t forget to grab yourself a copy of Sanctuary for your fall reading. Thank you, Ms. Tolbert, for your visit, the blog is now all yours.
Keeping It Real by C.L. Tolbert
I’ve always preferred realistic fiction. I like to emerge myself in the setting and the characters’ lives, and for me, that means the story must be credible. The reader must believe that what unfolds in the story could actually happen. Even though it was non-fiction, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which may be the best true crime story ever written, is an icon and a guide for what I’d like to achieve in a story.
But are mysteries realistic fiction? The short answer is, they don’t have to be. Mysteries can be fictional or nonfictional, and may even include supernatural topics, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles.
When I was five years old, my favorite TV show was Perry Mason, with Raymond Burr. My parents didn’t allow me to see it, which made it even more tantalizing, but my aunt did when she babysat my brother and me. I was impressed with Mason’s smooth approach, his brilliance in the courtroom, and the fact that, even though he usually represented the underdog or the disadvantaged, he always won.
But even though I enjoyed the intricate plot lines on the show, I knew, even at age five, that courtroom confessions, which Mason often relied on to win, seemed unlikely. I didn’t know the name for this anomaly when I was five, but it was my first confrontation with “deus ex machina,” a plot device where an unsolvable problem in a storyline is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and unlikely occurrence, such as the sudden confession. Even then, I wanted the facts and structure of the story to be realistic, not contrived.
Perry Mason also had a couple of sidekicks, one of which was Paul Draper, his intrepid private investigator. Paul didn’t hesitate to rough up witnesses so that they would ‘spill the beans.’ After a few years of watching Drake misbehave, I developed a strong distrust of private investigators until, as an attorney, I had to hire one for a case. My investigator was a retired police officer, and a stalwart follower of proper procedures. He’d never have roughed up a witness, nor would the majority of investigators.
When I was eight, my brother inherited the Hardy Boys books from a cousin and I read all thirty-two books one summer. I was surprised that the Hardy Boys would often find themselves breaking into houses and buildings to solve crimes, and, later on, as a thirteen-year-old, I appreciated that Agatha Christie was more careful with procedure. Poirot and Miss Marple weren’t the sort to trespass.
After retiring from the practice of law, I started working on a short story that featured Emma Thornton, a young, single-mother-attorney, as the protagonist. I entered the story in the Georgia State Bar Journal’s fiction contest, and, several months later, was very surprised to discover that I had won. This win gave me the confidence I needed to turn the short story into a full novel.
I knew I had a good story to tell. After teaching school for ten years, and practicing law for another thirty-five, I had plenty of war stories. But I was worried about how to keep my writing realistic and still capture the readers’ attention and interest. My protagonist, Emma Thornton, as an attorney and law professor, would spend the majority of her day bogged down in work that is boring, redundant, and even mundane. Lawyers spend more time researching and writing than anything else. They ask the same question to different people over and over in an attempt to get to the truth of the matter. This sort of reality would put readers to sleep quickly.
Lawyers are also bound to follow the rules of ethics or risk disbarment. So, neither Emma nor any person who worked on cases with her could ever threaten a witness, as Perry Mason’s Paul Drake, or become involved in Hardy Boys-like trespass. How could I turn Emma’s routine-filled and occasionally dull life into an exciting book, and still maintain a modicum of (hopefully edgy) realism?
One truth about trial lawyers is that they love a fight, and Emma is no exception. They also love arguing, and asking carefully wrought questions designed to expose the theory of their case. They also love trial. The courtroom is their temple. So, in each of the books in the Thornton Mystery Series, Emma spends the majority of her time preparing for trial, analyzing evidence, interviewing witnesses, and reviewing autopsy reports, and sometimes arguing with the DA. A couple of the books have courtroom hearings. Emma works for a law school where she directs the Homeless Clinic, and has no money for her own investigations. She, and sometimes her students, do the leg work on her cases.
To keep the story interesting, I gave Emma a personality quirk – specifically, an impulse control problem – and an insatiable curiosity. She also carries, to the extreme, the responsibility of zealously representing her clients, all of which suffer from various societal injustices. Emma’s impulse control problem is subtle, and although she’s aware of it, she never addresses the issue. But the reader may notice that Emma can’t resist pushing her apartment door open when it’s been left ajar by someone other than herself, or climbing up the stairs to spy on an intruder. Emma’s exploits often backfire, and she ends up in trouble at least once or twice a book. Impulse control issues would be a problem for any attorney, but that’s especially true when an attorney is conducting his or her own investigations, as Emma.
The term ‘realistic fiction’ sounds like an oxymoron. But it’s nothing more than the creation of imaginary characters and situations that depict the world and society as they are. Plots highlight social or personal problems that mirror contemporary life. The books in my Thornton Mystery Series, Out From Silence, The Redemption, and Sanctuary, are murder mysteries that take a look at societal injustices and family dysfunction, but in a way that takes the reader on a journey. The books are offered as entertainment, but, hopefully, the reader will learn something along the way.
by C.L. Tolbert
September 12 – October 8, 2022 Virtual Book Tour
A Thornton Mystery
In Sanctuary, the third book in the Thornton Mystery Series, Emma is back again. This time she’s agreed to represent a former client accused of killing the leader of a suspicious cult in New Orleans.
James Crosby, the charismatic leader of the Japaprajnas, is found dead one late afternoon, his body draped over an iron fence in the courtyard of the nineteenth-century house where he and several cult members work and live. Although police initially presumed his fall was an accident, they quickly discover that James received a lethal dose of a drug before he was pushed from his office balcony.
The next day the police discover a syringe and a substantial amount of the drug which killed James in Stacey Robert’s bedroom. The nineteen-year-old cult member is brought in for questioning, which leads to her arrest. Emma, who had represented Stacey when she was a sixteen-year-old runaway, agrees to take the case.
Convinced she is innocent Emma begins an investigation into the cult and its members. Emma’s questions uncover dangerous secrets, illicit activities, and the exploitation of innocent victims. Emma’s suspicions lead her to the killer’s trail and the case’s final resolution.
Praise for Sanctuary:
“Brace yourself. Deadly personalities, hidden agendas, and long-buried secrets threaten law professor Emma Thornton, after she agrees to defend a terrified young woman accused of murdering the charismatic leader of an oppressive cult. The dark heart of New Orleans has never felt so dangerous.”
Roger Johns, Author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries
Genre: Mystery Published by: Level Best Books Publication Date: July 2022 Number of Pages: 280 ISBN: 9781685121464 (paperback) ASIN: B0B5YFSL54 (Kindle edition) Series: The Thornton Mystery Series, Book 3 Book Links:Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads
After winning the Georgia State Bar Journal’s fiction contest in 2010, C.L. Tolbert developed the winning story into a full-scale novel. Out From Silence was published in December of 2019, and is the first novel in the Thornton Mysteries series. Her second book, The Redemption, was published in February of 2021, and Sanctuary, the third book in the series, was published in July of 2022.
Licensed in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia, C.L. practiced law for thirty-five years before retiring to pursue writing. During her legal career, she spent several years teaching at Loyola Law School in New Orleans, where she was the Director of the Homeless Clinic. She also has a Masters of Special Education, and taught in a public school prior to enrolling in law school.
C.L. has two children and three grandchildren, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and schnauzer.
“Discrimination is evil, but evil does not discriminate.”
1883, West Texas. In the vast desert, a gleaming river snakes beneath the blinding sun. When the Rio Grande shifts course, the Mexican city of Olvido is stranded on the northern side of the new border between the United States and Mexico.
When a series of mysterious and horrific crimes grips the divided border town, a reclusive former Mexican lawman is lured out of retirement to restore order and save the lives of a growing number of abducted children. In the face of skeptics and hostile Anglo settlers, the war-weary charro, Solitario Cisneros, struggles to overcome not only the evil forces that threaten his town, but also his own inner demons. He is burdened by the turbulent darkness of a mystical curse that has guided his lonely destiny, until Onawa, a gifted and beautiful Apache-Mexican seer, joins his mission and dares him to change the course of both their lives.
A visionary neo-Western blend of magical realism, mystery, and horror, Valley of Shadows explores the dark past of injustice, isolation, and suffering along the US-Mexico border. Through luminous prose and introspective meditations, Ruiz sweeps readers away on a journey to another time and a remote place where the universally compelling forces of good and evil dance amidst the shadows of magic and mountains. You will ponder the most basic questions regarding the human condition: Is our destiny written for us? Can we rewrite our own history and future? As lonely as we might feel, are we ever truly alone? And, can love conquer all?
“Ruiz’s engaging tale, peppered generously with Spanish words and smoldering with racial tension and classism, is immersive and atmospheric and features an interesting cast of characters with rich backstories. Ruiz deftly combines elements of romance, historical mystery, horror, and magical realism to deliver a richly satisfying adventure.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Ruiz offers an engrossing blend of historical fiction, ghost story, and mystery…He employs elements of magic realism to haunting effect, and the depictions of human cruelty and injustice are unflinching…This has its rewards.” —Publishers Weekly
Read an Excerpt:
In the shade of the majestic oak, Solitario dismounted. He knew all eyes were upon him, those of the prisoners along the stucco wall, those of the villagers peering out through their shutters, those of Captain Ringgold and his men, edgy and poised to fire their weapons at the line-up they’d assembled in their pursuit of so-called justice. As they all watched and waited, he took a long draft of water from his canteen. He whispered a few soothing words to Tormenta, who could clearly sense the tension. He unstrapped his guitar from his horse’s flank.
Sitting against the tree, Solitario began to pluck at the strings, tuning his instrument. He played an old Spanish lullaby, the notes carried on the wind, swirling through the square, providing a rhythm and a haunting melody for the leaves and tumbleweeds to dance. Ringgold’s men glanced at each other incredulously, but Solitario played on, the mercurial magic emanating from his guitar weaving a spell over the posse. Even Ringgold himself swayed in the stiff breeze in tandem with the tempo of Solitario’s sweet song. The underside of Solitario’s sombrero began to glow a deep cobalt blue, its silvery white embroidery glittering as he closed his eyes and let his fingers fly over the strings, summoning notes both from instinct and from memory. It was a song he had learned long ago on Caja Pinta, way before Luz had bestowed the enchanted sombrero upon him. As he played, the hue of the sombrero’s underbrim grew lighter, like a night sky shifting toward dawn.
When he finished the song, the blue glow faded from his face. And, when he opened his eyes, he saw Captain Ringgold slumped in a deep sleep over the neck of his horse, his men sprawled unconscious on the ground, snoring beneath the midday sun. As the Dobbs boys returned with Mayor Stillman in tow, Solitario motioned for them to be quiet and untie the prisoners. While they did so, he handcuffed Ringgold and his men. The prisoners all ran as fast as they could out of the plaza, but Captain Ringgold and his posse continued to slumber undisturbed despite the wind and the sun and the heat.
Rudy Ruiz is a writer of literary fiction, essays and political commentary. His earliest works were published at Harvard, where he studied literature and creative writing, and was awarded a Ford Foundation grant to support his writing endeavors.
Seven for the Revolution was Ruiz’s fiction debut. The collection of short stories won four International Latino Book Awards.
Ruiz’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals including BorderSenses, The Ninth Letter, New Texas, and the Notre Dame Review. In 2017, Rudy Ruiz was awarded the Gulf Coast Prize in Fiction. In 2020, Ruiz was a finalist for both the Texas Institute of Letters’ Best Short Story Award as well as the Texas Observer’s annual Short Story Contest.
In 2020, Blackstone Publishing released Ruiz’s novel, The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez. The novel received critical acclaim and was named one of the “Top 10 Best First Novels of 2020” by the American Library Association’s Booklist. The Southern Review of Books stated: “Ruiz’s prose is buoyant and immersive…Its effusive descriptions are reminiscent of Laura Esquivel.” The novel was longlisted for the Reading the West Award and a Finalist for the Western Writers of America Silver Spur Award for Best Contemporary Novel. It also was awarded two Gold Medals at the International Latino Book Awards, including the Rudolfo Anaya Prize for Best Latino Focused Fiction and Best Audio Book.
Ruiz’s new novel, Valley of Shadows, was just released by Blackstone Publishing.
Deadly Setup by Lynn Slaughter ISBN: 9788886530087 (paperback) ISBN: 9798886530094 (ebook) ASIN: B0B4KGZGFZ (Kindle edition) Publisher:Fire and Ice/Melange Books Release Date: July 5, 2022 Genre: Fiction | Young Adult | Mystery/Suspense
Seventeen-year-old Sam, the daughter of a New England heiress, has tried hard to fulfill her father’s dying wish: “Take care of your mother for me.” Not an easy job. When her impulsive, romance-writing mom announces her engagement to a man whose last heiress wife died under suspicious circumstances, Sam tries to dissuade her mother. But her mom is convinced she’ll finally have the “Happily Ever After” she writes about.
And then Sam’s life implodes. Her mom’s fiancé turns up dead, and a mountain of circumstantial evidence points to Sam as the killer. On trial for murder, she fights to prove her innocence with the help of her boyfriend’s dad, an ex-homicide cop.
Just when things are looking especially bleak, Sam uncovers evidence she never expected to find. She faces a tough decision: At what point does the price of loyalty become too high?
The officer didn’t answer. My stomach churned, and I prayed I wouldn’t throw up all that Mexican food I’d inhaled with Paul.
“Look, my mother’s fiancé and I had an argument. He slapped and punched me, threatened me. I fired a warning shot to get him to back off. Then I left. End of story.”
He shook his head but didn’t say anything.
“Did one of our neighbors hear the shot? Call it in?”
Again, no response.
“Why won’t you talk to me?” I wanted to shake him, make him tell me what was happening.
But all he did was return to his vehicle and motion for me to follow in my Jeep.
Twenty minutes later, I sat in a windowless interrogation room at the station. The air reeked of stale coffee and sweat. Fluorescent lights flickered overhead. An older man with a shaved head and stooped shoulders entered, followed by a young guy with a pock-marked face and a military style crew cut. “Good evening,” Shaved Head said, his mouth drooping downward.
“I’m Detective Flanagan, and this is my partner, Detective Stein.”
I nodded. “What’s going on? Why am I here?”
“I’m sorry to tell you that a man we’ve identified as Adam Holloway was found shot to death at your home this evening.”
I gasped. “He’s dead? But…but I just saw him. Trust me—he was totally alive when I left.” The room was spinning. I closed my eyes to try to make it stop.
“Your mother and her attorney are on their way. As soon as they get here, we’ll need to get your statement. Can I get you some water?”
They slipped out the door, and my leg jiggled uncontrollably as my thoughts tripped over each other. Oh God, my mother. I’d wanted Holloway out of our lives, but not like this—never like this. She must be devastated.
The door flew open, and Mom rushed in, Mr. Avery and the detectives right behind her. Streaks of mascara ran down her face, and her red-rimmed eyes zeroed in on me. “What have you done?”
My mouth dropped open. “I didn’t do anything! I overheard Mr. Holloway talking to his business partner. He’d stolen money, Mom. We had a fight, but I didn’t kill him.”
“So you say,” she said.
I stared at her, not believing what I was hearing. My own mother thought I was capable of shooting someone.
“Meryl, that’s enough,” Mr. Avery said.
“Everyone calm down,” Flanagan said, setting a bottle of water in front of me. “And you are?” He looked directly at Mr. Avery.
“Bertram Avery, attorney representing Samantha for the purposes of this interview.”
“All right then, let’s have Samantha tell us what happened.” He turned to me and went through the full Miranda warning, starting with my “right to remain silent” and pausing after each point to ask me if I understood.
Mr. Avery grabbed my arm. “Don’t say a word, Sam. We need to get you a criminal defense attorney.”
“But I have nothing to hide. I swear it!”
“Your cheek is bruised,” Stein said. “By your own voluntary admission to the officer who brought you in, you had a physical altercation with the victim in which he also punched you and then you fired a warning shot. You won’t mind if we photograph the bruise on your face, the area where you say he punched you, and test your hands for gun powder, will you?”
“Be my guest. And I want to make a statement. I’m innocent!”
“Sam, you absolutely must wait until I can get you a defense attorney. This is premature,” Mr. Avery said.
Pointedly ignoring Mr. Avery, Flanagan continued, “What was the decedent doing at your house anyway?”
The decedent? This was a nightmare. “My mother gave him a key after they got engaged. He came over all the time. I was surprised, though, that I found him there when Mom wasn’t. I thought maybe he was taking advantage of her being gone to snoop in her financial files. I caught him doing that before.”
“I told you before, Samantha. That’s not what he was doing!” Mom screeched.
Mr. Avery stood up. “Enough! Unless you’re arresting Samantha, we’re leaving. She can return tomorrow with her attorney to talk with you.”
Flanagan gave him a long look and then shifted his gaze to me. “Where did he punch you?”
“Do you need medical attention?” he asked.
“No. I’m okay.”
“All right then. After we test your hands for gun powder and get photographs of the areas where he hit and punched you, you’re free to go. I suggest you come in tomorrow morning.”
I nodded, struck mute by shock, exhaustion. And fear.
Lynn Slaughter is addicted to chocolate, the arts, and her husband’s cooking. Like Sam, her family tree is peppered with musicians, and she’s a huge fan of the American Songbook. Music has always made her want to move, and she ended up becoming a professional dancer and dance educator. When injury meant it was time to find a new dream, she earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Her previous young adult novels include: Leisha’s Song, also published by Fire and Ice, which received a bronze medal from the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards and was nominated for an Agatha for best MG/YA mystery novel; It Should Have Been You, a Silver Falchion finalist; and While I Danced, an Epic finalist. The ridiculously proud mother of two sons and grandmother of five, she lives in Louisville, Kentucky where she is at work on her next novel and serves as president of Derby Rotten Scoundrels, her local Sisters in Crime chapter. She loves hearing from readers and hopes you’ll visit her website, https://lynnslaughter.com.