Guest Post: Eleanor Kuhns – MURDER, SWEET MURDER

Good day, book people. Do you enjoy reading series? I have quite a few series that I read and, surprise, these series aren’t restricted to any one genre. Seriously, some of my favorites are in the historical fiction genre, others are romance or romantic suspense, a few are classified as inspirational, and quite a few are mystery or suspense. One of the many things I find pleasurable about reading a series with more than two or three books is the ongoing development of the characters and their relationships, not to mention the world-building. I’m incredibly honored to welcome back an author that has excelled at the character development and world-building, as well as providing intriguing encounters found in the Will Rees Mysteries, Eleanor Kuhns. Ms. Kuhns is here today celebrating the release of the eleventh book in this series, Murder, Sweet Murder and will be discussing building relationships in her writings. Thank you, Ms. Kuhns, for joining us once again at The Book Diva’s Reads, I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

Guest Post

Although I usually describe the Will Rees Mysteries as historicals, they are also family stories. In every book, I show the relationships between Rees, his wife Lydia, his children, and the wider world.

In Murder, Sweet Murder, I send Rees and Lydia and two children to Boston. Why Boston? Lydia hails from Boston and readers had asked me several times for more about her and her family. But what could I use as a reason for a journey to Boston, especially in January? Lydia has been estranged from her family for years. As a young woman, she’d fled to the District of Maine and joined the Shakers. (See A Simple Murder.) I already had the character of her father in my mind. And, after writing Death in the Great Dismal and Murder on Principle, both concerning different aspects of slavery, I decided to cast Marcus Farrell as a dealer in enslaved peoples as well as the most likely suspect.

So, Lydia receives a letter from her sister Cordelia begging her to come to Boston. Marcus Ferrell has been accused of murder. Lydia is reluctant but her sister’s pleas, the desire to show off the new baby, and the importance of finding a school for Jerusha, persuade her to make the journey. And, of course, Marcus Farrell is still her father, despite the estrangement.

For the first time, Will meets his wife’s family. Since he has grown up on a poor farm in the District of Maine and makes his living as a weaver, he is thrown by the wealth of the Farrell family, and the upper-class customs. Sharon, the baby, is consigned to the nursery, something neither Will nor Lydia are happy about. Jerusha, a quiet studious girl who wishes to become a teacher, is put in the same room as Lydia’s sister. And Cordelia is a social butterfly whose main preoccupation, besides parties and clothes, is making a good marriage.

Rees is eager to leave almost as soon as he arrives.

Then a second murder occurs, that of Lydia’s uncle Julian who runs the family rum distillery. Before his death, however, he gives Rees and Lydia a lead to her brother James. A sea captain, he too is estranged from his father. Farrell accuses his son of weakness because he refuses to captain any of the ships for his father and be in any way associated with the importation of enslaved peoples; ‘that filthy trade’, in his words. Conditions on the ships were horrific (and research in contemporary accounts would make your hair curl.)

Another murder occurs, one seemingly unrelated to the others, in a family-owned tavern. But Rees is sure there is a connection.

At the same time, Rees and Lydia are dealing with Cordelia’s reckless sneaking out at night to meet the young man she is interested in, as well as visiting a possible school for Jerusha.

Like I said, families. Always complicated. ♦

Murder, Sweet Murder

by Eleanor Kuhns

April 11 – May 6, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Murder, Sweet Murder by Eleanor Kuhns

Will Rees accompanies his wife to Boston to help clear her estranged father’s name in this gripping mystery set in the early nineteenth century.

January, 1801. When Lydia’s estranged father is accused of murder, Will Rees escorts her to Boston to uncover the truth. Marcus Farrell is believed to have murdered one of his workers, a boy from Jamaica where he owns a plantation. Marcus swears he’s innocent. However, a scandal has been aroused by his refusal to answer questions and accusations he bribed officials.

As Will and Lydia investigate, Marcus’s brother, Julian, is shot and killed. This time, all fingers point towards James Farrell, Lydia’s brother. Is someone targeting the family? Were the family quarreling over the family businesses and someone lashed out? What’s Marcus hiding and why won’t he accept help?

With the Farrell family falling apart and their reputation in tatters, Will and Lydia must solve the murders soon. But will they succeed before the murderer strikes again?

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Severn House Publishers
Publication Date: February 1st 2022
Number of Pages: 224
ISBN-10: 0727850091 (hardcover)
ISBN-13: 9780727850096 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781448307326 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781666580891 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B09V6GR7TF ASIN: B09GK7Z8C5 Series: Will Rees Mysteries #11
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible audiobook | Barnes and Noble | B&N Nook Book | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | eBooks.com | !ndigo | Kobo audiobook | Kobo eBook | Goodreads 

Author Bio:

Eleanor Kuhns

Eleanor Kuhns is the 2011 winner of the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur first mystery novel. Murder, Sweet Murder is the eleventh mystery following the adventures of Rees and his wife. She transitioned to full time writing last year after a successful career spent in library service. Eleanor lives in upstate New York with her husband and dog.

Catch Up With Eleanor Kuhns:
www.Eleanor-Kuhns.com
Goodreads
BookBub
Twitter – @EleanorKuhns
Facebook – @writerkuhns

We’re also having an insta-party! Visit Instagram – #eleanorkuhns to join us!

Tour Participants:

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Guest Post: TG Wolff – RAZING STAKES

Good day, my bookish divas and divos. I have vivid childhood memories of spending every Saturday morning in the children’s department at my local library, choosing the six or seven books I wanted to read for the upcoming week. I’m forever grateful to my mother for instilling the love of reading in me, as well as one of my aunts for bringing me boxes of books to read during the school year. (My aunt worked for the state board of education and they often received print review copies and, even as a child, I got to experience books prior to their release.) Although I grew up loving to read, I’m somewhat of an anomaly amongst my siblings. My eldest brother was definitely a reader (I still miss being able to discuss books with him), but my younger brothers only have moments when they’re willing to grab a book and read (not an issue for me because they both have incredibly hectic jobs and lives). Today’s guest, TG Wolff, author of Razing Stakes, will be sharing her experiences on becoming a reader. Thank you for joining us and sharing this story, Ms. Wolff. The blog is all yours.

On Becoming a Reader
by TG Wolff

 

Hello Book Diva’s Readers. I am TG Wolff, mystery diva, here to entertain you. Why? Because that’s what books are to me, the happy place I go to catch a break from real life. This is true for both reading books and about 15 years ago, I discovered the same was true for writing them.

Confession: I wasn’t a reader as a child.

I HATED reading. It was all so boring. I don’t think I ever finished an assigned book in school (I was lucky that I was smart enough to still pass the tests.) As an adult, I realized I hated reading because every book assigned was BORING or worse. Go ahead, English teachers, light me up (Tina@tgwolff.com). I have had this conversation several times with my English major, literature teaching husband. I am standing on solid ground!

Teachers (or at least those who set curriculums) feel that the books used in schools must first and foremost teach lessons. And that is where they fail to cultivate readers. The ONLY genre I can remember reading from was literature. No mystery. No suspense. No humor (God forbid we laugh while we read). No sports. No science fiction. No – well, you get the point.

In short, I hated reading…until Nero Wolfe.

My grandfather loved cowboy stories and Nero Wolfe mysteries. I reluctantly borrowed one from his bookshelf and didn’t stop until I had finished his small collection. Here, to my delighted surprise, were puzzles wrapped in a book. Who knew such a thing existed?

Fast forward twenty years. I lived in Cleveland, Ohio, working as a Civil Engineer, and had a client in Northern Kentucky. The five-hour drive between the two was mind-numbingly boring. Long before the age of podcasts, there was little to keep me attentive. And so, I began imagining. Little vignettes entertained me as the miles passed. Then at the hotel that night, I would write the final version. After several months of driving and imagining, I had a book.

Last year, I re-read that first story and it was pretty bad. I didn’t know the rules. Heck, I didn’t know there were rules and maybe that was why it was fun. When I submitted the first of my De La Cruz series to Down & Out Books for consideration, I had over a dozen books fully written, never intending to publish any of them. I wrote them to entertain myself, to play in someone else’s sandbox, to make myself laugh.

Consider giving Detective Jesus De La Cruz and me a try. I hope you laugh and wonder and beat him to the solution.

Happy Hunting, Detective. ♦

Razing Stakes

by TG Wolff

April 1-30, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Razing Stakes by TG Wolff

The first day of summer is the last day of a young accountant’s life. Colin McHenry is out for his regular run when an SUV crosses into his path, crushing him. Within hours of the hit-skip, Cleveland Homicide Detective Jesus De La Cruz finds the vehicle in the owner’s garage, who’s on vacation three time zones away. The setup is obvious, but not the hand behind it. The suspects read like a list out of a textbook: the jilted fiancée, the jealous coworker, the overlooked subordinate, the dirty client.

His plate already full, Cruz is assigned to a “special project,” a case needing to be solved quickly and quietly. Cleveland Water technicians are the targets of focused attacks. The crimes range from intimidation to assault. The locations swing between the east, west, and south sides of the city. This is definitely madness, but there is a method behind it.

The two cases are different and yet the same. Motives, opportunities, and alibis don’t point in a single direction. In these mysteries, Cruz has to think laterally, yanking down the curtain to expose the masterminding of the strings.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Down & Out Books
Publication Date: February 14, 2022
Number of Pages: 294
ISBN: 978-1-64396-245-0
Series: The De La Cruz Case Files, 3rd in series
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Down & Out Books

Author Bio:

TG Wolff

TG Wolff writes thrillers and mysteries that play within the gray area between good and bad, right and wrong. Cause and effect drive the stories, drawing from 20+ years’ experience in Civil Engineering, where “cause” is more often a symptom of a bigger, more challenging problem. Diverse characters mirror the complexities of real life and real people, balanced with a healthy dose of entertainment. TG Wolff holds a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering and is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

Catch Up With TG Wolff:
TGWolffCom.wordpress.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @TG_Wolff
Instagram – @tg_wolff
Twitter – @tg_wolff
Facebook

Tour Participants:

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Guest Post: PJ Peterson – ONE WILL TOO MANY

One Will Too Many by PJ Peterson Banner

Good day, book people. Can you believe we’re beginning a new month? With all that many folks around the world are going through at the moment, it’s amazing what motivates them through harrowing situations. For some it’s faith, for others it’s family, and for some it might be verse from a religious text or a quote from a favorite person or book. It doesn’t matter what it is that motivates us, we all occasionally need that little something extra to uplift our spirits and help us push through. I’m pleased to welcome P.J. Peterson, the author of One Will Too Many, a Julia Fairchild Mystery, to the blog today. Ms. Peterson will be discussing her favorite motivational quote with us. I hope it motivates you to grab a copy of her latest book (hint, hint). Thank you, Ms. Peterson, for taking the time to join us today. I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

My Favorite Motivational Quote
by PJ Peterson

My favorite motivational quote is a variation of a statement by someone unknown: “A year from now you’ll be glad you started today.” The original quote was “A year from now you’ll wish you had started today.” It was in a stack of cards that made up a year’s worth of sayings meant to motivate me, or whomever was reading them.

In a conversation with my adult daughter, she noted that it seemed like a negative statement. I realized she was right and decided to change it to something more positive. Then I printed it in a pretty font and taped it to my laptop where I see it every day.

I tend to be a procrastinator. Give me a deadline and I’ll meet it, but not by much. For years I had told myself something like “Think how good you will feel when you finally” do whatever it is that I had been putting off. I diligently wrote out to-do lists, and the easy tasks got done. It was those items that required more of me than I was willing to tackle at the time that stayed on the list, and the next one, and the next one. My former motivational trick wasn’t working anymore.

Changing those few words has been a life-changer for me in my life as an indie author and self-marketer. Nothing is going to happen unless I initiate an action. No one is going to buy my books if I don’t have a plan to get them in front of their eyes. No one cares about my books as much as I do. The adoring audience in my hometown or my good friends or my (short) mailing list is not enough to sell thousands of books.

So, I remind myself that “a year from now I will be glad I started today.” I schedule a book-sharing event on one of the websites; I schedule a giveaway; I schedule a book blog tour. I hope I see masses of book sales as a result of these steps.

One thing I know for certain is that waiting for people to buy my book if I don’t do anything is a fantasy. I will continue to do my research and learn from others about marketing, doing advertising, and following through.

And a year from now I’ll be glad I started today. ♦

One Will Too Many

by PJ Peterson

March 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

One Will Too Many by PJ Peterson

A wealthy banker with a long list of secrets dies.

The bizarre crime scene stumps the local police…

… but a young doctor could be the key to solving the case.

Internist Julia Fairchild encounters banker Jay moments too late – the poor man is near death in his own dining room. At first no one can figure out what killed him, but the coroner soon confirms that it was homicide: Jay died of methanol poisoning, and now a murderer is on the loose. Julia knows how to catch a killer and she can cut through the noise like a scalpel through skin. She agrees to help the understaffed police force solve the case, but each clue only complicates her investigation further.

Can Julia dissect the deadly riddle and nail the perp, or will this be the first time a monster succeeds in giving her the slip?

If you love Louise Penny, Kelly Oliver, and PC James, you need this medical mystery! Find out why fans say, “I love the character Julia Fairchild!”

Don’t wait – Click the BUY button now!

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Finngirl, LLC
Publication Date: December 2021
Number of Pages: 206
ISBN: 9781733567572
ISBN: 9781957127002 (Paperback)
ASIN: B09MT5CRJQ (Kindle edition)
Series: A Julia Fairchild Mystery, #4 || Each is a Stand Alone Novel
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | Goodreads

Author Bio:

PJ Peterson

PJ is a retired internist who enjoyed the diagnostic part of practicing medicine as well as creating long-lasting relationships with her patients. As a child she wanted to be a doctor so she could “help people.” She now volunteers at the local Free Medical Clinic to satisfy that need to help. She loved to read from a young age and read all the Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew books she could find. It wasn’t until she was an adult that she wrote anything longer than short stories for English classes and term papers in others. Writing mysteries only makes sense given her early exposure to that genre. Sprinkling in a little medical mystique makes it all the more fun.

Catch Up With PJ Peterson:
www.PJPetersonAuthor.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @mizdrpj1
Facebook – PJ Peterson

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

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Guest Post: PJ Peterson – PICKLED PINK IN PARIS

Pickled Pink in Paris by PJ Peterson Banner

Good day, my bookish peeps. I hope you’re all having a wonderful month of December so far. Have you ever wondered about all of the careers held by the authors we read? I know authors that are former (and current) teachers, librarians, lawyers, doctors, law enforcement officers, military personnel, actors, athletes, etc. Thankfully, these highly creative souls also provide us with hours of reading pleasure by crafting such wonderful stories. I’m pleased to welcome P.J. Peterson, a former internist and author of Pickled Pink in Paris, a Julia Fairchild Mystery, to the blog today. Ms. Peterson will be discussing using her medical knowledge and expertise in her writings. Please help me welcome the accomplished, P.J. Peterson. Thank you, Dr. Peterson for joining and sharing with us today, the blog is all yours.

"Guest Post" with books divider

Readers, especially my friends, have asked if I write from my experiences or do I make everything up in my head. The answer is that I do both. In each of my first four Julia Fairchild books (Number four will be published in December 2021, I hope), a number of the adventures are true to life, although modified to fit the pretend situation.

Some things that are true: I won a limbo contest years ago, am a certified scuba diver, have been on a half-dozen tap/jazz dance cruises, and am a (retired) Internal Medicine specialist. I have never been in a helicopter or an underwater cave with blind fish, or captured a bad guy, although I’ve helped the police a couple of times when someone tried to pass a forged narcotic prescription.

I have been to all the locations in my books which helps to be able to use all the senses when describing a setting. The one exception is that I didn’t get to visit Paris until after I finished writing Pickled Pink in Paris because my trip was cancelled three times. I had to use Rick Steves’ travel guide and maps to make sense of Julia’s adventure there. I relied on online resources as well for detail. Most of my writing otherwise arises from my creative imagination, although often there is a smidgen of truth lurking beneath the surface.

Because of my training as a physician, I like to insert something related to the practice of medicine in each of my stories. My heroine, Julia Fairchild, is a young internist, and is loosely based on a much younger version of myself, although I portray her as much braver than I think I am. It makes sense to me to have her use her astute diagnostic skills as she solves the puzzle in front of her. I told my patients regularly that a physician is a detective who uses patients’ symptoms and physical findings to identify the diagnosis. Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a British physician, as many of us know.

When I am writing a scene that is purely fiction (in the truest sense of the word), I picture myself in the setting that I’ve created and imagine what I would be seeing, smelling, hearing, feeling, and touching. For the catacombs scene in Pickled Pink in Paris, for example, I imagined what it might be like to be in complete darkness, in an unfamiliar place, cold, and very frightened that I wouldn’t be found before I became a pile of bones.

I write dialogue by talking aloud as I write to make it as realistic as possible. In high school debate my specialties were extemporaneous and impromptu speaking. That background of learning to speak off-the-cuff is helpful when making up conversations.

When my readers read one of my Julia Fairchild mysteries, I hope they feel as though they are right there with my characters, experiencing the moment, and immersed in the story. Then I will have done my job as an author.

PJ Peterson

Pickled Pink in Paris

by PJ Peterson

December 1-31, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Pickled Pink in Paris by PJ Peterson

A major business deal is disrupted by murder.

But a young physician has the key to the case…

A dying man’s last word whispered in her ear: “…mushroom…”

When medical internist Julia Fairchild receives an invitation to Paris from her long-distance beau, Josh, she packs a bag, grabs her sister Carly, and jets off for the City of Lights. But once they arrive, death and suspicion take the place of champagne and escargot. Josh’s business partner is dying in the hospital, and the gendarmes are convinced Josh is behind it.

Naturally curious and driven to seek justice, Julia jumps at the chance to clear Josh’s name – but he doesn’t seem interested in proving his innocence. Is he hiding something? Will Julia uncover the true murderer and salvage what’s left of her Paris vacation, or is she next on the killer’s hit list?

If you love Louise Penny, Laura Child, and Sue Grafton, you’ll enjoy reading this fun-filled cozy mystery! Find out why fans say “It’s a must read!” Don’t wait…

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Finngirl, LLC
Publication Date: August 5th 2021
Number of Pages: 246
ISBN: 1733567518 (ISBN-13: 978-1733567510)
ASIN: B09C2P8KQG (Kindle edition)
Series: Julia Fairchild Mysteries, Book 3
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | BookDepository.com | Goodreads

Author Bio:

PJ Peterson

PJ is a retired internist who enjoyed the diagnostic part of practicing medicine as well as creating long-lasting relationships with her patients. As a child she wanted to be a doctor so she could “help people.” She now volunteers at the local Free Medical Clinic to satisfy that need to help.

She loved to read from a young age and read all the Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew books she could find. It wasn’t until she was an adult that she wrote anything longer than short stories for English classes and term papers in others. Writing mysteries only makes sense given her early exposure to that genre. Sprinkling in a little medical mystique makes it all the more fun.

Catch Up With PJ Peterson:
www.PJPetersonAuthor.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @mizdrpj1
Facebook – PJ Peterson

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!
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Join In:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for PJ Peterson. There will be TWO US Winners. ONE winner will receive (1) $25 Amazon.com Gift Card and ONE winner will receive one (1) physical copy of Pickled Pink in Paris by PJ Peterson. [U.S. Only] The giveaway runs December 1 through January 2, 2022. Void where prohibited.

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Guest Post: V.M. Burns – KILLER WORDS

Good day, my bookish peeps. If you’ve been following my blog for awhile now, you’ve probably noticed that I adore hosting guest authors, especially authors writing in my favorite fiction genres (all of them). I feel that we get to know authors a bit better when they stop by and share with us and we also gain insight into their writings. It is always an incredible pleasure and honor for me to host these visits. Today, I’m very excited to welcome V.M. Burns, author of the “Mystery Bookshop Mystery Series,” including the latest release Killer Words (great title!). Ms. Burns will be discussing what she feels is the beauty found within cozy series. I’m going to grab a cup of chai (in my favorite bookish mug, of course), and will be kicking back to enjoy what Ms. Burns has to share. I hope you’ll enjoy it as well, follow the blog tour to learn more about this book, author, and series, and don’t forget to enter the tour-wide giveaway. Thank you, Ms. Burns for joining us today. The blog is now all yours.

The Beauty of a Cozy Series

One of the things I love most about cozy mysteries, is that they’re almost always presented in a series. Reading the next book in a series is like spending time with an old friend. Many genres don’t lend themselves to continuation in the same way that cozies do, but wouldn’t it be great if they did? Honestly, I can’t believe I’m the only person who would like to see what happens next in Pride & Prejudice to Elizabeth, Jane, and Lydia after they get married. And, what about Mary and Kitty? Do they get married and find their happily ever after? If Jane Austen wrote cozy mysteries, we might know the answer to those questions. Killer Words is the 7th book in the Mystery Bookshop Mystery series, and I’ve been pondering what’s so special about a series and why are cozy mysteries the perfect genre for series?

There’s no universal definition of cozy mysteries. However, there are some characteristics that most (if not all) have in common. Cozies are mysteries that feature an amateur sleuth and don’t have explicit sex or violence, and only minor (if any) swearing. That’s the part that almost everyone agrees on. Now, here are some elements that cozy lovers like to debate. The sleuth is often (although not always) a female. Cozies often take place in small towns or a contained environment, and cozies are often themed. There are exceptions to every rule, and I could rattle off at least ten mysteries that I would classify as a cozy that don’t check all of the boxes. But I would argue that one element that makes cozies perfect for a series is that they tend to be character driven. Readers pick up Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot books because we want to spend time with those characters. Christie’s plots were always great, too. But it was Miss Jane Marple with her knitting and village parallels to people from St. Mary Mead that I found endearing. Or the Belgium private investigator with his egg-shaped head, patent leather shoes, and elaborate moustaches that kept me wanting to find out what new mysteries he would use his “little grey cells” to unravel.

Horror and Thrillers are best suited for standalone books. Readers expect serial killers, terrorist, and bad guys to be dispatched in one way or the other at the end of the book. Romance readers expect a ‘happy ever after.’ However, it’s not uncommon to find romance trilogies with spinoffs of secondary characters. However, it’s rare to find a romance series where the same characters are the focus in multiple books.

Readers often ask if a series can be read out of order or if you should always start with the first book in the series. I’ve rarely found a cozy mystery that I couldn’t enjoy regardless of where the book falls in the series. Just keep in mind, characters in cozies aren’t stagnate. Unlike young adult books like Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys, the characters in cozy mysteries grow and evolve over time. If you want to follow the progression and see their evolution, then you should start at the beginning. Could you start Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone series in the middle and still enjoy it? Yes. But you’ll really appreciate the books more if you start with A is for Alibi and work your way through the alphabet. You’ll enjoy watching as Kinsey changes over time. And yes, I know Kinsey Milhone is a P.I. and the series isn’t a cozy. Remember, there are exceptions to every rule.

Killer Words is the 7th book in the Mystery Bookshop Mystery series. Readers who’ve followed Samantha Washington from the beginning, The Plot is Murder, will have the satisfaction of seeing Sam realize another of her dreams. Readers new to the series will meet Sam, her grandmother, Nana Jo, and the girls from the retirement village and will also get the satisfaction of seeing Sam realize her dream. Whether you’re new to the series or returning to spend time with old friends, give a cozy mystery series a try.

Killer Words (Mystery Bookshop)
by V.M. Burns

About Killer Words


Killer Words (Mystery Bookshop)

Cozy Mystery
7th in Series
Setting – North Harbor, Michigan
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Kensington Cozies (November 30, 2021)
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 256 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1496728971 (paperback)
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 9781496728975 (paperback)
ISBN  : 9781496728982 (eBook)
ASIN  : ‎ B08Y65TD1X (Kindle edition)
Purchase Links #Commission Earned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Apple Books | Barnes and Noble | Books-A-Million | Bookshop.org | eBooks.com | Google Play Books | !ndigo | Kobo eBook

Bookstore owner and mystery writer Samantha Washington comes to the aid of the cop who once arrested her own grandmother . . .

 

Sam and Nana Jo are back in sleepy North Harbor, Michigan, where Sam is eagerly awaiting the publication of her first book. In search of more immediate excitement, Nana Jo hits the casino with her fellow Shady Acres Retirement Village gal pals—but they get more than they bargained for when they witness Detective Bradley Pitt decking mayoral candidate John Cloverton.

 

As Sam well knows, mystery novels are full of brilliant detectives, genius sleuths, and hero cops. Detective Bradley Pitt—aka “Stinky Pitt”—is another story. In the past, the dull-witted detective has mistakenly accused members of Sam’s family for crimes they didn’t commit. Now, it’s his turn: when Cloverton turns up dead, he’s arrested. With his predilection for polyester, Pitt has been wanted by the fashion police for years, but Nana Jo knows her former elementary school math student would never commit murder—it doesn’t add up. Somebody’s framed the flatfoot to take a fall, and Sam and Nana Jo must step in to restore the reputation and good name of Detective Pitt.

 

About V.M. Burns

V.M. Burns was born and raised in the Midwestern United States. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dog Writers Association of America, Thriller Writers International, is on the national board for Sisters in Crime. She currently resides in the warmer area of the U.S. with her two poodles. Readers can visit her website at http://www.vmburns.com

Author Links

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/v-m-burns
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vmburnsbooks/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/burnsvm
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vmburnsbooks/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/vmburns
Website: vmburns.com

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

November 29 – Author Elena Taylor’s Blog – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

November 30 – The Book Diva’s Reads – GUEST POST

November 30 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW

December 1 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

December 1 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

December 2 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW

December 2 – Diane Reviews Books – REVIEW

December 2 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

December 3 – Brooke Blogs – CHARACTER GUEST POST

December 4 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

December 4 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT

December 5 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW

December 6 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT

December 6 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW

December 7 – Cozy Up With Kathy – CHARACTER GUEST POST

December 7 – I Read What You Write – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW

December 8 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic – CHARACTER GUEST POST

December 8 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW

December 9 – Novels Alive – GUEST POST

December 9 – Nellie’s Book Nook – REVIEW

December 10 – Here’s How It Happened – REVIEW

December 10 – View from the Birdhouse – REVIEW

December 11 – StoreyBook Reviews – GUEST POST

December 12 – BookishKelly2020 – SPOTLIGHT

Tour-wide Giveaway

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Guest Post: Steven C. Harms – THE COUNSEL OF THE CUNNING

The Counsel of the Cunning

by Steven C. Harms

November 8 – December 3, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Good day, book people. For those of you in the US, Happy Thanksgiving! One of the many things I’m grateful for are the amazing characters developed by authors. Where would a good story be without good characters (and an amazing talent for crafting readable and believable storylines)? Like many of you, I have beloved characters from classic literature as well as contemporary fiction. However, I never really gave any thought to an author having a favorite character in anything they craft. I’m incredibly pleased that Steven C. Harms, author of The Counsel of the Cunning is willing to stop by and discuss just that, his favorite character in his writings. Sit back, grab your favorite beverage, and let’s learn which character Mr. Harms likes best. I hope you’ll stick around to follow the blog tour and learn more about this book and author. Thank you, Mr. Harms for joining us today. I’ll now be turning the blog over to you.

My Favorite Character in the Viceroy series

When I created detective Roger Viceroy, one of my major influences was Jack Reacher from Lee Child’s amazing series. I fashioned Viceroy’s character somewhat in that mold, but I wanted and needed him to be different. I landed on the back story and the environment in which Viceroy operates the differentiator.

Whereas Jack Reacher embodies a free-wheeling vigilante, random happenstance plot involvements, and a homeless vagabond to a degree, Viceroy by comparison was placed into a structured environment as head of a special detective unit. But the differences didn’t end there. The most obvious one you’ll find as you read the series, is the support team. While Reacher was a loner who primarily worked solo, Viceroy has a team of two behind him as they work the crime investigations as a three-part team. I believed a series where the reader not only falls for the protagonist (in my case Roger Viceroy), but also bonds with two other support members was appealing.

I came up with two characters – Regina Cortez and Trevor “Silk” Moreland. I drew Regina’s physical appearance and demeanor from a former assistant I had in a previous job. She was someone I had the utmost respect for as she brought professionalism to work every day during our eight years together. It was that loyalty and dedication that resonated with me and ended up being Regina’s style as well.

But it’s the second character that I want to focus on – Silk, a former high school athletic star who went onto a decade’s work as a top-flight detective for the Milwaukee PD. Silk is part of Viceroy’s detective unit by the time the first book, Give Place to Wrath, opens. He grew up on Milwaukee’s streets, standing 6’5″ with a wit and a well-timed irreverent attitude that seem to work well. Silk is, by far, the character that gets the most response from readers. They love him and want to see more of him in future books.

As I developed the character, it was Silk’s irreverential trait that opened a door, allowing me to write his dialogue with some humor and flare, and his interactions and reactions with a much wider berth, while also providing me the freedom to use him for plot moments that worked better than Viceroy or Regina.

Silk seems to resonate with readers in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I think it’s his dry, yet pinpoint humor he invokes at just the right moments combined with his dedication to being “a monster for details,” as Viceroy describes him. He’s completely sold out to being a detective and is passionate about finding clues or angles that others may have missed. Silk knows that being a detective is his life’s calling and the chapters he’s in just seem to have a more energetic bounce to them.

I’m confident Viceroy and Regina provide plenty of likability as well, but Silk stealthily beats them to being the reader’s favorite of the three. Who am I to argue? ♦


 

The Counsel of the Cunning

by Steven C. Harms

November 8 – December 3, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Counsel of the Cunning by Steven C. Harms

Roger Viceroy faces a return to the FBI and a life he vacated long ago, until a knock on his front door announces the presence of billionaire and former U.S. Senator, Jürgen Sandt.

The past has come back to rear its ugly head. Sandt stands on his threshold for a reason: a decade prior the senator’s only son disappeared into the jungles of Guatemala, and Sandt has come to convince Viceroy that further investigation is now necessary. A package left mysteriously outside the family estate, opens the door to the possibility that his son is still very much alive.

Viceroy and his team agree to take on the hunt. Their search steers them from the back streets of Milwaukee to the stealthy corridors of Washington, D.C.—an eerie trek that will ultimately lead to an ancient site that supposedly doesn’t exist.

As Viceroy closes in on the truth, a parallel plot emerges. Not only could it point to the reason behind the cryptic disappearance of Bertram Sandt, but it could also launch a deadly battle that will put millions of lives at stake. On pure instinct, Viceroy knows nothing is adding up. Somehow, somewhere they missed a clue, and if it’s not discovered soon…it may be too late.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Suspense Publishing
Publication Date: November 9th 2021
Number of Pages: 268
ISBN: 9780578933795 (paperback)
ASIN: B0973PH3H8 (Kindle version)
Series: Roger Viceroy Series, #2
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | BookDepository.com | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Steven C. Harms

Steven C. Harms is a professional sports, sponsorship, broadcast sales, and digital media executive with a career spanning over thirty years across the NBA, NFL, and MLB. He’s dealt with Fortune 500 companies, major consumer brands, professional athletes, and multi-platform integrated sports partnerships and media advertising campaigns. He’s an accomplished playwright having written and produced a wildly successful theatrical production which led him to tackle his debut novel, Give Place to Wrath, released November 9, 2021 from Suspense Publishing. Harms is a native of Wisconsin, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. He now resides in the greater Milwaukee area as a sponsorship executive.

Catch Up With Steven C. Harms:
StevenCHarms.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @StevenCHarms
Instagram – @stevencharms
Twitter – @steven_c_harms
Facebook – @authorstevencharms

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Guest Post: C. Matthew Smith – TWENTYMILE

Twentymile by C. Matthew Smith Banner

Good day book people. I hope you’re reading to head into the weekend with plenty of reading choices. If you’re looking for some ideas and are into police procedurals or thrillers, then I may have the perfect book for you. Please help me welcome, C. Matthew Smith, author of Twentymile. This exciting new book takes us into the Investigative Services Branch (ISB) of the National Park Service (yes, it’s a thing). So sit back, grab your favorite beverage, and let’s learn a bit more about the ISB and its role in Twentymile. Thank you, Mr. Smith for joining us today and giving us a glimpse into this little known law enforcement branch.

Introducing the National Park Service’s Investigative Services Branch to the World of Fiction
By C. Matthew Smith

In 2018, I was writing down the first pages in what eventually would grow into my debut novel, Twentymile. I had a germ of an idea: a Good Guy on the run from Bad Guys in a challenging outdoor environment. I vaguely knew I wanted the story to deal with themes of land use and ownership (among others), and I gravitated toward setting the novel on what we term “public land”–a national or state park or wilderness area. In the early going, I toyed with a number of scenarios, including a wildlife biologist who encounters poachers after endangered species. Or a park ranger coming upon some similarly unsavory characters.

And then, in October 2018, Outside Magazine published an article entitled “The F.B.I. of the National Park Service.” In it, I learned of a little-known department within the NPS apparatus called the Investigative Services Branch. This small group of law enforcement agents investigates the most serious crimes committed on NPS land–everything from homicides to sexual assault to theft of antiquities. Strangely, while this felt to me like fertile ground for fiction, my research found no prior novels featuring the ISB.

It was a lightning bolt. I read and re-read the article several times. After some brief research, I sent an e-mail to a public inquiries address for the ISB and, to my surprise, received a very kind reply from Christopher Smith (no relation), the ISB’s Special Agent in Charge of Operations. Yes, he’d be willing to talk. Since then, SACO Smith has been generous with his time, speaking with me on multiple occasions. He’s rightly proud of the work his plucky organization does, and he took pains to ensure I understood the realities of working as an ISB special agent.

What I learned from him provided me with the makings of a compelling protagonist. Consider the following: There are just under three-dozen special agents, spread over several regions, responsible for more than eighty million acres from Hawaii to the U.S. Virgin Islands. As a consequence, ISB special agents typically work cases solo, not with a partner, marshaling what assistance they can from local law enforcement resources. They’re frequently on the road, living out of their SUVs and motels. They process crime scenes deep in the wilderness when necessary and investigate a wide variety of offenses, from financial crimes to murder. They are independent, tough-minded jacks of all trades who spend the majority of their time with only themselves.

What kind of individual chooses this life?

There could be many answers, of course. But for Tsula Walker, the protagonist of Twentymile, I settled on the following: She’s flinty, steady in demeanor, and capable of protecting herself. A woman confident in her own analytical skills and professional judgment. And someone who, for reasons I won’t spoil here, is predisposed to extended periods alone. That, I decided, is a main character I’d follow anywhere.

I hope you, dear reader, will follow her, too. She’s on one hell of a journey.

Having written the first novel featuring the ISB, I feel a certain pressure to “get it right.” To capture its essence. The needs of fiction may sometimes require taking liberties with certain details, but thanks to my research and the willingness of ISB leadership to answer my many questions, I hope Tsula accurately embodies the spirit of this spunky group of law enforcement professionals. ♦

Twentymile

by C. Matthew Smith

November 15 – December 10, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Twentymile by C. Matthew Smith

When wildlife biologist Alex Lowe is found dead inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it looks on the surface like a suicide. But Tsula Walker, Special Agent with the National Park Service’s Investigative Services Branch and a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, isn’t so sure.

Tsula’s investigation will lead her deep into the park and face-to-face with a group of lethal men on a mission to reclaim a historic homestead. The encounter will irretrievably alter the lives of all involved and leave Tsula fighting for survival – not only from those who would do her harm, but from a looming winter storm that could prove just as deadly.

A finely crafted literary thriller, Twentymile delivers a propulsive story of long-held grievances, new hopes, and the contentious history of the land at its heart.

Praise for Twentymile:

“[A] striking debut . . . a highly enjoyable read suited best to those who like their thrillers to simmer for awhile before erupting in a blizzard of action and unpredictability . . .” Kashif Hussain, Best Thriller Books.

“C. Matthew Smith’s original, intelligent novel delivers unforgettable characters and an irresistible, page-turning pace while grappling with deeply fascinating issues of land and heritage and what and who is native…Twentymile is an accomplished first novel from a talented and fully-formed writer.” James A. McLaughlin, Edgar Award-winning author of Bearskin

Twentymile is packed with everything I love: A strong, female character; a wilderness setting; gripping storytelling; masterful writing. Smith captures powerfully and deeply the effects of the past and what we do to one another and ourselves for the sake of ownership and possession, for what we wrongfully and rightfully believe is ours. I loved every word. A beautiful and brutal and extraordinary debut.” Diane Les Becquets, bestselling author of Breaking Wild and The Last Woman in the Forest

Book Details:

Genre: Procedural, Thriller
Published by: Latah Books
Publication Date: November 19, 2021
Number of Pages: 325
ISBN: 9781736012765 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781736012772 (eBook)
ASIN: B09GRLTYDG (Kindle edition)
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | BookDepository.com | Goodreads | Kobo eBook | Latah Books

 

Author Bio:

C. Matthew Smith

C. Matthew Smith is an attorney and writer whose short stories have appeared in and are forthcoming from numerous outlets, including Mystery Tribune, Mystery Weekly, Close to the Bone, and Mickey Finn: 21st Century Noir Vol. 3 (Down & Out Books). He’s a member of Sisters in Crime and the Atlanta Writers Club.

Catch Up With C. Matthew Smith:
www.cmattsmithwrites.com
Twitter – @cmattwrite
Facebook

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This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for C. Matthew Smith. There will be TWO winners. ONE (1) winner will receive (1) $25 Amazon.com Gift Card and ONE (1) winner will receive one (1) signed physical copy of Twentymile by C. Matthew Smith. The giveaway runs November 15 through December 12, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Cover Reveal: WHAT THEY DON’T KNOW by Susan Furlong

What They Don't Know by Susan Furlong Banner

What They Don’t Know

by Susan Furlong

November 16, 2021 Cover Reveal Celebration

Synopsis:

What They Don't Know by Susan Furlong

Unrelenting psychological suspense with a wicked twist …

Mona Ellison is living a dream life. A successful husband, loving son, beautiful home, an amazing group of friends… you could say that everything is perfect.

Until it isn’t.

When her son becomes entangled with the wrong crowd, ditches college plans, and runs away from home for a life of partying, Mona is upset, but boys will be boys, right? He’ll be back as soon as his money runs dry. At least that’s what she tells her friends.

Only she suspects something different.

Then the police knock on Mona’s door. A young girl has turned up dead, and her missing son is the prime suspect.

Determined to reunite with her son and prove his innocence, Mona embarks on a search that puts her on a twisty trail of social media clues and a rollercoaster ride of lies and betrayal until she lands on a truth that changes her perception of everything. Now, the only thing Mona knows is that she can’t trust anyone…not even herself.

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Suspense
Published by: Seventh Street Books
Publication Date: 05/17/2022
Number of Pages: 240
ISBN: 1645060403

Author Bio:

Susan Furlong

Susan Furlong is the author of several mysteries including the acclaimed Bone Gap Travellers series, and Shattered Justice, a New York Times Best Crime Novel of the Year. She also contributes, under a pen name, to the New York Times bestselling Novel Idea series. Her eleventh novel, What They Don’t Know, will release in May 2022. She resides in Illinois with her husband and children.

Catch Up With Susan Furlong:
www.SusanFurlong.com
Goodreads
BookBub
Instagram – @susanfurlong
Twitter – @Furlong_Sue
Facebook – @SusanFurlongAuthor

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Book Showcase: THE LAST SPEAKER OF SKALWEGIAN by David Gardner

The Last Speaker of Skalwegian by David Gardner Banner

The Last Speaker of Skalwegian

by David Gardner

November 1-30, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Last Speaker of Skalwegian by David Gardner

Professor Lenny Thorson lives in a defunct revolving restaurant, obsesses over word derivations, and teaches linguistics at a fourth-rate college with a gerbil for a mascot. Lenny’s thirty-four years have not been easy—he grew up in a junkyard with his widowed father and lives under a cloud of guilt for having killed another boxer as a teenager.

Desperate to save his teaching career, Lenny seizes the opportunity to document the Skalwegian language with its last living speaker, Charlie Fox. Life appears to have finally taken a turn for the better…

Unfortunately for Lenny, it hasn’t. He soon finds himself at war with Charlie, his dean, a ruthless mobster, and his own conscience.

A genial protagonist will keep readers enticed throughout this amusing romp.
~ Kirkus Reviews

Book Details:

Genre: Humorous Thriller, Academic Setting
Published by: Encircle Publications, LLC
Publication Date: September 8th 2021
Number of Pages: 308
ISBN: 164599239X (ISBN13: 9781645992394)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

Book Trailer:

 

Read an excerpt:

“Why document the Skalwegian language?” Charlie Fox asked. “The answer to your question should be obvious: I want to save the language of my Scandinavian ancestors and preserve their culture for future generations. I’m no longer young, and if I don’t act soon, Skalwegian will disappear forever. And give Professor Lenny Thorson a lot of the credit. He’s a linguist—I sure couldn’t do the job without him.”

The Last Speaker of Skalwegian, Newsweek

Chapter 1

Weegan

A word in the Skalwegian language loosely translated as butthead (impolite usage)

Lenny Thorson watched the red pickup roar into the parking lot, a statue propped up in back. It was the Ghurkin College mascot, an eight-foot-tall gerbil.

Charlie nudged Lenny. “You sure you want tenure at a college with a rat for a mascot?”

“It’s a gerbil. And yes, I do. Jobs are scarce.”

Gerry Gerbil stood on his hind legs and stared into the distance, a football clutched in his right front paw, his rat-like tail draped over his left. He looked hot and humiliated.

Lenny too felt hot and humiliated, and he guessed that Gerry hated parades as much as he did. Lenny tugged his sweaty shirt away from his chest. It was a sunny September afternoon, with heat waves shimmering off the blacktop in front of the building where he lived. He badly wanted the day to be over.

The pickup swung around with a screech of tires and backed up to Lenny’s beat-up Chevy. Two college students in matching black muscle shirts stepped out. Brothers, Lenny guessed. They were a wide-shouldered pair with mussy brown hair and long ears.

Lenny reached out his hand. “I’m Lenny Thorson and this is Charlie Fox.”

“Yeah, I know,” the taller one said, glanced at Lenny’s outstretched hand, then climbed onto the back of the pickup and untied the statue.

Lenny and Charlie dragged the wood-and-papier-mâché gerbil from the bed of the pickup, boosted it atop Lenny’s car and stood it upright.

One brother thumbed his phone while the other fed ropes through the open doors and around the mascot’s ankles.

The boy was careless as well as rude, Lenny told himself, and he was tempted to order him to untie the ropes and start over, but Lenny hated confrontation. Once he was around the corner and out of sight, he would stop and retie the knots. He didn’t want anything bad to happen to Gerry Gerbil.

On second thought, did he really give a damn?

Charlie threw his right leg over his motorcycle, gripped the handlebars and bounced once in the saddle. He wore jeans and a T-shirt that read ‘So Are You!’ He nodded toward Gerry. “He looks like a weegan, and so will you when you parade him through the center of town.”

Lenny hadn’t yet learned that word in Skalwegian. “Weegan?”

“‘Butthead.'”

Lenny nodded. He was a weegan.

Charlie looked particularly worn and shrunken today, Lenny thought, especially astraddle his beefy black Harley. His hair was gray, his skin leathery, his chin neatly dimpled from Iraqi shrapnel. He was fifty-one—seventeen years older than Lenny—and eight inches shorter.

At six feet four, Lenny was always embarrassed by his size. He wished he could go through life unnoticed. He wondered if Gerry Gerbil ever felt the same.

The shorter brother slapped the mascot’s foot. “Have fun at the parade, professor.”

Both brothers laughed.

Lenny didn’t expect to have fun. His gut told him that the day would go badly.

* * *

Bob One wasn’t happy about whacking a professor. He specialized in crooked bookies, wise guys who’d flipped, and casino managers caught skimming. But never a civilian. Bob One believed in upholding the ethics of his profession.

He parted the tall tan grass at the side of the road, pinched a mosquito off the tip of his nose and peered westward. No cars yet, but the guy who’d hired him had said his target always took this route on his way into town and would have to slow to a crawl here at the switchback. Bob One figured he’d have plenty of time to pop up, rush forward, blast the guy at close range, then get the hell back to Chicago where he belonged.

* * *

Lenny eyed the brothers, now slouched against his car’s front fender, both lost in their phones. He couldn’t remember ever seeing them on the Ghurkin College campus, the fourth-rate institution an hour west of Boston where he taught French and linguistics. “I didn’t catch your names.”

The taller one glanced up. “You don’t know who we are?”

Lenny shook his head.

The boys exchanged puzzled looks. The taller one said, “I’m Tom Sprocket, and that’s my brother Titus.”

The names sounded familiar, but Lenny didn’t know where he’d heard them. He could memorize entire pages of the dictionary in one sitting, but he was terrible with names.

Tom pocketed his phone and looked Lenny up and down. “Did you play football in college?”

“No,” Lenny said.

Tom snickered. “Afraid of getting hurt?”

“I was afraid of hurting someone else.”

Tom snorted. “Man, that’s all the fun.”

No, it’s wasn’t, Lenny told himself. Hurting someone wasn’t fun at all. Twenty-one years ago, while fighting underage with a fake name, he’d killed an opponent in the boxing ring. Guilt still clung to Lenny, ate into his soul.

Tom gestured with a thick thumb over his shoulder toward the office building behind the parking lot. “You live on top of that thing?”

Lenny nodded.

“You’re weird, man.”

Lenny stiffened. He did feel weird for living in an abandoned rotating restaurant atop a ten-story insurance building, but didn’t particularly enjoy being told so.

But in spite of Tom’s rudeness, Lenny wouldn’t let himself get angry with the boy or even with Dean Sheepslappe who, for some reason, insisted he participate in the Gerry Gerbil Alumni Day Parade, even threatening to block his tenure if he refused. Lenny had grown up angry, had fought with rage in the ring, but after that last fight, he’d promised himself he would never again lose his temper. Some people found this strange, Lenny knew, some sweet. Others used his good nature as a way to take advantage of him. Lenny knew that too.

Titus Sprocket smirked and said, “I heard the place starts up running sometimes all on its own.”

The Moon View Revolving Restaurant had failed financially in just six months, when its motor took to speeding up at random moments, knocking staff off their feet and sending diners sliding sideways off their booths and onto the floor. Lenny moved in shortly afterwards. He was paying minimal rent in the abandoned restaurant in return for serving as its live-in caretaker. He found it oddly comforting to be the world’s only linguist who inhabited a rotating restaurant. “Sometimes it makes a couple of turns in the middle of the night,” Lenny said, “then shuts down. It’s no problem.”

It was in fact a problem. When the deranged motors and gears got it into their head to noctambulate, they did so with a terrific bellow and jolt that made Lenny sit up wide awake, and which frightened Elspeth so badly that she’d stopped staying overnight.

But Lenny wasn’t bothered by the smirking Sprockets. In fact, he felt sorry for the boys, regarding them as underprivileged lads from some sunbaked state where children ran barefoot across red clay all summer and ate corn pone for breakfast.

Lenny wondered what corn pone tasted like and—more importantly—what was the origin of the word pone? A Native American term? Spanish? Skalwegian even?

He turned to Charlie, astride his motorcycle and fiddling with one of its dials. “Is pone a word in Skalwegian?”

“It sure is,” Charlie said without looking up. “It means ‘He who makes a big weegan of himself by driving an eight-foot rat through the center of town.'”

“You’re no help.”

“I’ve heard that before.”

Lenny drifted off to ruminate on pone. The campus newspaper had labeled him the most distracted member of the faculty—misplacing his briefcase, forgetting to show up for class, walking into trees. But he’d also been one of the most popular until he’d flunked a pair of star football players. The school newspaper excoriated him, and fans called him a traitor. A few students considered him a hero, however. Lenny wanted to be neither.

Charlie tightened his helmet and slipped the key into the ignition. “I got to get back to the farm because Sally must have lunch ready by now. Besides, I don’t want to stick around and watch my good buddy make a big weegan of himself.”

“Can you come over tomorrow? We got only halfway through the G verbs this morning.”

“Tomorrow I got to work on the barn roof. Maybe the day after. Or the day after that.”

Charlie started the engine, leaned into the handlebars and roared away in a blast of blue smoke.

Lenny watched him go. There were times when Lenny felt like quitting the project. Charlie used him as resource—”What’s a gerund? Where do hyphens go? What in hell is a predicate complement?”—but had given him no real role in documenting the language itself. Although this was frustrating and puzzling, it was never quite enough to force Lenny to drop out. He took great pride in helping save a language, not to mention that it was a hot topic in linguistic circles and would go a long way toward saving his teaching job.

Tom and Titus simultaneously tucked their muscle shirts into their waistbands. Titus said, “We was football players.”

“Oh?” Lenny said. He paid no attention to team sports but closely attended to subject/verb conflicts.

“Yeah, that’s right,” Titus said. “But we got cheated and ain’t never going to get our whack at the NFL.”

Distracted, Lenny tugged on Gerry’s ropes. Yes, they’d definitely need retying. It pleased him to hear someone say ain’t so naturally and not merely to make an ironic point. He said over his shoulder, “NFL—that would be the National Federation of… uh…?”

“Holy shit on a shingle!” Titus said. “I’m talking about the National Football League—big money, fame and all the poontang a guy could ever want.”

Lenny had read somewhere that poontang descended from New Orleans Creole, from putain, the French word for prostitute, but he wasn’t absolutely sure. He would look into this later, along with pone. He turned to the brothers. “Something went wrong?”

The Sprockets looked at each other in wonder. “Yeah, you could say that,” Titus said. “We got screwed.”

“Yeah, screwed,” Tom repeated.

Lenny said, “That’s a shame.”

“Yeah, well, we’re gonna get payback,” Titus said and patted Gerry’s foot.

Lenny climbed into his car and eased out of the parking lot. Ropes squeaked against the door frames, the statue’s base creaked on the Chevy’s roof, and Lenny was sure he heard Gerry groan in anticipation of the dreadful day ahead.

In his rearview mirror, Lenny watched the diminishing Sprocket brothers waving and laughing. What an odd pair, he thought.

Lenny decided to take his usual route through the arboretum on his way downtown. The beauty and isolation of the place soothed him. He hoped it would today.

* * *

Bob One spotted a car approaching and got to his feet. It was an old black Chevy with a maroon right front fender. Don’t all professors drive Priuses?

But it had to be the guy on account of the statue on top like he’d been told to look for. What was that thing? A squirrel? A rat? Look at how the damn thing wobbles! About ready to tip over.

Bob One slipped closer to the road, crouched behind a bush, pulled his pistol from his belt and slapped a mosquito off his forehead. He examined the bloody splotch on his palm. Shit, stick around much longer, and the damn insects would suck him dead.

* * *

Lenny was scared.

In two days, he had to go on live television with Charlie and discuss their Skalwegian project—not easy for someone wanting to go through life invisible. Would he make a fool of himself? Say dumb things he’d later regret?

Probably.

Lenny’s thoughts turned back to the Sprocket brothers. Strange last name. Scholars could trace sprocket back as far as the mid-sixteenth century as a carpenter’s term but hadn’t yet located an ancestor.

Tom and Titus Sprocket!

Of course!

He’d flunked them in first-year French because they never showed up for class, which cost them their eligibility to play football. The dean had been furious with him but not with the errant guard and tackle. Jocks normally took Spanish with Juan Jorgenson—the other candidate for the language department’s one tenured slot. Juan automatically gave A’s to athletes just for registering.

Lenny reached over and cranked up the radio for the boisterous ending of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, then glanced up to see he was driving much too fast into Jackknife Corner.

Panicked, he jammed on the brakes and twisted the steering wheel hard left.

He felt the car tilt to the right and heard a loud Thunk! just as Beethoven’s Fifth swelled to a crescendo. Puzzled, Lenny drove on, with the Chevy pulling to the right. Probably something to do with tire pressure, Lenny guessed. He’d have that checked later.

* * *

Bob One lay on the side of road. Blood flowed out his left ear and down his cheek. His head buzzed, and his eyes slipped in and out of focus. He pulled himself to his feet, wobbled, then toppled into the ditch. He crawled into the marsh, still gripping his unfired handgun. Puddles soaked his knees and elbows. A possum trotted past. An airplane roared low overhead. Or was that inside his skull?

Bob One’s left temple hurt like a son of a bitch. That damn rat had toppled over and whacked him on the side of the head. Or was it a guinea pig?

Bob One curled up beside a bog. Half-conscious, he watched a fat snapping turtle waddle toward him, stop two feet from his nose, look him up and down, then open its jaw. Shit, Bob One said to himself, the thing’s got a mouth the size of a catcher’s mitt. Bob One didn’t like animals or much of anything else in nature. He tried to crawl away, but things started going dark—warm and dark—not such a bad feeling, actually.

Bob One awoke to see the turtle biting his right forefinger off at the second joint. Bob One felt no pain and noticed that one of his shoes was missing. As Bob One slipped comfortably into his final darkness, he wondered if a missing trigger finger would hinder him professionally.

* * *

Lenny reached the parade route late and swung in behind the school bandsmen in their sky-blue uniforms with “Skammer’s Fine Meats” embroidered in bright yellow across the back.

Spectators to Lenny’s right shouted and pointed. Some ducked, some knelt, some even dropped to their stomachs. Lenny shook his head in disbelief. Had students and townspeople taken to prostrating themselves before the college mascot? Did he really want tenure at a batty place like this?

At the end of the block, a policeman holding a Dunkin’ Donuts cup stepped into the street, raised his palm, and forced Lenny to brake.

As Lenny stepped from his car, he realized that he’d forgotten to retie the ropes.

Gerry Gerbil lay sideways across the car’s roof, projecting five feet to the right, the ankles tied precariously in place. Someone took a photo. Someone fingered the slack ropes and spoke of slip knots. Lenny touched a patch of something red and damp on the mascot’s forehead. Lenny rubbed thumb against forefinger. The stuff looked like blood.

Since when did gerbil statues bleed?

***

Excerpt from The Last Speaker of Skalwegian by David Gardner. Copyright 2021 by David Gardner. Reproduced with permission from David Gardner. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

David Gardner

David Gardner grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, served in Army Special Forces, and earned a Ph.D. in French from the University of Wisconsin. He has taught college and worked as a reporter and in the computer industry. He coauthored three programming books for Prentice Hall, wrote dozens of travel articles as well as too many mind-numbing computer manuals before happily turning to fiction: “The Journalist: A Paranormal Thriller” and “The Last Speaker of Skalwegian” (both with Encircle Publications, LLC). He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Nancy, also a writer. He hikes, bikes, messes with astrophotography, and plays the keyboard with no discernible talent whatsoever.

Catch Up With David:
DavidGardnerAuthor.com
Goodreads
Instagram – @davidagardner07
Facebook

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Book Showcase: DREAM STALKER by Nancy Gardner

Dream Stalker by Nancy Gardner Banner

Dream Stalker

by Nancy Gardner

November 1-30, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Dream Stalker by Nancy Gardner

Lily Scott had vowed never to dream-walk-again….

Lily is a contemporary Salem witch who descends from a long line of witches born with the power to walk into other people’s dreams to fight crime. But her disastrous first dream-walk almost killed her, and she vowed never to repeat the painful experience.

Now her daughter is falsely accused of murder, and the only way to clear her would be for Lily to enter the dreaming mind of the real killer, risking confrontation with the deadly Dream Stalker.

Can Lily summon the courage?

Book Details:

Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Published by: Bowker
Publication Date: June 1st 2021
Number of Pages: 257
ISBN: 1733919945 (Paperback)
ISBN13: 9781733919944 (Paperback)
ISBN: 9781733919951 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B095KL6FGN (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B097Q8YJKC (Audible audiobook)
Series: Dream Stalker, #1
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | ​Audible | ​Apple Play | BookDepository.com | Downpour Audiobook | Kobo Audiobook | Reedsy | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Salem, Massachusetts—October 1, 2013

I stumbled through the early morning fog blanketing Salem’s Gallows Hill, hurrying to the oak tree that my maternal grandmother, Sadie MacAskill, loved. When I was a child, she’d taught me that witches like ourselves derive energy from working with green, growing plants and trees. I could still feel our arms stretched around the oak’s trunk, listening for the pulsing power within it.

“Feel Mother Earth’s wisdom rising,” she’d said.

I’d never needed wisdom more. The plan I’d cooked up with an old friend had gone terribly wrong. Kitty was supposed to bring my estranged daughter, Sarah, to dinner. Sarah’s favorite dinner, creamy chicken pesto and pasta, was baking in the oven when I got the call.

“Kitty hasn’t come home, and I’m not ready to see you without her. I may never be ready,” Sarah said, her voice cold and unforgiving. She hung up before I could reply.

When I called her back, she refused to answer. If my husband, Sam, had still been alive, he’d have known what to do. But he’d died two years ago.

It was long after midnight when I threw the cold casserole down the disposal and crawled into bed. When sleep proved impossible, I paced the empty rooms of our Chestnut Street home until dawn, then grabbed the nearly empty bottle of homemade dandelion brandy as an offering to Nana’s spirit and rode my Vespa to the park atop Gallows Hill.

Exhausted and headachy, I forgot to watch my step and tripped over a rock. I managed not to fall, but the bottle flew out of my hand. I watched it shatter, watched the last golden dregs seep into the grass. I felt like I was watching my relationship with my daughter ebb with it.

As I dropped shards of glass into the nearby trash can, the wind seemed to whisper that I didn’t deserve to find the wisdom I needed. I’d failed Nana, and I’d failed my daughter.

“Enough self-pity.” I pulled my leather jacket tighter and scurried past the crumbling pavilion and rusting flagpole to the ancient oak. Once again, I pressed my cheek to the rough bark, closed my eyes, and waited. The bark pulsed. A crow landed in the branches above me, cawing and shaking loose a shower of dead leaves. I opened my eyes, and for a moment, Nana’s face wavered before me. Then she was gone, leaving me with my questions unanswered.

My cell vibrated. Who would call me this early? Sarah? Kitty with an explanation? I checked the screen. Neither. Honey Campbell, my landlord and a good friend. She owned the building on Pickering Wharf where we both ran our businesses. Her barbershop took up the first floor. My herbal studio, Healing Thyme, sat above it.

“Hi, Honey. What’s up.”

“Thought you’d want to know your friend, Kitty, came looking for you,” Honey said in her soft Scottish brogue. “And bye-the-bye, she looked like shite. She stumbled off toward Moe’s. You might yet find her there.”

Two months earlier, Kitty had stopped me on the street. I’d taken her for a panhandler and almost turned her away. Then she said, “Lily, don’t you remember me? My parents took us to New York to see West Side Story. We had the best time.”

We’d shared a cup of coffee and Kitty shared her story. She’d been a high school biology teacher until she’d been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. The disease had taken everything from her: her teaching career, her home, her reason for living. She’d ended up lost on the streets.

Things had taken a turn for the better for Kitty when she found a permanent bed at St. Bridget’s Homeless Shelter and, because of the doctor who volunteered his services there, Kitty’s memory was making a remarkable improvement.

“Thanks, Honey. I’m on my way.” I dashed back to the Vespa, strapped on my helmet, and started the engine. Usually, the thrum of the engine beneath me and the slapping rhythm of my braid tapping against my back soothed me. Not this morning. I pressed the throttle and hurried to Pickering Wharf, determined to find out what had gone wrong last night.

***

Excerpt from Dream Stalker by Nancy Gardner. Copyright 2021 by Nancy Gardner. Reproduced with permission from Nancy Gardner. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Nancy Gardner

Nancy Gardner writes cozy mysteries with a paranormal twist. The first novel in her new series, Dream Stalker, tells the story of Lily Scott, a contemporary Salem witch who walks into people’s dreams to fight crime. One reviewer called it a gripping tale of witchcraft, family loyalties, and the cost of seeking justice. Her most recent short story, “Death’s Door,” was selected to be included in the 2021 anthology, Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical. She lives near Boston with her writer husband, David.

Catch Up With Nancy Gardner:
NancyGardnerAuthor.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @nancygardner5
Instagram – @ngauthor
Twitter – @NGardner_author
Facebook – @NancyGardnerAuthor

 

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Join In:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Nancy Gardner. There will be TWO (2) winners for this tour. Each of the Two (2) winners will receive a $10 Amazon.com gift card (US ONLY). The giveaway runs November 1 through December 5 2021. Void where prohibited.

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