Book Showcase: VALLEY OF SHADOWS by Rudy Ruiz

VALLEY OF SHADOWS by Rudy Ruiz book coverValley of Shadows by Rudy Ruiz
ISBN-10: 1982604646 (hardcover)
ISBN-13: 9781982604646 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781982604660 (eBook)
ISBN: 9781982604356 (Digital Audiobook)
ASIN: B09PZK7JVZ (Audible Audiobook)
ASIN: B09W49X641 (Kindle edition)
Release Date: September 20, 2022
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction | Magical Realism | Horror | Mystery

“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?

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Barnes and Noble | B&N NOOK Book | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | Downpour Audiobook | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

Advance Praise

“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.

Excerpt from Valley of Shadows by Rudy Ruiz.
Copyright © 2022 by Rudy Ruiz.
Published by Blackstone Publishing.
All rights reserved.

Meet The Author

Author – Rudy Ruiz

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.

Connect with the author via website | BookBub | Goodreads | Twitter
This showcase and excerpt brought to you by Books Forward

Guest Post: Katharine Schellman – DEATH AT THE MANOR

Happy Monday, my bookish peeps. I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and were able to find some time to read. After having an allergic reaction to some coconut, I spent most of Saturday and Sunday heavily medicated and reading. I enjoy reading mysteries, suspense thrillers, romance, and romantic suspense, but there’s a special place in my heart for gothic romance (hey, Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite reads!). Whether a story is a traditional gothic tale or gothic-inspired, count me in. I’m very pleased to welcome, Katharine Schellman, author of Death at the Manor to the blog today. Ms. Schellman will be defining gothic storytelling and providing us with a list of suggested gothic reads. I hope you’ll take note and add a few of these titles to your TBR or TBRR (to-be-re-read) list, along with Death at the Manor. Thank you, Ms. Schellman, for stopping by and sharing your insight into gothic stories.

A Gothic Reading List
by Katharine Schellman

If you’ve read one of the Lily Adler Mysteries before, you might have noticed a slightly different flavor in Lily’s third adventure. With a wandering ghost, a run-down manor full of unsettling residents, and a romance brewing, it has a distinctly Gothic feel to it.

That isn’t by accident. During the nineteenth century, when Death at the Manor is set, the Gothic romance was wildly popular. These books were often mysteries that reflected a fascination with the supernatural, the grotesque, or the horrific.

Death at the Manor is still a traditional mystery, but parts of it borrow heavily from the Gothic canon. So what makes a book truly Gothic? It’s a genre that can vary a lot, especially in its modern version, but you’ll usually see a few elements in common.

1. The threat of supernatural events or creatures, such as ghosts, monsters, or vampires
2. Dark, ruined settings, such as old castles, monasteries, or haunted houses, often with secret passages and trap doors
3. A feeling of fear or claustrophobia
4. The past intruding on the present, often through curses, prophecies, omens, or portents
5. Themes of vengeance, imprisonment, or murder
6. Doomed or persecuted romance

The tropes of Gothic writing could easily become overblown and absurd, but they served an important role in the history of literature. Books about ghosts, fear, vengeance, and persecution gave women something other than the marriage plot to write and read about. And they allowed writers and readers to explore the darker side of the social expectations, taboos, and power structures that shaped their lives.

If you’d like to brush up on your Gothic reading, here’s a starter list for you:

1. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
2. Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
3. The Old English Baron by Clara Reeve
4. Zofloya by Charlotte Dacre
5. The Giaour by Lord Byron
6. The Wanderer by Frances Burney
7. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
9. The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe
10. The Grey Woman by Elizabeth Gaskell

And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. It’s not a Gothic tale itself, and like Austen’s other works, it doesn’t stray far from the marriage plot. But it’s a brilliant satire of the Gothic genre, which can only be fully appreciated once you’ve read some of the books she was spoofing. ♦

Death at the Manor

by Katharine Schellman

August 8 – September 2nd, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Death at the Manor by Katharine Schellman

 

The tortured spirits of the dead haunt a Regency-era English manor—but the true danger lies in the land of the living in the third installment in the Lily Adler mysteries, perfect for fans of Deanna Raybourn.

 

Regency widow Lily Adler is looking forward to spending the autumn away from the social whirl of London. When she arrives in Hampshire with her friends, the Carroways, she doesn’t expect much more than a quiet country visit and the chance to spend time with her charming new acquaintance, Matthew Spencer.

But something odd is afoot in the small country village. A ghost has taken up residence in the Belleford manor, a lady in grey who wanders the halls at night, weeping and wailing. Half the servants have left in terror, but the family seems delighted with the notoriety that their ghost provides. Intrigued by this spectral guest, Lily and her party immediately make plans to visit Belleford.

They arrive at the manor the next morning ready to be entertained—only to find that tragedy has struck. The matriarch of the family has just been found killed in her bed.

The dead woman’s family is convinced that the ghost is responsible. Lily is determined to learn the truth before another victim turns up—but could she be next in line for the Great Beyond?

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: August 9th, 2022
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN10: 1639100784 (Hardcover)
ISBN13: 9781639100781 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 9781639100798 (eBook)
ISBN: 9781666613636 (Digital Audiobook)
ASIN: B0B13RB3XG (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09LGVHT9S (Kindle edition)
Series: Lily Adler Mystery #3
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Audiobooks.com | Barnes and Noble | B&N NOOK Book | B&N Audiobook | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | Downpour Audiobook | eBooks.com | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Katharine Schellman

Katharine Schellman is a former actor, one-time political consultant, and now the author of the Lily Adler Mysteries and the Nightingale Mysteries. Her debut novel, The Body in the Garden, was one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Books of 2020 and led to her being named one of BookPage’s 16 Women to Watch in 2020. Her second novel, Silence in the Library, was praised as “worthy of Agatha Christie or Rex Stout.” (Library Journal, starred review) Katharine lives and writes in the mountains of Virginia in the company of her husband, children, and the many houseplants she keeps accidentally murdering.

Catch Up With Katharine Schellman:
KatharineSchellman.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @katharineschellman
Instagram – @katharinewrites
Twitter – @katharinewrites
Facebook – @katharineschellman

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Book Showcase: LITTLE DIRT ROAD and JUICED by Ted Mulcahey

Join the O’Malleys, along with their ever-vigilant German Shepherd, Emma, on Whidbey Island as they take on criminals, embezzlers, drug lords, and murderers, putting themselves right in the center of all the danger. With the help of their friend, Bellevue Detective Bill Owens, will they come out on top?

LITTLE DIRT ROAD by Ted Mulcahey book coverLittle Dirt Road: Bad Men on Whidbey Island, The O’Malley Adventures – Book 3, by Ted Mulcahey
ISBN: 9781735493244 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781735493251 (eBook)
ASIN: B09QFLG6PR (Kindle edition)
Release Date: January 12, 2022
Genre: Fiction | Mystery | Cozy Mystery

The O’Malleys are doing what? How is it possible that dangerous complications arise from their simple vacation in wine country? With their recent move to South Whidbey Island, only the O’Malley’s would stumble upon drug smugglers, embezzlers, and murderers amongst the locals. The quirky, pastoral island, reachable by a less than speedy ferry from Mukilteo or the narrow, deteriorating Deception Pass bridge, is no match for the wicked men about to visit.

A notorious drug lord and a nondescript enforcer with freakish hell-raising skills invade the peaceful Pacific Northwest island—where not even the friendly locales and free-roaming long-eared rabbits can soften his homicidal heart.

Weeding through the facts and surprisingly connected characters with their trusted friend, Bellevue Detective Bill Owens, the narrative swirls from Mexico to Canada and throughout Puget Sound. It’s a heart-racing and outrageously offbeat adventure for two innocent people, proving once again that trouble will find the O’Malleys without the slightest amount of effort on their part.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | B&N NOOK Book | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | !ndigo eBook | Kobo eBook

JUICED by Ted Mulcahey book coverJuiced: Bad Men on Whidbey Island, The O’Malley Adventures – Book 4, by Ted Mulcahey
ISBN: 9781735493268 (paperback)
ASIN: B09VJPNDCF (Kindle edition)
Release Date: March 13, 2022
Genre: Fiction | Mystery | Cozy Mystery

Juiced is a fun, thrilling adventure involving secret, breakthrough research

An invention that can save the planet?

Somehow, someway the O’Malleys have found themselves in the thick of things once again. On peaceful, bucolic Whidbey Island, they become entangled in a corporate plot to stifle a paradigm-shattering discovery, one that promises to upend conventional thinking, topple markets, and create an entirely new industry.

Kevin and Jenne, along with scientists from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, find themselves pitted against a band of bumbling criminals who will stop at nothing to get what they want—including arson and murder.

It’s another rollicking adventure for the retired interior designers ably assisted by their favorite detective, the FBI, and Emma, their ever-vigilant German Shepherd Dog.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org

 

Read an excerpt:

ALERT: Mild Profanity

It was one of those dark, rainy afternoons in the Pacific Northwest. Four-thirty, and already the headlights were bouncing off the slick, shiny freeway.

I was on my way back to Whidbey Island. Playing golf in Seattle in late November was not for the faint of heart. Bundled up with rain gear, umbrella stuck on the push golf cart, wet khakis tucked into even wetter socks, we had slogged through eighteen holes of betting and swearing.

Usually, the Wednesday round was followed by more swearing, drinking wine, and playing gin rummy, but today was different. Today was Jenne’s birthday. It was the big one, double nickels. Well, sort of a big one.

Of course, she told me to stay, have fun and enjoy myself – no big deal. When you’ve been married more than once, you absolutely know for sure that birthdays are a big deal. Unless, that is, you don’t care if your sexual activities are curtailed for, say, a month or two.

Well, not this husband. No sir. I managed to make the 5:30 ferry. And also had the foresight to stop at Walgreens and select a lovely greeting card. From Hallmark. I figured the card with a heartfelt message, along with the bouquet purchased at the Star Store when I drove through Langley, would put me in Jenne’s good graces.

It should have been a wonderful evening.

But it wasn’t.

I made the right onto Little Dirt Road. About five hundred yards up the hill, on the unpaved surface, I turned on the crushed gravel driveway leading to our tidy, shingled home. We live on a bluff that normally overlooks Saratoga Passage. Tonight it was dark and rainy.

And there were no lights on in the house or on the grounds.

This seemed odd. I negotiated the six steps to the porch in the dark. Emma was inside, barking as only a German shepherd can, when anything, and I mean anything, is perceived as a threat.

“Easy girl, easy. It’s me.” She quieted only slightly until I opened the door—it was unlocked—and she calmed down. I flicked the lights on, rubbed behind her ears, and stupidly called out Jenne’s name. She’s not here, you dope. She wouldn’t be sitting in the dark. I walked to the kitchen counter. There was a note in her writing. “Went for a walk in case you get home early. Back around 4:30.” It was followed by a little heart and a smiley face.

What the fuck? It was 6:45. Still not accepting reality, I dialed her cell. The sounds of “The Irish Washerwoman,” her ringtone, came from the little nook with the fireplace, just off the kitchen.

This was strange. Even though she always thought she had forgotten her phone, she seldom did.

I stood there, searching my mind but coming up with nothing. Her car was in the courtyard, her phone in the house. Where the fuck is she?

We didn’t know that many people on the island. We knew our neighbors and a few others, but few were close friends. The only people Jenne was close to lived off-island. And they did not come up in this crappy weather.

One thing was certain, if she left around 3:30, she sure as hell wasn’t still on her walk.

I walked across the dark, grassy area separating us from our neighbors, Tim and Raye. I knocked on the door, perhaps a little too forcefully.

“Kevin. Hi, good to see you.” Tim was a gentle soul and a terrific neighbor, always there if you needed him, and highly considerate in every way.

“Hi, Tim. Have you seen Jenne? When I got home, the house was dark. She left a note saying she’d be back at 4:30. Do you know where she could be?”

“Geez, Kev, no, I don’t. I did see her a little before five. She was headed down the street. I thought it a bit odd because it was getting dark, but that was about it.”

“She was headed south?”

“Yes.”

“She always goes the other way on her walks and finishes by coming up the hill. She says it feels good to stretch out at the end of it.”

“Well, I don’t know about that, but I’m sure she was headed down. Is there anything I can do?”

“Thanks. Not yet. Let me think about it first.”

Tim’s face showed genuine concern. “You know we’re here if you need anything.”

“I do, Tim. Thanks.”

I went back home and stood in the kitchen. “Emma, what do you think? Where the hell is your mom?”

The ninety-pound black and tan animal looked directly at me and twisted her head to the left. “Ah, I wish you could talk, kiddo.”

If Tim saw Jenne go back down the hill, maybe she was going to one of the homes on Saratoga Road. For some reason. To someone’s house, she didn’t know. Sure.

“Emma. Let’s go. Get in the truck.” Before I went entirely off the deep end, I figured a drive around the area might be productive. Maybe Emma could be of some help. Maybe.

We drove slowly down the hill, past Tim and Raye’s house and past the Robinsons, who lived on the opposite corner. Most of the properties were well over an acre. As a result, there weren’t many homes nearby.

After turning right on Saratoga, where there was no traffic, thankfully, we crept as slowly as possible. I rolled down the rear windows in case Emma caught a scent.

We passed three homes. Emma acted as though this was a simple trip to the store. Maybe even treats if she behaved.

On the left was a huge vacant field where sheep occasionally grazed. Beyond that was a long, straight two-track that served as a driveway for a home hidden by tall firs and cedars.

During our walks, we’d always speculate as to who lived there. Occasionally we would see an island car chug and sputter down the drive. Island cars are beaters that nobody would ever take on the ferry. They frequently break down, and hell hath no fury greater than ferry patrons missing the boat because some yahoo couldn’t start their fucking car.

Excerpt from Juiced by Ted Mulcahey.
Copyright © 2022 by Ted Mulcahey.
Printed with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Ted Mulcahey author photo

Ted Mulcahey has lived throughout the US, for the past 35 years in the Pacific Northwest. He’s an Army vet, sales and marketing VP, entrepreneur, business owner, avid reader, one of nine children, a former caddie, and lover of dogs and golf. The last twenty-five years were spent in partnership with his wife Patte, the owners of a highly respected and published hospitality interior design firm in the Seattle Area. They’re now living on Whidbey Island and enjoying its rural bliss.

Ted writes about things he’s seen and places he’s been. He tries to incorporate the personality traits of people he’s known into his fictional characters, although none of them exist in reality. Many of the locations are real but the names have been changed.

Connect with the author via his website.

 

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Guest Post: Sharon Michalove – DEAD IN THE ALLEY

Good day, my bookish peeps. Authors are highly creative as well as inventive in crafting their works of fiction. They have to not only create characters, come up with the plot, and provide a suitable setting, but then keep track of everything as they write. Some authors will keep detailed notes and/or outlines to keep everything straight. But then they have to not only keep everything straight as they write (or edit) but keep the characters suitably realistic and believable. Please help me welcome, Sharon Michalove, author of Dead in the Alley. Ms. Michalove will be sharing her thoughts on “using what you love” in crafting fictional characters. Thank you, Ms. Michalove, for joining us today, the blog is now all yours.

Using What You Love to Make Your Characters Come Alive
by Sharon Michalove

Every book brings new experiences and deepens my knowledge. I love crafting twisty, tension-filled plots. Creating journeys to places my readers may know, or may want to know. And exploring the mysteries of love. Every book has a couple who learns to build a lasting relationship.

When I start a writing project, the characters come first. Once I know about them, I know where they live, what they like, what they fear, and who they love, and the deep wounds in their background. In the case of Dead in the Alley, I knew early on that the book would be a mystery, but once I had the characters in place, they told me their parts—hero, heroine, victim, suspects, family, sidekicks. That leads me to the setting, motives, and the murderer.

Take the Bishop sisters. Bay Bishop is the female protagonist in Dead in the Alley. She is a chef, one of the many careers I considered when being a high-school history teacher didn’t work out. I talked to a local chef who ran a cooking school about the possibilities He was willing to take me on for professional training and warned me about the early rising and long hours. Those didn’t phase me. Picking up seventy-pound stock pots was another story, so I changed direction.

Bay’s older sister, Laurel, is a college professor. I had many years of experience in academic settings to work with in creating her. She may get a book of her own one of these days.

Livvy, the younger sister, was a little trickier. She is a fashion designer and I had to do research on where she would have gone to school, what hurdles she would face, and what her studio was like. I also have some ideas for her.

Their brother, Toby, is a bookstore owner. That was easier for me. Even though I’ve never owned or worked in a bookstore, I know small business owners and as a former librarian, I have a lot of experience with the book business.

My hero and the love interest, Greg Musgrove, took me back to my love for bike racing. I have followed the major races since a research trip to Paris in the summer of 2000 introduced me to the joys of watching and learning about the Tour de France. A few years later, I was able to see the penultimate stage of the Giro d’Italia because we were staying close enough to Verona to go there for the day.

Standing in the rain for hours in a huge crowd is an unforgettable experience, especially as taller fans with big umbrellas start crowding you out. as they push toward the front By the time the sun came out and the final time trial competitors came through, I couldn’t see a thing. Fortunately, a very tall friend held up my camera and took pictures at the finish line. The feel of being in the crowd was amazing, but now I’d rather watch it on TV.

As a former bike racer and now a drugs officer in this small Michigan town, I was able to tie together why he retired from racing, how his experience made him decide that drug enforcement was the right path, and how he pursued his dream to open a high-end bike shop with a former teammate. As a former cyclist, I’ve hung around bike shops for years and I tried to create the shop I’d love to spend time in.

Should you always write what you know? Not necessarily. I knew very little about the setting, northern Michigan. Research can take you a long way. But being able to write about things you are passionate about is a gift. Writing relatable characters who delight in things I love, gives me the chance to share them with my readers. ♦

Dead in the Alley

by Sharon Michalove

July 18 – August 12, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Dead in the Alley by Sharon Michalove

When Bay Bishop’s husband was murdered in the alley behind their northern Michigan restaurant, she thought she’d lost the love of her life.

Now she’s a suspect.

And her high-school boyfriend, who left her broken-hearted years ago, is one of the detectives on the case.

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional Mystery
Published by: Indie Published
Publication Date: August 10, 2022
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 9781736918753 (paperback)
ASIN: B09P8QWC31 (Kindle edition)
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Amazon | Amazon Kindle | BookDepository.com | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Sharon Michalove

Sharon Michalove grew up in suburban Chicago. She received four degrees from the University of Illinois because she didn’t have the gumption to go anywhere else, and spent most of her career at the university, eventually earning a Ph.D., working in departmental administration, publishing, and libraries. Her specialties are 15th-16th century European history, polar exploration, and food history. She may be one of the few people in America to never live outside her home state.

In graduate school, she met and married the love of her life. They shared a love of music, theater, travel, and cats. He died in 2013.

Sharon also loves hockey, reading, cooking, writing, and various less elevated activities like eating cookies and sampling gins and single malts. After spending most of her life in a medium-sized university town she moved back to Chicago in 2017 so she could go to more Blackhawks games and spend quality time at Eataly. In 2021 she accomplished a lifetime goal by publishing her first novel. Unfortunately, her other lifetime goal, to be English, is likely to remain unfulfilled.

Catch Up With Sharon Michalove:
www.SharonMichalove.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @sdmichalove
Instagram – @sdmichaloveauthor
Twitter – @sdmichalove
Facebook – @sharonmichalove

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Book Blast: AN EYRE OF MYSTERY by G. Leeson

 

An Eyre of Mystery
by G. Leeson

 

BOOK BLAST JULY 5, 2022

About An Eyre of Mystery

An Eyre of Mystery

Genre: Fantasy Portal/Mystery
Publisher: Grace Abraham Publishing
Release Date: July 12, 2022
Print length: ‎ 177 pages
ISBN13: 9781737300939 (paperback)
ASIN: ‎ B09ZDLM7B7 (Kindle edition)

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Books2Read | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org

Classic literature is at risk of disappearing from the world…

When Gia accepts a job as a library archivist at a manor house in North Carolina, she has no idea what she’s in for. On day one, she finds herself outside her comfort zone when she accidentally travels through a magical portal to the world of Jane Eyre. She finds Edward Rochester imprisoned as he awaits his death sentence for killing his wife. But Gia has read the book, and she knows Edward is innocent of murder.

Soon, she realizes that there are sinister mystical forces working to rewrite the narrative, hoping to destroy the manuscript altogether. To restore order and reset the book to its original state, Gia must discover who actually killed Bertha Rochester and framed her husband for the crime.

But few of the people she meets are who they claim to be and they all have secrets…including Edward.

About G. Leeson

Gayle [G. Leeson, for this book] has taken a real leap of faith with An Eyre of Mystery and the world of Literatia. She decided to explore what would happen if a reader–or in this case, an archivist–actually got lost in a great book. But when she travels through the portal into the world of Jane Eyre, she finds it to be a topsy-turvy mess. Edward Rochester is facing a death sentence, and Gia has been tasked with finding out who really killed his wife so that Edward can go free, the book will reset to its original form, and Gia may return home. If you’d like to get a sample of the book, please check out this extended sneak peek (first five chapters) at https://BookHip.com/SFPWRLD.

Author Links:

Gayle Leeson: https://www.gayleleeson.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GayleLeeson/

FB Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2295294234027608

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GayleTrent

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gayletrentleeson/?hl=en

 

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Book Spotlight: DECEIVED by Mary Keliikoa

DECEIVED by Mary Keliikoa book coverDeceived, Kelly Pruett Mystery #3, by Mary Keliikoa
ISBN: 9781603818650 (paperback)
ASIN: B09Q7SG18K (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Camel Press
Release Date: May 10, 2022
Genre: Fiction | Mystery | Suspense

 

In the third thrilling book in the Kelly Pruett mystery series—Her world was falling into place. Then women started dropping off the map.

PI Kelly Pruett finally feels like she’s coming into her own. With her personal life well on track, a gig uncovering what drove a client’s granddaughter underground could be good for business. But after her undercover operation at the homeless shelter reveals rampant drug dealing, she’s suddenly kicked off the case… just as another girl goes missing.

Vowing to expose the truth even if it means pro-bono work, Kelly is taken aback when her half-sister helps her hunt down answers in a tent city brimming with distrust. When her investigation doesn’t move quickly enough to save a second woman from a vicious murder, Kelly doubles her efforts unwilling to accept defeat.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org

Praise for the Kelly Pruett Mystery Series:

“Following up on a multi-award nominated debut mystery is no easy task, but Mary Keliikoa succeeds and then some in DENIED. In Kelly Pruett, Keliikoa has created a three dimensional private eye whose humanity and determination make you both want to root for her and ride along next to her on an investigative thrill ride. Bravo!” – Matt Coyle, Shamus, Anthony and Lefty Award-winning author

“A solid sequel with a relatable detective and an enjoyably knotty plot.” – Kirkus Reviews, for Denied

“A satisfying mystery novel whose detective, in pursuing a sympathetic case, learns more about herself and her family” – Foreword Clarion Reviews, for Denied

“An action-packed novel with a strong heroine, a likable cast, and an engaging central case.” – Publishers Weekly’s BookLife, for Denied

“An entertaining detective story with a personable lead” – Kirkus Reviews, for Derailed

Meet The Author

Author Mary Keliikoa Headshot

MARY KELIIKOA is the author of the Shamus finalist and Lefty, Agatha, and Anthony award nominated PI Kelly Pruett mystery series, as well as the upcoming Misty Pines mystery series featuring Sheriff Jax Turner slated for release in September 2022. She has had mystery shorts published in Woman’s World and in the anthology Peace, Love, and Crime: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of the ’60s. She spent the first 18 years of her adult life working around lawyers. Combining her love of all things legal and books, she creates twisting mysteries where justice prevails.

At home in Washington, she enjoys spending time with her family and her fur-kids. When not at home, you can find Mary on a beach on the Big Island where she and her husband recharge. But even under the palm trees and blazing sun she’s plotting her next murder—novel that is. To learn more about Mary’s life and work, please visit: https://marykeliikoa.com/ .

Connect with the Author: Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter | Website

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Guest Post: Chiuba E. Obele – THE ORIENTATION OF DYLAN WOODGER

Welcome to the start of another bookish week, my bookish divas and divos. I hope you had the opportunity to shop at your favorite indie bookstore this past Saturday during Independent Bookstore Day and grab a few good books. Sadly, rainy weather and seasonal allergy-induced migraine headaches kept me indoors for much of the weekend. Of all the things I can call myself, book diva is perhaps one of my favorites. We all have several labels we don throughout our lives: child, sibling, graduate, spouse, parent, etc. But there are many others that we may not give much thought to such as advocate, feminists, or ally. Today, I’m pleased to welcome Chiuba E. Obele, author of The Orientation of Dylan Woodger, who’ll be discussing the permissibility of some labels. Thank you, Mr. Obele, for joining us today and sharing your thoughts on this subject, the blog is now all yours.

Is it right for male authors to call ourselves “feminists?”
by Chiuba E Obele

 

As a man, I’ve always had an interest in feminism. In fact, learning more about feminism was one of the most enjoyable parts of writing The Orientation of Dylan Woodger. That writing took me on a journey. To prepare myself for this novel, I studied feminist texts and listened to survivors talk about their struggles with sexual assault. This learning not only guided my writing; it also transformed me. Now more than ever, I feel compassion for women, and as an author, I want to do my part to support them. They deserve to be treated as equals, given equal opportunities, and have rights over their own bodies. But in recent days, I’ve had to ask myself a difficult question: Is it right for male authors (like myself) who support the views of feminists and want to use our work to raise awareness, to label ourselves as feminists?

In the book, Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks defines feminism as “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression,” while the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of sexual equality.” Feminist literature, as the name suggests, is based on the principles of feminism, and refers to any literary work that centers on the struggle for gender equality. But can only women be feminists? Or are males considered? And what about feminist novels? Can a man a write a feminist novel? Not according to author Paraic O’Donnell. He writes:

“Accepting the principles of feminism is a matter of simple justice…Still, no matter what a man believes, it’s my view that he has no business calling himself a feminist, since to do so is to claim for himself a lived experience he has never known and a struggle in which he has had no part. In the same way, a man cannot claim to have written a feminist novel[.]”

According to O’Donnell, feminism must always be led by women, just as the fight for racial equality must be led by those who are most affected by racism. But is it really as straightforward as this? Should pro-feminist men be restricted to the sidelines as allies in the struggle for gender equality, but disqualified from full membership by virtue of their privileged position? Or can any man who supports the idea of women’s liberation call himself a feminist?

Today, there’s an ongoing debate over men and their entitlement to call themselves feminists, with some arguing that since feminism is a movement founded by women for the advancement of women, men have no right to lay claim to the label. Similarly in the art context, there are some who believe feminist literature can only be written by women. But I disagree. As I see it, one does not have to be born with a particular gender or identify as a particular gender, to be an advocate for feminism. Feminism isn’t a female-only club. From Frederick Douglass and John Stuart Mill to today’s scholars, there are plenty of men who, despite their flaws, have sought to advance women’s liberation. As Noah Berlatsky of The Atlantic writes, “Male feminists are neither new nor perfect, but they make important contributions to the advancement of women.”

Similarly, I believe that men are capable of writing feminist literature. Restricting feminist literature to only female authors means that we are excluding men from the conversation around gender equality. Gender should be no barrier to active participation in feminist literature. If we believe that feminist literature is about confronting the assumptions that hold women back within our society and presenting stories that defend not only their abilities, but also their equality, then anyone can write literature from a feminist viewpoint. In fact, it is crucial that more men do so.

Having said all that, I understand why some women have misgivings about men’s involvement in feminism. Many men have tried to take over women’s spaces, claiming to be better feminists than women, and failing to recognize or challenge their own sexist behavior. And this raises an important point: if you’re a man and you want to call yourself a feminist, always remember that it’s a label you must earn. Earning that label isn’t even half of the work; what really matters is how you act. In feminist spaces, it’s best for men to take the backseat and actively listen to women’s concerns while thinking of meaningful ways to challenge their own privilege and lend support. As Noah Berlatsky points out, pro-feminist men are not perfect, but that doesn’t mean that we should give up trying to do better. The same is true for male authors like myself.♦

The Orientation of Dylan Woodger

by Chiuba E Obele

April 18 – May 13, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Orientation of Dylan Woodger by Chiuba E Obele

Solving mysteries is never easy. Dealing with an infuriated mob boss and acute amnesia only makes it worse.

Dylan Woodger is a college student who is captured and tortured by the mafia. After amnesia obscures the last three years of his life, Dylan learns that he has stolen three million dollars from a ruthless mafia boss. When, how, and why – he doesn’t remember. But someone betrayed him and gave him a drug that erased his memory. He was then given over to be tortured.

Determined to recover his memory, Dylan begins delving into the events of the past. As he struggles to put the pieces of his past back together, Dylan finds himself wrapped up in a path of vengeance made even more perilous by the presence of assassins, gangsters, and detectives. But as each new piece of the puzzle falls into place, Dylan realizes that no one is who they seem, especially himself. He now has links to rapists, white supremacists, and murders. People who claim to be his friends are hiding secrets from him. And his girlfriend is beautiful, but that’s all he knows about her. Who are these people? And who is Dylan? Even he doesn’t know!

The Orientation of Dylan Woodger is the story of a young man who is torn between his capacity to do evil and his desire to do what’s right. This book explores racism and feminism, and addresses controversial topics such as male rape, hate crimes, and misogyny toward women. The characters are disturbing, but the book aspires to be hopeful, as these characters ultimately succeed in finding some measure of humanity.

There are so many unanswered questions . . . But first, Dylan must survive the torture.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Fischer House Publications
Publication Date: April 19, 2022
Number of Pages: 377
ISBN: 9798985146400
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Chiuba E Obele

CHIUBA EUGENE OBELE is a poet, writer, and author of The Orientation of Dylan Woodger: A Central New York Crime Story. He can usually be found reading a book, and that book will more likely than not be a crime fiction novel. Chiuba lives and works out of his home in Boston, Massachusetts. When not absorbed in the latest page-turner, Chiuba enjoys spending his summers vacationing with his parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews.

Catch Up With Chiuba E Obele:
ChiubaObele.com
Goodreads
Twitter – @ChiubaE
Facebook – @chiubaobele7

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Book Showcase: VICE & VIRTUE by Justin M. Kiska

Vice & Virtue by Justin M. Kiska Banner

Vice & Virtue

by Justin M. Kiska

February 14 – March 11, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Vice & Virtue by Justin M. Kiska

Parker City, 1984…

Three years after the Spring Strangler case rocked the historic Western Maryland city nestled at the foot of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, life has returned to normal for Detective Ben Winters and his partner, Tommy Mason. With a new chief now leading the department and the city slowly crawling out of its economic distress, everything seems to be moving in the right direction.

Until one sweltering summer day, a killer begins targeting police officers. Ben and Tommy find themselves once again leading an investigation the likes of which Parker City has never seen. The detectives quickly come to realize that until the shooter is found, everyone wearing a badge is in danger. To complicate matters even further, when a recently unearthed skeleton mysteriously connects to the string of police homicides, Ben and Tommy begin to think their current case may be tied to events twenty years earlier.

But how could a skeleton buried two decades ago hold the key to solving their current case?

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: February 15, 2022
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 9781685120696
Series:  Parker City Mysteries, #2 || Each book is a stand alone novel.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Tall and athletic, Tommy Mason always reminded Ben of Tom Selleck’s Magnum P.I. character from television. Tommy always had that whole ruggedly handsome thing going for him. Mixed with a little bit of a “bad boy” vibe and he drove the women wild.

Next to Ben’s clean-cut, buttoned-down appearance, their pairing caused many to do a doubletake. At first glance, they appeared to be complete opposites. But as one got to know them, they were very much alike. Each brought out the best in the other and at the end of the day, it was all about getting the job done. Sure, each had his own style, but that’s what made them such a formidable team.

Tommy’s apparent willingness to skirt the rules was always offset by Ben’s ability to find ways to use the rules to their benefit. Just as Ben’s refusal to play the internal politics game allowed Tommy to use his charm to keep too many feathers from getting ruffled amongst the powers-that-be. They each knew the other’s strengths and weaknesses and how to adapt them to their own, which is why they’d been so impressive in getting the PCPD’s Detective Squad off the ground.

“What are you doing here?” Ben asked, more than a little surprised to see his partner.

“Shirley from Dispatch called me. She thought I’d be interested,” Tommy explained. “And before you say anything about what I’m wearing, I just want to remind you, it is our day off, so I didn’t think I needed to get dressed up to come to a potential crime scene. Especially when we don’t actually know this is a crime scene yet.”

He was referring to the fact he had on a T-shirt and comfortable pair of jeans, as opposed to the full suit and tie Ben was wearing.

“Besides, now you don’t have to worry about getting your fancy suit muddy. I have no problems getting down there in the dirt,” Tommy smiled, pointing at the fresh mud stains on his knees. With that, he knelt back down to take another look at the exposed skeletal remains under the floorboards.

“So, tell me. What do we have?” Ben asked, crouching next to Tommy so he could get a better look.

“You can see there’s a pretty big cavity here under this part of the floor,” Tommy pointed out. “It’s got to be a good ten by ten area where the ground has been eaten away, even though it’s not too deep, less than a foot in some places. It’s definitely because of water…there’s a lot of mud down there. As the earth under the floor eroded, it uncovered the skeleton. Partway, at least. Of course, no one could see what was happening under here until our friend Mr. Haggarty had the unfortunate experience of stepping on a board that was rotted through and it snapped, sending him falling through the floor. You can see where he landed in the mud.

“And right there,” Tommy pointed, “you see the skull and top portion of the skeleton sticking out of the ground.”

“You came face-to-face with that thing, man?” Tommy looked over at the construction worker who was leaning against the wall. “Not a good way to start the day.”

“Yeah. You’re telling me,” Haggarty answered.

Turning back to the skeleton, Tommy said, “I’m no expert, but that hole in the skull right there…see it, it looks like it could be a GSW from a pretty heavy caliber gun.”

Leaning down and twisting his head so he could try and get a better look at the skull, Ben saw the hole and wondered if his partner was right. Finding a skeleton buried under the floor was one thing. Finding a skeleton buried under the floor with a bullet hole in its skull was something else. It took everything to a different level.

Standing and stretching their legs, Tommy said, “When Shirley first called me, I thought this was going to have been some kind of prank. Some kids snuck into the site on a dare and left a skeleton for the crew to find.”

“You thought kids somehow buried a skeleton under this building in the hopes someone would fall through the floor and find it?” Ben asked, raising an eyebrow. “Not to mention having to figure out how to bury the thing under the floor?”

“In my defense,” Tommy started, raising a finger and shaking it at his partner, “I didn’t know the skeleton was buried under the warehouse. I just knew they’d found a skeleton at the warehouse.”

The first thing that needed to happen was to get the skeleton out of the ground. That would be up to the crime scene techs. Even though he could easily reach in and pull the skull out to get a better look, Ben didn’t want to disturb anything more than it already had been when Lance Haggarty crashed through the floor. Thankfully, he hadn’t actually landed on the skull itself.

“So much for our day off,” Ben said, looking at his watch, wondering where the crime scene guys were.

***

Excerpt from Vice & Virtue by Justin M. Kiska. Copyright 2022 by Justin M. Kiska. Reproduced with permission from Justin M. Kiska. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Justin M. Kiska

When not sitting in his library devising new and clever ways to kill people (for his mysteries), Justin can usually be found at The Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre, outside of Washington, DC, where he is one of the owners and producers. In addition to writing the Parker City Mysteries Series, he is also the mastermind behind Marquee Mysteries, a series of interactive mystery events he has been writing and producing for over fifteen years. Justin and his wife, Jessica, live along Lake Linganore outside of Frederick, Maryland.

Catch Up With Our Author:
JustinKiska.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @JMKiska
Twitter – @JustinKiska
Facebook – @JMKiska

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Book Showcase: TRUST ME by Kelly Irvin

Trust Me

by Kelly Irvin

February 7 – March 4, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Trust Me by Kelly Irvin

When her best friend is murdered the same way her brother was, who can she possibly trust?

A decade ago, Delaney Broward discovered her brother’s murdered body at the San Antonio art co-op he founded with friends. Her artist boyfriend, Hunter Nash, went to prison for the murder, despite his not-guilty plea.

This morning, Hunter walks out of prison a free man, having served his sentence.

This afternoon, Delaney finds her best friend dead, murdered in the same fashion as her brother.

Stay out of it or you’re next, the killer warns.

Hunter never stopped loving Delaney, though he can’t blame her for not forgiving her. He knows he’ll get his life back one day at a time, one step at a time. But he’s blindsided to realize he’s a murder suspect. Again.

When Hunter shows up on her doorstep asking her to help him find the real killer, Delaney’s head says to run away, yet her heart tells her there’s more to his story than what came out in the trial. An uneasy truce leads to their probe into a dark past that shatters Delaney’s image of her brother. She can’t stop and neither can Hunter—which lands them both in the crosshairs of a murderer growing more desperate by the hour.

In this gripping romantic suspense, Kelly Irvin plumbs the complexity of broken trust in the people we love—and in God—and whether either can be mended.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: February 8th 2022
Number of Pages: 384
ISBN: 0785231935 (ISBN13: 9780785231936)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Christianbook.com | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

APRIL 22, 2010
SAN ANTONIO ART CO-OP
SOUTHTOWN, SAN ANTONIO

The cloying stench of pot told the same old story.

With an irritated sigh Delaney Broward quickened her pace through the warehouse-turned-art-co-op toward her brother’s studio at the far end of the cavernous hall. On his best days Corey had little sense of time. Add a joint to the mix and he lost his sense not only of time but of responsibility. It also explained why he didn’t answer his phone. When he got high and started painting, he wanted no interruptions. His lime-green VW van was parked cattywampus across two spaces in the lot that faced Alamo Street just south of downtown San Antonio. He might be physically present, but his THC-soaked mind had escaped its cell.

Marijuana served as his muse and taskmaster. Or so he’d said.

The soles of her huarache sandals clacking on the concrete floor sounded loud in Delaney’s ears. “Corey? Corey! You were supposed to pick us up at Ellie’s. Come on, dude. She’s waiting.”

No answer.

At this rate Delaney would never get to Night in Old San Antonio, affectionately known to most local folks as NIOSA. Everyone who was anyone knew it was pronounced NI-O-SA, long I and long O, the best party-slash-fundraiser during the mother of all parties where her boyfriend would be waiting for her. “Hey, bro, I’m starving. Let’s go.”

Delaney’s phone rang. She slowed and dug it from the pocket of her stonewashed jeans. Speaking of Ellie. “I’m at the co-op now. He’s here.”

Share as little info as possible.

“He’s stoned again, isn’t he? I’m sick of this.” Ellie’s shrill voice rose even higher. “I swear if he stands me up again— “

Us. Stands us up.”

“Stood us up again. That will be it. I’m done. I’m done waiting around for him. I’m done playing second fiddle to his self-destructive habits. I’m done with his starving-artist, free-spirit, pothead schtick. The man is a walking stereotype. I’m done with him, period.”

Delaney mouthed the words along with her friend. She knew the lyrics of this lovesick song by heart. The childish rejoinder “It takes one to know one” stuck in her throat. “We’ll be there in twenty. You can tell him yourself.”

Ellie would and then Corey would kiss her until she took it all back. With a final huff Ellie hung up.

The door to his studio— the largest and with the best light because the co-op was Corey’s dream child— stood open. “Seriously, Corey. Think of someone besides yourself once in a while, please.” Delaney strode through the door, ready to ream her brother up one side and down the other. “You are so selfish.”

Delaney halted. At first blush it didn’t make sense. Twisted and smashed canvases littered the floor. Along with paints, brushes, beer bottles, and Thai food take-out cartons.

Wooden easels were broken like toothpicks and scattered on top of the canvases. Someone had splattered red paint over another finished piece— a woman eating a raspa in front of a vendor’s mobile cart, the Alamo in the background.

Delaney’s hands went to her throat. The metallic scent of blood mingled with the odor of human waste gagged her. A fiery shiver started at her toes and raced like a lit fuse to her brain. Her mind took in detail after detail. That way she didn’t have to face the bigger picture staring her in the face. “Please, God, no.”

Even He couldn’t fix this.

She shot forward, stumbled, and fell to her knees. Her legs refused to work. She crawled the remainder of the distance to Corey across a floor marred by still-wet oil paint, beer, and other liquids she couldn’t bear to identify.

He sat with his back against the wall. His long legs clad in paint-splattered jeans sprawled in front of him. His feet were bare. His hands with those thin, expressive fingers lay in his lap. Deep lacerations scored his palms and fingers.

Her throat aching with the effort not to vomit, Delaney forced her gaze to move upward. His T-shirt, once white, now shone scarlet with blood. His blood. Rips in the shirt left his chest exposed, revealing stab wounds— too many to count.

Delaney opened her mouth. Scream. Just scream. Let it out.

No sound emerged.

She crawled alongside her big brother until she could lean her shoulder and head against the wall. “Corey?” she whispered.

His green eyes, fringed by thick, dark lashes that were the envy of every woman he’d ever dated, were open and startled. His skin, always pale and ethereal, had a blue tinge to it.

Delaney drowned in a tsunami of nausea. “Come on, Corey, this isn’t funny. I need you.”

Her teeth chattered. Hands shaking, she touched his throat. His skin was cold. So cold.

Too late, too late, too late. The words screamed in her head. Stop it. Just stop it. “You can’t be dead. You’re not allowed to die.”

Mom and Dad had died in a car wreck a week past her eighth birthday. Nana and Pops had taken their turns the year Delaney turned eighteen. Everybody she cared about died.

Not Corey. Delaney punched in 9–1–1.

The operator’s assurance that help was on the way did nothing to soothe Delaney. She sat cross-legged and dragged Corey’s shoulders and head into her lap. She had to warm him up. “Tell them to hurry. Tell them my brother needs help.”

“Yes, ma’am. They’re en route.”

“Tell them he’s all I’ve got.”

CHAPTER 2

TEN YEARS LATER
NASH RESIDENCE, SAN ANTONIO

Real men didn’t cry. Not even during a reunion with a beloved truck.

Swallowing hard, Hunter Nash wrapped his fingers around the keys, concentrating on the feel of the metal pressing into his skin. He cleared his throat. “Thanks, Mom. For keeping it all these years.”

His mom didn’t bother to try to hide her tears. She wiped her plump cheeks on a faded dish towel, offered him a tremulous smile, and bustled down the sidewalk that led from the house on San Antonio’s near west side where Hunter had grown up to the detached two-car garage in the back. It had housed his truck for the past eight years. Almost ten if he counted the two years it took for his case to go to trial. He had no place to go in those years when he’d allegedly been innocent until proven guilty. His friends no longer friends and his job gone, he had no need for transportation.

The door to the garage was padlocked. Mom handed him the key. “My hands are shaking. You’d better do the honors.” She stepped back. “I still can’t believe you’re here.”

“I did my time, Ma.” As a model prisoner he’d earned time off for good behavior. It was easy for a guy to behave when he spent his days and nights scared spitless.

“I know. All those nights I’ve lain in bed worrying about you in that place, whether you were safe, if you were hurt, if you were sick.” Her voice broke. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

“Me neither.”

It wasn’t over. In fact, it was just beginning, but she didn’t need to know that. His determination to prove his innocence would only worry her more. A divorced mother of four, she’d raised her kids on a teacher’s salary and an occasional child support check from the crud-for-brains ex-husband who showed up once every couple of years in an attempt to make nice with his kids. She deserved a break.

The aging manual garage door squeaked and protested when Hunter yanked on the handle. He needed to do some work around here, starting with applying some WD-40. The smell of mold and old motor oil wafted from the dark interior. Hunter slipped inside and waited for his eyes to adjust. A layer of dust covered the 2002 midnight-blue Dodge RAM 1500, but otherwise it remained in the pristine condition in which he’d left it the night he said goodbye and promised he’d be back. “My baby.”

More tears trickling down her face, Mom chuckled softly. “After you finish reintroducing yourself, come back inside. I’m making your favorite chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, pineapple coleslaw, and creamed corn. Your brother and sisters are coming over after work. Shawna’s bringing a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Melissa’s contribution is three kinds of ice cream, including rocky road. She said it seemed appropriate. I hope you haven’t lost your sense of humor. And you know Curtis. He’s all about the beer.”

The last thing Hunter wanted to do was celebrate with his sibs. Mel and Shawna had visited faithfully at first, but less as the years rolled by. Curtis never showed, even though Fabian Dominguez State Jail was only a few miles down the road from San Antonio.

Nor did Hunter want to explain why he’d sworn off alcohol. The conditions of his parole included monthly pee tests— no alcohol or drugs, but that part of his life was over anyway. It had been easy to comply in prison, obviously. Whether he could maintain his sobriety in the beer drinking capital of the country remained to be seen. He’d do AA if necessary. “Mom— “

“No buts. They’re family. They love you. You need to live life, enjoy life, make up for all you’ve missed. You haven’t even met most of your nieces and nephews. Did you know Mel is expecting another baby in August?”

“Yes, I— “

“Today we celebrate your new job and your new life.”

His bachelor of fine arts with an emphasis in drawing and painting from Southwest School of Art might once have allowed him to teach art in one of the school districts, but not anymore.

It didn’t matter. The prison chaplain had hooked him up with Pastor James. The preacher ran a faith-based community center that served at-risk youth. He’d hired Hunter to teach art to those who’d already had their first brush with the law. He figured Hunter could teach life lessons at the same time he introduced them to art as a way to channel their anger at the hand life had dealt them. Learning what happened when a guy got off track would be the lesson.

Even though Hunter hadn’t gotten off the track. He’d been shoved off it. By an eager-beaver, newbie detective; a green-as-a-Granny-Smith-apple public defender; and an assembly-line justice system.

He would get by in this world that had hung him out to dry. Especially knowing Mom had his back. She had that don’t-mess-with-me teacher look in her burnt-amber eyes. Like her sixth graders, Hunter knew better than to argue. It felt good to know she remained in his corner. When everyone else had hit the ground, scattering in opposite directions, she never budged in her belief that son number two could not be a murderer. She’d brought him up better than that.

“You’re right. Give me a few minutes.”

She patted his chest and stretched on her tiptoes to plant a kiss on his cheek. Her lips were chapped, and the wrinkles had deepened around her mouth and eyes. Her long hair had gone pure white during his years away. “Take your time, sweetheart.”

Hunter gritted his teeth. After years of looking over his shoulder, bobbing and weaving around hard-core convicts who’d as soon shank a guy in the shower as look at him, he didn’t know how to cope with nice. With sweet. With love tempered with wisdom and a hard life.

“One day at a time.” That’s what the prison chaplain had told him. “Get through the next minute, the next hour, the next day.” That’s how he did eight years at Dominguez. This couldn’t be any harder. He opened the truck’s door and slid into the driver’s seat. The faint odor of pine air freshener greeted him. And citrus.

More likely that was his imagination. Delaney’s perfume simply could not linger that long. Move on. She has. She did. To her credit Delaney held on as long as she could— until the guilty verdict. Then she was forced to move on. She couldn’t be blamed for that.

Hunter picked up the sketch pad on the passenger seat. In those days he kept one everywhere. Just in case. The first page. The second. The third. All drawings of Delaney. Sweet Laney eating a slice of watermelon at a Fourth of July celebration. Laney rocking Hunter’s newborn nephew in a hickory rocker on the front porch. Laney in a bathing suit sitting on the dock at Medina Lake. Laney with her soulful eyes, long sandy-brown hair, and air of sad vulnerability worn like a pair of old jeans that fit perfectly. That too-big nose, wide mouth, and pointed chin. Corey might have been the angelic beauty— totally unfair— but Delaney’s face had character. She had a face Hunter never ceased to want to draw and paint.

And kiss.

He turned the pages slowly, allowing the memories to have their way with him. Meeting at a party Corey had thrown when Delaney was a senior in high school. Their first date, ribs and smoked chicken with heart-stopping creamed corn, potato salad, coleslaw, and jalapeños at Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q followed by dancing at Leon Springs Dance Hall.

She had danced with the abandon of a small child. As if she didn’t care who watched. Her face glowed with perspiration. Her green eyes sparkled with happiness. His two left feet couldn’t keep up, but she didn’t mind. She twirled her peasant skirt as she flew around him, her hands in the air, her curves beckoning.

Hunter closed his eyes. Her softness enveloped him. Her sweetness surrounded him.

He needed to see her again. He needed to talk to her. Somehow he had to prove to her that she was wrong about him. Whatever it took. He laid the sketchbook aside. “Come on, dude, let’s take a ride.”

He stuck the key in the ignition and turned it.

Nothing. Not even a tick-tick-tick. He tried a second time. Nada. “I’m an idiot.” He patted the steering wheel. “Not your fault, man.”

The truck hadn’t been driven in years. The battery was dead. He might be able to jump it, but more likely he’d need a new one. Batteries cost money.

One thing at a time. He’d waited this long.

Hunter slid from the truck and eased the door closed. “I’ll be back when I get my act together.”

In the kitchen Hunter found his mom peeling potatoes. She pointed the peeler at him. “You can’t imagine how good it feels to have you home.”

“You can’t imagine how good it feels to be here.” He landed a kiss on her soft hair. She smelled of Pond’s cold cream. The same old comforting scent. Life had changed but not her. “I’m gonna take a walk. I need to blow the prison stink off.”

“Enjoy. They redid the walking trail at the lake and installed new outdoor fitness equipment.” She waved the paring knife in the air. “But don’t stay too long. You have company coming.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He pantomimed a mock salute and headed for the front door.

One thing at a time. One step at a time. That’s how he’d get his life back.

***

Excerpt from Trust Me by Kelly Irvin. Copyright © 2022 by Kelly Irvin. Reproduced with permission from Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Kelly Irvin

Kelly Irvin is a bestselling, award-winning author of over twenty novels and stories. A retired public relations professional, Kelly lives with her husband, Tim, in San Antonio. They have two children, three grandchildren, and two ornery cats.

Visit her online at:
www.KellyIrvin.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @KellyIrvin
Instagram – @kelly_irvin
Twitter – @Kelly_TrustMe
Facebook – @Kelly.Irvin.Author

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Guest Post: John Nardizzi – THE BURDEN OF INNOCENCE

The Burden of Innocence by John Nardizzi Banner

Good day, book people. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy participating in reading challenges every year. Some years I actually meet most of the goals from various challenges, but, more often than not, my reading challenge fizzles out sometime in February or March. I usually meet the total number of books I want to read for the year and that’s it. If you’re a mystery or crime fiction reader, then I hope you’ll enjoy today’s visitor. Please help me welcome John Nardizzi, author of The Burden of Innocence, as he shares some of his crime fiction recommendations. Perhaps one or two of these titles might help you meet your reading challenge goal for the year. Thank you, Mr. Nardizzi for joining us today and sharing with us, the blog is all yours.

Voices of Crime – Top 4
by John Nardizzi

I started out in the detective business in San Francisco, a city with a rich history of both real and fictitious detectives. I partied in the same building where Dashiell Hammett lived. But I did not know that my childhood literary fascination with the genre would lead to working in the industry—and also writing crime novels.

The question I get most often from readers: What are the books that most closely resemble the actual tone and feel of real investigations? Contrary to most people’s understanding, PI work has not gone completely high tech, limited to database research. Yes, that is part of the job (and a fun part of it too). Modern investigations still revolve around the most important thing in a trial: witnesses. PIs talk to strangers about difficult things. And those witnesses provide color and tone for the case—all their flaws and imperfections exposed.

So for me, great crime novels speak in the voice of not just the detective, but the witnesses and criminals. Here are my four “must-read” books for any fan of the genre:

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Set in Italy, Patricia Highsmith’s beautiful prose contrasts with the spare, calculating mind of Tom Ripley. A low-level con man, Ripley sees an opportunity to subsume himself in the identity of his rich friend Dickie Greenleaf, leading to murder and betrayal. Story plays out amid beautiful beaches and seaside apartments in Italy, lavish meals and endless glasses of red wine. No one puts you into the delusional, paranoid mind of a criminal better than Highsmith. Great insights: “This is what I like, sitting at a table and watching people go by. It does something to your outlook on life. The Anglo-Saxons make a great mistake not staring at people from a sidewalk table.”

Tijuana Straits by Kem Nunn

Sometimes called the creator of “surf noir”, Nunn tells the story of apathetic, strung-out old surfer Sam Fahey, who comes across a Mexican woman named Magdalena fleeing a pack of wild dogs in the waste lands at the border. She is working to uncover environmental crimes committed by factory owners. Sam finds some compassion and helps Magdalena, who is fleeing the murderous Armando. Amid the grasslands of the Tijuana River Valley, Sam and Magdalena tangle with drug traffickers, bandits, and refugees from the maquiladora factories burning through cheap labor at the border. Dark stuff redeemed by some fine writing.

The Grifters by Jim Thompson

Author Jim Thompson grew up in Oklahoma Territory and worked later at a honky-tonk hotel in Texas where he took odd jobs procuring all kinds of vices for the guests during Prohibition. This later led to Thompson’s prolific output of crime fiction and screenplays, but none better than his take on a group of grifters operating in Los Angeles in the 1950s. The book opens with Roy Dillon, a young con artist who gets caught in a scam and takes a bat to the belly for it—leading to his long-gone mother, veteran con Lilly Dillon, coming back to nurse him back to life. He resents her, but she’s a lot tougher than he is. And Lilly doesn’t much care for his girlfriend, so we know how that will end. Lilly always gets the last word: “Grift’s like anything else Roy, you either go up or down. Usually down, sooner or later.”

The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley

Hard-boiled PI C.W. Sughrue rambles all over the west, solving two mysteries at once: tracking down a girl who went missing in San Francisco while also searching for a complex mess of a writer, Abraham Trahearne. The writer is lost in a boozy haze of wartime regrets and mixed blessings of fame; he is also the centerpiece—like a big baby—of a strange domestic triad of ex-wife, current wife, and mother, all living on his Montana ranch. Part road trip, part buddy novel, part mystery, part black widow revenge, Crumley writes like few others. And he seemed to have a blast writing the women characters as they lead the men around the ring like blind horses–just too good of a view back into the 1970s to be ignored. Be prepared—the rude poetry of the book is so saturated in booze and western machismo that you might stumble just touching the pages—as PI Sughrue opines: “I try to stay two drinks ahead of reality and three behind a drunk.” Words to live by.

John Nardizzi
www.johnnardizzi.com

The Burden of Innocence

by John Nardizzi

December 6, 2021 – January 31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Burden of Innocence by John Nardizzi

Private investigators Ray Infantino and Tania Kong take on the case of Sam Langford, framed for a murder committed by a crime boss at the height of his powers.

But a decade later, Boston has changed. The old ethnic tribes have weakened. As the PIs range across the city, witnesses remember the past in dangerous ways. The gangsters know that, in the new Boston, vulnerable witnesses they manipulated years ago are shaky. Old bones will not stay buried forever.

As the gang sabotages the investigation, will Ray and Tania solve the case in time to save an innocent man?

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Crime Noir
Published by: Weathertop Media Co.
Publication Date: December 5, 2021
Number of Pages: 290
ISBN: 978-1-7376876-0-3
Series: PI Ray Infantino Series, #2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Kobo | Google Play | iBooks

Author Bio:

John Nardizzi

John Nardizzi is writer and investigator. His work on innocence cases led to the exoneration Gary Cifizzari and James Watson, as well as million dollar settlements for clients Dennis Maher and the estate of Kenneth Waters, whose story was featured in the film Conviction.

His crime novels won praise for crackling dialogue and pithy observations of detective work. He speaks and writes about investigations in numerous settings, including World Association of Detectives, Lawyers Weekly, Pursuit Magazine and PI Magazine. Prior to his PI career, he failed to hold any restaurant job for longer than a week. He lives near Boston, Massachusetts.

Catch Up With John Nardizzi:
JohnNardizzi.com
Goodreads
BookBub — @johnf4
Twitter — @AuthorPI
Facebook — @rayinfantino1

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