Guest Post: Mally Becker – THE COUNTERFEIT WIFE

Hello, my fellow book lovers. I don’t know about you, but I’m loving the cooler weather. I enjoy curling up on my favorite reading chair with a blanket, a cup of tea, and a good book (or two). Of course, I curl up on my favorite reading chair every season, but Fall and Winter just seem different. My reading tastes also seem to change with the weather, as I gravitate more towards historical fiction at this time of the year. If you’re always on the lookout for something new in the historical fiction arena, then you’re going to love today’s guest author visit. Please help me welcome back Mally Becker, author of The Counterfeit Wife. Ms. Becker will be providing us with an introduction to her latest book. Thank you, Ms. Becker, for coming back to visit, I’m eager to learn more about your latest book. I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

Guest Post graphic featuring a stack of books above the words GUEST POST in a scripted font

I’m excited and honored to be featured here today!

My name is Mally Becker, and I’m the Agatha Award-nominated author of The Turncoat’s Widow and The Counterfeit Wife, which is out now wherever books are sold.

The Turncoat’s Widow introduces General Washington’s two most reluctant spies, young widow Becca Parcell and former British POW Daniel Alloway. Pressed into Washington’s service, this unlikely duo uncover a plot that threatens the new nation.

Combining mystery, a touch of romance, and history, The Counterfeit Wife opens months later as Becca and Daniel accept a new assignment from George Washington. Masquerading as newlyweds, they head to Philadelphia to uncover a ring of counterfeiters who are upending the wartime economy.

There, Becca comes face-to-face with a half-remembered woman from her childhood, which forces her to question everything she thought she knew about her past. When that woman becomes a suspect in the murder of one of the counterfeiting suspects, Becca and Daniel find themselves speeding to discover the real villain before he can kill again.

I can hear you asking why on earth Becca and Daniel needed to masquerade as a married couple.

It would have been quite a challenge for an unmarried couple to find “alone time” in the 18th century, a historian assured me. Society banned meetings between unmarried men and women without a chaperone.

Yet Becca and Daniel are amateur sleuths, in their 18th-century way. Without an ability to speak in private, how could they share their impression of suspects or evaluate the information one or the other uncovers?

A fake marriage seemed to me to be their only option. Martha Washington thinks it might work so long as they maintain all the proprieties, as she puts it in my story. General Washington is not as certain but approves the ruse, nonetheless.

When you read my books, The Counterfeit Wife or The Turncoat’s Widow, I hope that they entertain you. But I also hope that you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time, attending a society party at City Tavern, breaking into an 18th-century printer’s shop, or chatting with the wealthiest women in Philadelphia.

And I hope above all else that you feel a connection to my female characters especially. Customs may change; clothing certainly does. But I think the things that make us human and our emotions are a constant throughout time.

I especially strove to bring to life women like Becca who chart their own course. Because there have always been women who cheerfully ignore society’s restrictions: women spies; women business owners; female poets; even women who led 18th-century riots.

I included a few of those historical women in The Counterfeit Wife, including Benjamin Franklin’s adult daughter, Sally, and the wife of Pennsylvania’s governor, Esther Reed. She wrote that American women were “born for liberty” and led a group of women who knocked on every door in the city to raise money for the all-but-broke Continental Army.

As a friend of the Washingtons, Becca is invited to tag along on one of the group’s fundraising trips with Sally Franklin Bache, Benjamin Franklin’s adult daughter who was, in fact, an important member of the Ladies Association. The dramatic meeting between Becca and a woman who lives there sets in motion an important part of my book’s plot.

You can learn more about me and my books at www.mallybecker.com. I hope to see you there! ♦

The Counterfeit Wife

by Mally Becker

September 19 – October 14, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

THE COUNTERFEIT WIFE by Mally Becker book cover, yellow background with photo of the back of a white female, wearing a burgundy long-sleeve 17th century gown

Philadelphia, June 1780. George Washington’s two least likely spies return, masquerading as husband and wife as they search for traitors in Philadelphia.

Months have passed since young widow Becca Parcell and former printer Daniel Alloway foiled a plot that threatened the new nation. But independence is still a distant dream, and General Washington can’t afford more unrest, not with food prices rising daily and the value of money falling just as fast.

At the General’s request, Becca and Daniel travel to Philadelphia to track down traitors who are flooding the city with counterfeit money. Searching for clues, Becca befriends the wealthiest women in town, the members of the Ladies Association of Philadelphia, while Daniel seeks information from the city’s printers.

But their straightforward mission quickly grows personal and deadly as a half-remembered woman from Becca’s childhood is arrested for murdering one of the suspected counterfeiters.

With time running out – and their faux marriage breaking apart – Becca and Daniel find themselves searching for a hate-driven villain who’s ready to kill again.

Praise for The Counterfeit Wife:

The Counterfeit Wife by Mally Becker has it all — adventure, romance and deceit … [w]ith smooth-as-ice prose and pitch-perfect dialogue.”

Tina deBellegarde, Agatha- and Derringer-nominated author of the Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery Series

The Counterfeit Wife is a not-to-be-missed adventure that gives new meaning to rebel and loyalist, spy and spouse.”

Lori Robbins, award-winning author of the On Pointe and Masterclass Mystery series

“As the young country struggles for independence, so does Becca, and she will have you turning pages well into the night … I highly recommended The Counterfeit Wife and I’m already anxious for the third of the series.”

Eileen Harrison Sanchez, award-winning author of Freedom Lessons—A Novel

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: September 2022
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 9781685121587
Series: A Revolutionary War Mystery
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Author Bio:

 

Mally Becker author photo, headshot of white female with short, brown curly hair, and tortoise shell eyeglassesMally Becker combines her love of history and crime fiction in mysteries that feature strong, independent heroines. She is the Agatha Award-nominated author of The Turncoat’s Widow, which Kirkus Reviews called, “A compelling tale… with charming main characters.” Her first novel was also named a Silver Falchion finalist and a CIBA “Mystery & Mayhem” finalist.

A member of the board of MWA-NY, Mally was an attorney until becoming a full-time writer and an instructor at The Writers Circle Workshops. She is also a member of Sisters in Crime and the Historical Novel Society. Mally and her husband live in New Jersey, where they raised their wonderful son and spend as much time as they can hiking and kayaking.

Catch Up With Mally Becker:
www.MallyBecker.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @mallybecker
Instagram – @mallybeckerwrites
Twitter – @mally_becker
Facebook – @mallybeckerauthor

Tour Participants:

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Guest Post: Chris Patchell – THE PERFECT BROTHER

Good day, my bookish divas and divos. I’ve had the pleasure (and agony at times) to participate in a wide variety of local book clubs. I’m amazed that people join book clubs to read outside of their comfort zone but then place stipulations on what they will or will not read (myself included – I have a thing against memoirs). Some book club members refused to read books featuring child or spousal abuse, while others adamantly refused to read anything that included a pet that died. We all have our reading quirks, but I didn’t realize how prevalent the idea of “don’t harm/kill the pet” was in the reading world until I encountered it in numerous book group settings. I’m pleased to welcome back Chris Patchell, author of The Perfect Brother. Ms. Patchell will be sharing with us her perspective on “never kill the dog.” Thank you, Ms. Patchell, for taking the time to join us today, I’m eager to learn your thoughts on this widely held opinion.

Never Kill The Dog
by Chris Patchell

I was busy writing my first book when a good friend of mine who was reading some of my early drafts gave me a great piece of fiction writing advice. “Never kill the dog,” he said. “As if I would,” I responded with a slightly baffled and somewhat disconcerted grin. At the time, my husband and I had a beagle who we babied as if he was our firstborn.

I scoffed at the notion that I would harm a fictional pet, but truthfully, I had made some pretty unorthodox choices in my story so while I hid behind the pristine virtue of my good intentions, I could understand what might make him nervous about the fate of poor, faithful Molly.

Pets play a lot of different roles in fiction, as they do in our actual lives. In fiction, we are hard-wired to like a character who is kind to an animal, just as we instantly dislike other characters who mistreat or inflict harm upon a pet. How a character interacts with an animal can provide flashes of insight into their lives, like the cop living a solitary life who feeds a stray cat. Though she may have commitment issues, or be recently divorced, through her actions we can infer that she’s a little lonely and craving connection.

Pets are often depicted as having almost supernatural abilities to pick up on things that we mere mortals are unaware of. As such, they can be an effective source of ratcheting up the suspense in the story—like the dog staring out the window into the darkness growling with his hackles raised. As a reader, we immediately recognize the danger. We know that there’s someone lurking out there in the laurel hedge. Or worse, stories where the carcass of the family pet is found, and we know that the killer is sending a message.

In my latest book, The Perfect Brother, Indira Saraf is a young woman who longs to break free of her family’s expectations and assert her independence, but as much as she likes to think of herself as a lone wolf, Indira shares her condo with her beloved dog, Hazel. Throughout the story, as the stakes continue to rise and the pressure mounts on Indira, she presents a brave face to her family and friends, but it’s only when she’s alone with Hazel that she feels comfortable showing her vulnerable side. Hazel doesn’t judge. She’s there to provide comfort.

Some pets can also play the role of protector. Max, my 5-year-old Yorkie, barks like a big dog when anyone approaches the house. Woe be to the Amazon delivery person brave enough to drop a package on our doorstep, or the wayward sketchy plastic bag seen floating down the street. Max stands at the ready, fully prepared to protect his family at the slightest provocation. Now whether he could actually make good on his boisterous threats… Well… That’s another story.

The other thing I love about introducing pets into the storyline is the way you can use them to inject moments of levity into a stressful situation. There’s a delightfully uncomfortable scene in the book when a few characters stop by Indira’s place unexpectedly. Though the scene is painfully awkward, the only one who seems oblivious to Indira’s embarrassment is Hazel. She’s just happy to see more of her friends show up.

This is one way pets can amp up the humor in a story, but there are others, like the choice of an unlikely pet. Picture a straight-laced character who happens to have a foul-mouthed parrot. The opportunities are endless.

Pets are also a great way to show character development. In my book, Deception Bay, the protagonist, Austin Martell’s relationship with his mother’s cat is acrimonious, to say the least, but as the drama of the book unfolds, Austin and the cat form an unbreakable bond.

Pets can also present obstacles in the storyline, like the protector pet who scares off the antagonist, or a reason why a character has to leave a scene and return home. So unless you’re John Wick and the pet’s demise is the inciting event for an epic three-movie revenge story throw-down, like my friend Don, I would advise you to never kill the dog.

Reading books with pets in them brings me back to my childhood when I devoured stories written by James Herriot. Tales of the spoiled dog Trickie Woo, and a host of other delightful animal creatures imbued me with a love of reading.

Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog. I hope you enjoy reading The Perfect Brother. ♦

The Perfect Brother

by Chris Patchell

September 26 – October 21, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

THE PERFECT BROTHER by Chris Patchell book cover, featuring a blue-washed background with trees behind a house with two brightly lit windows

 

A scandalous liaison. A killer on the loose. Can a young woman save her sibling from going down for murder?

Vancouver, Canada. Software engineer Indira Saraf refuses to march to her traditionalist parents’ old-world drum. Resentful of her brother’s golden-boy acceptance but still a devoted sister, she encourages him to confess his secret affair before he ends up married to a woman he doesn’t want. So she’s horrified when his student and lover is slain and he’s arrested for the gruesome crime.

Repurposing her own AI technology to prove his innocence, the unorthodox rebel scours the dead college girl’s life for clues. But when Indira discovers another missing co-ed and the suspects pile up, she learns the hard way that her digging has drawn deadly attention…

Can she hunt down the culprit before she takes a fatal fall?

The Perfect Brother is a chilling standalone suspense thriller. If you like dogged heroines, complex family relationships, and dangerous twists, then you’ll adore USA Today bestselling author Chris Patchell’s riveting tale.

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense
Published by: Indie Pub
Publication Date: September 27th, 2022
Number of Pages: 421
ISBN: 9781733545242 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781733545235 (eBook)
ASIN: B0B2CN9M51 (Kindle edition)
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | B&N NOOK Book | Kobo eBook | Goodreads

Author Bio:

 

Chris Patchell Author Photo (Headshot of women, light shoulder-length hair, smiling, wearing a black top and a necklace featuring red hearts)Chris Patchell is an award-winning USA Today Bestselling Author who started writing to curb the homicidal tendencies she experienced during her daily Seattle commute. She writes gripping suspense thrillers with romantic elements set in the Pacific Northwest and believes good fiction combines a magical mix of complex characters, compelling plots, and well-crafted stories.

Over the years, she has written numerous popular books and series, including bestsellers Deadly Lies, In the Dark, and her most recent collection of small-town crime novellas, the Lacey James Series. Along the way, her writing has won several awards, including a 2022 Next Generation Indie Book Award, an IndieReader Discovery Award, and a Pacific Northwest Literary Award.

When she’s not writing, you can find Chris reading books, hanging out with her family, watching football, and struggling to keep up with her workout regime, all while shushing her incessantly yapping Yorkies. She lives in Oregon with her husband and two kids.

Connect with Chris:
www.ChrisPatchell.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @chrispatchellauthor
Instagram – @chrispatchellauthor
Twitter – @chris_patchell
Facebook – @authorchrispatchell

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Guest Post: C.L. Tolbert – SANCTUARY

Good day, book people. I’ve recently noticed that I’m perfectly willing to suspend my belief and rational thought (to a certain extent) when reading fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, fantasy, or even romance stories. However, when I’m reading mysteries, suspense, thrillers, and even romantic suspense, I want the stories and characters to be wholly realistic and the action to be credible. If the story is too far outside of my brain’s comfort zone, I have a hard time enjoying the story. I know, strange reading quirk, but there you have it. Today, I’m pleased to welcome C.L. Tolbert, author of Sanctuary, part of the Thornton Mystery series, back to the blog. Ms. Tolbert will discuss the importance of “keeping it real” or realistic fiction. I hope you’ll enjoy what she has to share, follow along with the tour to learn more about this book and its author, and don’t forget to grab yourself a copy of Sanctuary for your fall reading. Thank you, Ms. Tolbert, for your visit, the blog is now all yours.

Keeping It Real
by C.L. Tolbert

I’ve always preferred realistic fiction. I like to emerge myself in the setting and the characters’ lives, and for me, that means the story must be credible. The reader must believe that what unfolds in the story could actually happen. Even though it was non-fiction, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which may be the best true crime story ever written, is an icon and a guide for what I’d like to achieve in a story.

But are mysteries realistic fiction? The short answer is, they don’t have to be. Mysteries can be fictional or nonfictional, and may even include supernatural topics, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles.

When I was five years old, my favorite TV show was Perry Mason, with Raymond Burr. My parents didn’t allow me to see it, which made it even more tantalizing, but my aunt did when she babysat my brother and me. I was impressed with Mason’s smooth approach, his brilliance in the courtroom, and the fact that, even though he usually represented the underdog or the disadvantaged, he always won.

But even though I enjoyed the intricate plot lines on the show, I knew, even at age five, that courtroom confessions, which Mason often relied on to win, seemed unlikely. I didn’t know the name for this anomaly when I was five, but it was my first confrontation with “deus ex machina,” a plot device where an unsolvable problem in a storyline is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and unlikely occurrence, such as the sudden confession. Even then, I wanted the facts and structure of the story to be realistic, not contrived.

Perry Mason also had a couple of sidekicks, one of which was Paul Draper, his intrepid private investigator. Paul didn’t hesitate to rough up witnesses so that they would ‘spill the beans.’ After a few years of watching Drake misbehave, I developed a strong distrust of private investigators until, as an attorney, I had to hire one for a case. My investigator was a retired police officer, and a stalwart follower of proper procedures. He’d never have roughed up a witness, nor would the majority of investigators.

When I was eight, my brother inherited the Hardy Boys books from a cousin and I read all thirty-two books one summer. I was surprised that the Hardy Boys would often find themselves breaking into houses and buildings to solve crimes, and, later on, as a thirteen-year-old, I appreciated that Agatha Christie was more careful with procedure. Poirot and Miss Marple weren’t the sort to trespass.

After retiring from the practice of law, I started working on a short story that featured Emma Thornton, a young, single-mother-attorney, as the protagonist. I entered the story in the Georgia State Bar Journal’s fiction contest, and, several months later, was very surprised to discover that I had won. This win gave me the confidence I needed to turn the short story into a full novel.

I knew I had a good story to tell. After teaching school for ten years, and practicing law for another thirty-five, I had plenty of war stories. But I was worried about how to keep my writing realistic and still capture the readers’ attention and interest. My protagonist, Emma Thornton, as an attorney and law professor, would spend the majority of her day bogged down in work that is boring, redundant, and even mundane. Lawyers spend more time researching and writing than anything else. They ask the same question to different people over and over in an attempt to get to the truth of the matter. This sort of reality would put readers to sleep quickly.

Lawyers are also bound to follow the rules of ethics or risk disbarment. So, neither Emma nor any person who worked on cases with her could ever threaten a witness, as Perry Mason’s Paul Drake, or become involved in Hardy Boys-like trespass. How could I turn Emma’s routine-filled and occasionally dull life into an exciting book, and still maintain a modicum of (hopefully edgy) realism?

One truth about trial lawyers is that they love a fight, and Emma is no exception. They also love arguing, and asking carefully wrought questions designed to expose the theory of their case. They also love trial. The courtroom is their temple. So, in each of the books in the Thornton Mystery Series, Emma spends the majority of her time preparing for trial, analyzing evidence, interviewing witnesses, and reviewing autopsy reports, and sometimes arguing with the DA. A couple of the books have courtroom hearings. Emma works for a law school where she directs the Homeless Clinic, and has no money for her own investigations. She, and sometimes her students, do the leg work on her cases.

To keep the story interesting, I gave Emma a personality quirk – specifically, an impulse control problem – and an insatiable curiosity. She also carries, to the extreme, the responsibility of zealously representing her clients, all of which suffer from various societal injustices. Emma’s impulse control problem is subtle, and although she’s aware of it, she never addresses the issue. But the reader may notice that Emma can’t resist pushing her apartment door open when it’s been left ajar by someone other than herself, or climbing up the stairs to spy on an intruder. Emma’s exploits often backfire, and she ends up in trouble at least once or twice a book. Impulse control issues would be a problem for any attorney, but that’s especially true when an attorney is conducting his or her own investigations, as Emma.

The term ‘realistic fiction’ sounds like an oxymoron. But it’s nothing more than the creation of imaginary characters and situations that depict the world and society as they are. Plots highlight social or personal problems that mirror contemporary life. The books in my Thornton Mystery Series, Out From Silence, The Redemption, and Sanctuary, are murder mysteries that take a look at societal injustices and family dysfunction, but in a way that takes the reader on a journey. The books are offered as entertainment, but, hopefully, the reader will learn something along the way.

Sanctuary

by C.L. Tolbert

September 12 – October 8, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

SANCTUARY by C.L. Tolbert book cover

A Thornton Mystery

In Sanctuary, the third book in the Thornton Mystery Series, Emma is back again. This time she’s agreed to represent a former client accused of killing the leader of a suspicious cult in New Orleans.

James Crosby, the charismatic leader of the Japaprajnas, is found dead one late afternoon, his body draped over an iron fence in the courtyard of the nineteenth-century house where he and several cult members work and live. Although police initially presumed his fall was an accident, they quickly discover that James received a lethal dose of a drug before he was pushed from his office balcony.

The next day the police discover a syringe and a substantial amount of the drug which killed James in Stacey Robert’s bedroom. The nineteen-year-old cult member is brought in for questioning, which leads to her arrest. Emma, who had represented Stacey when she was a sixteen-year-old runaway, agrees to take the case.

Convinced she is innocent Emma begins an investigation into the cult and its members. Emma’s questions uncover dangerous secrets, illicit activities, and the exploitation of innocent victims. Emma’s suspicions lead her to the killer’s trail and the case’s final resolution.

Praise for Sanctuary:

“Brace yourself. Deadly personalities, hidden agendas, and long-buried secrets threaten law professor Emma Thornton, after she agrees to defend a terrified young woman accused of murdering the charismatic leader of an oppressive cult. The dark heart of New Orleans has never felt so dangerous.”

Roger Johns, Author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: July 2022
Number of Pages: 280
ISBN: 9781685121464 (paperback)
ASIN: B0B5YFSL54 (Kindle edition)
Series: The Thornton Mystery Series, Book 3
Book Links: Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

Author Bio:

 
Author C.L. Tolbert

After winning the Georgia State Bar Journal’s fiction contest in 2010, C.L. Tolbert developed the winning story into a full-scale novel. Out From Silence was published in December of 2019, and is the first novel in the Thornton Mysteries series. Her second book, The Redemption, was published in February of 2021, and Sanctuary, the third book in the series, was published in July of 2022.

Licensed in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia, C.L. practiced law for thirty-five years before retiring to pursue writing. During her legal career, she spent several years teaching at Loyola Law School in New Orleans, where she was the Director of the Homeless Clinic. She also has a Masters of Special Education, and taught in a public school prior to enrolling in law school.

C.L. has two children and three grandchildren, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and schnauzer.

Catch Up With C.L. Tolbert:
www.CLTolbert.com
Goodreads
Instagram – @cltolbertwrites
Twitter – @cltolbertwrites
Facebook – @cltolbertwriter

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaway entries!
https://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=307132

Giveaway:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for C.L. Tolbert. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

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Book Showcase: RIVER OF ASHES by Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor

River of Ashes

by Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor

August 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

River of Ashes by Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor

*Apple’s Most Anticipated Books for Summer in Mysteries & Thrillers*

SOME TRUTHS ARE BETTER KEPT SECRET. SOME SECRETS ARE BETTER OFF DEAD.

Along the banks of the Bogue Falaya River, sits the abandoned St. Francis Seminary. Beneath a canopy of oaks, blocked from prying eyes, the teens of St. Benedict High gather here on Fridays. The rest of the week belongs to school and family—but weekends belong to the river. And the river belongs to Beau Devereaux. The only child of a powerful family, Beau can do no wrong. Star quarterback. Handsome. Charming. The “prince” of St. Benedict is the ultimate catch. He is also a psychopath.

A dirty family secret buried for years, Beau’s evil grows unchecked. In the shadows of the haunted abbey, he commits unspeakable acts on his victims and ensures their silence with threats and intimidation. Senior year, Beau sets his sights on his girlfriend’s headstrong twin sister, Leslie, who hates him. Everything he wants but cannot have, she will be his ultimate prize. As the victim toll mounts, it becomes clear that someone must stop Beau Devereaux. And that someone will pay with their life.

River of Ashes is a Southern Gothic, Psychological Thriller inspired by true events in the vein of V.C. Andrews with elements of Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn and You by Caroline Kepnes. River of Ashes addresses social issues including sexual violence and bullying.

Praise for River of Ashes:

River of Ashes offers an inside look into the mind of a psychopath—a cautionary tale that the scariest monsters are the ones you know but never suspect.”

Pearry Teo, PhD; Award-Winning Director of The Assent, Executive Producer of Cloud Atlas

“A psychological portrait akin to Lord of the Flies.”

Midwest Book Review

“If Gillian Flynn and Bret Easton Ellis had a book baby, it would be River of Ashes.”

~Booktrib

Book Details:

Genre: Southern Gothic / Psychological Thriller / Coming-of-Age
Published by: Vesuvian Books
Publication Date: August 2nd, 2022
Number of Pages: 284
ISBN10: 1645480984 (paperback)
ISBN13: 9781645480983 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781645480990 (eBook)
ASIN: B09V1KRX5J (Kindle edition)
Series: St. Benedict #1
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | B&N Nook Book | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | eBooks.com | !ndigo | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Leslie turned off Main Street and headed along the single-lane road. The storefronts gave way to homes with colorful gardens and oaks draped with tendrils of Spanish moss. Then the houses grew sparse and disappeared as greenery hugged the side of the road. Leslie slowed to avoid a pothole and heard the rush of the Bogue Falaya River through the open windows.

The trees thinned, revealing the two stone spires of The Abbey. Apprehension snaked through her as she pictured Beau, her sister, and all the unsettling things she associated with the derelict church.

A wall of dense red buckeye bushes swaying in the breeze shrouded the road. Leslie drove through an opening someone carved out long ago. A cleared lot lay hidden beyond the dense hedge, surrounded by thick pines and oaks, with paths leading down a steep embankment to the river’s edge.

Leslie got out of the car, listening to the sweet refrain of birds in the trees. “No one’s here today.”

“It’s still too early. Everybody from school likes to come after dark.” Derek led her to a pine-straw-covered path and to the shore of the rushing river.

Something moved in the dense underbrush. Leslie walked ahead, trying to get a better look. “What’s that?”

She crossed several broken branches until she stumbled on something nestled in the foliage. The stench of rotting flesh hit her nose. She gagged and slowed to a stop.

“Wait, be careful.” Derek swept aside a few leafy twigs to get a better look.

Flies covered the bloated belly of a white-tailed deer. Deep grooves slashed into what remained of the deer’s neck. The poor animal’s hindquarters appeared torn away.

Leslie crept closer. “What could do such a thing?”

Derek took her hand and backed out of the brush. “I bet it was the wild dogs.”

Leslie let him lead her away from the stench. “What wild dogs?”

He stopped outside of the brush. “They’re around here. A couple of weeks ago, Mom said some hunters came in the diner and reported seeing them.”

“Where did they come from?” Leslie’s voice shook.

Derek guided her to a path curving down a long slope. The roar of the river grew louder.

“There are lots of stories. I heard they were left behind when the monks abandoned the place. Legend has it that when they appear, death is near.”

A shudder ran through her.

Derek tugged Leslie’s hand. “Come on.”

The path widened, and a beach came into view. The outcropping of white sand had a collection of green picnic tables, red barrel trash cans, and fire pits along the river’s edge. Around the beach, thick brush covered the shore with limbs from pine trees dipping into the water. The sun sparkled on the gentle waves.

Leslie followed him along the shoreline until they came to a rusted iron gate with a No Trespassing sign secured to it. The sign, decorated with crosses and swirls, marked the entrance to The Abbey grounds. Stepping through the open gate, she peered up at the imposing structure.

Two spires of white limestone, shaped like the tip of a sword, cut into the blue sky. A structure of red brick and limestone, the front windows and doors secured with loose scraps of plywood, sat in the middle of a field of high grass. The squat stone building of cloisters behind The Abbey remained intact. The Benedictine monks, who had run the seminary and were responsible for the preparation of future priests, demolished the dormitories, refectory, and library after they abandoned the site. The rest remained because, in the South, it was considered bad luck to tear down churches.

“Some place, huh?” Derek let go of her hand and ventured across the high grass.

A wave of panic shot through Leslie.

The grounds, unkempt after years of neglect, were a hodgepodge of weeds, overgrown trees, and vines.

Why would people come here at night?

“You ever wonder why those monks just up and left?” Leslie was uncomfortable with the eerie quiet. Even the birds had stopped singing. “Everyone says they got a better offer from the seminary in New Orleans, but it seems funny a bunch of people abandoned the place for no reason.”

Derek parted a thick pile of tall grass with his shoe. “My mom told me it was falling apart when she was a kid, and the Archdiocese didn’t have the money to fix it. So, they packed up the school and sent the monks and all the staff to New Orleans.”

“I read once that the structure dates back to the early 1800s, when the Devereaux family built it as a private church.” Leslie eyed the empty belfry atop one of the square-shaped towers. “You’d think they’d want to save it.”

Derek nudged her with his elbow. “Maybe the ghost drove them away.”

Beau’s tale had been in the back of her mind the whole time, but Derek’s comment spooked the crap out of her. “By ghost, do you mean the lady in white?”

“Yep.” He scanned the land around them. “They say she appears when the moon is full or during storms.”

The thought of being alone in such a disturbing place terrified her. “Have you ever seen the ghost?”

Derek searched the thick foliage ahead of them. “Nah. I’ve never seen anything.”

Granite steps appeared as they drew near the entrance.

Leslie kicked herself for letting him talk her into coming to this place. “What about the wild dogs? Have you seen them around The Abbey?”

“Not to worry, love, I’ll protect you from ghosts, wild dogs, and Beau Devereaux.” He climbed the steps, encouraging her to join him. “But I have to draw the line at your mother. There’s no way I’m taking her on in a fight.”

On the porch, beneath the cracked and chipped stone arch above the doors, she waited while Derek wrestled with the plywood covering the entrance. Despite the creep factor, the lush green trees surrounding them had a soothing effect. Leslie breathed in the fresh pine scent and mossy aroma of the tall grass. Then a fly zipped past her face.

Thud.

She turned and discovered Derek had pushed a large piece of plywood securing the door out of the way, leaving a nice-sized gap to crawl through.

“How did you do that?”

Derek held the plywood to the side for her. “The loose boards have been rigged to open easily.”

Leslie dipped her head and looked through the doorway. “You sure it’s safe?”

“I wouldn’t bring you here if it wasn’t, love.”

His smile won over her fears.

Once inside, it took a moment for her eyes to adjust. Pinpoints of light shone on a floor covered with clumps of debris. In the roof, thousands of holes, some big and some small, littered the space between the bare beams where parts of plaster had fallen away. Birds’ nests of light-colored hay and twigs nestled against blackish beams and shadowy eaves, creating a patchwork design on the ceiling. It reminded Leslie of the quilt her grandmother had made for her as a child.

Derek appeared, shining a beam of light on the floor.

She pointed at the flashlight. “Where did you get that?”

“Me and the guys have been here a few times. We’ve stashed stuff around the place. We even have sleeping bags and water bottles socked away.”

Here she was a nervous wreck while his friends had turned it into their personal campground. Leslie’s skin crawled at the idea of spending the night in such a place. “I don’t know why you guys come here.”

He took her hand, and the beam bounced on the dusty floor. “I don’t get why you’re so freaked out. It’s just an old building. There’s nothing sinister about it.”

Beau’s words about taking her to The Abbey sent a shiver down her spine. Any girl would be at his mercy in such a place. She questioned her sister’s choices, knowing she’d been there with Beau.

Derek swung the light across the floor, shining it on dozens of rotted pews, leaves, twigs, crumbled plaster pieces from the ceiling, and skeletons of dead birds. “Lots of animals use this place as shelter. I’ve seen possums, raccoons, deer, and once, I swear I saw a black leopard running out the back.”

Leslie became even more uneasy about being in the building. “You wouldn’t happen to have a shotgun in your stash.”

“The animals don’t bother me, just the people.”

Their footfalls echoed through the vast structure as they ventured farther. Leslie kept expecting someone or something to jump out from the shadows. Her only distraction was the intricate carvings atop the arches and the paintings on the walls. Men and angels exchanged timid glances as rays of light from parting clouds shined down.

Paintings of Noah and the flood, Adam and Eve, and other Genesis stories were barely visible on the white plaster covering the arches along the central aisle. In one spot, where the roof remained intact, she could make out the image of Moses holding the Ten Commandments. His eyes stood out the most. It was like they carried the burning wrath of God.

Shivering, Leslie looked ahead to a white archway marking the entrance to the altar. The gleam of the limestone appeared pristine. She got closer to the most sacred part of the old church, and her sense of dread rose. She spun around to face the scattered, rotting pews behind them.

“What is it?” Derek asked, taking her hand.

His voice rattled inside the hollows of the church, adding to her anxiety. They stood under the circular dome where the altar had once been, and then a low growl came from a shadowy corner.

The air left her lungs. Her senses heightened. Seconds ticked by while she listened for other sounds. “Tell me you heard that.”

Derek raised his finger to his lips and nodded to a door on his left.

***

Excerpt from River of Ashes by Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor. Copyright 2022 by Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor. Reproduced with permission from Vesuvian Books. All rights reserved.

Meet Our Authors:

Alexandrea Weis

Alexandrea Weis

Alexandrea Weis, RN-CS, PhD, is an IPPY Award-Winning author, advanced practice registered nurse, and wildlife rehabber who was born and raised in the French Quarter. She has taught at major universities and worked with victims of sexual assault, abuse, and mental illness in a clinical setting at many New Orleans area hospitals. She is a member of the International Thriller Writers Organization and Horror Writers Association. The Strand Magazine said, “Alexandrea Weis is one of the most talented authors around, and in a short time her novels are destined to stand along with authors such as Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, Joyce Carol Oates, and Jeffery Deaver.”

Catch Up With Alexandrea Weis:
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StBenedictSeries.com
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Twitter – @AlexandreaWeis
Facebook – @AuthorAlexandreaWeis

Lucas Astor

Author Lucas Astor is an award-winning author and poet with a penchant for telling stories that delve into the dark side of the human psyche. He likes to explore the evil that exists, not just in the world, but next door behind a smiling face. Astor currently lives outside of Nashville, TN.

Catch Up With Lucas Astor:
LucasAstor.com
Instagram – @lucasastorauthor

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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:
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BookBub – @katharineschellman
Instagram – @katharinewrites
Twitter – @katharinewrites
Facebook – @katharineschellman

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Guest Post: David Rabin – IN DANGER OF JUDGMENT

Whew, we’ve made it to another Friday, my bookish peeps. I’m looking forward to the weekend because I get more reading done (as if a book-a-day wasn’t enough for any book lover!). As most of you know by now, I’m an avid reader and enjoy reading from a variety of different genres. Regardless of genre, my fiction preferences are for a well-crafted storyline with a believable plot as well as realistic characters. I’m in awe of the great skill and talent to craft an entrancing read, whether it’s story or character driven. Today’s guest, author David Rabin, will share how he crafted the characters in his character-driven thriller, In Danger of Judgment. I hope you’ll enjoy what he has to say and add In Danger of Judgment to your growing TBR list. Thank you, Mr. Rabin, for joining us today, the blog is now all yours.

HOW I CREATED MY CHARACTERS
By David Rabin

My slogan is “Character-Driven Crime Thrillers.” The books I’ve enjoyed most were those with characters I bonded with and wanted to spend time with, characters so charismatic and fascinating that I wanted to buy the next book so I could spend more time with them. When it came time to conceive my debut novel, I created the characters first and then crafted a story I thought would be a good vehicle for those characters.

First, an introduction to the story to get you oriented. In Danger of Judgment follows two Chicago police detectives in 1987 as they investigate a series of drug-related murders that pull them into a much larger conspiracy originating fifteen years earlier during the Vietnam War. As they dig deeper and try to prevent a drug war, they’re caught in a conflict between a drug lord and a man seeking revenge against him.

Now, on to the characters. I wanted to present multiple points of view because each character can bring something different to the story—different pieces of the plot and different personalities expressing themselves.

The two heroes are the detectives: Marcelle DeSantis and William “Bernie” Bernardelli. I wanted two protagonists because I like the dynamic of characters playing off each other. To pull it off, I had to make them different but complementary.

Marcelle is in her late twenties, brilliant and tough. As a female detective in the Violent Crimes division of the Chicago Police Department in the 1980s, she has to deal with sexism from within and without the law enforcement community.

Bernie is twenty years older than Marcelle and has been a Chicago cop for nearly three decades. He’s the book’s moral center, someone who’s seen it all and has learned to adapt to the horrors of his job without losing his sense of empathy and desire to help others. He and Marcelle have a mentor-protégé/uncle-niece relationship.

One of the lessons I learned when reading comic books during my youth was the importance of great villains. The best villains were as well-developed and interesting as the heroes, and I didn’t want a mustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash (yeah, I’m dating myself now).

The villain is Robert Thornton and he’s the subject of a six-decade backstory. He has a Ph.D., briefly taught as a college professor, served in the OSS during World War Two, spent several years with the CIA, worked as a mercenary in Asia and Africa, and when we see him in the main story, is the chief enforcer for a Southeast Asian heroin cartel. He’s erudite, articulate, unflappable, and has all the social graces, but has devolved from being a hero early in his life to being utterly amoral. I designed him to be not just a formidable adversary but to be equal parts charming and revolting.

The book has two secondary characters, again with the goal of presenting different perspectives and personalities. John Shepard is an accountant who’s a special agent with the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation division, assigned to work with Marcelle and Bernie to take down Thornton. He’s another complementary character—he suffers from tic and generalized anxiety disorders, which prevent him from developing relationships.

The other secondary character, Ed Stepanek, was the most fun to write. Ed lives in suburbia, is well-liked by his neighbors, dotes on his lawn, kills people for a living, and has a tenuous relationship with reality. Rational characters come with restrictions—once we establish their personality, we expect them to stay within certain boundaries of behavior. But with Ed, I gave myself permission to make him as plumb crazy as I wanted.

It took me twenty-eight years to get from the book’s conception to its publication, and I lived with these characters every day during that span. I’m excited to finally be able to present them to the world. ♦

In Danger of Judgment

by David Rabin

August 8 – September 2, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

In Danger of Judgment by David Rabin

 

When a covert operation during the Vietnam War ends in tragedy, one of its members resolves to kill the man who betrayed it to the enemy. Now, fifteen years later, he’ll finally get his chance.

 

Chicago, 1987. Home of mediocre baseball teams, gangs that rule the streets, and a Mexican drug cartel that supplies the city with heroin. Chicago Police Detective Marcelle DeSantis and her partner, Bernie Bernardelli, are working a series of heroin-related murders, and their job just got more complicated. The man who sabotaged the Vietnam operation, Robert Thornton, is now the chief enforcer for a Southeast Asian heroin cartel, and after fifteen years overseas he’s arrived in Chicago to eliminate the reigning cartel and seize control of the city’s heroin trade.

Racing to stop a drug war, Marcelle and Bernie don’t realize they’re about to be caught in a deadly crossfire: another man is circling in the wings, one of Thornton’s soldiers from Vietnam, who’s preparing to exact his long-sought revenge against his former mentor. He’s the last person anyone would ever suspect, and when he finally makes his move, the paths of these four people will explosively converge.

Praise for In Danger of Judgment:

In Danger of Judgment does a masterful job of juggling multiple, full-blooded characters through high-octane storytelling as they make their way to a shocking, violent ending. David Rabin is a name that is sure to become familiar among lovers of best-selling, full-throttle thrillers”

––David Shawn Klein, award-winning author of The Money

“Mr. Rabin brings a fresh set of characters to the tried-and-true crime drama, and his breezy narrative style and crackling dialogue kept me turning the pages well past my bedtime.”

––Ronald Aiken, author of Death Has Its Benefits and former president of The Atlanta Writers

“Kudos to Mr. Rabin on the high quality of the prose, the thrilling plot with a twist and surprise ending, and the extensive research that went into this novel. I highly recommend it.”

––Jill Caugherty, author of Waltz in Swing Time

“Well-developed characters drive Rabin’s taut thriller. . . . the story builds to a lengthy, sensational final act, brimming with well-earned suspense.”

––Kirkus Reviews

“A stunning debut, David Rabin’s In Danger of Judgment is an engrossing page-turner. Shocking twists barrel full-speed into an action-packed and tense crime thriller readers won’t see coming… Builds an intricately-plotted crime thriller that’s cinematic and wildly compelling. The author’s prose is concise and ‘unputdownable,’ skilled at giving a tangible sense of the time period these characters inhabit.”

––IndieReader

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Thriller
Published by: Black Rose Writing
Publication Date: August 4th, 2022
Number of Pages: 369
ISBN10: 1685130593 (Hardcover)
ISBN13: 9781685130596 (Hardcover)
ISBN13: 9781685130008 (Paperback)
ASIN: B09ZVPW2NN (Kindle edition)
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon (hardcover) | Amazon (paperback) | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | Goodreads | Black Rose Writing

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Author Bio:

David Rabin

DAVID RABIN was born in Chicago and raised in its Lakeview neighborhood. He later moved to Atlanta, where he worked as a trial lawyer for thirty-three years. Now retired, he writes fiction, runs a competitive shooting program, and competes in rifle sports, including the discipline of Highpower Rifle, in which he holds two High Master classifications. He and his wife, a former clinical social worker, have two grown sons. In Danger of Judgment is his first novel.

Catch Up With David Rabin:
DavidRabinAuthor.com
Goodreads
Facebook – @DavidRabinAuthor

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Guest Post: Laura Oles – DEPTHS OF DECEIT

Good day and welcome to another month, my bookish peeps. One of the many things I’ve discovered as I read different genres is that time and place or setting can be just as important as the characters within the story. Can you imagine To Kill a Mockingbird taking place anywhere else but the deep South in the 1930s? Or possibly reimagine the Harry Potter series without Hogwarts? Most authors choose the location of their stories with great care. Some of these locations might be based on real cities or towns and other locations may be completely fictional. The important thing is the role setting plays within the story, sometimes just a backdrop and other times a character in its own right. I’m pleased to welcome Laura Oles, author of Depths of Deceit to the blog today. Ms. Oles will be discussing with us the use of setting as character. Thank you, Ms. Oles, for joining us today, I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

Setting as Character
by Laura Oles

Like many readers, I’m often drawn to a strong setting when choosing the next book to read. Louise Penny has given readers the lovely small town of Three Pines in Quebec. Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series is steeped in setting. Jane Harper’s novels set in the Australian Outback are so vivid that I can feel the dust settling on my skin as I turn the pages.

Setting, in my opinion, is as important as any other aspect of the novel because it, too, is a character and informs the fictional world and the people living in it. It can influence the characters’ choices, increase tension or encourage delay, wrap them in comfort or punish them with force. And like so many characters, it can present itself in one light and reveal a different reality as the story unfolds.

Setting is more than the physical environment of a locale. Experiencing the sights, sounds, scents, and textures are often our first observations, but it is also found in the people, history, and countless stories that call the setting home.

My protagonist, Jamie Rush is a private investigator living in Port Alene, Texas. After growing up as the child of con-artist parents, Jamie traded her nomadic childhood for a home base in this island town. She has found refuge here, this sunny locale kissed by the Gulf Coast and frequented by day trippers and Winter Texans. It’s known as a vacation destination, but Port Alene has a darker side, and this undercurrent is where Jamie spends most of her time.

Port Alene is inspired by Port Aransas, a small beach town that serves as our favorite vacation spot. When things get hectic, we leave the Hill Country for the Gulf Coast. It’s a quick three-hour drive. We can pack the car after work on Friday and still make it to Port A for a late dinner. Over two decades, we’ve learned where to source fresh shrimp, the best time to stop at our favorite coffee shop, and made friends with a few locals who are gracious enough to share their expertise. We’ve learned the off-peak times to take the ferry (although this varies based on season) and how to avoid the army of golf carts driving down Avenue G.

Over the years, my mind began creating stories about this Gulf Coast getaway. Ideas surfaced in my mind like dolphins dancing between the ferry boats in the nearby ship channel. I took my beloved family-friendly beach retreat and created Port Alene. As I watched my kids fishing in the ocean, my mind built a new world filled with characters making deals, sharing secrets, and selling something extra at the local bait shop.

Port Alene is more a sibling than a twin to its inspiration. When creating Port Alene, I decided it would not be an exact replica of the locale I loved. Instead, I took key areas and played with them until they fit into the story. I drew my own maps of Port Alene, fashioning roads and landmarks, bars and restaurants, bait shops, and trinket traps. My protagonist needed these locations because they would prove important in her life. She just didn’t know it yet. But some of the features that make Port Aransas special–Farley boats, the Jetty, the ferry, and the ship channel–all make an appearance to show why Jamie has chosen to call this place home.

The term “island time” is meant to remind visitors to slow down and relax, to not rush unless Happy Hour at Trout Street is almost at a close. Creating a mystery series in an island town meant learning how to honor island time while also escalating the action in the story. In Depths of Deceit, Port Alene’s history is particularly important because Jamie’s latest case reminds her that she knows only a small sliver of her adopted hometown’s story. Every twist reminds Jamie that she’s still an outsider. She must prove herself all over again, and the stakes have never been higher. ♦

Depths of Deceit

by Laura Oles

July 25 – August 19, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Depths of Deceit by Laura Oles

Two sisters.

One deadly secret.

No time to lose.

PI Jamie Rush has her hands full with small-time skip-tracing and surveillance jobs in Port Alene, Texas. The work is steady, though she still struggles to make ends meet. But when her partner, Cookie, brings in a low-paying and potentially time-consuming case, Jamie takes it on out of loyalty.

Cookie’s childhood friend, Renata, needs to find her younger sister, Leah. As Jamie digs into Leah’s past, it becomes clear that the missing woman’s life was shrouded in secrets, the kind that could jeopardize those involved in the case.

To complicate matters, PI Alastair Finn has returned, and he’s willing to reclaim his town by any means necessary. Jamie has never been one to retreat, and Alastair enjoys a good fight. Sparks will fly.

A missing woman. Felonies. Finn’s return. Every twist reminds Jamie that she’s still an outsider in this town. Jamie must prove herself all over again, and the stakes have never been higher.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Female PI
Published by: Red Adept Publishing
Publication Date: May 31, 2022
Number of Pages: 292
ISBN: 9781948051859 (paperback)
ASIN: B09YJ1PNCG (Kindle edition)
Series: A Jamie Rush Mystery, #2
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | !ndigo | Goodreads 

Author Bio:

Laura Oles

Laura Oles is the Agatha-nominated and award-winning author of the Jamie Rush mystery series, along with short stories and nonfiction. With two decades of experience in the digital photography industry, Laura’s work has appeared in trade and consumer magazines, crime-fiction anthologies, and she served as a business columnist. Laura loves road trips, bookstores, and any outdoor activity that doesn’t involve running. She lives in the Texas Hill Country with her family.

Catch Up With Laura Oles:
LauraOles.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @LauraOles
Instagram – @lauraolesauthor
Twitter – @LauraOles
Facebook – @lauraolesauthor

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Guest Post: Leslie Wheeler – WOLF BOG

Welcome to another Friday, book people. I hope everyone is staying cool during this global heat wave. As usual, I’ve been doing quite a bit of re-reading (hey, I re-read whenever I have difficulty reading other new-to-me books). One of the books I re-read included a recipe for a Krispy Kreme Doughnut Bread Pudding. I’m not a cook or baker by any stretch of the imagination, but this is one recipe that I may actually make, calories be damned. I don’t often read about meals in books and crave the foods mentioned, but that particular recipe piqued my interest. Food, drink, and reading seem to go quite well together in my opinion. Today’s guest, Leslie Wheeler, is the author of the recently released Wolf Bog. Ms. Wheeler will be sharing her thoughts on food in fiction. So grab something to eat and drink, sit back, and let’s learn about the uses of food in mystery fiction from one author’s perspective. Thank you, Ms. Wheeler, for stopping by and sharing with us today.

The Uses of Food in Mystery Fiction
By Leslie Wheeler

Food and drink figure prominently in some mysteries, especially cozies, but thrillers too—I’m thinking of the mouth-watering meals served up at the Three Pines café in Louise Penny’s books. But not so much in my books—that is, until my latest novel, Wolf Bog. Why, I wondered, is there so much eating and drinking in this book? Is it simply that my characters have become hungrier and thirstier over time? The thirst I can understand, because it’s August in the Berkshires of my story and very hot, but not the hunger. This got me thinking about the role meals can play in mystery fiction.

One obvious function is to give characters something to do while they have a Q and A. An example of this in Wolf Bog is the scene where my main character, Kathryn Stinson, questions the former girlfriend of a teenager, whose body is found in a bog after disappearing more than forty years ago. They meet for lunch at a restaurant called “The Laughing Cow” in Vermont. Kathryn is impressed by how well the ex-girlfriend—now in her sixties—has aged, which she attributes to a healthy diet. So, when the woman orders a vegan burger with a side salad, Kathryn orders the exact same meal. And since “We are what we eat,” as the saying goes, the meal in this scene also reveals something about the character who orders it.

Another function of food—whether consumed or simply observed—is to offer comfort to characters at difficult times. Because the teenager found in the bog was someone she loved and lost, Charlotte Hinkley is especially shaken by the discovery. She finds peace in her vegetable garden with its perfect Big Girl tomatoes. But when a pesky rodent—or so she thinks—takes a bite out of not just one tomato, but all of them, that peace is destroyed. Charlotte has to ask a friend to get her the fruit from a local store, so she can make Tomatoes Provencal for a party she’s having. Yet the trouble doesn’t end there. The party itself is ruined when a friend’s dog that’s been staying with Charlotte accidentally eats the poison put out for the rodents and has to be rushed to the local veterinary hospital. In this instance, a comfort food creates unexpected complications for several characters.

With the addition of poison, food and drink become weapons. But there are less obvious ways of weaponizing food and drink. An example of this is the dinner party that Wally, Charlotte’s estate attorney and longtime friend, throws for her and Paula, a middle-aged woman who claims to be the daughter Charlotte gave up for adoption years ago. Wally is a gourmet cook with a state-of-the-art kitchen and a sophisticated palate. The menu he plans is calculated to appeal to Charlotte and him, but not necessarily Paula, whose palate is more plebian. When he offers runny Brie and pate for appetizers, Paula tells him to put the Brie back in the fridge. She mistakes the pate for cold meatloaf, doesn’t like the taste of it, and washes it down with another daiquiri. As for the meal itself, the butterflied leg of lamb and the roast potatoes go down okay, but the arugula salad stings her mouth like nettles. Nervous and out of her depth, she eats and drinks too much, including two servings of chocolate cake that Wally himself describes as “positively decadent.” By the end of the evening, Paula has made herself sick and loses her dinner. The whole meal is Wally’s way of getting back at Paula, who he believes is trying to take advantage of Charlotte. It’s also meant to add a bit of humor to the book, depending on how you view Paula, who can be pretty obnoxious at times.

Returning to the role of food in Q and A scenes, it can be used to show how stressed one or more of the participants in these sessions becomes. This is evident in a scene where Kathryn’s lover’s mother invites her to a ladies-night-out at a local tavern. Although the purpose of the get-together is for the lover’s mother to confess to doing something she shouldn’t have, she becomes so uncomfortable that she cuts her burger into tiny pieces that she lifts to her mouth, but almost immediately puts back on the plate, leaving most of her dinner uneaten.

Yet if food can be used to show distress and other negative feelings, it can also be used to express love. Every weekend when Kathryn Stinson returns to the Berkshires, she finds her romantic partner, Earl Barker, making dinner—one night he’s grilling a beautiful piece of salmon, another night, it’s a fat, juicy round of kielbasa.

Readers, what are some memorable meals in books that you have either read or written? ♦

Wolf Bog

by Leslie Wheeler

July 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Wolf Bog by Leslie Wheeler

It’s August in the Berkshires, and the area is suffering from a terrible drought. As wetlands dry up, the perfectly preserved body of a local man, missing for forty years, is discovered in Wolf Bog by a group of hikers that includes Kathryn Stinson. Who was he and what was his relationship with close friend Charlotte Hinckley, also on the hike, that would make Charlotte become distraught and blame herself for his death? Kathryn’s search for answers leads her to the discovery of fabulous parties held at the mansion up the hill from her rental house, where local teenagers like the deceased mingled with the offspring of the wealthy. Other questions dog the arrival of a woman claiming to be the daughter Charlotte gave up for adoption long ago. But is she really Charlotte’s daughter, and if not, what’s her game? Once again, Kathryn’s quest for the truth puts her in grave danger.

Praise for Wolf Bog:

“Wheeler’s deep sense of place—the Berkshires—illuminates a deftly woven plot and a quirky cast of characters that will keep you glued to the pages until the last stunning revelation. It’s always a pleasure to be in the hands of a pro.”

Kate Flora, Edgar and Anthony nominated author

“When a long-lost teenager turns up dead, a cold case turns into hot murder. A deliciously intriguing Berkshire mystery.”

Sarah Smith, Agatha Award-winning author of The Vanished Child and Crimes and Survivors

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Amateur Sleuth/Suspense
Published by: Encircle Publishing
Publication Date: July 6, 2022
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN10: 164599385X (paperback)
ISBN13: 9781645993858 (paperback)
ASIN: B0B57VTWS2 (Kindle edition)
Series: A Berkshire Hilltown Mystery, #3
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Leslie Wheeler

An award-winning author of books about American history and biographies, Leslie Wheeler has written two mystery series. Her Berkshire Hilltown Mysteries launched with Rattlesnake Hill and continues with Shuntoll Road and Wolf Bog. Her Miranda Lewis Living History Mysteries debuted with Murder at Plimoth Plantation and continue with Murder at Gettysburg and Murder at Spouters Point. Her mystery short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. Leslie is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and a founding member of the New England Crime Bake Committee. She divides her time between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Berkshires, where she writes in a house overlooking a pond.

Catch Up With Leslie:
www.LeslieWheeler.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @lesliewheeler1
Twitter – @Leslie_Wheeler
Facebook – @LeslieWheelerAuthor

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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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Guest Post: Colleen Coble – EDGE OF DUSK

Monday greetings, my fellow book lovers. Have you ever given any thought as to why some fictional characters are memorable and much loved? Think about it. People are still reading Jane Austen and falling in love with Mr. Darcy. I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to the fandom of the Harry Potter world! Some characters are much more than the personas presented on the page, they come to life in the minds of the readers and live on for quite some time. I’m pleased to welcome back to the blog, Colleen Coble, author of the recently released Edge of Dusk. Ms. Coble will be sharing with us her thoughts on the tangibility of fictional characters from an author’s perspective. Thank you, Ms. Coble, for returning to visit with us. I look forward to learning more about your view on this matter.

Characters Are Real—At Least to Authors
by Colleen Coble

Okay, I admit it. My characters are real. No really. They have to be real, or they wouldn’t take over the story the way they do. I can be typing along with a destination for my character in mind. The next thing I know she’s off doing something I had NO IDEA would happen. Before I was a writer, I heard authors say crazy stuff like that and thought it was a publicity ploy. Um, no. It’s real. Characters have minds of their own, and I often can’t fathom them.

The very best characters live on it in the minds of readers. My long-time readers’ favorite character is Bree from the Rock Harbor series. She eats pistachios and has a search-and-rescue dog. She is crazy about Elvis’s music. She lives in a restored lighthouse on Superior’s south shore. I had so many requests for more books about more Rock Harbor novels that I decided to craft a brand-new series set in the U.P. The first in the Annie Pederson series is Edge of Dusk.

The main character is Annie Pederson, a law enforcement ranger in a national forest up there. And I really like her, but that didn’t keep me from putting her in terrible difficulties, but I did feel a twinge of regret. And really, part of the trouble is her own fault. She veered off into new directions and I had no choice but to follow. She can’t blame me for the mess she’s made of everything. I told her I was washing my hands of it all.

Now you see why authors are thought to be a little demented. We talk to people in our heads. Mostly because we’re alone all day with a computer and it’s either talk to our characters or to ourselves. And since Covid, we need them even more than we ever did. I hope that makes for an even deeper, more meaningful dive into character than usual, but I’m relying on you to tell me whether I achieved it or not!

Do you have a favorite character you think about all the time?

Edge of Dusk

by Colleen Coble

July 11 – August 5, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Edge of Dusk by Colleen Coble

Even though secrets lie off the coast of Rock Harbor, the truth will set Annie Pederson free—if it doesn’t kill her first.

Nine-year-old Annie Pederson’s life changed the night her sister was kidnapped. The two had been outside playing on a dock, and Annie never forgave herself for her role in her sister’s disappearance. Twenty-four years later and now a law enforcement ranger, Annie is still searching for answers as she grieves a new loss: the death of her husband and parents in a boating accident.

But Annie and her eight-year-old daughter, Kylie, aren’t the only people in the town of Rock Harbor whose lives have been marred by tragedy. While managing the property around the Tremolo Resort and Marina she inherited, Annie discovers a dead body floating in the cold Superior surf and begins to work with the sheriff’s office to tie the death to a series of other mysterious reports in the area.

At the same time, her first love, Jon Dustan, returns after nine years away, reigniting the town’s memory of a cold case he’d been suspiciously linked to before he left to pursue his orthopedic residency. For the sake of her investigation and her heart, Annie tries to stay away. But avoiding Jon becomes impossible once Annie realizes she is being targeted by someone desperate to keep secrets from the past hidden.

In this new series, bestselling romantic-suspense author Colleen Coble returns to one of her most beloved towns, where familiar faces—and unsolved cases—await.

Book Details:

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: July 12th 2022
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 078525370X (ISBN13: 9780785253709)
Series: Annie Pederson #1
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christianbook.com | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble is a USA Today bestselling author best known for her coastal romantic suspense novels, including The Inn at Ocean’s Edge, Twilight at Blueberry Barrens, and the Lavender Tides, Sunset Cove, Hope Beach, and Rock Harbor series.

Connect with Colleen online at:
colleencoble.com
Instagram – @ColleenCoble
Twitter – @ColleenCoble
Facebook – @ColleenCobleBooks

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