Book Blast: THE EMPTY ROOM by Sarah J. Clemens

Mystery / Romance

Date Published: July 23, 2016

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Rain soaked and dreary, it was a 1901 abandoned Victorian that Dean and Elizabeth hoped would fulfill their dreams, even if the town of Eastbrook, Maine was trapped under a blanket of fog. The first neighbor they meet in town dashes those dreams when he raises a bizarre question: what happened to the last person who lived in their house? Under mounting pressure from the residents of Eastbrook to stop questioning the past, Dean and Elizabeth are driven deeper into the history of the house, and the town. When they discover what happened in Eastbrook, keeping the secret could save their lives, but uncovering the truth might be worth the risk.

A gripping psychological mystery, The Empty Room takes readers on a cat-and-mouse game where some secrets are better off hidden.


A knock pounded loudly on the door for a second time and Elizabeth involuntarily let out a small shriek. She frantically put her hand over her mouth, but the sound had already escaped and there was little doubt that Mrs. Jacobs had heard. 

“Well.” Dean sighed, as he stood up from the crouched position he’d been holding beside the window. “Now we answer the door because you apparently have Tourette’s.” 

As Elizabeth slowly stood up beside him, a third round of loud pounding ensued. Elizabeth jumped at the sudden noise and hit her head against Dean’s lower lip. His head jolted back from the force and he winced. 

“Oh my God.” She leapt forward toward him. “Are you OK?”

Dean reached up his hand and clenched his jaw, pulling it from left to right. He pointed toward the door. “Great, first I get physically abused, now I’m going to get emotionally abused. And I still have no underwear.”

He finally came to the door and put his hand on the doorknob. He looked back at Elizabeth. “Just for the record, you are the worst covert ops partner ever.” With a specific intent in mind, he quickly turned the doorknob and ripped open the door as fast as he could. A startled Mrs. Jacobs stumbled backwards.

“You almost scared me to death,” she asserted, quickly brushing her dress to remove the imaginary wrinkles that had not formed from the unexpected greeting.

He stepped outside and grabbed Elizabeth by the wrist to pull her out of the house with him. “Well, follow-through has always been my problem. Look, we were just headed out the door and into town so we’re going to have to finish this later.” He reached for the doorknob and slammed the door behind him. 

But Mrs. Jacobs did not move. Other than the slight falter when he opened the door, she held her stance and stared at the closed door. Dean had a feeling it was not the first or the last time she had ever had a door closed in her face. With their backs to the old woman, the couple took several steps toward the edge of the porch.  

“You live next door, right? We’ll stop by. Oh, the fun we’ll have.” Still holding on to Elizabeth’s wrist, he pulled her past Mrs. Jacobs and down the steps.

“Where are we going?” Elizabeth whispered.

Mrs. Jacobs turned to face them. Her hands clasped in a folded position in front of her. 

“We’re going to see if we can find out what happened in that room, what happened in that house. Someone here knows. Everyone in this town can’t be as bad as Mrs. HaWiggins back there,” he whispered back.

 About the Author

Sarah J. Clemens is the author of the debut mystery novel, The Empty Room. She started writing The Empty Room in 2008 and formed her own imprint in 2016 called Off the Page Publishing. She started out her professional career working as a news assistant for her local newspaper before finding a passion for the law and pursued an education in criminal justice. In addition to writing fiction, she is also a legal assistant with an Associate of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with an emphasis in Human Services. Sarah was born in California and now lives and works in Boise, Idaho. She has the same sarcastic sense of humor as the characters in her books, and she has an unparalleled love for animals.

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2016 Book 383: A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS by Mae Clair

A Thousand Yesteryears (Point Pleasant #1) by Mae Clair 
ISBN: 9781601837806 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781601837776 (ebook)
ASIN: B0138NHJ4A (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 26, 2016 
Publisher: Lyrical Underground

Behind a legend lies the truth…

As a child, Eve Parrish lost her father and her best friend, Maggie Flynn, in a tragic bridge collapse. Fifteen years later, she returns to Point Pleasant to settle her deceased aunt’s estate. Though much has changed about the once thriving river community, the ghost of tragedy still weighs heavily on the town, as do rumors and sightings of the Mothman, a local legend. When Eve uncovers startling information about her aunt’s death, that legend is in danger of becoming all too real…

Caden Flynn is one of the few lucky survivors of the bridge collapse but blames himself for coercing his younger sister out that night. He’s carried that guilt for fifteen years, unaware of darker currents haunting the town. It isn’t long before Eve’s arrival unravels an old secret—one that places her and Caden in the crosshairs of a deadly killer…

Point Pleasant, West Virginia was a small idyllic town on the river across from Ohio until tragedy struck before Christmas in 1967. Just weeks before, there were multiple sightings of the presumed supernatural creature known as the Mothman. After the Silver Bridge collapsed and dozens of lives were lost, many in the town felt the Mothman was a sign of the coming disaster. Eve Parrish was only a child and her entire life was turned upside down, losing her best friend and father in the collapse. After the burials, Eve’s mother quickly moved them to Pennsylvania. Eve and her mother never even returned to visit Eve’s paternal aunt or check on the status of the Parrish Hotel. Eve returns to Point Pleasant after her aunt’s death with the goal of selling the Parrish family home and the hotel. Her return coincides with new sightings of the Mothman and several murders. Her family’s home is vandalized and she’s not sure where to turn. Fortunately, her best friend’s brothers are still in town. Maggie had a crush on Caden Flynn as a child and finds herself still attracted to him as an adult. Caden resigned from the local sheriff’s department and now works as a contractor. He’s quickly hired by Eve to repair the Parrish family home. This once idyllic town is now devastated by the loss of a riverboat manufacturer and highway construction that seems to have left the town behind. Eve naturally turns to Caden to help work out what happened to her family’s home and uncover the secrets left behind by her aunt. Along the way she also uncovers Caden’s secrets. Is it possible for Eve and Caden to uncover the whole truth and past secrets, no matter where it might lead?

I found A Thousand Yesteryears to be a fast-paced read. Ms. Clair blends elements of the supernatural, paranormal, folk legend, suspense, and a bit of romance. There’s a lot more going on in this story than just the repairs to the Parrish home and a return home. There are bad guys, worse guys, and secrets people are willing to kill to protect. There’s also tons of family angst and drama with both the Parrish and Flynn families. As a West Virginia native, I’m always interested in reading stories set in West Virginia or written by West Virginians. The Mothman legend is viewed by some as the local equivalent of the Loch Ness monster and by others, as just a folk legend told to keep wary kids out of certain areas. Is there any truth to the Mothman stories? I don’t know but A Thousand Yesteryears provided a nice twist to this local legend and tied it, as many locals did, to the tragic Silver Bridge collapse. A Thousand Yesteryears is the first book in the Point Pleasant series by Ms. Clair and the second book, A Cold Tomorrow is set to release in December 2016. I’m looking forward to reading more in this series so I can find out what happens next.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Read an excerpt:

“The phone might be on the fritz,” Eve said as she carried Doreen Sue’s glass to the sink. “I’ve been getting a lot of strange calls with screeches and clicks. I had the phone company check it out, but they couldn’t find anything wrong with the line.” Whatever their verdict, she still wasn’t convinced the odd calls weren’t the fault of an electronic malfunction.

“Screeches and clicks?” Doreen Sue paused mid-dial, pressing the receiver to her chest. “I’ve heard that happens sometimes when a family member dies.”

Eve rinsed the glass with water, then set it in the drain board to be washed later. Something cold slithered down her back. “Excuse me?”

“Your Aunt Rosie.” Doreen Sue bobbed her head as if the answer was obvious. “She might be trying to communicate with you.”

Eve started to laugh, then quelled the instinctive reaction when she noted Doreen Sue’s expression. The woman wasn’t joking.

“Spirits often try to converse through electricity and everyday instruments like TVs, lights, and phones. I know it sounds silly, but I follow all of that stuff…horoscopes, psychics, UFO theories.” A wave of her hand said she took only half of it seriously. “I’ve seen some strange things around here, especially by the TNT. I’ve never seen the Mothman, but I remember reading an article about a medium who was convinced her dead husband tried to communicate with her through phone calls. She heard things like amplifier feedback, insect noises, and strange clicks whenever she answered the phone.”

Eve felt her face drain of color. After talking to a disembodied “thing” in an igloo at the TNT, she should have no problem believing her dead aunt was reaching out to her. She’d sat in the living room only days after arriving and voiced that wish aloud. Aunt Rosie, I wish I understood what was going on. I wish there was some way you could talk to me. The phone calls had started not long afterward. Fluke or answer to her request?

Meet the author:

Mae Clair has been chasing myth, monsters, and folklore through research and reading since she was a child. In 2013 and 2015, she journeyed to West Virginia to learn more about the legendary Mothman, a creature who factors into her latest release.

Mae pens tales of mystery and suspense with a touch of romance. Married to her high school sweetheart, she lives in Pennsylvania and numbers cats, history and exploring old graveyards among her passions. 

Look for Mae on her website at

Connect with the author:   Website  |  Twitter  |  Google+  |  Facebook 

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Book Blast: THE BEST OF FAMILIES by Harry Groome

Contemporary Fiction

Date Published:  May 2016

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The Best of Families is the revelatory midlife memoir of a Philadelphia socialite, Francis Hopkinson Delafield. Uncomfortable with the mores of one of the city’s oldest families, Fran begins his story the summer after he graduates from prep school, when he dutifully marries his pregnant French Canadian girlfriend only to have her disappear within months of their marriage. Disillusioned and angry at the whole world, Fran quits college and enlists in the army. He is badly wounded in a war that no one seems to know or care about, and upon returning home from Vietnam, he is confronted with navigating the roiled waters of a second marriage while both his parents and his wives hold secrets that alter his life forever.

Praise for The Best of Families:

“With wit and compassion, The Best of Families captures perfectly the floundering of WASP society at mid-20th century. Trapped in the empty rituals of an upper crust that is well past its sell-by date, young Fran Delafield struggles to free himself from family and tradition. Love, the war in Vietnam and fatherhood turn out to be his path to an authentic life, and his salvation. Harry Groome interweaves romance and tragedy in this lively, evocative novel.” — Rebecca Pepper Sinkler, former Editor of the New York Times Book Review

“…a heartfelt, captivating read, packed with familial politics and strife.” — Kirkus Reviews

 “A wonderful, fascinating, tragic and ultimately redemptive story that begs to be told.” — Ellen Lesser, author of The Shoplifter’s Apprentice

“Not only is The Best of Families a page-turner, but the story truly moved me, and haunts me still.” — Chase Twichell, author of Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been: New & Selected Poems

 “…a great read that makes a convincing and timeless case for the power of the individual—the power to build your own happiness out of the unwieldy materials you’ve been handed.” — David Ebenbach, author of Into the Wilderness

“One of the great pleasures of life is a good book that tells a story so compelling that when you put the book down, you can’t wait to pick it up again. For me, The Best of Families is such a book…(it) blew me away with its believable razor-sharp dialogue and compelling plot…” — Len Lear, editor, the Chestnut Hill Local


My Family; Our Story

Mark Twain once wrote, “In Boston they ask, how much does he know? In New York, how much is he worth? In Philadelphia, who were his parents?”

As a Philadelphian I’ll answer that provocative question this way: My name is Francis Hopkinson Delafield Jr.—Fran to most everyone—and I was born into one of the city’s oldest families, a family of Social Register–registered blue bloods who were born on third base but thought we’d gotten there by hitting a triple. Without a doubt, we Delafields are a nest of good old-fashioned WASPs: unimaginative, out-of-touch, sporting Bermuda shorts, bow ties, and Capezios…well, the list goes on and on, but I think old Mr. Twain would get the picture. And, although it goes well beyond what he asked, of course we’re all products of private school educations. Every entitled one of us.

What’s more, having learned how my connection with my parents—I don’t know the proper term for it: biological, cultural, spiritual, genetic?—has shaped my life, I understand why my sister, Heather, always says that everything that takes place in our parents’ circle of friends is tribal. And over time I’ve gotten a better grip on why it’s easier for them to stay rooted in the past than to face the changes the future might bring, certainly the kind of changes that I’ve forced my parents to accept.

Heather also was the person who thought it would be a good idea for me to confront my past rather than sweep it under the rug the way I do most things. Write it all down, is what she said—hence this midlife memoir, or whatever you might choose to call it. She thought it might help me understand, maybe even help me forgive, a lot of what’s happened in our family, and from this I guess you can tell that, as uncomfortable as parts of this will be for me to tell, Heather thought it might heal some old family wounds, maybe even help me learn some things I needed to know.

So to begin, a little bit of background.

In 1941, just before my father went off to the war, we moved to 1212 Poor Richard’s Lane in Chestnut Hill, to a cinderblock-and-glass house that Dad had designed and which Mom and he have ever since referred to as “Twelve-Twelve,” as if it were a Newport mansion or a building of similar historical significance. With the 23 trolley clanking up and down its cobblestone main street, Chestnut Hill, both fashionable and unhurried in its pace, could easily have been a Hollywood set, even a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover. It was there that Mom saw our family as members of the “impoverished aristocracy” and viewed herself as one of Philadelphia’s grandes dames. And, after the war, it was where she and Dad entertained their well-heeled friends, rolling back the worn rug in the living room and drinking and smoking and dancing into the wee hours of the morning to the big bands—Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw—as though they never again would have a care in the world.

But Twelve-Twelve is more than just a place where my parents entertained. It’s where Heather and I grew into our teens, doing pretty much everything that was expected of us. Maybe even a little more. Heather was a high-honor student, president of her class, and captain of the field hockey team at the nearby girls’ school. I started at the local day school for boys but, after eighth grade, went away to the Episcopal School in New Hampshire, just like my grandfather, father, and Mom’s brother, my uncle Robert Peltier, had before me.

I think that’s enough history and will begin my story in 1955. I was eighteen, had just graduated from Episcopal, and was on my way to a summer job in Quebec with my closest friend, Potter Morris. As you will see, this trip, as brief as it was, set the cornerstone for all that follows and altered my life forever. Please know that many of the revelations that I uncover here—several of which my family have jealously kept secret from the outside world—may come as a surprise to you because a number of them aren’t exactly what you’d expect of a family like mine.

Francis H. Delafield, Jr.

September 1968

About the Author
Harry Groome is the author of the novels Wing Walking and Thirty Below and the award-winning Stieg Larsson parody The Girl Who Fished with a Worm. Harry was a finalist for the William Faulkner Short Story Awards and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His short stories, poems, and articles have appeared in dozens of magazines and anthologies, including Gray’s Sporting Journal, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Descant, and Detroit Magazine. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and holds an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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2016 Book 239: THE EMPTY ROOM by Sarah J. Clemens

The Empty Room by Sarah J. Clemens
ISBN: 9780997619201 (paperback)
ISBN: 2940153032832 (ebook)
ASIN: B01FPRS72A (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 23, 2016 
Publisher: Off the Page Publishing

The small town of Eastbrook, Maine seemed like the kind of close-knit community where newlyweds Dean and Elizabeth Montgomery could begin their lives together, and the 1930s Victorian seemed like the house they’d always dreamed of owning. The only condition for purchasing the property was that it was sold in “as-is” condition. But when the couple arrived in Eastbrook, they received anything but a warm welcome from the local residents. And when they realize that as-is condition meant that the previous owner of the house had left every worldly possession behind, the dream of the small town life starts to take a mysterious turn. Day after day, Dean and Elizabeth uncover more truths than they could have ever imagined, or ever wanted to know about the secrets that were hidden in the small town of Eastbrook. And as the neighbors become growingly hostile with every encounter, this young couple searches furiously to uncover what the residents in this town are trying to hide. What they find instead is that the home they thought they were getting a good deal on had a much higher price than they could have ever known, and that secrets are better off hidden.

Dean and Elizabeth Montgomery are newlyweds embarking on a new adventure. A new town, a new home, and a new start in life with hopefully a growing family. Their new home is ideal from all appearances, but looks can be deceiving in The Empty Room by Sarah J. Clemens.

Dean and Elizabeth met in Chicago and had a whirlwind romance. After getting married, they decide to relocate to a small town in Maine. They arrive in Maine to find their home is fully furnished with the previous owner’s belongings. Excited to be starting a new life in a new town, Elizabeth is disappointed by the reaction from the town’s inhabitants. No one openly acknowledges them except with oblique references to not delve too deep into hidden secrets. Eliminating the negativity she’s receiving around town, Elizabeth decides to focus on the house. She and Dean explore and find that each room is lovingly furnished, except for one room, an empty room. Why is that particular room empty? The more Dean and Elizabeth try to uncover the mystery of the empty room, the more strange things become around town. What is the secret of the house and that empty room?

I found The Empty Room to be a relatively fast-paced and easy read. I enjoyed the pop culture references, such as Dean calling his elderly female neighbor “Mrs. HaWiggins.” The Empty Room combines elements of a mystery, psychological suspense, and much more all in one quick read. (No, I’m not going to reveal the more…read the story and discover it for yourself.) If you’re looking for something a little different to read then you may want to grab a copy of The Empty Room to read while wiling away the hours on a lazy sunny day.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book for review purposes via Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

The car grumbled to a stop at the end of the gravel driveway. The three-day car trip was finally over. The gas station food and bathroom stops were all behind them. They were home. The house might have been filled with someone else’s belongings, but they owned it now.

The house looked like a postcard from the outside. Small shrubs lined each side of the driveway as it suspiciously winded its way to the front porch. The grass was wet with dew after the recent rain.

As though looking at a piece of abstract art, Dean and Elizabeth both leaned forward in their seats toward the dash and squinted from inside the window of the car. Their eyes moved from left to right, making sure to take in every detail that first met their view.

“It’s gorgeous.” Elizabeth peered out from beneath the windshield.

With her eyes squinted and her mouth opened slightly, she studied every feature of architecture as though the house would greet her with an exam before allowing her to enter. She broke her concentration from the house and pressed her hand to the passenger side window, looking up and down to visually imprint every detail that awaited.

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Book Blast: ALAS, SHE DROWNED by Monica Knightley

Alas, She Drowned by Monica Knightley
Publication Date:  April 12, 2016
Genre:  Cozy Mystery

Murder. Betrayal. Duplicity.

When ex-novice nun, turned steamy romance writer, Maggie O’Flynn moves to the charming village of Stratford Upon Avondale to open a tea room she expects plenty of murder, betrayal, and duplicity. On the stages of the town’s renowned Shakespeare Festival. But when a theater critic is found murdered on the town’s riverbank and the prime suspect turns out to be the sexy bookshop owner Maggie has had her eye on, she takes matters into her own hands. Will she be able to dig through the layers of betrayal and duplicity to find the true murderer before that handsome bookseller, Nate Larimer, finds himself behind bars? With the help of her loud, brash, spitfire of a friend, Gina Mattucci, Maggie plans to do just that.

With a bit of Shakespeare, copious amounts of tea, and a faux-English setting to rival anything the real England has to offer, Alas, She Drowned is the first book in The Stratford Upon Avondale mystery series. Lovers of cozy mysteries will find a cozy home in Stratford Upon Avondale.

Read an excerpt:

As I placed the sandwich board advertising, “Authentic English Cream Teas, $7.99”, outside my twee tea room I came to a realization. In the past two weeks alone, I’d had all the murder, mayhem, scandal, and treachery I could handle.

When I’d moved from my home in Philadelphia to this small town four months earlier I had no idea it was such a hotbed of scandal. Murders were commonplace; duplicity abounded; treachery was to be expected.

And yet the place is bucolic beyond words. Nestled in a rural corner of a western state, it is surrounded by orchards and vineyards. But much of its claim to fame is the center of town which resembles a quaint English village, with every building seeming to have been lifted from Tudor or Victorian England. Mullioned windows, exposed timbers, bay windows, gables, and jettied top floors appear to be building code requirements.

But still, all that murder and duplicity.

Murder and duplicity that could be found on Stratford Upon Avondale’s two renowned stages. The five-month long Shakespeare festival is the town’s raison d’être.  

In my short time in the village I had already attended three plays—two Shakespeare and one production of Arsenic and Old Lace.

Yes, that was indeed plenty of murder and scandal, and the festival had just begun. 

“Morning, Maggie,” called out Mrs. Vachon from the souvenir shop three doors down the street, where she was meticulously sweeping the sidewalk. After a few days of clouds and rain, the morning sun felt warm and welcome, and I noticed Mrs. Vachon wasn’t the only merchant outside tidying up.

“Good morning.” I waved at the energetic, gray-haired woman who’d been running her shop for over forty years.

Maggie O’Flynn—I was the newbie in town. Most of the business owners in the town dedicated to all things Shakespeare and England,— despite being five thousand miles from English soil—had been here for years. Yet they all welcomed me with open arms when I purchased the Merry Wives Tea Room and settled into their town.

Meet the author:

Monica Knightley began creating compelling characters and stories at the age of three, when she had a plethora of imaginary friends, all with complete backstories. Today any characters that come knocking on the door of her imagination find themselves in one of her mysteries, young adult novels, or paranormal romances.

When not fueling her reading addiction or writing her next book, Monica loves to travel with her husband, with England being her favorite frequently visited destination, and perhaps France coming in a close second. She can’t live without perfectly steeped tea, a good bold red wine, and dark chocolate. Monica loves her time with family and friends and can never get enough of either.

Monica lives in Portland, Oregon where the frequent rainy weather is perfect for curling up with a good book and a cup of tea.

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Book Blast: KILLER PURSUIT by Jeff Gunhus


Date Published:<span font-family:="" sans-serif="" style="font-family: "garamond" ,
 January 18, 2016

<span font-family:="" sans-serif="" style="font-family: Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 14pt; line-height: When a secret webcam is found in the Georgetown bedroom of a murdered high-society call girl, everyone in Washington, DC wants the recording…especially the killer.  

After a high-society call girl is brutally murdered in her Georgetown home, investigators find two cameras hidden in the walls of her bedroom. One has its memory erased, presumably by the murderer. The second is a webcam with an encrypted connection…and no-one knows who’s on the other end. Whoever has the recordings has embarrassing leverage against some of the most powerful men in DC, not to mention a video of the murder showing the identity of the killer.

<span sans-serif="" style="font-family: "garamond" , serif; font-size: 14pt; line-height: FBI Special Agent Allison McNeil is asked by beleaguered FBI Director Clarence Mason to run an off-the-record investigation of the murder because of the murder’s similarity to a case she worked a year earlier. Allison knows the most direct path to apprehending the killer is to find the videos, but rumors that the victim’s client list may include some of Washington’s most powerful men makes her doubt the director’s motives. As she starts her investigation, she quickly discovers that she’s not the only one pursuing the recording…but that the most aggressive person racing against her might be the murderer himself.

About the Author

J<span font-family:="" sans-serif="" style="font-family: "garamond" , serif; font-size: 14pt; line-height: eff Gunhus is the author thriller and horror novels for adults and the middle grade/YA series, The Templar Chronicles. The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year-old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His books for adults have reached the Top 100 on Amazon and have been Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalists.

After his experience with his son, he is passionate about helping parents reach young reluctant readers and is active in child literacy issues. As a father of five, he leads an active lifestyle in Maryland with his wife Nicole by trying to constantly keep up with their kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel.

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Book Blitz: NO REASON FOR INSANITY by Kevin E. Hatt

Crime Mystery

Date Published: 2/12/16

No Reason For Insanity is a tale of intrigue, concentrating on the thoughts and actions of Haszard, the narrator. It is a whodunit with dark, and occasionally light humour, using lateral thinking as Haszard works through the bizarre murders to discover links. There is tension and danger throughout, plus a desperate fight for survival.

Intrigued by the bizarre events surrounding the murder of a friend, Haszard is asked by the family to look in to the matter. Against the advice of his friends, he begins making enquiries, and is disturbed when he realizes that it may well be someone he knows.
As progress is made, further events occur, endangering the life of Haszard and his friends, and he is forced to delve into the deepest recesses of his resourcefulness . . .


Walking away from the house I said nothing but had a feeling something sinister was afoot. Gerry, a non-swimmer who was terrified of water, would never go near a swimming pool, yet he’d been found in one. Wrong. Everything about this was wrong. Gerry used to joke that he only ever showered because the water in the bath was too deep, therefore him being found in a swimming pool bordered on the surreal.

Why, though, would someone want to murder a man like Gerry? He was probably the nicest man I’d ever met, never having a bad word to say about anyone. Id never heard of him being involved in any kind of conflict—nothing at all. In fact, the same went for the entire family. Sylvia was a church-going lady who involved herself with charity work, raising money for disadvantaged children, seldom going out to restaurants or the like, choosing to remain at home where she organized dinner parties for friends.

Alec’s only confrontation was on the rugby field, the young man spending the majority of his time with fiancée, Loretta, the couple enjoying their weekends in the great outdoors, rock-climbing, canoeing, and pony-trekking.

Donna, who’d not long turned twenty-one, was probably the more outgoing member of the family, although she seldom frequented nightclubs, preferring to see live bands instead. I knew that she’d recently split with a long-standing boyfriend; nevertheless, that was an amicable parting and therefore couldn’t be put forward as a motive for anyone to wish harm on the family, especially her gentle father.

The way that I saw it, there was no reason anyone should want to harm Gerry, and certainly not his loving wife Sylvia or their children, Alec and Donna.

“Haz, are you all right?” Sabrina asked as we entered the car.

I shrugged. “I’m just bothered about what Loretta said. Something’s not right about all this. We’re seeing Vicky tomorrow night, so I’ll ask her what she thinks and if there’s anything she can tell us.”

About the Author

Kevin E. Hatt is a registered medical professional and advanced life support provider at one of his local hospitals. His love of writing began at school, and continued on into his twenties. 

In nineteen eighty-four he began his medical training, and in nineteen eighty-seven began writing what is now the Haszard Narratives. They were, though, shelved when he pursued another love, that of art, and he left the medical profession in two-thousand to become a freelance art consultant, teacher, demonstrator, framer and retailer. In twenty-ten he returned to the medical profession, and also resurrected the Haszard series. He now lives in the north east of England with his wife of twenty-five years and his daughter of twenty-three.

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Book Excerpt: MARTIN DASH by Andy Bailey

Martin Dash by Andy Bailey
ISBN: 9780993296505 (paperback)
ASIN: B0104DKIL8 (Kindle edition)
Publication Date: June 20, 2015
Publisher: Bonja Books

What would it be like to have no feelings? No desire, no anger, no pleasure? Behold Martin Dash. A man who possesses stunning features that captivate all who encounter him but is also cursed with a medical condition that means he has no emotion to give in return. But one woman is convinced that there is something behind the apparently blank façade and sets out on a dark trail to uncover the haunted past that holds the key to the mystery; a journey that takes in politics, criminal finance, London’s neo-burlesque scene and, finally . . . murder. 

Martin Dash is the first book of a trilogy that relates the bizarre experiences of a young man whose life was always destined to be terrifying as well as exceptional. 

Read an excerpt:

They had only just arrived at the club, having spent a couple of hours in the bars around Soho first by way of a warm-up. Evidently they had just missed an act as the stage hands were clearing away the detritus: various lurid-coloured items of women’s underwear, feather boas, and what looked to Susan suspiciously like dildos – several large ones – again of lurid colours. There was also a reddish liquid splashed about the stage, which was now being cleared and dried up. Susan thought that must have been a hell of warm-up act – the crowd was still buzzing and there was a crackling atmosphere in the room.

The audience was an unholy mix of young professionals, out for some deviant kicks to leaven their otherwise dully shiny careers – sorry, lives; bohemian types with long ringlet hair and multi-coloured waistcoats; leather and denim-clad bikers trying to out-mean each other; genuine freaks of all shapes and sizes (the noisiest group); and a general morass of hard-core, seasoned Soho dwellers identifiable from their black clothes, white pallor and studied nonchalance.

The one thing common to all was that they were, to a man/woman/in-between, heavily drunk.

Everyone was nominally at one of the small circular tables that arced in rows around the stage and terraced back towards the bar and side walls, the last two rows being at slightly higher elevations. But the tables weren’t holding them as many were up on their feet, moving from table to table, or simply meandering about the place, entirely without purpose.

There was a heavy disco track bumping away in the background and some were swaying along; others were simply hollering and screaming randomly; and amorous couples were pawing at each other, obviously over-stimulated by what they had already seen. The whole scene pulsed with a throw-caution-to-the-wind, end-of-the-century, wild abandonment that was itself intoxicating. The numerous drinks already downed by Susan and Carol were, in any event, doing their remorseless damage but the two adventurers were also being carried along by this heady atmosphere.

They looked at each other again and simultaneously burst out laughing together.

“Wow, what a place!” shouted Susan above the din.

“It’s awesome!” shouted Carol, happily.

They clinked their glasses together and took another ill-judged glug.

Their table was a couple of rows back from the front of the stage, not centre but more towards the wall on their right as they faced the stage. As Susan’s eyes tracked along the row of tables up against the wall, she noticed that there was a larger table at the end nearest the stage that was empty (in fact, it must have been the only empty table in the place) but it was roped off with the red tasselled rope beloved of egotistical club owners the world over.

She presumed, matter-of-factly, that this must be Michael Green’s table but he didn’t appear to be in the house this evening. Through the alcoholic haze, the common sense voice told her it was obviously naïve to assume that she only had to turn up at one of his many business ventures and expect him to be sat waiting for her. But still, she was disappointed.

However, that disappointment didn’t have time to linger for, at that moment, the swell of noise suddenly increased to a roar of approbation and she spun her head towards the stage just in time to see the entrance of a sparkling, throbbing vision in a full-length red sequined fishtail dress, bare shoulders, huge cleavage, full length black satin gloves, big blond hair, stacked black eyelashes and pouting fire engine red lips – a picture of voluptuousness. 

This was The World Famous *BOB*.

Meet the author:

Andy Bailey is a British writer residing in deepest Staffordshire (‘the Creative County’ . . .) His principal claim to fame as an author (so far) is the creation of Martin Dash and his recurring theme is the absurdity and futility of human endeavour (unless you’re on double time) and his writing seeks to explore the strange motivations that drive the endlessly entertaining members of the species, homo sapiens.

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Book Excerpt: STEADY IS THE FALL by Emily Ruth Verona

Steady is the Fall by Emily Ruth Verona
ISBN: 9781612966069 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781310354557 (ebook)
ASIN: B017WXSWE8 (Kindle edition)
Publication Date: October 29, 2015
Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Holly Dorren can’t breathe. Think. Feel. Her cousin is dead. Nothing will bring him back. And nothing will ever make her whole again. 

In the days following Larry’s funeral, Holly begins to reflect on the childhood they shared. She looks for answers in both the past and the present, convinced that understanding his fascination with death might somehow allow her to cope with his absence. She doesn’t want to disappear, but already she’s fading away from the life she’s led. 

Holly knew her cousin better than anyone, she was his best friend, and yet there is still a great deal she cannot accept in their relationship. In him. In herself. She doesn’t know how to move on without him, but refusing to accept his death carries its own devastating price.

Read an excerpt:

We were in a car accident as children. I was eight at the time and could never remember the details afterwards. My cousin Larry remembered everything, even though he was two years younger than me. It might sound strange that a six-year-old would remember more than an eight-year-old, but it wouldn’t seem odd at all if you knew Larry.  

Even as the years passed and my memory of the event faded more and more, Larry’s recollection of it only grew stronger. His parents never liked that much. Neither did mine. I was the only one who ever listened with the sort of unease and appreciation that he craved. We’d sit huddled on the sofa in my living room while my mother was out and my father was upstairs. I’d hug a pillow against my chest and he’d sit on his knees, hunched forward with his hands slicing through the air as he described it all in active detail. 

Larry never called it an accident. Not once. He referred to it instead as an imperfect moment or that time in the truck. Keep in mind this was coming from a boy of six, and then eight, and then fifteen, but Larry was incredibly articulate from the very beginning. Every phrase was deliberate with him—each letter carefully chosen. With such a gift for language and grace as a speaker, my cousin should have been a better storyteller, but he wasn’t. His descriptions were clear, but for some reason Larry couldn’t milk it. He always started at the same spot—when we were in his father’s gray pickup truck, where Larry was seated in the middle between his father and me. 

Riding in that truck was really something to a couple of kids because it was the only time we didn’t have to sit in the backseat. We felt like proper adults up there in the front with the steering wheel and the dashboard. The cloth interior smelled like motor oil and old takeout. Larry loved that. He found it comforting. Nostalgic. His mother was a health nut, but his father possessed a particular fondness for anything that could be gotten from a drive-thru window. Abandoned hamburger wrappers and soda straws sat in huddled piles at our feet and we just kicked our heels together and smiled with gleaming, crooked teeth. 

It had been snowing all morning, Larry often explained, with tiny white flakes falling onto the windshield and dissolving the same as they do when they fall onto your tongue. It was still fairly early in the day, though the clouds made it seem much later. Larry’s father had promised to take us out for lunch if we helped him in emptying out the garage. It was simple enough. He’d hand us something and have us run it upstairs to Larry’s mother in the study to see if she wanted to keep it or if the item could be thrown away. Larry and I made it a game, racing one another to see who could reach his mother first. Mostly we just tied, but I think I might have managed to win a time or two. 

Most of the boxes from the garage were filled with old baby clothes and broken toys that were old enough to possibly be worth something at auction if only they had been properly maintained. Larry’s mother enjoyed finding value in the obsolete. They had a garage sale monthly for about five years. It drove Larry’s younger sisters mad because all their toys were constantly being sold before the girls were ready to part with them. They’d toss their red little heads up in the air and call it unfair. Larry called it capitalism. 

By noon we had finished with the garage and were out in the truck on our way to lunch to well-known and beloved Barkley Diner. The place had these dark brown seats, which looked like leather but weren’t, and the lights were yellow-tinted which made everything look like it was lip up by a warm, crackling fire. They served the standard fare. Burgers. Fries. Eggs. Pie. It could have been swapped out with any other diner in the country and no one would have noticed. And yet it was our very own place. The historic Barkley Diner.   

The drive only took ten minutes from Larry’s house, but to get there we had to drive along Redwood Road, which consisted of one wide lane that stretched through the woods and down beyond the park. The road was about six miles in length though we only had to travel about two of those before turning onto Wharton Avenue, which emptied into the intersection by the traffic light that sat opposite the diner. The trees, whose bare branches lurched overhead as we gazed out the window, were coated with a light brush of fresh snow. Everything seemed frozen and icy. It was the middle of October but it looked more like December. That day entered the record books as the earliest snowfall Garner County ever received. I used to like to tell my friends that in school. It made me feel knowledgeable—powerful even. It’s strange how children grasp so tightly to what they cannot make sense of, finding importance in all the wrong places. 

Both Larry and his father remembered the radio as being on that afternoon but only Larry knew the song that was playing prior to and following the accident. Stairway to Heaven. Larry was particularly proud of that little detail. After a point he even became smug about it. Stairway to Heaven. Imagine that. He claimed it started about two or three minutes before the crash and continued amidst the static on the radio until an ambulance arrived. No one bothered to turn the engine off. It just kept on playing all the way through. 

Being hit, he said, was like sitting in one of those spinning teacups at an amusement park. The other car tried to yield as it came to a fork in the road but there was ice on the pavement and so the little sedan went barreling into the left side of our truck. We spun three or four times before hitting a tree. Larry compared the impact to a violent punch in the chest. It made him dizzy and, gasping, he looked up to see that his father’s nose was cracked and the man’s mouth had set on muttering every curse that could be called upon. Then, Larry said, he turned to me. I didn’t stir when he touched my arm. Blood had begun to seep through my hair, painting the window bright red. The impact left a thin scar up near my temple, just under the hairline, from where my skull split the glass. Larry explained that his father looked me over, but was afraid to move my arms or head. My uncle then instructed his son to run over and check on the other driver. He didn’t though. He didn’t want to leave me—he couldn’t leave me. He didn’t even want to get out of the car. So Larry’s father told him to watch me and he opened the door and ran over and called to the man in the sedan. Larry just continued to sit there. Staring. He claimed he couldn’t stop staring at me as that song continued to play and his head continued to spin. It was like the teacup never stopped turning, he said. It just never stopped. 

When the paramedics arrived they took me away. Larry wanted to sit in the ambulance with me but they drove us separately, claiming my injuries to be more severe. Whether Larry’s disappointment in not being allowed to go with me came from a concern for my safety or his fascination with the blood, I’ll never know. It was probably a little of both. Afterwards he swore it was because he was worried about me. He was always a rotten liar, and since I believed him it was most likely true. Or maybe I just wanted to believe him. Too much has happened since to ever really know. 

Larry sprained his arm in the accident, but other than that there was little harm done to him. He was always disappointed about that and at first his parents took that disappointment to be displaced guilt; they thought he felt ashamed to have gotten away with barely a scratch. But really he was just disappointed that he hadn’t experienced more. Felt more. The accident wasn’t nearly enough to settle him. 

The only solid thing I could ever recall about that afternoon was how bright the lights were when they rolled me into the hospital. I looked up at those round, white lights along the ceiling and thought I was dreaming. Or dying. The lights looked hot and it stung so viscously to stare at them that I had to close my eyes. There was nothing after that. The memory just tapered off and the next thing I could recall was being back at home. 

The doctors did their work and were proud of my recovery, given that my injuries were more severe than they at first suspected. I received a concussion from hitting my head and one of my lungs collapsed in the ambulance. The latter actually served me well in later years. I was able to avoid my parent’s insistence that I join the soccer team that spring, and in high school it got me out of having to run the mile required to pass gym. The cold weather sometimes made my chest ache and I couldn’t breathe well after running, but those doctors considered me lucky. I could have died. Larry used to say that all doctors tell the parents of surviving patients that their children were lucky. He thought it was nonsense. There was nothing lucky about it. For years I thought I understood what he meant. Only later did I realize that I was wrong. 

Larry clung to the particulars of that afternoon. They mattered so much to him, and so in time they began to mean a great deal to me as well. His memories became mine. His story did, too, and for a while it looked like that was all the accident would be: a good story. Those involved recovered, even the other driver who suffered nothing beyond a split lip. No one pressed charges. No one died. The flesh healed quickly. At the time it looked as if nothing much had changed. Only later did we come to realize the extent of the damage it had done.  

My parent’s never let Larry’s father off the hook, even though it wasn’t his fault. The fact that guilt nearly drowned him became inconsequential. No one seemed to notice that it was only after the accident that he started drinking again. It didn’t matter, not to my parents. At the time I was an only child and my mother maintained that nothing ever scorched her soul like that phone call informing her that her lovely little girl had been brought to the hospital. It was the last time she ever took the trouble to care about me as a mother. In that respect, the accident also did me good. I knew from that afternoon that she loved me and I remembered it when she left my forty-five year old father for a twenty-six year old physical therapist in Florida. I remembered it when she stopped visiting. I remembered it when she stopped calling. For the rest of my childhood I had the comfort of knowing that for one day as I lay on the very verge of death, my mother truly loved me. That love was so strong that it scorched her soul. Some people might have needed more than that, but I considered it to be plenty. It was more than my father had. It’s more than my brother, who was only three when she left, was ever likely to receive. 

Larry always regretted the accident more than I did, which many thought was strange for a lot of different reasons that did not really apply. They thought he wished it hadn’t happened, but really it was what didn’t happen that disappointed him. Larry saw something in the accident—the potential for something—that he couldn’t get over. He became fascinated by it—addicted to it. The dizziness never left him and so he never stopped spinning. Instilled in him was the need to know. He was stuffed full of the cruel and compelling need to understand every aspect of it. Every vile little detail. Every curious moment. It was unfortunate really. All those years of waiting and wondering and he never shared a single answer with me, even though I was quite possibly the only one who actually wanted to understand. And he tried. He always tried to make it clear what it was he wanted to find and why it meant more to him than all the rest, but as articulate as he was, he couldn’t put it into words. It became impossible to convince any of us. Not that it really mattered when all was said and done. There was nothing worth finding in it because Larry ended up dead. It happened on a Thursday. Suicide. No one was surprised.

Meet the author:

Emily Ruth Verona is the author of the novel Steady Is The Fall. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and Cinema Studies from the State University of New York at Purchase. She is the recipient of the 2014 Pinch Literary Award in Fiction and a 2014 Jane Austen Short Story Award. Previous publication credits include work featured in Read. Learn. Write., The Lost Country, The Toast, and Popmatters. She lives in New Jersey with a very small dog.

Connect with the author:     Website     |     Twitter     |     Goodreads 

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Book Excerpt: THE CYPRESS TRAP by J.C. Gatlin

The Cypress Trap by J.C. Gatlin
ASIN: B010OPV1YE (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 16, 2015
Publisher: Blurb Publishing, Inc.

When Rayanne commandeers her husband’s weekend fishing trip, she knows it’ll take work to adjust Owen’s attitude. She has no choice. Since the tragedy, they lost so much. They need to reconnect.

Without her knowledge, Owen texts his best buddy, Daryl, to join the getaway. The three of them aren’t alone in the backwoods of Georgia, though. Owen took something that didn’t belong to him. Something that changed their lives. And now the owner wants it back. By any means — including a posse led by a killer dog.

At first, Rayanne is clueless about the item and its value. One thing becomes crystal clear: If it’s not returned, they might not make it home alive.

Read an excerpt:

Rayanne heard the kids’ voices, and she looked again at the old cars in the bottom of the ditch. The first thing that came to mind was rattlesnakes. But she knew she couldn’t think of that right now.

         She got up and headed for the rusted jeep. The hood was gone and it looked like a corpse left to rot in the sun. She glanced at the other cars. There was a hatchback with no doors. A pickup was off to one side, on blocks. The wheels had been removed and the driver’s side door thrown open and left to hang. There was a yellow Volkswagen Beetle half buried in the dirt.

         Brown and yellow weeds sprouted up between the wrecks, but the ground was hard and Rayanne knew she had no choice. She raced past the rusting jeep, watching where she stepped.

         She moved to the shell of a Volkswagen Beetle. It had two doors. She forced the passenger side open and looked into the dank interior. The overhead lining draped down like a misty shroud. Weeds had grown through the undercarriage and overtaken the floorboards. But two front seats and a long backseat remained. It could be a hiding place, she thought, and squeezed herself into the backseat. She cowered as low as she could.

         She held her breath and prayed there was nothing living inside.

         She shut her eyes and listened. The teens’ voices grew louder. They sounded like they were coming down into the hollow and she could hear Scut—or was it Roddy—say something about the cars. He sounded excited.

         Dru was farther away. Rayanne could hear her calling the dog. Perhaps she didn’t want to walk down into the dump. It didn’t matter. Rayanne knew Scut and Roddy already had.

         Their voices echoed, slipping between the cars. One of them said something about the pile of tires and the other laughed. She could hear them moving about, throwing rocks on metal remains, until they stopped right in front of the Volkswagen.

         Rayanne stopped breathing.

         “She’s hide’n here somewhere,” Scut was saying. He threw another rock and it hit the bumper. The sound reverberated through the Volkswagen, and Rayanne shivered. “Naaaah,” Roddy said. It sounded like he was walking away. “I don’t think so. She’s a woman. She ain’t gonna come down here.”

         “We’re not leav’n till we search every car.” Scut sounded like he was stepping away too. She could hear him throwing rocks at other cars now.

            Rude Roddy was saying something when one of them screamed. For a second Rayanne thought Dru had made her way down into the dump. She was surprised to learn it was Scut.

         “There’s a rattler! There’s a rattler!” Scut’s high-pitched wail echoed through the hollow, and she heard what sounded like some kind of skirmish. Perhaps an avalanche of gravel rolled down the slopes of the hollow, like marbles beneath their feet.

         “I hate snakes! I hate ’em!” Scut’s voice rapidly moved away, and it sounded as far as Dru’s now. The girl asked them what was wrong.

            They had to have climbed out of the hollow, Rayanne thought. She opened her eyes. She wanted to poke her head up, but didn’t dare.

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About the author:

Coming from a large family with five brothers, JC Gatlin grew up in Grapevine, Texas, a small town outside of Dallas. In 1999 he moved to Tampa, Florida, where he now resides. JC’s fishing trips help him breathe authenticity into his stories, which feature the rich landscapes of Texas and Florida as backdrops.

He has written a monthly column in New Tampa Style magazine and penned several mystery-suspense stories. His first, The Designated Survivor, was published in 2013. JC invites you to visit his mystery writing blog at

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