Posted in excerpt, Guest Post, suspense on February 22, 2018

Title: THE LONG LOST
Author: Tom Nixon
Publisher: CreateSpace
Pages: 418
Genre: Suspense

Synopsis

The sudden and strange disappearance of Joel Thomas brings together his ex-wife and best friend in a search for answers. As Mary and Jason seek out the truth, their quest consistently turns up more questions than clues. In another time, the story of a long-time group of college friends plays out across 30 years of history, revealing the highs and lows of a group that vowed to maintain their friendship until death. Is the answer to Joel’s mysterious departure found in a simple note sent to Mary, or is it locked somewhere back in time? Told in alternating voices and timelines, Nixon’s The Long Lost tells a story of both intrigue and suspense — along with sentimentality and introspection — as he examines the painful discoveries realized when childhood friends grow up…and grow apart.

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Guest Post

If You Just Write, You Won’t Go Wrong

When word got out that I had completed the manuscript for my first published novel, the news was met with both congratulations and questions from friends and family. The two most common sentiments were some variation of “What an achievement!” and “How did you do that?”

To both, I thought to myself, “Anyone can write a book. While appreciated, why such the fuss?” To me, writing the book was the easy part. Getting started was the difficult part.

Let me explain. As someone who has been writing for as long as I can remember, the act of writing was never something I considered to be an accomplishment in and of itself. Writing was an action, not an end. Perhaps I took for granted, all these years, how daunting the task of completing a full-length manuscript was to someone who wasn’t used to writing.

But I grew up writing. An English major in college, and a lover of creative expression of all kinds, I’ve written everything from novels to screenplays to music to children’s stories. The writing always seemed like the easy thing to do. The obstacles were getting going…and then, once completed, making sure your work would see the proverbial light of day.

But in 2017, I hadn’t written anything creatively in 20 years. It had always been a dream of mine to be a professional author. But my early endeavors were met with the reality of the extremely long odds of breaking into the business as a budding author. Manuscripts and queries submitted to publishing houses went unanswered. Drafts went unread. It was a difficult thing to get noticed — let alone get published — in the mid-1990s. But 20 years later, self-publishing platforms became ubiquitous (chief among them, CreateSpace, which I used to publish my book on Amazon.com, which enables the book to be purchased online wherever books are sold).

So distribution was no longer the main stumbling block. No. Getting started was.

Avoiding Paralysis By Analysis

Where to begin? Now dormant for two decades plus, my creative juices were both latent and percolating at once. Over the years, I had come up with four or five stories that I had planned to write “some day.” January 2017, some day had arrived.

Four or five ideas. Can’t write them all at once. Where to begin…where to begin?

I knew if I let that question fester for long, I’d never get going. I didn’t want to become paralyzed by inaction. So I did what every writer does best.

I wrote.

I opened the laptop and wrote the first sentence to my novel. “Everybody knows someone like Joel Thomas.”

At the time, I had no idea what those words meant. But it was a start. The cork was popped. Now, I had to explain who Joel Thomas was, and why I was writing his story.

Not knowing myself where this would lead, I just kept writing. Joel Thomas was a very ordinary sort…unremarkable, in fact. In a way, these weren’t my own words…they simply flowed through me and into the document.

As I wrote, I described an ordinary man with an ordinary life. This led me to my first twist. If Joel is so ordinary and boring, why will anyone care about him? Then it hit me. Because Joel Thomas would suddenly disappear.

And I was off. I now knew the story I was going to tell. It would be a suspenseful, twist-laden mystery…but one with sentimentality and nostalgia (as is so frequently my wont). It was a combination of all four-to-five stories I had considered writing all those years.

Two months later, the first draft was complete. Truth be told, the story just came out. It had been bottled like a genie for 20+ years, and just needed to be released. It flowed through me like I was simply the channel through which it poured. I couldn’t believe it myself. How could this be so easy…when it had been so difficult for two decades?

The Moral of My Story

Because I started. I made it a resolution in the new year of 2017 to do it, and I did it. I wouldn’t let anything stop me…not even an over-analysis of what the finished product would be. I just wrote.

And that’s the point. My advice to anyone who is considering writing that book they’ve long held in the back of his or her mind is simple: just write. Start. Don’t overthink where it will go. Just get going.

In the end, if nothing else, you will have accomplished what my friends and family — and now you, likely — once considered to be such an insurmountable achievement: writing that first book.

May inspiration be with you.

 

Excerpt

EVERYBODY knows someone like Joel Thomas.

I once heard someone describe him as the man who was friendly with everyone…but friends with no one. Which isn’t exactly true. It’s not that he was particularly at odds with any one person, or even that he was standoffish. It’s just that, when it came to having meaningful, deep friendships or relationships, there was nobody you could point to and say, “Those two are very close.”

But yet, there he was. Joel was at every party…every night out…every group outing. He seemed to like sports, the arts, movies, TV, pop culture. He knew a little bit about everything, so he always seemed to fit in, no matter what the occasion. But you were hard-pressed to say why, if asked.

Joel was married for a little more than 16 years to Mary, a woman he met in college during his study abroad program. They never had kids, but they did acquire the obligatory dog and 2,500-square-foot ranch in the suburbs. It was a normal life, if unspectacular. But that was Joel. Normal, sure. But unspectacular. A man that was seemingly liked by all…but loved by nobody in particular.

It would be a shock, then, when Joel suddenly disappeared.

I got the call around 7:30 that night. Mary seemed put off, but not frantic. I can’t tell you why I remember her demeanor in that way, only that it seemed significant at the time. Was I expecting the reaction an actress might have on a bad primetime cop show? I don’t know. Then again, Mary was Joel’s mirror image in some ways, so a subdued (though, certainly distraught) state of mind wasn’t entirely out of character. Still, it just seemed…different. Different than what I’d suspect, but I wasn’t sure if it was meaningfully different, or just different.

And I can’t claim to have been in the proper state of mind to be a judge of such things. Not that night. It’s a strange thing when you get “the call.” Or, in the movies, it’s the knock on the door. If you’ve never been so unfortunate, you’ll know when it happens. I’ll never forget watching my dad get the call when grandpa died. I’d never seen my old man cry before. It was jarring. It was a shock, to be sure…but grandpa was 84, and with a history of heart problems.

There’s a part of you that expects it…one that has been waiting for such a call. There’s another part of you in paralyzing shock. And there’s this weird part of you that starts immediately and reflexively having the sort of reaction others might expect you to have. Like you’re the one on the TV show. Call it, macabre exhilaration? This is happening. It’s horrible. But it’s excitement, in a sick sort of way. All of those parts of you begin an instant quarrel inside of you for supremacy, and it’s not until several hours, days or weeks later that reality sets in, and you hate yourself for feeling anything other than grief.

“Jason? Hi, it’s Mary. Sorry for calling so late.” A long, pregnant pause. “It’s Joel.”

Shit. Those words rang out like a shotgun in the open prairie air. It’s Joel. Whatever came next, I knew it wasn’t good. I immediately hunched down into a chair at the kitchen table. I’m not sure if I said anything, let out a self-defeated groan, or just waited in stunned silence for Mary to continue.

“It’s Joel. He’s not answering.”

“Not answering what?” I asked, now grasping to a lifeline of hope. Maybe I got ahead of myself with needless worry.

“Anything,” Mary responded, immediately sucking the wind out of my hopeful sails. “The phone, texts, the door. Normally I wouldn’t worry. We sometimes go weeks — maybe months — without talking. In fact, we usually do.”

“So what’s the worry?”

Mary paused. I could tell there was a “next part” that she didn’t want to get to. But she gave in. “It’s not normal.”

“What’s not?” I pressed.

“To get something in the mail.”

“What something? Something in the mail? From who? What was it?”

Another long pause.

“From Joel.”

“Mary, what are you saying? What the hell happened? Spit it out.”

Mary started slowly and softly, building both pace and volume as she continued. “I’ve been trying to get ahold of Joel for a few days. We got a strange tax thing in the mail, and it didn’t seem to make any sense, so I scanned it over to Joel last week. Followed up with a phone call. No answer. Then the texts. Nothing.”

“Yeah…” I needed her to get to the point.

“So I stopped by a couple days ago. No answer at his place. His car was there, though. I kinda poked around a bit, peeked in some windows…nothing. So I called the office. They said he’s on vacation. So I started to calm down…didn’t think much of it.”

“There ya go,” I reassured her. “He’s probably just out of the country or something. No cell service, ignoring emails and stuff.”

“That’s what I thought,” she continued. “Then I got this in the mail.”

“What?”

“A note. In a box. Like a cardboard shipping box. It looked more like a parcel at first, with no return address. But it was light…like a letter, you know? I opened the box, and there was just this note in there.”

“Yeah?”

“Jason. It was Joel’s handwriting.”

“So? What did it say?”

And now, the longest, most silent, pause.

“Mary, what did the letter say? Read it to me.”

“Read it to you?”

“Yes! Read it to me!”

“No need to read it…I have it memorized…it was only two words.”

“Mary, what the hell did the letter say?”

A shorter pause. A softer voice. A slower pace. Finally, Mary got to the point.

“Tell Jason.”

About the Author

Tom Nixon is an author and entrepreneur with writing credits to his name that span artistic genres. He has written multiple novels, two screenplays, several short stories, a children’s story, and has five music albums in his catalogue, for which he wrote both music and lyrics. He discovered his passion for writing and reading at an early age, going on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Michigan. He resides in Michigan with his wife and children, along with a couple of the canine variety.

His latest book is the suspense novel, The Long Lost.

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Posted in Giveaway, Guest Post, memoir, Travel on February 21, 2018

LEAVE TOMORROW:

My Ride to the Bottom of the World

by

Dirk Weisiger

Genre: Memoir / Travel / Inspiration

Date of Publication: October 27, 2017

Number of Pages: 232

Scroll down for the giveaway!

After building a successful business, Dirk Weisiger was ready for something new. But he wasn’t sure what. Maybe a motorcycle adventure, I’ve never done that! 

What followed was a fourteen-month, solo motorcycle journey from Austin, Texas to Ushuaia, Argentina, filled with unexpected adventures, surprises, and lessons about life and travel.

In this book, you’ll not only enjoy Dirk’s adventure and insights, but find inspiration for your own journey.

 

A portion of proceeds from this book help sponsor children at the Colegio Bautista El Calvario private school in Managua, Nicaragua.

Praise

I may not ride a motorcycle to the bottom of the world, but my soul comes alive when I hear about people smashing fear and following their dreams. This book will truly inspire you. –Abigail Irene Fisher, traveler and speaker

Leave Tomorrow is a fun, engaging, and thought-provoking read. If you are looking for a blend of humanity, culture, scary moments with a medicine man, military police, attempts at extortion, and unexpected challenges–along with insightful observations and humor, this book will definitely spark your imagination to “live your own movie.”  –Steve Scott, business coach and author of Wings to Fly

This inspiring and entertaining book is just the tonic needed to get you up out of your chair and ready to “Leave Tomorrow.”  –Julie Mundy, Guidebook Author and Travel Blogger, Australia

For everyone thinking of a new adventure, a new life, or even a new venture: DO IT.  –Jim Rogers, bestselling author of Investment Biker and Street Smarts 

This is not the first book I’ve read on riding to Ushuaia, but it is probably the most enjoyable. Dirk writes about his experiences in an upbeat manner, taking each experience and each day in perspective. –Muriel Farrington, Ambassador, BMW Motorcycles of America

 


 

Dirk Weisiger is a travel trekker, trick roper, and storyteller. He’s the author of the new book, Leave Tomorrow: My Ride to the Bottom of the World. Dirk has always enjoyed speaking to groups, spinning tales, ropes, and offering lessons he’s learned in adventures of life and business. He’s traveled to five continents and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Most of all, Dirk loves people and believes that making new friends is the best part of travel.

 

║ Website ║ Facebook ║  Twitter ║  LinkedIn

║ Instagram ║ Amazon Author Page ║

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FEBRUARY 21-MARCH 2, 2018

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Check out the other blogs on this tour

VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

2/21/18 Author Video StoreyBook Reviews
2/22/18 Guest Post 1 Texas Book Lover
2/23/18 Review Reading by Moonlight
2/24/18 Guest Post 2 Forgotten Winds
2/25/18 Trip Pic Books and Broomsticks
2/26/18 Review Missus Gonzo
2/27/18 Trip Pic A Page Before Bedtime
2/28/18 Guest Post 3 The Librarian Talks
3/1/18 Review Bibliotica
3/2/18 Review The Clueless Gent

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Posted in Cozy, Giveaway, Guest Post, Monday, mystery on February 19, 2018

Death by a Whisker: A Cat Rescue Mystery
Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Crooked Lane Books (February 13, 2018)
Hardcover: 320 pages

Getting used to life back home in Deer Park, North Carolina, Sydney McCall and her right-hand tabby, Toby, are helping her sister Kat run the local animal shelter. Syd and Kat are all excited about the prospect of the shelter’s newest fundraiser: shopping channel queen Ulla Townsend. Shelter admin Maggie Shayne vehemently refuses to have anything to do with the woman, but the fundraiser ensues as planned. That is, until Ulla turns up dead in the middle of the event.

The cause of death is determined to be an allergic reaction, but Syd and Toby are sniffing out something fishy. When Syd met Ulla, it was clear she was distasteful and rude. And right before the event, Syd spotted some behind-the-scenes drama between Ulla and her manager. As they begin to investigate, they realize there is no shortage of suspects, and Maggie is at the top of the list.

Now Syd and Toby must claw their way to the truth before everything goes paws up at their animal shelter in Death by a Whisker by national bestselling author T. C. LoTempio.

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Guest Post

OK You’ve written your book – now what do you call it?

T. C. LoTempio

You’ve spent hours, days, creating your little masterpiece, your baby, and finally – you’re done!  Now comes the hard part – what do you name it?

Sometimes thinking up a title for a book is even harder than the actual writing of the tome itself!  How do you come up with the perfect title? Well, I’ve found there are four things to consider:

  1. Make it Easy

A title that’s easy to remember goes a long way.  There are a few ways to make your title memorable:  Alliteration is always a good choice (Wind in the Willows, Christmas Carol).  Making it short is a good idea also:  Gone With the Wind, Little Women, Scarlet Letter.  OK, they’re classics but you get the idea.

  1. Hold their Interest

Just as your characters should be interesting, so should your title!  What makes a title interesting? Well, contradictory qualities help. (War and Peace)  Also, descriptive titles are eye-catching (Fahrenheit 451 comes to mind)

  1. Genre Indicative

Sometimes people like titles that clearly indicate the genre. For example, you’d hate to buy a book where the title indicates a romance and find out it’s a Neo-Nazi thriller instead, right?  Cozies are a good example of genre indicative titles, particularly where animals are concerned. My own series, which features a detective tuxedo cat, has titles like Meow if it’s Murder and Claws for Alarm.  Likewise the Cat Rescue seres, titled Purr M for Murder and Death by a Whisker. The titles don’t’ always have to refer to the feline characters, though. the Black Cat Bookshop series by Ali Brandon has titles that are more indicative of the location rather than the feline sleuth: Plot Boiler, Words with Fiends, A Novel Way to Die.

  1. Make ‘em Laugh!

Lastly, what attracts attention more than anything else?  A title with a bit of humor, or perhaps a “punny” one.  Many are inspired by popular movies:  Dead Witch Walking and For a Few Demons More, by Kim Harrison and Arsenic and Old Books and Twelve Angry Librarians by Miranda James are good examples.

You should research titles in your particular genre to see what the most popular titles are. What do they have in common?  Note the ones that seem particularly effective (sales figures help) and try to figure out how you might replicate them in terms of your own book.

Of course, the content of your novel should also be a factor.  Sometimes a line taken right out of the book can make a wonderful title. Check your text for memorable phrases or sentences.  Is there one line from the book that can sum it up?

Basically, a great title can be a popular expression, a play on words, an association of events – a title can be many things, but what it should be is something that will guide people right toward your book on the shelf!    A title, as long as it fits the story, can be simple.  And, as with writing, where choosing a title is concerned, practice makes perfect!

 

About the Author

fred-profileWhile Toni Lotempio does not commit – or solve – murders in real life, she has no trouble doing it on paper. Her lifelong love of mysteries began early on when she was introduced to her first Nancy Drew mystery at age 10 – The Secret in the Old Attic. She (and ROCCO, albeit he’s uncredited) pen the Nick and Nora mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime – and in Spring 2017, the new CAT RESCUE msyteries from Crooked Lane! She, Rocco and company make their home in Clifton, New Jersey, just twenty minutes from the Big Apple – New York.

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Posted in Cozy, Giveaway, Guest Post, mystery on February 10, 2018

Clairvoyant and Present Danger (A Bay Island Psychic Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
3rd in Series
Berkley (February 6, 2018)
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages

Synopsis

Whoever said that dead men tell no tales has never met Cass Donnovan…

Cass has always relied on her abilities to guide her, but after communications with a ghost land her in the middle of a murder investigation, she has to wonder if her gifts are really more a curse.

Cass knows she is meant to help track down the killer–much to the chagrin of local law enforcement–when the apparition leads her to a dead body on the beach near her psychic shop, Mystical Musings. But the police are not the only ones who wish Cass would stick to reading palms. Someone is trying to scare her off, and it will take all her powers of premonition to catch the killer before Cass herself becomes the next victim…

Amazon * B&N * Kobo * Penguin * BAM

Guest Post

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

By Lena Gregory

Whether or not ghosts exist is a big debate in my house. My daughter and I firmly believe in ghosts, while my husband and one of my sons do not. My youngest son, Logan, who is only seven years old, has no firm opinion yet, but he is part of the reason I believe so strongly. Of course, I had other…encounters before these, but that’s another story.

My younger brother, Chris, passed away when my son was only four months old. Chris and I shared a love of reading, especially mysteries, and I often feel his presence while I’m writing. Chris always had the best hair, thick, full, and loaded with natural highlights. And he always kept it long, at least past his shoulders, even after he became an air traffic controller.

Late one night—we don’t keep normal hours in my house—I was sitting on my bed writing.

My youngest, who was about two at the time, was lying across the bottom of the bed watching his iPad. He looked over, then past me, and frowned. “Who’s that?” he asked.

I turned around but didn’t see anything. “Who’s what?”

“That guy with the long hair?”

I jumped and spun toward the direction he indicated—because, you know, that freaked me out a little—but I still didn’t see anything.

He just shrugged and went back to watching his show as if nothing unusual had happened.

I continued writing, a little spooked but kind of comforted too. I’d always felt Chris’s presence, but Logan kind of confirmed it.

Four generations of my family lived in the same small town, and most of those who have passed on are buried in the local cemetery, so Logan and I often walk through the cemetery, and Logan collects rocks and sticks to leave on the headstones.

One day, while we were walking through the cemetery, alone, he pointed toward a small, closed, locked storage shed in the middle of the cemetery, not far from my mother-in-law’s grave. “I want to go in there,” he said.

“In where?” I asked.

“In that house where the lady just went.”

I’m not gonna lie. We left, then. Quickly. Because believing in ghosts in an odd, detached sort of way is one thing, but I can assure you, having your two-year-old point out a woman entering a locked building in a completely deserted cemetery is something else entirely.

While writing Cass’s story, I tried to keep that debate in mind. Cass sort of believes in ghosts, but she doesn’t believe she actually talks to them. She thinks she uses years of psychiatric training and her uncanny ability to interpret people’s feelings to form a logical opinion and turn it into a “reading.” Of course, her customers think otherwise.

Her friend, Stephanie, believes completely.

Bee is another story. He swears he doesn’t believe in any of that mumbo-jumbo, but he really goes out of his way to avoid anything otherworldly. So, is he a true non-believer, or is he terrified ghosts might actually be real? I’ll leave it up to you to figure it out.

So, what do you think? Do you believe in ghosts? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think and if you’ve had any experiences that contributed to your opinion.

About the Author

Lena lives in a small town on the south shore of eastern Long Island with her husband and three children.

When she was growing up, she spent many lazy afternoons on the beach, in the yard, anywhere she could find to curl up with a good book. She loves reading as much now as she did then, but she now enjoys the added pleasure of creating her own stories.

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Giveaway

There are 2 giveaways on this stop!

I am giving away an e-book copy from Amazon
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Posted in Cozy, Giveaway, Guest Post, mystery on February 8, 2018

A Well-Timed Murder (Agnes Luthi Mysteries)
International Mystery
2nd in Series
Minotaur Books (February 6, 2018)
Hardcover: 352 pages

Synopsis

Swiss-American police officer Agnes Lüthi is on leave in Lausanne, Switzerland, recovering from injuries she sustained in her last case, when an old colleague invites her to the world’s premier watch and jewelry trade show at the grand Messe Basel Exhibition Hall. Little does Agnes know, another friend of hers, Julien Vallotton, is at the same trade show—and he’s looking for Agnes. Julien Vallotton was friends with Guy Chavanon, a master of one of Switzerland’s oldest arts: watchmaking. Chavanon died a week ago, and his daughter doesn’t believe his death was accidental. Shortly before he died, Chavanon boasted that he’d discovered a new technique that would revolutionize the watchmaking industry, and she believes he may have been killed for it. Reluctantly, Agnes agrees to investigate his death. But the world of Swiss watchmaking is guarded and secretive, and before she realizes it, Agnes may be walking straight into the path of a killer.

Tracee de Hahn’s next mystery, A Well-Timed Murder, is another magnetic mystery that will engross readers from the opening page to the stunning conclusion.

IndieBound * Books-a-Million * Apple

Guest Post

Today we welcome Tracee to StoreyBook Reviews and she shares with us what inspired this book.

A book about watches? Not exactly. Although I did start writing A Well-Timed Murder with watches on my mind. More accurately I wanted to showcase Baselworld, the amazing annual watch, jewelry and gemstone extravaganza. I strolled through the show, putting myself in the mind of a criminal, then in the mind of my protagonist, Agnes Lüthi. Theft? Murder? Both easily imaginable.

 

But A Well-Timed Murder is also about timing outside of time-keeping watches. So much in life depends on timing – we have all imagined what would have happened if we’d arrived a moment earlier at the scene of a traffic accident if we’d taken a different class in college and not met the man we married. How does timing play into love and life? How does it affect what product sells and what languishes on the shelves?

When a well-known watchmaker dies in A Well-Timed Murder, Agnes is pulled into the investigation by her friend, the aristocratic Julien Vallotton. Delving into the world of precision and luxury timepieces, time and timing take on more importance. Was it Guy Chavanon’s involvement with time that caused his death, or was it a mistake of timing?

To find Chavanon’s killer Agnes steeps herself in the roots of the watchmaking industry, all the while wondering if she is making a mistake by ignoring where he died, the seemingly innocuous boarding school his son attends. My husband’s influence can be felt in the introduction of a boarding school. He started at a Swiss boarding school when he was barely nine, a bit young in my opinion (again, timing!). I’ve enjoyed our trips to his school to visit former teachers and reunite with fellow students and always found it an amazing melting pot of sorts. The students come from all over the world bringing their respective languages and cultures together during the crucial teenage years. My fictional boarding school was another opportunity to think about timing – and while I won’t give anything away, it plays a significant role in the life of the headmistress.

Timing also plays a role in Agnes’s personal life. While she’s on the trail of the killer, her attention is pulled toward Julien Vallotton, a man who easily inhabits the world of luxury watches. They met at a significant moment in her life – a few months after the death of her husband and during her first murder case. Isn’t there a saying about relationships that start under pressure? Typically it doesn’t bode well. Agnes and Julien have a chance to test this in A Well-Timed Murder. His background and daily life are – in her mind – so far removed from hers that a relationship seems impossible. His attention plays into her insecurities and challenges her to think about the next phase of her life. A life without her husband.

Ultimately timing will play a role in Agnes’s hunt for Chavanon’s killer and in the possibility of new love. And timing will set the killer on the path of his next victim.

About the Author

Tracee de Hahn is the author of the Agnes Lüthi mysteries, which were inspired by her years living in Switzerland. Prior to writing full time she practiced architecture and was head of university alumni relations at a major west coast university. Currently, she and her Swiss-architect husband live in southwest Virginia with their Jack Russell Terriers. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America.

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Giveaway

There are 2 giveaways!

This first is a hardback copy of A Well Timed Murder (open to US residents only) that I am hosting.

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The second is a tour wide giveaway and includes a copy of the book and some swag.

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Posted in Giveaway, Guest Post, Historical, romance on February 7, 2018

Title: Highland Conquest

Author: Alyson McLayne

Series: The Sons of Gregor MacLeod #2

Pub Date: February 6, 2018

ISBN: 9781492654537

Synopsis

HE WAS LOOKING FOR VENGEANCE

INSTEAD HE FOUND HER

Laird Lachlan MacKay never planned on leading his clan, but when his older brother was murdered, he was left with no choice. His vow to avenge his brother has led him to the MacPherson clan—and their bewitching healer, Amber.

Amber MacPherson is desperate. Dressed as a boy to escape her clan’s treacherous leader, she runs right into Lachlan—who orders her detained. At first, she causes him nothing but frustration, especially when she blackmails him into helping her clan. But when she’s threatened by the same man who murdered his brother, Lachlan will do whatever it takes to keep her safe—and by his side.

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Alyson’s Top Six Romantic Couples

February is fast approaching, and with it come several big events in my life. Not only do my kids turn 6 at the end of the month, but on the actual 6th, my historical romance, HIGHLAND CONQUEST—book 2 in my series THE SONS OF GREGOR MACLEOD—releases to the world! This is a book I can’t wait to hit the stands. The love story between Amber and Lachlan is one of my favorites. Amber is the MacPherson healer who’s had to pretend to be a witch in order to stay safe from her depraved laird while she heals her people. Lachlan’s the laird of his own clan who attacks the MacPhersons in order to bring their laird to justice for killing Lachlan’s brother. When the MacPherson laird escapes, Amber blackmails Lachlan into sticking around and helping her people. She’s outspoken and strong-willed and doesn’t hold anything back in her dealings with her new laird. Lachlan doesn’t hold back, either, and the two of them begin a tumultuous relationship that dances around their physical and mental attraction and drives both of them just a wee bit batty.

February also brings us Valentine’s Day, a favorite holiday for many romance readers! So I decided to celebrate the release of HIGHLAND CONQUEST on February 6th, and Valentine’s Day eight days later, by revealing my top 6 favorite romance couples of all time!

  1. Anne & Gilbert

When I was ten-years-old, my mom gave me the first three Anne of Green Gables books by Lucy Maude Montgomery. I got hooked on Anne’s adventures and all the different characters in Avonlea, including her nemesis, Gilbert Blythe. When they first meet, Gilbert pulls Anne’s braid and teases her about her red hair, calling her “carrots”. She responds by smashing her slate over his head. Thus the relationship between Anne and Gilbert is born, and a rivalry and enmity develop between them that takes years for them to overcome. Along the way, Anne refuses Gilbert’s declaration of love and almost becomes engaged to another man. But finally, she realizes she loves Gilbert too and wishes with all her heart that he’ll say the words again. Which he does, bringing me my first ever Happily Ever After—warm fuzzies and a heartfelt sigh included.

  1. Arwen & Aragorn

Just saying those names leaves me sighing and feeling a little teary and mushy inside (in a good way!). Theirs is a romance for the ages, portrayed beautifully by Liv Tyler and Viggo Mortensen in Peter Jackson’s filmed adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings. Arwen, daughter of Lord Elrond of Rivendell, is an immortal elf who falls in love with the mortal Aragorn, heir of Isildur and rightful claimant to the thrones of Arnor and Gondor. In order to be together, Arwen has to give up her immortality and know that she will only die after Aragorn has died. Aragorn tries to dissuade her from being with him, but Arwen will not be swayed, saying: “I would rather share one lifetime with you, than face all the ages of this world alone.” Sigh…

  1. Mac & Barrons

If I had to pick a book boyfriend it would be Barrons from Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series. He. Makes. Me. Shiver—in a good way. He is the epitome of Alpha—strong, dominant, smart, whose only saving grace is that Mac is his everything…even if she doesn’t yet know it. There is no greater bad boy in my opinion. You just know that his reserve and icy control shields a raging inferno beneath. When Mac & Barrons finally get together at the end of book four (and yes, I do know they were together when she was Priya, but that doesn’t count), it’s like he unleashes himself on her. He devours her and she devours him right back. And what makes their love story even twistier, adding more layers to their relationship through the first four books,  is discovering in a later book (Burned, I think) that Jericho Barrons and MacKayla Lane have done the wild deed once before—all night long—and Barrons used magic to erase Mac’s memory of it. Bad. Boy. And here’s the other thing I love… they still call each other Barrons and Miss Lane, same as they always did, unless they’re having sex or in near-death situations. Then it’s Jericho and Mac.

  1. Elizabeth & Mr. Darcy

How can I write a list about my favorite couples and not include Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy? Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is one of the first classic novels that I read and I kept the book in my backpack for many months reading it over and over, when I was at university. Mr. Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth about halfway through the story is a shock because he’s been nothing but aloof and haughty toward her and her family—in fact, the proposal is filled with condescension about Elizabeth’s lack of social position and wealth compared to his, and he claims it’s an obstacle his love has had to overcome. The scene where Elizabeth rejects him is a favorite of mine—especially the rain-soaked version between Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. What I love about this scene, is that Mr. Darcy is undone by her. He takes her opinion of him to heart, even though some of her accusations against him are unfounded. She opens his eyes to his lack of kindness and grace and it changes him for the better—makes him into a man that Elizabeth could love.

  1. Han & Leia

I contemplated putting Han Solo and Princess Leia at the top of the list. My brother took me to see Star Wars when it first came out, so technically they were the first couple I met—but at seven, I was too young to truly appreciate the sigh-worthiness of Han and Leia. This is a romance that builds…and builds…and builds amidst verbal sparring and sarcastic jabs until finally near the end of The Empire Strikes Back they kiss—just before Han is yanked away from Leia and frozen alive in carbonite.  Irrepressible bad boy that he is, when Leia says a heartfelt, “I love you,” as they’re securing Han for freezing, Han looks back at her and simply says, “I know.” Gets me every time.

  1. Claire and Jamie

Seeing as I write Highlander romance (and love Highlander romance—big shout out to some of my favorites: Julie Garwood, Monica McCarty, and Karen Marie Moning!) it would be impossible for me NOT to include Claire and Jamie Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. She’s created this unforgettable, iconic romance between Jamie and Claire all wrapped up in some of the most interesting and tumultuous times in Scottish history. I’m going to choose to focus on book three, Voyager, for one big reason: the REUNION. Le sigh. You begin the book, knowing that Claire and Jamie will reunite after so many years apart, and then you have to wait…and wait. Or was I the only one who didn’t jump ahead? Finally, Claire walks into Jamie’s shop, and they kiss, but we still have to wait as Jamie grabs the drunken Mr. Willoughby from the pub, gets chased, and takes Claire back to a whore house, before…the moment. It starts with an awkward kiss and nose bump before Jamie takes control and says to Claire, “Give me your mouth, Sassenach.” Excuse me while I melt.

Do you like my list? Did I miss any of your favorites? Please let me know if you agree or disagree with my top 6 favorite romance couples!

About the Author

Alyson McLayne is a mom of twins and an award-winning writer of contemporary, historical and paranormal romance. She’s also a dog lover and cat servant with a serious stash of dark chocolate. After getting her degree in theater at the University of Alberta, she promptly moved to the west coast where she worked in film for several years and met her prop master husband.

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Posted in Cozy, Giveaway, Guest Post, mystery on February 3, 2018

Vangie Vale & the Strangled Strudel (The Matchbaker Mysteries)
Cozy Mystery
3rd in Series
Setting – Montana
Hummingbird Books (January 4, 2018)
Print Length: 330 pages

Synopsis

You could call it the straw that broke the camel’s back but it was more like a Montana forest timber.
Just when Vangie Vale’s life was getting back to normal after a murder that rocked her little Rocky Mountain tourist town, she found herself in the middle of another murder… as the chief suspect.

Vangie stood shocked on the side of the curb as the sheriff stretched yellow crime scene tape around the front of her new bakery. Wouldn’t this make a lovely headline in next week’s paper: Local Baker Kills Parishioner With Pudding. Vangie’s road back to good graces as a part-time pastor was bumpy enough already. This would be a roadblock. Can’t have that.

Guest Post

My Fan Group

On Facebook, I have a wonderful group of Vangie’s friends who all congregate with me to talk about the books and our lives. We occasionally talk about Vangie, and as I was preparing for this book tour, I asked them if they had any topics for me to talk about in my guest posts. I borrowed some of their questions to write about. Here are some of the ones they posted.

* How did Vangie start baking?

Both her mother and grandmother were great bakers. They used to bake for every holiday and every special occasion, and Vangie learned from them. When they died—her mother first, and her grandmother after that—Vangie started baking as a way to connect with them. So, in a very real way, she bakes as an expression of love.

* What’s her favorite thing to eat or cook?

Vangie loves sandwiches, of all kinds. But she has a special fondness for grilled cheese sandwiches. That’s one of the things Derek noticed about her when she was recovering from a gunshot wound. She made grilled cheese sandwiches of every kind, using every bread and every cheese she could get her hands on. It’s also insanely easy to make. She does like that since she doesn’t like spending a lot of time taking care of herself. That sounds familiar for a lot of us, I imagine.

* What made her want to be a pastor?

Vangie has always felt a lot of responsibility for other people. And she loves the hands-on work of the church. She likes being able to counsel people and give spiritual direction but to refer them when they have psychological issues beyond her ability to handle. There are very clear boundaries for her, and she likes that. Except when it comes to people she feels responsible for. Then, the boundaries of the law are… fuzzy. J

* If she could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would she go and why?

Hawaii or Jamaica or somewhere that is 100% beach. She loves the feel and smell and sound of the beach. The best vacation she ever went on was to Puerto Vallarta. She loved the way the forest seemed to swallow up the land, all the way to where the beach started. It was beautiful. But next time, she really wants to go somewhere that’s all water and sand. She grew up going to the Outer Banks all the time, so she likes the ocean. It’s probably her favorite place in the world. OBX forever.

About the Author

Rebecca Syme writes small town romance as Becca Boyd and cozy mystery as R.L. Syme. She is a long-time foodie and loves fancy cheese. Becca calls the mountains of Montana her home and draws inspiration from the beautiful vistas and heartwarming people. She is the USA Today bestselling author of the Line of Fire series of sweet romances and part of the Chick Tales series set in Somewhere, TX. You can find her on Twitter talking #fancycheese or #Chopped, and on Facebook with her fans in Becca Nation.

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Posted in Guest Post, Spotlight, suspense, Thriller on January 31, 2018

Synopsis

Unspeakable Things is a chilling mystery about motherhood and madness.

You’re pregnant.

You find out there’s madness in the family.

What are you going to do now?

Sarah moves back into her abandoned childhood home, hoping to connect with what’s left of her family. She is thrilled to learn about her long-dead mother from Uncle John, who runs the Woodlands Clinic nearby.

Then he tells her that her mother tried to kill her and died a mental patient at Woodlands. But is the truth even more shocking than that?

Sarah’s desperate search for what really happened to her mother rocks her marriage, career, and friendships. Can she discover the family’s bitter secret before her baby is born?

Or will she go mad trying?

Trailer

Thoughts from the Author

The Secret Behind the Title

I used to call my novel, The Gatehouse.

‘It’s a working title,’ I’d say when people looked doubtful.

‘Yeah. Definitely change it,’ they’d say.

When I hit upon Unspeakable Things, I got much better reactions. The phrase raises an immediate question: ‘What unspeakable things?’ and if you’re asking that, I’ve got you, and you’re not even on the first page.

The title comes from an unforgettable conversation I had years ago with a colleague – let’s call her Delia.

She had married young, with the blessing of her parents. The marriage broke down, but Delia’s mother really liked the husband and wouldn’t stop bemoaning the fact that Delia had left him. Delia got so fed up with this that she invented a reason for the break-up to get her mother off her back:

‘But Mum, he made me do unspeakable things.’

Her mother did not look as shocked as she had expected. ‘Oh men are like that, darling,’ she said.

It made Delia her look at her father in a completely different way.

About the Author

Sophie Kersey worked in publishing for almost thirty years before going freelance to pursue her lifelong writing ambitions. She is now a freelance writer and editor. Her articles have appeared in counseling and parenting magazines and in the US collection Enduring Love. She is the author of The History of Halstead School. Unspeakable Things is her first novel. She lives in Kent with her husband, Jon, and has two grown-up sons.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, Guest Post, Monday, mystery on January 29, 2018

The Vanished Bride of Northfield House

Gothic Mystery
1st in Series
Date of Release January 26, 2018
Cup of Tea Books
Paperback: 346 pages

Synopsis

England, 1922:  Times are hard. Anne Chatham is a clever, modest young woman with little money, no prospects for marriage, and a never-shared secret—she can see spirits.

Anne finds employment as a typist at Northfield House, the grand country manor of the Wellington family. Her employer, the wheelchair-bound Mr. Wellington, is kindly. His haughty wife is not. He has two handsome sons, the wry and dashing Thomas and the dark and somber Owen.

Anne feels sure her prayers have been heard. Until the terrifying night, she stumbles upon a tortured spirit roaming the dark halls of Northfield, a spirit that only she can see.

In a search for answers, she finds herself drawn to Owen as they unearth a tragic story from the Wellington family’s past—a beautiful young bride gone missing on her wedding day.

Then tragedy strikes again on the night of a glittering masquerade ball…

Guest Post

Today we welcome character Anne Chatham to SBR.  She is here to tell us a bit about her and her role in this mystery novel.  Take it away Anne!

I am Anne Chatham. My story is about love, loss, and new beginnings, but more importantly, it is about the human heart and the depths of depravity to which it may sink.

I should start at the beginning. Before arriving at Northfield House during midsummer in 1922, I was the beloved, last remaining child of a prosperous, well-respected man of the cloth. I had a home and knew my place, despite the tragic loss of my mother and siblings in the influenza epidemic that swept the world in 1919.

What little was left to me was torn asunder when Father was found seated at his desk in his study, one lifeless hand upon his Bible. He left little savings and no insurance, no ongoing support for me, a young woman of limited means and with meager prospects for marriage. At the age of 23, I was already considered a spinster.

It was up to me to support myself. Women were just starting to join the workforce in other areas than just Domestic Service. Though I respect the work a maid does, a life in service was not for me.

With the small sum of money left to me, I studied typewriting at a women’s college in Liverpool and applied for employment.  I was relieved when I found a job in a grand country estate outside of Northfield, a small community clinging to the values of the past.

And so I came to stay at Northfield House. Sir Henry Wellington, my elderly, wheelchair-bound employer, is gruff and distant but kind. His wife is not. He has two handsome sons, wry and dashing Thomas and the dark and somber Owen.

But they are not the only inhabitants of Northfield House.  A tortured spirit roams the halls… and I’m the only one who can see her.

With Owen’s help, I have started to unearth a tragic story from the Wellington family’s past – a beautiful young bride gone missing on her wedding day.  But time is not on my side and the answers may not be discovered before another tragedy strikes. ..

Excerpt

I heard scratching—fingernails or claws or beaks on wood. Then the rustle of wings, a soft fluttering. Perhaps a bird had gotten trapped on the floor above.

Knock. Thud. Knock. Thud. Knock. Thud.

Then nothing.

I waited for the thumps and scratches to begin again, but heard only Owen’s rapid breathing.

His grip on my shoulder softened. Before we could step away from each other, I heard something else. Whispers. Not words, but sibilance. A faint weeping.
I could pretend no longer that the sounds issued from an animal.

Owen shuddered, and I tried to swallow.

My sight darted from the floors to the ceilings, from corner to corner, searching for additional signs. I saw none. The bed, its elaborate draperies, and the pictures on the walls were all undisturbed, but a plaintive lament—a mournful sobbing—suddenly filled the space.

When the weeping stopped, I found my hand pressed against Owen’s chest. I could feel his heart beating, hard and fast, under my palm.

“I think it’s over,” he said, releasing my shoulders.

I reluctantly withdrew my hand and took a step away.

About the Author

Phyllis M Newman turned to writing mysteries after a career in finance and human resources. She lives in Columbus, Ohio in a big house with a weed-filled yard, three strong-willed cats, and a husband that’s easy on the eyes.

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Posted in Cozy, Giveaway, Guest Post, mystery on January 20, 2018

Murder at Fantasia Fair: A Provincetown Mystery
Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
HomePort Press (September 28, 2017)
Paperback: 282 pages

Synopsis

Wedding coordinator Sydney Riley never thought she’d get caught up in a murder investigation, but she became an amateur sleuth when her boss was killed during Bear Week. Now she’s back, this time as the Race Point Inn hosts Provincetown’s venerable transgender event, Fantasia Fair… and murder is once again an uninvited guest!

It’s all hands on deck at the inn as visitors arrive for the week-long event and Sydney helps coordinator Rachel Parsons organize the occasion. Guest Elizabeth Gonzalez is attending with her spouse, Bob, who–as Angela–is taking a bold first step into a whole new existence. Angela, Elizabeth, and Sydney learn the ropes and politics from other guests, some of whom have attended annually for more than forty years.

But the next day, Sydney’s detective friend summons her to one of the town beaches where Angela’s body has been found–with a knife in her back, a knife stolen from Adrienne, the Race Point Inn’s diva chef.

Fair organizers and attendees try and carry on as Provincetown is overrun with police, press, and rampant speculation. Sydney, her boyfriend Ali, her friend Mirela, her boss Glenn, and a host of Fantasia Fair participants scramble to find out who killed Angela–and why–before the killer strikes again.

Guest Post

Today, character Sydney Riley joins us and shares some poignant thoughts with us!

They tell me I drink too much Diet Coke.

Actually, National Public Radio recently had a story on artificial sweeteners and it concluded that there’s no evidence of a link between the sweeteners and cancer. NPR notwithstanding, my boss is always getting on my case about the Diet Coke. It’s not that he has to pay for it—I don’t generally get my fix from the bar at the Race Point Inn, which is where I work as wedding coordinator—but he knows I’m one of the reasons the inn fills up in the summer, and he doesn’t want to take any chances with my health.

I was drinking Diet Coke the afternoon of the wedding I’d arranged on the Bay Lady, one of the two schooners that berth in Provincetown in the summertime. We generally do our weddings right at the inn—we have a lovely patio with a trellis and a bower and the whole wedding nine yards—but these guests wanted theirs to be “at sea,” and so I arranged for it. The captain would officiate, I got Adrienne our diva chef to do the catering, and the string quartet from the Cape Cod Symphony agreed to come along for the private sunset sail around the harbor.

In other words, everything was perfectly aligned for a hands-free, straightforward wedding, and believe me when I tell you that there aren’t enough of those!

I wasn’t planning on actually going on the schooner myself. Adrienne’s delicacies had been delivered; the string quartet was in their evening dress, looking a little lost at the end of MacMillan Pier as if they were posing for a fashion shoot with an unlikely backdrop; and now the limo carrying the bride and groom was pulling up. The bride saw me and realized that she really couldn’t handle all these people on her own and she needed somebody to orchestrate—no pun intended—the event. So it looked like I was going on a harbor cruise after all.

Like I said, it should have been a straightforward wedding. I’d forgotten that one of my talents is attracting dead bodies.

The Bay Lady typically has two crew members besides the captain. There was an additional one on for this cruise, a waitress to serve the champagne and delicacies after the ceremony itself. She’d gotten there early to take the dips and hors d’oeuvres onboard, and presumably was in the small area below-decks arranging it all.

I’d had one too many Diet Cokes, though, and so as soon as I was on board I headed down there myself to use the bathroom. And found the door blocked.

By the waitress. Who was dead.

If I ever write the definitive book for wedding planners, I’m going to specify that death and weddings absolutely do not go together. Avoid that combination at any cost. The bride promptly had hysterics. The groom looked like he was going to be sick—and, a moment later carried through with it. The guests and the string quartet stood on the pier looking dazed. And the police arrived.

What does the savvy wedding planner do when a body shows up at the ceremony? She moves the ceremony, of course! I called a friend who’s an officiant and told her to meet us at the inn. I called Adrienne and ordered new hors d’oeuvres, pronto. I called a couple of taxis and got them to whisk everyone back to the Race Point as soon as the police took names and numbers and released them (nobody had seen anything, anyway). Fair means or foul, I was going to get this wedding done.

And please understand that this body had nothing to do with me. Really. Yeah, it’s true that I’ve come across murders during several of Provincetown’s theme weeks—Bear Week and Fantasia Fair in particular—but this one wasn’t a murder, it was a suicide (she poisoned herself, as it turned out, and had planned to slip over the side once the schooner was out in the harbor, only it was faster-acting than she’d assumed), as I pointed out to my friend Julie, who’s the head of Provincetown Police’s detective unit.

Julie was unimpressed. “You still are the one who found the body,” she pointed out.

“Only because of the Diet Coke,” I protested.

Maybe I should consider giving it up, after all.

About the Author

Jeannette de Beauvoir grew up in Angers, France, but has lived in the United States since her twenties. (No, she’s not going to say how long ago that was!) She spends most of her time inside her own head, which is great for writing, though possibly not so much for her social life. When she’s not writing, she’s reading or traveling… to inspire her writing. The author of a number of mystery and historical novels, de Beauvoir’s work has appeared in 15 countries and has been translated into 12 languages. Midwest Review called her Martine LeDuc Montréal series “riveting (…) demonstrating her total mastery of the mystery/suspense genre.” She coaches and edits individual writers, teaches writing online and on Cape Cod, and is currently writing a Provincetown Theme Week cozy mystery series featuring female sleuth Sydney Riley.

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