Thursday, February 27, 2020

You Will Have a Black Labrador

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions

Nino Gugunishvili will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tourSee below to sign up for the Giveaway

Love, memories, family, enduring friendships, cooking, movies, dogs, travels, hairstyles, and saying Yes to many No’s in a witty, yet often sentimental, journey of self-discovery… 

You Will Have a Black Labrador is a collection of semiautobiographical essays forming a narrative about a modern Georgian woman. Her stories range from the search for a perfect romantic partner to exploring food as an integral part of the Georgian culture. Many of the vignettes center on childhood memories or weird family traditions, such as the way family members stay connected no matter if they’re deceased or alive. One essay reveals how making a simple omelette can change your life; and that No can be the most powerful word in any language. She shows us, too, that a haircut can be a tribute to the movies you love as well as a path to your freedom; and how owning a dog always brings unexpected experiences. In this poignantly humourous collection, reality mixes and interferes with an imaginative world in so many surprising ways.

read an excerpt...
‘That’s it,’ Annika, the vet, told me after the second injection. I bent over, burying my face into your fur, inhaling your smell, stroking your fluffy, velvety ears. I didn’t cry. ‘Bye, see you…’ I whispered, stood up, and left the room, still gripping your blue retractable leash. The other vet came in with a huge empty dog food bag and put your body inside, covered in a blanket, then zipped the bag up.

‘I’ll now call the burial service. It’s forty lari, and I won’t take anything for putting him down,’ she said. I paid and gave her your leash. ‘Give it to someone,’ I told her.

‘Yep, Figu was a happy dog, so let’s give it to someone who might need it,’ Annika agreed, and I left, into a sunny January afternoon.

My right hand still senses the grip of the leash, as if we’re going for a walk, and I hold the leash tight to avoid car bumpers and tires on which you regularly peed, as if we’re to avoid other dogs coming our way, because you, let’s be honest, were never properly socialized, and never really liked other dogs. You sure preferred humans, your squishy orange ball, and my slippers.

Before meeting you, I didn’t know what the hell ‘blue roan’ meant. All the cocker spaniels I’ve met or seen were either black or red coloured. But wait, no, that’s not true. Many years ago, there was one particular dog I adored.... 

about Nino Gugunishvili...

"You Will Have a Black Labrador" is Nino Gugunishvili’s recently released collection of short
essays.  She is also the author of a women’s fiction novel, Friday Evening, Eight O’Clock, published in English and Russian. She resides in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Twitter: @NinoGuguni

Instagram: ngugunishvili

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more personal "stuff" about Nino...

Does this book have a special meaning to you? i.e. where you found the idea, its symbolism, its meaning, who you dedicated it to, what made you want to write it?
Would you believe me if I tell you that before I started writing this book I had a reoccurring dream, of my deceased father, telling me: “You Will Have a Black Labrador!”  There were three of us in that strange dream: me, my dad and my close friend.
When she decided to get her first-ever Labrador –Retriever puppy I thought, aha, that’s it! We got the message right!  Meanwhile, I started writing short stories, published some of them, wrote more, and finally got to the idea of publishing a whole collection of essays. Everything was ready, the book was edited, proofread, edited again, and I loved the title I came up with. “Everything Personal!” I thought it showed the essence of the book perfectly, because yes, it was about personal, intimate things, but the weird dream kept returning.
 Exactly one day before I  was going to self-publish on Amazon, I saw that dream one last time. It freaked me out completely until  I finally understood that “You Will Have a Black Labrador” was the title!
Why?  Because for me it’s about life, and hoping for the many wonderful things ahead, about those deep, sometimes unexplainable ties we have with our loved ones, about the fragility of life and death, about the journeys we take and experiences that change us.
I grew up surrounded by some of the extraordinary women, my grandmothers, and  I totally owed them a dedication. 

Where do you get your storylines from?
Literary from everywhere. I believe that everything can be transformed into a story, you just have to carefully listen and remember. Did your friend just say a funny line? Why not write a story about it? I guess I’m a thief of those lines! Sometimes storylines come from memories, or from real-life situations, and sometimes they just come out of nowhere in your head.

Was this book easier or more difficult to write than others?  Why?
It wasn’t easier from when I wrote my debut fiction novel “Friday Evening Eight O’Clock,” but it felt entirely different. It was all new to me to write in a creative nonfiction genre and mostly it had much more of the personal, biographical elements involved.

Do you only write one genre?
I’m a big fan of women’s fiction and Chick Lit. I love both telling stories and reading books about women; funny, mischievous, unpredictable, often vulnerable and real in their existential struggles.  The fact that I started writing at all, was largely influenced by the books I’ve read in that genre.

Give us a picture of where you write, where you compose these words…is it Starbucks, a den, a garden…we want to know your inner sanctum?
I write at home, seated in my living room, with my laptop on an old wooden table. I’ve never tried to write anywhere but home because for me it’s the only comfortable space for writing. I need to be in the most familiar ambiance and close to the kitchen to make myself a double dose of a delicious Turkish coffee!

And finally, of course…was there any specific event or circumstance that made you want to be a writer?
I hope I’m not wrong in saying that up until this moment, certain things that happened at different stages of my life all led me to write. The other day, I found our old typewriter and remembered how I typed on it as a child, completely shut off and mesmerized. Sometimes they were my own stories, other times paragraphs from the books I loved.

Several unfinished novels and stories later, I  started writing my debut novel one winter afternoon several years ago, but even then, I couldn’t think of myself as a writer. I only realized afterward, that yes, this is what I want to be doing for the rest of my life, that nothing for me is more enjoyable, more magical and more gratifying than the act of writing. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Finding Jackson

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions

Anne Holster will be awarding a $50 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour

See below to sign up for the Giveaway

It's 1977 - Star Wars is breaking records at the box office, Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run tour is taking the country by storm, and born-and-bred Jersey girl Annalise Keller has fallen in love for the first and last time. Hot and charismatic with dreams of making it as a rock star, Keith "Ace" Foxx is everything a teenage girl dreams of. He falls as hard for Anna as she does for him and the two decide to run off to California in search of his big break. Fate has other plans though, and several years and three kids later, Ace has traded in his guitar for a job at the local post office and Anna has become a symbol of all he has given up. Ace spends most nights at the local bar, trying to drink away his anger and resentment.

Flash forward a decade, and their youngest child, Jackson, is headed nowhere fast. In a life filled with meaningless jobs and too much partying, music is his only true escape from the pain of a childhood that abruptly ended one rainy night. The accident had destroyed his family and left him with a slew of unanswered questions.

Everything changes the night Jackson meets Leah. Shy and reserved, she doesn't smoke and barely drinks; she certainly doesn't put out. Not exactly the girl from the Bon Jovi videos he watched as a kid. Yet, before he knows it, she has become his world.

Then, just when it looks like his dreams might come true, betrayal and loss once again threaten everything he holds dear. As Jackson struggles to keep his world from spinning out of control, he knows one thing for sure, the choices he makes now will either be the start of a whole new life, or it just might be the end of him.

read an excerpt...
It was hard enough acting like I was fine when I most definitely wasn’t. Inside I was a complete and utter basket-case and I didn’t need anyone else knowing it. I’d deal with it myself – my way – just like I’d done since I was a kid: tuck it away and try to forget.

Of course, forgetting was best achieved with large amounts of alcohol, which was convenient since most of our gigs were at local bars. It never occurred to me that my efforts would only bring everything to a head…and make me cross a line so deep I feared it would be nearly impossible to uncross.

about Anne Holster...
Anne Holster resides in Northern New Jersey with her husband and two children. When she's not writing she enjoys spending time with her family, playing tennis and reading angsty romance novels. She is currently working on her fourth book.

more about Anne...

What is your favorite TV show?

That’s an easy question because my all-time favorite television show is Six Feet Under. For anyone who’s not heard of it, Six Feet Under was an HBO series that ran from 2001-2005 and centered around the Fisher family who ran a funeral home out of their house. It was a dark comedy that starred Michael C. Hall (Dexter) and Peter Kraus among others. I’ve watched the series several times and yet am still reduced to tears when watching the final episode. If you haven’t seen it, definitely check it out.

What is your favorite meal?
My favorite meal is eggplant parmigiana but it has to be cooked by my Dad since no one’s compares to his! Even the finest Italian restaurants can’t seem to hold a candle to my Pop’s! Truth!

If you were to write a series of novels, what would it be about?
I’m a sucker for a new adult/college/rock star romance so, yes, if I was going to write a series it would have to center around that. Remember, the key to success is writing something that you, yourself, would want to read.

Is there a writer you idolize? If so, who?
I can’t say that there’s one particular writer that I idolize although I do have several go-to authors that I’ll read during my downtime between writing.

How did you come up with the title of this book?
My new book ‘Finding Jackson’ was originally titled ‘Losing Leah’. I got a lot of push-back from my beta-readers because they felt that the book was about so much more than Jackson and Leah’s relationship. I eventually began to see where they were coming from and after tossing a few other ideas out I finally came up with ‘Finding Jackson’. In the end, I felt it was perfect.

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Trinity and Jeff

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions

Kate Hill will be awarding a $15 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour

See below to sign up for the Giveaway

Denying her love for her childhood friend, Jeff, Trinity visits her family’s ancestral land, believing the Wild family magic has called her there to meet her soulmate. Instead she finds danger at every turn, but she won’t have to face it alone.

Jeff has loved Trinity his whole life, but settled for friendship after she broke his heart on prom night. Now this soldier turned firefighter faces the supernatural to protect Trinity and convince her once and for all that they belong together.

read an excerpt...
Staring into his intense brown eyes, Trinity weakened. Why had he always been able to do this to her? Make her furious and then present a perfectly logical and usually loving reason for him intruding on her life.

“I won’t let it happen this time, Jeff. You’re always doing this. Sticking your big nose in where it doesn’t belong.”  “Don’t insult my nose.”

“You know what I mean. It’s like the time my friends and I went up to the lake for a midnight swim. It was supposed to be a girls’ night and you busted in.”

“Your friend Cheryl nearly drowned when the canoe tipped.”

“I know. You were right, and we appreciated your help, but that’s beside the point.”

“And what about the time you and your cousins went ice skating on the pond with that moron your cousin Amelia had a crush on.”

“Moron? Alexander was genius level.”

“Some genius. He ended up showing off and breaking his leg so I had to carry his ass to the main road. If I hadn’t been there, who would have carried him? You or Amelia?”

“We’d have done it. Just because you’re like a gorilla and can throw a six-foot man over your shoulder doesn’t mean Amelia and I couldn’t have handled the situation.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Listen, Jeff, I know you mean well and you’ve always been there for me. I love you like a brother, but you have to understand that --”

“Don’t.” Jeff held up his large hand and Trinity stared at it for a moment. 

About Kate Hill...
Kate Hill is a vegetarian New Englander who started writing over twenty years ago for pleasure. Since 1996, she has sold over one hundred short stories, novellas, and novels.

She prefers to blend genres, and she loves horror and a happily ever after, so her books can be a bit unusual. If you're looking for romance with witches, aliens, vampires, angels, demons, shapeshifters and more, there's a good chance you'll find something to your taste in her backlist.
When she's not working on her books, Kate enjoys reading, working out, and watching horror movies. She also writes under the name Saloni Quinby.

Personal Answers from Kate...
Does this book have a special meaning to you? i.e. where you found the idea, its symbolism, its meaning, who you dedicated it to, what made you want to write it?
When Trinity was introduced in the first book in the Wild Witches of Beaver Bay series, she was texting her best friend Jeff. I knew even then there was more to their relationship than friendship, and I had to write their story.

Where do you get your storylines from? Many different things inspire my stories. Sometimes it’s a person, a place, a song, or just a feeling. Usually my characters come first and they “tell” me their stories.

Was this book easier or more difficult to write than others?  Why? So far the Wild Witches of Beaver Bay series has flowed really well for me. Every story has its difficult moments, but overall this series has been a pleasure to write. I had been looking forward to writing about Trinity and Jeff since they were introduced in Wild Witches of Beaver Bay 1.

Do you only write one genre? I usually write romance in a variety of subgenres, but I sometimes write horror as well.

Give us a picture of where you write, where you compose these words…is it Starbucks, a den, a garden…we want to know your inner sanctum? I have a desk at home in a room with a window, but my desk doesn’t face the window. I have lots of books around it as well as knickknacks I’ve collected over the years. Most of them have some kind of sentimental value. The room is black and orange--Halloween colors. I keep certain Halloween decorations out all year round because it’s my favorite holiday.
And finally, of course…was there any specific event or circumstance that made you want to be a writer? I’ve loved stories for as long as I can remember. I started writing to tell the stories I wanted to read, but hadn’t found yet. 

Author Links:


Trinity and Jeff Buy Links:
Barnes & Noble:
Changeling Press:

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Coliseum Arcanist

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Shami Stovall will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Adventure. Competition. A duel to the death.

While on a journey to the famous city of Thronehold, Volke Savan learns of the Sovereign Dragon Tournament. The massive celebration involves hundreds of arcanists competing for fame and glory, and Volke is determined to win.

Dark forces dwell in the city, however, and rumors of the legendary world serpent spread amongst the shadows. Whoever bonds with a god-like mystical creature will gain magic beyond compare, and the queen’s guards suspect cutthroats will use the chaos of the tournament to hide their plotting.

Unsure of who to trust, Volke investigates the terrible rumors while advancing in the ranks of the tournament. Unfortunately, the true villain may be closer than he realizes…

Continue the Frith Chronicles with the third book, Coliseum Arcanist!

Praise for the Frith Chronicles!

"Absolutely brilliant." - Archaeolibrarian for Knightmare Arcanist (Frith Chronicles, Book 1)

"With a thoroughly satisfying ending that hints at an incredible future for the series, Dread Pirate Arcanist is an unequivocal triumph." - ManyBooks for Dread Pirate Arcanist (Frith Chronicles, Book 2)

Read an Excerpt

Once Zaxis had dressed, we descended the long staircase to the ground floor. Forsythe flew ahead of us, since he hated walking and Zaxis said he was too big to carry. He made it to the library long before we reached the halfway point. I wore my long coat, leather boots, and thick belt—a buccaneer’s outfit, like most individuals who traveled long distances on a ship—but Zaxis had gone a strange route.

He wore no coat and instead pulled at the edges of the shirt I had given him. It was too small, even though I was a few inches taller. The shirt technically fit, though it stretched tight across his chest and biceps, strained by the new muscle. Zaxis tried to adjust the fabric, but nothing worked.

And instead of one belt, he had two—one to hold his trousers, and the other to hold a leather pouch and his new gloves.

The lax style made him seem more like a thug than a professional, but his bronze pendant eliminated doubt. Pirates and cutthroats didn’t adhere to the guild system of identification.

Before we reached the library, he placed a hand on my shoulder. We stopped, and he stared at me with a half-serious, half-flustered expression, like he didn’t want to speak, but couldn’t stop himself.

“I’ve spent a few evenings with Illia,” Zaxis said, curt. “Just talking. Don’t get the wrong idea.”

I lifted an eyebrow, tenser than I had thought I would be. “Okay.”

“The problem is—she talks about you. A lot. It gets annoying.”

“We did grow up together. And none of the other kids associated with us much.”

Zaxis huffed and then pulled me close. “I thought you said you would help me get in her good graces.”

About the Author: Shami Stovall is a multi-award-winning author of fantasy and science fiction, with several best-selling novels under her belt. Before that, she taught history and criminal law at the college level, and loved every second. When she’s not reading fascinating articles and books about ancient China or the Byzantine Empire, Stovall can be found playing way too many video games, especially RPGs and tactics simulators.

Check out her latest novel, Coliseum Arcanist:





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Monday, February 24, 2020

Dangerous Ground

Dangerous Ground

by Susan Hunter

February 17, 2020 to March 20, 2020

Dangerous Ground by Susan Hunter


A Murder Among Friends …

Everyone is anxious to connect with actor Ryan Malloy when he returns to town for his 15-year high school reunion. Everyone except crime writer Leah Nash. She doesn’t have many fond memories of Himmel High’s golden boy. But it turns out she’s not the only one who isn’t a fan. Before the weekend is over, Ryan Malloy is murdered.

The hard-headed but soft-hearted Leah is unwillingly drawn into investigating his death by the pleading of Ryan’s terminally ill mother. She soon discovers that Ryan’s self-absorbed journey through life trampled on the dreams of a number of people. His old girlfriend, his best friend, his own brother, a local businessman—there’s no shortage of suspects—or secrets. But the solution eludes Leah, until the past and the present collide in a dangerous confrontation that threatens one life and ends another.

My Review...
This is a mystery about people’s feelings, how cruel people can sometimes be’s about murder. All of this is  interspersed amongst a crime reporter having come back home to buy and try to save a failing newspaper. If you come from a small town like I did, we can all identify with the failing newspaper problem. But Leah Nash really has to save this one since she has invested a great deal of money in the venture and for her own sense of self as well.

The author, Susan Hunter, has done a good job here of describing the town, the scenes and the characters that live there. She made them very real which always increases the satisfaction in a story. The plot of the story itself evokes memories from our youth and also weaves quite a web making you truly unsure who the "bad" guy or girl might be. It's a  story of classmates, alumna, even town folk. Many of which loved the most popular guy in school back then or many who wanted to do away with him. Maybe we’re all familiar with that thought too (tee hee).   

This is Book 6 in a series titled “Leah Nash Mysteries”. There is no question it can be read as a stand-alone, but I think all are probably equally worth the time to read. In fact, all have great reviews.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery

Published by: Himmel River Press

Publication Date: November 19, 2019

Number of Pages: 364

ISBN: 1698530994 (9781698530994)

Series: Leah Nash Mysteries, Book 6

Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1
I parked my bike just inside the cemetery gates. It took only a few steps down the tree-lined path for the heat and humidity of a mid-summer Wisconsin day to slide away into the cool dark shade. Overhead, the soft murmur of thousands of leaves stirring in the light breeze accompanied me as I walked slowly toward my sister’s grave. Both of my sisters are buried in the cemetery just a few miles outside of Himmel, Wisconsin. My father is as well. But today it was Annie I’d come to visit.
My heart beat a little faster as I neared the gravesite. I’m not afraid of the dead. It’s the memories they leave behind that haunt me. Quiet Annie with her soft voice and big blue eyes, too shy to join the other laughing, shouting kindergarteners at recess—but the first to run over to comfort a little boy struggling not to cry on the first day. Imaginative Annie, commandeering our wide front porch as a sailing ship for her and her cat, Mr. Peoples, to travel around the world. Kind-hearted Annie, sharing her Halloween candy with me when I’m forced to surrender my own treats as penalty for talking back. Sweet, brave, compassionate, eight-year-old Annie, who ran into a burning house to save Mr. Peoples twenty-two years ago, and never came back.
Over all the years since, people—my mother, my aunt, my therapist (yes, I went that route once), my best friend—have reassured me that her death wasn’t my fault, that I was just a child. But, I was older. I should have been watching over her. I should have seen her slipping back to the house after we’d all escaped. In my deep heart’s core, I can’t ever forget that.
Now and then, and always on her birthday, I go to the cemetery to see her. I know that she isn’t really there. But her grave is an anchoring spot for me. I catch her up on the good, the bad, and the ugly happenings in my life. She knows what hurts me, and she knows what frightens me—secrets I don’t share with anyone else. I tell her what our mother is up to, and how others she knew in life are doing. I say all the things to her that I would if she were still here. I try to make up for the fact that I’m alive, and she isn’t. But, of course, I never can.
When I’m talking to her at the cemetery, it feels as though she can really hear me. And I know that she answers. Not right there, at the grave, but later, in unexpected ways. Sometimes, I hear Annie speak to me through a chance remark a stranger makes, or a phrase that leaps out at me from a book, or a sudden flash of insight on a problem I’m wrestling with. I don’t share that belief with very many people. If I did, I might be forced to resign my membership in the Doubting Thomas Society, to which all good journalists should belong. But I can’t accept that those occurrences are just coincidental. I really can’t.
So, on the anniversary of her birth, once again I sat down on the bench in front of her grave and told her how sorry I was that she had died. That I hadn’t saved her. That I still missed her. And then I told her what was really going on in the seemingly successful life of Leah Nash, former small-town reporter, current true crime author, and soon-to-be business failure.
When I say I talk to Annie, I mean that literally. I have a one-sided, out-loud conversation with her, though only when I’m sure I’m alone. Some people already think I’m crazy. No need to give them additional proof. On this particular day, I had a serious problem weighing on my mind.
Not long before, I had made what seemed, at the time, like a brilliant decision. The Himmel Times Weekly, the paper where I’d started out in journalism, and where I’d found a home again after a self-inflicted career injury, was closing. I decided to buy it. I asked a wealthy, community-minded, local attorney, Miller Caldwell, to invest with me. And then I asked a lot of other people—reporters, an editor, stringers, office and sales staff—to work very hard, for very little money, in the hope that together we could keep the Himmel Times alive.
It was exhilarating at first. But it had become an increasing source of anxiety for me. Just as we were getting off the ground, Grantland County Online, a digital-only news site (and I use the term “news” loosely), had gotten a major infusion of capital and a new publisher. Now GO News, as it’s more commonly known, was kicking our butt.
“The scariest thing, Annie,” I said, “is that we’re barely keeping our heads above water, while GO News keeps getting bigger. They don’t have the expenses we do—no print edition, no delivery costs, and they don’t spend a lot of staff time fact-checking. Plus, they started Tea to GO. Did you know that the cool kids say, ‘spill the tea,’ when they mean ‘what’s the gossip?’
Tea to GO is full of ‘What married school official was seen in Milwaukee with a very attractive staff member last Thursday night? Did we say late, last Thursday night?’ That kind of garbage. It’s almost all blind items—the better to avoid lawsuits, my dear. But people are eating it up. Every time you go into the Elite CafĂ©, someone is trying to figure out who the latest gossip is about.”
I paused for a bit of a wallow in self-pity. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t tried to shake things up at the Times, to get us moving ahead, but so far nothing I’d done had made much difference.
“We have a good team. Miguel is much happier since he gave up the managing editor job. He really didn’t like bossing people. And Maggie McConnell is doing great in that spot. She’s got the instincts, the skills, and forty-five years in the news business behind her. If she could only spin straw out of gold, she’d be perfect. But since she can’t, we’re making do with a budget so lean it might as well be made out of turkey burger.
“I gave Allie Ross—you remember, I told you about her. She’s the high school kid we’ve been using as a stringer. Anyway, I gave her a part-time job for the summer in the office. She’s doing the routine stuff, obits and inside pages copy—weddings, anniversaries, club news. She’s got promise, but she’s only fifteen. Troy, the other reporter besides Miguel, is a little bit of a suck-up—and his news judgment isn’t quite there yet. Still, he’s a hard worker. The stringers are a pretty mixed bag.
“Now, here’s a twist I bet you didn’t see coming. I hired Mom to take April Nelson’s place as office manager. I know, I know, it’s a dicey move. But she’s smart, and efficient, and she gets the job done. Plus, she comes cheap. It’s been a little challenging, I admit. Remember when I used to get mad at her and say, ‘You’re not the boss of me!’ and she’d send me to my room?
“Well, now I’m the boss of her, only I don’t get to send her to her room. Yes, OK, I’m not supposed to be doing the day-to-day. That’s Maggie’s job. I understand that. But I can’t just hide away in my office and write my next book if the paper is falling apart two floors below me, can I?
“Everybody took a leap of faith when we reopened the Times, and everyone is putting everything they have into it. I can’t let them down. I have to find a way to keep us afloat. I just didn’t know it would be so hard, Annie.”
I paused for a breath before I wrapped things up.
“And then there’s Gabe. I don’t know. I like him as well—no, probably better than—anyone I’ve gone out with in a long time. He makes me laugh, and he’s really smart. And he likes strong women who speak their minds. In my experience, a lot of men don’t. So what’s the problem, right? Well, it’s not exactly a problem. It’s more that I’m afraid a problem might be coming. Lately, it feels like he’s pushing me a little, like for a commitment or something. Can’t we just enjoy each other? Can’t we just be without getting all serious, and defining things, and making plans? I don’t want to change things. That’s when things go bad, when you try to change them.”
I slumped back against the bench with a sigh. Usually, when I lay everything out to Annie, it makes the issues seem a little more manageable. This time it all still felt overwhelming.
Then, a voice spoke.
Fortunately for my mental health, it wasn’t Annie’s. I turned and looked behind me.
“Coop! How long have you been standing there?” I asked, trying to remember exactly what I’d said out loud. It’s not that Coop and I have major secrets. He’s my best friend, after all. Still, I don’t tell him everything I tell Annie.
“Long enough,” he said with a grin that didn’t offer me much comfort. I tried to move the conversation away from my chat with Annie, particularly the Gabe part.
“What are you doing here?”
“Your mom said you were here. I called your cell, but it didn’t go through.”
“Yeah. It’s a dead zone—pun totally intended—in the cemetery, except for the hill. What did you want?”
“Nothing. I brought something for Annie.”
I looked down at his right hand and saw that he carried a small pot of pink flowers. Pink was Annie’s favorite color. Tears sprang to my eyes. I quickly blinked them away.
“That’s so nice. Why?”
He shrugged. “I know what today is.”
I’m all about keeping my tough outer shell polished, but I was so touched, I couldn’t keep up the facade. “You’re a pretty great friend, you know that?”
He smiled, but he looked embarrassed, and tried to cover it by moving to put the flowers next to Annie’s headstone.
“Did you really come just to put flowers on Annie’s grave?”
“No, not just for Annie. I took some to Rebecca, too.” He was kneeling, positioning the flowers, with his back to me. I couldn’t see his expression.
Rebecca had been Coop’s wife and my nemesis until she was killed last year. I wasn’t happy that Coop had lost someone he loved, but I couldn’t pretend I was sorry she was gone. She’d done everything she could to break up our twenty-year friendship and came close to succeeding. I couldn’t think of anything nice to say about her. So, I employed the Thumper rule, and didn’t say anything.
Coop apparently didn’t want to get into the subject of Rebecca either, because as he stood and turned to me, he said, “I’ll walk out with you. I’ve got my truck. We can throw your bike in the back and you can ride home with me.”
“Yes, please. I didn’t realize it was so hot. I just about sweated to death pedaling out here.”
“Yeah, I can see that,” he said, taking in my damp, bedraggled hair, slipping from its hair clip, and the beads of moisture coalescing into a river of sweat running down the side of my forehead. “You kind of look like you just took a shower.” He sniffed the air, “Except you don’t have that shower-fresh scent.”
“Shut up,” I said. “I’m a head-sweater from way back. Deal with it.” I smiled though, because there’s something very nice and very easy being with a person who really doesn’t care how you look—or in the present situation—smell.
We walked together in companionable silence, until I’d decided he hadn’t heard any of my one-sided conversation with Annie. That dream died in the next minute.
“So, what’s going on with you and Gabe? He’s a nice guy, Leah. You’re not getting ready to toss him overboard, too, are you?”
“No. Why would you say that? And what do you mean by ‘too’?”
“You really want to go there?” He cocked an eyebrow. It’s a not very funny running joke between Coop and my mother that I always find a reason to cut my romances short.
“No, I don’t. I thought you didn’t believe in illegal surveillance, and what do you call lurking around cemeteries where people are having a private conversation? It’s nothing. Really.”
He looked at me for a second, but all he said was, “OK.”
Our conversation was cut off as a tall woman in her fifties, her hair pulled back and hanging in a long, gray braid down her back, appeared and abruptly crossed the path in front of us.
“Hello, Marcy,” I said.
She looked up as though surprised we were there.
“Leah. Coop.” She nodded but didn’t stop to talk. We knew where she was going. To the top of the hill on which sat a small granite building that resembled an ancient Greek temple. The family mausoleum held Marcy’s grandparents, her own mother, and Marcy’s baby daughter, Robin. One day, it would hold Marcy, too.
We watched in silence as she reached the building, pulled a key out of her pocket, unlocked the door, and slipped inside, like a ghost gliding through a wall. It had been sixteen years since Marcy White’s baby had died, and she still came every week. People said she brought a different book each time and read it to Robin. They said it like it was something weird, or even crazy. Not me, though. I understood why she did it.
“You know what, Coop?” I asked, as we continued on down the path.
“I’m calling bullshit on death.”
Excerpt from Dangerous Ground by Susan Hunter. Copyright 2019 by Susan Hunter. Reproduced with permission from Susan Hunter. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Susan Hunter is a charter member of Introverts International (which meets the 12th of Never at an undisclosed location). She has worked as a reporter and managing editor, during which time she received a first place UPI award for investigative reporting and a Michigan Press Association first place award for enterprise/feature reporting.

Susan HunterSusan has also taught composition at the college level, written advertising copy, newsletters, press releases, speeches, web copy, academic papers, and memos. Lots and lots of memos. She lives in rural Michigan with her husband Gary, who is a man of action, not words.

During certain times of the day, she can be found wandering the mean streets of small-town Himmel, Wisconsin, looking for clues, stopping for a meal at the Elite Cafe, dropping off a story lead at the Himmel Times Weekly, or meeting friends for a drink at McClain's Bar and Grill.

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Sunday, February 23, 2020

Ancestral Whispers

British Mystery

Each year the residents of Nether Haddon celebrate the village’s founding in the time-honored way with games, music, and performances by their sword dancers. But something new is added to the fancy footwork this year: a team member dies ... murdered. Fear, jealousy and suspicion quickly engulf the group, emotions as tightly interlocked as the five swords used in the dance: a series of turns, jumps and clogging steps intricate as Celtic knots. Was the victim the intended target, or should it have been someone else? In the course of the CID investigation, a mysterious 17th century puzzle is discovered. Does it hold a clue to the murder? Detective Brenna Taylor and her colleagues have more than enough to worry about. But unbeknownst to her, career criminal King Roper has escaped from prison where he was serving time for murder. Now free and eager to settle the score for his capture, Roper tracks down Brenna’s whereabouts, ready for revenge...

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions

Jo Hiestand will be awarding a $30 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tourSee below to sign up for the Giveaway

My Review...
Lots going on in this mystery set in a small British village. The tradition of rapper sword dancing and a well-researched description of it seems to fill out this story, making a very clear picture and an interesting read. Hiestand has woven another British custom  into a British mystery. When I say woven, I am speaking literally. There are enough twists and turns and hints in this story that I’m sure you’ll “think” you can figure out the “who-dun-it” part before the end. But I bet not.

Hiestand’ s descriptive writing has not changed, it’s as eloquent as ever. Hornung’s knowledge and description of police procedure gives us a clear picture of the inner workings of the Constabulary and  melds well with the story.

This book, as are others in this series, is basically narrated by Brenna Taylor, a Detective Sergeant of the Derbyshire Constabulary. Taylor is now a long-standing officer and Hiestand’s nature of making Taylor the main character has made these stories evolve just as Brenna has grown. Both she and her colleagues seem to have matured a little. Hiestand’s changes to her characters make you feel it’s a world you have lived in; real, sometimes troubled, and sometimes elated.

While I have said the characters seem to mature or make some different decisions in this book of the Peak District series, I do not think there would be any problem reading it as a stand-alone. The only problem I can see would be in not reading it. 

Hiestand also has a mystery series titled "The McLaren Mysteries". I must admit I have read these books too and immediately fell in love with its main character, Michael McLaren. I love reading about his life and the mysteries he tries to solve each time.

read an excerpt...
“He mentioned Jack Darkgate is an amateur radio enthusiast.”

“Anything to throw suspicion on others, Mark.”

“Open mind, Bren, remember? Darkgate might know a lot about electricity. More so if he’s one of those blokes who’s built his own rig. You know,” he added when I looked puzzled. “Some blokes like to assemble their own transreceiver, usually from kits, rather than buy the equipment.”

“Sounds like a lot of work.”

“Probably like anything else: if you have a passion for it, it’s not work.”

We had passed the pub. Darkgate’s house was farther down the road, on the right, around the curve.  I slowed my gait. Mark had taken a half dozen steps before he realized I lagged behind. He turned, walked back to me, and asked if something was wrong.

“You’re going to tell me I’m barmy—“

“You giving me permission or just forecasting the future?”

“I can’t shake the feeling that something serious involving Scott or Graham is going on.”

“You on that again? What set you off? Graham’s dramatic pause this morning?”

“Once I could overlook, Mark, but it also happened last Saturday night and Sunday morning. And you said yourself yesterday that he and Scott didn’t look exactly like cohorts reveling in Scott’s return. Margo mentioned King Roper a few minutes ago.”

The name was like a bell to Pavlov’s dog or a not guilty judgment to a criminal. Mark’s hands gripped my upper arms and he stood facing me, the light in his eyes white-hot. “What about Roper? Why would she mention him? Did she talk to Scott or Graham? He hasn’t escaped, has he?”

about Jo Hiestand...
A month-long trip to England during her college years introduced Jo to the joys of Things British.  Since then, she has been lured back nearly a dozen times and lived there during her professional folksinging stint.

Jo’s insistence for accuracy--from police methods and location layout to the general “feel” of the area--has driven her innumerable times to Derbyshire for research.  These explorations and conferences with police friends provide the details filling both her Peak District mysteries and the McLaren mystery series.

In 1999 Jo returned to Webster University to major in English.  She graduated in 2001 with a BA degree and departmental honors.

Her McLaren mystery, BLACK MOON, received the ‘N.N. Light Best Mystery Book’ award for 2019.

Jo lives with her cat, Tennyson, and way too many kilts in the St. Louis-area.

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