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10 Things You Might Not Know About Jennifer Chase

  • I always write my novels in my bare feet. It’s just comfortable and I’ve been doing that for as long as I can remember. It has happened once or twice that I had to put on a pair of socks if the winter is extra cold.
  • I was born and raised in California, and currently reside there. But, I’ve lived in Oklahoma and Colorado for a short period of time.
  • I’ve had dogs in my entire life ever since I was two years old. My first dog was a Golden Retriever.
  • I won an open tennis tournament when I was fourteen years old.
  • I thought seriously about becoming a veterinarian because of my love for animals.
  • I don’t drink coffee! I love the smell of freshly ground coffee, hate the taste with a passion, but I’ve been known to eat coffee ice cream on a whim. A little bit crazy—I know.
  • I write left handed, but I’m ambidextrous in most activities.
  • My favorite city in California is Santa Barbara.
  • The snack I like to eat I’m writing is black licorice—especially when I write about serial killers.
  • I love to write when it’s raining.

About the Author

Jennifer Chase is a multi award-winning and best-selling crime fiction author, as well as a consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a bachelor degree in police forensics and a master’s degree in criminology & criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience with a violent psychopath, providing Jennifer with deep personal investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling.  She is an affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists, and member of the International Thriller Writers.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: https://authorjenniferchase.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JChaseNovelist

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

About the Book

On the floor, amongst the piles of freshly pressed laundry, lay the woman’s lifeless body, her pale yellow nightdress soaked in blood.
“I didn’t do it…” came a whisper from the corner of the room.

Detective Katie Scott has never seen two people more in love than her aunt and uncle as they danced on the decking the night of their wedding anniversary party. But the next morning, when Katie finds her aunt’s body sprawled across the floor, that perfect image is shattered forever.

All fingers point to Katie’s uncle, Pine Valley’s beloved sheriff and protector – after all, his prints are all over the antique knife found at the scene. Grieving, but certain of her uncle’s innocence, Katie is consigned to the cold case division after she’s discovered searching the house for clues. Does someone want to keep her as far away from this investigation as possible?

Ignoring warnings from her team, Katie digs into her uncle’s old case files and discovers photographs of the body of a young girl found tied to a tree after a hike in search of a rare flower. Her body is covered with the same unusual lacerations her aunt suffered. Katie knows it can’t be a coincidence, but every lead she follows takes her to a dead end.

Moments before the sheriff is arrested, Katie realizes that a single piece of thread she found at the crime scene could be the missing link that will stitch old crimes to new. But how can she prove her uncle’s innocence without throwing herself directly into the line of fire? She doesn’t have a choice, he’s the only family she has left

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Amazon → https://amzn.to/2IOsQQW

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Rie Sheridan Rose multitasks. A lot. Her short stories appear in numerous anthologies, including Nightmare Stalkers and Dream Walkers Vols. 1 and 2, and Killing It Softly Vols. 1 and 2. She has authored twelve novels, six poetry chapbooks, and lyrics for dozens of songs. These were mostly written in conjunction with Marc Gunn, and can be found on “Don’t Go Drinking with Hobbits” and “Pirates vs. Dragons” for the most part–with a few scattered exceptions.

Her favorite work to date is The Conn-Mann Chronicles Steampunk series with five books released so far: The Marvelous Mechanical Man, The Nearly Notorious Nun, The Incredibly Irritating Irishman, The Fiercely Formidable Fugitive, and The Elderly Earl’s Estate.

Rie lives in Texas with her wonderful husband and several spoiled cat-children.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: https://riewriter.com/  and https://theconnmannchronicles.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RieSheridanRose

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

Interview:

Would you call yourself a born writer?

I don’t know if I would characterize it quite that way…but I do know that as soon as I could formulate an answer to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” the answer always included “And a writer.”

What was your inspiration for The Marvelous Mechanical Man?

There were several things that went into it. First, it was November, and I needed a National Novel Writing Month project. My writing partner suggested I try Steampunk as it was a genre I liked, but hadn’t really written in. It sounded like fun. The Steampunk I had read was mostly dark, except for Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate books, so I decided to follow her lead and be less gritty. I, being a masochist, also decided to experiment with First Person PoV, because I had never tried to do a long form in that style. That turned out to be a brilliant decision, because Josephine Mann was born, and she had a great deal to say.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

The first draft took thirty days—being a NaNoWriMo project—but polishing and edits probably took at least another six months. All said and done, this was probably nine months from start to first publication, and then a touch-up before its re-release.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

God no. The only time I am even half-way disciplined is November, and that doesn’t always work out to words hitting page. In my defense, I edit for two small presses as well as my own writing, and I am chief cook and bottle-washer…but that is really no excuse. Many authors can juggle better than I can. I am literally floored by the productivity of some of my peers, but I am more of a “when the mood strikes me” sort of writer. I really need to try the scheduled route.

A typical writing day is to sit at the keyboard and stare at the page until I work up the courage to put a word down. Often I will read over the end of the day before to remember where I was going, and then I will write until I am called to do something else or get bored.

That’s a terrible answer, but it’s probably why I am not publishing more…

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

As I say, there were several challenges about this book. First was capturing New York in 1874. I wanted it to be as true to period as possible while still exploring the tropes of Steampunk. I do a lot of research, even though there is a lot of the fantastic involved—like Phaeton, the Marvelous Mechanical Man, himself. There is no scientific reason for why he works…he just does.

Writing a young woman who grew up in the sheltered confines of a convent and yet has been fending for herself for a few years was also a challenge. Keeping Jo believable was important, but she does tend to get kidnapped a lot…

What do you love most about being an author?

Two things—creating my own worlds, and meeting people to share them with. I love going to conventions and introducing people to my characters and places. I also love challenging myself to try new genres and methods. So far, only mystery eludes me, but I am hoping the next book changes that.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

All of my work has been with small presses or self-published. Sometimes I wish I had pushed for the top, but I am generally happy with where I am.

Specifically with The Marvelous Mechanical Man (and the rest of The Conn-Mann Chronicles) the first editions of the first two books were released by a small press, but I realized that I could dedicate more time and energy to promotion and other aspects than my publisher could. She had a hundred or so authors to promote, and I had just me. So, I got the rights back on those first two books, and I have been self-publishing the series ever since. I have been very pleased with the results. Sure, I would love to have more sales—who wouldn’t? But I have the freedom to try crazy things like the three teas I have had developed for my characters, or the toy kittens that sell like hot-cakes at conventions. Jo and I are plugging away on Book Six, and her friend Winifred has her own story releasing soon.

Title: THE MARVELOUS MECHANICAL MAN
Author: Rie Sheridan Rose
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 270
Genre: Steampunk Adventure Romance

BOOK BLURB:

The Marvelous Mechanical Man is the first book in a Steampunk series featuring the adventures of Josephine Mann, an independent woman in need of a way to pay her rent. She meets Professor Alistair Conn, in need of a lab assistant, and a partnership is created that proves exciting adventure for both of them.

Alistair’s prize invention is an automaton standing nine feet tall. There’s a bit of a problem though…he can’t quite figure out how to make it move. Jo just might be of help there. Then again, they might not get a chance to find out, as the marvelous mechanical man goes missing.

Jo and Alistair find themselves in the middle of a whirlwind of kidnapping, catnapping, and cross-country chases that involve airships, trains, and a prototype steam car. With a little help from their friends, Herbert Lattimer and Winifred Bond, plots are foiled, inventions are perfected, and a good time is had by all.

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Amazon → https://amzn.to/3bfoz55

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For many years, MaryAnn Kempher lived in Reno Nevada where most of her stories are set. Her books are an entertaining mix of mystery and humor. She lives in the Tampa Florida area with her husband, two children, and a very snooty Chorkie.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: http://www.mkempher.com

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

 

Can we begin by having you tell us how you came up with that wonderful title?

MaryAnn: My main character has a love of Starbucks. It is her weakness. The murder happens at night under the moonlight. So, Mocha, Moonlight, and Murder.

Can you tell us a little about the main characters?

MaryAnn: The two main characters are Katherine O’Brian and Scott Mitchell. For their own reasons, neither finished college. Now, they meet in the last class they both need for their degrees. They start out as friends and become friends who fall in love. The path is bumpy and funny. While their love story unfolds, a mystery develops. Katherine has a stalker, the man she saw disposing of a dead body.

They say all books of fiction have at least one pivotal point where the reader just can’t put the book down. Can you tell give us one of the pivotal points in your book?

MaryAnn: I think that point depends on the reader and what they like the most, romance or mystery. When Scott and Katherine first meet, it’s funny and maybe that’s when some people become hooked. On the other hand, it might be when Katherine stumbles upon the killer as he disposes of his victim, which happens early in the story.

Can you explain to us why it was important for you to write your story?

MaryAnn: I don’t have a deep answer. I just know that once I start a book, I have to finish writing it. And once done, I feel so complete.

What are you working on now?

MaryAnn: Two main characters from book two through seven are getting their own series. Trust me, anyone who has read those books will be thrilled. These two characters are liked very much.

Final question: do you have any advice for the yet-to-be-published writers?

MaryAnn: Assuming the book is finished and you are self-publishing, pay to get it professionally edited and proofread. This can be expensive, but it’s worth it. Also, pay for a professional cover. Give a lot of thought to the back-cover blurb. The first thing people see is the cover, then what do they do? They read the blurb. So, both are extremely important.

All of the above, except the cover, still applies for those seeing to have their book traditionally published. If you are, and are lucky enough to have an  agent request a partial and then a full, you’ll want your book to be highly polished before sending to that agent.

About the Book

One night, 28-year-old, Katherine O’Brian, decides to walk to an all-night diner. The only problem? It’s midnight, but Katherine lives in Reno Nevada, a city that never sleeps; she can clearly see the diner’s lights in the distance. It’s no big deal, until she passes someone’s garage where a man is loading a dead body into the trunk of his car.

And now, she’s in trouble. She outran the man that night, and while she has no idea who he is, he knows who she is. And he wants her dead.

As if attempts on her life weren’t stressful enough, Katherine has gone back to college. She’s determined to finally finish her degree, but her lab partner is driving her crazy. He’s hot, but annoying. And she’s not sure which she wants more—a night of mad, passionate sex or a new lab partner. It varies from day to day.

Will Katherine give in to her lust for her partner or will she give in to her desire to throttle him? If she’s in the ground before graduation, it won’t matter.
Not your typical romance, not your typical mystery.

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Amazon → https://amzn.to/2OkHlii

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Struggling To Profit From Social Media?

It’s more than likely not your fault. There is a lot of misinformation (and outright lies) being told about how social media is supposed to work. In Social Leads you will discover post ideas to use on Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, and more!

Your Very Own Social Media Playbook You Can Use Over and Over

If you want to add social media to your marketing plan, this is the playbook you need to get started. Understand how each platform works and how so you can achieve your business’s goals. Inside this action-oriented book, you’ll learn:

  • How to get traffic to your social media pages for free
  • What to do when you’ve tried everything on social media and you’re not getting results
  • Example social media posts (with pictures) to help get your creative juices going
  • Plus more!

ORDER YOUR COPY

 

Amazon → https://amzn.to/3awrSVf

 

Book Excerpt:

What To Expect From This Book

Back in the day, building a business seemed pretty straight forward. You found a building, you got a loan, you opened up shop, and the people came to your store.

Except, that’s not exactly what happened?

People found office space, got the loan, opened up shop, and no one came. The savvy business owners would discover marketing tactics that would generate foot traffic. Tactics like direct mail, radio advertising, catalog advertising, classified ads, etc.

After some trial and error, they saw results.

Nowadays, the storefront is different.

People go online and build websites. No loan needed, just a monthly payment for hosting and an annual fee for your domain registration.

But many people have discovered that though it’s easier to “set up shop” now than a few decades ago, they run into the same problem: getting customers.

The savvy business owners will start looking at different online marketing tactics such as blogging, email marketing, SEO, and social media marketing.

“Build it and they will come” mentality crippled/cripples many businesses.

If you are reading this book, kudos to you for putting forth effort to “figuring it out”. It’s important to get as much knowledge as possible. But as Dale Carnegie infamously said, “knowledge isn’t power until it is applied.”

If you are not action oriented, then this book is definitely not for you. I’m sorry to tell you that this book is nothing but words filled with actions you must take if you want your business to have a chance in hell of survival.

Yes, I know, with a title like Social Leads: Your Social Media Playbook to Generating More Leads in The Next 90 Days, there should be some magic. There should be some snap-your-fingers-and-boom-it-works instructions. Sadly there is none of that in this book.

This book is for action-takers.

Implementers.

Persistent and determined individuals who will, by golly, make this business work; it’s this or bust. If that is you, then you’re in luck.

What’s on the pages that follow is action plan that will help you start attracting leads organically using social media.

Why are we focused on social media?

According to the statistics, the average person is on social media between 2 – 6 hours every single day.

Marketing 101 says “Go where the people are.” And the people are on social media. Chances are high, you will be able to sell your products and services on social media.

But…(there’s always a but isn’t there)…

Social media is always changing. The algorithms, the rules, and the available platforms all can change at the drop of a hat. It’s this constant change that makes social media marketing difficult for many to grasp and understand. In my ten plus years of using social media to generate traffic to websites in a variety of industries, I have seen it all.

And yet, despite the changes, I have managed to attract clients and money with less followers and fans than many of my competitors. (I made $500 my first 6 weeks on Instagram with a meager 40 followers. To date, I have made thousands of dollars on Instagram alone and I have under 300 followers.)

How is that possible?

You’ll discover all of that and more in this book. Turn the page and let’s get started.

Shay Banks helps entrepreneurs get more leads and sales with social media. If you’re not filling your pipeline with new leads, Shay can show you how to use your social media pages to do just that. Get more leads now by grabbing your free social media toolkit at: www.shaybanks.com.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

 

Website: www.shaybanks.com

 

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/sbankstech

 

 

 

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A single mother and owner of the town diner, Charlie McKay couldn’t be happier with her life in Blue Creek. Taking care of everyone around her is a labor of love, but the secret she’s keeping about her daughter’s parentage lurks beneath the surface. With the scars of the past still not healed, Charlie isn’t interested in adding a man to her life, even if that man is the oh-so-tempting Craig Sutton.

Determined to own his own bar, as his father had, Craig Sutton is a man on a mission. But wanting to enjoy small town life is only one of the reasons he moved to the mountains of North Carolina. Whether meaning to or not, Craig can’t keep from getting involved with the McKay family, and the closer he gets to Charlie and her daughter the more entangled he becomes.

In Blue Creek secrets have always run deep, and someone is now trying to expose Charlie’s in a disturbing way. She isn’t the only one with something to hide, however, and deception threatens a possible relationship between her and Craig. As hidden truths are revealed and danger increases, Charlie must find a way to face the past or lose everything.

Amazon → https://amzn.to/2FTlM3J

First Chapter:

Someone was in his bedroom. Craig Sutton feigned sleep, even though the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. He rolled over, slid one hand beneath his pillow, grasped cold steel, and opened his eyes. He didn’t know whether to laugh or curse. Standing on the bed next to him was four-anda-half-year-old Mackenzie McKay. Her big black eyes were wide and unblinking. He released his weapon and sat up.

“Uh…hi.”

“Hi.” She twirled one of her white-blonde pigtails. Craig had come across Mack, the niece of his landlady, on a number of occasions. But…

“How’d you get in here, sweetheart?”

She pouted. “I’m allowed.”

“Well…I don’t think anyone told you, but because I’m staying here, you need to knock first.” Craig didn’t want to scare her or, God forbid, make her cry. He’d never been able to handle female tears, especially the tiny variety.

She crossed her arms. “Auntie Alex shoulda said.”

“I’m sure she meant to…How about you go in the other room while I change, and then I’ll take you to find your aunt.”

“Ohskay.” She jumped down and closed the door behind her. Craig went to the bathroom, brushed his teeth, and changed his clothes in record time. When he came out, he was surprised to find her sitting at the kitchen table, humming and swinging her legs.

Craig shook his head and smiled; the kid was adorable. “Ready, sweets?” “Yep!” She hopped off the seat and took Craig’s hand.

He shivered the moment he stepped outside; he should have grabbed a jacket. It was freezing, and Mack didn’t have a coat on. He swung her up in his arms, she giggled, and his heart warmed.

She pressed her cold nose into the crook of his neck. “Grandpops does that too.”

“He’s a nice guy then.”

“Uh-huh. You smell pretty. Kinda like my Uncle Ryan but with more pepper,” she said with a small nod, then her mouth pinched. “But you don’t itch my nose.”

Craig laughed. “Is that so?”

“Uh-huh.”

They walked across the gravel parking lot toward the bed and breakfast Alexandra McKay owned and operated. It was called Granny Vaughn’s, and the place was both massive and impressive, if one was into that kind of thing. There was a closed-in porch leading to the kitchen, which was off limits to B and B guests, but whose entrance he was told he was welcome to use if he needed anything—like paying his rent or chatting up his landlady.

Craig had expected to come across Alexandra but found her sister Charlie, Mack’s mother, instead. It was a pleasant surprise. He enjoyed this particular McKay, with her short blonde curls, big brown eyes, and supple pink lips—kissable lips. Almost every time he was in her company, he’d been drawn to her mouth, not that she noticed. It was for the best; he had his own agenda here in Blue Creek, and he needed to keep his priorities straight.

Charlie put her hands on her jean-clad hips. “Mackenzie Annie McKay, where have you been? I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”

“Uh-oh, kid.” Craig put Mack down. “She used your full name; looks like you’re in trouble.”

Mack’s gaze darted between the adults. “I went to the playhouse.”

“Do we need to talk again about going somewhere without telling me, or going into places without being asked?”

The child looked down and shuffled her feet.

Charlie offered him a small smile. “I’m sorry, Craig.”

“It was a shock to the system, but what the hell, it woke me up,” he said looking around the room. “Is Alexandra here?”

“She’s running errands, but she’ll be back soon.”

She turned to Mack. “Do you want to help me or play with your doll babies?” It only took a second for the child to dash out of the room.

Craig eyed the pot of coffee sitting on the counter. “Are there any guests?”

Charlie, the consummate hostess, poured him a cup. “This is the slowest time of year for Alex, but there was a sweet older couple staying here last night; they left a bit ago. I was helping them load their luggage into their car, hence my daughter slipping away.”

“Don’t worry about it.” He took the offered mug, then sipped. “You do make the best coffee.”

She gave him a shy smile. “There are muffins too, if you’re interested?”

He homed in on the basket of baked goods, sat down at the table, and helped himself. “Keep me company?”

Charlie shot a quick glance in the direction her daughter went. “Okay, but just for a bit.” She poured herself a cup of coffee, then took the seat across from him. “How’s Blue Creek treating you, so far?”

He shrugged. “I can’t complain, but let’s not talk about me; tell me about you.” He eyed her over the rim of his mug. Was she debating what to divulge? How stimulating!

“Well…I—” “I didn’t see your ride in the parking lot.”

“No, my sister Casey took it for an oil change.”

“She’s the mechanic, right?”

Charlie nodded.

“It’s an interesting choice,” he said around a mouthful of muffin.

Her brow pinched. “Sorry?”

He swallowed both his food and his grin. “Your SUV—not your sister’s career. A female mechanic is pretty badass, but so is your ride. It’s vintage, isn’t it?” Her lips quirked upward.

“Yes. I saw one like it in a movie once. I’ve never really been into cars, but I wanted that Blazer! I asked Ward Jessup, who was the town mechanic at the time, how hard it would be to get one, and he said he’d look into it. It took him years, and I’d actually forgotten about the entire thing, but after I had Mackenzie, it showed up in my driveway.”

Craig’s eyebrows rose. “He gave it to you?”

A fine sheen glazed her eyes. “Yes, Ward was very special to my family—to me. He died over a year ago.”

And now he was a dick. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” She shrugged. “You didn’t know.”

He shifted in his chair. “What about your family?”

“What about yours?” A blush swept up her cheeks. “I didn’t mean to sound—”

He waved a hand. “Don’t mention it. My mother died when I was a kid. It was just me and my dad until college—two men trying not to let life knock them down, or so he always said. He owned a bar, so I’m continuing the tradition. I’m on my own now.” Sort of.

“Oh, I’m—”

“What about Mackenzie’s father?”

She flinched. Damn. “Sorry if that’s too forward.”

“He’s dead.”

Craig sat back. “I see…sorry.”

Charlie stood, dumped her coffee in the sink, and started loading the dishwasher.

He drummed his fingers against the table. “So, tell me about my landlady.” She glanced over her shoulder. “Alexandra?”

“Yes, is she as—I don’t know—cold as she seems?”

“Alex isn’t cold; she’s shrewd—there’s a difference.”

“Yeah?” He smirked and stood.

“She seems a bit stuck-up to me.”

“I wouldn’t say ‘stuck-up.’ ” She closed the dishwasher and smiled at him. “We’ve always described her as prissy, and that’s Alexandra to the core. She’s always been like that—she’s a trip. You seem to have a lot of opinions about my sister.”

Craig cocked his head to the side. Was Charlie jealous? “I’m the curious sort, but if you’re wondering if I’m interested in her, then the answer is no. She’s not my type.”

“And what is your type?” Her face went red.

“Why? Are you interested?” Wouldn’t that be stimulating?

Her brow pinched. “I…” She was a picture with big doe eyes, apple cheeks, and pink, kissable lips.

He downed his coffee and walked over to her. Priorities be damned. “Well, Charlie, are you?”

“I have a four-and-a-half-year-old and own a diner. I don’t have time to be interested.”

Craig leaned down and breathed her in. She smelled like cookies. Delicious. “Pity that.”

Her gaze searched his, and, God help him, she licked her lips.

“Good morning.” And there went all the heat. Craig winked at Charlie, then turned. Even with the cold stare in her dark blue eyes, Alexandra was breathtaking.

“Good morning, Landlady.”

She put her shopping bags down on the table and eyed him. “Was there something you needed, Mr. Sutton?”

“Nope, and it’s Craig, remember?” He turned to Charlie. “Thanks for the coffee and conversation.”

Charlie’s cheeks were still flushed, but she smiled. “You’re welcome.”

He gave a curt bow to Alexandra, then headed out the door. Despite the dismissal, Craig smiled. Things were shaping up his way.

****

Craig Sutton…holy moly, but the man caused Charlie to pulse in places best not thought about. From the moment he walked into her diner, she had been taken by the sight of him. And today was no different; his tawny hair had been tousled by the wind, and his dark blue eyes were the perfect mixture of mischief and sincerity. Not to mention how his tight jeans fit his backside oh-so-snugly.

Even a ratty sweatshirt couldn’t diminish the drool-worthy factor. Charlie shook her head and turned to her sister.

“Do you want to tell me what all that was about?”

Alex paused from putting away groceries. “What all what was about?”

Charlie rolled her eyes. “Oh, you know very well what I mean.”

“I thought you’d sworn off men?”

She could only stare at her sister. A few years ago, Charlie’s choice in the opposite sex had sent her reeling into a black pit of shame and despair. She had promised herself she wouldn’t go down that particular rabbit hole ever again, but it didn’t mean she couldn’t enjoy the scenery. And she missed being in a man’s arms, not to mention kissing. Goodness, she loved kissing. If Alex hadn’t come in, Craig may have…Don’t even go there, Charlie girl!

“Cat—or something else—got your tongue?”

Charlie gaped. “What in the world has gotten in to you today?”

Her sister sighed. “Sorry, I’m not trying to be a bitch—”

“You could have fooled me!” She shook her head. Alexandra was more than a sister, she was Charlie’s best friend, and…and… “Do you like him?”

“Who?”

“Seriously!” She huffed and snatched a package of coffee filters out of her sister’s hands. “Do you like Craig?”

“We don’t know enough about him.” Alex held out her hand.

Charlie gave the filters back. “That doesn’t answer my question.” Most men fell over themselves when they first met Alex, and Craig was no exception. Charlie couldn’t blame him; her sister was like a goddess with her crown of fiery locks and unrelenting confidence. And Charlie wasn’t jealous, but this particular man’s reaction to Alex, and her sister’s odd behavior, did prickle under her skin.

“Are you interested in him?”

Charlie shrugged. “I can’t afford to get in a tizzy over any man.”

“Exactly! Men make a mess of things, and that’s all we need to say on the subject.”

“Fine.” Charlie began to help unload the groceries, knowing full well her sister hadn’t answered the question.

****

“Did you get me a surprise?” Mack asked.

“Yes, baby, but you have to wait till we get home,” Charlie said for the third time since they’d left her parents’ house. It was her own fault for mentioning she’d gone shopping after she’d picked their SUV up from the garage.

She pulled into the driveway, enjoying how the moonlight haloed their little house, a small white-sided ranch with navy-blue shutters and a wraparound porch. It was the house she’d always pictured having—a home of their own. Putting the vehicle in park, Charlie squinted at the package on the front porch. She didn’t remember ordering anything.

She got Mack out of her car seat and hurried up the steps after her. “Look, Mama!” Mack clapped. “It’s a present for us.”

“Let’s go inside first, then I’ll come and get it.” Charlie unlocked the door and urged Mack in. She waited a beat, then went back to get things she’d picked up at the store. She glanced at the box and rolled her eyes. It looked heavy.

Mack tried to take the bags out of Charlie’s hands the minute she walked into the kitchen. “Can I have my surprise now?”

Charlie handed her daughter the new coloring book. “Here, sweetheart. Now go to the playroom, and I’ll come in there in a minute.”

Mack shouted her thanks and skipped away.

Charlie hated admitting it, but she couldn’t wait for preschool to start again. She understood the teaching staff had the flu, but how long did it really take to get better? Take a chill pill, Charlie girl! Twenty minutes later, she put the finishing touches on her meatloaf. She cranked the timer for another fifteen minutes and went to set the table. She had just put out the forks when she remembered the box.

Maybe one of her sisters had sent them something. Out on the porch, Charlie took a few minutes trying to figure out how to get the thing inside—it weighed a ton. Finally, she decided to open the package right where it was. From the smell, something had gone bad. There was no way she was bringing it inside her house, much less her kitchen.

Maybe if she hadn’t forgotten about the darn thing, it wouldn’t have had a chance to spoil. “It’s freezing out here, so it isn’t my fault,” she told the box. Shaking her head, Charlie used a paring knife to cut the tape. She opened the flaps, wincing at the stench, and looked inside. Charlie rushed to the porch railing and emptied her stomach.

She closed the box, her hands shaking. It couldn’t be! Oh, God.

“Mama, what—”

“Go to your room, Mackenzie, and don’t come out until I get you.”

Mack hesitated.

Charlie shouted, “Now!”

Her daughter ran back inside.

Charlie rubbed her face. “Holy shit,” she whispered; she choked out a sob, then took a couple of deep breaths. She could handle this; she had to calm down. She pulled out her cell phone and dialed.

“McKay.”

“Fletcher, someone sent me a package.” She gulped for air. Do not fall apart, do not fall apart.

“Hells bells, just spit it out! I got a grave robbed out here, and you won’t believe whose it is neither.”

“Rick’s?”

“How the hell did you know that? Shit—”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to say. He’s here…someone put him on my porch.”

“Holy fuck! Don’t touch anything! Jasper and I’ll be there in a few minutes.” Charlie shoved her cellphone in her back pocket. Not only did someone out there know her secret, but they’d dug it out of its grave, chopped it into pieces, and left it at her door.

About the Author

W.L. Brooks was born with an active imagination.  When characters come into her mind, she has to give them a life- a chance to tell their stories. With a coffee cup in her hand and a cat by her side, she spends her days letting the ideas flow onto paper.  A voracious reader, she draws her inspiration from mystery, romance, suspense and a dash of the paranormal.

A native of Virginia Beach, she is currently living in Western North Carolina. Pick up her latest novel, The Secrets That Shape Us- available now!

Website: www.wlbrooks.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorwlbrooks

Goodreads: https://bit.ly/2RAd0xl

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Elysia Strife is a self-published author of science-fiction fantasy and romance novels.

Adopted by two educators, Strife developed a deep love for learning new things. In 2012, she graduated from Oregon State University with two Bachelor’s Degrees in Public Health and Human Sciences: Interior Design and Exercise Sport Science. Her past wears fatigues, suits, and fitness gear, sprinkled with mascara and lace.

“I like to question everything, figure out how things work, and do tasks myself. Experiencing new things is fun but also helps with writing raw and genuine stories. And I’m always trying to push my comfort zones.”

Strife likes the rumble of her project car’s 350-ci V8. She enjoys the rush of snowboarding and riding ATVs on the dunes. But nothing brings her more solace than camping in the mountains where the stars are their brightest.

Strife enjoys connecting with readers and welcomes all feedback and questions.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: elstrife.com

Blog: https://elstrife.com/category/blog/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ElysiaLStrife

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

Book Description:

A romantic-suspense novel featuring: miscarriage, hot co-workers, cybersecurity threats, and the struggle of defining family.

With only an abusive mother-figure to guide her, Norah has learned everything the hard way. An unexpected pregnancy with her fiancé changed her career plans. But miscarriage and betrayal thrust everything in reverse again. Eerie things start happening at work, and Norah finds herself at the center of the investigation.

Secrets tumble forth from Norah’s father, her ex-fiancé, and the mystery around her adoption, breaking the walls she’s put up to protect her heart. Now, more than ever, she longs for trust, love, and a family of her own.

Bonding with her handsome co-worker, Evan, and his teenage daughter, Ashley, Norah gets a glimpse of cohesive family life. She finds herself falling for Evan and becoming an unlikely source of help and understanding for Ashley. Evan and Ashley have an empty seat at their table, one Norah wishes to fill. Yet the guilt of taking the previous woman’s place threatens to keep them apart.

Can Norah overcome the scars of her past and discover her inner strength? And will the private letter from her father answer her questions or destroy the family, and the man, she’s come to love?

ORDER YOUR COPY

Amazon → https://amzn.to/2wYVKLh

Interview:

Would you call yourself a born writer?

Yes and no. I am continually playing out random stories in my mind, proposing questions, and putting fantastical twists on less exciting aspects of life. Writing didn’t come naturally to me when I was younger, mostly because I was always focused on providing the right answer.

In recent years, I’ve started writing more from the heart. I think it’s an acquired skill set, one I plan to improve upon until the end of my days. I just started digging into poetry, a form I never understood in school. The key is to allude to something greater than what is written, not to be deliberately ambiguous. I always try to hint at the deeper meanings in my books without stating them outright. Perfecting that technique takes time, but the intent has always been there.

What was your inspiration for A Promise in Ash?

It started with the emotional struggles I faced after a miscarriage. My life felt like it was falling apart. But writing about myself isn’t something I like to do. So it was only a concept. Then I met a woman who had experienced abuse as a young woman and dared to stand up and move on. Her experiences influenced A Promise in Ash to becoming the story it is today.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

I started writing it a few years ago but stopped to work on other projects. In total, I’d say about six months off and on. Some days I sat down and wrote a few pages. Other days I would work on refining a specific emotional moment. In my books, there are always a lot of details that add up to a climax. Making that path wind the perfect amount as readers climb the mountain—with a few red herrings thrown in—takes a lot of time, especially when there’s more than one plot.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I wish there were a typical writing day! I fit in writing every chance I get. I often get my ideas at night while lying in bed, unable to sleep, and will write them in a notes app on my phone. When I have a bit of time the next day, I’ll transfer them to my laptop, where I develop the concepts. But I’ve been freelance editing for a while, so I’m usually working on other author’s manuscripts. I’m also a dedicated gym rat, spending a few hours there almost every day. And since we live in an RV, my chores take extra time. We don’t own a dishwasher or a washer and dryer. Tanks need dumping every few days. And with such a small space, a dog, and a husband who works construction, it gets hella dirty up in here! Cleaning has to happen daily. Writing began as a cheaper, productive alternative to being on Pinterest in my free time. There are way too many good ideas on that site.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Everything has a purpose, which I reveal at the end. Working backward from that point and showing each piece as its own thread was difficult. The main character, Norah, has an emotionally complicated life in the beginning. I had to manage a worst-case scenario of real life. Her father is sick. She miscarries. Her step-mother is abusive. Her fiancé doesn’t want children and starts to wonder why she hasn’t shown for dates. So she’s stuck in this place of not knowing what to do with herself because everything is falling apart. On top of all of that, lights flicker at work. Norah’s left a creepy message. Her phone starts acting wonky. Money is disappearing from accounts. All she wants is a healthy, boring, peaceful life with a family of her own. It’s just not the card she was dealt in life. But I had some great CPs who helped me tie up loose ends.

What do you love most about being an author?

Finding out from fans that they enjoyed something from one of my books makes my writing feel worthwhile. I enjoy creating new worlds and experimenting with human emotion. I think we can test out theories through writing stories and hypothesizing what people would do in given situations.

But I also like to be able to say, “I made this. I wrote it. I edited it. I formatted it. I designed the cover.” It’s proof to myself that I can do things. I can tell anyone that I have two degrees, am a veteran, have worked lots of different jobs. But nothing quite substantiates work like a physical copy. It’s a strange but elating notion, seeing them sitting up there on my bookcase.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

It’s still odd to say, “I’m an author,” even though A Promise in Ash is my 5th self-published book.  I enjoy self-publishing because it lets me have control over every aspect of the product. I’m also sort of impatient and struggle with holding onto a project that’s completed. It stresses me out. So I write, edit, publish, and move on. I have loads of prompts and half-written stories.

I do wish I could spend more time writing and less operating a business. But one of the significant struggles of indies is being discoverable to readers. Marketing is a hassle but an upside in the long run. So I still like this process.

Thanks for having me!

Best wishes!

-Elysia

 

 

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Title: WHISPERS ON A STRING: THE STORY OF LONNY AND ROO
Author: Kathleen Stone
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 552
Genre: Contemporary Lit

BOOK BLURB:

What happens when your soul is bound to another before you were ever born? Lonny and Roo have been best friends since they met in high school in 1975 at the age of fourteen. Same last name, same birthdate, they were attached at the hip; rarely was one seen without the other. Together they navigate through their emotional high school years, but nothing prepares the naive teenagers for the real world ahead of them. Now on the cusp of their fiftieth birthday, Lonny finds Roo broke and alone and convinces her to leave with him on a cross country road trip from New York to Las Vegas, hoping to set her on a new path in life. Told exclusively by Roo, follow the friends back and forth through their unique relationship — experience the loss of innocence, career and life choices that separate and unite them, and unspeakable events that nearly destroy them. It’s a love only they understand, as well as the unbreakable bond that forever ties them together. Is it possible they are only capable of loving each other?

ORDER YOUR COPY

Amazon → https://amzn.to/329vHMV

Book Excerpt:

 2011

It was the kind of headache you get when you’ve been out in the sun all day… the heat emanating off your skull and the dull throbbing of drums that causes your stomach to go all queasy. I could hear the buzzer for my apartment going off, then my phone started ringing. I could barely focus my eyes as I poked my head out from under the covers to see it was my friend Lonny trying to video chat with me. I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone, so I ignored it. Then the buzzing from outside and my phone ringing started all over again. I decided that whoever was buzzing my apartment could only be bad news, so I answered my phone instead.

“Hey Rooster,” Lonny said with his crooked toothed smile, his eyes hidden behind a pair of aviator sunglasses.

“Lonny,” I groaned, barely opening my eyes. “What time is it?”

“Seven o’clock.”

I wanted to strangle him. He rarely woke up before nine in the morning… why was he calling me at seven?

I could hear the buzzing to my apartment door continuing in the background and knew it was bad news. Everything was bad news lately.

“Come on Rooster, wake up. I have a surprise for you.”

I opened one eye to look at Lonny smiling at me from my phone. “Oh yeah? What’s that?”

“I’m standing outside your door. Don’t you hear me buzzing to get in?”

I jumped out of bed and grabbed my head, the throbbing so intense it was as if someone hit me with a hammer. I stumbled to the door and buzzed Lonny into the building, then began searching blindly for some clothes. I managed to throw on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt before he tapped on my apartment door.

I opened the door to see my best friend standing in front of me, wondering how he managed to get to New York from California without telling me. I put on a smile and pulled him into my arms, hugging him as tightly as I could.

“What are you doing here?” I asked as I finally pulled away.

“I’m picking up a car for my daughter,” he chuckled, sitting on a kitchen chair. “And driving it back to Vegas for her.”

“Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?”

“I wanted to surprise you. Surprise!”

I searched in the cabinet over the kitchen sink for a bottle of aspirin, dumping four into my hand and swallowing them down with water from the tap. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to explain things to Lonny, and I could already see he was quickly figuring out that I hadn’t been completely honest with him the last couple months.

“What’s going on, Roo? The shop downstairs is closed up, your apartment is nearly empty—”

“Lonny please,” I begged. “I can’t do this right now.”

“You look like shit,” he said, standing. He opened the door to the refrigerator, but made no comment about seeing that it was practically empty. Instead he smiled and said, “Let’s get some breakfast. I’m starving.”

 

1975

 

I met Lonny Winter when we were both fourteen and just starting high school. We seemed to be shoved together at every opportunity, not only having the same last name, but the same birthdate as well. Our names were bound together, attached at the hip, from the day we met, standing in line to get our yearbook photos taken. I giggled as his name was called when it was his turn… Leonard Winter! He turned and glared at me; I was so painfully shy I immediately regretted it. I could feel my face burning as the redness took over.

He was the most beautiful boy I’d ever seen.

Lonny was still in the room when they called my name… Ruby Winter! I could hear him cackling like a kid who just heard the funniest joke of his lifetime. I deserved it, I knew, but it was hard to ignore him. I was so embarrassed, I wanted to run home and crawl into my bed. Instead I joined my friend Molly and some of her girlfriends, and we walked uptown to get something to eat when we were finished.

When we walked into McDonald’s, Lonny was already there with a group of his friends. I wanted to die. I told my friends I needed to head home and walked out. They were used to my odd, shy disappearances so never questioned me. I didn’t realize Lonny was right behind me on his bicycle.

“Where you going?” he asked.

“Home.”

“Why?”

“I have to.”

I was so embarrassed by this cute boy that I just wanted him to go away. I almost started to cry. My heart thundered in my chest as I wondered if that’s what it felt like to be in love. I was fourteen… what did I know about love?

“Ruby.” He continued to speak as he rode his bicycle slowly beside me. “Sounds like an old lady name.”

I stopped walking and glared at him with my eyes burning. “Leonard!” I hissed. “That’s my grandpa’s name!”

He stopped riding his bike and put his feet on the sidewalk. We stared at each other silently for what seemed like hours to me. All of a sudden we both started giggling, which turned into hysterical laughter. It was that moment the spirits aligned to bring us together. The moment we became the Winter twins; looking nothing alike but having everyone convinced we were siblings living in different houses. The very moment I became Roo… but only to him. He was the only one I ever allowed to call me that; the only one who would ever get away with it. When he was feeling particularly funny he called me Rooster, which he knew I hated. He claimed it was a combination of my name and my auburn hair, and it became a term of endearment between us.

 

2011

 

I plopped myself into the booth across from Lonny in the diner a couple blocks away from my apartment. I never understood why he loved it so much; to me it was just another greasy spoon, but I obliged him whenever he was in town. He smiled as the waitress came to our table, ordering coffee for both of us. I stared at my menu, not really reading anything, all the words just a jumble of letters taunting me.

The waitress brought our coffee and I was still staring blankly at my menu. I could hear Lonny speaking; he knew me better than anyone and ordered my breakfast for me — two eggs sunny side up, english muffin, a side of bacon, hash browns, and a small orange juice. He gave the menus back to the waitress and after she walked away, I finally looked up at him. He was grinning at me. I couldn’t help but smile back.

“Come on, Roo,” he said, poking my hand with his finger. “What’s going on?”

“Billy left me,” I managed to croak.

“Left? When?”

“Two months ago. The divorce was final yesterday.”

I could tell he wanted to scold me for not telling him, but he didn’t. “We talk twice a week… why wouldn’t you tell me?”

The throbbing in my head continued as I tried to answer my friend without bursting into tears. I closed my eyes and rubbed my temples, hoping for some relief, but none came.

“I was too ashamed.”

“Rooster,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry.”

I went on to explain how my husband of nearly 30 years was having an affair with one of the young tattoo artists in our shop, right under my nose. Eight weeks earlier he closed up the shop, left me, and took her to Arizona to start a new life.

“I’m behind on the rent. I’ve been selling everything he left behind, everything I own, hoping to go back home.” I spoke just above a whisper. “I have nothing left.”

The waitress deposited our food plates in front of us and I dug in, unable to remember the last time I had a decent meal. I tried not to look like a homeless person Lonny had pulled in off the street, but I was so hungry.

 

1979

 

Lonny was on the short side for a teenage boy when I met him, but had a growth spurt between sophomore and junior year that brought him to about five foot eight. I always seemed to be two inches shorter than Lonny at any given time. He was always skinny, always funny, always pretty quiet and shy. Most of the girls at school thought he was a silly twerp, but he wasn’t too keen on high school girls anyway. He despised their giggling and screeching, and he really hated the way they seemed to stab each other in the back at the flip of a coin.

Lonny preferred music over anything. He was a genius on the guitar and would rather spend his time away from school playing or writing music. He was never comfortable playing in front of anyone, so he never joined a band or played for an audience. He was perfectly happy playing in his room or for his friends and mother, but that was it.

Until senior year, when Billy Downey transferred to our school. Billy and I hit it off immediately when we met in English class his first day, and started dating that weekend. Lonny let me know right away that there was something about Billy he didn’t trust. I knew Billy loved to embellish the truth a bit, but didn’t see that as a reason not to date him.

Right before graduation there was a student talent show put on by the seniors, and Billy, who claimed to be the greatest guitar player our school would ever see, signed up to perform. Lonny and I snuck into the theater after school one day when they were having rehearsals and Billy’s guitar playing was abysmal at best.

As we tried to sneak back out of the theater, Ms. Cooke, the choir director, caught us and threatened to assign us detention the following day. Lonny stared at the ground, kicking at imaginary rocks with his foot as I tried to think of something to say. He finally looked up at her and asked, “Got any open spots for the talent show?”

Ms. Cooke’s face lit up like a neon sign, a smile spreading over her face so large it was almost clownish. “I’ll see you at rehearsal tomorrow, Mr. Winter,” she replied.

“Nope. Tell me what time I’m going on. I’ll be there.”

Ms. Cooke wrinkled her nose, but for some reason, chose not to argue with him.

Word spread quickly that Lonny was going to be doing something in the talent show. Rumors ranged from magic to gymnastics to juggling bowling pins set on fire. I sat in the theater’s front row watching the different talent acts perform, impressed by what our student body could do. Even Billy sounded better during his actual performance than he did at rehearsal, but he had no idea what was to come. Ms. Cooke added Lonny at the very end of the show, and introduced him as the last act of the evening. I held my breath.

Lonny walked onstage carrying his electric guitar and a small amp. He looked directly at me and winked, then closed his eyes and let his fingers do the talking. He played that guitar like a man who had been doing it for three lifetimes. He played a medley of genres covering blues, pop and rock. The intensity on his face as he played brought tears to my eyes. I could hear the gasps all around me as people were realizing what a talent goofy Lonny really was.

It was because of his unexpected performance that evening I eventually lost him.

 

2011

 

I looked up at Lonny when I finished eating every morsel on my plate, and he was holding a piece of toast with butter and grape jelly close to his lips. He hadn’t even taken a bite of his breakfast, but I was already finished with mine. He grinned, the mischievous grin I knew so well. His grin quickly turned into his famous crooked-toothed smile that I adored our entire existence together. I wiped my mouth with a napkin and leaned back, crossing my arms in front of me.

It had been almost a year since I saw him last, on our forty-ninth birthday. Even though we talked at least twice a week, we only saw each other once a year on our birthday. It was something we had always promised we would continue, no matter what the circumstances were in our lives.

Even though he hated people gawking at him, Lonny was good at the staring game. I watched his face intently as he ate his breakfast, not a word spoken between us. He never broke eye contact; it was a game he always liked to play with me, ever since we met. Whoever laughed first, lost.

Lonny had beautiful brown eyes that were more copper than anything else, but when the sun hit them, they almost looked gold. He had the kind of eyes that drooped on the outside edges and when he laughed, his eyes almost completely disappeared. I loved it when he laughed. He had dimples in both cheeks and his teeth were far from perfect, but they were perfect for him.            The day I met Lonny, he had short brown hair with awesomely crooked bangs that rested about an inch above his eyebrows — something he blamed on his mother, who insisted on cutting his hair. She agreed, however, once he got into high school she would leave his hair alone and I don’t think he had it cut once while we were there. He was one of those guys who grew into his look when he let his hair grow; he fancied the shaggy look with the feathered layers that went off to the side, his bangs long enough that he could have them or not, depending on his mood.

I sat staring at Lonny and he stared right back at me, never flinching. At that moment I just wanted to see his eyes light up the way they did when he was about to laugh. For a guy so close to his fiftieth birthday, he didn’t look a day over thirty. The only telltale signs were a few laugh lines by his eyes and a few strands of gray hair, but even that was barely noticeable. People had said the same about me, but I never believed them. And this day, sitting in the diner playing the staring game with Lonny, I felt about eighty.

I opened my mouth to speak but Lonny wagged his finger at me. I had forgotten the staring game rules… no talking. He winked, continuing to eat his breakfast. I knew I would win this round, as I was so depressed and without hope that I couldn’t imagine breaking into laughter. I was suddenly overwhelmed by feelings of dread, my chest getting tight and my head about to explode. I don’t know what I looked like, but it was severe enough to get Lonny to break his own staring game rules.

“Hey,” he whispered, “it’s going to be all right.”

He put down his fork and wiped his hands, then slid into the booth next to me, pulling me into his arms and letting me sob against his chest.

About the Author

Kathleen Stone has been a freelance writer since 1999 and now writes full time. Her work has appeared in Doll World Magazine, Apolloslyre.com, The Lake County Journals, Trails.com; USA Today (travel), Livestrong.com (lifestyle), Essortment, eHow, Answerbag, Examiner.com, Suite101 and YahooVoices. She is the author of Whispers On A String and the Head Case Rock Novel Series, which includes Head Case and its sequels, Whiplash and Haven. She also has short stories published in the Secrets: Fact or Fiction I & II anthologies.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Website:  http://www.kathleenstone.org

Twitter:  www.twitter.com/kstonewriter

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/kathleenstonewriter

 

 

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