The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews—pub date May 8, 2018

Brooke Trapnell, the runaway bride in Save the Date, continues her story, having moved back to little town, Georgia, with her son, Henry. The resident wealthy socialite philanthropist of nearby Sea Island, Josephine Bettendorf Warrick, contacts Brooke to represent her against the state of Georgia, who wants her land for a state park. The secrets of nonagenarian Josephine slowly seep out as she lays out her plans to atone for her sins and defend her estate by passing it on to descendants of her long ago best friends. Brooke discovers a related family secret she would have never thought to guess.

Andrews’ description of friendships in the 50s deep South feels less like crossing a color line and more like pushing into an invisible, flexible barrier that they can’t quite break through. The re-emergence of The High Tide Club through the descendants of the original members is meant to be poignant, yet it’s hard to imagine the remaining original member at 95 walking naked into the ocean in chilly October. Though Andrews’ writing continues to be fully engaging, this novel seemed to go long, and it felt as though the author decided at one point to simply wrap up all the loose ends, with revelations coming fast and furious after the typical length of a novel, around 300 pages. There’s a contemporary would-be killer paralleling the murder mystery from decades past, and neither seems credible, nor true to character, even given the circumstances. Despite this, it’s an interesting story and worth it for a sandy good beach read.

I was fortunate to receive a pre-release copy from the publisher of one of my favorite authors.

Prompt: Death has come to steal you away. But you are not ready to go, and decide to fight back in whatever way you can…(with photo)

Negotiation

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The galloping hooves echoed throughout the courtyard seconds before the fiery horse appeared. By fiery, I don’t mean a red horse, but a horse that appeared to be flaming. I could totally see him painted across the side of an F-150 or the rear window of a vintage Bronco. He was fabulous!

With skeletal hands and the predictable black, hooded cape, the rider had to be Death. He pulled the steed up short, making it snort black smoke, and dismounted with an impressive leap to the asphalt. I returned to my story on the computer. These daydreams of mine are so freaking vivid.

It was a few moments before I realized that the knocking was on my apartment door. I wasn’t expecting anyone. Whoever was rapping was quite eager for my attention. I don’t normally hear anything from my office. Peeking through the peephole, I couldn’t believe it. Death was rapping at my door.

“Death?” I stage-whispered.

“Yes,” he replied, staring straight into my eye, his own black as anti-matter, or so I imagined. “Please open your door.”

I shook my head, though he couldn’t possibly see me.

“Yes.”

I stopped shaking my head.

He continued, “I prefer you open your door, so that I don’t have to rip it off. I didn’t come her to commit vandalism.”

I nodded.

“Good.”

He stood still and quiet while I opened the door slowly. Probably I needed to invite him inside, so I waved my hand in a vague, step inside gesture. He dropped his head in a gentle, thanking motion, and walked down the hall into my living room, settling on my purple sectional. Death pet my couch and nodded, with a skeletal grin. “Nice sofa. Purple is my favorite color.”

I stared at him. Then I asked him if he wanted something to drink. He requested milk, so I poured him a tall glass. Death wanted his milk warm, so I transferred it to a large mug and nuked it. When he placed his finger bones on his skull chin, I wondered out loud what he needed, and he requested hot sauce for his milk. After I handed him his milk, he dumped in a shitload of hot sauce, stirred it briskly, handed the bottle back to me, and sipped his milky, orangesicle-colored drink.

He gestured to me to have a seat, so I sat on the edge of my yellow-print, slipper chair across from him. Death grinned, which looked like a grimace, but I could tell he was getting comfortable, sliding down and leaning back into the fluffy pillows, tilting his drink carefully. A conversation was looming—I could feel it like a storm coming. As I watched him sip his fiery drink, I realized Death had no smell.

“Well,” he said after finishing his milk and smacking what should have been his gums, “Clack, clack!”

“Do you have to take me now?” I asked, mentally calculating what I could resolve before I was snatched away by Death: call my mother and tell her I love her, feed the cats, start a load of laundry for the hubs, and sillier stuff, even locking the cats in another room so they wouldn’t eat me.

He sat up and clasped his bony fingers. “I’m afraid so.”

“But can’t we talk about it? Like in the movies, negotiate…you can take my husband. Hahaha!” I’m a shit wife, but I was only joking, right?

“I could, but it’s not really a fair trade, since he has three more decades allotted him, and you’d be those three decades without him. Is that what you want?”

I shook my head. That would be awful. I was not the best at taking care of myself, an epiphany that rattled my brain in that moment. Think, think, think! “What else can I offer?”

“You have four cats. I could take one. Choose.”

I actually gasped. “But-but-but they’re my babies.” My mouth hung open and I couldn’t close it.

“I know. Negotiation requires sacrifice.” He placed his glass on a coaster and leaned back into the couch. “No worries. I have time. My next appointment is this evening at six.”

One tear rolled down my face and onto my hand as I snurfled to contain myself. I could feel my chin quivering, which I absolutely hated. Loathed is the word, I told myself.

“You’re not even thinking about it. Self-loathing is pointless, in any case.” He stood up. “Ah, I do love high ceilings. Those eight foot ceilings suck, don’t they? I hate scrunching down, kills my back.” He walked to the hall as I held my breath in disbelief that Death was leaving my home without me. Large cracks startled me and I turned to see the excessively tall, dark-cloaked skeleton twisting and turning.

Prompted to continue being the hostest with the mostest, I jumped up and followed him to the door, where he turned to me and informed me, “You’re smart. Cats are a great bartering tool. One cat gives you not only forty more years, but it adds that extra decade to your husband’s life span to match yours, so that you’ll die days apart. Romantic, eh?” He winked. He actually winked at me. Like a joke.

That evening, I asked the hubs, “If you had to give up one of our cats, which one would you choose?”

“Why would you ask me that? What a stupid question!” He turned back to his book, holding it up in front of him to emphasize the fact that he was now ignoring me purposely. I sighed and returned to my own reading.

Three weeks later, my littlest muffin was hit by a car. Four weeks later, my sweetest muffin contracted leukemia. I held my breath mentally all the time, fearful of losing all of them. Death was cheating me. He was a cheater. Death was a cheater. Cheater, cheater, cheater! I told everyone. They agreed.

When I finally stopped expecting Death to visit my home again, the hoofbeats cannoned into the courtyard, and the fiery steed was brought to an abrupt halt. Half a minute later, the knock on my door told me Death was here to have another conversation. It took all my effort to not wet my pants. I strode swiftly to the door before I lost my nerve.

“I’m sorry. I won’t say it again. I’ll do whatever you say. Just please stick to our deal.” Tears were flying everywhere as I screamed apologies and begged him to just go away.

“May I come in?”

I nodded and moved aside. He strolled to the living room and plopped on the sofa.

“Ah, that’s nice. I do so wish that I could come for a real social visit. Your home is so welcoming.” He gestured to the yellow chair, so I sat, sniffling up mucus noisily, choosing not to care at all of propriety. Death pointed to the fridge; well, his finger bones sort of curved down in the direction of the fridge. Using his other hand, he straightened the finger and waved it again.

I heated some milk and brought it and the hot sauce. He stirred the hot sauce longer than he needed to, while he sighed and groaned and moaned. He set everything on the coffee table and leaned forward, picked up the drink, glugged it, and proclaimed, “Fantastic!” Setting it down, he said, “Listen, I don’t cheat. It really pisses me off that you’re telling everyone I’m a cheater. It’s a goddamned job. I’m not an asshole. It’s just my fucking job, okay?”

I nodded, but heard myself say, “But you took two of my babies,” continuing to nod like a dope.

Death sighed heavily, puffing air from what or where I don’t know—he had no lungs that I could see, and I could see through him to his cloak. He pulled it closer around him. Could Death be self-conscientious? I nearly giggled. Lordy, I was easily distracted. “Look, it was Sassy’s time. I had nothing to do with that. It was her fate to die last week from leukemia, for which, by the way, I’m truly sorry. She was a lovely cat, a stately queen in an earlier life, and likely royalty in a future life. Humans won’t be aware of this, of course, since we’re so ignorant.”

“You’re human?”

“Was. Where do you think Death comes from? Another species? That’s another story, one for a more relevant time, when you need such information, and you will need it, I guarantee it.”

Did Death just threaten me? Warn me? Was I to be the next incarnation? Holy shit! No way!

“Focus!” he said.

I jumped.

“I came here to tell you that I followed our deal by cutting two seconds off Lulu’s leap across the street. She was the sacrifice, not Sassy. I have another appointment, so I can’t linger. Please stop casting aspersions upon my name. It’s fear-mongering, untrue, and can hurt only you in the future. Trust me.”

I nodded and Death left my home quietly, groaning and moaning and twisting and turning to crack his spine. He touched two bony fingers to his browridge and clumped downstairs to fly away on his fiery steed. I watched long after they were gone, contemplating his mysterious words and feeling a bit better about Sassy, who wasn’t cheated after all. Then I wondered where the spicy milk went when he drank it.

Moonlight City Drive by Brian Paone—blog tour and raffle giveaway

GENRE: Crime/Thriller Romantic Paranormal

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BLURB:

 

11:18 p.m. Subject is checking into the Desert Palms Motel, accompanied by an unknown female.

Snapshot in the parking lot. Man and woman embrace. Betrayal, I see it every day, like my own reflection in the mirror staring back at me. Another case, another bottle of booze, life is no longer a mystery to me …

Because I’m the private eye, hot on your trail; the top gun for hire. You’ll find me lurking in the shadows, always searching for a clue. I’m the bulletproof detective. I got my eye on you …

What’s a little sin under the covers, what’s a little blood between lovers? What’s a little death to be discovered, cold stiff body under the covers?

I’m digging you a desert grave, underneath the burning sun. You won’t be found by anyone. Vultures circle in the sky, and you, my dear, are the reason why.

I was always easily influenced.

 

EXCERPT:

Smith twisted the key as hard as he could and heard a popping noise as the locking mechanism finally gave way. He pushed open his office door and entered the dark room. He tossed his keys onto his desk; they slid a short distance before a stack of time-faded papers and case-file folders abruptly stopped them.

Flicking the light switch, the room illuminated with an anemic-brown glow from the single dusty bulb. He took a step toward the coffee percolator on the windowsill, and his toe caught the corner of a tied-up pile of newspapers dating back at least ten years.

Smith exhaled loudly with a frustrated grunt and kneeled beside the newspaper bundle; the air escaping from his lungs carried the stench of day-old consumed alcohol, topped off with more last night that led to closing time this morning. He really hadn’t slept. He napped for a couple hours, then came here. He removed the Swiss Army knife from his pants and cut the twine, freeing the newspapers, watching as they avalanched to the floor.

He used his palm to shuffle and smear the newspapers around his office floor. His gaze quickly scanned his name plastered on all the headlines, praising the ex-deputy-now-turned-private-eye for all the scum he had gotten off the street, as well as locating abducted kids, reuniting long-lost biological parents of orphans, and exposing spouses who may have forgotten their vows. Smith had seen more than he cared to remember while he had been a sheriff’s deputy and could now safely check the box marked Seen It All since becoming a private eye.

 

GUEST POST:

I’ve published 4 novels, and my typical day during the writing of each book was totally different from each other.

When I was writing my first book, Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts, I was in the middle of moving from MA to GA, changing police departments, and recording an album with my band, Transpose. So, a typical day would be: getting everything done first for the move, switching jobs, the recording studio, and whatever time was left at night: working on the book. We also didn’t have any kids yet.

With my second novel, Welcome to Parkview, my wife had been deployed to Djibouti and I was working full time at the police department in GA, and we had 2 kids now. So, I was alone without my wife, with 2 toddlers, and working full time. My day would be: getting the kids to day-care, go work fighting crime for 8 hours, picking the kids up and doing whatever household chores I had to do (laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping etc.), feeding the kids dinner and putting them to bed around 6:30, then I would work out for an hour, and then I would work on Welcome to Parkview after I showered until whenever I passed out at my laptop.

With my third novel, Yours Truly. 2095, the Navy had sent us to Japan for the next 4 years. I had to take a leave of absence at the police department, and we moved the family there. I did not get a job right away, as my wife wanted me to be the stay at home parent during our time in Japan (I did eventually become a Criminal Justice professor for the college on base, but that’s irrelevant to the book.) We moved in November 2011 and by January 2012 I was itching to write. For the first time, I had the TIME to write, and not having to worry about a new job, moving, or wiping poopy diapers. So, in February 2012, I started my outline, and writing the book was my full-time job for a while. We sent our 2 kids to Japanese Kindergarten (called a Yochien in Japan) and they were gone Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 4:00. I would bring them to the bus stop, wave goodbye, go back up into our apartment, and write until the bus brought them back. It was the first time I could write without distractions, and the first time I was writing not being dead-tired at night after putting in a full day.

Moonlight City Drive was the first book where I had a legit writing office. When we moved from Japan to North Carolina, one of the stipulations my wife had on finding a new house was that it would have a writing office for me. One with doors. And a writing desk. And I could decorate it any way I wanted. So this new novel was written, for the first time, in a closed-off environment from the distractions of the outside world (and that includes the kids, TV, and normal household noise.) So, it’s not surprising that out of my 4 novels, this one was completely the quickest from inception to publication. When I was in my office writing, my wife treated it like a job, so she made sure the kids stayed away from me and other household chores were taken care of so I wouldn’t be bothered. I did go back to work as a police officer in NC, so my days off from the streets were my days on writing the book.

 

AUTHOR BIO:

Brian Paone was born and raised in the Salem, Massachusetts area. Brian has, thus far, published four novels: a memoir about being friends with a drug-addicted rock star, Dreams are Unfinished Thoughts; a macabre cerebral-horror novel, Welcome to Parkview; a time-travel romance novel, Yours Truly, 2095, (which was nominated for a Hugo Award, though it did not make the finalists); and a supernatural, crime-noir detective novel, Moonlight City Drive. Along with his four novels, Brian has published three short stories: “Outside of Heaven,” which is featured in the anthology, A Matter of Words; “The Whaler’s Dues,” which is featured in the anthology, A Journey of Words; and “Anesthetize (or A Dream Played in Reverse on Piano Keys),” which is featured in the anthology, A Haunting of Words. Brian is also a vocalist and has released seven albums with his four bands: Yellow #1, Drop Kick Jesus, The Grave Machine, and Transpose. He is married to a US Naval Officer, and they have four children. Brian is also a police officer and has been working in law enforcement since 2002. He is a self-proclaimed roller coaster junkie, a New England Patriots fanatic, and his favorite color is burnt orange.

Purchase Moonlight City Drive at Amazon or B&N.

CONNECT WITH BRIAN:

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Jorja DuPont Oliva—Author of Chasing Butterflies trilogy

 

Jorja sent me a friend request last year, and after looking at her page, I accepted. She’s a brilliant storyteller who is always supportive of other writers. She’s mystical and magical in an unseen universe (see what I did there?), and chaotically creative. I’m privileged to have a connection with Jorja and wished to share her stories—about her life and in her fiction. She’s a lovely human.

 

Tell me about your writing process, including environment, inspirations, schedule, strategies, and muse (if you have one!).

Is there ever a process for anything when you have kids? I try to steal time to write, but I do it every day. I journal, I write ideas when they pop up, and I write poetry. I am an emotional storyteller, because in all honesty, I struggle with my emotions, so in turn I heal. I don’t write from a desk or have an office. I write from my laptop, which is portable, so I can take it places, but mostly I write from my couch. I have been known to write in my car while my son is at football practice, I would say a third of Sisterly was written or edited there. It is for me, really, no different than reading a good book, an escape, but I get to choose the ending. As for a muse, this is the concept that I thought only I experienced. When I write I do feel as though I am channeling many muses. I like to think of them as my writing angels. My grandmother (my mother’s mother) was, in her lifetime, the best storyteller. When I was a child, she would tell us a story that I would visualize so vividly. I would like to think that she is still telling me those stories I loved to listen to as a child. Our stories are very important to generations to come. They learn from our mistakes and gain knowledge to what works. Life is not easy.

I love the story of how you started writing—elaborate upon that and how the relationship with your mother encouraged you in this direction.

My mother wrote for our local paper. She loved to write and would always talk about wanting to write a book. She could come up with stories that conveyed a message about love, friendships, and all the good things life has to offer (Hallmark channel was her favorite). Sadly, I lost my mother this year, February 2018. She unfortunately never published any of her works. She lived that dream through me I suppose. Let me step back and explain,–I talked my Mother into taking a class to teach you how to write a book. At that time I had no interest in writing a book. I just thought it was something we could do to spend time together and possibly help her achieve one of her dreams. I found a love for writing—it was my purpose, and looking back, I was always a writer. My Mother wrote many short stories through our adventure in this class, but my Mother always put her kids first. She became my biggest fan. By the end of the class I had created a book—Chasing Butterflies in the Magical Garden (2013). By the way, I plan to publish her work in the coming year. I see it like this—I have gained another writing angel during her time on earth and in her after life.

What finds its way into your stories and why?

I try to teach lessons or convey wisdom we learn through our lifetime by using every day stories. I love to entertain while doing this, which may be possibly why I add a little magic to my stories (I think I get that from my grandmother). I love to read stories that make you question or wonder, or have a spiritual aspect. I also love surprises. Metaphors are always welcome in my writing as well, and I like to hide them throughout my stories. So why not write what I enjoy reading?

Describe your support system—your team, everyone who works with you or gives you props.

Gosh, I have a lot of support, sometimes so much support, I will never be able to retire from writing. My family supports me with my writing the most. When my mother passed, I have to say, my emotions held me back from taking her writing. They were the first to tell me that they were mine. I got the whole box! There is something very connecting reading someone’s writing. It is the truest form of them. I am truly blessed. I also have a wonderful writing community. We meet once a week to discuss our writing endeavors. We do not critique. We only motivate and challenge our own abilities. That is the best kind of writing community to have. I’ll tell you why—each of us is different, we learn in many ways, and we have different interests. Readers are the same, are they not? Don’t get me wrong; we do at times read each other’s work and give suggestions, which in turn gets our own creative juices flowing. Last is a good editor, but not for typos, because let’s face it, typos happen! During final edit we worry about those. I have been fortunate to have two wonderful and patient editors. I spend most of my time on editing and rewriting. I am not going to tell you it is my weakness. I am just going to say I don’t edit while I write. Editing interferes with my creative process. When most people think of an editor, they think of someone who comes in and cleans it all up. I’m sure there are some editors out there that do that, but that isn’t my case. I have two supportive editing coaches. They show me things I missed or need to elaborate on and we work together to prefect it. It is usually a 4 to 6 time go-over on the story. While this is happening, I send my story with a WARNING to everyday people to read and send me feedback. Usually I have at least 4 to 5 people of different ages and opinions. I have even sent one of my first drafts to my 4th grade English teacher, who is now retired. I can’t express the importance of having many people working with you to produce the best you are capable of producing.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I love creating! I love everything about the process of creating. I’ll admit, with my first book, I wasn’t fond of rewriting and editing, because it was work. Now after 4 books, 2 anthologies, many short stories, and a screenplay, I enjoy the rewriting and editing process as much as I do creating the story. The only thing I do struggle with is the ending to a creative project, the moment it is published. I’m like a lost puppy looking for a new story to write.

 

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A Night Like This: A Flagler County Anthology benefiting Christmas Come True

Creative Chaos Anthology

Sand: A Collection of Short Stories by Steve Carr

Steve Carr’s first collection of short stories is fantastic. His work is intense, reaching into the reader’s head and twisting emotions, shattering logic and reason. The first story Tenderloin is—pun intended—a punch in the gut, as the reader sees the grittiness of the setting and feels the coiled tension in the main character, a veteran of the Iraq War. With journalistic expertise, Carr displays monstrous humanity in a brevity of words, as in The Saguaro Two Step, in which the woman wins the loot in the end, and exposes desperation, as in The Festival of The Cull, wherein Shamina can no longer vote on who is to be terminated. Reality bends as one ventures further into the book, as in the self-explanatory The Girl in a Mason Jar, gets fishy in Strange Water, and disappears in When Wizards Sing, where animals and men blend. The stories are diverse, with main characters of various genders, sexual orientations, ages, cultures, and even species. The book ends with stories of the afterlife on a never-ending train ride for incorrigibles, a man’s struggle for gravity, and the misplaced hope of a senior citizen. Definitely a must-read! Follow Steve on Facebook and Twitter. Purchase Sand at Lulu.com or Amazon.com.

Prompt: Writing Bad photo

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Never Touch It

I couldn’t stop looking at it. None of my friends had cell phones. Dad had argued that a ten-year-old didn’t need a cell phone, especially in a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business. My mother was a smotherer and had been working Dad for years, and now I had a Smartphone.

“Jimmy, put that stupid thing away and come on!” Ronak screamed back at me as he raced down our street toward the forest.

I stuffed the phone in my shorts pocket and rode after him, feeling the bulk of it banging my thigh as I pumped. It felt like I had the world in my pocket. The forest surrounded me when I hit the edge of the road at the T and bounced along the dirt path to our treehouse that Ronak and I built two years ago.

After dropping my bike next to his, I climbed up the rope ladder to find Ronak waiting impatiently. He too loved to play Angry Birds on my phone and hated that I always played first. It was my phone. I settled into the pile of pillows next to him and pulled out my phone. The game icon was on the screen. I poked it and started level 34, which was killing me. Because of the challenges at certain levels, we’d instituted a new rule of all lives lost before switching if we didn’t level up.

“Dude, you suck!” he yelled as he punched me, bumping my arm, which caused me to miss my target and lose my last life. He snatched the phone from me.

“That’s not fair! You made me lose my last life!” We wrestled amongst the pillows, pushing them out of the way, scraping our elbows and knees on the rough wooden floor from the unfinished wood planks. A tingle-a-ling-a-ling announced a text. “Give me my phone. That’s a text from my mom. If I don’t answer it, she’ll make me come home.”

Ronak handed me the phone with a sigh and rolled onto his back to inspect his elbows. I looked at the text. Mom didn’t usually text so soon after I left. Mostly just to let me know to come home for lunch.

“Look. It’s not from my mom.”

“What? Who else would text you? I though only your mom had your number?”

We read the text together, “Don’t touch it! Never touch it!” There was no number, only a blank space.

That was the first communication from Lorena, who explained that she lived in a parallel universe. Even though they could read her texts, my parents called her my invisible friend throughout my entire childhood, convincing my best friend, though he’d been there for the first message.

For years, I had no clue what “it” was, for she was not forthcoming with an explanation. We discussed everything else. Her responses came always a day later, apparently due to some time-space interference that I still don’t fully comprehend. She had no clue why we could communicate by text, just that it was a rare phenomenon which made her a minor celebrity in her town and me a weirdo in mine.

In a new home way out in the country, my dad decided to get satellite TV, and a dish hung off the southwest corner of our house. We got some new stations, some in different languages, intriguing my dad, who watched despite the language barrier. He especially loved Bollywood films in Hindi.

“Dad, that’s the doll! In the left corner on the dresser.” He spit air through his teeth and changed the channel. “There it is again! I swear—on the bookshelf next to the blue book.” Another channel.

Before I could point it out on top of the fridge in the soap opera, Dad burst out with, “Stop it! Just stop it!” He took a deep breath and continued, “Son, it’s not there. You’re old enough to give up these games. No one sees it. It’s not there. No connection with your invisible friend. It’s time to let her go, Jimmy.” He held out his hand to me, man to man. “Deal?”

I shook his hand and said, “Deal,” and mentioned it not once more, though it appeared on every show.

Again and again, Lorena texted, “Don’t touch it! Never touch it!” Why, I don’t know. It was on TV. I couldn’t touch it.

Until I was 21 and saw the little, pinkish, angelic papier-mache doll in a store, sitting on a shelf next to toothpaste. Then another store, right by the candy I was choosing. I noticed it as I was picking up the bag, and I dropped the bag at my feet, picked it up, and went on my day. It was unnerving to be so close to a forbidden object from a parallel universe that no one else here could see.

I married in my mid-30s a widow with two children, children I adopted and love as my own. Lorena knows about my wife, yet she remains my secret. I’m still in the dark about her connection to the freaky, papier-mache doll that I’m now seeing everywhere. My wife knows nothing.

Last Tuesday, the doll appeared in the fridge behind the milk. I spilled milk all over the floor when I saw her. I cleaned it up, but I did not cry. Honestly, I wanted to cry. I mean, in the fridge…really?

Lorena chose to stay with the woman who was selected as her youth partner after school. She says this often happens. I’m glad she’s happy. I know that throughout her life she has continued to be a recognizable figure for her unusual connection to me. I, however, may be going mad from it. That freaking doll is everywhere, and I’m not supposed to touch it. I don’t know the consequences of such an action, but my lifelong fear of accidentally doing so keeps me on edge as she proliferates in my life. I have no one to talk to about this. Not even Lorena.

I now stand still in my living room, staring at my little girl as she gradually morphs into a little, pink angel.

 

Echo Moon (Ghost Gifts #3) by my favorite ghost writer Laura Spinella

Echo Moon finishes the Ghost Gifts trilogy, beginning with Aubrey and her souvenirs from ghosts she helps that she calls “ghost gifts,” through her marriage to journalist Levi St. John, to their son’s story of his past life, wherein he envisions shooting his true love Esmerelda Moon—Esme. Spinella pulls the reader into an early 20th-century culture of supper clubs and amusement parks, showcasing Luna Park of Coney Island, with its rides, performers and customers. We even witness the shadier “rides,” “performers,” and “customers” of the Elephant Hotel, a brothel set on the edge of the park. The hotel is real, but turned brothel after the heyday of the family-oriented park, and pulls Spinella’s story into the historical fiction genre as she carefully blends it into her novel.

In Ghost Gifts, Aubrey solves the mystery of Missy Flannigan’s decades old, cold-case murder with a recalcitrant Levi St. John, and they reluctantly fall for each other. In Foretold (Ghost Gifts #2), Aubrey and Levi are raising their son Pete, who suffers nightmares that are actually visions of his previous life as a photojournalist in WWI. The investigation of a John Doe (who turns out to be Aubrey’s friend Zeke) murder in which Levi is assisting culminates in the kidnapping of Pete, who is of course rescued by his parents. In Echo Moon, Pete finally solves the murder of Esme, with the help of Zeke’s niece Emerald—Em. Spinella spins coincidences into relevant evidence and drops the solution out of nowhere, but it all makes perfect sense. She has a way of surprising the reader without making the reader feel dumb for missing clues, and her characters are colorful and complex.

I received an early copy of Echo Moon from the publisher in a giveaway. Thank you, Laura! I love it! Visit her website to follow her on social media and purchase her books. Tell me a personal experience with the paranormal in the comments, and I’ll choose a random winner to send my ARC of Echo Moon!

Ammar Habib—Award-Winning Author

Ammar asked for a reader on Twitter to review his novel Memories of My Future. Intrigued, I asked him questions, all of which he readily answered, before I agreed. The story he wrote with Dr. Anil Sinha is fantastic—read my review.

 

 

Ammar exudes friendliness and positivity in his online presence and digital communication, and I always feel cheerier after speaking with him. He has also written a vigilante series called Dark Guardian, and his latest book Ana Rocha: Shadows of Justice was co-authored with a detective.

 

 

 

Describe your writing process, including environment, schedule, strategies, and inspirations.

My writing process is somewhat structured and somewhat fluid. It always begins with a theme. I ask myself, “Why should readers read this? What do I hope they get out of it?” As entertaining as I hope my stories are, I want them to hold some sort of moral lesson or theme for the audience as well. At the same time, I don’t want to slap readers in the face with this theme. Instead, I want to show it in the characters and story arc. So I take a lot of time in figuring out who my character are. As far as pre-writing goes, I probably spend more time fleshing out the characters than I spend on any other aspect of pre-writing. Many times, putting in the effort to create three dimensional characters is the separator between good and great work.

However, with that said, my writing process is very fluid. I like to try and create an outline before I go into the actual writing. But many times I find myself starting the first draft before I’ve even finished my outline. The inspiration comes in bursts so I try to capitalize on those bursts as much as I can. I find that being too stringent on my writing process can actually become a hindrance.

As far as inspiration goes, I honestly draw inspiration from everywhere. I’ve possessed a huge imagination since I was a child, so that is usually my biggest source. I have a hard time switching my imagination off, which can be a problem when somebody is trying to talk to you and you’re imagining a battle scene in your head! The other place I really draw inspiration is from the world around me. I try to stay observant because sometimes the best inspiration passes by right in front of you!

My environment and schedule do change based on circumstances. I don’t have a set place where I do my writing and my schedule varies because I can honestly write any time of the day or night! There are some days where I spend hours writing or revising manuscripts, and there are other days when I may spend only thirty minutes.

I love Memories of My Future—tell how you built on historical events through folklore, and the history behind the book itself, working with Dr. Sinha to create an inspirational story.

Memories of My Future is definitely one of my personal favorites. It takes place in three time periods: 13th century India, 19th century India, and present day New York City. The project began when I got a phone call from Dr. Sinha, whom I somewhat knew beforehand, in September 2014. He had the seeds of an idea that he wanted to write a book about, which was very similar to something that I was wanting to write about, which is why we decided to partner together. The reason Dr. Sinha reached out to me was because he had just read my debut novel, Dark Guardian, and had really loved it.

From there, we grew a story with themes of coexistence and courage. When we were researching the events of the 13th Century, there honestly was not much to be found because the history of the Bihar province has not been as well kept as it should. However, along with some facts and dates that we were able to gather, there was plenty of local folklore and legends about the events that are described in the story, and those legends were the basis for that piece of the novel.

Explain how you work in so many genres, and the challenges and satisfactions of doing so.

Like you mentioned, I do write in multiple genres. Many authors do see this as a challenge. For me, I’ve found that spending a lot of time up front with my planning and taking the time to nail down a theme, tone, and characters on the front end helps me write the story within the parameters of the genre I am aiming for. As a writer, I never want to be limited to a specific genre because I’m one of those people that doesn’t like limitations in general. So the ability and freedom to write in multiple genres is a very liberating feeling!

Describe your research process, including how you find sources and what you choose to use.

For works like Memories Of My Future, where a lot of research is required, I definitely do take my time with it. Research is something that should never be rushed. I always try to use as many scholarly or peer-reviewed sources as I can. This is to ensure the authenticity of the material. Working at a college, I have access to the college’s databases, which have tons of articles over a variety of subjects, so that is a major help. If I am using a source that is not one that would be considered scholarly, I always try to verify its authenticity by cross-referencing it with something that is more academically purposed. I know everyone has their own methods for research, but that is the basis for mine.

What do you love most about your creativity?

For me, creativity is synonymous with freedom! It’s the freedom to create. The freedom to inspire. The freedom to affect lives. I always try to use my creativity positively, with the hopes of inspiring others. I view creativity as an asset and as a responsibility, just as I view any other talent or ability. Therefore, I try to use it in a good way. Thankfully, I can say that there are a few other authors I’ve met throughout my journey as a writer who have said that I have helped them along the way since I was further along the road than they were at the time, and honestly that’s the kind of thing that inspires me to keep moving forward!

Connect with Ammar and purchase his books:

Ammar Habib

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The Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown

Secrets are Held Closely in the Mountains

Click on cover to go to Taylor Brown’s website, where you can purchase this book and his others.

Granny May Docherty lost her daughter Bonni to Dix Hill 30 years ago when nightriders killed her boyfriend, the mill owner’s son Conner, silencing her voice. Her grandson Rory lost his leg to Korea, limiting his employment opportunities on his return home, leaving him little choice but to become a whiskey runner for Eustace Uptree, his best friend’s uncle and Granny May’s lover. Brown takes readers through the rabbit hole away from Mad Men and the American dream of a white picket fence to the colorful and dangerous world of Appalachia, where reigned illegal whiskey and wannabe drivers for the newly founded NASCAR.

A middle-aged wood witch and former prostitute, Granny May longs to know who hurt her girl, but fear of consequences prevents her from pursuing it with Rory. Brown’s subtle backstory of Bonni and Conner’s romance contrasts with the rawness and graphic depiction of mountain life in the 50s. Flooding of mountain valleys for “progress” disrupted Appalachian culture and forced a reluctant relationship with those living in towns and cities. Amy Greene’s “Long Man” shows the resistance of one woman against such flooding by the government. In Brown’s story, the event is long-reaching, since the main road literally heads straight into the man-made lake. As in Amy Greene’s debut novel “Bloodroot,” a body part is used as symbolism of a South yet alive with Pagan ways while tightly holding its secrets.

Taylor Brown digs out niches in his historical fiction—last vestiges of whiskey runners and nascent NASCAR, river kings, the lawlessness at the end of the civil war—getting down to the nitty-gritty of hard-living, developing complex characters who maintain their integrity in impossible situations. He gets a bit too “real” sometimes; for instance, there’s a lot of spitting in this book, some of it from Granny May—so much spitting. In one scene, Eustace flicks his nephew in the nuts. Graphic details can overwhelm the reader, such as when Rory’s rival purposely hits a deer and Brown describes the specifics of the deer’s physical suffering. Having said that, the reader leaves the novel with a sense of having learned history not found in textbooks, such as exactly what someone who drives illegal booze through the mountains does to his car to outrun the revenuers. It’s a definite must-read.

Sisterly by Jorja DuPont Oliva

Janie returns to her hometown to make things right with her sister, and her ex-boyfriend who married her sister, by revealing her secret to them. She stays in the yellow house run by Mrs. Francis, where the otherworldly seems to creep in, everything is too connected for reality, and Mrs. Francis forbids her to enter the mysterious, yet beckoning, backyard. Though the dialogue is stiff—no contractions are used, and can sound unrealistic—Mrs. Francis’ dialect is over the top, the characters’ interactions with each other and Janie’s “episodes” are vivid. When Janie’s missing time and chaotic, dreamlike events are explained in the final scenes, the brilliance of Oliva’s storytelling skills burst forth like fireworks. Though hints are sprinkled like candy throughout the story, the reveal is surprising, and the reader can only be impressed by the descriptive details and timeliness of those “episodes.” References to the inciting incidents are well placed in the story, with emphasis in the reveal for a satisfying ending.

The author offered this novel gratis in March and I was fortunate to pick it up and read it, posting a review for the book gift and for my delight in the story. Thank you, Jorja!