Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Taking a Break...

It's going to be dark for a little bit. I'm packing up the car and heading out the door on a road trip with the spouse... and while I'm gone some great books are set to be released. These fine books best be on my doorstep waiting for me when I get back...

The land is contaminated, electronics are defunct, the ravenous undead remain, and life has fallen into a nasty and brutish state of nature. Welcome to Bridge City, in what was once Arkansas: part medieval fortress, part Western outpost, and the precarious last stand for civilization. A ten-year-old prodigy when the world ended, Gus is now a battle-hardened young man. He designed Bridge City to protect the living few from the shamblers eternally at the gates. Now he's being groomed by his physician mother, Lucy, and the gentle giant Knock-Out to become the next leader of men. But an army of slavers is on its way, and the war they'll wage for the city's resources could mean the end of mankind as we know it.

Can Gus become humanity's savior? And if so, will it mean becoming a dictator, a martyr . . . or maybe something far worse than even the zombies that plague the land?

It's written by John Hornor Jacobs... that's code for: BUY IT!

Even as a struggling opera singer, Paige Marshall has never seen anything like the cutthroat competition of the Prospect Glen High School show choir. Coaching these championship-hungry students may be her toughest gig yet...

Especially when her best young male singer is suspected of killing the arrogant coach of Prospect Glen's fiercest rival. To clear his name, Paige will have to sort through a chorus of suspects, and go note-for-note with a killer who wants her out of the spotlight for good.

Maybe it's my concert choir time in high school... or singing with all those ladies in that all girls group... what was the name, again? Regardless, this book looks to be "totes awes" ... Uh, Michelle. Did I get that right? 

It's the first book in a new series by Joelle so... BUY IT!

When the going gets tough, Ella Mae LaFaye bakes pies. So when she catches her husband cheating in New York, she heads back home to Havenwood, Georgia, where she can drown her sorrows in fresh fruit filling and flakey crust. But her pies aren't just delicious. They're having magical effects on the people who eat them--and the public is hungry for more.

Discovering her hidden talent for enchantment, Ella Mae makes her own wish come true by opening the Charmed Pie Shoppe. But with her old nemesis Loralyn Gaynor making trouble, and her old crush Hugh Dylan making nice, she has more than pie on her plate. and when Loralyn's fiancé is found dead--killed with Ella Mae's rolling pin--it'll take all her sweet magic to clear her name.

I first met Ellery Adams when I decided to attend a book signing event in town. She was visting Salt Lake City and was kind enough to schedule a dual event with cozy mystery author, Paige Shelton. I fell in love with both of these ladies from the moment we met. Well, it looks like both are doing great, publishing so many different mystery books I can hardly keep up with them (same story with the beautiful, Joelle Charbonneau). Regardless, Ellery has a new series starting ... involving a Pie Shoppe... Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm I can't wait to get my hands on this book. There's got to be a pie recipe in there, don't ya think? I guess we should grab a copy and find out. BUY IT!

I hope you have a great few days away from this place... feel free to look around, read some reviews, guest posts... whatever. I'll see you when I get back. *smooch* 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ante Mortem by Ellie Anderson

Chapter Eight


Della quietly directed a couple of F-bombs at the microfiche machine as she scrolled through the early century news articles.  She was determined to recreate the family tree of her house and learn who the woman in her bedroom had been.  She hadn’t used one of these contraptions since 1993 when she abruptly decided to research the shooting death of a boy she had dated back in 1980.  Her parents had shielded her from the news coverage back then and she hadn’t experienced the impact of exactly how tragic it had been until at the age of 30 when she became obsessed with a need to know everything that had happened. She wanted facts, not just what she knew from all the whispering  that happened around their school and what her immature mind had imagined.

No one had heard of grief counselors back then.  Everyone was in a daze at school.  The family had held a private funeral a day or so prior to a memorial service arranged for his friends.  Della couldn’t be there.  She had a leading role in the school musical and it was opening night.  The director made an announcement before the curtain opened that the show would be dedicated to Ben, even though there was no one in the audience who knew Ben.  They were all at his memorial service.  None of seemed it real…until that day in 1993 when she woke up and found herself focused on the need to visit his grave, say the good-bye that she never got to and apologize to him.

Ben Spencer.  He was 17 and beautiful (she could still picture his eyes and remember every colored fleck as if were yesterday).  He drove a banged up 1966 Mustang that he’d been working on since he was 15.  Ben would have been her first if it hadn’t been for the police officer that found them parked in the van he had borrowed from his brother for their big night overlooking the lights of the city.   He loved his “Stang” but that evening called for finer accommodations.  He kissed her gently and gave her a silver ID bracelet with her name engraved on the front and “Love always, Ben” engraved on the back.  She still took it out from time to time, draped it across her wrist and wondered if he still loved her (or the girl she was at 17) and looked down on her from wherever he was.

Their “break-up” did not occur under the best of terms.  One of the popular boys at school asked her out and since being popular was everything at that age, she started distancing herself from Ben and started spending time with the other boy.  Della was too cowardly to end things face to face with him, so they just drifted.  Nothing was ever said or finalized…they just stopped.  She knew he was hurt by the look in his eyes when they would pass each other in the hallway…and from the way his most loyal friend, Aaron, looked at her with disappointment.   They were never mean about it.  Just sad and disappointed, which made her more ashamed than if she’d just flat out broken his heart and dumped him.

Someone vandalized her car shortly after that and when the police asked her who might have done it, she suggested Ben (arrogantly thinking that surely he was still pining away for her).  She answered a knock at her door a couple of days later and found Ben and Aaron.  Ben was furious and demanded to know why she would imagine that he would do something like that and insisted on knowing why she would tell the police and try to get him in trouble.  She had no answer.  She just looked at him stupidly.  Ben put his hands on his hips, shook his head and dropped his gaze.   He turned to leave without another word.  Aaron glanced sideways at her as he followed; the disappointment ever-present on his face.  That was the last time she saw Ben. 

During the early months of their senior year, his boss showed up at a convenience store where Ben worked a Saturday late shift.  The door was locked, the money missing and there was no Ben.  That kid’s ass was fired, the boss thought, and started a fresh pot of coffee before dialing the police. 

Ben had told his parents that he was going to stay with friends that night after work.  Problem was, he hadn’t yet told his friends he was coming over for the night, so no one missed him.  It wasn’t until Monday morning at school that people started to chatter and speculate about where he was. 

His boss called the police.  The school called his parents.  His parents called his friends.  Friends called his parents.  The police called his parents.   His parents called his boss.  The pieces started falling into place and by Wednesday everyone was whispering intensely about it at school.

An amateur rock hound found his body with two bullets wounds in the head about a week later while he was tooling around in the west desert with a metal detector.  Ben’s burnt car was recovered in Oregon shortly after that.  The ensuing investigation revealed that two men had entered the store that night and taken the money and Ben.  A suspect was later arrested and he admitted that he and his friend had forced Ben to drive them to the desert where they killed him.  The second suspect was never arrested and the first man killed himself before the case was ever prosecuted.

Della never got to visit Ben’s grave and apologize.  She had pulled every news story she could find from the microfiche files and resolved herself to the fact that she would never be able to relieve the feelings of guilt that she had developed.  His obituary read that he was cremated and no location of internment was listed.  Maybe his parents had his ashes.  After all that time, she would never be able to track Aaron down and ask him.  Even if she could, she would have been too embarrassed to talk to him.

The popular boy was an ass, like most of the others she’d been with since.  In 1980, she was too young to appreciate Ben’s goodness.  She’d hoped that wherever he was, he had fond feelings for her.  Maybe he saw her when she would pull out the bracelet.  Maybe from where he was he could see into her heart and know that she was sorry for how she had treated him.

The closing-time bell sounded from the main floor above her at the library and some of the lights went dark.  She returned her focus to the machine and tried to remember if it had been this difficult to maneuver back in 1993.  The machine rebounded to the left when she tried to scroll to the right.  The illumination from the microfiche spilled into the growing dimness of the room and she could hear one of the workers at the counter behind her, turning things off and shuffling papers.

Steve would be waiting outside to pick her up but she couldn’t leave empty-handed.  She needed something to get her going in the right direction.

She brushed her hand at something on the back of her neck and tried again to scroll to the right.  It rebounded to the left again.

A gentleman to her right was replacing dowels draped with newspapers on the storage racks.  “Ma’am, you’ve got 10 minutes.”

Della’s heart started to race and she wished she had a Valium with her.  What good was it to fill a prescription and never have it around when you needed it?  The pills were probably expired by now. 

A warm breath of air brushed past her ear and she absent-mindedly brushed at it again, leaned closer to the screen, and pushed her reading glasses further up the bridge of her nose.

“Bingo!” she half-shouted.  The characters 467 jumped out at her from a page as she recognized her house numbers and street name.  The man with the papers turned his head in response to her outburst.

“Sorry,” she said and pointed at the screen.  That was stupid.  He couldn’t even see the screen.

She knew that her home had belonged to a Jensen, Jenkins, Jansen family…something like that…for years before she bought it.

The warm breath was at her ear again but this time she ignored it as she eagerly read:

The Midvalley Times
May 23, 1917

A shocking and unexplained death has claimed the life of Ivy Jansen, 18-month old daughter of Cy and Mary Jansen, earlier this present month on Wednesday, May 9.  The Jansens lived in a new yet modest home at 467 Lincoln Lane, just south of Bingham Junction and they are the son and daughter-in-law of the well-known Jansen beet farming family. 

The lifeless body of the child was delivered to Doctor Jenkins’ home during the early morning hours by her parents.  The doctor opines that little Ivy passed sometime during the night, based on his examination and the state of the remains.

A preliminary inquest has revealed that the child has, historically, been healthy and happy.  Sheriff Colburn has promised that he will continue the investigation into this mysterious incident despite Cy Jansen’s arrest as a result of reports of his brusque mannerisms amongst his co-worker and reports from neighbors who heard a loud and threatening quarrel at the Jansens’ earlier that night.

“Dell-ahhh.”  It was a soft, sisterly voice in her ear and she felt the slightest wisp of warmth as she looked up and questioned what she had just heard. 

The newspaper man was gone; she could hear the sounds of people exiting the building upstairs and lights being clicked off around her in preparation for the employees to go home.

“Help.”  Della flung her head to the left and looked over the top of her glasses.   There was no one there.

The microfiche machine began scrolling from right to left.  Surely there was some problem with the rotating mechanisms in the machine.

“Help.”  Another soft whisper from further away.

She stood up and walked to her left, catching sight of a skirt hem as it disappeared behind a shelf.

“Hello.  Is there someone there?  What do you want?”


“Please answer me.”  Her heart was racing.  God, she wanted a Valium.

She stepped further into the darkness of the shelving area and heard the rustle of fabric from the other side of the shelves to her right. 

“What’s your name?  I want to help you.”

Silence, but for the buzzing of the microfiche behind her.  She stood still and strained to hear when from out of nowhere, she was suddenly grabbed by an unseen hand and turned backwards on her heels.

“Oh, God…Steve.  What are you doing?”  She exhaled heavily and blinked her eyes.

“I’ve been waiting outside for half an hour.  What the hell are you doing?” 

“I’ve been searching…I mean I’ve found…I’ll tell you when we get to the car.”  She could tell by the look on her face that he was perturbed.

Steve put his arm around her, led her back towards the machine and she grabbed her purse. 

Della wanted to cry and she let her eyes fill just enough so that he could see she was upset and maybe he’d ask her what was wrong.  He didn’t notice.

She let him lead her to the car and when they were settled inside, she turned to him and said, “I need to tell you something and you’re going to think I’m crazy.”

Steve sighed and closed his eyes in a non-verbal “what-is-it-now” gesture.

“Promise you won’t laugh at me.”

“I promise.”

“Please spend the night tonight.  I’m scared.”

“Since when did you get scared being on your own?”  He was amused by her vulnerable plea.

“I’m serious.  Now just take a deep breath and try to have an open mind.  OK…here goes.  I think my house is haunted by a woman and her child and I think she is trying to tell me something.  I saw her in my bedroom the last time you stayed over and the next morning I thought it was a dream.  I wasn’t sure at first, because I was fuzzy from being sleepy, but it was so real, and the longer I think about it, I figure that maybe it was real.  My house is way old and surely over a period of almost 100 years, somebody has died in that house or maybe the energy of intense emotions has been left behind.  This woman, well, she followed me here tonight and tried to talk to me and I think I’ve found out who she is and I want…no, I need…to find out who she is and why she has started appearing to me.  Her baby died and her husband…well, he was arrested and I think she needs my help.  I saw her again in the shelving area.  Well, not her, but her skirt.  I’m sure it was the same woman.  I need to help her.”

Steve was chuckling.

“Slow down, Baby Cakes.” 

That was her favorite nickname that he used for her.

“I’m going to get you home and make you a cup of tea.  A strong cup of tea.”

Della inhaled deeply and closed her eyes.

“I’m serious.”

“I know, I know.  And you’re also a little bit kooky.  Your cemetery obsession is a perfect example…that and the headstone in your living room.   Look…you’re tired, things have been hectic at work, the Baby Bea case is stalled, you’re under a lot of pressure and I think you’re imagining things.”

“Whatever.  Just take me home,”  she resigned.

(Don’t patronize me, you jerk)

“Well, you may be kooky, but you’re still pretty.” 

(He thinks he’s funny.)

“ Let’s get you home.”

Della stared angrily out the window as they drove.  She bit her tongue so as not to start a fight and prayed that Mary would show up again tonight.   That’d show him.  We’ll see who’s kooky.

Monday, June 18, 2012

My First Literary Love by Laura K. Curtis

I grew up in a small town. Tiny, even. We did have a movie theater, but the movie changed every other week (the drive-in the next town over also changed every couple of weeks) and we didn't have anything approaching "reception" on the television. If my brother was willing to stand, holding the rabbit ears in position and ground the signal, we could watch Starsky and Hutch. But no one was willing to do that very often. In the summers, my siblings went to camp, but I did not. I stayed home and read. And read. And read.

Pretty soon, I'd finished all my own books and all those my siblings had read and all those my mother had hanging about from her own youth (Betty Wales, Betty Gordon, etc) and I began ransacking the grown-up shelves. I was about 13 or 14 when I discovered my father's collection of John D. MacDonald books and I read the first one for one very simple reason: they were shorter than anything else on the shelf. How hard could a little book like that be to get through?

Not very hard at all, as it turned out. The slightly salacious cover (I am pretty sure this one is the one we had) made promises more than fulfilled by the book, and I met my first literary hero, my first literary crush: Travis McGee.

McGee was everything I wanted in a hero: he lived on a houseboat (I lived 3/4 of a mile from the ocean, and loved it), worked for himself as a "salvage consultant," and drove a vehicle comprised of the front end of a Rolls Royce and the back end of a pickup truck. In true hero fashion, he was also former military, with an excellent physique (in most of the books) and fantastic reflexes.

McGee—who only worked when he had to or when a case intrigued him enough—would recover anything from physical objects to items as intangible as personal honor. There were always women involved in some way, shape or form (this is pulp, after all) but he never had an actual girlfriend. Although he had a good friend and sort of sidekick, Meyer, who also lived on a houseboat, McGee was very much a loner.

He was, and still is, the perfect hero in my book. There's never been anyone quite like him, and though I've seen both of the movie versions, neither of them even comes close to the McGee of my imagination.

Curious to know more about Travis McGee? You can read about all of his books on this pretty cool website created by Travis McGee  HERE!

Laura K. Curtis lives in Westchester, NY, with her husband and 3 dogs who’ve taught her how easily love can co-exist with the desire to kill. She is the community manager for the Criminal Element website, blogs at Women of Mystery, and maintains an online store at TorchSongs GlassWorks. She can also be found on Twitter and poking her nose into all sorts of trouble in various spots around the web.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ante Mortem by Ellie Anderson

Chapter Seven


It had been three days since the mirrors had been covered and the boxwood wreath hung on the front door.  The odor of flowers and candles was sickening and Mary desperately wanted to fling open the windows and blow the stench out.  

Ivy had been laid out in the corner of the parlor awaiting the arrival of Mary’s parents from the east, and now that they had arrived and were settled at the inn in town, it was time for the inevitable.  People had been coming and going from the house constantly and she was exhausted. 

Mary stood in the bedroom in her loosely fitting undergarments and slowly picked up her black dress from where she had laid it out on the bed.  Cy was sitting in a chair in the corner, lacing his boots and as she stepped into her dress, she turned her back towards him, hoping he might notice her exposed skin and want to come to kiss her between the shoulder blades like he had before they were married.  He hadn’t touched her for months and she was lonely. She had been foolish to hope that he would show her any tenderness, even at a time like this. 

“Cy, could you button me up?”  She tried to sound alluring, but she felt like a girl who was repeating lines that she’d read in a novel.

He stepped to her absentmindedly, hooked the buttons without really looking and turned to go to the kitchen.  Mary heard him open the side door and greet Reverend Hodge as he approached the house. 

“Mary, it’s time.”   The reverend stepped into the doorway of the bedroom and removed his hat.

Reverend Hodge took her by the hand and moved her through the house and towards the little white coffin.  Cy followed for a few steps but stopped in the parlor archway, grabbed his hat from the coat tree and stood awkwardly, fondling it in front of him.

Mary stepped up to the coffin, put her hands on the edge and remembered that night when she put her hands on the edge of Ivy’s crib.  Ivy’s lace gown hung over the end of the coffin.  She grabbed the lace, noticed the soft texture and tucked the hem inside so that it wouldn’t be caught in the lid when it closed.  She thought of her wedding day and how the fabric felt when she pulled up her skirts as they walked down the stairs from the chapel.  She thought about how her dress that day had less lace than Ivy’s did now.  Mary bent over Ivy’s face and reached down to kiss the cold, waxy forehead.  This was the last moment that she would ever see her child.  Their house would forever be quiet now.  Maybe now Cy would stop shouting and demanding quiet.  He gingerly walked forward, brushed his palm across Ivy’s forehead and quickly turned away.  Reverend Hodge stepped in and gently closed the lid.  It sounded like the “Our Darling” placard on the inside of the lid might have fallen off, but no one seemed prepared to open the box and check.  

Mary grabbed her hat from the coat tree, put it on and started tying the ribbon under her chin as she stepped onto the front porch.  People had begun to gather in front of the house.  Cy’s mother, father and brother were there, but she didn’t see her parents.  She was sure they would be along soon.   Martin Rogers stepped past her and into the house.  He and Cy soon emerged, carrying Ivy’s casket.  The two men placed the casket on the back of the cart that Cy had hitched the mule to earlier that morning, and without a word, people began to follow the reverend as he led the mule and cart towards town.  The crowd grew larger as people joined them on the journey.

Mary’s parents joined in the procession as it passed the inn and she felt a wave of calm when she saw them.  They joined her at her side just in time for the wind to pick up and the sky to darken.  At the far edge of town, they followed the road that led on towards Buck Hill Cemetery.  It began to rain.  It wasn’t a downpour, but coupled with the wind, Mary’s face was stinging.  People began to whisper amongst themselves, now that their words could be concealed by the elements and the sound of the cart’s wheels as they struggled over the rocks on the road.  Mary turned to look over her shoulder and saw Mid Ferguson and Donna Whittle with their heads close together.  Mid was pointing at Cy.  Mary glanced over her other shoulder and saw Widow Jenkins and her daughter eyeing Cy intently as if they were just waiting for him to turn around and make an announcement.”   Even the reverend seemed to be looking back to check on them more often than was necessary and when he looked at Cy, his eyes would soon drift down defeatedly and then look away after a short, thoughtful pause. 

Mary hadn’t yet thought of the repercussions that would follow Ivy’s death.  She should have realized that Cy would be the first that people looked at for the mysterious death. 

Even the doctor couldn’t explain why Ivy had died and it didn’t help matters that Mary hadn’t been able to shed much light on the subject.  It was all a blur to her and it became fuzzier by the day.  Maybe folks should focus on the living.  On her.  She needed attention now more than Ivy did.  What did it matter how Ivy died?  Nothing was going to bring her back.  Ivy was in a better place now and Mary was in a world of hurt.

“Gather round, folks,”  Reverend Hodge instructed as they entered the cemetery.  Cy and Martin placed Ivy’s coffin next to the hole on the hill that had been dug the day before by Jerry Clifford.  He used to have a crush on Mary, but he had one rotten tooth that always made her squeamish.  She wondered if he’d lost it yet or if it was still terrifying young women.

“Gather in close, people.”   The wind was swaying the iron archway that read “Buck Hill Cemetery”  back and forth.  Mary tried to guess whether it would fall on Ivy’s grave if it blew completely down.

“Suffer the little children to come to me.  That’s what Jesus has taught us.  Let us not dwell on the passing of little Ivy, but think of the joy that she brought to her family during her short time here on Earth.”

“Didn’t have to be so short.” 

Mary couldn’t make out which man in the group had said it.  Reverend Hodge continued as if he hadn’t heard.  Surely he was used to this kind of thing.  He’d performed hundreds of funerals and a child’s funeral, especially one whose nature of death couldn’t be determined was sure to bring out grief, anger and fear in everyone, not just family members. 

“I hear him shouting at night.  At both of ‘em!”

This was a woman’s voice from somewhere behind her.  Mary quickly looked back and once again, couldn’t place whose voice it was.  She couldn’t let Cy be blamed for this.  If folks were looking to him to place blame then he would become angrier and more distant than he already was.  Her life would be even more miserable than before.

The reverend began singing and the crowd quickly joined in.

 “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling.  Calling for you and for me.
See on the portals he’s waiting and watching.  Calling, oh sinner, come home.
Come home.  Come home.  Ye who are weary come home.
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling.  Calling, oh sinner, come home.”

The crowd continued singing.  Cy and Martin placed the casket on ropes and slowly began to lower Ivy into the ground.  Mary’s mind started to race.  Ivy would be cold.  How could she sleep at night knowing that her baby was in the ground, freezing?  What would happen as the lid of the coffin disintegrated?  Her baby would be crushed and her dress would be soiled!  What if she was really still alive?  How would they save her?

“Cy Jensen, you’ll burn in hell for this!”   Another random voice stopped the singing of those that heard it.   “We all know you did it!”  The rest of the singing stopped.  The crowd began moving.  Arms were flying around as people began shouting, some turned to each other and grasped hands.  Some of the women started to cry.  Cy let go of his side of the ropes and Ivy’s casket crashed to the bottom of the hole.  A roll of thunder sounded in the distance, and Mary felt the rumble through her feet.  She stepped closer to the hole to try and get a look as the crowd became more agitated.  What if Ivy was on her side?  Her body would be all crumpled as it rotted, rather than laid out in a ladylike fashion.  The reverend was doing the best he could to calm the swarm, but the rage seemed to grow the longer Cy stood looking at them blankly.  

Mary stepped closer, looked into the hole and saw the coffin tipped on a slight angle.  The sides of the hole were being washed in by the rain and the top of the coffin was spotted with droplets of dirty water.  Some of the folks on the outer edges of the crowd were starting to leave, and some turned to look back and shout as they shook their fists at Cy.   It shouldn’t be this way.  Mary lifted her head.  Widow Jenkins was walking towards Mary, her daughter in tow.   Where were her parents?  Her mind was starting to reel.


It came from her left.  She turned her head in that direction.  Cy had begun angrily kicking dirt into the grave.


This time it was on her right.

The reverend was shouting over the wind and the rain, begging people to stay.


This time she spun around, sure to find someone teasing her cruelly.  Who would be doing this to me?  Can’t they see what’s happening here?  I’m a grieving mother and they are abandoning me and mocking me.

The earth began to slip from beneath her feet and her arms flew out as she failed to find her balance and catch herself before falling backwards into the hole.  She landed and felt the lid of the coffin give way underneath her weight.  Oh, God!  Ivy would be crushed.  Oh, God!  Oh, God!

“Mama.   Mama.  Mama.” The voice grew louder and she felt raindrops falling into her mouth as she screamed.  Cy, Reverend Hodge and Martin were looking down on her with panic and several other unrecognizable faces were staring in over her shoulder.  Cy was pushing her mother and father back away from the hole.

“Mama!  Mama!  Mama!”   The voiced was punctuated with giggles.  Ivy’s giggles.  Mary’s mouth opened wider and took in more rain as the horror of the moment grew.  She could taste the dirt that the drops carried down.  Down. Down. Down into her throat.  She imagined the dirty water travelling through her body to the very core where she had created life and given birth.  She struggled to stand and knew that with every struggling movement she was crushing Ivy more and more.  Crushing her so that no one would  know her if they were to look upon her.  Mary’s fingers clawed clumsily at the wet, dirty walls and she was overcome by silence.  Sweet silence.  She screamed silence.  Her voice had moved beyond the range of human possibility and become a beautiful cry of anguish intertwined with the harmonious silent shouting from above that only the angels could hear.  She found herself walking through a field of wheat with Ivy toddling amid the golden stalks.  Ivy giggled as it started to sprinkle.  Mary held her hands out to stroke the wheat, closed her eyes and looked heavenward to let her face be washed by the tears of the angels.  When she opened her eyes to see how Ivy entertaining herself in the rain, the wheat field was gone.  Cy’s face, was inches from hers as he pulled her from the hole and squatted on the ground, holding her.  She could see panicked faces around them.  They all moved their mouths at the same time and made noises, but as she closed her eyes, the sound of their mouths became the chirping of the birds in the trees surrounding the wheat field.  She could hear Ivy giggling close by and she ran towards the sound.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Selma by Jutta Bauer

In April I found myself traveling in the backseat of a gorgeous Mercedes and desperately trying to keep the winding road from dumping my stomach contents onto the lap of the always brilliant, and ever so handsome, Chuck Wendig. It was a difficult task that was made much easier when my backseat travel companion admitted that he was suffering from car sickness, too. I don't know... maybe the idea of us both hurling our lunch made the possibility less... embarrassing? Or maybe it was because I realized that the author that I was so anxious to meet, and so obviously intimidated by as to not say more than three words to after our initial greeting, was normal... just like me. Well, normal with a huge side of brilliance, that is.

It was a memorable car ride that led to a conversation about blogging and writing and remembering why we're doing the things we're doing, and how sometimes when things get crazy it's important to stop and go back to the basics - whatever that may be for you - and reclaim yourself.

I remember sitting in the backseat of the car and listening to my friends Kari, Stephen, and Chuck talking about the simple things that have them doing what they're doing and remembering what made them so... *gasp*  happy doing it in the first place!

It made me think about...


Flash forward to Mother's Day while I'm sitting in church on a beautiful Sabbath day listening to my wonderful friend reading a children's book as part of her Mother's Day gift to the women in our congregation  just after she's shared with us a personal time in her life when she wasn't so happy, and how she lost an entire decade of her life just by living day-to-day. An entire decade! Gone.

And I understood...

Having lost an entire decade of my life, too, I know how easy it is to get stuck in a routine; living life the same way day after day after day. And there really isn't anything wrong with that if... you're happy.

Take the story of Selma for instance...

After a little red fox decides he just can't take it anymore, he heads to the wise ram to find the answer to happiness.  The wise ram then proceeds to tell the story of Selma. Each morning Selma would rise and eat some grass, play with her kids, exercise, eat some more grass,  and talk with Mrs. Miller in the evening before falling asleep each night. When she was asked what she would do if she had more time... Selma says the exact same thing. When asked what she would do if she had a million dollars?  You guessed it; she says the same thing...

It's a simple lesson, really. Happiness is what you want it to be.

Which can be difficult... trust me, I know.

But it is attainable.

So, if I were to follow Selma's example- I would wake up each morning and eat some cupcakes, play with my beagles, exercise, spend some time with my handsome spouse eating cupcakes, and have a little chat with my twitter family before falling asleep each night.

For some odd reason this book makes me smile. It's so simple, and the drawings inside are so cute. It's a feel good book that I plan to send to some friends... just to thank them for helping to make my life more happy.  This world would be awfully lonely and dark without them...

And to help you find that road to happiness... I'd suggest you start with eating cupcakes! Or another favorite food. Like... tacos. Or... cheese fries.  Maybe even a bacon cheeseburger? I'll let you decide. But if cupcakes are your thing, you can find a delicious Lemon Cupcake Recipe HERE! 

Monday, June 11, 2012

My First Literary Love by Erin Faye

There was no one character or author who made me a lover of crime fiction. I was raised by a reader, and my dad encouraged me to read everything from Agatha Christie to Lawrence Block to Patricia Highsmith to James Lee Burke (and many stories in between).

But there is one author and one character who will always be the ones I love the best. These guys are the reason that I gravitate to police procedurals above all other types of tales.

Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series includes 54 titles. Yes, fifty-four separate books written over the course of 49 years. Were they published today, these books would probably be called novellas because most of them clock in around 200 pages. Some are even short enough to be short stories by today’s standards. While some of the 87th Precinct’s villains show up in more than one book, each is a stand-alone. And each is a work of art.

Detective Steve Carella is the rock of the 87th, its foundation. Even in the books where Carella is not a primary character, he is a constant presence. He doesn’t age through the series, although he certainly evolves as the world around him changes dramatically. Carella isn’t a shockingly brilliant detective—he’s no Sherlock Holmes—and he doesn’t solve every case. But he tries. He is logical and compassionate. He makes mistakes and learns from them, most of the time. He is sometimes gritty and often tender.

Carella’s wife, Teddy, is deaf. This is a subtle yet important aspect of his story, and of the series as a whole. It also had enough of an impact on me that I took classes in American Sign Language. That’s how much Carella—and his family—means to me. He also has twins, a boy and a girl, and he’s a good dad, but not a perfect one.

We know Carella through his interaction with others. McBain never descends into long, painful internal monologs. These are, after all, police procedurals, and Carella is the guy who, in most of the stories, guides that procedure. He is partnered with different fellow detectives, and he doesn’t love everyone. Not everyone respects him for both good and evil reasons.

Because he’s not a super-cop, Carella made me love cop stories more than I would have otherwise. He never once, through 54 stories, made me feel stupid, but he always made me feel something. People are often surprised to learn that I started reading his books before my 10th birthday, but I wouldn’t change that for anything. McBain is my context, the measure by which I judge all the stories I read. He’s the one who showed me that characters on a page can have a soul.

Curious to know more about Detective Steve Carella and the 87th Precint? You can read all about these books and the author Ed McBain  HERE!

When not knee-deep in her marketing day job, Erin has her nose buried in a book…or in Twitter.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ante Mortem by Ellie Anderson

Chapter Six


“Mom, where are my socks?”

Yes, nearly every day of the week started this way.  When he called, she was annoyed.  And when he didn’t call, she’d worry…she’d text him over and over until he would finally text back, highly annoyed with her.  At least she knew he hadn’t been abducted on the daily mile-long walk he had to take to get to the city bus that would take him to school on the other side of town.  In her world, everyone was a pedophile or a killer until they had proven themselves and she was kooky about her son and his safety.

Della hung up the phone and headed towards Steve’s office.  He wouldn’t be here yet, even though he left her house early so that he could shower at his own place.  He always got to the office after she did, but this morning she wanted to make sure the Baby Bea report was there for him when he got there.  She dropped it on the desk and let her mind wander to her plans for the evening.  Tonight for sure, she would get her visit to the porch because Steve didn’t often come over two nights in a row.

She let her hand trail softly across his desk as she walked out.  One of the attorneys was standing in the entrance to her cubicle, ready to give instructions for the most current fire that needed to be put out. 

“Um, yeah…I need this Notice of Expert Witness to go out right away.  The deadline’s today.” 

“Good morning to you, too, Tim.”  He was notorious around the office for leaving things until the last minute. 

“Um, yeah…sorry.  Good morning, Dell.”

A second prosecutor walked in behind Tim.  This time is was Carol.  Tim was still talking when Carol started to talk slowly, her face buried in a file.  “I need you to call this witness and get him to fill out an 1102 form for the Cassidy prelim this morning.  I’ve got to leave for court by nine and I need it by then.”

Their voices overlapped; they both continued to talk.  Tim’s hands were flying around and he was explaining that one of the public defenders had lied in front of the judge and screwed him over.

Kyle showed up next.  “I can’t find the file for the Mitchfield prelim.  I swear it was on my desk the other day.  Do you have it?  I can’t imagine what happened to it.”  His eyes were ping pong balls and he was panicked.

“Whoa!  Whoa!  Whoa!” Della announced.  Their three voices were a symphony of dissonance that was like nails down a chalk board.  They didn’t hear her.

“Whoa, you guys!”  she said in an elevated voice.  “Back the truck up!  Beep.  Beep. Beep!”

Carol’s eyes raised up from the file, hesitated on Della’s eyes and dropped back down while Tim and Kyle continued talking and then returned to the file.   She continued her muttering.

“What is going on?  There’s three of you talking all at once!”

The three stopped abruptly, their mouths slightly open.  Things had been rough around the office for everyone the last year.  The last D.A. ran a regime of corruption and terror that had left everyone shell-shocked. Things were better with the new elected D.A., but everyone was still overly tense.

“I am not a human sponge.   I can’t take in everything you all say at once.  Tim, I’ll have a draft on your desk for you when you come back from court.  Carol, there’s no way that we can throw together an 1102 by nine o’clock.  Kyle, check with Marni.  She pulls together all the files for your prelims.”  Kyle was new and hadn’t quite adjusted to the routine.

Carol shot her a raised eyebrow and a dip of the head.  Della dismissed the disapproval… again.  Carol didn’t like being told no; she rolled her eyes, blinked and turned to leave. The other two followed suit and Della sat at her desk, dropped her head in her hands and exhaled heavily.   She tried to remind herself that she wasn’t the only one who was stressed out around here.

She closed her eyes and let her daydreams reflect on the earliest hours of the day.  When she woke, she wasn’t rested.  Her dreams had been filled with images of a woman and child walking through her room.  It played over and over and woke her up several times, only to return as soon as she dozed off again.  As the woman passed and met eyes with her, she imagined that the woman had mouthed a message, “Help me.”  Della had a feeling of dread as she recalled the image.  Did it really happen?  Was it a dream?  It was all a fog and she couldn’t decide if it had really happened.  More than that, the thought of the dark figure pierced her chest and terrified her.

“Della, there’s two detectives here for you,” the speaker on her phone announced, bringing her abruptly back to the moment. It was eight o’clock and she passed Steve’s office on the way to meet them.  He still wasn’t here, but she was anxious to get to work on the case because she knew the office’s Public Information Officer would be getting hounded by the press, and then he’d be hounding Steve and Steve would be hounding her.

“Hi, guys.”

They began talking as she gestured for them to follow her.  When they reached her cubicle, they took the two small client chairs that sat opposite her desk. 

“Detective Ashram… Todd, right?”

“Yeah,” he replied nervously. 

Franks pulled a file out of the messenger bag he held on his lap.  “Where do you wanna start?”

“Well, Steve will be here soon and the report’s on his desk but I’d like to go ahead and start learning the case so I can start cataloguing the discovery materials.   I’ve read your initial report, but just start at the beginning.”  Della and Franks had been friends for a long time.  They got to know each other years before when she was helping on a child homicide for the very first time.  Franks was one of the few that knew about Steve and that was only because he’d run into them at an Octoberfest event that they specifically picked because it was out-of-town, making it unlikely that they’d run into anyone they knew.  Franks had kept her secret and she was grateful to him.

“We were called to The Children’s Hospital about 12:30 AM by a Doc Walker, who was reporting that they’d received a small child, deceased, whose condition appeared to be inconsistent with the story the parents were giving. The child was dead when the parents brought her in.  Rigor had set in and mom and dad were saying that mom went to work about four that afternoon, the dad stayed home, checked on the kid at 11:30, she was fine, then when mom came home from work at midnight, she found her non-responsive and brought her to the hospital.  We went to the residence.   It’s a third floor apartment, pretty warm inside, despite the time.  The place was a mess. TV was running an Xbox game, beer bottles strewn around.  And the baby’s room was the worst.  Dirty diapers wadded up on the floor, clothes on the floor… just gross. No sheets on the crib but there was a little flannel blanket on the mattress. Crime lab ran serology on the blanket and confirmed saliva, but that’s to be expected, although I the think corner of the blanket was in the baby’s mouth.   It was still damp when we got there.”

Della leaned forward and put her elbows on the desk.

“Dad’s not working.  He stayed home with the kid and he says he put the baby down about seven with a bottle.  Mom says when she came home, dad was on the couch asleep and she went in the nursery and found the baby unresponsive.”

Della was puzzled.  “Why didn’t they call 911?

Ashram finally joined in.  “Said they just panicked.”

“Well, that’s just stupid.”

“Ya think?”  Franks started to laugh and smacked Ashram in the chest with the back of his hand.  “Let’s hear from you, college boy.”  He waggled his finger at Ashram and continued, “This kid’s brilliant, ‘cept he wasted a college degree and three years of law school to become a cop.  What do ya’ say to that, Dell?”

She chuckled… the socially acceptable three-syllable laugh.  She wished that she had something witty to say.  Her B.A. in English wasn’t exactly the major of geniuses.  It was for the kids who couldn’t figure out what to major in.  “What’s your theory?”

“Well…”  Ashram was hesitant.  Probably afraid that Franks would tease him again.  “I’m thinking that mom took off to work, dad got busy playing video games, drinkin’ beer.  He forgets to feed the baby.  Baby gets cranky, she’s crying, dad gets annoyed and stuffs the corner of the blanket in the baby’s mouth.  Maybe he doesn’t realize she’s dead, he goes back to the couch and passes out.  Mom comes home, finds the baby.  They panic. She doesn’t want him going to jail, they’ll lose his unemployment money.  They spend some time coming up with a story and decide not to call for help, but to drive the baby across town instead ‘cuz it gives them more time to get their stories straight.”

Franks stood up.  “We gotta go.  Here’s the DVDs of the interviews with mom and dad.  We’ve got some other interviews scheduled this morning.  We’ll bring ‘em over as soon as we’re done.”

“Thanks guys.”

Ashram rose and followed Franks.   Della put her head in her hands again and exhaled deeply.  She wondered if her cubey neighbor next door ever got tired of hearing her do that.  It was a bad habit and she made a note to try to quit doing it.

“Hey!  I want to hear all the gory details!”  Glynna poked her head in and smiled.  Della couldn’t help but grin as “G” plopped herself down on Ashram’s chair.

“I’m tired.  Don’t think I can re-hash it right now.”

Glynna puckered up her mouth (she was fond of describing herself as having sultry red lips) and pouted. “At lunch, then?”

“I’ll be lunching in my car today….or should I say I’ll be napping in my car.”

“Jane’s not gonna be happy.  Or the other girls.  Everyone wants to hear about the new homicide and they’ve already started e-mailing about where we’re going to lunch today.  Haven’t you checked your e-mails yet?”

Della and the girls love to go out for lunch together.  They’d all been close friends and had been through a lot together.  Babies, divorces, lost loves, parents dying, children who had almost died, new houses, weddings, divorces and grandbabies… there was nothing that they didn’t talk about.  No subject was taboo and it was Della’s favorite way to pass the time.

“We’re going to The Footman,” Glynna teased her.

“You are a wicked, wicked vixen, little missy.” She shook her finger at G.  ”OK, I’ll go.”


The hostess seated them at an eight-top table.  There were only seven of them today, so Della ended up on the end with nobody sitting across from her.  She always hated being the one left hanging on the end, but figured it was probably best since she had been so distracted today.

“Did you guys hear about that rape out in South Towne City?”  Claire asked.

“I’ll have the veal cutlet with the white sauce, not the cheesy sauce.  And I’ll have the dinner salad with French dressing.  On the side. And no carrots.  I don’t like the carrots.”  Jane smiled at the waitress.

“Don’t forget to tell her to make sure that all your fries are facing north,” one of the girls teased and they all started laughing.  They knew each other’s habits well after years of eating lunch together and it wasn’t unusual to see them reaching across the table to take food off each other’s plates without asking.

“They said the guy was wearing a ski mask and he tore her up pretty good,” Claire continued.

Janica popped in with, “Yeah, I screened that case.  It’s going to be assigned to Bill Scott.  It took them a month to find the guy and then it was only because he started bragging to somebody about raping some girl up Dairy Creek Canyon.  The girl couldn’t ID him or even give a description because he had her down on her knees almost the whole time.  He shoved her head down on him so hard that it cracked one of her cervical vertebrae.  The only detail she could give the cops was that his penis bent to one side. They got a blood sample and the DNA’s supposed to be back any day.”

“Maybe they could just do a penis lineup!”  It was Tonya joining in this time and they all laughed so loud that the other tables turned to look at them.  A couple of old ladies asked to be moved to the other side of the restaurant when the waitress came to serve Della and the other ladies.  Everybody dove in while Della just kind of pushed her food around; quite the opposite of how their routine usually worked.

Sara was next to Della.  She nudged her and asked if she was OK.

“Yeah, I’m just preoccupied.”

The girls continued their banter and their eating while Della’s mind kept thinking of Bea.  She poked at her chicken pot pie and thought about how the crust looked similar to the color of the inside of Bea’s scalp in the autopsy photos.  She thought about Baby Bea and wondered what she would’ve been like when she grew up.  What kind of dreams were snuffed out by her killer?  Some people just shouldn’t have kids.  She’d always wanted a girl.  They were more fun to shop for than boys and when they grow up, they stay closer to their moms than boys do.  CJ would distance himself more and more as the years passed.  It was inevitable.  People expect moms and their sons to become distant.  Only the mother/daughter, father/daughter and father/son relationships are celebrated in this day and age.  If a mother and son are close, the boy gets teased for being a mama’s boy and everyone looks at the mom like an overbearing freak.  Della let herself imagine that maybe someday she’d have a granddaughter.  As her mind wandered further from the group, she saw CJ handing her his daughter to hold and as she reached out and cradled the baby’s head with her hand, she worried that she would not be gentle enough with the baby.  It had been a long time since she’d held one and she didn’t want to bruise the back of the baby’s delicate little head with her tense fingertips, so she slipped a blanket between the head and her hand.  She imagined how horrified CJ and his wife would be if there were a semi-circle of marks on the baby’s head from her fingertips.  Oh, my God!  She’d seen that image somewhere before!  The pictures of the inside of Baby Bea’s scalp had the same semi-circle of bruises she was imagining, mirrored.  That bastard had held  Baby Bea’s head down with his fingertips until she suffocated. 

The adrenaline started to course through her system and her mind returned to the group.  They were talking about a penis lineup again and Janica was mimicking her husband, “Don’t call it a penis!  It’s a dick!”

A younger couple two tables away actually laughed and Della turned her chair towards the other girls to reconnect with the conversation.

“You guys ready to go?”

“Yeah, let’s pay and go,” someone piped in.  “I’ve gotta get back to my desk.  My attorneys have afternoon prelims and I’d better be there to see them off.”

Della got in the car for the ride back to the office and she couldn’t wait to talk to Steve about the bruising.  Her mind wandered as she stared out the window of the passenger seat.  This time she saw CJ handing her Baby Bea and when she took her in her arms, it seemed natural and she wished with all her might that she’d have a granddaughter someday.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Ante Mortem by Ellie Anderson

Chapter 5

October 1915

Cy held her elbow as she struggled to sit down on the picnic blanket and spread her skirt around her.  He was ashamed because she repulsed him and surely this wasn’t the way that he should be feeling.  He tried to keep the emotion from his face, but lately Mary had been catching on.  It was the last month of her pregnancy; he could barely look at her, much less talk to her civilly, though he tried.  She used to be chatty.  In fact, she never shut up if they were around other people.  She would go on and on about how she wanted her own home and her own table to sit at; with the baby coming they should really establish themselves as their own family and move out of his parents’ house.  She never felt at home there…always just a guest.  He spent too much time with his parents.  She wanted more time alone with him.  The discourse never ended and made him look like a failure.  As soon as they were alone, he’d make sure she knew how she’d humiliated him.  Mary would apologize and over time she had curtailed her attacks and become hushed.

When they first married, she was pretty, even beautiful, and he was proud to have her on his arm around town.  It made him feel superior to the other plain-wived men.  She quickly started to let herself go.  He tried to encourage her to keep up on her looks by talking her up when they were around other folks, but as soon as they were alone, the repulsion would surface again and he’d be short and nasty with her.  They hadn’t been together since she’d conceived and then it was only because he’d been drinking with the men in town and he had been aroused by some women from the next town over who had flirted with them.  As the child grew, Mary became fleshy and faded.

When they’d go to church or into town, he made sure they walked.  He always had an excuse, despite Mary’s complaints:  the wheels on the mule cart were wearing down, it was too nice of a day to not enjoy the sun, or he’d complain that he was just too antsy to take the cart.  The extra exercise might make her want to slim down a bit.

Mary had made an effort to look pretty today for the Fall Festival but he still didn’t want to sit on the blanket facing those dark-circled eyes and all that soft meaty skin.  He positioned himself so that he was looking outward at the pond, grateful that she hadn’t been opposed to the spot he chose since it was on the outskirts of the activity.   

“I do believe this is a fine day, don’t you, Cy?”  Mary was struggling to smile as she looked down at her hands and scratched at the nail bed of her left thumb.

“What’s for supper tonight?”

“Oh, come on, Cy.  Let’s enjoy being out.”  She opened the basket and started to remove the chicken, pickles and bread that she had packed.  “I made your favorite fried chicken.”

He loved her fried chicken, but he didn’t want her eating any of it.  She was big as a horse and the last thing she needed was to be eating.  He wanted to vomit as he anticipated her chewing and licking her fingers. 

“Thanks.  It looks delicious.”

They ate in silence while children laughed and chased each other nearby.  Cy hoped that once the baby was here, Mary would keep herself busy with the other mothers, chasing children and gossiping, so that he could be with the men instead of sitting on a stupid blanket.

“Oh, my God, Cy.  Something’s wrong.”

He licked his fingers and looked out at the pond.

“I’m serious.  I think it’s time.”

Cy helped her up and saw that her skirt and the blanket were quickly becoming soaked.  He saw the dark stain of the moisture and imagined that it was a sign.  A sign from God telling him that freedom was near at hand.  They began walking towards home.  Mary’s pain increased regularly, and an hour later he put Mary down on the bed and prepared to go for the doctor.  Cy walked to the barn, saddled up his horse and headed back towards the festival.  Cy was sure he would be there.  People didn’t like to miss the Fall Festival.  He hadn’t seen him, but then he hadn’t seen much of anyone except for the ruffian kids. 

He soon returned with Doc Jenkins in tow.  Mary was writhing in pain and for a moment, he felt a wave of unexpected compassion.   He turned away at the doctor’s urging and went to the parlor to wait it out.  Mary’s screams were horrific and he couldn’t stand to hear them.  He walked outside to the front porch just as his mother was coming up the front walk.  She grabbed his hand and they sat on the porch swing in silence for what seemed an eternity.  Cy passed the time by drinking from the flask that he kept in the interior pocket of his jacket.  He went inside and refilled it once, but lost his urge to drink when he passed the bedroom on his way to the kitchen and heard Mary moaning.  But once he was back on the porch swing with his mother, he forced himself to drink again and it got easier with each swallow.

Doctor Jenkins came out with a bundle in his arms and held it out towards Cy.  He accepted the offering and peeled back the layers of the blanket.  He looked at the baby’s face and thought he smelled taffy.

“It’s a girl, Doc Jenkins announced.  “Congratulations.”

Cy gazed down at his daughter and smiled.