Friday, 20 April 2018

Available Now in Print: What the Future Holds by Joan Fleming

Magic of Mull Series, #1
Joan Fleming


Columb Cottage on Mull has long been in Amy Wilson's family. Instead of the relaxing holiday she expected, she's now pitted against Sandy McFarlane, a boy she once loved, who intends on building a holiday village on a site beside her cottage. Having just lost her job, Amy is moving to Mull. She'll fight Sandy if she has to, to prevent the project, but finds she's falling in love all over again.
• • •
It was early evening by the time Amy Wilson opened the bulky envelope. Sitting by the fire, with a glass of red wine in her hand, she drew a deep breath of sheer contentment. This was what relaxation was all about—the scent of burning peat, silence except for the faint whisper of the waves lapping over the rocks in the bay, and the view of the island of Iona no picture postcard image could ever reproduce.
Pure heaven. That was until she saw the contents of the envelope.

Flicking her dark brown hair behind her ears, she straightened in her armchair.

At first, she stared at the papers, trying to work out what they meant. Log cabins? Holiday homes? Leisure facility? What had all this to do with her? She looked again at the envelope.

Miss A. Wilson
Columb Cottage
Isle of Mull

There was no doubt it was meant for her. But why was it delivered here at the cottage in Mull when she had arranged to forward her mail to her Glasgow address? Then she realised there was no stamp on the envelope and in a corner were the words “Hand Delivered”.

Closer examination revealed the paperwork had been prepared by a firm of solicitors. The covering letter explained the purpose of the communication—a proposal had been submitted to build twelve log cabins—a ‘holiday village’ to be named Oceanview—on a piece of ground by the sea shore on the edge of Amy’s land. Enclosed was a plan of the holiday facility.

The more she read, the faster Amy’s heart beat. Build on the shoreline! What a preposterous idea! There was no way anyone could be allowed to ruin the natural beauty of this spot on the island. Jumping up from her comfortable armchair, she ran over to the window to look out at the bay. With the plan of the proposed holiday village in her hand, she glanced from the plan to the bay itself, trying to visualise where the cabins would be, how they would look. Would they interfere with her view? Would she still be able to see the abbey on the island of Iona? Or the sea? No—this was unacceptable. It was out of the question. She would not allow it to happen!
• • •
Joan Fleming was born and educated in Edinburgh, Scotland. After university there, she became a teacher of French and German for a short period in the London area, then in the West of Scotland.

Since leaving education, she now concentrates on creative writing. She has had short stories and articles published in magazines in both the UK and America, and has won a number of awards for her writing.

Joan is a member of Erskine Writers, the Scottish Association of Writers, the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors.

Her interests include: reading, walking, travel, islands (anywhere!) and the life and work of Robert Burns.

She now lives in a flat on the outskirts of Glasgow overlooking the West Highland Way.

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Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Available Now: Festival Fireworks by Ann Burnett

Anne Burnett



(99c through 22 April)
Twenty-seven year old Aussie, Jill Kennedy, has arrived in Edinburgh during the festival and staying in her aunt's empty flat. Immediately, she crosses swords with her new neighbour, Andrew MacCallum-Blair. To make things worse, she discovers he’s her boss in the temporary job she’s taken so she can afford to see Scotland.

For his part, Andrew has decided to harden his heart against falling in love again but Jill's fresh and frank approach to life threaten to break down the barricades he’s erected around his heart.

Jill can't understand Andrew’s changing moods, and even more, her own confused feelings for 'Mr Bossy', as she has nicknamed him.

As fireworks burst over Edinburgh Castle, Jill and Andrew must decide whether the fireworks sparking between them will lead to love or a parting of the ways.

• • •

‘Is that your car?’ he shouted up at her.

‘Yes,’ she called back.

‘You can’t park there!’ he yelled. ‘That’s my space.’

‘OK, I’m sorry,’ Jill called down to him. ‘I didn’t know. I’m new here.’

‘Aren’t you going to move it then?’ His face glared up at her, and even from two storeys up, she could make out the flash in his dark eyes. His stance reinforced his mood, hands on hips, long legs set apart, gripping the pot-holed tarmac of the parking area with a ferocity she couldn’t miss.

‘I’ve just washed my hair. Can you give me ten minutes while I dry it?’

‘No!’ The bellow reverberated around the buildings. Jill could well imagine numerous faces half hidden behind twitching curtains watching and listening to the contretemps. She sighed, closed the window, and gave her wet hair another rub with the towel, then slipped on a jacket and headed for the door.


The natives don’t seem all that friendly, she said to herself, as she flip-flopped her way down two flights of tenement stairs. The stairs wound round and round in an open spiral, and Jill held onto the brass balustrade as she descended. Wrought iron banisters coiled in fanciful flowers below the balustrade. Someone, many years ago, had taken a lot of time and care in fashioning them, she thought.

All the way down she tried to think of smart put-downs for Mr. Bossy outside, but her brain still wasn’t up to speed after her flight. At the landing window, she glimpsed him pacing up and down beside Linda’s car. His Mercedes still had its engine running.

Waster, she thought, more money than sense. Using up his fuel and polluting the atmosphere. No green credentials, him.

When she opened the door into the back court, he turned towards her. She could see how tall he was now; upstairs, the height had foreshortened him.

‘Thank goodness!’ he exclaimed. ‘Now shift your car and let me in.’

‘What’s the magic word?’ It was out before she could think. Jill’s infamous ‘open mouth before engaging brain’ syndrome.


‘No, not that but at least it’s a start.’

He glowered at Jill while she tried to stand as tall and straight and important as her five feet four inches, wet hair, and flip-flops would allow. She met his eye and held his gaze.

‘Don’t be so childish,’ he said, ‘and hurry up and move your car.’

Glaring at him, Jill climbed into the driver’s seat of Linda’s Yaris and attempted to start it.

It coughed and died. She tried again, and the same thing happened. What had Linda said about the car? ‘It was a great bargain, though it is a wee bit tetchy about starting. A touch temperamental, in fact.’ Sounds like Mr. Bossy here, she thought. ‘But just jolly it along a bit and it will get going.’ Well, that was something she wasn’t going to try with Mr. Bossy, though the sooner he got going the better. But she decided to try it on the car.

‘Come on now,’ she said out loud. ‘Try your best. You know you can do it.’ The engine coughed and spluttered. ‘That’s it. That’s the job. Come on, just a bit more.’

The engine caught, and she revved it up to make sure. ‘Wonderful! See, I told you that you could do it.’

She glanced round to see Mr. Bossy staring bemusedly at her. She wound down the window, gave him a wink, and shouted, ‘No worries!’ before reversing out of the space and parking in her designated bay.

She watched as he swung the sleek, black Mercedes into the spot she’d occupied. He jumped out, clicked the lock, and hurried into the entrance of the apartments.

• • •

Ann Burnett was born in Scotland where she now lives but has travelled extensively and lived in Canada and Australia.

She has published short stories, articles and children’s stories, as well as writing a novel, Loving Mother, as part of her Masters in Creative Writing. She is an experienced Creative Writing tutor and adjudicator for the Scottish Association of Writers.

Her short stories have been published in New Writing Scotland, Glasgow University Creative Writing anthologies, My Weekly, That’s Life (Australia), Woman's Weekly and the Weekly News. Her collection of short stories, Take a Leaf out of My Book, is available on Amazon.

Her memoir, illustrated with her father's photos, A Scottish Childhood, Growing up a Baby Boomer has just been published.

But perhaps she is best remembered for writing Postman Pat stories for a children's comic every week for five years. A labour of love indeed!

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Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Available Now: Misfortune of Song by Christy Nicholas

Druid's Brooch, #5
Christy Nicholas



(99c through 8 April)
Even a soldier cannot fight love

In 12th century Ireland, all Maelan wants is to do his duty to his Chief and maintain his family’s good name. However, his granddaughter Orlagh, is hell bent on wreaking havoc, with no care for the consequences.

When Orlagh falls in love with an itinerant bard, Maelan must rule with an iron fist to keep her from running away. However, her rebellion against his strictures results in disaster and he almost loses her in the same way he lost his beloved wife.

Maelan must make some difficult decisions and bargains with the Fae to save his granddaughter’s life and future. Can he save her happiness as well?

• • •

1114 AD Ceann-Coradh, near Cill Dalua, Hibernia

“I cannot do what you ask, my chief.” Maelan kept his back stiff and his gaze forward. He couldn't bring himself to look Diarmait Ua Briain in the eye, not after the command he'd just been given. Not only did it leave a bitter taste in Maelan’s mouth, but such an act would break his code of honor as a Christian.

The chieftain stopped mid-stride. “What did you say, Maelan?”

Concentrating on the wall tapestry in the large royal chamber, Maelan remained still. “I said I cannot kill Murtough Ua Briain.”

Diarmait growled and spun, his thin frame hidden by the enormous multi-colored cloak he loved wearing. His face darkened, and he picked up a metal platter. The remains of his meal dropped to the floor as he flung the platter against the wooden walls. The harsh clang made Maelan flinch, and he did not flinch easily.

He stepped so close to Maelan their noses almost touched. Maelan could smell mead and onions on his breath. “How many winters have you been a warrior, Maelan?”

“Almost fifty winters, my chief.”

Diarmait cocked his head and raised his eyebrows. “In fifty winters’ time, you never killed anyone?”

“Of course. A warrior kills many enemies, my chief.”

“Yet you refuse to kill my enemy now.”

“You haven’t asked me to kill an enemy. You’ve asked me to kill your own brother. You do not ask for an honorable killing. You ask for a kin assassination, my chief.”

Diarmait threw his hands in the air. “Stop saying ‘my chief’ every other word, Maelan! By the power of the sun and the moon, we’ve known each other too long for such formalities. I don’t understand your reluctance. The man is a warrior just as you are. Why would you scruple to kill another warrior?”

“A warrior in battle is honorable. A helpless kinsman on his sickbed is murder.”

He spun, pacing several times as he spoke. “You and your stupid Christian morals. Why are you so blind to necessity, Maelan? When he recovers, he’ll take the túath from me again. You’ll be just as dispossessed as I if that happens.”

Maelan could think of nothing to say. Either he argued with Diarmait or betrayed his beliefs. He chose neither option.

Chief Diarmait closed his eyes and let out a weary sigh. “Time was you would do as your chief commanded, Maelan. When did you change?”

Maelan clenched his teeth against the memory of that battle —a day which still haunted him.

Diarmait crossed his arms and frowned. “Sometimes I just don’t understand you, Maelan. You are my warchief, my best warrior and one of my oldest friends. You’ve stood by me through war, raids, and celebrations. Your wife, may she rest in the Summer Lands, was my own dear cousin.”

“That is all true, my chief. Nothing changed.”

“Yet you won’t kill for me.”

Maelan swallowed. “I cannot justify such an act to my God. Such an act is dishonorable.”

“Dishonorable? How in the name of all things holy is killing dishonorable? Battle is an ancient tradition for all Gaels.”

“Not for Christians, my chief. I mean, Diarmait.”

Diarmait growled. “Codswallop! A bunch of stammering weaklings. You and my brother both love them for some unknown reason. Go, Maelan. Leave me now. Do send me someone with the skills I need. You must have one warrior in your command unweakened by your Christian morals.”

“Yes, my… yes, Diarmait.”

Maelan almost smiled, but restrained himself.

Once he safely escaped the royal rooms, he breathed a sigh of relief. It didn’t really matter who he sent in his stead. No one else would have his own advantage. Murtough Ua Briain, his own chief’s brother and rival for the Chiefdom of an Mhumhain, would live another day—unless his illness took him.

Maelan had a good group of warriors under him, with various skills and specialties. Maelan could be an excellent assassin, thanks to his magical talent, but he’d never use his magic for such a task.

As Diarmait had pointed out, not every Gaelic warrior believed secret killing was dishonest. In Gaelic culture, killing became a logical part of the constant warfare between tribes and clans. Maelan was raised, however, in a strict Christian household. His grandfather had been a priest, and such sins are unforgivable.

His chief still cleaved onto most of his pagan Gaelic beliefs, though Diarmait certainly gave lip service to the Christian God and their priests. He could hardly do less these days, with the amount of sheer power the Church now held. Many winters ago, perhaps in his great-grandfather’s time, more pagans lived, but they’d been hunted and destroyed with alarming violence. Violence wasn’t common on their own island, but crucifixions, even burnings, were not unheard of in other lands.

The violence. Despite being a warrior all his life, Maelan detested and regretted unnecessary violence. Some of his memories…

Maelan found his own room and closed the door, thankful to be out of sight. He removed his simple brat from around his shoulders and sat at the simple wooden desk.

He had work to do. The supply lists were still unfinished, and he needed to assign mentors to the new trainees. Some of those boys were barely grown. One only counted seven winters. Certainly, training a warrior young helped get them used to the feel of a spear in their hands, but seven?

Maelan’s own training had officially started at age twelve. He’d had fighter practice since he aged ten winters. He fostered to his mother’s brother, a warrior in Corcaigh, after age ten. He’d been so proud of his wooden practice sword and leather helm. He smiled at the memory, but frowned as he remembered his grandmother. She’d left the winter before his fostering, disappearing in the night. He’d only found her once, many winters later.

When he turned thirty, she’d sought him out, though he’d believed her long dead. She’d gifted him with a family heirloom, passed down for generations untold. He still held his brooch, a magical artifact which granted him the ability to stay hidden in plain sight.

He wished she’d had a similar talent. Instead, her talent almost got her killed. Did she still live somewhere? Had she managed to reinvent herself? He hoped so. He suspected, however, after she relinquished the brooch, her talent of eternal youth had faded.

After swallowing hard and chiding himself for useless nostalgia, Maelan bent to the task of finishing his work for the day.

• • •

Christy Nicholas, also known as Green Dragon, has her hands in many crafts, including digital art, beaded jewelry, writing, and photography. In real life, she's a CPA, but having grown up with art all around her (her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are/were all artists), it sort of infected her, as it were. She loves to draw and to create things. She says it's more of an obsession than a hobby. She likes looking up into the sky and seeing a beautiful sunset, or seeing a fragrant blossom or a dramatic seaside. She takes a picture or creates a piece of jewelry as her way of sharing this serenity, this joy, this beauty with others. Sometimes this sharing requires explanation – and thus she writes. Combine this love of beauty with a bit of financial sense and you get an art business. She does local art and craft shows, as well as sending her art to various science fiction conventions throughout the country and abroad.

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Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Available Now: One Night in Inverness by Charlotte Howard

City Nights Series, #35
Charlotte Howard


(99c through 1 April)
In order to save their marriage, Des and Frankie decide to mix business with pleasure when they attend a literary festival in Inverness. But once they arrive, Frankie soon discovers Des's long-kept secret, and has left her questioning whether she can ever trust him again. Des isn’t the only one with secrets, and Frankie wonders if it's all worth the heartache. As the night wears on, they are both forced to face the truth about their marriage.

Can Frankie accept the truth about Des?

Can Des forgive Frankie's past?

Can one night in Inverness fix their marriage?

• • •

The sound of my husband swearing snapped me out of the mouth-watering daydream, and back into the dullness of reality. I put my book, and the sinfully delicious Nathan Mathers contained within its pages, down on the hotel bed and glared at him. “What’s happened?” I asked, trying to sound concerned and not irritated that he had ruined my fantasy.

“They want Roberta Hathaway to attend the festival,” he said, pacing the room and running his hands over his head, raking his fingers through his light brown hair, which was in desperate need of a trim, I noticed. I’d started doing that – picking up on little things about him that grated on my nerves. I gave myself a mental chastising. This was supposed to be a weekend for us to rekindle our long-lost spark. And it hadn’t been that long, after all. Some couples go years without sex. What were a few months? My stomach knotted as unwanted memories began to swim towards the surface of a very deep lake.

I grazed my teeth along my bottom lip and glanced down at the name on the cover of the book I’d been reading. “Is that a problem?”

I was secretly giddy at the prospect of finally meeting my favourite author, and didn’t understand why he was so stressed. Roberta Hathaway was a prolific, and best selling, erotic romance author. She’d achieved the top spot on numerous sought-after lists. The Sunday Times, New York Times, USA Today, Amazon… They all raved about her novels. But she was also famously reclusive.

In the ten years that Des’s company had represented her, she had never once attended a signing, festival, or book launch, leaving all the publicity down to him and his business partner, Peggy. In fact, the only time anyone saw her was when they looked at the rather dated black and white photo on the back of her books. My husband had been her agent for a decade, and I’d never met her. The idea of her finally attending a literary festival was immense! I mentally played out the conversations I’d have on the playground when the other mums found out that I had met Roberta Hathaway. They’d be insanely jealous.

I’d first discovered her through Des a few years earlier, when he’d handed me a copy of her first novel Sinfully Yours to glance over. He’d called it an Advanced Reading Copy. It hadn’t even had a front cover then, and was full of typos. It had been a good read, but hadn’t really been my thing at the time. I’d glanced over it, more than read it. Before Roberta, the most erotic thing I’d ever read was an old Jilly Cooper novel, tucked away and gathering dust in the school library when I was a teenager. It had felt naughty at the time – I was sure it had been put there by mistake. Probably a prank by one of the sixth formers. When I look back, I realise how tame it was in comparison to what I read now. Especially when compared to Roberta Hathaway. She had certainly improved since that first book I’d scanned all those years ago.

“Think of the publicity,” I said, trying to keep my tone smooth and unexcited, although I suspect he heard the eagerness seeping through my words. I wondered if that made me a sad and lonely desperate housewife. I spent my free hours lost in so-called Mummy porn, supposedly written and designed for women whose sex lives were lacklustre and boring.

Des ignored me, as he always did when I dared to make a suggestion regarding his business, and picked up his mobile. He pressed a button and held it to his ear. “Peggy? Did you get the email? Shit… Yeah, I know… I know. What the hell is she playing at? How the hell does she expect us to pull that off with no notice whatsoever?” He cast a glance at me before checking his watch. “Half an hour? Yeah, I could do that.” He hung up. “I’m really sorry, hon, but I have to go and meet with Peggy to sort this shit-storm out. Get yourself some room service or something, and I’ll make it up to you another day. I promise.” He leaned down and pressed a kiss to my forehead – more action than I’d had in weeks.

I clucked my tongue and frowned. Our trip to Inverness was supposed to combine business with pleasure; a book festival for Des to mingle at, sell some of Roberta’s new books, and make new contacts, and a dirty weekend away for the both of us to try and relight a flame that had been long extinguished. It was the first time we’d had more than a day to ourselves since our eldest son had been born, almost twelve years ago. And now I was being abandoned, yet again, so that he could go and discuss my favourite author with his business partner. So much for stoking dwindling fires. The guilt of a certain dalliance started to feel unwarranted, and the suspicions I’d been flirting with began to stain my vision once more.

• • •

British author, Charlotte Howard, was born in Oman and spent much of the first part of her life flitting between Oman, Scotland, and England. Now settled in Somerset, Charlotte lives with her husband, two children, and growing menagerie of pets.

Her career as a writer began at an early age, with a poem being featured in an anthology for the East Midlands. Since then Charlotte has written many short stories and poems, and finally wrote her first full-length piece of fiction in 2010.

During what little spare time she has, Charlotte enjoys reading and writing (of course), spending time with her family, and watching action movies whilst eating curry and drinking tea.

Charlotte is an active member of Yeovil Creative Writers Group.

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Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Available Now: The House in Fez by Dianne Noble

Dianne Noble



(99c through Sunday 25 March)
In the oppressive heat of a Moroccan summer, an already fractured family is forced to re-examine its loyalties.

Sisters Juliet and Portia haven’t seen each other in years. When they’re invited by their estranged mother, Miranda, to visit Fez, they’re shocked on arrival to discover she has married Samir, a man half her age. What’s more, he’s already married to Zina.

Pressure builds in the simmering heat. While growing closer themselves, Juliet and Portia are dismayed that Miranda is only loyal to Samir, even while he employs children in sweatshops. Portia defies him daily to help the children, but when Zina plunges from a balcony, it’s Portia who’s blamed.

Juliet and Portia are forced to re-examine their loyalties.

• • •

MAY 21st


The foreign stamp puzzled her, but then she recognised the writing and backed away, left the letter lying in a sea of manila envelopes on the doormat. Darren scooped them up, his jaw tightening as he riffled through the final demands. Then his expression lightened.

‘One for you, love. From…’ he squinted, held the letter at a distance, ‘…Morocco, of all places.’

Juliet looked up at him. At forty-two he shouldn’t be so grey, have so many worry lines. ‘It’s from my mother,’ she said dismissively.

‘Aren’t you going to open it?’

‘No, it won’t be good news. Lord, the breakfast’s burning…’ She dashed into the kitchen and snatched the pan of bacon off the heat, her eyes smarting in the haze of blue smoke. At least it masked the smell of unreliable plumbing. After taking slices of bread from the open packet she forked the charred rashers on to them, then poured two mugs of tea.

He sat at the table in his boxers and vest, tattoos descending like sleeves from his shoulders. Upending the HP bottle over the sandwich he thumped the bottom. ‘Come on, love, see what she has to say.’

She sank into the chair opposite. The damp patch on the wall behind him had grown since yesterday. It looked like a map of Africa. She licked dry lips. ‘I don’t want to.’

The kitchen clock ticked loudly, announcing the arrival of each new minute. Darren put down the sandwich, took her hand, stroked her fingers.

She straightened her shoulders. ‘You do it.’

He ripped the letter open, and with a low whistle pulled out a cheque. ‘Now that makes a pleasant change.’ He passed it to her and she stared at it blankly.

‘Three hundred pounds. Whatever for?’

He fumbled in the envelope and retrieved a sheet of paper. ‘Here. Can’t read it without my glasses.’ He picked up his sandwich.

Her mother’s scrawl, as ever, resembled a lie detector printout. She frowned as she tried to decipher it. ‘She wants me to visit her in Morocco… the money’s for the fare… she’s sent a cheque to Portia as well…’

‘I thought she was teaching in Turkey?’

‘So did I.’ She smoothed the paper. ‘Says she has a surprise for us.’

He stopped chewing and raised an eyebrow. ‘Wonder what sort of surprise?’

‘God knows.’ She chewed a nail. ‘I don’t know—could we both go do you think?’

‘I can’t, love.’ He glanced up at the clock, bolted the last of his breakfast, then pushed back his chair with a clatter. ‘Need to work all the hours I can get.’

She nodded, looking around the kitchen at the lino worn to a dark smudge near the sink, at the sheets of the Leicester Mercury taped over a broken window pane. ‘I wish I could help you more, find another job.’

‘Not yet. Maybe when you’re a bit better.’

She stood up. ‘I’ll tell her we can’t go.’

‘No.’ He put his hands on her shoulders, turned her to face him. ‘You go, have a bit of a break. This last couple of years have been shite.’

‘I don’t want—’

‘Yes. You wouldn’t be on your own if Portia goes too.’

‘Portia? I’ve not seen her for years. We’ve nothing in common.’

He rubbed his chin. ‘You’d think you’d be closer, being twins…I want you to go, love. Please.’

She knew she would agree. She was like a piece of jigsaw, always ready to fit her life in, with, and around others.

‘All right then,’ she said reluctantly, ‘but I’ll get the cheapest flight—what’s left of the money can pay a bit more off the gas bill.’

‘Good girl.’ He dropped a kiss on her forehead, then ran upstairs, whistling, to get into his work clothes.

Her throat ached with unshed tears as he watched him. Such a good man, always putting her first. Why then, didn’t she love him anymore?

• • •

Dianne Noble was on a troopship sailing for Singapore at the age of seven and hasn’t stopped travelling since. Her last trip was to Moscow but her favourite place remains India. The atmospheric settings of her novels reflect her experiences.

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Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Available Now: Becker Circle by Addison Brae

Addison Brae



(99c through Sunday 18 March)
New starts mean new rules. Can she triumph through the challenges?

My boyfriend believed I was too gutless to leave. He was dead wrong. I graduated Harvard early and left his hot temper and everyone else behind for Dallas. Determined to make it on my own, I land a second job bartending at the neighborhood pub, smack in the middle of drama central, where almost every jerk in the neighborhood hits on me.

A week into the job, the neighborhood’s very popular drug dealer falls to his death a few feet from the table I’m serving. The cops say suicide, but the hot guitar player in the house band and I suspect foul play, and we intend to prove it. Digging deeper, we’re drawn closer to each other. Then we make a shocking discovery. We know the murderer.

• • •

I peek back at my butt in these loose-fitting jeans and all I see is sad. Remembering what my new boss said about better tips if I wear something a little sexy, I button a plaid shirt halfway up to show a little. I fasten one more and brush through my wavy auburn hair. Why did my apartment come with a full-length mirror in the bathroom? I’m nothing like my curvy new next door neighbor in that dress.

Even though I had to borrow a can opener from her to eat lunch today, I’m prepared with every bartender’s necessity. A good bar blade. I dig out the one I used to open bottles during my forty-two days of bartending at the place on Harvard Square back in Boston before Connor made me quit and stick it in my back pocket so I don’t look like a total rookie. It’s one of the few utensils in my kitchen drawer.

With the pink fuzzy scarf Lauren gave me for Christmas tucked inside my jacket, I message her before I talk myself out of going. “First night. Wish me luck!” I glance at the collage photo frame of our college memories she gave me before I packed up and left.

Mixers, whisky brands, and vodka flavors run through my head down the six flights of stairs and on the short walk to the first shift of my new night job. My jacket shields me from the cold as I step through the circles of light shining on the dark red brick sidewalk. A couple jogs by totally into one another, and three guys who were probably high school stars toss a football near the fountain, yelling back for not throwing right.

What am I doing? Am I invisible? Everyone’s with someone like I was. Taking the CPA job in Dallas seemed like such a great idea. It’s where no one knows me. Away from Connor. Before he had a chance to break me.

Rule one of my new life—forget about what already happened. Period.

Just as I turn the corner toward the tree-lined park, someone rams into me from behind. I gulp a breath as he twists me to the ground, dragging me along by the arm. The strap to my purse connects me to a guy who looks barely old enough to drive until he yanks it away. The purse holding the cash I have to live on until I get paid, my ID, one credit card, and proof I took an exam today.

The purse Mom gave me for my eleventh birthday.

“Stop!” I struggle to untwist my legs and sprint toward the strap dragging behind him. “No!” The distance between us widens.

At the edge of the park, a well-dressed man jumps out of a shiny SUV and shoves the guy into the shrubs. He leans over as they exchange words. Then the man extends a hand to help the purse thief out of the bushes.

I stop running to observe. The guy bolts without looking back and I still haven’t remembered to breathe.

Then the man, who’s at least my dad’s age, walks toward me. With my purse.

“Are you okay?” He hands it to me.

“Thank you so much.” I nod and glance at the leaves caught in it and back at the man, not quite believing any part of what just happened and fighting back the anger that it happened to me. “But what the . . .?”

“I understand. He has some problems. He won’t bother you again.” He bows his head like a nineteenth century prince and heads back to his truck.

I shake off the soreness in my arm. Who was that guy and why would he rescue a purse for some stranger?

The George & Dragon Public House sign creaks in the breeze. Smokers corralled on the patio by the black iron fence huddle around heaters, an occasional laugh rising above the steady hum of music and conversation. I walk through the door luckily ten minutes early. The smell of bleach mixed with mesquite from the fire lingers covering every secret that’s happened here. Clanking bottles drown out the low music.

Steve’s bald head pops up from behind the bar, his ginger beard even thicker and longer than I remember. “There she is. We took bets whether you’d chicken out.”

• • •

Addison Brae lives in Dallas, Texas on the edge of downtown. As a child, she was constantly in trouble for hiding under the bed to read when she was supposed to be napping. She has been writing since childhood starting with diaries, letters and short stories. She continues today with articles, video scripts and other content as an independent marketing consultant. When she’s not writing, Addison spends her time traveling the world, collecting interesting cocktail recipes and hosting parties. She’s still addicted to reading and has added jogging in her neighborhood park, sipping red wine, binge-watching TV series, vintage clothing and hanging out with her artistic other half and their neurotic cat Lucy.

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Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Available Now: Don't Call Me Mum by Mary T. Bradford

The Lacey Tayloe Story, #2
Mary T. Bradford



(99c through 11 March)
Raised by a cold stepmother, Lacey Taylor’s life was turned upside down by the stroke of a pen, putting her on a path to find her birth mother, Cora Maguire. But Cora is not the maternal type. For her, her career is paramount to everything else, including her only child, Lacey. Their relationship is, at best, strained. Lacey struggles for Cora’s affection, but when her life-path takes an unplanned twist, Cora becomes furious. Lacey’s half-siblings, the Taylors, want to help, but they have their own demons that threaten to rip the family apart.

How often can Lacey deal with life’s struggles without finally succumbing to them?

• • •

The bitch, Lillian, would have loved this. All pomp and show. The hotel where they gathered for the meal was indeed a five-star. Large, rusty-coloured clay urns dotted the foyer, filled with ferns and eye-catching vegetation, as you entered. The flooring was Italian marble, soft grey swirled with white. The cool pillars, which Lacey leaned against, complimented the flooring colours.

Bitterness and resentment ran through her body. Great, she thought, at a Christening celebration and all I want to do is escape. In the chapel, she had shuddered each time the priest had said her niece’s full name. Not that the infant was at fault. But although Lacey Taylor had accepted her past since that momentous day three years ago when she’d read that letter, she was surprised to find herself cringing at the lies she had been spun all her childhood, lies she had believed were behind her.

Often the inky scrawl of Lillian’s handwriting appeared before her eyes, just as she dropped off to sleep. Pronounced as my husband’s sin by that woman, Lacey realised now that is what she would be forever more. Even today at the mention of Lillian’s name, Lacey felt dirty and unwanted.

Keeping a smile on her face and remaining pleasant was proving to be difficult. Listening to her sister-in-law going on and on about the tot was draining. Surrounded by family, Lacey should have been happy, but a lingering black mood clouded her, and it was going nowhere fast. She really was trying to appear jolly and upbeat, and so far, it was working. No-one had commented on her lousy disposition.

Her tiny niece, only three months old, was sleeping in her Moses crib nearby. The pretty baby looked angelic and calm as the adults celebrated her special day. Robert, the tot’s father, had splashed the cash for this big occasion – one of only a few happy occasions for the family in recent years.

He’d booked a private room for their celebration, and the staff were busy topping up champagne glasses and offering more food, as time went on. Damn it, she could do with a drink. Just one sip should be alright, but her conscience wouldn’t allow it. Best not to when she was in a dark mood.

Really, she was thrilled that Robert and Aoife had their little girl. So, what was it that irked her so? Don’t answer that; you know bloody well what, she corrected her thoughts.

She wandered over to the baby basket and peeped in at the small bundle. Her beautiful long lashes were perfect over her closed eyes. Her tiny fingers were balled into two fists, ready to face any challenges. Ruth Lillian Taylor will be a fighter, Lacey thought, as she admired her niece. She’ll take on the world and win. Lacey smiled at this thought and found herself reaching out to touch the little girl, her baby skin soft and clear.

“Isn’t she adorable?” Sally gushed, joining her sister by the Moses crib.

Smiling, Lacey nodded. “Indeed, she is. I was just thinking she will grow up to be a strong young lady.”

“Why would you say that?”

“Ah, I was just admiring her little fists. She was named well, too, wasn’t she?”

“Ruth? I think it means companion; it’s a Hebrew name.”

“I meant, Lillian, after her grandmother. She certainly made the world her own, not caring who she stood on when doing so.” Anger she did not mean to share, swept into Lacey’s words.

Without responding, Sally stepped back from Lacey, then turned and walked away.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, Lacey thought, recalling the barbed remark she’d just made. The little girl before her was innocent, she wasn’t to know anything of the cold woman her grandmother had been. Lacey wished the ground could open and swallow her. She needed to apologise to Sally quickly. She didn’t want to ruin this special day for anyone. To hell with being tee-total, she was going to have a drink. Where were the waiting staff when you needed them?

Looking around, she tried to see where Sally had gone. Her older sister was a kind soul, and Lacey owed her a lot. It was Sally who had stood by her three years before, when Lacey had gone searching for her birth mother. What a rollercoaster ride that had been. Her life had totally turned upside down back then and, if she was being honest, she was still trying to right it.

Time to go home, she heard someone say. Great. Saved by the clock; forget the drink, and just get out of here.

“Thanks for a lovely day, Aoife.” Lacey kissed her sister-in-law briefly, then searched for Robert to say her goodbyes. She found him chatting with Sally. As she approached her siblings, she plastered on her best smile.

“Robert, thank you for a great day, I enjoyed it. Little Ruth is an angel.” She hugged the big man in front of her. Her only brother, he had made a successful life for himself over the years.

“Are we still on for coffee tomorrow, Sally?” Lacey asked hesitantly. Sally nodded and followed her to the exit. Outside the venue, the two women parted, heading off in different directions.

• • •

Mary T Bradford has been writing mainly short stories for a number of years now and has enjoyed success with her fiction in many magazines, newspapers and anthologies both in Ireland and abroad. It was because of this success, Mary took the plunge and self published her first collection titled, A Baker’s Dozen (2012) and is available in both print and e-book format from Amazon and other sites. She decided to tackle a novel when one of her stories kept getting longer and the word count continued to climb and so ended up with My Husbands Sin. She has also branched out into writing plays and has seen her work shortlisted and performed.

When taking a break from writing and reading Mary loves to crochet or cross-stitch, crafts in general interest her. Living in County Cork, Ireland, she is married and is a mother of four children. Having overcome open heart surgery in 2008, Mary made the decision to dedicate more time to her writing as her children were almost raised and were starting to spread their wings. Family is important to her and her writing often reflects the ups and downs of life that all families go through daily.

Connect with Mary through any of the links on this page and that is something else Mary enjoys, chatting with people!

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Friday, 2 March 2018



2-4 March

Discover some new-to-you authors, or catch up on some of your favorites and their new releases.

Participating books at just 99c for your Kindle!

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Tuesday, 27 February 2018



Join us on Blog Talk Radio with host Dellani Oakes

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Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Available Now: Mission Perilous by Margaret Pearce

Margaret Pearce



(99c through 25 February)
Deep in a dungeon beneath the streets of the Black City, three men await their fate. To escape, Rofe, a crusading knight, Olaf, the Barbarian, and Merc, ‘Prince of Thieves’, must put aside their differences and band together.

They journey through enemy territory, fighting gargantuan reptiles, man-eating plants, and voodoo poisons. Their survival is dependent on their swords, courage and sheer cunning.

• • •

Rofe the Younger returned to consciousness after the battle. His head ached. Disoriented, he opened his eyes. It took time for his eyes to adjust to the faint flickering light. It took even longer for him to realise he was not lying on the battleground but on a damp stone green-slimed floor covered in the mouldering bones of previous occupants.

He sat up slowly. Torchlight flickered on the stone walls of the cell. Outside the cell, a blank faced guard in the dreaded Black City armour leaned against the wall and stared at him.

Rofe absorbed his predicament. Stripped of his armour and weapons, he wore only his soft cotton tunic and leggings. He dwelled regretfully on the loss of his linked-chain shirt. Apart from his sword, it was the only thing he had inherited that he valued. There had been some curious legends around the linked shirt. It had been softer and stronger than any other, no matter how skilfully made. It had protected his body from the pain and cuts of broad swords.

He set up a makeshift altar on the stone platform that rose from the floor. He hoped the long-dead owners would forgive him his disrespect in tying two of the bones together to make a cross, but he would seek their forgiveness when he joined them. It was his duty to spend his last night of life praying for the soul of his young squire, and forgiveness of his sins. He squeezed shut his eyes and bowed his head lower ignoring the stench coming from the floor. Again he saw his young squire crumple, a poisoned dart falling from his jugular vein and the ferocious battle waged amidst smoke and stench of death around them.

This alien world had been a complete disaster despite the righteousness of their crusade. There had been the hellish journey to transport everything across the swamp when the army disembarked from the galleys and barges. Then the days spent dragging the horses, as they heaved and strained to pull the wooden-wheeled siege machines through the swamp. Then more tedious days floating the wagons, siege machines, and horses over the treacherous waterways and the valuable equipment lost through the quicksands.

The Crusaders had succeeded in setting up their fortified encampment on the high ground above the swamp almost within sight of the sinister dark walls, but the attacks towards the Black City always ended in disaster as the slightest scratch from the enemy’s weapons poisoned and paralyzed the attackers.

They had suspected that there were secret routes in and out of the swamp. Otherwise, the Black City raiders could never have made such lightning raids and vanished so quickly, but no one had ever found them.

His concentration was disturbed as two soldiers came down the steps heaving a barbarian and came to a halt outside Rofe’s cell. They stripped the barbarian of his heavy helmet, breastplate and greaves, two large worn and balding bear skins, the knee-length leather jerkin with its overlapping discs, his tunic, and the studded belts carrying sword, axe, and daggers.

The guard on duty gestured to the barbarian. “He looks more beast than man.”

“That he is,” said the bigger of the two solders. “He fights like one too.”

In a coordinated action, the soldiers pitched the longhaired man face down into the slime on the floor of the cell floor. His arms and legs flung out as he thumped into the stone. They did not even glance at Rofe kneeling on the platform in the gloom of the cell.

The taller soldier spoke to the guard. “This one brings tomorrow’s feed count to three hundred. Our Dark Lords will grow even greater when they feed on the undamaged, healthy bodies we offer.”

The cell doors clanged shut. The two soldiers left carrying the barbarian’s weapons, armour, and skins. The guard resumed his stance against the wall staring at the prisoners in the cell.

Rofe counted the soldiers’ paces up the steps until he could no longer hear them. From the sound of it, they had passed through three heavy iron barred doors. No escape that way.

The burbling sound of the barbarian breathing in the slime brought Rofe to his feet. It took sweat and time to pull the barbarian out of the grunge and onto the platform. Exhausted by the effort, Rofe sat on the edge of the platform and wondered at his odd weakness.

Rofe lifted his head at the sound of the tread of a single man descending. He held a tray with two stone plates and two mugs on it. The smell of the food on the plates preceded him. He came closer. The plates of high piled roasted meat, bread, and cheese looked appetising.

The guard spoke to the newcomer. “By the looks of it a heartier meal than I’ve had for weeks.”

The newcomer said, “Food for these bodies is food for the Dark Lord. Be glad he has no need for your sacrifice. He will soon be strong enough to claim the three kingdoms.”

• • •
Margaret Pearce was launched on an unsuspecting commercial world as stenographer and ended up copywriting in an advertising department. She took to writing instead of drink when raising children and was surprised to be published. She completed an Arts Degree at Monash University as a mature age student and lurks in an underground flat in the Dandenongs still writing.

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Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Available now: The Powers Alone - The First Principle by Mark Everett Stone

The First Principle

The Powers Series, #1
Mark Everett Stone



(99c through 11 February)
Two-thousand years ago, Rome fell to an ancient curse called the Scourge. It took the Collegium—a cabal of powerful wizards—to finally eradicate the menace. Two millennia of expansion and reconstruction saw humanity once again ascendant in the world while the Collegium faded from glory, slowly becoming a relic in the eyes of a society that thought it no longer needed them.

Sejanus Antius Macro, known as the wizard Diamondfang, is the embodiment of the First Principle of Magic, Ritual and Repetition. Armed with a certainty that the Scourge will return and uncertain whether the faded remains of the Collegium will be strong enough to drive it off, he and his comrades seek the heir to the greatest wizard of the Collegium, the One of All.

For centuries wizards have scoured the known world for The One but to no avail. Sejanus believes that his only recourse is to travel beyond the frontier to the lands of the savage red men, the people who have successfully resisted the Empire for four-hundred years. Armed with his raven familiar, Lucius, and centuries of experience, he undertakes a journey in an effort to save the empire he swore to protect. But can even a near-immortal wizard survive in a land from where the great Legions of Britannia never returned?

• • •

New Londinium looked far cruder than the original, or so the killer reckoned, but it also had a vibrancy the other had long since lost. The people seemed more alive, more excited about the prospect of going about their daily lives than those in the heart of the Empire. This new world, so close to the frontier and its red barbarians, lent a sense of danger that heightened the energetic humors in the populace. Yes, that was it. Being so close, death gave life a taste not found elsewhere.

He opened a large, black leather case exposing a new rifle purchased at a dear cost on the far side of the Atlanticus from a one-eyed Serenian merchant who smelled of exotic spices and opium. One hundred fifty gold royals, a fortune in the New World, enough to buy a goodly sized house or farm. The weapon shone nice, clean, and perfect. A beautiful, long, precision piece of murder.

Lifting the rifle, the killer fitted the new sighting lens to the top of the barrel, the brass tube carefully dulled so no telltale gleam of light could give away his position. Like the tube, his face was darkened, and his clothes lay black against his stout body. Staring at the deepening sky, he figured on a few short minutes before the mark made it home.

The killer marveled that the most powerful man in the Empire outside the Emperor himself chose to live in a rundown little brownstone in the middle of the lower east side of town. Why, the place was not even a stone’s throw from the Tenderloin, the area better known as Bacchus’ Temple where the unwary tended to both disappear in the evening and reappear in the morning, often without accompanying valuables.

It had taken the assassin nearly a year to run this mark down, exhausting a small fortune to find the First Principle, but find him he did. The reward for the wizard’s head would beggar the royals already spent on the hunt.

There were quite a few assassins in the Empire (it was a lucrative business, after all); but out of all them only a few were competent enough to successfully kill a wizard, and maybe only three who had the ability to tackle a full Principle. That being said, there were always those willing to beard the lion in his den if the royals were stacked high enough. Nothing, not the gods and their priests, not the Senators or even the Emperor, spoke louder than the satisfying clink of a sackful of royals.

Whoever wanted the Principle dead had deep pockets and vast influence, influence enough to contact the Shadow Guild of Assassins through several different cutouts to reach the best hired killer in the Empire. That told the assassin more than the amount of the award. It told him that the person who wanted the Principle dead was either a member of the Mercantile, or a Senator. Perhaps both. If it was indeed both, then it could be only one man: the third most powerful man in the Empire, a treacherous blagger, but one who always paid debts.

But that made no matter to an assassin of the Shadow. Only the contract mattered, above all else. So he had been taught, so he believed, and for a member of the Shadow, the mark was a dead man who simply hadn’t come to the realization yet.

• • •

Transplanted from Helsinki, Finland, he came to the US at a young age and promptly lost his accent.

Currently he lives in California where he writes and plays Mr. Mom to two wonderful but annoying boys and three even more annoying cats.

Writing consumes most of his free time, as well as the editing of several of his books awaiting publishing. When he’s not losing sleep and writing, he’s stalking his eye doctor.

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Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Available now: One Night in Havana by Kathleen Rowland

City Nights series, #34
Kathleen Rowland



(99c through 4 February)
A desperate competition and sizzling attraction leads to dangerous desire.

New York Marine biologist Veronica “Roni” Keane is attending the Havana Bay Conference in Cuba. Tomorrow only one grant will be awarded which will provide the winner with professional recognition, resources for a project, and living expenses for two years. She hopes to continue her deceased father’s work, but smooth operator, Carlos Montoya, has won many grants in the past.

Carlos, a freelancer for the Havana Port Authority, works to help protect Havana’s reputation as a bastion of safety. As international travelers flock to the island, attracted by its 1950’s time-warp and colonial architecture, the drug business is running rampant, particularly on Roni’s cruise ship. Something’s not right, and when her scuba tanks are tampered with, Carlos brings in the military police to investigate. For her safety, he keeps her close, but he craves her body.

Their attraction leads to a fun night with a bit of kink. But Roni finds herself in more trouble than she bargained for when the criminals blame her for alerting the military police and come looking for her. Can Roni trust Carlos to protect her? Will she stay in Havana if Carlos wins the coveted grant, or kiss her lover goodbye?

• • •

“Why, Veronica Keane.” A voice heavy with a Spanish accent drawled from behind her. “A dive bar?” A taunting tsk. “What do we have? A slumming New Yorker?”

She stiffened and closed her eyes. She knew that voice and its owner, Dr. Carlos Montoya, a finalist like her, competing for the same damn grant at the biggest Cephalopoda conference of the decade. Her heart pitter-pattered against her ribs. To turn toward him would intimate distress, or worse yet, weakness. She wouldn’t fail to win this grant, not when she was a final contender. “I like this funky little place.” Sia Macario Café, smack in the center of Havana, allowed her to observe locals and their daily lives.

“You need to eat with all the mojitos you’ve downed.” The big tease wasn’t counting. This was her first drink, but his rumbling, sexy timbre hinted at all kinds of dark, hot promises. She’d rubbed shoulders with the Cuban scientist all week. This splendid specimen of Latin male brought on a physical ache that punched low.

A flare-up stirred fear. For her own good, she needed to resist. “I ordered camarones enchiladas.” By now she knew the menu on the chalkboard by heart. She tipped her head back to whiff grilled shrimp soon to arrive in sofrito sauce with fried sweet plantains.

“The flan is good. Just like my abuela makes.”

“I bet. Your grandmother would be happy to hear that,” she said, knowing he brought out the best in most people. Two days ago he'd invited her and a handful of others scuba diving. The chance to ogle him had been one of the perks. He’d worn nothing but swim trunks, his bare chest on display. Every glistening muscle was finely etched. Not a drop of fat on him. Since he’d not given her the time of day, she’d checked him out without him noticing.

The hard-bodied host had led the way toward habitats of soft-bodied creatures. To find where invertebrates lived was never an easy task. Octopuses squeezed into narrow passages of coral for protection and gave females a place to keep their eggs. She’d discovered the remains of a few meals nearby. Octopuses scattered rocks and shells to help them hide.

This grant meant so much to her and no doubt to him as well. Veronica mindlessly toyed with the gold necklace around her neck, but anxiety crackled through her brain. Unlike this man of action, she lacked the flamboyant personality necessary to talk people into things. Carlos had that ability. He'd made friends with judges on board while she’d conversed with an older woman about a box of scones made with Cuban vanilla cream.

That day the wind had picked up to a gale force, and this woman named Bela with Lucille Ball red hair needed help walking to her home. The half mile down the seaside promenade, The Malecón, had provided her with time to practice her Spanish. Turned out Bela was Carlos’s grandmother. She’d worked as a maid when the Castro government came to power. When private homes were nationalized, titles were handed over to the dwelling occupants. Bela owned a crumbling home in the respected Verdado district and rented out rooms.

What Veronica detested about Carlos was his abnormal level of talent for schmoozing. Not that he wasn't charismatic; he drew her like a powerful magnet with emotions hard to untangle. Why was a self-assured woman who ran her own life thinking about a man who commanded everyone around him?

She inhaled a breath and turned around on the barstool, caught fast by a gut punch of Carlos Montoya in the flesh. She sighed and surrendered to the tendrils of want sliding up between her thighs.

Tall and muscular, his lush dark hair curled to his collar giving him a wild, roguish appearance. His face was lean and chiseled. His mouth full and tempting. His eyes the smoky-gray of a grass fire and fringed with black lashes as dense as paintbrushes. He smiled. A faint hint of mockery curved his mouth, a sensual mouth she imagined to be either inviting or cruel. Or both at the same time when he leaned over a woman with a diamond-hard gleam in his dark eyes while she drowned with pleasure. She fought a fierce desire to run her hand across his broad chest, tip her face upward, and…

His breath tickled her face.

Not going there. She blinked and forced her mind to focus. Carlos Montoya was not the kind of man you lost focus around. But that image of putting her mouth full on his and peeling away his shirt once introduced in her mind was impossible to expunge. Pointless even to try.

He was an intimidating blend of intellect and sexy danger. Both qualities had her leaning back against the bar’s edge. If it weren’t for him, she’d have a chance at winning the grant.

• • •

Book Buyers Best finalist, Kathleen Rowland, is devoted to giving her readers fast-paced, high-stakes suspense with a sizzling love story sure to melt their hearts. Kathleen used to write computer programs but now writes novels.She grew up in Iowa, where she caught lightning bugs, ran barefoot, and raced her sailboat on Lake Okoboji. Kathleen now happily exists with her witty CPA husband, Gerry, in their 70’s poolside retreat in Southern California, where she adores time spent with visiting grandchildren, dogs, one bunny, and noisy neighbors. While proud of their five children who’ve flown the coop, she appreciates the luxury of time to write while listening to characters’ demanding voices in her head.

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Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Available now: A River of Silence by Susan Clayton-Goldner

A Winston Radhauser Mystery, #3
Susan Clayton-Goldner



(99c through28 January)
The past always finds us.

When Detective Winston Radhauser is awakened by a call from dispatch at 12:45a.m., it can mean only one thing—something terrible awaits him. He races to the Pine Street. In the kitchen, Caleb Bryce, nearly deaf from a childhood accident, is frantically giving CPR to 19-month-old Skyler Sterling. Less than an hour later, Skyler is dead.

The ME calls it a murder and the entire town of Ashland, Oregon is outraged. Someone must be held accountable. The police captain is under a lot of pressure and anxious to make an arrest. Despite Radhauser’s doubts about Bryce’s guilt, he is arrested and charged with first degree murder. Neither Radhauser nor Bryce’s young public defender believe he is guilty. Winston Radhauser will fight for justice, even if it means losing his job.

• • •

In only eleven minutes, Detective Winston Radhauser’s world would flip on its axis and a permanent line would be drawn—forever dividing his life into before and after. He drove toward the Pima County Sheriff’s office in Catalina, a small town in the Sonoran Desert just twelve miles north of Tucson. Through the speakers, Alabama sang You’ve Got the Touch. He hummed along.

He was working a domestic violence case with Officer Alison Finney, his partner for nearly seven years. They’d made the arrest—their collar was sleeping off a binge in the back of the squad car. It was just after 10 p.m. As always, Finney wore spider earrings—tonight’s selection was a pair of black widows he hadn’t seen before.

“You know, Finn, you’d have better luck with men if you wore sunflowers in your earlobes.”

She laughed. “Any guy intimated by a couple of 14-carat web spinners isn’t man enough for me.”

He never missed an opportunity to tease her. “Good thing you like being single.”

The radio released some static.

Radhauser turned off the CD.

Dispatch announced an automobile accident on Interstate 10 near the Orange Grove Road exit. Radhauser and Finney were too far east to respond.

Her car phone rang. She answered, listened for a few seconds. “Copy that. I’ll get him there.” Finney hung up, then placed the phone back into the charger mounted beneath the dashboard.

“Copy what?” he said. “Get who where?”

She eyed him. “Pull over. I need to drive now.”

His grip on the steering wheel tightened. “What the hell for?”

Finney turned on the flashing lights. “Trust me and do what I ask.”

The unusual snap in her voice raised a bubble of anxiety in his chest. He pulled over and parked the patrol car on the shoulder of Sunrise Road.

She slipped out of the passenger seat and stood by the door waiting for him.

He jogged around the back of the cruiser.

Finney pushed him into the passenger seat. As if he was a child, she ordered him to fasten his seatbelt, then closed the car door and headed around the vehicle to get behind the wheel.

“Are you planning to tell me what’s going on?” he asked once she’d settled into the driver’s seat.

She opened her mouth, then closed it. Her unblinking eyes never wavered from his. “Your wife and son have been taken by ambulance to Tucson Medical Center.”

• • •

Susan Clayton-Goldner was born in New Castle, Delaware and grew up with four brothers along the banks of the Delaware River. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona's Creative Writing Program and has been writing most of her life. Her novels have been finalists for The Hemingway Award, the Heeken Foundation Fellowship, the Writers Foundation and the Publishing On-line Contest. Susan won the National Writers' Association Novel Award twice for unpublished novels and her poetry was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Animals as Teachers and Healers, published by Ballantine Books, Our Mothers/Ourselves, by the Greenwood Publishing Group, The Hawaii Pacific Review-Best of a Decade, and New Millennium Writings. A collection of her poems, A Question of Mortality was released in 2014 by Wellstone Press. Prior to writing full time, Susan worked as the Director of Corporate Relations for University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona.

Susan shares a life in Grants Pass, Oregon with her husband, Andreas, her fictional characters, and more books than one person could count.

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