Mar 062018
 

Black Flowers, White Lies by Yvonne Ventresca Banner

Black Flowers, White Lies

by Yvonne Ventresca

March 6, 2018 Book Blast

 

Synopsis:

Black Flowers, White Lies by Yvonne Ventresca

“I raced through Black Flowers, White Lies in a single sitting. What a twisty thrill-ride!”
~April Henry, New York Times-bestselling author of Girl, Stolen

LIES CAN COME BACK TO HAUNT YOU.

Her father died before she was born, but Ella Benton knows they have a connection that transcends the grave. Since her mother disapproves, she keeps her visits to the cemetery where he’s buried secret. But when Ella learns that her mother may have lied about how Dad died sixteen years ago, it’s clear she’s not the only one with secrets. New facts point to his death in a psychiatric hospital, not a car accident as Mom always claimed.

When a handprint much like the one Ella left on her father’s tombstone mysteriously appears on the bathroom mirror, she wonders if Dad is warning her of danger, as he did once before, or if someone’s playing unsettling tricks on her. But as the unexplained events become more frequent and more sinister, she finds herself terrified about who—or what—might harm her.

Soon the evidence points to someone new: Ella herself. What if, like Dad, she’s suffering from a mental breakdown? In this second novel from award-winning author Yvonne Ventresca, Ella desperately needs to find answers—no matter how disturbing the truth might be.

 

NOW IN PAPERBACK!

Black Flowers, White Lies by Yvonne Ventresca is a 2017 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal Winner!

 

Book Details:

Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Published by: Sky Pony Press
Publication Date: Paperback March 6, 2018 (Hardcover Oct 2016)
Number of Pages: 280
ISBN: 1510725962 (ISBN13: 9781510725966)

Grab Your copy of Black Flowers, White Lies on: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, & Add it to your Goodreads list!

 

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One, Beautiful Boy:

I approach Dad’s tombstone with trepidation, then breathe a sigh of relief. No mysterious flowers wilt at his grave as I had feared. Last August, someone left fresh orange lilies for him throughout the month. I never figured out who. Then, in September, the flowers stopped appearing as suddenly as they started. I always wondered, with an odd mixture of anxiety and hope, if I would run into the other mourner— someone else who honored my father. But I never did.

Usually, the ritual of navigating the same cemetery rows, visiting Thomas Darren Benton, and putting a small rock on his headstone calms me. Now, the heat is relentless and sweat trickles down my back as I search for the perfect pebble. It needs to be a nice, roundish one. Despite the lilies left last summer, Dad wasn’t a bouquet kind of guy.

I know this even though I never met him. He died before I was born, so I have no memories of him, only stories from Mom that I’ve heard so many times it feels like I was actually there. I see him beam during his graduation from veterinary school and feel his hand pat Mom’s pregnant belly. I hear him pick my name from the baby book: Ariella, meaning lion, although Mom insists they nickname me Ella. I smell the damp on his clothes from the night he rescued Oscar the kitten from a storm drain and brought him home to stay. These recollections have been cobbled together into my own version of Dad for the last fifteen years.

Today the sky is gray and foreboding, but the occasional burst of wind does nothing to cool me. I finally find just the right rock nestled in a patch of grass and rub off the dirt with my fingers. My friend Jana taught me the tradition of leaving a stone as a way to mark my visits with something more permanent, more enduring than flowers.

I’m the only person who comes to his grave somewhat regularly, other than last summer’s unknown mourner. I don’t think Mom’s been here since her engagement to Stanley, a non-reading, self-absorbed, stubby man. With the wedding only days away, Stanley’s settled into our apartment, but each awkward conversation we have leaves me yearning for the father who painted my room a cheerful yellow, who created a mini-library of animal books to read to his future daughter.

I hesitate before Beloved Husband and Father, rolling the pebble between my fingers, then place it in line with the last one, making it the eighth in a row. I let my hand linger against the cool granite. Next week is Dad’s birthday, August 8. That number has been lucky for me since I was eight years old, when I could have died, but because of Dad’s warning, I didn’t.

The air gusts, whipping strands of hair across my face and scattering the pebbles to the ground. My skin prickles at the eerie timing before I realize that the wind has been stormy on and off throughout the day. Still, it spooks me because nothing has disturbed my markers in months. Until now. It’s almost like Dad is giving me another sign.

The cemetery turns out to be more peaceful than home. I’m lounging across my bed checking my phone with Oscar purring beside me when—bang—Mom pounds on the adjacent wall. Oscar scampers to the top of my bookcase, his favorite spot in times of trouble.

The room next to mine serves as Mom’s office, and since my soon-to-be-stepbrother is expected to arrive later tonight, she’s fixing it up. Loudly.

I give up on coaxing Oscar down and move to the doorway. “What are you doing?”

“Look.” She points with the hammer at two new pictures of the Manhattan skyline where a framed print of The Cat in the Hat used to be. Besides changing the wall decorations, she also cleared out the closet and moved her many piles of papers from the desk. “Do you think Blake will like it?”

I have no idea what Blake will like. The only photo I’ve even seen of him is one that Stanley keeps on his nightstand. It’s a faded picture of a young blond boy at the beach, smiling up at him.

“The room looks nice,” I say. “But it’s not like he’s living here forever.” Blake would only be staying with us for a few weeks until he moved into his dorm at NYU.

“I know. But I want this to feel like home for him.”

She certainly cares a lot about this guy we’ve never met. The filing cabinet, the now-spotless desk, and the fax machine are the sole remnants of her office.

“After we find your dress today, I need to buy some blue sheets and maybe some towels, too,” she says. “Are you ready to go?”

“Sure.” I sigh quietly.

Our apartment building is directly across from the Hoboken PATH station. After a short train ride to the Newport Mall, I remember for the hundredth time why I hate shopping with Mom. Every dress she pulls off the rack is revolting. But the wedding is only days away. We need to find something suitable that won’t forever embarrass me when I see the photos in years to come.

“How about this?” Mom holds up a mauve paisley thing with puffy sleeves, her eyes shiny with hope. “This color will look so flattering on you.”

“Maybe.” I don’t want to hurt her feelings, so I purposely drift away to shop on my own. And then I see it: a pale yellow dress, strapless, with a flouncy skirt and sequins around the middle. The dress sparkles when I hold it against me. I can’t wait to try it on.

Mom will hate it. She’ll want me to look conservative for the small group of friends and family at her wedding. My strategy is to show her other dresses she’ll hate even more. I find a black mini she’ll say isn’t long enough and a floral sundress she’ll think is too casual.

When I get to the dressing room, Mom and three hideous pink dresses await.

I try on the minidress first, which she predictably declares too short. Luckily, the mauve one bunches at my waist. She likes the sundress, but not for the wedding.

I put on a blush-colored one.

“It’s not bad,” she says. “What do you think?”

“Too much lace. It’s like wearing a tablecloth.”

She nods in agreement.

Finally, I try on the yellow one and giggle with delight. I come out, posture perfect, feeling like a princess. “Isn’t it beautiful?”

Mom frowns. “Strapless? You’d need something over it.”

I twirl. “I have that silver sweater at home.”

“Let’s see the rose-colored one.”

“Fiiine.”

In the dressing room, I breathe deeply as I put on the last dress.

Her face lights up when I step out. “Ella! It’s so pretty! It brings a glow to your cheeks. And it’s perfect with your coloring.”

She calls it my coloring because I inherited Dad’s brown hair and brown eyes instead of her fairness.

“The rose is all right,” I say. “But don’t you think the ruffles look too childish for a sophomore?”

“Honey. It’s perfect for an almost-sophomore. And it’s appropriate. The yellow one might be nice for a dance, but for the wedding . . .”

I close the curtain and put on my shorts and favorite T-shirt, the one with the tabby cat that says Rescued is my favorite breed. It’s her wedding, I remind myself. She should get to choose. I should be mature.

I walk out and hand her the ruffled dress.

“Thank you. It means a lot to me,” Mom says. “I’ll pay for this and go to the bedding department. Want to meet at the food court in an hour?”

“Sure.”

I shake off my annoyance and detour into the accessories section, where my friend Grace had seen a cute wallet with kittens on it that she thought I’d like. I’m sifting through the clearance items when this guy approaches me, holding a bunch of ties. Whoa. He’s tall and blond, and his white polo shirt shows off his tan.

“Excuse me,” Beautiful Boy says. “I’m trying to decide between these?” His voice lilts into a question. His smile is friendly, his eyes deep brown and intense. “I suck at this kind of thing.” He somehow manages to look model-perfect and sheepish at the same time. “Would you mind helping me pick one?”

I blink for a minute, staring at his face instead of the ties. My delayed response verges on awkward. “Okay,” I say. “What are you wearing it with?”

“A gray suit.”

I’m conscious of his eyes on me as I study the ones he’s chosen. It makes it hard to think. None of the ties have any yellow, my favorite color. Maybe it’s the dress shopping with Mom, but I point to the gray one with rose-colored diamond shapes. “I like this.”

“Thanks.”

I wish I could prolong our interaction somehow so that I can learn more about him. He lingers a too-short moment, then gives me another smile before he turns away.

I can’t help feeling like something momentous has transpired. I’m a believer in karma and fate and the mysterious workings of the universe. As I watch Beautiful Boy walk away, I hope that meeting him again is meant to be.

***

Excerpt from Black Flowers, White Lies by Yvonne Ventresca. Copyright © 2018 by Yvonne Ventresca. Reproduced with permission from Sky Pony Press. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Yvonne Ventresca

Whether the topic is psychological manipulation, ghostly encounters, or surviving a deadly outbreak, Yvonne Ventresca enjoys the thrill of writing about frightening situations. BuzzFeed listed her latest novel, BLACK FLOWERS, WHITE LIES at the top of their YA “must read” list for fall 2016, and this psychological thriller received an IPPY Gold Medal for Young Adult Fiction in 2017.

Her debut YA novel, PANDEMIC (Sky Pony Press, 2014), won a Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Yvonne’s other credits include several short stories selected for anthologies, as well as two nonfiction books. She is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, SCBWI, The Authors Guild, and International Thriller Writers.

Besides writing, she loves a good ghost story, and as a third-degree black belt, she studies Isshinryu karate in a haunted dojo. You can learn more about Yvonne and her books at YvonneVentresca.com, where she also features helpful resources for teen writers.

 

Catch Up With Ms Ventresca on yvonneventresca.com, Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, & Facebook!

 

Tour Participants:

Visit the other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

 

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Yvonne Ventresca. There will be 1 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Giftcard. The giveaway begins on March 6, 2018 and runs through March 13, 2018. Void where prohibited.

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Dec 052017
 

A Mother’s Lie

by Jo Crow

Book Blast on December 5, 2017

Synopsis:

A Mother's Lie by Jo Crow

When her child’s life is at stake, a mother will do anything to save him.

Clara McNair is running out of time to save her son, James. When the two-year-old is diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer, only an experimental treatment can save his life. She desperately needs money to pay for the surgery, but she’ll have to travel back to the site of her darkest memories to get it.

Clara has escaped the demons of her youth—or so she thinks. It’s been ten years since the mysterious disappearance of her parents. Widely suspected of murdering her mother and father, Clara fled west to start a new life. Now, a documentary film crew is offering cold, hard cash—enough to pay for James’s treatment—in exchange for the sordid secrets of her past.

With no other choice but to delve into a long-ago tragedy, Clara must unravel the lies surrounding that terrible night. Facing hostile gossip, Clara is fighting to clear her name and learn the truth about what really happened. But how far will she go into the dark to save her son—and herself?

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Thriller
Published by: Relay Publishing
Publication Date: November 29th 2017
Number of Pages: 310
ISBN: 978-1979295420
Purchase Links: Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Dense red clay was pushing between the teeth. Pond mist drifted across the manicured lawns, wisping through the dark eye sockets. Parts of the cranium were shaded a vile yellow-brown where decomposing leaves clung to its surface like bile expressed from a liver. The jawbone was separated from the skull, its curved row of teeth pointing skyward to greet the rising sun.

Two feet away, closer to the oak tree, other bones were piled haphazardly: a pelvis, high iliac crests and subpubic angle. A femur, caked with dirt, jammed into his empty skull. Sunlight decorated the brittle bones in long, lazy strips and darkened hairline fractures till they blended with the shed behind them.

It was peaceful here, mostly. The pond no longer bubbled, its aerator decayed by time; weed-clogged flowerbeds no longer bloomed—hands that once worked the land long ago dismissed. Fog blanketed the area, as if drawn by silence. Once, a startled shriek woke the morning doves and set them all into flight.

It was the first time in ten years the mammoth magnificence of the Blue Ridge Mountains had scrutinized these bones; the first song in a decade the morning doves chorused to them from their high perch.

A clatter split apart the dawn; the skull toppled over as it was struck with another bone.

In a clearing, tucked safely behind the McNair estate, someone was whistling as they worked at the earth. The notes were disjointed and haphazard, like they were an afterthought. They pierced the stillness and, overhead, one of the morning doves spooked and took flight, rustling leaves as it rose through the mist.

A shovel struck the wet ground, digging up clay and mulch, tossing it onto the growing mound to their left. The whistling stopped, mid note, and a contemplative hum took its place.

Light glinted on the silvery band in the exposed clay—the digger pocketed it—the shovel struck the ground again; this time, it clinked as it hit something solid.

Bone.

A hand dusted off decayed vegetative matter and wrested the bone from its tomb. Launching it into the air, it flew in a smooth arc, and crashed into the skull like a bowling pin, scattering the remains across the grass. With a grunt of satisfaction, the digger rose and started to refill the hole from the clay mound.

When it was filled and smoothed, and the sod was replaced over the disrupted ground, the digger lifted the shovel and strolled into the woods, one hand tucked in a pocket as they whistled a cheery tune lost to the morning fog.

***

Excerpt from A Mother’s Lie by Jo Crow. Copyright © 2017 by Jo Crow. Reproduced with permission from Jo Crow. All rights reserved.

More About Jo Crow:

Jo Crow

Jo Crow gave ten years of her life to the corporate world of finance, rising to be one of the youngest VPs around. She carved writing time into her commute to the city, but never shared her stories, assuming they were too dark for any publishing house. But when a nosy publishing exec read the initial pages of her latest story over her shoulder, his albeit unsolicited advice made her think twice.

A month later, she took the leap, quit her job, and sat down for weeks with pen to paper. The words for her first manuscript just flew from her. Now she spends her days reading and writing, dreaming up new ideas for domestic noir fans, and drawing from her own experiences in the cut-throat commercial sector.

Not one to look back, Jo is all in, and can’t wait for her next book to begin.

Catch Up With Our Author On: Facebook 🔗!

Tour Participants:

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Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jo Crow. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com gift Card AND 3 winners of one (1) eBook copy of A Mother’s Lie by Jo Crow. The giveaway begins on December 5 and runs through December 11, 2017.

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Nov 072017
 

Bad Blood by P.M. Carlson

Bad Blood

by P.M. Carlson

November 7, 2017 Book Blast

Synopsis:

Bad Blood by P.M. Carlson

After an argument with her grandmother at her Maryland home, sixteen-year-old Ginny Marshall – “born rotten,” according to Gram – gets high and runs away. She turns up on the doorstep of Maggie Ryan and Nick O’Connor’s Brooklyn brownstone. Her presence in Brooklyn is unsettling, but, more urgently, Ginny is a suspect in a murder investigation back home. Maggie travels undercover to Maryland, where she searches for a killer as threads from the past threaten to unravel both families.

This Mystery Company edition is the first paperback publication of the eighth and final novel in the Maggie Ryan series.

Don’t Miss These Great Reviews:

“P.M. Carlson’s energetic and insightful novels are back in print — hallelujah!” — Sara Paretsky

“BAD BLOOD is a fascinating and illuminating story”–– C. Bartorillo, Murder By the Book

BAD BLOOD “has vivid, interesting characters, great dialogue and psychological insight”–– Amazon Reviewer

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional Mystery
Published by: The Mystery Company/Crum Creek Press
Publication Date: 2017
Number of Pages: 294
ISBN: TBD
Series: Maggie Ryan and Nick O’Connor #8
Purchase Links: CRUM CREEK PRESS / THE MYSTERY COMPANY
Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

“Bad Blood” by P.M. Carlson, the Maggie Ryan Mystery #8

After an argument with her grandmother at her Maryland home, sixteen-year-old Ginny Marshall – “born rotten,” according to Gram – gets high and runs away. She turns up on the doorstep of Maggie Ryan and Nick O’Connor’s Brooklyn brownstone. Her presence in Brooklyn is unsettling, but, more urgently, Ginny is a suspect in a murder investigation back home. Maggie travels undercover to Maryland, where she searches for a killer as threads from the past threaten to unravel both families.

Read an excerpt:

Rina had waited a day and faced her daughter. “Honey, I don’t want to make a big thing out of an experiment. But drugs are off-limits in this family.”

“For sure, Mom. No problem.”

The ironic flash in the blue eyes hurt Rina. She had exclaimed, “Ginny, think of your future! You’re bright and talented. You can do anything you want!”

Ginny had smiled tauntingly. “Like you, Mom?”

But at least she hadn’t come home high again. Till now.

Rina couldn’t trust herself to mention it directly today. She said, “Honey, if you have problems, please tell me about them. Don’t run from things. You have to face them.”

“Oh? You tell me to face them? You? Funny old Mom!”

“Yes, damn it! I’ve faced problems!” And a hell of a lot bigger than whatever you think yours are, she almost added. But she swallowed her rage; Ginny was high, so arguing wouldn’t help now. She said more calmly, “It’s just that you could be hurt. I don’t want that.”

“Yeah, for sure. I could be hurt.” That shining, cruel smile again. “Or I could be an addict. Or I could be a movie star. In America I could be anything!” Ginny pushed herself to her feet, scooping up Kakiy. She carried him steadily enough into her bedroom. Rina followed as far as the door. Ginny had made an insert for her backpack, a sturdy cardboard cat carrier with a round porthole window. She put Kakiy into it, took her waterproof poncho from the closet, clapped the fedora onto her head, then frowned at her cluttered table for a moment. Finally she picked up a box of cat treats.

“Where are you going, honey?” asked Rina.

“Library.”

Rina sighed. Better to talk to her later. “Okay. See you at dinner.”

“Yeah. Save the whales.” She kissed Rina almost contemptuously, then pushed by and swung down the hall. Kakiy, unapologetic, gazed back serenely through his porthole as she marched out the door.

She wasn’t back for dinner. Rina fought down her worry. But when her mother finally excused herself and went downstairs to her room, she said to Clint, “Maybe Ginny thought we’d be eating late, because of Mamma’s bridge game.”

“Maybe.” Clint, silvery-haired and blue-eyed, paused with a last forkful of cherry pie halfway to his mouth. “You’re worried, though.”

“Yes.”

He tried to be comforting. “She’s probably just throwing her weight around.”

“Maybe.”

“Rina, I hate to see you worrying like this! It’s time to get her back in line. It’s no favor to go easy on a kid these days. But it’s up to you, Rina. I’ll back you up, but I’m not here much of the time, damn it.”

“She had reason to be mad today.”

“Half her fault,” he pointed out. He was too much the lawyer, she thought, always ready to see both sides of a question and argue whichever suited him. Rina busied herself cleaning off the table.

But when the doorbell rang at eight-fifteen Rina ran to it, her anxious heart a staccato counterpoint to her footsteps. Two men stood there: stolid faces, intelligent eyes. The older one held out a shield. Police.

“Ginny?” she blurted before they could say anything. “Has something happened to Ginny?”

“No, ma’am,” said the older policeman. His voice was flat-pitched, unexcitable. “We’re here to ask about a John Spencer.”

“Spencer?”

Behind her, Mamma laid a firm hand on her arm. “John Spencer was here this afternoon. Is there a problem?”

“Yes, ma’am. Are you Mrs. Marshall?”

“I’m Mrs. Rossi. Leonora Rossi,” Mamma corrected him. “My daughter here is Mrs. Marshall. But I’m the one who knows John Spencer. Not well–– we just met this afternoon.”

“I see. Well, ma’am, I’d like to ask you a few questions.”

Clint had come up behind them. “We’d be glad to help,” he said. “What’s the problem?”

In answer the policeman held up his identification again. “Just a few questions, sir,” he repeated. “I’m Sergeant Trainer. Homicide.”

***

Excerpt from Bad Blood by P.M. Carlson. Copyright © 2017 by P.M. Carlson. Reproduced with permission from P.M. Carlson. All rights reserved.

P.M. Carlson

Author Bio:

P.M. Carlson taught psychology and statistics at Cornell University before deciding that mystery writing was more fun. She has published twelve mystery novels and over a dozen short stories. Her novels have been nominated for an Edgar Award, a Macavity Award, and twice for Anthony Awards. Two short stories were finalists for Agatha Awards. She edited the Mystery Writers Annual for Mystery Writers of America for several years, and served as president of Sisters in Crime.

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Tour Participants:



Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for P.M. Carlson. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on November 7 and runs through November 14, 2017.

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Sep 192017
 

Unexpected Outcomes by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson Tour Banner

Unexpected Outcomes

An Angela Panther Mystery

by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

September 19, 2017 Book Blast

Synopsis:

Unexpected Outcomes by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

LIES SECRETS AND THE ULTIMATE BETRAYAL.

When a frantic 911 call stumps a suburban Atlanta police department, psychic medium Angela Panther is asked to help. Without a body or a ransom note, the cops question whether there’s even a crime, but Angela’s certain the woman’s no longer among the living.

On the outside, the woman’s family seems run of the mill, but Angela’s sixth sense tells her something different, she just has to find the evidence—and the victim’s remains, to prove it.

With the help of her best friend, Mel, and Fran, her celestial super sleuth mother, she sets out to find it and stumbles into a web of dark, dangerous family secrets worse than she ever imagined.

When a desperate spirit forces Angela to act on impulse, she makes one wrong move and lands right in the path of the killer. Alone, and begging for her life, Angela realizes she might not make it out alive.

This book is the 4th in the series but as with all the others, can be read as a stand alone.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Indie
Publication Date: September 19 2017
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: ASIN:B074CCC3B2
Series: The Angela Panther Mystery Series Book 4 | Each is a stand alone mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

“I can’t believe I’m gonna die. Please, no. Why are you shooting at us?”

I pulled the trigger and watched as the bullet raced through the air, smacking my best friend in the center of her chest.

I bolted upright; sweat dripping from my forehead, tears streaming down my cheeks, my heart beating faster than ever. I’d just dreamed I’d shot my best friend. My best friend. “It’s just a dream,” I mumbled. “Just a dream.”

My husband, Jake rolled over and rubbed my leg. “You okay, Babe?”

I lay down and snuggled into him. “I just shot Mel in my dream.”

He squeezed his arms tight around me. “We both know that would never happen. You’d be lost without her. It was just a dream. Don’t let it upset you.”

I glanced at the clock. It was four AM, and I knew I wouldn’t fall back asleep, so I kissed Jake and got up for the day, resigned to the fact that I’d be exhausted before nightfall. I shuffled to the bathroom, closed the double doors, and flipped on the light. My eyes sunk like anchors in the blue and black pits swelling below them. Sleep eluded me most nights, and the nights I did catch a few z’s, were restless and fitful, and it showed.

Downstairs I made a fresh pot of coffee and while waiting for it to finish, replayed the dream in my head. Nothing was clear except Mel. Images of gravel and trees flashed briefly, too fuzzy and indistinct to identify with any clarity. My gift was communicating with the dead, not predicting the future, and half of me thought the dream meant nothing. The other half though threw red flags up all over the kitchen, practically screaming Danger, Will Robinson. That half knew the Universe didn’t have a rulebook and the fear of what it could mean crushed my heart like a ton of bricks. Six months ago I couldn’t feel what a ghost felt, but that had changed, so I knew anything was possible, and that scared the bejesus out of me. I powered on my phone and pounded out a text to Mel.

“I had a bad dream,” I wrote.

It didn’t take long for her to respond. That’s how best friends worked. No matter what time it was, they were there when we needed them. “Wow, me too. It was so strange. I shot you.”

My heart raced into the anaerobic zone. I snatched my keys from the key box, slipped on my tennis shoes and bolted out the door and into my car in the garage. Both of us having the same dream wasn’t a coincidence. It meant something, and I didn’t need my spidey sense to tell me that.

I sped fifteen miles over the speed limit and made it to Mel’s house in record time. I killed the lights as I drove into her driveway, and sent her a text. “Don’t freak when the garage door opens; it’s just me.” I’d had the code for years, just like she had mine because best friends shared that kind of stuff.

She met me in her kitchen, her long black hair pulled into a bun, and her feet snuggled into the fuzzy teddy bear slippers I’d bought her for Christmas last year. “It’s a little early for coffee, doncha think?”

I couldn’t speak. I just flung myself at her and wrapped my arms around her neck, holding on for dear life.

“I…I…you’re cutting off my oxygen.”

I softened my vice-hold but didn’t let go.

She broke free and raised her eyebrows my direction. “I’m sorry I killed you, but it was just a dream.” She shuffled over to her coffee maker and grabbed the pot. “Flavored or regular?” Clearly, ending my life didn’t impact her as much as her death did me. Then again, she didn’t know I’d bumped her off too. The double sucker punch would surely knock her out, or at least I’d hoped it would.

I sat at the counter feeling a bit embarrassed for freaking out but based on the changes in my life over the past few years; I was justified. “Either is fine.”

She rinsed the pot and asked again why I’d showed up at such an ungodly hour.

I knew Mel’s dream increased the probability of the Universe giving me a message I didn’t want to hear. Was Mel going to die? Was I? And by whose hand? I couldn’t imagine any situation where I’d kill my best friend, but then again, a few years ago I couldn’t imagine talking to dead people, and that was a daily occurrence.

She placed a fresh cup of coffee next to me. I held it to my nose and took in the spicy, fruity smell, stalling to answer her question.

“So you gonna spill it or are we gonna sit here and pretend you’re just here to hang out at butt-early o’clock?”

“How did you kill me?”

“Why? You do something that would cause me to carry through?” She giggled, but I didn’t think it was funny and my expression told her so. Her smile flipped over. “Come on, what’s going on?”

“I dreamed I killed you too.”

She dropped into the seat next to me. “Well, that’s alarming.”

I nodded.

“I shot you twice in the chest. Some place outside, but I’m not sure where. It was a quick dream.”

“Mine too, and it was the same.” I sipped my drink. “Did I say anything to you?”

She tightened her bun. “I think so, but I can’t remember.”

“I can’t believe I’m gonna die. Why are you shooting at us?”

She pointed at me. “That’s really freaky.”

It was.

“But,” She rubbed my shoulder. “We didn’t shoot each other, and we’re not going to, so it’s all good. Now can you go home so I can go back to sleep? I’ve got a busy day tomorrow. Deadlines.”

“It means something. I know it does.”

She stared into her cup. “I know you’re right, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s that we can’t rush the powers that be into telling us what we don’t know. If you’re supposed to find out, you will. If you’re not, you won’t. But I don’t think one of us is gonna bite the bullet anytime soon.” She grimaced. No pun intended.”

“I would never shoot you.”

“Of course not. You don’t have a gun.”

“There is that.”

“But I do.” The left side of her upper lip lifted. “And I know how to use it.”

“So in other words, don’t tick you off.”

“If I didn’t shoot my cheating ex-husband, there sure as heck ain’t any reason I’d shoot you.”

“You didn’t have a gun then.”

“Good point.”

I guzzled the last bit of my coffee and when I stood, hugged her again. “I love you.”

“Who doesn’t?” She joked and squeezed me back as hard as I’d squeezed her. “Love you too.”

I drove home thinking about the dream, the air in the car replaced by an impending doom so thick, if I’d had a knife, I could have sliced it into pieces.

* * *

“I can’t believe I’m gonna die. Please, no. Why are you shooting at us?”

I jumped high enough out of my seat I nearly smacked my head on the ceiling of Detective Aaron Banner’s office. “Oh, my gosh, last night Mel and I dreamed we said the same things to each other.”

He smacked his hand down on the stop button of the recorder, and we locked eyes. “Care to explain?”

I did.

He rewound the tape and played it again from start to finish. The boom of a gunshot echoed through the recorder. Something heavy dropped onto the ground with a thud. A woman screamed. “No, why? Oh my God, no.”

A man’s voice mumbled something I couldn’t make out. Then another man muttered something else, but I couldn’t understand him either. Whatever happened, happened in real time, and it was abominable.

“Why? Please God, don’t kill me. My babies. They need me. I can’t believe I’m gonna die. Please, no. Why are you shooting at us?”

The line went dead.

I rubbed my neck. The call had come into the dispatch center earlier that morning, and Aaron called me in to help.

“It’s hard to listen to. Sounds like maybe two men and a woman, but I’m not sure. Thought you might be able to help us with her identity or maybe the location. We don’t know if it’s a robbery or an assault or if the woman is dead—nothing.”

The woman on the line never spoke to the operator directly, and never said her name. It appeared she was just trying to give clues to what was happening. Because of the shots, time was important, and we didn’t have much of it.

“The operator called back once the line went dead. Got a voicemail for a girl named Sarah.”

“Can you trace the call or find out the billing address for the owner?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Track phone. They’re not traceable. We’ve been calling the number back since we received the call, but it just goes straight to voicemail.” He paused and played the recording one more time. “Usually the phone company doesn’t keep the information on the purchaser, but the carrier gave us the number for the last call. Belongs to a man by the name of Stu Walker.” He tapped a pencil on his desk.

“Have you called him or sent anyone out there?”

“Got voicemail on his line, too. Sent a squad out twice already but no one’s been home. Thought I’d call you and have you come out with me.”

I stood. “Let’s go.”

Aaron and I met a few years back when a little boy’s spirit asked me to give his parents a message. I’d been able to communicate with spirits for some time, though according to my mother Fran Richter, I’d done it as a child too, but as I aged, the gift lessened until it disappeared completely. It resurfaced when my mother died and decided to test the psychic waters. When her ghost appeared to me, I thought I’d flipped my lid. It was even harder when other ghosts came around asking for help with their earthly business. I wasn’t thrilled at first but eventually realized the curse was truly a gift. Ever since Aaron saw my gift up close and personal, I’d been his psychic medium consultant, off the record and free of charge. We’d also become friends, and I was grateful for all of it, but for the friendship most of all.

We arrived at a shabby brown stucco house on the outskirts of town, where the city had yet to pilfer all the farmland from its owners and stack two hundred plus home nearly on top of each other in an upscale, amenities-laden subdivisions. The house was in disrepair, with shutters hanging by a hair and a boarded up window in the garage. A Pitbull sat chained to a tree near the gravel driveway. It was thirsty and tired. I wanted to unleash it and take it home with me. The whole scene matched the stereotype image other parts of the country have of the south. I said a silent thank you to the Universe for the blessings in my life.

Aaron knocked on the door and a young man, maybe in his twenties, with a shaved head and a dark, brown, at least six-inch long beard, opened it. “Yeah?”

My spidey senses sent a smidgen of a tingle zipping down my spine.

Aaron flashed his badge. “You Stu Walker?”

The man’s shoulders curved inward just a bit. “Yessir.”

“We understand you made a call to a woman named Sarah at about 9 AM this morning. Can you tell me anything about that woman?”

He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “Uh, yeah. Sarah Rochen. My cousin. Why you asking?”

“We’re trying to locate her whereabouts. Do you happen to know where she is?”

I caught his eyes widen for a millisecond. Had I blinked, I would have missed it. It sent my spidey sense shooting back up my spine like a just lit firework.

He examined the ground near his feet and then shook his head. “I haven’t talked to her since this mornin’, but you might could talk to her ma.”

Aaron took down the mother’s phone number. “Thank you, Mr. Walker. What was your conversation with Ms. Rochen about?”

He rubbed his head. “I told her I might could get her a new car, and she was supposed to call me back later today to go and see it before she went back to Savannah.”

“Do you know why she was going to Savannah?”

“That’s where she lives.”

“Do you know what she was planning to do today or why she was in town?”

He shook his head. “Something ‘bout seeing her kids.” He hemmed and hawed and kicked at the ground. “I don’t know anything about it really, but her ma might know.”

Aaron cut the meeting short. “You got an address for her mother?”

“I don’t know the address, but I could get you there from here.”

“It’s okay. I can get it through my department. Thank you for your time. You have a nice day.”

I smiled at him and followed Aaron back to the car.

In the car I gave Aaron my two cents. “Something’s not right about that guy.”

“He’s just a good ol’ country boy.” He got on his car radio and asked to have an address run on Sarah Rochen’s mother’s cell number. “You have time to go there, too?”

“Sure.”

Based on the address, her mother was only fifteen minutes from where we were. Dawsonville was growing, but there were still a lot of traditional neighborhoods and farms instead of designated subdivisions like mine. Sarah’s mother, LuAnn Jacobs, lived in one of them. Her house, a blue and white, hardieplank sided ranch, sat on a small, weed infested hill. Aaron trudged up the gravel and dirt driveway, and the bumping from the holes in it agitated my sciatica. I rubbed my leg to relieve the throbbing.

LuAnn Jacobs answered the door immediately. “We’re looking to convert, but thanks.” She slammed the door before Aaron could respond.

I giggled under my breath. Aaron however, did not.

He tapped on the door once more. “Mrs. Jacobs, I’m Detective Aaron Banner.” He flipped his badge toward where the closed door met the frame.

She cracked the door open, snuck a peek at the badge, and then swung it open again.

“G’moring, ma’am. Earlier this morning we received a 911 call from a woman who we now believe to be your daughter, Sarah Rochen.”

Aaron explained that the call was disturbing, but didn’t go into any detail. “Have you heard from your daughter, Mrs. Jacobs?”

“Uh, not since breakfast. What’s going on?”

“Do you know why Sarah was in town?”

She clasped her arms across her chest, and in a sticky, almost too sweet voice, said, “Yeah. Uh, she and her husband Larry, they came up from Savannah yesterday, for a visit and maybe to buy a new car.”

A man stood in the doorway behind Mrs. Jacobs. His greasy brown hair was long enough to be pulled into a ponytail at the base of his neck. We made eye contact, and I shivered. The man was scary.

Mrs. Jacobs chewed a piece of gum the way Emily did, her mouth open, making juicy, chomping sounds while she spoke. “Just for a visit. They came to visit.” She explained that they’d come to see their two daughters, and they’d hoped to take them home if they could get approval for the new car.

I forced back the anger brewing in the pit of my stomach. My misophonia—generally coined the hatred of human sounds, and particularly those related to eating—fought to get the best of me, but I refused to let it, instead, focusing on the task at hand.

“Can you explain why her children are here in town?” Aaron asked.

“The county took them away, and they’re living with family ‘til Sarah and Larry get their house in order. They came here so they could get a safe car. Stu was supposed to get them a deal on one.

“When did they arrive?”

“Yesterday.”

“When was the last time you saw your daughter?”

“Last night. She came by to visit with Ashley.”

“Is that one of her daughters?”

“Her oldest. She’s been living with us,” she angled her body toward the man behind her and placed her hand on his shoulder. “My husband Johnny and me, ‘til this whole mess is handled.”

I glanced back at the man and caught him eyeing me again, but he cut away and focused on his wife. The hairs on the back of my neck shot to attention.

“What happened when she came by last night?”

“Nothing. She came by to visit Ashley, and Larry stayed back at the hotel so she could have some alone time with her kid. Also because we don’t want that man here at our house.”

“Why is that?”

“He’s not good enough for my kid or her babies.”

My brain wrestled between her words and the juicy chomping. I wanted to reach into her mouth and yank the clump of gum out like I used to do with my kids, but of course, I couldn’t. I had to force myself to focus on her words, not the chomping.

She said they’d decided to stay at a hotel somewhere about halfway between her house and Sarah’s cousin, Jenny’s house, where her other daughter, Lizzie stayed. LuAnn explained that Sarah told her they’d planned to see Lizzie the next day.

“They got that little two-door thing, and those back seats just aren’t big enough for two car seats, and the seatbelts don’t work neither, so they hoped to get a minivan or an SUV. Stu said he knew someone who could give them a good deal.”

“Is Ashley here with you now?” Aaron asked.

She nodded, and I noticed her husband’s facial expression shift. If I’d blinked, I would have missed it. “She’s in the kitchen eating pancakes. You wanna see her?” She poked her husband. “Johnny, go fetch Ash for them, will ya?”

He stood there for a second, his eyes drilling into his wife’s.

She grimaced. “Please?” Chomp.

A minute later a petite, strawberry blond haired girl ambled over to the door, Johnny’s hand squeezing her left shoulder. She kept her eyes glued to the ground, even though I’d raised the tone of my voice several octaves when I said hi. Her skin was so pasty, I assumed she hadn’t seen the sun in months, and it was unlikely she’d had a good meal in that time either, her face shallow, her cheeks barely there. It made my heart hurt. The good news was she was safe with her grandmother, even though she didn’t appear happy about it.

“Okay,” Aaron said. “So they stayed at the hotel last night?”

“Right, and then they were going to her cousin’s to see Lizzie. I just…I just talked to her a bit ago. She was happy. She was excited to possibly be getting to take her babies home with her.”

“What kind of car were they driving?” Aaron asked.

“Lemme think about that for a bit.” She chewed on the gum like a cow.

“Johnny, what kind of car they do they have again?”

“One of those old Datsuns. A 240Z, I think.”

“That’s right. A gold one. Larry loves that car. He’s torn up that they have to sell it. Too bad for them. Shouldn’t have bought something like that with the babies.” She rubbed her hands together. “Is my baby okay?”

“We’re doing our best to find out, ma’am.” Aaron asked for Sarah’s cousin’s contact information, wrote it down, and then closed his notebook. “We’ll be in touch as soon as we have more information. In the meantime though, if you could write any phone numbers you have for Larry and Sarah, as well as their address, I’d appreciate it.” He handed her his notepad and pen. “And if you hear from your daughter or think of something that might help us, please call me right away.”

She wrote out the information and handed him back his things as he gave her his business card.

As LuAnn closed the door, her husband pushed it back open and stepped outside. “I was you, I’d be looking at Larry Rochen for doing something he ought not to do.” He spoke as if he’d just had a tooth pulled, and his face was still numb, except from the looks of his teeth, it was obvious he hadn’t been to a dentist in years.

Aaron had already stepped away from the door, but he paused and flipped back around. “Why is that?”

He pushed back his shoulders. “Marriage was doomed from the start.”

LuAnn Jacobs opened the door and stepped partially out. “Everything okay out here?”

Johnny Jacobs’s face morphed into a snarl like one of a dog ready to attack. “Get inside, woman.”

Her jaw tensed, and I caught her hands form into fists. She noticed me notice them, released them, and did as she was told.

Back in the car, Aaron called in the make and model of the Rochen’s vehicle and got the tag number. “Set up a BOLO for the vehicle and notify the surrounding counties,” he told his dispatch. He dialed Jenny’s number and put the call on speaker.

“She’s not here,” Jenny said. “She called and said she had something to do before she came by, and she’d call on her way.” She confirmed Lizzie was still there.

Aaron asked her to notify him if she heard from her cousin, but didn’t give any details as to why. I assumed he figured the word would get out soon enough.

“Do you think Larry’s involved?” I asked. “Johnny Jacobs sure threw him under the bus. Actually, LuAnn Jacobs didn’t seem like that big of a fan, either.”

“We usually look at the spouse first in domestic cases.” He headed south on the highway. “We’ll go back to the department, and I’ll find out what we can about him and his family. I’ll get the DA to ask for a warrant to get their financials. See if there’s been any recent transactions since the call, or shortly before. You get anything from the mother?”

I exhaled. “I’m pretty sure I’ve explained the difference between psychic and psychic medium before, so…”

He nodded. “I know the difference, but you’ve got a good—what does Mel call it?”

“Spidey sense?”

He snapped his fingers and pointed at me. “Spidey sense. Figured it was worth a shot to ask.”

“Actually, spidey sense is my term, and I did notice LuAnn didn’t refer to Johnny as Sarah’s father, but other than that, not really. But there’s definitely something off about him.”

“You don’t have to be psychic to notice that. I’m guessing he’s a stepparent.”

“Did her chewing grate on your last nerve?”

He laughed. “The kinds of things I see every day, that’s nothing.”

“Yeah? Well, someone needs to teach that woman some manners. Five more minutes and my brain would have imploded.”

“Glad you didn’t leave me with that mess.”

“You should be. It would have been massive.”

“I bet.”

He dropped me off at my car in the department’s parking lot, and I headed home, calling Mel on the way. “Just hung out with your boy toy.”

“Without me? Rude.”

“Deadlines, remember?”

Aaron and Mel had been a couple for some time, and things were serious between them. They were happy, and I was happy they were happy. After Mel’s husband cheated on her with a younger woman—whom he knocked up and married—she definitely deserved happiness. Though the relationship was a bit awkward for me at first, her dating my uno

“Did you give him a sloppy kiss for me?”

“Yup. A big one, wet, tongue-wrestling one. I think he liked it, too.”

“Oh goodie, because that’s all he’s getting today. These deadlines are gonna be the death of me.” She heavy-sighed.

“You’re working a lot lately.”

“Don’t I know it.”

“I miss hanging out with you. ” My voice bordering on whiny.

“Right back atcha, and you can blame the cheating rat bas—“ She cut herself off. “My ex for that. I don’t get to spend a lotta time with my kids either.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It is what it is. I just don’t like it a whole lot.”

“Neither do I, but you’re providing for your kids and showing them how a single mother steps up, and that’s important.”

“Can you tell them that, please? All they do is complain about me never having time for them.”

“They’re young. They’ll understand eventually.” I knew that didn’t matter at the moment, but it was all I could think to say.

“Well, eventually better come soon because I can only handle so much.”

I decided not to tell her about the 911 call and the connection between our dream since she already had enough on her plate. “Anyway, he’s got me helping him with a possible case. Lemme know when you’ve got time to discuss.”

I made it home just in time for my oldest kid Emily, to ignore me. She’d been on a roll as of late, only talking to me when it was an absolute must. She felt she had reason and to a point she sort of did, but it’d been going on for months, and my patience bucket had reached its limit and teetered on its edge.

A few months back her boyfriend Mike’s mother was killed in a car accident. He was at our house when I found out, and since the Universe had a wicked sense of humor, that’s when his mother’s spirit decided to make an appearance. As the saying goes, the poop hit the fan.

Emily didn’t know about my gift. Jake and I had decided to keep it from her because she bordered a bit on ridiculously overly dramatic to the hundredth power, and what she didn’t know wouldn’t make us crazy. With the death of Michelle Stevenson, Mike’s mom, she’d obviously found out. I’d been working to re-establish trust with her ever since but to no avail. Emily got her stubbornness from me, and sometimes dealing with her was like looking into a magical mirror and glimpsing bits of teenaged Angela and middle-aged Fran and their relationship. It made me want to apologize to my mom.

Repeatedly.

I’d chosen to handle Emily’s latest angst with a slow and steady approach. It hadn’t worked, but I refused to give up. It was better than the alternative; losing my cool, which never worked either, and usually just caused more drama. “Hey Em, how’s it hangin’?” Ugh. My attempts at being cool, calm and collected had such an 80s air to them.

She sat on the couch, I assumed, planning creative ways to ignore me.

My mother shimmered in beside her. “Ah Madone, this kid ain’t ever gonna forgive you if you don’t try and make her.”

I’d already told Emily her grandmother was present more often than not, but she couldn’t see her, and that just made her even more angry with me. Knowing her brother, Josh also had the gift made it a billion times worse, too.

“Your grandmother says I should use force to get you to stop being mad at me.”

“I didn’t say that. I said you oughta make her forgive you.”

“Okay, I stand corrected. She’s saying I should make you forgive me. Apparently, there’s a difference.”

Emily scanned the room for her grandmother. When she couldn’t see her, she huffed and stood. “Can you not? It’s really bizarre, you like, talking to Grandma.” She stomped to the stairs and pounded up them to her room where she drove her point home by banging her bedroom door closed.

“That went well,” I said.

“You oughta drag her back down here by her ear lobe. Time she stops acting like a two-year-old.”

Well then, Ma’s patience had plummeted to rock bottom too, but she was right. I initially thought I’d give Emily some time to adjust to the news, to deal with the fact that ghosts actually existed, and that some of them, her grandmother included, showed up at our house. It turned out my gift didn’t impress her, and she already believed in ghosts. She was peeved we’d kept it a secret, but wouldn’t fess up to what bothered her the most, so all I could do was assume it was that Josh shared my ability. And that was somehow my fault because apparently, I could control what the Universe did. “Why is everything always my fault with that kid? It’s impossible to change something I can’t control.”

“That right there is whatcha call karma. You did the same thing to me when you were her age.”

I rolled my eyes. “I didn’t blame you for everything.”

“You gotta be kidding me. You blamed me for your wavy hair, those child-bearing hips, and remember that whole 1966 red Mustang thing? That was my fault too.”

“Well, actually that kinda was. Had you married that guy I could have had it.”

When I was sixteen, her fiancé Buddy died, she briefly dated a wealthy man who wanted to marry her so badly he told me if I could convince her to, he’d get me a 1966 red Mustang. I gave it my best shot, but couldn’t close the deal, and I never let her forget it.

“I didn’t love him, and I couldn’t help that. I wanted my Buddy, and no one else compared.”

I didn’t understand that until I met Jake. If something–God forbid—ever happened to him, I’d spend the rest of my life alone. My stepmother Helen once said something about my father, and it made sense to me. She said, when you’ve had the best, no one else could live up to that, so why bother trying? I realized my mother never dated anyone after Buddy died, and I understood why.

“I know, but it was a red 1966 Mustang.”

“But it was a red 1966 Mustang. Madone, and it woulda been a loveless marriage.”

“I know, and I get that now, but then all I cared about was myself. What you wanted didn’t even cross my mind.”

She raised her eyebrows.

The irony hit me. I dipped my head back and sighed. “I hate it when you do that.” I poured myself a glass of water and plopped onto a barstool. “I don’t know what to do.”

“You gotta show her that she’s got a bit of the gift, too.”

“But she doesn’t.”

“That don’t matter.”

“Okay then, how do you propose I do that?”

“Ya know, give her a few signs, make her recognize them. Like you got mad at me for doing before.”

Ma had tossed a few pillows, moved a few things on Em’s dressers, and one time she ripped the sheets off her bed after a miracle had happened, and Emily had actually made the thing. Instead of getting the hints, Emily just accused a family member—me—of deliberately messing up her room and of course, snooping. But now that she knows her grandmother is around if Ma did it again, she might realize it’s not me, but her Grandmother, and maybe she’ll think she’s got a little bit of the gift. Maybe being the operative word in that sentence.

“That’s not a bad idea,” I said. “But it’s probably—”

Before I could add to that, she interrupted me. “I’m on it.”

I chuckled, figuring she’d probably headed up to her granddaughter’s room to toss a pillow or two.

I snatched a Diet Coke—affectionately known as Diet Crack in my house—from the fridge and headed to the deck, my place for contemplation and focus. I wanted to try and connect with Sarah Rochen. If she was dead, and I was pretty sure she was, I might be able to concentrate on her spirit and find her. If I was wrong, and she wasn’t, then I was out of luck.

Summoning spirit wasn’t tops on my list of things to do. I could do it, but I didn’t like it, so I avoided it as much as possible. Mel once asked me what I didn’t like about it, and I couldn’t come up with anything other than it made me feel icky. Feeling icky wasn’t reason enough not to do something except workout, so I centered my mind on the photo LuAnn Jacobs gave Aaron and gave it a shot.

“Sarah, can you hear me?” I closed my eyes and thought about the things she’d done since coming to town. “Sarah? Hello? You there?”
The dream played like a movie in my mind’s eye. Me holding a gun pointed at Mel. Mel on her knees, begging me not to shoot her. The gravel, the trees. Pulling the trigger. The booming sound of the bullet exploding from the gun.

I flinched, and my eyes burst open. Sarah was definitely dead. I just had to figure out what was trying to tell me through the dream. Whatever it was, was key to what happened, where we’d find her body, and the answers to the questions running through my mind. And I wouldn’t stop trying to find out until I figured it out.

***

Excerpt from Unexpected Outcomes by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson. Copyright © 2017 by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson. Reproduced with permission from Carolyn Ridder Aspenson. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

Carolyn Ridder Aspenson currently calls the Atlanta suburbs home, but can’t rule out her other two homes, Indianapolis and somewhere in the Chicago suburbs.

She is old enough to share her empty nest with her husband, two dogs and two cats, all of which she strongly obsesses over repeatedly noted on her Facebook and Instagram accounts, and is working on forgiving her kids for growing up and leaving the nest. When she is not writing, editing, playing with her animals or contemplating forgiving her kids, she is sitting at Starbucks listening in on people’s conversations and taking notes, because that stuff is great for book ideas. (You have officially been warned!)

On a more professional note, she is the bestselling author of the Angela Panther cozy mystery series featuring Unfinished Business An Angela Panther Mystery, Unbreakable Bonds An Angela Panther Mystery and Uncharted Territory An Angela Panther Mystery, The Christmas Elf, An Angela Panther Holiday Short, The Ghosts, An Angela Panther Holiday Short, The Inn At Laurel Creek, a contemporary romance novella, Santa’s Gift, a Cumming Christmas Novella and 8 To Lose The Weight, a lifestyle eating program. Carolyn is also a freelance writer and editor with Literati Editing.

For more information, visit http://carolynridderaspenson.com ;
www.facebook.com/carolynridderaspensonauthor;
Carolyn Ridder Aspenson Author on Pinterest
Carolynridderaspenson on Instagram
Twitter: @awritingwoman

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Murder Unrenovated & Rehearsal For Murder by P.M. Carlson Tour Banner

Murder Unrenovated & Rehearsal For Murder

by P.M. Carlson

Book Blast on August 29, 2017

Murder Unrenovated by P.M. Carlson

Murder Unrenovated

Realtor Len Trager is anxious to sell the lovely old brownstone in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, and Maggie and Nick think it looks like a dream house for a young couple expecting their first child. But problems show up. It needs renovation– okay. There’s a stubborn tenant who refuses to move out– not so okay.

And then there’s the nasty surprise on the top floor….

“Terrific characters, funny incidents, genuine suspense, and an absolutely right sense of period and place.”–– Tom and Enid Schantz, THE PURLOINED LETTER

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional Mystery
Published by: The Mystery Company / Crum Creek Press
Publication Date: June 2013
Number of Pages: 239
ISBN: 193232528X (ISBN13: 9781932325287)
Series: Maggie Ryan and Nick O’Connor #4
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Smashwords 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

“Murder Unrenovated” by P.M. Carlson Maggie Ryan Series #4

Realtor Len Trager is anxious to sell the brownstone in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, but prospective buyers don’t want to deal with Julia Northrup, who rents the basement apartment. Maggie Ryan and her husband Nick O’Connor love the property. They see though Julia’s act, and they’re not scared off by the corpse on the top floor.

Read an excerpt:

Brooklyn, 1972. Realtor Len Trager shows an old brownstone to actor Nick O’Connor and statistician Maggie Ryan.

Len felt a prickle of hope. He couldn’t remember anyone else being this pleased by Lund’s weary old brownstone, not after meeting the immovable basement tenant. Could there possibly be a sale here after all?

Not to an actor, he reminded himself.

The upper floors were shoddily divided into separate apartments. But the second-floor bath still held a Victorian marble sink and chipped clawfoot tub, and the room at the front overlooked the street. Maggie smiled at Nick and said, “This could be a little study.”

“One more floor,” said Len. The top floor, once servants’ quarters, had been most recently occupied–– only Lund’s disruption of the plumbing had finally forced the young tenants to accept his relocation money and leave. Nick slapped his hand against a wall. “This isn’t a supporting wall, is it?”

“No,” said Len, giving the room a professional glance. “You’re thinking of remodeling?” That was always a good sign.

“Not many gyms around here. It would be great to have space to work out.” Nick stepped to the doorway. “What do you think, Maggie?”

She was down the hall, looking into the little front room, the one that sported the oriel window. For a moment she remained there, still.

“Do you like the place?” Len prompted.

She turned back to them slowly, and Nick, suddenly concerned, took a step toward her. But it was Len she answered.

“Yes,” she said, “it’s a great place. There’s only one problem. There’s a corpse in it.”

* * *

Excerpt from Murder Unrenovated by P.M. Carlson. Copyright © 2017 by P.M. Carlson. Reproduced with permission from P.M. Carlson. All rights reserved.

Rehearsal for Murder by P.M. Carlson

Rehearsal for Murder

As REHEARSAL FOR MURDER begins, Maggie is a partner in a statistical consulting business, and her actor husband Nick O’Connor has been cast in a wonderful new role. He’s rehearsing an off-Broadway musical, playing Gladstone to the famous Ramona Ricci’s Queen Victoria. But Nick is worried by Ramona’s diva-like behavior, which enrages the cast members. And the home front is even tougher. He and Maggie adore their five-month-old daughter Sarah, but she exhausts them and leaves them no time for each other.

Then they’re slammed with two more problems. Maggie, doing a favor for another frazzled parent, gets wind of a plot against that child. And someone guns down the bitchy Ramona.

“A tightly woven thriller, warm and beautifully paced with a bittersweet finale. This show must go on!”–– Dorothy Salisbury Davis, MWA Grand Master

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional Mystery
Published by: The Mystery Company / Crum Creek Press
Publication Date: July 2013
Number of Pages: 220
ISBN: 1932325336 (ISBN13: 9781932325331
Series: Maggie Ryan and Nick O’Connor #5
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Smashwords 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Rehearsal for Murder by P.M. Carlson Maggie Ryan Mystery Series #5

As REHEARSAL FOR MURDER begins, Maggie is partner in a statistical consulting business, and her actor husband Nick O’Connor has been cast in a wonderful new role. He’s rehearsing an off-Broadway musical, playing Gladstone to the famous Ramona Ricci’s Queen Victoria.

Read an excerpt:

A pause; a choked sob from the crumpled Ramona; and then the pounding dirge from chorus and piano.

Ramona straightened slowly, as though lifting a crushing weight, and pulled a black shawl about her. The chorus moved back with measured steps, leaving her solitary in the middle of the stage. The music modulated, and very quietly she began to sing “The Widow of Windsor.” For the first time that day she did not have to worry about new dance steps or new movements, and she invested the words with a powerful emotional energy. “Alone,” she sang, “in the crowds, still alone; among the princes, alone; forever alone.” Nick, standing in the silent chorus, felt his throat tightening. The small isolated figure, the husky beauty of the voice that shimmered on the edge of tears, communicated a human truth that transcended history, geography, wealth, gender. She bound them all into Victoria’s grief.

The last chords faded.

Then the stage manager cleared his throat and said, “Blackout,” in his flat twang.

The spell was shattered. Derek exclaimed, “Super! But you know that, Ramona. On to act two?”

“Let’s stop a minute early today, Derek. It’s been a long afternoon.” Ramona, drooping, pulled the shawl from her shoulders, then noticed the blond onlooker for the first time and stiffened. “Well! So Larry’s evening revels have begun already. Though the brunette that came for him yesterday was prettier. Treat him well, sweetie.” She winked at the young woman. “Your competition is formidable.”

The few words reawakened the sizzle of rage in all of them.

* * *

Excerpt from Rehearsal For Murder by P.M. Carlson. Copyright © 2017 by P.M. Carlson. Reproduced with permission from P.M. Carlson. All rights reserved.

P.M. Carlson

Author Bio:

P.M. Carlson taught psychology and statistics at Cornell University before deciding that mystery writing was more fun. She has published twelve mystery novels and over a dozen short stories. Her novels have been nominated for an Edgar Award, a Macavity Award, and twice for Anthony Awards. Two short stories were finalists for Agatha Awards. She edited the Mystery Writers Annual for Mystery Writers of America for several years, and served as president of Sisters in Crime.

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