Author Spotlight: Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Today I welcome author Nancy Lynn Jarvis to Reade and Write. Nancy doesn’t even know this, but I have a special fondness for her books because two of them were given to me as gifts by someone many of you will remember from this blog–Sharon Aguanno. Sharon loved Nancy’s books and I credit her with introducing me to Nancy’s work.

Nancy is here to talk about her new release, The Glass House. I’m looking forward to reading this one–I wish Sharon was here to enjoy it, too.

Tell me about The Glass House.

Santa Cruz County Law Librarian Pat Pirard is living a perfect life as the book begins, but she’s unexpectedly downsized on her thirty-fifth birthday and needs to reinvent herself before her severance package runs out and she and her Dalmatian, Dot, and ginger cat, Lord Peter Wimsey, face life on a friend’s couch.

When the instructor of a glass art class Pat received as a gift is murdered and the studio’s owner is charged with killing him, researcher Pat is hired by the suspect’s defense attorney to find others in the class who may have a motive for murder. The first thing she does is order business cards proclaiming herself CEO of PIP Inc., not necessarily the first thing most underemployed amateur detectives would do, but then, most people aren’t like Private Investigator Pat.

Who is the audience for the book?

Me. Well, me at all phases of my life. I like mysteries ―the more complicated the better―don’t like to read violence and cruelty, especially as it’s happening, although I love CSI and discovering how the killing happened from a safe distance, so that’s how I write.

Tell me about the setting of your book—how did you choose it, what kind of research did you have to do, why did you choose it?

Like most of the books I’ve written, The Glass House is set in Santa Cruz. I’m a visual writer who needs to see my setting to get the details right. I know nothing about being a private investigator, but I have a friend who does. She’s my resource, and it’s great fun to collaborate with her.

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

Deciding it was time. Once I got past that hurdle, it was fun. I hadn’t written a mystery in almost a year because of other projects, and realized as I wrote, that I love writing in the cozy mystery genre.

If your book were made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the main characters?

Let me ask the real Private Investigator Pat and get back to you on that.

Tell me about your other books.

I’ve done seven books in the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series; Mags and the AARP Gang, a coming of age comedy about a group of octogenarians who decide to rob the bank holding the mortgage on their mobile home park to pay off the loan and stave off foreclosure; and a little book called The Truth About Hosting Airbnb, something I do when I’m not writing. I’ve edited Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes and Santa Cruz Weird, a short story anthology with contributions from seventeen Santa Cruz authors.

Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?

I’m not sure if I’d call my group a partnership, but ten local mystery writers call ourselves The Santa Cruz Women of Mystery. We just did our first Noir at the Bar, which was great fun. I’m also a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.

Do you write every day?

No. I’m very lazy. I only write when the mood hits.

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite genres?

I like all genres except dystopic…wait, I love Margaret Atwood and she does those; and fantasy…wait, except for JK Rowling and too many authors to list; John McPhee; Amy Tan; anything historical and most non-fiction. Oh, and of course, Agatha Christie and Tony Hillerman and any mystery I can get my hands on. Unfortunately, I can usually figure out who did it by page eighty-six which is, I think, an occupational hazard of writing mysteries.

Where would you like to go more than anywhere else on earth?

I have never been to Ireland, and according to Ancestry, that’s where most of my ancestors came from. It’s also definitely where my protagonist Regan McHenry traces her ancestry, so it would be fun to see.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t make excuses and don’t expect to write a perfect book. It gets easier as you practice and your writing will improve. I look back on The Death Contingency, the first book I wrote, and can see me learning as the book progresses. The Glass House is polished from page one, so I’m getting better as a writer. The most important reason to write, though, is it’s just so much fun.

What is your favorite movie and why?

I would have to say either Raiders of the Lost Ark or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I know, I know, I have the taste of a seven-year-old boy. The Usual Suspects is my favorite grown-up movie because it’s complicated.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Do everything you can right now because you’ll be old sooner than you think.

Describe yourself in three words.

Tall, intelligent, introvert.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you wanted me to?

How long will you keep writing? Until it’s not fun any longer or my mind turns to mush, whichever comes first.

Where can readers connect with you?

You can click here for my website. All the books are there and most first chapters are up for you to read.

Where can readers find your books?

You can find my Amazon author page by clicking here.

The ebook version of The Glass House will go live on July 25, 2019, to be followed by a print version soon after that. Pre-order and save a couple of bucks because the price will go up after release. If you review the book and send me your email address, I’ll gift you a free copy of any other of my books that you chose.

Readers, if you want to order your copy of The Glass House, it’s only $2.99 until July 26, then the price goes up. If you pre-order the book by the 25th and email Nancy with proof of purchase and the email address of a friend, Nancy will send that friend a free copy. 

Until next time,

Amy

 

 

Reading Round-Up: June Edition

It seemed like June was gone in a flash (flood–we had lots of rain), but I did manage to get a lot of reading done during the month. That is, a lot for me.

The first book I read was Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths. This was a little different from the mysteries I usually read, but I enjoyed it. It’s told from three different points of view and that kept things interesting. It was cool to see the same events from the perspectives of three characters. There are also a ton of references to other works of literature–some I knew and some I didn’t. When it’s all boiled down, the book is a murder mystery. There are some supernatural elements, which I don’t love, but I was glad the killer was a real flesh-and-blood person (and not some apparition).

Next up was The Tulip Shirt Murders by Heather Weidner. This was a great mystery, with some elements I didn’t know much about (think flea markets and roller derbies), so I learned something in the process! It features a female private investigator, which I loved, and her computer-savvy sidekick. There are a variety of red herrings, but our intrepid heroine figures things out in the end.

The Merlon Murders by Victoria Benchley is the first book in a two-book series (read: it ends in a cliffhanger, so be ready to scoop up the second book and start reading right away!) featuring a corporate investigator, Duncan, who travels to Scotland from London to check out the mystery surrounding the death of a man who left behind a fortune, an estate, and lots of questions. This book is like taking a vacation in Scotland–from the rugged mountains to the quaint villages to the culture and the food, it’s a delight for all the senses.

I also read The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook by Kate Macdonald. It has recipes AGG readers will remember from the books, like raspberry cordial and gingersnaps, and they’re easy to make. The book was geared to young cooks more than I expected, but it was still a fun, easy read.

Marilyn Meredith’s Spirit Wind is the continuation of the Tempe Crabtree mysteries, and like all the others, this doesn’t disappoint. There are Native American legends and spirits, a real-life murder, and someone who doesn’t want any of it uncovered. The book is a quick read and I learned a lot about Tehachapi, an area of California that was home to the Kawaiisu tribe of Native Americans.

Last, but certainly not least, was Robert Germaux’s More Grammar Sex, a fabulous book of essays about everything from vacation after retirement to baseball to his car’s GPS system. This was an easy-to-read book of common sense things that makes an afternoon spent reading on the patio (on one of the few days when it didn’t rain) very pleasant.

What have you been reading? I’d love to hear about it.

Until next time,

Amy

Last Tuesday Book Round-Up

I’m happy to report that I was able to get more reading done in May than I did in April. As of writing this post, I’ve finished six books so far this month and I may be able to squeeze in one more. Here’s the round-up:

Eighteen Months by Glenn McGoldrick is a short story I first heard about on Twitter. This was the first story I’ve read by this author, and I thought it was thoughtfully written and full of darkness. I can’t tell you much without giving the story away, but if you like suspense, this is a good one to check out.

Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert was the sequel to Moloka’i. You have to know a little bit about Moloka’i in order to understand what’s happening in the sequel.

The island of Moloka’i in Hawaii was widely known as a leper colony where people were sent decades ago to remove them from the general population. Moloka’i is the heart-wrenching, beautifully-written story of a woman who grew up on the island. As an adult, she gives birth to a baby girl and she and the baby’s father are forced to give up their daughter a day after her birth. Daughter of Moloka’i is the story of that little girl.

Moloka’i is an incredible novel and it was going to be pretty hard to beat it, or even match it. In my opinion, Daughter of Moloka’i doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor, but it’s still a great book and well worth reading.

Desperate Deeds by Patricia Gligor is the third book in the Malone Mystery series. In this book, Ann Kern has to deal with her husband’s unemployment, the possibility he’s drinking again, the aftermath of her mother-in-law’s death, starting a new business, and the most unthinkable thing of all, her son going missing. Here’s my Goodreads review:

“This was the fourth book I have read by Patricia Gligor, and as always, she has crafted a story that is full of characters who could be your next-door neighbors. The book draws the reader in with the promise of suspense, and there is plenty of it in this book. Following the twists and turns is fun, and I was sure I knew what would happen on more than one occasion. I was wrong, which thrilled me! Looking forward to Malone Mystery #4.”

Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque is a book that you certainly don’t need to read if you have a newsletter, but if you do, get it, read it, and keep it for future reference. I’m in the process of changing how my newsletter is discovered by readers and I’m already implementing some of the changes the book suggests. I’m very excited about it!

A friend suggested that I read Thief of Corinth and I’m glad I did. It was an interesting story about corruption in the ancient city of Corinth and how a young girl and her father face choices they must make in the face of adversity. The main character, Ariadne, is complex and, at times, misguided and angry. Watching her grow and learn about this new system of beliefs called Christianity is uplifting and inspiring.

Organized for Homicide by Ritter Ames is a great cozy mystery full of twists, turns, and…organizing advice. When two women take on the job of organizing a cross-country move for a recently-divorced father of three and at least two of his children, they’ve got their hands full. And when the ex-wife shows up dead, there are suspects aplenty, beginning with the eldest child of the couple. Here’s my Goodreads review:

“I think what I enjoyed most about this book was the friendship between Kate and Meg, two of the main characters. The mystery was intriguing, with enough red herrings, suspects, and twists to please any discerning mystery lover. Highly recommend!”

So, readers, what are you reading these days? Please share!

Until next time,

Amy

P.S. Have you seen my new book cover? Dead, White, and Blue, Book 2 in the Juniper Junction Mystery series, will be available for pre-order soon! If this is your first time seeing it, join my newsletter by clicking here! You’ll be among the first to see my cover reveals.

What do you think??

Author Spotlight: Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

Today on Reade and Write I welcome Carolyn Ridder Aspenson to the hot seat. She’s here to talk about her newest release, Get Up and Ghost. Welcome, Carolyn!

Tell me about your new book.

I just published the first book in a new paranormal cozy mystery series. Get Up and Ghost is a psychic medium mystery about a woman who works for the historical society in a small North Georgia town called Castleberry. She falls down the last part of the stairs at work, bumps her head and suddenly starts seeing ghosts. She doesn’t realize it at first, but it becomes fairly obvious quickly. When a local resident is murdered, and she’s the last one to see him alive, she’s determined to prove her innocence, with the help of a long-dead woman from the town, who’s also in need of her help.

 

Who is the audience for the book?

This is a cozy, so it’s clean — no sex, no swearing, no death on the page. The main character is a mother in her mid-forties and recently divorced, with two senior aged friends and a younger coworker, so I feel like I’ve hit a lot of the variants for different types of women.

Tell me about the setting of your book—how did you choose it, what kind of research did you have to do, why did you choose it?

I live in the southern part of North Georgia, and I know this area well. The town is fictional, but I modeled it after a few local towns nearby to give it a traditional small town, North Georgia appeal. Since I’ve lived here for 23 years, I have a fairly decent handle on the area, and have incorporated some of the local flare and stories into this first book, and the second one I’m working on for the series. Each of the ‘haunting’ type stories (the ghosts of time past) will have a bit of truth to them for the area. Well, truth in the sense that it’s a story from here, though I’m not sure the ghosts are actually real. I’ve yet to see any, though I’ve certainly looked!

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

Two things tie as the hardest part. First and foremost, I have another mystery series (it’s NOT a cozy by definition at all) with a psychic medium. I needed to make the character unique, and the storyline different. That character does make an appearance though, because she’s from an area close by. I also have another cozy series in a similar area, so I had to keep them different also. They are similar in some ways because there are two older women characters, but they are different types of older characters, and the main character is different. I’m hoping they will all be unique in their own ways.

If your book were made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the main characters?

Oh gosh. That’s a tough one. I’m still getting to know them all. I do feel like one of the older women is a bit similar to Betty White’s character on “Golden Girls,” but I think Betty’s retired by now! I’d definitely go with a Hallmark actress, because this series has that appeal, other than the paranormal element. I could see Erin Krakow as the lead. I think the two older women would be well played by someone like Sissy Spacek. Wouldn’t that be great to have someone of that caliber in a movie about my book? Gosh, I’d be so excited!

Have you written any other books?

I have, I think, 21 books out now. Some are novellas, but I’ve got about that many published. I’ve got my Angela Panther Mystery series, which is not the cozy mysteries, and then the Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy series. I also have a few romances, but those weren’t my thing. I guess I’m not very romantic! I’ve also done a great deal of ghost writing, but those books are all business and nonfiction.

Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?

I have a partner that I swap books with and we help each other, but other than that, no. I’ve found everyone has their own unique writing style, and I don’t like to infringe on that.

Do you write every day?

Since I’m now completely self-published (I was traditional for a while, but no longer) I consider this a business and treat it as such. I write for about 5 hours a day at this point and handle other business related things for an hour or so also.

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite genres?

I’m such a book snob! It’s a horrible thing. I grew up reading mysteries from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys to more intense thrillers by Jonathan Kellerman and the like. Hands down, my favorite writer is Robert B. Parker. The Spenser series is my favorite series. When Mr. Parker died, I cried. I am also a big fan of Robert Crais, and I love the Elvis Cole books so much.

Where would you like to go more than anywhere else on earth?

Back in time. I’d like to go back fifteen years to when my parents were both here and healthy and spend more time with them.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I think the same thing most people would. Write every single day. Learn the craft and do what you can to improve. Hire an editor. Writing a novel isn’t easy and there is a lot to learn to make it something others want to read. Learn that ever-changing element.

What is your favorite movie and why?

I have two. I love “Shawshank Redemption” because the friendship theme is astounding. I recently found out that Mr. King wrote that, (Yes, I live under a rock) and I was shocked! It’s not his typical book at all, but it was so good.

My second favorite is “When Harry Met Sally.” I just loved the concept of that and Billy Crystal? He was the perfect pick for that lead. I loved that story.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Care less about what other people think sooner.

Describe yourself in three words.

Wife. Mother. Friend.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you wanted me to?

Nope!

Where can readers connect with you?

I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolynridderaspensonauthor

My website is carolynridderaspenson.com where you can access my newsletter. I send it out once a week.

And I am also on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/carolynridderaspenson/.

I’m not a Twitter gal. I’m Italian. I need more than a few characters to say my thoughts.

Where can readers find your books?

Right now I’m primarily on Amazon, but Get Up and Ghost is on Kobo, iTunes and Barnes & Noble for a limited time. It just released there today!

The Lily Sprayberry Cozy Mystery Boxed Set (books 1-3) are at books2read.com/u/49oGEX.

Congratulations on your new release! Thanks for visiting. 

Until next time,

Amy

 

I Need Your Opinion!

photo courtesy of Arek Socha/pixabay

For a while now, I’ve been debating (with myself) what kind of freebie I should offer to new and existing newsletter subscribers. The arguing-with-myself is not working. So I thought, What better way to find out which freebie to use than to ask the people who follow me?

I’ve got a few ideas, so I’m going to ask you to check the answer you would prefer if you were signing up for my newsletter today. I won’t tell you which is my favorite idea.

And remember, if you are already a newsletter subscriber, I’ll certainly offer the freebie to you, too! If you’re not a subscriber, I invite you to sign up here.

Thanks for participating!

Until next time,

Amy

Last Tuesday Book Round-Up and Barbara Vey Recap

I just got home a few hours ago from the Barbara Vey Reader Appreciation Weekend (BVW19) and I am exhausted and still over the moon! The trip took a little longer than we planned, so when we pulled into Harrisburg, PA, at 2:30 this morning, we stopped and slept at a Hampton Inn for six hours before getting back on the road.

What an incredible experience BVW19 was! From the moment we arrived on Thursday afternoon until Sunday morning at 11:00, I was busy with events every waking minute. My favorites were the Saturday luncheon and the Sunday breakfast because I got to meet with readers in a small group. What a treat it was to spend the weekend with so many people who are passionate about books. I’d like to thank Barbara Vey and her team for the endless amount of hard work they put it to make the event so memorable and fun, and I’d also like to thank the readers for showing up and being so supportive and eager to learn about new-to-them authors. And don’t even get me started on meeting Meg Tilly, the keynote speaker and an acclaimed writer/actress/screenwriter/producer. It took me two full days to get up the courage to talk to her, but it made my day when I finally did.

I’ll be posting photos from the event on my Facebook page, so be sure to check them out!

I find that April tends to be a very busy month. For that reason, I didn’t get as much reading done as I had hoped. I finished three books, and I loved all of them. I know, I sound like a broken record, but I seem to have a knack for picking out great books.

Deadly Southern Charm, edited by Mary Burton and Mary Miley, is an anthology of short stories set in the South and featuring strong Southern women. If you read this book, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll love it. Full disclosure, I am friends with several of the authors, but I would love this book no matter what. Here’s my Amazon review:

“This was a spooky, fun, and thoroughly Southern collection of mysteries. Each one was so unique and so different from all the others that every time I should have closed the book and gone to bed, I would say to myself, “Just one more story.” So I lost a lot of sleep thanks to Deadly Southern Charm, and I’d do it again because it’s so much fun to read. Kudos to all the authors for such great writing.”

A Dangerous Mourning and Defend and Betray, books 2 and 3 in the William Monk mystery series by Anne Perry, were fabulous. A Dangerous Mourning had an ending that caught me off guard, but I realized after some thought that the ending was the only one possible. Defend and Betray deals with a pretty tough topic, and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it once I figured out what was happening. But I did, and I ended up giving both books 5 stars. They’re completely different from each other, which is a hallmark of a great mystery writer.

I’m off to clean out my email and get some sleep!

Until next time,

Amy

The 12 Slays of Christmas is Here!

Today’s the day–The 12 Slays of Christmas is live!

Thanks to everyone who has preordered the set and to everyone who plans to order it. We’re very excited to be donating all the proceeds from the sale of the set to pets displaced by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. If you haven’t ordered a copy yet, you can click this link and it’ll take you to our website, where you can click to order the set for 99¢ on your ereader of choice.

Anyone who gets my newsletter will find this post redundant–I’m too tired at this point to come up with something sparkly and new!

I’ll be back here next Tuesday with a recap of a chocolate tasting I attended last weekend, so stay tuned!

Until next time,

Amy

Book Lovers’ Tag

 

photo courtesy of ulleo/pixabay

Waaay back in October author and blogger Diana Peach published a blog called “A Book Lover’s Tag” (you can read it here) and I’ve been eager to play the game. Below is a list of questions in the game of Book Lover’s Tag. I encourage you to consider yourself tagged if you want to play! Just leave your responses in the comments below. And, like Diana, I will compile a list of favorite books and post it at a later date. Enjoy!

Do you have a specific place for reading?

No. I will read anywhere and everywhere. I’ve read in doctors’ offices, hospitals, schools, cars, buses, my bed, my couch, my desk, the patio, the beach, the pool, other people’s houses, parking lots, libraries, and the list goes on and on. You get the point.

Bookmark or random piece of paper?

Yes! I use anything at hand, whether it’s a bookmark or any piece of paper. I’ve also been known to use candy wrappers, nail files, my Kindle, ribbon, pens, etc.

Do you eat or drink while reading?

Not usually. I don’t want to get drips or spills on what I’m reading.

Music or tv while reading?

No! The only time I can tolerate that is when I’m in the car (as a passenger, not the driver!) and the rest of the occupants vote for music. Even then, I can only read magazines, not books.

One book at a time or several?

Several. Usually three.

Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?

I prefer to read at home, but I’ll read anywhere.

Read out loud or silently?

Silently, unless I’m reading non-fiction and it’s something I need to remember.

Do you read ahead or skip pages?

I try not to, but sometimes I just can’t bear to wait to see what happens next.

Break the spine or keep it like new?

I would love to keep my books like new, but I always end up breaking the spine. Well-used books are well-loved books.

Do you write in books?

Not usually.

What books are you reading now?

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers, Fifty Shades of Cabernet (a mystery anthology), and The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

What is your childhood favorite book?

That depends on what part of childhood you’re talking about. By the time I was eight I loved the Nancy Drew mysteries and I remember those very fondly. I also loved The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

What is your all-time favorite book?

I would say it’s a three-way tie: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. And, of course, I love anything by Phyllis Whitney (my favorite is Black Amber) and M.C. Beaton, author of the Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth series.

Tag, you’re it!

Until next time,

Amy

Blog Tour: Gus Kenney

You  might remember today’s guest from a post back in March of this year. Gus Kenney is the author of The Changeling and the Cupboard and The Complications of Being Lucy, among other books, and he’s here again to discuss his newest work, Traitor’s Niece, Book Three in The Complications of Being Lucy series.

Tell us about your new book, Gus.  

Traitor’s Niece: The Complications of Being Lucy Book 3 is categorized as Sci Fi/Fantasy / Action & Adventure / Folklore & Legend / Fantasy & Magic. Here’s a blurb:

Sever all ties.

Lucy is a pawn. A dark means to a deadly end.

An enemy, burning with centuries of betrayal, has made the opening move to shatter an already divided empire. His first step, the slaying of one of Lucy’s guardians. Broken with grief and compelled by rage, Lucy embarks on a journey of vengeance to the shadowed and forgotten corners of the five lands. With those she has left by her side, sacrifices will be made to bring her closer to retribution but only if she doesn’t succumb to the manipulations of a ruthless enemy first.

Buy Link: http://smarturl.it/traitorsNieceb3

Author Bio

Gus lives in western New York with his amazing wife and five four legged children. He decided he wanted to be a writer when he realized that he could never be a spy as good as Timothy Dalton’s Bond and that Hired Sword was not part of any growth industry. When he is not semi-busy writing, he spends his time pretending he knows what he is doing at a nine-to-five job and the rest of it complaining that it is taking way too long for them to start showing new episodes of his favorite cartoons. If you’re bored, or just a creeper, you can check out the insanity that doesn’t make it into his books on his social media outlets.

Author Links

https://www.facebook.com/gus.kenney

https://www.facebook.com/Lucybison/

https://www.twitter.com/LucyBison

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/telleroftalesoflucy

https://www.instagram.com/lucybison/

http://linkedin.com/in/gus-kenney-3599a2138

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13628983.Gus_Kenney

https://www.amazon.com/Gus-Kenney/e/B00UPGZ7SY/

http://bit.ly/ComplicationsOfBeingLucySeries

Email: guskenney@yahoo.com

Other Books In the series:

The Changeling and The Cupboard (The Complications of Being Lucy Book 1)

http://smarturl.it/CompOfLucyBk1

The Changeling and the Borrowed Family (The Complications of Being Lucy Book 2)

http://smarturl.it/CompOfLucyBk2

Care to share an excerpt with us?

“I feel bad for them.” I whispered to Frankie.

“Why?” He screwed up his eye as he pushed his glasses up his nose.

“Spending their whole life trapped in a fake world and having to constantly be under harsh scrutiny. Feeling like they have to act a certain way in front of total strangers. Not free to be themselves.” I shrugged. “Not to mention their diet.”

“I guess.” Frankie consented my point. “Sounds like it would be better to be locked up like an animal than be a popular kid.”

We watched as Regina and her clique posed by the fence while a trainer led a zebra over to stand behind them. They took multiple pictures with their phones of the animal they had been allowed to feed the watchful eye of the zoo staff while the rest of us got to hear all the interesting facts about the creature. So far they were leading the class in animal interactions, mostly in regard to things that were either very safe or cute. The teacher, a sucker to their machinations, let it happen as long as the other students turned down the opportunity to do it first. There were none that dared oppose them. It was only because kids from other schools that were touring the zoo today getting to the pens, cages, or habitats first that prevented Regina’s monopoly of feedings and petting.

“Trust me. I know what I’m talking about.” A fun phrase that I didn’t feel I often got to use on Frankie. “Popularity is overrated. Right, Palmer?”

Frankie and I glanced around and found the boy standing by the otter tank where we had been ten minutes ago. With the popular kids demanding the most attention, they congregated at the head of the tour and the rest of the class trailed behind like a comet of social hierarchy. Frankie, Palmer and I were at the back like little pieces of debris that get pulled from the trail when the comet’s flight takes it too close to an object of immense gravity. Right now that object, for Palmer at least, was otters.

“Buddy system.” I reminded Frankie, and he trudged over to get his friend. Uncle Mort turned around from his post amidst a few of the other parents and gave me a concerned look. I didn’t know if it was concern for my well-being or his own dissatisfaction with the situation. Mingling with the other adults he was forced to endure conversations about parenting woes, pro sports stories, job worries, and other problems faced by normal people. I managed a weak smile and this seemed to pacify him slightly. I almost felt bad for getting him involved with the field trip. I thought it might be fun going to the zoo, as I had never done so before, and he had been insistent that I travel nowhere, school function or otherwise, without him. Luckily for me the school was trying to save the money for getting us a bus and had parents volunteer to chaperone and drive. It had all worked out until we actually got here. The whispers and comments started quickly as my guardian, the mortician, joined us and his stern personality sealed my fate as forever a target of ridicule. He had asked me once after one particular comment reached his ears if I wanted him to speak to the teacher, since he was not prepared to assault a child in front of witnesses(his words), and I told him it wasn’t necessary. In truth it would only make things worse.

But worse came when I saw the animals and felt bad for their situation. It seemed that the first ten years of my life had been spent in a cage and some of these majestic creatures had been incarcerated long before I was born. They looked depressed and broken of spirit. Made me wish I could set them free like me. That’s a lie, I reminded myself. I was only living the illusion of freedom. As long as no one found out who I was then I was safe and free to live my life as my family saw fit. Monthly reports from Lord Cid’s adviser so far reported the illusion was holding. Just like the illusion that the animals around me were happy.

“He says he doesn’t agree with you.” Frankie said, walking back with Palmer in tow. It took me a moment to recall what we had just been talking about.

“Is that so?” I looked Palmer up and down, from his buzzed head to his ragged shoes.

“Yes.” He admitted. It was the longest conversation I had ever had with the boy.

“Well, you’re entitled to your opinion.”

“That’s it.” Frankie sounded shocked. “You normally argue with me whenever I say something in opposition to your ideas.”

“That’s because you’re my friend and therefore available to friendly discussions and disagreements about our views. Palmer is your friend and not privy to such treatments from me.” I informed my stunned friend.

“So because he is not your friend you aren’t going to disagree with him?”

“No. I’m not going to argue with him about his opinion because it doesn’t matter to me.” I glanced at Palmer and his face betrayed no sign of caring what I was saying about him. Clearly he shared my opinion on some level.

“But mine does?” Frankie scratched his head of unruly hair. “Because I matter to you?” He left it as a question which meant it was up to me to answer it or not. I decided not to since Frankie tended to draw his own conclusions. “I don’t think it works that way.”

“How about we go into the reptile house and discuss it?” I suggested, veering toward the enclosure in the center of the zoo. The class was being split up as the skittish and not surprisingly popular kids put up a fuss about dealing with the creatures contained within the building. The teacher left a few parents in charge of the group going inside and I whisked in behind them quickly. “Maybe you can find John Smith a girlfriend.”

“I think he would prefer a domesticated partner.” Frankie said, already excitedly running up to the first habitat he saw.

“You should mention that to your mom and dad and see what they say.” I laughed on the inside at the fun Cecilia and Tim would have with their son on the topic. I was unsure if my friend even heard me as his eyes were glazed in wonder at the large creatures piled up within their own coils in multiple enclosures. My fear of snakes had diminished thanks to Frankie’s pet python but being in a room full of them made me squirm as much as they did. I abandoned my friend to look at a few tanks full of turtles. Nice safe turtles. When I got bored watching them just look like parts of the scenery, I turned to find my friend. The room was mostly empty except for a man standing by the exit. I wasn’t sure if he had just arrived or was just leaving, but his presence was alarming to me. Not because of the large nose on his face or the tough look of his skin; it was simply because the Troll was looking at me with what felt like above average interest. I looked away to see if Uncle Mort had noticed him and discovered that he was not in the room.

Trying for calm and orderly, I went to the adjoining room and found the class and some adults, but still no uncle. He must be with the others, I grumbled in my head. How he would let that happen was a mystery, however I it put from my mind when I realized that the troll had followed me. I settled on finding Frankie and hurried to him.

“Do you recognize that guy?” I hissed in his ear and tried to not look obvious as I pointed the man out with a jerk of my head.

“No.” Frankie shook his head. “Do you think I know every Fey?”

“No. Just the famous ones.” And I was relieved that the Troll wasn’t one of them. “How do you approach someone that is probably glamoured?”

“You want to know how to go talk to a total stranger?” Frankie asked, and it made me feel like an idiot for even voicing the question. I had always figured that the Heralds had some kind of protocol, statute, or heck even a hand shake that let each of them know they were dealing with one of their own in the world outside the mounds. But Frankie was right, if you didn’t know them, why approach? And if you needed to you were probably someone of authority.

“Let’s go get my uncle.” I whispered and pulled Frankie from the class.

“Why? He is probably just some guy here to look at the–oh. Nope.” His eyes got huge in the refraction of his thick glasses as he saw, at the same moment I did, the shadow of a blade that appeared in the Troll’s hand. “Should we walk slowly and casually toward the exit?”

“I…” I shot a quick look to the man as Frankie and I angled from the group and around the central display, putting it between us and the Troll for a moment. He carelessly bumped an adult from another group of students and didn’t utter an apology. They say manners cost nothing but in this case it cost the Troll the illusion of being there on friendly terms. “No.” I took a deep breath to ready myself for what was to come next. “Run!”

I needn’t tell Frankie twice. He burst away from me in a blur that took me by surprise; much as seeing the Troll aggressively shoving people out of his path as he took chase. Knowing that looking back only impeded my progress, I focused on the distant exit and Frankie’s back, which I was gaining on. I caught up with him as the floor beneath us buckled and folded. Several people in the reptile house shouted in surprise at the tremors felt. I tripped over a piece of rock that suddenly jutted through the tile, skinning my knee when I hit the floor. I hissed in pain but knew better than to lay there. The Troll had managed to gain ground once the shifting ground settled back down.

“Ow.” Frankie moaned as I yanked him to his feet and we continued racing for the exit. By now several bodies were piled against it, sounding panicked.

“Capricorn.” I discovered the panic was because the frame had been crumpled in the Art induced quake and the heavy wooden doors would not budge.

“This way.” Frankie tugged my hand and I didn’t fight him as I thought he was leading me toward another exit. I didn’t see one beneath the dark shadows that formed when many of the light fixtures shook loose or just blew a bulb. “Sorry.”

“Oh no.” It dawned on me too late where Frankie was dragging me and I would never have been able to slow down anyway. “Nononononono!”

The senses-deadening darkness of the world inside the shadows swept over me as I was unwillingly shifted for the first time in almost a year. I thought my fear had peaked at running from a strange and hostile Troll, but being pulled into the land that Crouchers roamed ramped it up to nauseous levels. In times past I had, under my own volition, used Frankie’s ability to Shadow Shift to get places I needed to in a hurry. It had been uncomfortable and disconcerting every time, but being dragged into the darkness made the old fears of the first time I had shifted swell up in a suffocating wave that turned my insides nearly out. Blissfully, it lasted only a second and we were soon running (mostly Frankie dragging me for the first delirious steps) from the shadows just outside a thick canopy near the reptile house. My eyes screamed a discomfort to match my stomach as they adjusted and I searched for direction in the crowded zoo.

“Where’s your uncle?” Frankie asked the question I had been screaming in my head. I had a vague idea of where the tour was supposed to progress but quickly realized that we were running the wrong way. I jerked Frankie to a stop, needing a moment to catch my breath and explain. Before I could open my mouth to do more than suck air, the doors to the building we just fled exploded outward and the Troll came rushing toward us.

Thanks for stopping by, Gus! Best wishes with your new release.

Until next time,

Amy

 

Author Spotlight: Linda Berry

Today’s guest author is Linda Berry, whose new book, Pretty Corpse, was recently released. It’s getting fantastic reviews on Amazon and I’m honored to have Linda here today to talk about the book. The subject matter of the story is a little out of my comfort zone, but in Linda’s capable hands I think I’m going to enjoy it. I invite you to share your comments at the end of the post, but please note that Linda is very busy this week with promotion and other activities and may not be able to respond right away.

Tell us about Pretty Corpse.

The year is 1999. A serial rapist is targeting teen girls in San Francisco. While on patrol, Officer Lauren Starkley discovers one of the victims, and she’s shocked to find out the girl is a close friend of her daughter. The case instantly becomes intensely personal. Because she isn’t a detective, Lauren is restricted from investigating, but she does so nonetheless on her own time. Lauren has an uncanny ability to find obscure clues and link them together. Her relentless pursuit of the rapist draws her deeper into his world. He in turn, starts getting closer to Lauren and her daughter. Lauren needs to lure him out of hiding, fast, before her daughter becomes his next victim.

Your novels are filled with an interesting mix of characters. Tell us about that. 

My stories reflect the range of characters each of us knows in real life. We all have people we admire, people who threaten us or are just plain loony. I like to keep readers alert and surprised by creating several interrelated stories that and ebb and flow through the main story. We are all multi-dimensional, and have many stories happening simultaneously in our lives, and sometimes conflict erupts on many fronts. I like to get into those emotional tsunamis and explore a person’s breaking point, and how they deal with the challenge. Complex characters that are bitterly wounded or pathologically twisted are interesting to me. I like to contrast the most vile and repugnant aspects of human nature to the most heroic and noble, and throw some quirky characters in for good measure.

How did you research this police thriller?

To write authentically, I do extensive research. That doesn’t mean I let my fingers do the walking. I have to give a big thank you to the police officers at Mission Station in San Francisco in 2001, when I wrote this first draft. My research for Pretty Corpse came in the form of dozens of ride-alongs I did with various female patrol officers. I chose the night shift when the city was rife with criminal activity, and I got to see these courageous women in action. Several of my characters were inspired by the female cops I came to know, and also by the captain of the station, who gave generously of his time to help me authenticate my writing. Many of the side stories in Pretty Corpse are based on actual events relayed to me by police officers from Mission Station. 

Where do you write?

I write in a sunny office in my home overlooking a canal and peaceful wooded area. I live in Central Oregon, a resort town in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains.

You were an award-winning copywriter and art director for twenty-five years, and worked part of that time for the film industry. How did that experience shape your decision to become a novelist?

I had the privilege of collaborating with talented writers and some of the best editors in the business. I love books and have been an avid reader my entire life. I wrote novels as a passionate hobby. In fact, my three novels released this year by Winter Goose Publishing are the result of my efforts spanning a decade. Now that I’m retired, I write every day. It’s so much easier to produce good work when you can keep your train of thought moving forward, and are not constantly interrupted. 

What do you love most about your work?

I love the creative process itself—the challenge of developing and constructing plots that continually surprise the reader and hold them in a state of suspense. Writing is both a passion and a compulsion—a truly satisfying form of escape. My reward comes when a reader tells me they couldn’t put my book down and they talk about my characters as though they’re real people. Then I know I did my job well.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Happiness comes to me in many forms. Appreciation of life itself is the foundation of happiness. I find this planet miraculous, from subatomic matter to the galaxies in space. I enjoy the beauty of ecosystems, how so many forms of life—plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, insects—the smallest creature to the largest, are dependent on each other for survival. My idea of perfect happiness is living on a healthy planet where people live together in peace and are trusted guardians of nature.

What is your greatest fear?

Being impoverished, homeless, or mentally or physically impaired and dependent on others. I did undergo some terrible threats to my health six years ago. I had a bout of debilitating pain for about 8 months, which diminished my ability to enjoy life. I’m now completely recovered, and feel I’ve been given a second chance at life. The experience sharpened my awareness of how fragile life is, how it can be taken away in an instant, and how one might be forced to languish in pain for a period of time. It heightened my appreciation for the quality of life I have now, for every precious moment I’m healthy and independent.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Lack of patience. Sometimes I get caught up in the everyday demands of life, and the illusion that I don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do.  I have to remind myself at times to live in the moment, address what is happening right in front of me, and listen to people, even when I feel I’m short on time. Giving another human being a few minutes of conversation can make a huge difference in that person’s life. Kindness goes a long way.

Who in your profession do you most admire?

I read everything, and admire countless writers, from journalists to screen writers to poets to authors. I especially love mysteries, and I read an average of two books a week. If the writing is solid, and the story is well-constructed, I’ll read it regardless of genre.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Disconnecting from the world. Getting out in nature with my husband and our dog in our motorhome. I love being on a lazy schedule and disconnecting from social media, where the only decision I have to make is when to eat and what hikes to take. I can write in uninterrupted peace for hours at a time, surrounded by nature, sometimes listening to the gentle patter of rain, watching water drip off leaves. I love going to national parks, off season. We went to Bryce and Zion and Arches and the Grand Canyon two years ago. Last year we went to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, and this year we may be going to Yosemite.

On what occasion would you lie?

I don’t tell big extravagant lies, but I do tell baby lies frequently, mostly when complimenting people. For example: “no, your ass doesn’t look big in those jeans” or “you look marvelous” when in actuality, you look hungover, and you have stains on your shirt.

What do you dislike most in your work?

When I hit a brick wall and I have to stop writing, sometimes for days, while I process my story and play out different scenarios in my head. I never force the creative process. What generally helps me break through the logjam is reading. I’ll bury my nose in a good book, and before long, ideas start percolating to the surface. I also have a muse, my nail goddess, who’s held captive doing my mani/pedi for 2 hours, and I bounce ideas off her. She has a creative mind and has been a wonderful contributor to my stories for years.

When and where were you happiest in your work?

This current period in my life is the happiest. Now that I’m retired, I have the luxury of writing every day. I wake up eager to get to work. I take my coffee up to my sunny office and dig in. I believe I’m at my most happiest when my husband and I are traveling and we’re parked in a beautiful wilderness area and the peace of the place seeps into my bones. I can write with no interruption.

If you could, what would you change about myself?

I would take twenty years of physical wear and tear off my body. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, I would change nothing. If I had to lose twenty years of life experience to be in a younger body, I would say no. I’m more at peace with myself at this stage of life than I have ever been.

What is your greatest achievement in work?

Having three novels completed and coming out this year, 2017. It’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment to see the culmination of years of work and endless rewrites in a physical book. Hidden Part One and Pretty Corpse are out, and Hidden Part Two comes out in September. I’m expecting my fourth mystery, Quiet Scream, to be out in December or January.

What is your most marked characteristic?

My friendliness, and my sense of humor. I have always had a keen interest in people and I’m a good observer, passionately interested in humans and the world around me. I’m an optimist at heart, and I’ve been blessed with a jolly spirit. I enjoy socializing but the greater part of my waking life is spent in solitude, writing, reading, and doing projects.

What is your most inspirational location in your city?

I like to get out on the wilderness trails with friends and dogs. We have a beautiful river, the Deschutes, that meanders through town and its character changes every foot of the way. There are many meadows, sagebrush flats, waterfalls, and breathtaking views of the Cascade Range. The look of a wild river, the various sounds of water rushing, falling, cascading over boulders, is invigorating and soothing. Hiking clears my head of thoughts and worries and puts me in a state of peacefulness.

What is your best advice for beginning writers?

Write about something you love and then your passion will come out in your words. Write often, everyday, if possible. Read, read, read. I read one or two books a week, and I also watch movies and TV productions that tell good stories. I take notes. I have volumes of notes, and refer to them daily.

 

Watch Linda’s Youtube trailers:

Hidden: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-bNoFgaD9U&t=7s

Pretty Corpse: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QHSvirTYdw&feature=youtu.be

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/linda.berry.94617 

Website: www.lindaberry.net

Twitter:@LindaBerry7272

Contact: lindaberrywriter@gmail.com

Best of luck with the new book, Linda!

Until next time,

Amy