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Interview with Michael Murphy, Author of Scorpion Bay

Tell us a little about your main characters in Scorpion Bay. Who was your favorite?

Handsome and popular newscaster, Parker Knight is a rising star at a Phoenix television station. Just don’t call him “pretty boy.” His life is shattered in the opening chapter when his wife, a prosecuting attorney, is killed in a car bombing. When authorities seem unwilling or unable to pursue the most obvious lead, Parker uses his investigative newscaster skills and his background in the military Special Forces to go after the man he thinks is responsible for his wife’s murder. Parker is driven by the sudden loss of his wife. In spite of his quest for revenge, he vows not endanger the lives of his friends, but before his wife’s murder is solved, he learns he needs friends more than ever.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

This is an easy one; definitely Tina Banks. Author Alisha Paige recently mentioned during Academy Award time that if there were Oscars for literature, Tina would win best supporting actor in a novel. Tina “steals” every scene she’s in. She is the most interesting character in any of my seven novels, like an onion, she has many layers.

At the start of Scorpion Bay, the best friend Justin has a new girlfriend, Tina Banks. Tina enjoys being the center of attention is of the high maintenance category of girlfriend and prone to say and do the outrageous such as keeping a pet boa constrictor in her apartment. But Tina is also funny, gorgeous, and a deeply caring person, and Tina knows what she wants out of life. Parker and Justin would not have survived their numerous scrapes without Tina being there to help, especially at the end of the novel when their lives are in danger.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

Since I write mystery/suspense novels, I’m always researching police procedures, and the latest in forensic medicine. I did so for Scorpion Bay, including taking an eleven week citizens police academy that allowed me to drive a police vehicle, shoot weapons officers use and see the inside of a jail, which fortunately I’d never seen before. My main character is Parker Knight, a Phoenix newscaster. A local television station was very generous in showing me how newscasts are made. I hope the authenticity shows through in Scorpion Bay.

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

I write mostly mystery/suspense novels, so it’s fast paced with twists that will surprise readers, but my style of writing includes splashes of humor. The writer who has influenced me the most is Nelson DeMille, a great writer of thrillers and suspense, yet there are always laugh out loud moments in his books. I strive to do the same and in Scorpion Bay a tale that deals with murder, revenge and a desperate quest for justice, I think I’ve found moments that will make my readers laugh. At least I hope so.

How has your background influenced your writing?

I’ve always been an avid reader. I read Gone with the Wind when I was nine, all 1,027 pages. Guess I was a geek even back then, but reading novels has always been important in my life. Writing them, especially the kind I enjoy the most, mystery/suspense with a touch of humor, seemed like a logical thing to do.

Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader?

Surprisingly, my audience consists of an equal number of women as well as men. The male audience likes the suspense, danger and humor, while women seem to enjoy the surprising touches of romance and tender interactions between characters that doesn’t always occur in mystery and suspense novels.

Do you have a favorite snack food or favorite beverage that you enjoy while you write?

I allow myself one Diet Rockstar per day whenever I write. And on days that I don’t write, I usually sneak one anyway. I think I’m addicted.

What’s been the most surprising part of being a writer?

The most important thing I’ve learned about novel writing, is how much rewriting is involved. Learning this has made writing easier. Now when I write a first draft, I don’t worry about the details. I focus on characters and plot. When I’ve completed the first draft, it’s like an artist sketching an outline on a canvas. I go back repeatedly and add color and depth to the manuscript.

I’ve also learned to give myself freedom to cultivate characters and relationships. Often I’ll find characters surprising me. This allows characters to grow and develop providing depth to characterization and scenes. In nearly every novel, I’ve had one-scene characters become so likeable that they just have to spend more time on the page.

What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?

Unlike most mystery/suspense novels, mine are primarily character driven. In Scorpion Bay for example, not everyone would react to the death of their spouse the way Parker Knight does. His reaction and love for his wife drives the story.

In my opinion a good story has conflict throughout and characters the reader will care about. I don’t believe the story, what happens to the characters is nearly as important has how these events impact the character’s lives, how they’ve evolved and grown, or in some instances, how they’ve stuck to their principles and are not changed by events in the story. An example of this type of story would be the movie High Noon.

What are you working on right now?

My current work in progress is a real departure for me. It’s a story about the Woodstock nation, as they are now and what it was like those three magical days in August of 1969. There’s plenty of humor and of course sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Hey, it was the sixties!

Click here to read the first chapter of: Scorpion Bay

Click here to read an excerpt of: Scorpion Bay

Click here to buy: Scorpion Bay

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Excerpt from Scorpion Bay by Michael Murphy

A high tech motorcycle, a black disguise, a crusading newscaster’s quest for justice.When a car bomb kills the prosecuting attorney and a key witness against a powerful bioengineering industrialist, the blast shatters the life of the attorney’s husband, popular Phoenix television investigative reporter, Parker Knight. After authorities hit a dead end, Parker risks his career and his life to seek his own revenge. Riding a high tech motorcycle and wearing a black disguise, the crusading newsman inadvertently becomes a media created superhero jeopardizing his quest for justice.

Excerpt:

Parker counted on Carl thinking he was just some pretty boy television reporter. Lenny cleaned his fingernails with his knife and seemed more interested in the sports report about the Suns. Parker might not get a better chance.

“Tyler, Remember me, Punk? How’s your head?” Carl said on the cell phone. “Shut up and listen. Someone wants to talk to you.” He held out the phone to Parker.

Parker leaped to his feet. He swung a kick that cracked across Carl’s face. Blood gushed from the man’s nose as he howled and tumbled against the table. The cell phone clattered to the floor as Lenny shrieked and dropped the knife.

With shock giving way to hatred in his eyes, Carl pulled the gun from his waistband. Parker punched the bastard in the jaw with both fists, knocking him off balance. As Carl stumbled backward, blood flowing down his face, he pulled the trigger. A shot shattered Marissa’s image on the television. The screen exploded into a shower of sparks and burnt electronic smell.

Lenny picked up the knife and jabbed the blade toward Parker’s neck.

Parker sidestepped the thrust and kicked Lenny’s ass, sending him sprawling under the table.

One more punch to the face sent Carl onto his back. The gun cracked against the wall and fell to the floor. Parker kicked it across the kitchen.

Lenny scrambled from beneath the table and lunged with his knife. Parker blocked the blow with his forearm but the blade sank to the bone. Ignoring the pain, Parker sprinted into the living room and threw open the front door. A shot splintered the doorjamb above his head.

Outside, Parker spotted his Kawasaki parked in the driveway in front of the white van. Biting at the tape around his wrists, he dashed across the rain-slickened lawn and ripped off the binding.

Parker sprinted to the bike and grabbed the extra key he always kept in the saddlebag. He leaped onto his bike and inserted the key. A shot blew the left mirror apart in a burst of shards. Parker gunned the bike behind the van as two more shots slammed into the side of the van shattering the quiet of the dark neighborhood.

The motorcycle fishtailed on the wet street. Parker glanced back to see Carl and Lenny scramble into the van. With cold rain lashing his face, Parker skidded around the corner, regained control and checked back over his shoulder as the van shrieked in pursuit.

Unfamiliar with the neighborhood, Parker raced through the streets and approached a red light at the six-way intersection of Grand Avenue near the fairgrounds. Hoping to elude the two men in traffic, Parker took a quick glance over one shoulder then ran the light, turning north in front of a fast moving one-ton pickup.

Blasting its horn and squealing its tires, the pickup swerved and clipped the back of Parker’s bike. The Kawasaki’s rear tire slid, the handlebars wobbled and the motorcycle veered toward the center island.

With a jolt, the bike hit the curb. Parker somersaulted into the landscaped median and landed beside a saguaro cactus. His head slammed against the hard ground as the bike slid into oncoming traffic. A squeal of tires on the wet pavement was followed by a crunch of metal. A semi crushed the Kawasaki like a cheap beer can.

Head buzzing and rain dripping onto his face, Parker saw the driver from the pickup climb out and rush to his side. “Don’t move,” the man said. “I called nine-one-one.”

“Where’s the white van?”

“What white van?” The man ripped off his Diamondbacks jacket and stuffed it under Parker’s head. Feeling lightheaded, Parker gazed across the intersection and spotted the van stopped at the traffic light. The image blurred, and Parker drifted into unconsciousness.

***

Award winning novelist Michael Murphy is a full time writer and part time urban chicken rancher. He and his wife make their home in Arizona with their two cats, four dogs and five chickens. He enjoys writing mystery and suspense novels with twists and turns and splashes of humor. Scorpion Bay is his seventh novel.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Scorpion Bay

Click here to read an interview with: Michael Murphy

Click here to buy: Scorpion Bay

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She Had to Know by Coco Ihle

After the deaths of her adopted parents, Arran discovers her long lost sister’s name and, despite a terrifying premonitory dream, embarks on a quest to find Sheena. After reuniting in Scotland, the sisters search for the reason their birth father and his housekeeper mysteriously died and why Sheena’s life is being threatened. Led to a cryptic rhyme rumored to map the way to an ancient hidden treasure buried deep in the bowels of Wraithmoor Castle, the sisters follow the clues. A murderer follows the sisters. Will the secret passages lead them to discovery and triumph, or death and eternal entombment?

Excerpt:

Hours of compiling, arranging, rearranging and packing had left Sheena’s body fatigued, but her brain wouldn’t rest. She kept thinking about her father’s unknown cause of death. Something distracting would help, perhaps a book to read. Several were on the nightstand, and she looked through them. The Magus, by John Fowles, she’d already read. The next was Barbarians at the Gate, by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar. No, not in the mood. The third book was most curious. The aged volume of The Nature Library on Birds, by Neltje Blanchan, seemed especially heavy for such a small size. Sheena was immediately intrigued. The front cover had an illustration of a bluebird family: male, female and chick. How odd. This hardly seemed the kind of book her father would read.

The shock came when she opened the front cover. Inserted in a precisely cutout hole in the pages was a gun. Carefully, she extracted the weapon by the wooden grip and held it in the palm of her hand under the bedside lamp to get a better look. “MADE BERETTA USA CORP” was etched on one side of the blue-black metal barrel. The .22-caliber semi-automatic, just like the one she had learned to shoot a few years ago, was loaded.

As she was carefully returning the gun to the hiding place, she noticed a folded piece of yellowed paper tucked in the bottom of the hole. Laying the gun on the bed, she reached in to retrieve it and noticed the edges of the folds were weak and brittle. As she was carefully unfolding them, she felt a firm lump between her finger and thumb. A cracked piece of cellophane tape was stuck to one side of the paper, and under that, a key. A safe-deposit key. Stamped into the flat surface, were the initials, “CMB.” Chase Manhattan Bank on Madison Avenue, a few blocks away, was the bank on her father’s monthly statements. Why wasn’t this key in Father’s study with his other papers?

Turning the book over, she discovered another surprise. Inside this cover was another cut out section containing a small leather notebook, underneath which, a thick piece of cardboard separated the two compartments. She opened the notebook to the first page. In the upper right corner was written, “Oct./Nov.” Centered below was “This Book Belongs To: J.W.B.,” her father’s initials.

She plumped up two pillows and leaned back against the headboard, excited by this new discovery which appeared to be a journal. The entries were sporadically dated, and the writing, in her father’s hand, was scribbled and barely legible, as though written in a hurry. He had used initials rather than full names throughout. She read aloud the last entry dated the week before he died:

“Have the feeling I’m being followed. Yesterday, a car almost hit me outside the hotel. Driver didn’t stop, too dark to see license plate. Wonder if it has something to do with running into P.S. last week? Never liked that greedy snake.”

Sheena’s intake of breath was followed by an icy chill shivering through her body. With pounding heart she looked across the room at the photograph of her parents, singling out her father’s image and said, “What in the world happened to you? Did you die naturally? Or were you murdered?”

***

Coco, a product of foster care and adoption, spent over fifty years searching for her sister, whom she found in 1994. Thus the idea for SHE HAD TO KNOW was born. She discovered Scottish roots and plays harp and bagpipes, along with piano and cello. The Florida Writer’s Association published a short story of hers in 2009 in their first anthology. Coco is a member of MWA; SinC; FWA; The Alma Society, which aids in family searches; the DorothyL Digest and the Scottish St. Andrew’s Society.

 Click here to read the first chapter: She Had to Know

Click here to buy: She Had to Know

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The Magic Fault by Paul Mohrbacher

The Magic Fault unfolds in Turin, Italy, where the Catholic Church’s most revered relic has been stolen by a mysterious sect from the city’s cathedral. The theft occurs during the 2004 Salone del Gusto, Turin’s celebration of “good, clean, and fair food” sponsored by the international Slow Food Movement. Tom Ueland, an American Midwest college history professor and journalist who writes about magical thinking, is in Turin to vacation with a friend, Rachel Cohen, an exhibitor at the celebration. He’s also there at the invitation of the Turin archbishop, himself a student of magical thinking. Tom takes up the chase after the Shroud of Turin and is spun toward a resolution he never sees coming.

The Magic Fault will resonate with people who love the drama of European history, with those who follow religious debates, and with people passionate about where and how the world’s food is grown. Mystery lovers will have fun trying to figure out the resolution before the protagonist does. And the “magic” theme adds to the mystery.

Excerpt:

He never would have been in that church yesterday if not for one other person. A month earlier, he had received a letter from the archbishop of Turin, a priest named Michael Tucci. Tucci had read an article on magical thinking in the New York Times arts section. In the article, Tom had been quoted as an authority on the topic. He summarized the Historian Norman Cantor’s insights into medieval behavior during the Black Plague of the 14th Century: Christians blamed the Jews for the plague. “Scapegoating is magical thinking,” Tom wrote. “And it goes on today. We blame the ‘other’ for everything wrong in our lives. Religious extremists are often the worst offenders.”

The priest wrote that he was deeply fascinated by the topic and invited him to Turin. Tom wrote back he’d be there in a month. Yesterday was to be the day for the meeting. Tom had decided to check out the famed Shroud of Turin relic first.

Now it looked as though he might not get to see the priest. Next stop: The U.S. consulate in Turin, if there was one. And he needed a lawyer.

Another knock on the door; the big guy barged in and spoke actually using nouns and verbs. “The archbishop of Turin wants to see you.”

Tom looked at his watch — 7 a.m. The cop had brought him a shaving kit, a cappuccino and a bag of fresh bread and rolls. “Get dressed, please, and I will be back in thirty minutes.” “Please” meant something for sure — he was cleared.

“It’s about time. Is it a trial, the inquisition, what the hell is going on?”

The big cop had undergone a personality change from the night before. He even looked smaller. “The archbishop will meet you in the Duomo. The scene of the crime. Then of course, if all goes well, you are free to go about your business in Torino.”

***

The Magic Fault is Paul Mohrbacher’s first venture into genre fiction. His writing career began as a playwright. His first script for the stage, The Chancellor’s Tale (The Dramatic Publishing Company), won first prize in the 1991 Julie Harris Playwright Award Competition and has received numerous productions and readings. Born in Duluth, Minnesota, he was a Catholic priest for 16 years. He lives with his wife, Ruth Murphy, in St. Paul, surrounded by grandchildren.

(Photo by Andrea Cole Photography)

See also:
Chapter One of The Magic Fault
Interview with Paul Mohrbacher

Click here to buy: The Magic Fault

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One Hot January by J. Conrad Guest

In One Hot January, Joe January, an emotionally aloof private investigator from the South Bronx, gets more than he bargains for when he uncovers this seemingly impossible plot of time travel and alternate realities by grudgingly agreeing to help a pretty young woman locate her missing father. Her father, a Professor of Archeology from Columbia College, must prevent the secret location of Hitler’s body, which lies in a cryogenic state awaiting a cure for cancer, from falling into the wrong hands. By the end of the novel, January is thrust one hundred years into the future, where he must survive on a century-old sagacity as he endeavors to find his way back to his own time and the woman he loves but lacked the courage to tell. The tale concludes in January’s Thaw, to be released later this year.

Excerpt:

“Good morning,” Melissa said, her voice sounding bright and cheerful from behind us.

“That it is,” I said, turning.

Let her go on thinking we were standing here admiring the sunrise, I thought wryly.

“Set down your suitcase and help yourself to some coffee, Miss MacIntyre,” I added, moving to my desk.

Lindy left my office for her own unaware, as Melissa stepped aside to let her pass, of the blue eyes that were attempting to gauge just where her responsibilities as my gal Friday might end.

“Thank you, no,” Melissa said. “Coffee’s something I never acquired a taste for. My preference is for tea.”

“What a pity,” I said, although my tone betrayed none. I sat down and, once again inhaling deeply of the aroma from the cup I still held, added, “The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it that the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce.”

“Why, Mr. January! I had no idea you were a reader of Oliver Wendell Holmes.”

“I’m not,” I said flatly, unable to recall where I’d heard or read the adage I had just adduced. “I don’t care for tea.”

Melissa laughed, the sound taking me by surprise. Yesteryear’s child was gone, I noted again, replaced by this more cultivated, ripened, much more sophisticated woman, her teeth just as straight and just as white as I remembered from that long ago night at Minton’s. For a moment I softened, and a different image of Melissa played itself across my mind, this one naked and squirming in ecstasy beneath me—

“Mr. January?”

“I’m sorry,” I said, embarrassed by the fictive vision of a moment ago. “You were saying?”

“I asked if it were necessary that we maintain such a formal arrangement.”

No, I told myself, refusing to allow the remnants of that other Melissa to reassert itself. It’s best to keep business separate from pleasure—at least until such time I can be certain for whose side she’s playing.

To Melissa, I said, “I’m in your employ, Miss MacIntyre, and until we sever our business arrangement, I prefer keeping our relationship strictly business.”

“You weren’t working for me last night,” she said, baiting me. When I wouldn’t bite, she added, “Have it your way, Mr. January.”

I ignored her jest and pulled from one of my desk drawers the shoulder holster that housed my Colt Detective Special .38. Melissa’s eyes went wide.

“You don’t think you’re going to need that, do you?” She sounded as if she were having second thoughts about accompanying Lance and me to Indianapolis.

“You never know,” I said, slipping the holster over my head. “I’d hate to get all the way to Indianapolis just to wish I’d brought it along.”

***

J. Conrad Guest’s writing credentials include January’s Paradigm, first published in 1998 by Minerva Press, London, England. Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings,  available from Second Wind Publishing, was adopted by the Illinois Institute of Technology as required reading for their spring 2011 course Baseball: America’s Literary Pastime. Several of Guest’s short stories and non-fiction pieces have appeared on Internet publications, including Cezanne’s Carrot, Saucy Vox, River Walk Journal, 63 Channels, The Writers Post Journal and Redbridge Review. Blood and Thunder: Musings on the Art of Medicine published in November 2005 Mother’s Day: Coming to Terms with the Cruelty of Parkinson’s, a memoir chronicling his mother’s battle against Parkinson’s. 

Click here to buy: One Hot January

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Vendetta: A Deadly Win by Nancy A. Niles

COMPULSION, RETRIBUTION, TWISTED ATONEMENT

When Private Investigator, Tina Munroe agrees to help out an old friend little does she know the danger she’s put herself and her loved ones in. Billy Hutchins is being stalked by a killer who has a bead on him and Tina’s desire to protect Billy places her squarely in the stalker’s sights. She encounters vandalism, a psycho with a Molotov cocktail, a gangster who has his own agenda for mixing into her case and a high speed chase through the city of Las Vegas. The reader is taken to Laughlin, Nevada, The Lake Mead Marina, the World Series of Poker in Vegas and a trek through the pouring rain in the pitch black of night through a snake infested desert. Time is running out when her friend and assistant, Megan is kidnapped. Have Tina’s actions to save one friend caused another friend to die? Can she stop the killer in time? Could the killer be someone she knows and trusts?

Excerpt:

He just couldn’t believe the luck these people had. A cunning, slippery bunch. He’d never held much belief in God or Satan. Sure, he’d gone to church on a regular basis when he had been a kid, but it all seemed like so much make believe. Now, since he’d come face to face with this darkness he’d been forced to reassess even his most fundamental ideas. Evil had invaded his life with what seemed a supernatural force. Did that mean God did not exist?

Good and evil are two sides of the same coin he’d heard a preacher say. That preacher had also said evil is right here all around us, only we’ve gotten accustomed to it’s face and can’t see it anymore. That’s why it can invade our lives and destroy us.

And evil had been staring him right in the face all these years. His eyes had become opened when he’d been in that mental hospital. About all they ever did consisted of watching television and keeping everyone sedated.

But there had been a power at work there. The hand of God had come down and touched him in The Gregson Mental Hospital…

***

Nancy Niles is a native Las Vegan who has traveled extensively by road from coast to coast and into Canada and Mexico. She is a member of the Private Eye Writer’s of America and has had numerous poems published by The International Library of Poetry. Her poem “Red Cross Thoughts,” won an Editor’s Choice Award. Nancy is a graphic artist and worked as an extra in the movie Con Air.

“I love adventure and am always looking for new things to learn and new places to go. I created my main character, Tina Munroe with that same spirit.”

Click here to buy: Vendetta

Click here to read the first chapter: Vendetta

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Excerpt from Light Bringer by Pat Bertram

Light Bringer is Pat Bertram’s latest novel, scheduled for release by Second Wind Publishing in March, 2011.

Description of Light Bringer:

Becka Johnson had been abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Chalcedony, Colorado when she was a baby. Now, thirty-seven years later, she has returned to Chalcedony to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? Why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? Who is Philip, and why does her body sing in harmony with his? And what do either of them have to do with a shadow corporation that once operated a secret underground installation in the area?

Excerpt (Prologue):

Helen Jenks gripped the steering wheel and squinted into the darkness beyond the beam of the Volkswagen’s headlights. Nothing looked familiar. Was she almost home? The snow had stopped falling, but in these hills so far from town, the county didn’t bother to plow. She didn’t know if she drove on the right road, or any road at all. There were no other cars, no tire tracks.

Where was everyone?

She sighed. Home in bed, probably, where she would be if she hadn’t pulled a double shift at the hospital.

Hearing an odd drone, she cupped a hand behind an ear and tried to isolate the sound from the rumble of the Volkswagen engine. Was something wrong with the bug? Oh, please, no.

All at once the sky lit up. She leaned forward for a better view and caught sight of a brilliant star that seemed to throb in time with her heartbeat, growing brighter with each pulsation.

She sat back and rotated her head around her stiff neck. Maybe it was Venus. Hadn’t she read that at certain times of the year, under certain conditions, Venus could be as big and as bright as the moon?

Leaning forward again, she saw the star pulse one last time, then wink out. As she became used to the darkness it left behind, it reappeared, darted toward the horizon, and vanished. So, not Venus. Perhaps a meteor or two.

She listened for the drone, but no longer heard it. Good.

Ten minutes later, she noticed a pin prick of light in the distance: her porch light. Her car slid to the side, and she gripped the steering wheel harder. Be careful, she cautioned herself. You’re not safe at home yet.

When at last she parked in front of her old frame house, she pried her fingers off the steering wheel and stumbled out of the car. Except for the dings and pops of the cooling engine, the world was silent, appearing so new and un-touched, she hesitated to mar the opalescent expanse with her footprints. Then her eyebrows drew together. The snow wasn’t untrodden after all. Tracks led to the house where a small gray creature huddled against the door.

She clapped her hands. “Shoo. Shoo.”

The creature did not stir.

“Go on. Get,” she shouted.

The creature still didn’t move. Was it dead? This wouldn’t be the first time a dying animal had been attracted to the warmth seeping from beneath the front door.

She approached gingerly, relaxing when she saw what appeared to be an old gray blanket that had somehow ended up on the stoop. She bent over to collect the wad of fabric, then straightened. Bad idea. Who knew what vermin had taken refuge in the folds.

Before she could figure out what to do, the blanket moved. She jumped back and stared at it. The blanket moved again, giving her a glimpse of a coppery curl.

She lifted the bundle, cradled it in her arms, and drew back the blanket. Two dark eyes, shining with intelligence, gazed at her.

She sucked in a breath. An infant, no more than nine months old.

As the infant continued to gaze at her, its eyes brightened to gleaming amber. Then it beamed at her—a welcoming smile, both joyous and knowing, as if it had recognized a dear friend.

Helen’s face felt tight. “Who are you?”

The baby chortled in response.

“And who left you here?” She glanced at the tracks. They led in only one direction—toward the house.

Feeling dizzy, she crouched to examine the tracks more closely.

They were footprints. Tiny footprints in the snow.

She staggered to her feet and followed the impressions to see where they had originated, but there were no footprints beyond her driveway. No tire tracks, either, other than her own. It seemed as though the baby had appeared out of nowhere and headed straight for her front door. All by itself.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of More Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fire,  and Daughter Am I.

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The Pirate’s Bastard by Laura S. Wharton

The Pirate’s Bastard by Laura S. Wharton took six years to research and write. Laura deftly weaves fiction into fact, blurring the lines between the two for this story. It is a rollicking ride through colonial North Carolina and beyond with Edward Marshall, illegitimate son of infamous pirate Stede Bonnet, as he tries hard to separate his past from his future. He’s doing well with his plans, until his father’s former right hand shows up with secrets to tell and blackmail in mind. 

Excerpt:

The rest of the evening Jenkins and Edward got along well. Edward learned that Thaddeus Jenkins, his wife Isabel, and their daughter Sarah moved to Wilmington just a few years earlier from Annapolis, Maryland.  Jenkins was successful in Annapolis as a merchant.  He said that competition from other businesses in town was getting stiff as Annapolis’ popularity grew, so he decided he would do well by being one of the first merchants in Wilmington.  Isabel, he told Edward, was not keen on the idea of moving to “the backwoods,” knowing that Wilmington lacked culture and fashion and the grand parties for which Annapolis was famous.  But she soon grew to like the idea of being one of the grand dames of Wilmington’s burgeoning society, and within a few years, was as busy as ever with activities that helped make the town a more delightful place to live – and a more profitable town for her husband, Jenkins winked.   

Jenkins was not as forthcoming about his daughter as Edward would have hoped over supper, but he did not discourage Edward, either.  By the end of the evening, Edward was at least sure that Sarah was not betrothed to anyone.  He escorted Jenkins back to the wharf and to his schooner.  A dim light could be seen hanging on deck, and one down below glowed through a porthole.  Aboard were two men, one man in a pale shirt and tattered pants working on repairing the torn sail. The other lounged against an oak barrel.  His wide-brimmed hat was tilted on his bowed head, and his arms were crossed over his burley chest.  He offered no help to his companion, and despite his apparent advancing years, his physique was that of a strong man.

“Many thanks to you Edward, for the meal.  We shall set sail with the tide, which the man there tells me is at dawn,” Jenkins pointed to the man who rested against the barrel. “Surely you know the tides here better than I do, so I will expect you to join us early to guide us up the river.”

“I assume your man knows these waters well.  I will be here to offer any assistance I can,” Edward said, bowing slightly.  “King Moore’s plantation is off the main river and the passage is narrow.  It is an easy sail from here.  I will see you at dawn.”

Edward watched Jenkins totter up the wooden ramp to his schooner, and then board with a little help from the man in the wide hat.  Edward then headed back toward home.  From the looks of the man Jenkins suggested was the captain, Edward was more settled in his answer as to why Jenkins thought better to not bring Sarah along.

***

Laura S. Wharton has been a freelance writer since 1990. She has published over 500 magazine feature articles, CD-Roms for the travel industry featuring fictitious characters who help tell the stories of historic coastal cities such as Charleston, New Orleans, St. Augustine, and Savannah, and numerous articles and columns for newspapers. Her debut novel, The Pirate’s Bastard is published by Second Wind Publishing. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and son. Visit her blog,  http://laurawharton.blogspot.com/, for more information. 

Click here to read the first chapter of: The Pirate’s Bastard

Click here to buy: The Pirate’s Bastard  

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Excerpt From More Deaths Than One by Pat Bertram

More Deaths Than One: Bob Stark returns to Denver after 18 years in Southeast Asia to discover that the mother he buried before he left is dead again. He attends her new funeral and sees . . . himself. Is his other self a hoaxer, or is something more sinister going on? And why are two men who appear to be government agents hunting for him? With the help of Kerry Casillas, a baffling young woman Bob meets in a coffee shop, he uncovers the unimaginable truth.

This is the beginning of the first Chapter of More Deaths Than One, available from Second Wind Publishing.

“What do you think of a guy who embezzles from his own business?”

Bob Stark recognized the voice of the graveyard shift waitress, the attractive one with the black hair. He glanced up from his contemplation of the scars on the laminated plastic table and saw her standing by his booth, gazing at him, her eyebrows quirked. She seemed to expect a response, but he had no idea what to say. And why would she ask him such a question? Though he’d been coming to Rimrock Coffee Shop for four weeks now, she’d never deviated from her standard lines of “What’ll you have?” and “Here you go.”

He took a surreptitious look around. Except for the two drunks arguing in a corner booth and a cook cleaning the grill in the kitchen, he and the waitress were the only two people in the twenty-four-hour coffee shop.

Beneath the overly long bangs, her dark eyes gleamed, giving him the impression of laughter. “Yes, I am talking to you.”

“I’ll have hot chocolate,” he said, adhering to the unwritten script.

With a flip of her wrist, she brushed the hair off her face. Her skirt flounced as she whirled away from the table, and Bob noticed that she had nicely muscled thighs. Good calves, too. Not wanting her to catch him staring, he picked up a newspaper someone had left behind and leafed through it.

The waitress returned with his beverage. “What would you do if you were a girl who just found out her boyfriend is embezzling from himself?”

Bob stirred his hot chocolate, trying to think of the right response, but nothing came to mind.

“Men!” she said, hurrying off to answer the ringing telephone.

Later, after the drunks had stumbled out into the night, she came back to Bob’s table carrying a cup of coffee for her and another cup of hot chocolate for him.

He raised his palms. “I didn’t order this.”

She sat across from him. “Let’s not quibble over details.” She sipped her coffee, eyes laughing at him over the rim of the cup, then she set the empty cup aside.

Folding her arms on the table, she leaned forward and stared into his face. “What do you have to say for yourself? And who are you? You’ve been coming in here every night, real late, and you never talk except to order hot chocolate.”

She leaned back. “I bet you can’t sleep. That’s why you come, isn’t it? What’s the problem? Bad dreams?”

Bob felt a shudder go through him. He came here to get away from the nightmares, not remember them. He took a gulp of chocolate, grateful for the warmth sliding down his throat.

“You’re a shy one,” she said. “And you never did answer my question.”

He lifted one shoulder in a disinterested shrug. “You asked a lot of questions.”

“The one about the girl finding out that her boyfriend is embezzling from himself.”

“Depends on their relationship. Is she involved in the business?”

“She helped him start it, works in the office during the day, and waits tables at night to pay the rent.”

“Then he’s embezzling from her, too.”

She flicked the hair out of her eyes. “You’re right. God, what a fool I’ve been. Ever since I found out he’s been cheating on his business, I’ve been wondering if he’s been cheating on me. That son of a rabid dog. He promised we’d get a house together as soon as the business did well enough, and it turns out we could have been living in our own place for several months now.”

“Even if he’s not cheating on you physically,” Bob said, “he’s cheated on you morally.”

“I want someone who’s honest and true to himself, someone who likes and respects himself so he can like and respect me. Is that too much to ask?”

The door opened. A young couple entered. Mouths locked together, they slid into a booth and groped beneath each other’s clothes.

The waitress stood. “I better go remind them this isn’t a motel.”

Grateful to be alone, Bob sipped his hot chocolate and read the newspaper.

The Broncos still reeled from their humiliation at the previous Super Bowl, having lost to the Redskins forty-two to ten.

Two youths found a man’s decomposing body in a culvert off the South Platte River. The man had been tortured; the work of a gang, the police surmised.

Silverado faced insolvency, having squandered one hundred million dollars on bad loans.

And Lydia Loretta Stark was dead. Again.

***

Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado and a lifelong resident. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book — character and story driven novels that can’t easily be slotted into a genre — she decided to write her own.More Deaths Than One was Bertram’s first novel to be published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC. Also available are Daughter Am I and A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

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Excerpt of Ghost Mountain by Nichole R. Bennett

Have you ever moved? Have you ever had an encounter you just can’t rationally explain away? Then you know exactly how stressful either of those situations can be. Now imagine moving your entire family to an area considered sacred for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and having a spirit insist you get involved with solving a murder.

Welcome to Cerri Baker’s life!

Named after a pre-Christian Celtic Goddess, Cerri has spent her life trying to avoid the spirituality and hocus-pocus her mother embraces. Now in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Cerri doesn’t seem to have much choice as a spirit guide insists she find justice for a murdered man. As she struggles with her own destiny, Cerri must also convince the FBI that she is getting her information from another realm and not from first-hand knowledge of the murder.

Excerpt:

“I’m not sure what I can tell you, sir . . . Officer . . . Agent Oliver . . .” I paused. What I was supposed to call the man standing before me? “We just moved here,” I said closing the door behind him and hoping he wasn’t a serial killer, posing as someone from the FBI.

He followed me to the kitchen where I offered him a glass of water or tea.

“You are Cerridwen Lynn Baker, correct.” It wasn’t a question. I could tell that he knew precisely who I was, but I had no idea how he knew.

What do you say to an FBI agent in your home? Is there a correct protocol for that?

“Is there something I can help you with? I don’t understand why you’re here.” I hoped that sounded more like a statement than a question. It occurred to me that maybe this was part of a background check for some new assignment of Dad’s, although I’d never met one of the “background check guys”—as my sister and I called them when we were growing up—so rude and downright scary.

The mountain-sized man continued as if I hadn’t spoken at all. “How well did you know Scott Curtis?”

“Who?” I mumbled the word before I could even comprehend what he had asked. His rudeness made the biggest impression on me. This man must have gotten his manners out of a Cracker Jack box.

“Scott Curtis. He was found at the base of Devils Tower. I’d like to know how you knew him.” The agent’s steel grey eyes stared at me with such intensity I had to look away.

My throat went dry and there was a hole in the pit of my stomach. I wanted to vomit. Even without looking in a mirror, I was sure I had lost all color in my face. Stammering, I replied, “I didn’t.”

I could see the man’s jaw muscles clenching as he stared me down.

Agent Oliver took a deep breath. “You called the tip line yesterday. You gave the name of the victim and knew he was from Rapid City. In addition, you knew other aspects of the crime that had not been released to the public. Now, I’ll ask you again. How well did you know Scott Curtis?”

It was my turn to take a deep breath, hoping it would steady my nerves. It didn’t. Instead a new wave of nausea hit me like a brick wall. I was pretty sure an answer like “Well, this spirit told me Scott’s name and how he was shot. Why don’t you grab an Ouiji board and ask the spirit these questions?” would cause me more trouble than I was already in.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Ghost Mountain by Nichole R. Bennet

Bio:

After first being published in Daisy Magazine at the ripe, old age of 7, Nichole never dreamt of any other career. To help her achieve that goal, she became a DINFOs trained killer for the US Air Force.

An avid mystery reader from a young age, Nichole has devoured Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe, and Agatha Christie. Nichole has also had an ongoing fascination with the supernatural — everything from angels and spirits to ghosts and hauntings. It’s only natural that she combine her two interests to create mysteries with a paranormal twist.

She lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband, two daughters, three dogs, and four cats.

When she’s not writing, Nichole can be found reading, knitting socks, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, or spending too much time online.

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