Exclusive Excerpt: Prince of the Sea; a Paranormal Love Story, Suspense/thriller Novella

November 21st, 2015

Prince of the Sea


Jon Michaelsen


Destiny calls Jonathan home.

Jonathan Lemke thought spending two weeks alone with his partner in a beachside cottage would help to rekindle the lost passion of their ten-year union. He’d chosen Tybee Island, a quiet seaside community east of Historic Savannah on the Georgia coast. Jonathan spent his childhood growing up on the pristine shores of the barrier islet which continues to hold a special place in his heart.

The romantic surprise backfires when Jonathan’s partner, Paul, bails and rushes off to Chicago for the chance to woo a high profile client, leaving Jonathan alone and brokenhearted. But a chance meeting with a mysterious and seductive stranger linked to an ancient island legend provides a temporary distraction…and a chance at discovering forever love.

Island myth…or guarded secret? Someone with strong familial ties to Tybee Island wants to expose its secrets and avenge a grudge decades in the making. An assailant so threatened by the forces of nature that defy explanation will stop at nothing to expose island lore…even if he must kill to prove it.

Novella: 44,440 words Genre: gay paranormal, suspense/thriller

Editor: Jerry L. Wheeler

Cover: Dawne Dominique


Chapter One

Jonathan sauntered to the side of the verandah with his cocktail and leaned against the railing. The Jeep he’d rented at the airport sat idle against an ancient railroad tie baking in the sun, the space beside it empty. Glancing up, he didn’t see the tell-tale trail of dust billowing up through the brush to indicate a taxi drew near. Not even a glimmer of the sun’s intense rays reflecting off the body of an automobile, nothing to indicate someone approaching.

He wondered if Paul would appreciate the nineteenth century antebellum revival beachfront cottage Jonathan had rented for a surprise vacation, a second honeymoon of sorts. The past year had proved tough for them both, and Jonathan had sensed a growing tension in their relationship. They were drifting apart he feared, a fact that often plagued gay men in a relationship after a decade or so together.

Paul had taken months to get back on his feet after a rough job loss. Petty arguments had bubbled below the surface, but Jonathan thought two weeks on the beach far away from deadlines, cellphones, and demanding clients might prove ideal, a perfect oasis to help get them back on track. Jonathan had forked over the non-refundable deposit a few months back without a second thought, determined to inject some rest and recuperation into their lives.

Paul’s reaction to the gift proved more shocking to Jonathan than his impulse.

Sipping his cocktail, he recalled their exchange over dinner last week when he sprung the news of the planned escape.

“Now?” Anxiety had twisted Paul’s face, his lips tightening into a thin line as though he bit into a lemon. “You’re not serious? Are you insane?”

Jonathan had remained silent, of course, crushed beyond words at Paul’s comeback. He recalled how his chest tightened and forced the air from his lungs as he sat stoically, inspecting the food skewered on his fork, not knowing what to say.

“I’m only now getting my feet back on steady ground, John. You of all people should know I can’t afford to run away now, even if I wanted to. “Sometimes, babe, you just don’t think these things through before you make a stupid mistake.”

Clipped sentences and bitchy comments shared over several cocktails had capped the evening before they headed home earlier than originally planned.

Jonathan sighed and sucked down the rest of his drink.


Where is he?

He looked again toward the road, his hand shielding the afternoon sun. Exhausted after shuttling across the country to the east coastal town of Tybee, an island twenty minutes from Savannah, Georgia, he wanted to grab a bite and spend the evening relaxing on the porch facing the ocean’s cool breeze. Paul had booked a later flight in order to finish a few things at the office, but he promised to arrive in time for dinner. Jonathan checked his watch again. The evening loomed and still no Paul.

What if he’s not coming?

Will you stop? Jonathan chided himself for fretting when he needed to relax. Anxiety gripped the muscles in his chest, and his throat went dry despite the alcohol he’d consumed. He wrestled with the idea Paul might bail on him, offering the same old lame excuse about business coming first. It wouldn’t be the first time, but Paul wouldn’t do that, would he? Not after all that’s happened this year.

Still, Paul hadn’t called.

Jonathan had left several messages at both his partner’s office and on Paul’s cell. With everything going on between them, all they’d been through the past year, Paul at least owed him a phone call of explanation.

Shoulders slumped, head bowed, Jonathan raised his glass in toast to an ocean bathed in brilliant turquoise, and downed the last of the twelve-year-old scotch. He stared out across the water, despondent and aloof, like a seafaring mariner in search of land. The breeze skimming off the ocean’s surface cooled his cheeks and brushed the dark hairs of his chest peeking out from his open shirt.

The sun slowly joined with the western shore, its phosphorescent embers reaching out to touch the sugar-white sand. Moss-draped oaks and spiny palms fronting the beach basked in a sheath of glittery gold. Nearby tree frogs thrummed and crickets chirped as the afternoon began to yield to dusk.

A seagull floated past on the warmth of the current as insects indigenous to the area traveled in droves atop the sea of waving cordgrass. Rolling whitecaps of the ocean’s lips choreographed a symphony that crashed headlong ashore. Jonathan stared out across the water and wished on some level he could be one with the ocean to escape the realities of life threatening to suffocate him. The scent of salt, fish, and drying seaweed wafted in the breeze that coated everything in a gritty residue. He closed his eyes and drank in the air hitting his face, imagining the draft cleansing years of L.A. smog from his pores.

Hums of the world abuzz lulled him and warmed his heart with thoughts of the past. As a child, Jonathan had enjoyed long summer days playing on the beach with pail and shovel in hand, scooping up sand to fortify some sandcastle or surrounding moat. He remembered strolls along the beach with his family searching for that one of a kind shell or sand dollar. He’d spent his early years not far from where he stood now, the smell of salt air and seaweed all he knew before leaving the coast to attend the University Of Georgia in Athens. A promising career writing screenplays had sent him racing to the West Coast upon graduation to a life of fifteen-hour days and all-night parties.

Years had passed with little memory of his childhood until he’d returned to the tiny island. Being here now with the breeze jostling the fabric of his shirt, brushing past the cotton of his chinos, and with the sun highlighting his skin in iridescent bronze, caused his heart to swell. He closed his eyes and drank in the aroma of his youth.

Why hasn’t he called?


The past twelve months had tested their relationship more than in any other year. Jonathan knew they needed this vacation, time alone outside the pressures of deadlines, e-mails, texts, and cellphones. It was to be a break from the constant demands nibbling away at their time together without regard to their needs. The first sign of things to come had been when their trusted housekeeper of many years sold details of Jonathan’s and Paul’s private lives to one of those trashy supermarket rags. Her lies sold thousands of copies across the country and caused a flurry of activity around the Lemke-Morley household, even threatened to derail their careers in a town known for feeding water cooler gossip. For the most part, Jonathan managed to escape the scandal, but Paul was forced to leave his job as a publicist with a major public relations firm, striking out on his own.

Jonathan checked his cell again. No missed calls or texts.

Six months ago, Jonathan lost his beloved grandmother to pulmonary artery disease. Complications from a heart attack slowly took her life, a mockery to one so selfless. Jonathan had spent months traveling back and forth to the Florida Panhandle where Mama Effie had retired. Effie’s husband had died ten years earlier. He’d collapsed on his job of forty years, sucking in carbon emissions at a heavy equipment assembly plant in Brunswick, Georgia. After cleansing herself of unwanted material items, Mama Effie headed to the Gulf Coast to live with her sister. Jonathan recalled the faces of stunned family members as his grandmother passed out heirlooms like worthless trinkets and snickered.

He missed her. Like him, Mama Effie had preferred to mourn in silence, and if ridding herself of a few personal items that reminded her of the only man she ever loved meant being able to face each day, then he supported her one hundred percent. He knew his grandmother like no other. She had readily accepted him for the boy he was and the man he became, unlike his parents.

His cellphone buzzed. Snapping back from his reverie, Jonathan accepted the call and turned inland. “Where are you?”

Jonathan heard a long pause before familiar noises drifted through the connection, and a feeling of dread overcame Jonathan as Paul spoke.

“Hey, babe, I’m in Chicago. Look, something came up. I got a call from Gyllenhaal’s people, and it’s possible I’m not going to be able to make it.”

“What? Paul, you promised.” Jonathan gripped the cellphone, wanting to smash the metallic cover against the floorboards.

“I know, hon. I’m really sorry, but signing this new client would mean everything to me. You know how bad things have been. I’ve told you I’ve got to attract the bigger names to get my business off the ground. This might be the break I need, Jonathan.”

“Paul, we discussed taking this trip for us. What about what we need?” Jonathan struggled to suppress his anger. “I booked the cottage months ago so we could get away from the rat race, you know? Spend some much needed quality time together. Sit back and relax, take a real vacation for once, just you and me.”

Jonathan wanted to unload on his partner, to express how for months he’d sacrificed at every turn, given in to Paul’s every whim in the interest of salvaging what they had. True, Paul’s demands had bordered on the selfish, but Jonathan didn’t care. Their relationship had soured, but all they needed was time alone to focus on a romance gone dormant far too long.

“Paul,” Jonathan said in a steady voice, “you don’t have to work so hard. We have plenty of funds coming in from my royalties, scripts I wrote years ago, and more on the way. Last year’s writer’s strike guarantees us at least nine months to a year of cushion. “Do you hear what I’m saying? Why do you have to rush off now?”

“John, as usual you’re not listening. What about what I want, huh? What I need?”

Jonathan bit his lip and listened.

“It’s not always all about you,” Paul said. “Signing Gyllenhaal would be my first chance to become a respected publicist again. No one has been willing to take me seriously, on my own terms in this crazy business. Not without the bigger names and greater celebrity influence. You know that.”

Jonathan bowed his head and pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers. “You promised.”

“I need to go, hon,” Paul said. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

The call ended. Jonathan stared at his phone, stunned and slack-jawed.

What in the hell just happened?


Chapter Two

A lone gnat buzzed about Jonathan’s face. He swiped the air in frustration, more at Paul than with irritation at the pest. He had agitated the insect, which fought to escape and yet managed to fly up his nostril. He plugged the side of his nose and tried to flush the pest without success. Finally, with apprehension, he swallowed to clear his throat of the insect.

Driven by need deeper than thirst, Jonathan ducked inside through the doorway of the single story cottage and crossed the threshold to the parlor of the west wing, filled with nautical trimmings and reproduced coastal collections. He tore past the cold fireplace and a sofa draped with an old patchwork quilt. The antique double-door bar cabinet nestled in the far corner reminded him of the days his mother had carted him through the vintage shops peppering the Southeastern Coast. In spite of his mood, he smiled at the memories. He snatched a fresh bottle of booze from the shelf below, tossed a couple cubes of ice into his glass, and filled it half-full of scotch.

Jonathan slugged the beverage, refilled his glass, and then shuffled to the floor-to-ceiling windows facing inland. He thought about being stood up by Paul, the knot in his chest traveling up his neck like a hand closing around his throat. Typical. Paul had become more distant of late and the excuses he tried to pass off seemed contrived at best. They were nearing the end of the relationship, perhaps. Jonathan didn’t know anymore, and it drove him crazy.

Stop with the melodramatics, Jonathan chided himself as he sipped his drink and stepped out onto the porch again. He set his cocktail on the railing, reached high above his head, and stretched his arms before crossing them over his chest and gripping his shoulders. The ocean breeze caressed him as he watched the waves rolling in, whitecaps bustling with the fury of stampeding cattle before crashing headlong into shore. Why did it bother him this much? Should he be surprised Paul chose career goals over their relationship yet again? Jonathan should have seen it coming months ago, but he’d ignored the signs, desperate to rekindle the passion slipping away after years of happiness.

A large cargo ship sailed in line of the horizon. Seagulls and pelicans floated along the shoreline searching for food. Jonathan dreamed of a relationship devoid of friction and financial strain, absent of business dinners filled with false hope and weekend interruptions. He savored his career as a successful scriptwriter, but he abhorred the Hollywood lifestyle.

His drink empty, Jonathan began to turn when something caught his eye. Glancing beyond the beach, he scanned the ocean’s surface searching the whitecaps. Someone was bobbing and swirling about in wide circular motions, dipping beneath the waves. Jonathan made out the head and shoulders of a man struggling to remain above the surface. Adrenaline shot through Jonathan like a bullet and panic clutched his chest.

He’s in trouble!

Jonathan scanned the beach for help. A few beachcombers walked in either direction along the sand, some strolling hand in hand, as others huddled in groups with a child or two darting out from the pack to race toward the water’s edge. No one seemed to notice the swimmer in distress. Most followed their downcast eyes, searching the beach for the ocean’s treasures washed up in the tide.


Jonathan raced toward the water’s edge and kicked off his loafers, flailing his arms and screaming trying to attract attention. He ripped off his shirt as he ran, the fabric falling behind in the sand. Pausing to strip off his slacks, he trudged into the sea.

Waves battered him in violent succession, pushing him back, forcing him to lift his knees high to stab his feet into the water to stay righted. When the water reached his hips, Jonathan dove headlong into the churning surf. The smack of cold water against his face and chest sobered him as he pinwheeled his arms through the strong current toward the struggling swimmer.

Where did he go? Jonathan eased up to get his bearings, dogpaddling around and looking for the man. He called out, “Can you hear me? I’m here to help.” He swiveled his head back and forth, searching for the swimmer.

I’ve gone too far, he thought. Jonathan whipped around, turning back toward the beach. The cottage stood farther up the beach than his current position. Fearing the swimmer had disappeared beneath the surface, Jonathan ducked below the water and aimed his body deep, opening his eyes to take a quick peek. The sting of the saltwater forced his lids shut and he retreated.

Jonathan angled his body upward and kicked his feet hard against the strong current. Reaching the surface proved elusive, as the undertow sucked him down. Disoriented and terrified, his lungs begging for air, Jonathan clawed at the wall of seawater to no avail. No matter where he aimed, he couldn’t find the surface. The harder he fought the farther down he sank. Desperate for oxygen, his heart pounding, Jonathan’s life flashed before him.

Is this it? Am I doomed to be another tragic drowning?

Jonathan drifted into a quiet calm from lack of air, his thoughts a random jumble. Why had he charged forth in the first place, foolish considering all the alcohol? What about Paul? Would he be stunned to learn of his death, perhaps feel guilty about refusing to join him sooner? Would his family ever forgive his carelessness?

His chest compressed, expressing the last bit of air from his lungs. He wrestled an onslaught of convulsions as brackish seawater invaded his nose and mouth, his lungs. Arms and legs became lead. He lashed out, each stroke pulling him down until he settled on the ocean floor.

The undertow snatched him away as his awareness waned. He reached out in a futile attempt to right himself but grasped onto something slick and supple instead. His fingers slid over the soft object.


Something large and powerful slammed into him from behind. He felt an incredible tug against his body, a whoosh that snapped him back like a bungee cord before he blacked out.

Tybee Beach2


Releasing Tuesday, December 1, 2015 via All Romance ebooks, Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, and other fine e-tailers.



Excerpt: Avenged to Death: A Jamie Brodie Mystery by Meg Perry

November 14th, 2015

Avenged to Death: A Jamie Brodie Mystery

by Meg Perry


Who is Randall Chesterson Barkley, and why has he named Jamie Brodie and his brothers in his will? The answer to that question leads Jamie to another answer: the story of what really happened to his mom. Then two murders throw Jamie, Kevin and Jeff into an investigation that uncovers more secrets from the past – and forces Jamie into a decision where there is no option for a happy ending.


November 19, 1980

DEL MAR – A fatal crash on I-5 late last night took the lives of two women and seriously injured three others. Tracy Jemison, 34, of Camp Pendleton, and Julie Brodie, 30, of Oceanside, were killed instantly when Jemison’s Toyota Corolla was struck head on at high speed by a Ford Mustang traveling south in the northbound lane. Two passengers in the back seat of the Corolla, Belinda Marcus, 33, and Marie Crabtree, 34, both of Camp Pendleton, were airlifted to UCSD Medical Center after being cut out of the vehicle. Both are in critical condition.
The driver of the Mustang was identified as Gavin Barkley, 20, of La Jolla. He and his passenger, Kate Bianchi, 19, of Chula Vista, were also transported to UCSD Medical Center. Barkley sustained a chest injury and is in fair condition. Bianchi was not wearing a seatbelt and was thrown through the windshield of the Mustang on impact. She sustained severe head injuries and is in grave condition.
A California Highway Patrol officer at the scene said that the headlights on Barkley’s car were not on. The investigation is ongoing, but preliminary findings indicate that Barkley drove the wrong way up the off-ramp at the Del Mar Heights Rd. exit and struck Jemison’s vehicle in the right lane.
Barkley’s blood alcohol content at the time of the crash was 0.28%, nearly three times the legal limit.
The 5 northbound is still closed between the SR56 and Del Mar Heights Rd. exits and is expected to reopen by 10:00 am today.

Monday, March 30

“Dr. Brodie? I have a registered letter for you.”
I looked up from my desk. Rick, our mailroom guy, was standing in my office doorway with an envelope.
“No kidding.” This was a first. I signed Rick’s clipboard and took the envelope from him. It was heavy stock, thick with pages, creamy white in color. “What the heck is it?”
“Dunno.” Rick took his clipboard back. “Have a good day.”
I leaned against the door frame as I studied the envelope.
Jeremy D. Brodie, D.Phil.
Charles E. Young Research Library
University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA 90095
I recognized the return address as downtown San Diego. The sender sounded like a law firm: Smith, Hendrickson, Delio and Franklin, LLC.
I went next door to Liz Nguyen’s office and waved the envelope at her. “I got a registered letter.”
“Who from?”
“It looks like a law firm.”
“It looks like? Open it, ya goof.” She handed me her letter opener.
I slit the envelope and removed the pages inside. “It’s a will.”


I, Randall Chesterson Barkley, now residing in the County of San Diego, State of California, and being of sound mind and memory and not acting under fraud, menace, duress or the undue influence of any person whomsoever, do hereby make, publish and declare this to be my Last Will and Testament, and hereby expressly revoke any and all former wills and codicils to wills heretofore made by me…

A lot of legalese followed. I flipped through the pages. “Who the hell is Randall Chesterson Barkley?”
Liz stood and looked over my shoulder. “You don’t know?”
“Never heard of him.”
“The lawyers are in San Diego – is it someone you knew as a kid?”
“Not that I remember. And even if it was, why have they sent me his will?”
Liz went back to her computer and opened UCLA’s database page. “Maybe his obituary was in the San Diego paper.”
“Maybe.” I went to look over her shoulder.
It didn’t take her long to find it.
Randall Chesterson Barkley, 85, passed away February 16, 2014, after a long illness. Mr. Barkley was a native of San Diego, a graduate of Stanford University, and the founder of Zaltu Inc. He was predeceased by his wife of forty-two years, Jeanette Cordelia Graham Barkley. There are no other survivors. In lieu of flowers, please donate to Hospice.

I said, “He died over a year ago.”
Liz said, “His name doesn’t ring any bells? He wasn’t your Little League coach or anything?”
“Maybe your dad knows.” Liz gathered some papers. “I’ve got to lead a research session. Let me know.”
“I will.” I went back to my office to get my phone, and found a text from my brother Kevin. “You free? Call me.”
I called. “What’s up?”
“I got something odd in the mail today, delivered to the station.”
“A copy of the will of Randall Chesterson Barkley, whoever the hell that is?”
“Yeah. You don’t recognize that name?”
“No. Do you?”
“Liz suggested that Dad might know.”
“Good idea. Do you have time to call him? Jon and I are about to head out to a scene.”
“Yeah, I’ll call.”
“Text me.”
“I will.”
I closed my office door and called my dad. When he answered it sounded like he was outside. “Hey, Dad. Whatcha doin’?”
“I’m at the beach with Colin. We’re taking pictures of plants.”
“Ah.” My nephew Colin was being homeschooled through middle school by his parents, my brother Jeff and sister-in-law Valerie. My dad, retired from the Marine Corps, helped out frequently with the field work. “I just have a quick question.”
“What’s up?”
I explained. “Does the name Randall Chesterson Barkley mean anything to you?”
Dead silence. I began to think my phone had dropped the call. “Dad?”
He said softly, “Randall Barkley was the father of the man who killed your mom.”

I sucked in my breath. “Holy shit.”
Another moment of silence. I could hear Colin’s voice in the background, telling my dad something. Dad said, “I’ll call you tonight. You going to be home?”
“Okay. Talk to you then.”
Holy fucking shit. The man whose son had caused the fatal car crash that killed my mom – and Kevin and I had a copy of his will? I flipped through the pages again. and something caught my eye.
My own name.

I hereby give, or devise and bequeath all of my property and estate, both real and personal, and wheresoever or howsoever situated, or to which I may be entitled at the time of my death, to be divided into equal shares, among the following:

Jeffrey David Brodie
Kevin Cole Brodie
Jeremy Douglas Brodie
Alexandra Colleen Crabtree
Asher Finn Crabtree
Drew Harris Jemison
Jennifer Louisa Jemison McCune
Joshua William Marcus
Karen Elizabeth Marcus Fornari
Jenelle Renae Shifflett


Who were these other people? I knew my mom had been with some of her friends the night she was killed. I looked at the other names – Crabtree, Jemison, Marcus, Shifflett – but didn’t recognize them.
Were they the children of my mom’s friends?
I flipped through the rest of the will, but there was no mention of anyone else. Randall Barkley’s wife had died before him; there were no other survivors, according to the obituary.
What happened to his son?
I had never heard of Zaltu, Inc. I looked it up online – and nearly fell out of my chair.
Randall Barkley had founded Zaltu, Inc., a software company that wrote code for military satellites, in 1973. The company had done well during the Cold War, stagnated in the 1990s, then took off again after 9/11. In 2003 Barkley sold the company  to Lockheed Martin for $600 million.
I blinked and shook my head to make sure I was seeing that figure right.
Six hundred million dollars.
There were ten names on the list of heirs.
Sixty million dollars apiece.
Suddenly I couldn’t breathe. I grabbed my inhaler and took a puff.
Then I called my friend – my attorney – Melanie Hayes.
Mel was in court; I left a message with Sunny, the firm’s legal secretary. I texted Kevin – It’s complicated, call me – then called my fiance, Pete. His phone went straight to voicemail. Shit. I wanted someone to talk to now. I glanced at the clock; he should be doing office hours. I took a chance and dialed his office number.
He sounded warm but professional. “Psychology department, Dr. Ferguson.”
His voice brightened considerably. “Hey, yourself. What’s up?”
“I tried your cell but it’s off.”
“Yeah, I’ve got office hours, but there’s no one here. You okay? You sound short of breath.”
“I am short of breath. I think I may have just inherited sixty million dollars.”
He laughed. “Good one. What are you all smoking over there?”
“I’m serious.” I told him about the will. “Six hundred million, divided ten ways. I don’t – I can’t – it’s not -”
“Good God. Did you call Mel?”
“Had to leave a message.”
“Okay. Let’s not get excited until she finds out what this is all about.”
“It looks like a legal will.”
“Yeah, but he may have spent his fortune down to nothing. Don’t start buying up waterfront property just yet.”
“I won’t.”

When I met Liz at the research desk for our 1:00 shift, she said, “Did your dad know what that will was about?”
I lowered my voice and told her. When I got to the $600 million part, she breathed, “Holy shit.”
“My exact words. But that was years ago. He may have spent it all.”
Liz disagreed. “Nah. A guy like that, who built a business from the ground up? He hasn’t spent it all. He worked too hard to make it.”
“Why would he leave it to us, though?”
She shrugged, as if the answer was obvious. “Guilt.”
I said, “Don’t tell anyone. If it is a lot of money, I don’t want people here to know. At least not yet.”
“I won’t.” She was nearly whispering now. “Will you quit your job?”
“It’s way too early to be thinking in those terms.”
Someone cleared his throat; I looked up to see Clinton Kenneally standing before us. Liz said, “Oh, sorry. Hi, Clinton.”
He bestowed a gentle smile on us. “Good afternoon, Ms. Nguyen, Dr. Brodie. The word of the day is manumit.” He bowed and walked away.
I opened an online dictionary and found the definition. “To free from slavery.”
Liz said, “With sixty million dollars, you’d be pretty damn free.”

I had just stepped onto the bus, on my way home, when Mel called back. “Hey, Jamie. What’s up?”
I told her about the will. “This can’t be real, can it?”
“I’ll find out. Let me call the law firm right now.”
She called me back as I was walking from the bus stop to the townhouse that I owned with Pete. “I spoke to the senior partner’s paralegal. The will is legitimate and has cleared probate, so the assets will be distributed soon.”
“Who are the other people?”
“The paralegal didn’t have any other information. Apparently old man Barkley only did business with Gordon Smith himself.” I heard voices in the background. “My next client’s here. I’ll talk to you later.”

After dinner I was placing the last dish in the drainer when my dad called. “Hey, sport. Sorry I couldn’t talk earlier.”
“Oh, it’s fine. I called Mel.” I recounted my conversation with her. “I wondered if the other names on the list might be the children of Mom’s friends?”
“What were the names?”
“The last names were Crabtree, Jemison, Marcus, and Shifflett.”
“Marie Crabtree, Tracy Jemison, and Belinda Marcus were your mom’s friends. I don’t recognize the name Shifflett.”
“Were they all killed?”
“No. Tracy was. She was driving and your mom was in the front seat. Belinda was paralyzed from the neck down. Marie broke both legs and nearly bled to death, but she recovered eventually.”
“Have you kept in touch with them?”
My dad’s voice was heavy. “No. I tried, but…” He trailed off.
I said softly, “It was too hard.”
“Liz and I looked up the old man’s obituary. It said he had no survivors. What happened to his son?”
“As far as I know he’s still in jail, but I haven’t kept track. I suppose he could have died in prison.”
“How old would he be now?”
Dad paused to do a quick calculation. “Fifty-four.”
“Why would Barkley leave his money to us?”
“I have no idea. He spent enough of it defending his son at trial – I don’t know why he’d leave it to you all now.”
“Dad… What happened?”
He sighed. “Barkley – Gavin Barkley, the son – was driving so drunk he could barely stand, according to the friends at the party he’d just left. He drove the wrong way up the off ramp at the Del Mar Road exit with his lights off and hit Tracy’s car head on at full speed. She never had a chance to put on the brakes.”
I took in a deep breath and blew it out. “Was Gavin even injured?”
“He bruised his heart and broke some ribs, but he recovered pretty quickly. His girlfriend didn’t have her seatbelt on, and went through his windshield. She had a severe head injury and ended up in a permanent vegetative state.”
“How did it even go to trial?”
“The kid pled not guilty. Old man Barkley paid for the best defense attorneys. He had a whole team. It looked for a while like the kid might get off.”
“What happened?”
“The prosecutor started bringing us in. Marie was still in a wheelchair at the time, and she testified first. Then Tracy’s husband, Tony, brought his kids in. They were a few years older than you all, and the prosecutor put Drew – the oldest – on the stand. Then he asked me to bring you guys to court.”
“Why? We were so little.”
“That’s why. So the jury could see what Barkley had done. I dressed you three so you matched, in little khaki shorts and blue polo shirts. Dad came with me. I carried you and held Jeff’s hand, and Dad carried Kevin. When they saw you, everyone in the courtroom went ‘ohhhh’ at the same time.”
“Did you testify?”
“Only at the sentencing phase.”
“Did the paralyzed lady testify?”
“Belinda. She sure did. She was still in a halo, but she could speak just fine. Then the girlfriend’s parents brought her in, and that was the last straw for the jury. They were nearly all crying.” Another sigh. “It was brutal, what the prosecutor did, but it worked. The jury recommended the maximum sentence on all counts, and that’s what the judge gave him.”
My dad barked a laugh. “Yeah. It was.”
“Are the other families still in town?”
“I don’t know. Do you want me to find out?”
“No, no.” I’d find out some other way. I didn’t want to put my dad through anything more. “I’m sorry to ask you all these questions.”
“It’s okay. You have a right to know what happened.”
“I’ve always been afraid to ask.”
I could hear the smile in my dad’s voice. “I know, sport.”

I spent the rest of the evening on the phone – first with Jeff and Kevin, repeating all the information I’d gathered. Jeff was dismissive of the will. “There’s no way the old guy would leave us all that money. I bet he left the bulk of it to some charity and we each get a token amount.”
“I don’t know… I didn’t see any charities listed.”
Jeff made a “pah” sound. “We’ll see. I guarantee, he tossed some pittance our way to assuage his guilty conscience.”
“Maybe. But hell, someone dumps a couple of thousand bucks in my lap, I’m not turning it down.”
He just snorted.
When I called Kevin he said, “Gavin Barkley, huh? I can find out if he’s still in jail.”
“Will you? I’d like to know.”
“Sure. I’d like to know too.”
“Jeff thinks there must be a catch. We won’t get that much.”
“Nah. I know how to read legal documents now, remember?” Kevin had just completed a year of paralegal training and earned his certificate; he worked for Mel on the side. “I read every word of that will this afternoon. There are no other beneficiaries. The only question is, how big is the estate?”
I said, “I sure would like to find that out.”
“So would I.”
My last conversation of the evening was with my friend Ali’s dad, Charlie Fortner. Charlie and my dad had worked together at Pendleton for years, until Dad retired in 2002. Charlie had finally retired a few years ago. He and Ali’s mom still lived in the same house where Ali and her sister Lauren had grown up, only a half mile from my dad’s place.
I’d spent almost as much time at the Fortners’ growing up as I had at my own house. Ali’s parents had held out hope that Ali and I might end up together, until Ali and I both came out to them in high school. After their initial shock they’d accepted the news, and I’d stayed close to Ali’s parents.
I wasn’t sure the Fortners would be home. They spent about half the year in their RV, traveling all over the US and Canada. But I got lucky.
Charlie answered the phone. I said, “Hey, Mr. Fortner, it’s Jamie.”
“Jamie! How are you?”
“Fine, sir, thanks. I’m surprised to find you home. I thought you might be someplace more interesting.”
He laughed. “Nah, had to come home and refuel. What’s up?”
“How hard would it be for you to find out if three men who served at Pendleton are still in town?”
“Not hard at all. I’ve got a friend in personnel at the base. But your dad could find out as easily as I could.”
“I know, but I don’t want to ask him. And I don’t actually know the names of the Marines themselves, just their wives.”
“Okay, you’ve got my curiosity up. What are the names?”
“Belinda Marcus, Marie Crabtree and Tracy Jemison.”
Charlie was quiet for a moment. “Ah. I see why you don’t want to ask your dad.”
“He’s the one who gave me their names, but I figured that was enough.”
“Sure.” It sounded like Charlie was looking for a pen. “I didn’t know any of the husbands myself, but my buddy in personnel has been there forever. He’ll know.”
“Thanks, Mr. Fortner. I appreciate it.”
“No problem, son. I’ll let you know what I find out.”
I tossed the phone onto the sofa and blew out a breath. Pete glanced up at me from his laptop. “Find out anything?”
“Just that Kevin read the entire will and there are no other beneficiaries.”
“Jeff doesn’t think it’s real?”
“He’s skeptical. I have to admit, so am I.”
I considered. “It just doesn’t seem possible. It’s too unreal.”
“It’s certainly out of the bounds of normal.”
“You can say that again.”
He grinned. “It’s certainly out of the bounds of normal.”
“Ha ha.” I pulled off one of my socks and threw it at him; it came to rest, draped nicely over his computer screen. “What are you doing?”
“Grading.” He picked my sock off his computer and tossed it to the floor.
I looked around the room. We were in our office, which also served in a pinch as a guest bedroom. Pete was at the long, narrow table that served as our desk, at “his” end, the lamp casting a warm glow on his dark brown hair. Behind him, the mahogany finish on a wall of built-in bookshelves and cabinets reflected the light. I was sprawled on the cushy leather sofa which opened into an incredibly comfortable bed.
We’d completely remodeled this room about a year ago, and had been delighted with the results. I said, “I love this room.”
“Mm. Me too.”
“If this inheritance ends up being just a few thousand dollars, even, we should remodel our bathroom.”
He glanced up at me again. “If that’s how you want to use the money.”
“Hey, it’s a joint decision, right?”
He gave me a look. “That’s not what you said when I was trying to convince you that you could share my salary.”
Pete made significantly more money than I did. I’d been teaching classes as an adjunct in the history department to make up the difference. “Salary is different. This is a one-time thing. What would I use it on for myself?”
“You could get a car.” We’d been living with one vehicle, Pete’s 1998 Jeep Cherokee.
“I don’t want a car. I want a walk-in shower.”
He turned back to his laptop, an indulgent smile on his face. “You probably shouldn’t speculate until you find out how much money’s involved.”
“I know.” I took off my other sock and threw it at him; this time it landed right on his keyboard. “Are you about done?”
“Good God. I’m gonna have to sterilize this laptop.” He tossed my second sock after the first.
“I thought you liked my feet.”
He leered at me over the rim of the screen. “I like other parts better.”
“Uh huh. Like I said, are you about done? Or do I have to throw my tighty whities over there?”
He grinned and closed the laptop.

Mnevermind Trilogy – Excerpt: The Persistence of Memory by Jordan Castillo Price

November 7th, 2015
Excerpt from Mnevermind 1: The Persistence of Memory
Jordan Castillo Price
Mnevermind Trilogy
1: The Persistence of Memory
2: Forget Me Not
3: Life is Awesome

Every day, Daniel Schroeder breaks his father’s heart.

While forgetting your problems won’t solve them, it does seem like it would make life a heck of a lot easier. Daniel thought so once. Now he knows better. He and Big Dan have always been close, which makes it all the more difficult to break the daily news: the last five years were nothing like his father remembers.

They’re both professionals in the memory field—they even run their own memory palace. So shouldn’t they be able to figure out a way to overwrite the persistent false memory that’s wreaking havoc on both of their lives? Daniel thought he was holding it together, but the situation seems to be sliding out of control. Now even his own equipment has turned against him, reminding him he hasn’t had a date in ages by taunting him with flashes of an elusive man in black that only he can see.

Is it some quirk of the circuitry, or is Daniel headed down the same path to fantasy-land as his old man?

Chapter 1

Notes rang through the building…but not the sort you’d expect, given the concert hall, and the stage, and the humongous grand piano.


Not even the whole song. Only that first chord. Over. And over.

And over.

Already, it felt like a jackhammer to the base of my skull. I’d only just shown up to collect her—imagine the torture if I’d been riding along with the client the whole time. Since I’m just a mnemographer, a lowly thought sherpa, it’s not my job to hand-hold them through their entire four-hour neural adventure. The mnems I run at Adventuretech are quick-fade prefab packets for entertainment purposes only. My objective? Get in, get out, and get on with my life.

Now if only I could unhear that damn water torture of a chord.

The budding pianist on the stage was Sophie Wolinski, age 54. Her objective? To succeed at something. Not now, of course. Everyone knows that for the flap of a butterfly’s wings to cause a tidal wave, it needs to have happened back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. In Sophie’s case, that appeared to be around the age of twelve or thirteen.

I’d tapped in at the back corner of the concert hall. The red velvet curtains framing the stage had substance and volume—but only the parts that faced Sophie. From where I currently stood, the surfaces she couldn’t see were completely flat. I made my way up the aisle. The two-note chord kept plinking away, never varying in volume or rhythm as she labored over the piano keys. It was tempting to plug my ears, though it wouldn’t do me any good. I wasn’t actually hearing the notes—I was simply picking up on her manufactured memory of striking them—though I did have ears. Despite the fact that I’d been guiding people through mnems as long as we’ve had the shop, I still showed up in mnem as myself: Daniel Schroeder, and not a disembodied brain or a point of light. A shrink could probably read something into it. I liked to think it was because I had a healthy self-image.

I retained quite a bit of myself in mnem, since my physical body was relaxed, but still conscious. More of my gray matter was firing; this presence of mind was the thing that allowed me to see all the flaws beneath the fantasy veneer in a way the clients never did.

The audience didn’t seem to notice the fact that Sophie’s concert sucked, either. I stole a quick glance at the packed house. “All men” was my first thought—and given the fact that I’d had nothing to do with men since my last guy ditched me, ostensibly because my stubble annoyed him (Jesus, Daniel, would it kill you to shave once in a while?) I couldn’t help but check them out. Yeah, they’d be creepy. Mnem populations always were. Not to the client, of course—the cast of characters was made up of their memories, after all. But to outsiders, like me…waaaay creepy.


Sophie’s audience didn’t disappoint.

The men’s faces were clear enough, which wasn’t always the case. But as I looked from one to the next to the next, I realized each one was actually the same face. Bland. Doughy. Not much by way of a chin. Hardly the stuff of fantasies—which only made sense. My shop provided the fantasy elements—in this particular instance, the concert hall. Sophie’s cortex supplied the rest.

Bland Man in a suit. Bland Man in a Hawaiian shirt. Bland Man in a fishing hat. Bland Man in pajamas. Bland Man naked? Hey, I’m only human, I can’t help but checking—and nudity is one of those things that tends to make a pretty big impression on people’s memories. But no, there were no naked Bland Mans that I could pick out from the rows upon rows in the audience, dozens of him in all. Different iterations, but the same expression. Deep, profound, unflinching concentration…all of it focused on Sophie.

I thought about retrieving Sophie, and in the way of mnems, found myself at the foot of the stairs at the opposite end of the concert hall. I mounted the stairs and approached. Sophie hammered away at the world’s most annoying chord. It would be satisfying to grab her by the wrists, force her fingers into the keyboard, and say, “Play…something…else!” But, no. Although I was only a guide, a ghost in the machine, there was always the chance she’d kinda-sorta hear me, or at least the feedback my hissy fit would produce. And then she’d feel vaguely dissatisfied with her mnem experience. She might not know why. But a sneaking suspicion that something about the mnem hadn’t lived up to her expectations was the only thing she would take away, and I couldn’t afford to leave her with a bad impression.

Like I had outside of mnem with the guy who ostensibly didn’t like my stubble.

I paused beside the piano bench and looked at Sophie’s hands. They crawled over the keyboard like a concert pianist’s, even though the only thing coming out was a two-note chord. A good memorysmith would have included a hint of musical inspiration in the packet for the client’s mind to interpret and use. But we’d picked up this year’s packets secondhand from some Serbian guys selling them off the back of a truck, and though they were perfectly safe, they were also fairly lame.

Sophie wasn’t trying to learn the piano in one sedated afternoon, anyhow. Judging by the faces (or the single face) in the audience, she’d come to gain the approval of Dear Old Dad. Or at least the memory of that feeling of pride.

I scanned the stage, looking for signs of wear, hoping we could squeak another month out of the mnem packet, and doing my best not to dwell on how quickly my well-regarded shop was now tanking. Once upon a time, our mnems were good. But now…. The lower edge of the curtains faded from red to a sort of non-color, artifacts that only got worse every time I played it. At least the overhead lighting still looked good. The hardwood floor, too. And the seating…oh.

In the leftmost seat of the front row, one member of the audience drew my attention, probably because he wasn’t sitting in the same position as all the other Bland Mans.

And probably because he was so…hot. Especially for someone populating the memory of a fifty-something woman.

Maybe he was her son.

Oh yeah, she’d never married or had kids. Part of the Daddy-issues. Okay. Maybe a nephew. A hot nephew, dressed all in black, with dark hair, and spectacular cheekbones.

He had a casually elegant vibe about him, stark and pale. He looked young, maybe thirty or so. Chances were, in the real world, he might be fifty-something himself nowadays, depending on when the client had met him and which parts of her long-term memory she was dredging him up from. Or maybe she’d never met him at all. Maybe he was some actor from a bit-part in her favorite movie. Maybe she’d just seen him in an ad that she looked at a moment too long, an ad that featured a bunch of “cool” young people doing something that wasn’t particularly cool in hopes that someone cool might actually patronize the business. Which wouldn’t be a bad idea for an ad campaign for Adventuretech, which was almost crappy enough to be edgy. Unfortunately, chances were I wouldn’t remember my ad idea…and that was fine. We didn’t have the budget for a new TV spot anyway.

I turned back to the client before that single chord drilled a hole in my skull. “Okay, Ms. Wolinski. Time to go.” Earlier, when I’d ushered her in, I’d planted the exit peg close at hand. I grasped the top of the grand piano and pried it all the way open, and there among the inner workings of the huge instrument, among the hammers and the strings that should have been in motion (but weren’t) the red metal spike protruded from the spruce, exactly where I’d left it. It glinted and pulsed, throbbing like a heartbeat, in time with the client’s physical pulse. It looked as if a buff and sweaty blacksmith had just pulled it from the forge, glowing hot, and driven it there in the middle of a bunch of otherwise mundane memories. Once upon a time, I would have been scared to even touch it for fear of it scorching the skin of my palm.

But in that not-quite-right way of other people’s memories, the exit peg, when I closed my hand around it, felt like nothing at all.

Since I’ve been doing this for so long, I know better. It wasn’t physically there. But it was real—I’d set it myself. I reassured myself for the umpteenth time that the exit peg did exist…and I pulled.

A quick glance over my shoulder as I strained to end the mnem—you’d swear the fancy guy in black was looking right at me. Then again, since I was standing between him and starlet of the show, everybody else on that end of the row seemed to have his eyes on me too. The peg held fast, wiggled, then tore free. I felt something like the clunk of a circuit breaker, and all at once, the memory dissolved. We swirled around a few times, a nauseating merry-go-round of red curtains, white lights and black piano. It should have been smoother. But every time I pulled the peg, the exit was just a bit more logy.

It was probably time to retire Setting the Stage for Success. But then we couldn’t advertise “Over twenty exciting mnems to choose from.” That “exciting” part was already stretching it pretty thin…it wouldn’t do to lose mnem number twenty-one.

I groaned and felt the uncomfortable bulge of the creaky lumbar chair that couldn’t quite hold its supportive position anywhere useful on my back, and I took a few deep, anchoring breaths. My first move, before I was even fully alert, was to peel off my sweaty headgear. The array of electrical connections distributed over the scalp was held in place by an unflattering silicon cap. Long, tangled strands connected its sensors to a receiver antenna, where the low frequency signal from the mnem machine was amplified to tickle the neurons. When the cap wasn’t being worn, lying on the countertop minding its own business, it looked like a beached rubber jellyfish—a robotic man-o-war.

Eyes still closed, I turned the cap around in my hands a few times, finding little jabs where the electrodes had snagged my hair, and told my co-worker, “The curtains in that packet are getting shabby,” before I forgot. Carlotta wouldn’t do anything about them herself—her job was to make sure everyone was still breathing—but speaking the words aloud would shift them to my active memory. “And there was this hot guy in the front row. You think Ms. Wolinski has a nephew?”

Light flashed into my eye as Carlotta thumbed back my eyelid to check my pupil, and her round face filled my field of vision. “How long you been single now?”

I mumbled something that wasn’t actually a word.

“A year, I bet. Unless you count that guy who always looked like his necktie was too tight.” The one who ostensibly hated my stubble. Right. “Why don’t you do like everyone else who works at a memory palace and whip yourself up a memory man?”

“Let’s see.” I sat up, snapped my fingers, and said, “Oh, gee, I know. Maybe because he wouldn’t be real?”

Carlotta ignored me. She’s good at that. “Get with your memory man a few times, you’ll find the confidence to put yourself out there again—for real. Like you used to.”

“Confidence is one of those things people take for granted.” At least until they crash and burn.

“Then just pretend you’re confident. It’s all about the attitude.”

She should know. Her three-hundred-pound badass black self was all about the attitude. “I don’t have time for dating anyway,” I said. “When would I date? I’m working two jobs as it is.”

“Hmph,” she replied. Which meant, “I’m right and you’re wrong, but I can tell you’re too stubborn to admit it.” And could also be said around a mouthful of fries. “Most people don’t consider dating to be a job. Besides, who says you need to date a man? Just sleep with ’em. That’s what I do.” She took my pulse, which excused me from having to discuss anybody sleeping with anybody, and then said, “Okay, Daniel, you’re about as normal as you ever are.”

I peered around Carlotta, through the session room door. The office where Aunt Pipsie watched TV all day while she fielded the occasional phone call was dark, lit only by the lambent glow of the keypad of the multi-line phone. I glanced up at the clock—almost five thirty. “Is that right?”

“What do you think, I’m moving the clocks up so I can go home early?”

“Um…are you?”

“Puh-lease. If I was, would I go announcing it to you? Besides, if I did change that time, I’d need to show up earlier tomorrow morning or else you’d dock me for being late.”

I don’t actually dock her for being late. I just threaten to. I figure that since I’m now the manager, it’s expected of me. “I gotta go.” I stood up and threw on my coat, a green canvas army jacket that’d been my dad’s in Nam. Most of the cigarette burns were his. Most of the wear and tear, mine. “Are all the clients discharged?”

“All but Miz Wolinski. And she’ll be a little groggy yet since you kept her in so long. Her ride’s waiting in the lobby.”

“I didn’t think I…” I looked at the clock again. “How long was I in?”

“About an hour.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure. I was sitting right here the whole time.”

“All I did was go in, pull the peg, and get right back out.”

Carlotta popped the packet out of the mnem machine and studied it with an exaggerated frown. “Maybe you hit a lag when you were looking at the curtains.”

“I don’t know. Never mind, it doesn’t matter. Just…tell Aunt Pipsie to steer the customers away from that title, if they ask.”

“You gonna replace it?”

“You know where I can find an extra five grand sitting around?”

She primped her fastidiously-straightened hair and said, “Well it better not be out of my Christmas bonus.”

I gave a dry “ha-ha” and let myself out the back door into the rapidly plummeting December chill. Christmas bonus. Right.

Yet another thing I couldn’t afford.

Amazon links

Excerpt: The Secret of Sleepy Hollow by Andi Marquette

October 31st, 2015

The Secret of Sleepy Hollow

by Andi Marquette


Tabitha “Abby” Crane, a doctoral student working on her thesis, doesn’t allow herself much time outside academia. Fortunately, she’s managed to squeeze in a research trip over Halloween weekend to the historical society of Sleepy Hollow, New York, where she hopes to uncover new research on the notorious town’s most infamous legend—that of the headless horseman. But she has a personal stake in this trip: Abby’s own ancestor, Ichabod Crane, disappeared mysteriously over two hundred years ago, perhaps at the hands of the ghostly horseman.

Abby has no reason to expect anything of Sleepy Hollow beyond immersing herself in archival collections and enjoying its Halloween festivities, but then she crosses paths with Katie, who makes her head spin and her heart pound. When Katie invites her on a nighttime visit to the glen where the horseman allegedly rides, Abby can’t say no, upending her plans for a quiet research retreat. And when Abby and Katie, who has her own ties to the famous story, find what may be the key to the disappearance of Ichabod Crane all those years ago, love, legend, and magic intermingle, making clear that Sleepy Hollow has plans of its own for yet another Crane.


Katie put her phone down on the table. “Here’s what we know. Ichabod was a feminist—as much as he could be back then—he was handsome, and treated Katrina with respect. Plus, she liked him.”

“Not just ‘liked.’ She seemed to be into him,” Abby clarified. “And I just don’t think finding out that he was a spy is something that would distress her or elate her. So I’m ruling that out, too.”

Katie took another sip of beer. “I’m thinking that Katrina and Ichabod had a lot going on, Brom found out, dressed up as the horseman, and basically ran him out of town.”

“But that still doesn’t explain the secret. God, history can be so damn frustrating.”

Katie grinned. “Have you been to the glen?”


“Want to go? I’ll drive. It’s only a couple of miles.”

“It’s dark out.”

“That’s the best time to go. You’ll get a feel for it. And this time of year, lots of people go to ghost watch. So it’s not as creepy, I guess, as it could be.”

She should probably say no. But Katie’s smile and the look in her eyes convinced Abby otherwise. “Okay.”

Katie waved the server over and Abby handed him a credit card. Katie gave him cash before Abby could offer to buy the beer.

“Let me ring this up. Be right back,” he said to Abby. To Katie, he said, “Do you want change?”

“No.” Katie smiled at him then looked at Abby. “Are you staying for the Halloween festivities on Saturday?”

“You’re kidding, right? I geek out over folklore. How could I miss something like that?” It was the day after tomorrow. She hoped to get as much research in as possible before then.

Katie smiled and leaned back against the booth. She put her arm up so it lay along the top of it and Abby wondered why a motion that simple could be so enticing. But on Katie, it was. It had been a while since Abby had dated. She had been busy with research and hadn’t met anyone lately, so she had quit thinking about it. Until now. Funny how that happened.

“The glen is usually crowded around this time because everybody wants to see the ghost horseman,” Katie was saying. “Legend has it this is the best time of the year for sightings. The day of the ride, I know a few places that aren’t as packed and generally, our horseman rides there, too. He tries to make a big circuit, so most everybody gets a chance to see him.”

“Sounds great,” Abby said as the server returned with her card and receipts. She signed and gathered her things to go.

Katie slid out of the booth and Abby followed her, trying to keep her gaze above Katie’s waist. She didn’t succeed.

She followed Katie to her vehicle, a gray SUV parked just outside and it dawned on Abby that this was the car she’d seen the evening before outside the historical society, and Katie must’ve been the driver who waved at Lu. Katie unlocked it with her key fob and went around to the driver’s side.

“So how’d you know I was at the pub?” Abby asked as she got in and buckled up.

“I didn’t. Guess I got lucky.” Katie flashed her another smile, put the SUV in reverse and backed out. The interior smelled faintly of vanilla. It had the comfortable, lived-in look of a vehicle that got a lot of use but was well cared for.

“Guess I did, too. After all, I’m getting a ride to the glen.”

“Totally my pleasure. Besides, the glen should be part of your research. That’s where Ichabod disappeared. Or so they say.” Katie accelerated as they hit the edge of town. “It hasn’t changed much out here. Some clearing on the edges of the main glen for houses, but other than that, the heart of it has been left pretty much alone for pedestrian traffic. The historical commission in town likes to preserve it, since it’s a great tourist attraction.”

“Has anybody thought to keep the horseman working year-round?”

“You mean as a regular attraction?”

“Yeah. Or even just a sometime and unpredictable attraction. Just randomly have someone ride around out here and drum up sightings and interest.”

“I think there was some discussion about that when I was in high school, but locals decided that was too much crazy for one haunted glen.”

Abby laughed.

“Ah. So you’re not always a serious scholar.” Katie’s voice was warm and layered, like a caress.

Another round of sparks zipped through Abby’s chest and stomach. Kind of embarrassing, to have a crush on someone she’d just met. “No, not always,” Abby said, and to her ears it sounded kind of prudish. “After all, I’m going out to run around in said haunted glen. At night.”

“Good point. I stand corrected.”

“So what topic are you working on?”

“Just finished my master’s last year. I’m actually looking for a topic for a dissertation. I’m interested in early feminist movements, and how those translated in local politics.”

“Then your history background serves you really well. Define early.”


“Eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, before 1850. I’d like to compare the political campaigns that women were involved in then with some of the more recent ones. Late twentieth century and early twenty-first.” She slowed down and turned right. “Because as we know, women were involved in politics, though they couldn’t vote.”

“True.” And Abby thought it was sexy, talking shop with Katie. That made her an even bigger geek, she supposed, but she didn’t care.

The SUV lurched a little on what was clearly a dirt road and Katie slowed down. “They do minimal maintenance out here. Local flavor and all.” Katie steered first left then right.

“How long has this road been here?” Abby hung onto the grab bar above the passenger window.

“As long as I can remember. I think it’s part of the original road through the glen. Lu will probably know.” She slowed down and pulled off to the right.

From the headlights, Abby saw thick forest lining either side of the road. Four other cars were parked there. Three were empty. The windows of the fourth were fogged up. Teenagers, no doubt. The area was probably a favorite make out spot. And most likely, over the years, it had always been one.

The thought of making out made her flush because Katie was the person who popped into her head. “So is there actually a bridge?” Abby asked, since she wanted to stop thinking about kissing Katie.

“There was. Not out here, though. The one described in Irving’s story isn’t there anymore. But we can check out the replica in the cemetery. And there’s some scary but cool stuff that goes on there, too.”


Katie turned off the engine and looked at Abby. “Do you believe in ghosts?”

“I don’t know. There are inexplicable things in the world,” Abby said. “And people have been recording sightings and strange phenomena for centuries, so I think there could be something to the idea.”

“Most of the stuff people report in the glen is weird lights, weird sounds, and the horseman.” Katie took a mini flashlight out of the glove box, reaching across Abby to do so, which brought her very close.

Abby froze. She caught a whiff of Katie’s cologne. Crisp and subtle. Abby couldn’t put her finger on what the notes were, but she liked it. Katie straightened, turned the vehicle’s lights off, and got out. Without the car lights on, Abby realized how very dark this part of the world was. Not much light pollution, either, but if she looked back the way they had come, she could make out a faint glow from the town, hovering over the trees. She got out and shut the door and Katie locked the vehicle.

“If you get freaked out, we’ll come back, no problem,” Katie said. She turned on her flashlight and started walking up the road. “I’m pretty sure that a lot of the lights that people see up here are ghost hunter flashlights. Especially this time of year.” Her own flashlight’s narrow beam seemed to stab the hard-packed earth of the road underfoot.

Abby followed, glad she had her keychain flashlight with her. Just in case. “Do you believe in ghosts?” She matched her pace to Katie’s, which was more like a stroll, fortunately, because the road’s surface wasn’t completely smooth, and Katie’s flashlight didn’t pick up some of the potholes right away.

“I take the position you do. I’ve seen some strange things around here, but so much of it might be influenced by local lore that it could, in turn, be influencing me to see things that I otherwise wouldn’t. There. Just laid some psychology on you.”

“That’s something I think about, in terms of deconstructing folklore and its surrounding cultures. I mean, where do you draw a line between what’s history and what’s been spun into folklore? How much of a community’s culture is influenced by either?”

“I think both are useful for telling stories. And I can tell you really love this topic,” Katie added with a soft laugh.

“Yeah. Sorry about that. My inner geek.”

“Which I totally enjoy. Don’t apologize for it. And stop here.”

Abby felt Katie’s hand on her arm, gently pulling.

“This is a good spot to see the sky and into the heart of the glen, through the trees. You’ll no doubt see some ghost hunters in there, too, but who knows? Maybe there’ll be something else.” She turned her flashlight off.

They stood in the road and in the light of the rising moon, some of the trees on either side seemed to shift and move, like gnarled and twisted dancers. The hair on the back of Abby’s neck stood up. “Okay, I get why people think they see weird things out here.”

“Right? Your brain and your eyes mess with you, especially in light like this. Power of suggestion. Look through there—” Katie had her hand on Abby’s arm again. “Do you see anything?”

She kept her hand on Abby’s arm and Abby was sure the heat from Katie’s palm was searing her skin, even through her fleece. Flustered, she tried to focus on whatever Katie might be trying to get her to see. A flash of light between the trees made her stiffen. “I’m going to assume that’s a flashlight,” she said, trying to sound braver than she felt.

“Probably. Hold on. Keep watching.”

The light flickered again, as if it was traveling between trees. A male voice floated in the night air, followed by laughter. Abby exhaled. “Flashlight.”

“Shh. Listen for a bit.”

Abby tried, but Katie’s hand was still on her arm and she suddenly wanted to grab her and pull her close.

“Do you hear anything?” Katie asked.

“You mean besides guys in the woods?”


Abby maintained silence between them for what seemed like a long time, concentrating so hard on her hearing that she eventually thought she heard her heart pounding in her ears. Maybe that was what people heard when they thought it was the horseman. It wasn’t hooves. It was their own fear, pounding in their ears from their heartbeats. Katie took her hand off Abby’s arm and the spot, where it had been, cooled abruptly, much to Abby’s disappointment.

“Too bad. Guess all you get is guys in the woods tonight,” Katie said, and she turned her flashlight back on.

“Well, there’s always Saturday.”

“You want some company on your folklore quest during the festivities?”

“Depends. Whose?” she teased, seeing what she could get away with.

Katie chuckled and Abby caught the flash of her teeth in the gloom. “Mine. I can drive again, but it’s best to leave cars outside the glen, so the horseman has room to maneuver and—”

“It’s a deal,” Abby said, and then she silently kicked herself for sounding overeager. On the other hand, so what? So, she thought Katie was interesting. And okay, really attractive. There was nothing wrong with spending time with an attractive woman on a research trip. Especially one who knew the collections like Katie did. Logical, right? Abby unsuccessfully tried to convince herself that her interest was purely pragmatic

“Come on,” Katie said. “There’s an old path up ahead that jags off this road. Whoever the horseman is on Saturday will use it. They always do. Some of the better ones have even ridden through the woods. When they do that, they burst out of the forest and scare the hell out of people walking around out here.”

“So he rides his horse through the trees? What about injuries?”

“Like I said, only the better ones do it. One of the best was three years ago and I’m pretty sure it was a woman.”

“There are women who ride as the horseman?” Abby moved a little closer to Katie and hoped it wasn’t obvious.

“Can’t say for sure, since nobody ever knows who the horsemen are year to year, but from what I’ve heard, there are a few over the years who’ve been women. Doesn’t matter, because it’s all about the illusion, after all.” Her arm brushed Abby’s but before Abby could move away to protect her hormones, Katie stopped.

“That’s the path, there to the left.”

Here, the trees seemed even closer to the road, branches entwined overhead, blocking the moonlight.

“Do you want to walk a little farther?” Katie asked.

“I think I hear something.” Abby stood, straining to pick up the sound she thought she heard over the sighing of the breeze and the creak of wood as tree branches rubbed across each other. Something rhythmic, like hoofbeats. And then it was louder, and Katie gripped Abby’s arm and pulled her closer as a figure appeared out of the darkness.


Amazon US:

Amazon UK

Amazon AUS

Amazon Germany

Barnes & Noble:

Excerpt: Dylan’s Dilemma by Edward Kendrick

October 24th, 2015
Dylan’s Dilemma
Edward Kendrick
When Dylan Russell unintentionally kills his ex-lover, Tommy, he knows he’s in trouble. Then he meets a man named Mars Marsden who offers him a solution — join the covert organization C21. An outfit made up of good men and women who ended up on the wrong side of the law, C21 now gives these people a chance to track and punish those criminals to whom the law doesn’t seem to apply. Dylan should fit right in.After meeting Mars’ handler, Dylan learns Tommy was an arms trafficker. Somewhat reluctantly, he agrees to go undercover to help bring down the rest of Tommy’s gang. After this dangerous induction into his new life, Dylan is sent for training.But Dylan is a marked man. Not only are the police looking for him, but when one of Tommy’s old colleagues discovers where Dylan is being trained, things get interesting. Can he and Mars survive the jobs they’re sent on? And, more importantly, can their purely sexual relationship deepen into something more before the work they do tears them apart?
The man took something from his jacket pocket, sliding it across the table to Dylan. One look and Dylan knew he was in trouble. The problem was, from whom. “How did you get this?” he asked once he could speak again.
Rather than answering the question, the man said, “Why don’t we go for a ride.”
Taking a deep breath, Dylan replied as if he really meant it, “Not until I know who I’m riding with.” He knew he’d go with him, even if the man didn’t reply, but he had to put up some sort of front, despite how terrified he was.
“My name is Garret Marsden.” He almost smiled as he added, “My friends call me Mars. I work for C21.”
“Never heard of it.”
“We keep a low profile.” Marsden stood, giving a nod toward the back exit to the bar. “If you would, please.”
Dylan looked up at him. “Why the hell should I trust you.”
Marsden chortled. “You probably shouldn’t, but given the photo—and I do have duplicates—you might want to at least hear me out.”
“Damn it to hell-and-gone, I’m fucking sick and tired of people trying to blackmail me into doing things.”
Resting his hands on the table, Marsden stated, “That’s why you killed Mr. Samson.”
Given that the photo in question showed him kneeling over Tommy, blood evident on the floor, Dylan couldn’t deny what Marsden had said. With a sigh, he got up as well and followed Marsden out of the bar into the alley behind it. When they passed the bar’s dumpster, Mars said, “Give me your phone.”
“Because the cops can use it to find you.”
“Seriously?” When Mars nodded, Dylan didn’t hesitate to hand it to him. Mars crushed it under his boot then tossed the pieces in the dumpster.
There was a half-full parking lot directly across the alley. Marsden led Dylan to…
“What the hell is that?”
“A 2000 Harley Softtail,” Marsden replied proudly.
Dylan slowly walked around it, shaking his head, before looking at Marsden. “You expect me to ride on this…thing? Is it even safe?”
“Never ridden before?”
“I value my life,” Dylan muttered, although he had to admit the idea didn’t scare him as much as might have. Maybe because I’ve got more to worry about than whether I’ll survive until we get wherever he’s taking me. And, strangely enough, I don’t think it’s to the closest police station. God help me if I’m wrong. Well, God help me no matter what.
“Hop on,” Marsden said, breaking into Dylan’s musings. He was already straddling the seat, so tentatively Dylan climbed on behind him and Marsden started the cycle. “You might want to hold on,” Marsden suggested, “and when I lean, you lean the same way even if it seems counterintuitive to you.”
“Hold on to what?”
Dylan could see Marsden rolling his eyes in one of the mirrors as he replied, “Onto me. And put this on.” He handed Dylan a helmet.
“What about you?”
Dylan's Dilemma
“I only have one. Put the damned thing on, if you would.”
Dylan did. Then they began moving. At first Marsden drove slowly. Dylan had the feeling it was so he could become used to being on the cycle—especially when Marsden went around corners. By the third one, he began to speed up. Dylan clung to him as if his life depended on it, trying to get the hang of leaning into the turns. Finally, to his relief, they were on the highway.
Dylan wasn’t certain how much time passed as they sped along, other than the fact it was long enough he was beginning to relax and enjoy the ride. It was…exhilarating was the best word he could think of. At least until Marsden slowed enough to make a turn which took them onto a two-lane road leading between high canyon walls. It climbed steeply as it curved deeper and deeper into the mountains—the only light coming from the motorcycle’s headlights.
Just as Dylan began to fear Marsden intended to kill him and dispose of his body in some mineshaft—a foolish fear he was certain, but one he couldn’t dispel—Marsden made another turn. They were now on a narrower road. Pine trees towered along both sides, making Dylan feel as if they were going through a tunnel. Then—out of nowhere it seemed as they made one more turn—a cabin appeared. It looked as if it hadn’t been used in years—gray boards, a roof with missing shingles, the porch steps crooked and the railing fallen to ruin on one side. Even the shutters over some of the windows looked as if they might crash to the ground in a strong breeze.
Marsden pulled around behind the cabin, parked and got off, waiting for Dylan to join him. “You okay?” he asked when Dylan clambered off and then had to grab the bike until his legs stopped shaking.
“Yeah. Mostly. Where the hell are we?”
“In the mountains,” Marsden replied, grinning. “Not to worry, the cabin is better on the inside. Come on.”
“Definitely better,” Dylan said when they were inside. Much to Dylan’s surprise, there had to be a security system, since Marsden disarmed an alarm box by the front door after turning on the lights.
There was one large room. A comfortable looking sofa and two overstuffed armchairs faced a stone fireplace, a rustic dining table and four chairs taking up part of the other side of the room with a small kitchen area behind them.
“Have a seat,” Marsden told Dylan. “Do you want a beer? Or coffee?”
“I’d rather have an explanation about why you brought me here,” Dylan replied tersely.
“You’ll get it.”
Dylan spun around to see an older man coming into the room from a doorway next to the kitchen.
“Please do as Mars asked.” The man pointed to the sofa.
Dylan was tempted to say, “Why should I?” but being outnumbered two to one, he sat.
The man introduced himself as Alastair Holme, Mars’ immediate superior, as he sat in one of the armchairs. “I’ll take coffee, Mars.” He looked inquiringly at Dylan.
“Coffee, please,” Dylan muttered. “And—”
“And explanation.” Alastair nodded. “All in good time.” He tapped his fingers together, studying Dylan. “You are in trouble, to put it mildly. I just heard from one of my contacts on the police force. They’ve issued a warrant for your arrest. They have probable cause to believe you murdered Thomas Samson.”
Dylan sucked in a dismayed breath. “Why?”
Alastair smiled dryly. “The police aren’t as dumb as you seem to think. They found your fingerprints at the crime scene, as well as other trace evidence.”
“That doesn’t mean anything. We used to be…in a relationship. I could have visited him. It would explain the prints.”
“True, but they also found a witness who saw you depositing a trash bag in a dumpster not far from Samson’s home around the time of the murder. Interestingly enough, it contained items from his house. One’s, I’m presuming, you took in an effort to make it look as if a burglary had taken place during which Samson was killed.”
Mars came over, handing Dylan and Alastair cups of coffee. “Do you need cream or sugar?” he asked Dylan.
“No, thanks.” Dylan set the cup on the side table between the sofa and the Alastair’s chair then looked at Alastair. “So the police are searching for me. Why are you and Marsden involved?”
“Did Mars tell you who we are?”
“I did,” Mars put in. “And Dylan, you can call me Mars.”
“So suddenly I’m a friend?” Dylan said sourly.
Mars shrugged. “I’m possibly the only one you have at this point, other than Alistair.”
That brought Dylan back to reality. “Why am I here?”
Alastair replied, “Let me preface everything by saying this: C21 is a covert group that goes after criminals who are considered untouchable for one reason or another. Mr. Samson was one of those we were after.”
“You’re shitting me!”
Ignoring Dylan’s outburst, Alistair continued. “As part of our trying to get evidence about him, we installed cameras at his house. It’s the reason we have the photo, taken from one of the videos, of you killing him. Before you say it was on impulse and nothing more, I agree. I’ve watched the videos. However, impulse or not, you reacted swiftly and efficiently when he grabbed your arms. I was impressed.”
For a second, all Dylan could think about was the fact Alistair must have seen more than just the killing, and he blushed.
Alastair looked amused, saying, “I’ve seen worse things than two men having sex. Putting that aside, I mean it when I say I was impressed. You killed him and then, quite competently went about trying to cover your tracks, as if it was second nature to you.”
“I was terrified.”
“I’m sure you were. A lesser man would have gathered up his clothes and run. You…didn’t.”
Dylan leaned back, staring off into space. “Why were you after him?”
“How well did you know him? I mean beside the obvious fact the two of you were lovers for a while?”
“He worked as a sales representative for IE Global, an import/export company.”
“You knew this for a fact?”
Dylan lifted a shoulder. “I never visited him there, but it’s what he told me and I had no reason to disbelieve him.”
“All right. What else?”
Grimacing, Dylan replied, “He was very controlling. It’s the reason I walked out. He had to be the boss, to know everything I did, where I went and who I knew.”
“Emotionally abusive,” Mars said quietly from where he was standing, one elbow on the fireplace mantle.
“I suppose,” Dylan agreed. “While we were together, he lived in an upscale condo and had money to burn.”
Alistair glanced at Mars, getting a nod in return, then said to Dylan, “He was part of IE Global, but not as one of their sales representatives. He was the owner of record. While on the surface they are exactly what they seem, behind the scenes he and his three partners deal in arms trafficking.”
Dylan looked at him in shock. “You have got to be kidding. Tommy?
“Yes. His real name was Tommaso Sansone.”
“No. He was an independent, although he had some Mafia contacts. He also had friends in high places who managed to keep him from facing charges for what he was doing. That’s where we came into the picture.”
“If it hadn’t been for his bad luck in meeting you,” Mars said with a dry smile, “we’d still be trying to gather enough evidence to either stop him and his cohorts or, if necessary, eliminate him.”
“Saved you the trouble, in his case at least, didn’t I?” Dylan replied sardonically. Then what Mars had said hit him. “That’s what you do? Kill people?”
Alistair nodded. “When the situation warrants.”
“So, what does all of this have to do with me? Why did you bring me here, rather than letting the police find and arrest me?”
“Ask Mars. It was his idea.”
Mars came over to sit at the other end of the sofa. “I think you have potential.”
“For what?” And then Dylan got it. “Oh, hell, no. I’m not a killer.”
Mars laughed. “I think the police would debate the point, but putting that aside, you seem to be a very clever man who has managed to use what’s at hand, be it in trying to cover up Samson’s murder, or using a room at the hotel to your advantage without anyone there discovering the fact. Somehow you convince the men you take up there not to let anyone know what’s going on. That, to me, says you’re good at persuading people to do what you want them to.”
“It’s in their own interests,” Dylan protested, ignoring for the moment the fact that they probably thought he was prostituting himself, which he wasn’t. He just liked good sex and plenty of it, when the opportunity arose. “Safe sex and all that, without taking a chance their wives or employers will find out.”
“Exactly what I’m saying.” Mars smiled slightly. “You’re glib enough to handle all the contingencies. On top of which, you have what it takes to have moved up at the hotel to assistant-manager, and probably, when your boss retired, you’d have taken over for him.”
“You’ve done your homework,” Dylan muttered. “And all in less than three days.”
“It’s part and parcel of what we do,” Alastair told him. “Without knowing everything possible about the people we go after, we wouldn’t stand a chance of stopping them.”
Dylan got up, going to look out the front window. He couldn’t see anything, as dark as it was, but he could almost feel the trees towering over the cabin. The way the trouble I’m in is towering over me. What do I do now? If Alastair is telling the truth, the police are looking for me. I can’t go home, or to work. He smiled sourly. It’s not as if I can prove I’m innocent, because I’m not. He felt one of the men put a hand on his shoulder and turned to see Mars looking at him with compassion.
“You’ll be staying here, at least until we figure out what to do about you.”
“There’s room enough?”
“Guess you didn’t really look at the place when we drove up. This room is about a third of the cabin. We have three bedrooms and a decent sized bathroom on this floor.”
“‘We’? Are you and Alastair…?”
Mars grinned. “Nope. He’s my boss, or handler, if you will. Nothing more. C21 owns the cabin and several acres around it. He’s here because of you. Landed at the airport late this morning, after I got in touch with him. Told me to pick you up, then drove up here.”
‘Shared pain is lessened,shared joy is increased, thus do we refute entropy.’ Spider Robinson

Just in time for Halloween: An Excerpt from A Demon Inside by Rick R. Reed

October 17th, 2015

An Excerpt from A Demon Inside

by Rick R. Reed


© 2015 by Rick R. Reed

BLURB Hunter Beaumont doesn’t understand his grandmother’s deathbed wish: “Destroy Beaumont House.” He’s never even heard of the place. But after his grandmother passes and his first love betrays him, the family house in the Wisconsin woods looks like a tempting refuge. Going against his grandmother’s wishes, Hunter flees to Beaumont House.

But will the house be the sanctuary he had hoped for? Soon after moving in, Hunter realizes he may not be alone. And with whom—or what—he shares the house may plunge him into a nightmare from which he may never escape. Sparks fly when he meets his handsome neighbor, Michael Burt, a caretaker for the estate next door. The man might be his salvation… or he could be the source of Hunter’s terror


I walk to the stairway and look up. Up there, he lies asleep. I mount the steps slowly, knowing exactly where each one creaks. I avoid those places, wanting to be as silent as the night. Darkness and cold are almost palpable things pressed against my spine. Soon he will feel my blackness surrounding him, enfolding him in a blanket of rotting stench, a coverlet of cold.

Hunter lay asleep, the book open across his steadily rising and falling chest, his mouth open in a snore.

The light beside the bed was still on, but soon enough the dull illumination flickered… and died. Hunter turned in his sleep, and the book toppled to the floor. The sound it made roused him, and he opened his eyes to darkness. He sat up.

The first thing he noticed was the smell. Distant but growing, the odor was unmistakable—it was the same as last night. Hunter shuddered, slumped down in bed, and pulled the covers over his head. Underneath the blanket he had already begun to quake and shiver. The near suffocating warmth of the goose down comforter was no match for the chills and shivers pulsing through him. Hunter closed his eyes, praying the smell wasn’t the preamble to a repeat of the night before.

He curled into a tight ball, fetal, as he heard the creak of his bedroom door opening. He squeezed his eyes together and listened as the bottom of the door whispered across the wood floor, followed by the sound of a footstep. Hunter stuck his thumb in his mouth, something he hadn’t done since he’d been a small boy, barely aware he was doing it.

Another footstep. Hunter could swear the feet sounded wet, as if they’d come from a marsh. There was a soft squishing sound.


A whispering voice, raspy, cut through the darkness, distinct. Hunter tightened all his muscles and whimpered.

“Hunter.” There was warm, throaty laughter.

Slowly the blanket covering him began to move down. Hunter lay frozen, paralyzed. He felt the cold night air rush over him as the warmth was drawn away. The comforter continued to move downward, almost of its own accord, until Hunter lay exposed and shivering.

The laughter came again, almost a croaking. Hunter sucked in his breath, his heart thundering in his chest. In spite of the icy air in the house, his face was slick with sweat. Hunter didn’t want to breathe. Each inhalation forced him to take in a stench so powerful it coated his lungs in wetness and decay.

Hunter dared to open his eyes. Above him loomed… nothing. The darkness of the room was complete. Although he was certain he hadn’t done it, the heavy draperies had been drawn across all his windows, shutting out the moonlight. All Hunter saw was darkness so complete he felt he could reach out and touch it, scoop it up by the handful.


A_Demon_Inside_Final copy

The voice continued to whisper his name, teasing. He couldn’t place where the voice emanated.

“I’ve come to see you again tonight.”

Hunter rolled onto his side, pulling his hands up over his ears. He could feel a weird sense of calm course through him as his terror began to morph into a peculiar numbness. Was this what going into shock felt like? Hunter pushed himself to speak, whispering the words into the pitch. “Who are you? What do you want?”

The response was a booming laugh that made him want to scream.

“I want you, of course. You, Hunter.”

“Get out of here!” Hunter at last shrieked. All sorts of thoughts came to him at once, the most prominent being that Michael Burt, no matter how clever, how deranged, how evil, could not be responsible for this. If anything, this was hysteria, Hunter’s own mind luring him into madness, causing hallucinations, trying to scare him away from the house for a reason he could not fathom.

It felt like the thing in his room—and he still couldn’t see anything but darkness—was pure, unadulterated evil. This last thought was preposterous, wasn’t it? Thinking like that surely was insane.

Hunter swallowed and tried to reach deep down within himself to find some reserves of courage he wasn’t even sure he possessed. But if he didn’t fight back, this thing—whoever or whatever it was—would win and would oust him. And if there was one thing he was sure of, it was that this thing wanted him out.

But this was his home, and he was not going to be forced out by a few bumps in the night. He sat up slowly as he allowed his terror to turn to rage. Even though he had the unshakeable and deeply disquieting fear that someone was there in the room with him, someone who meant him great harm, he forced himself to get up from his bed and shout, “Get the hell out of here. This is mine. Do you understand? Mine!”

Hunter had to cover his ears, sinking to his knees as the room filled with screams, sighs, groans, and laughter. All of it deep and penetrating, all of it at a roaring, ear-splitting volume, degenerating finally into a cacophony of voices, all speaking it once, unintelligible.

Hunter had no words left. He slumped to the floor and simply screamed. He trembled, falling forward and covering his head with his hands.

The room went silent.

And then the laughter began again, softly at first, hardly above a whisper.

“Hunter. I’m going to fuck you. Just wait.”

Hunter dragged himself to the bedside table, groped upward, and switched on the lamp.

The room was empty.

Hunter pulled himself up and moved to the mirror above the dresser. His face was completely white, eyes bulging slightly. Panting, he watched as the color slowly seeped back into his face. He reached out and touched his reflected image and then jerked his hand away from the icy glass. He touched his face, noting it was almost as cold as the glass. He looked deep into his own eyes, staring into the blackness of the pupil, trying to peer into that darkness, to see if somewhere inside lay the answer to his terror.

Completely unbidden, a tear fell, followed by three more. Hunter sniffed and forced himself to stop. He pulled the draperies open. To his dark-adapted eyes, the room filled with silver moonlight, almost day-bright.

And it was empty.



Rick R. Reed Biography Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). Raining Men and Caregiver have both won the Rainbow Award for gay fiction. Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.” Web: http://www.rickrreed.com  Blog: http://rickrreedreality.blogspot.com/ Facebook: www.facebook.com/rickrreedbooks Twitter: www.twitter.com/rickrreed. E-mail: jimmyfels@gmail.com



DSP Publications ebook: http://www.dsppublications.com/books/a-demon-inside-by-rick-r-reed-138-b

DSP Publications paperback: http://www.dsppublications.com/books/a-demon-inside-by-rick-r-reed-139-b

Amazon ebook http://www.amazon.com/Demon-Inside-Rick-R-Reed-ebook/dp/B0145S7EMO/

Amazon paperback http://www.amazon.com/Demon-Inside-Rick-R-Reed/dp/1634761065/





Lesbians on the Loose: Tales of Murder, Mayhem and Suspense

October 10th, 2015

Lesbians on the Loose

edited by

Lori L Lake and Jessie Chandler



These tales of murder, mayhem, and suspense by some of today’s finest crime writers will keep you up way past your bedtime!

The lesbians on the loose in this collection are an entertaining mix of protagonists: cops, amateur sleuths, a PI, a judge, a bounty hunter, and one very insightful dog. There’s even an intrepid high schooler and a mystery writer.
Despite greed and grief, rage and revenge, secrets and lies, many of the stories feature humor from a variety of characters trying to find their way in a difficult world–cops who’ve seen too much, revenge seekers, and women who want justice for themselves and others.

You won’t regret going on the lam with these terrific writers: Elizabeth Sims, Carsen Taite, SY Thompson, Andi Marquette, Linda M. Vogt, VK Powell, Kate McLachlan, Lori L. Lake, Lynn Ames, Sandra de Helen, Jen Wright, Sue Hardesty, Jessie Chandler, J.M. Redmann, and Katherine V. Forrest


An interview between the co-editors:



The book trailer:



The buy links:

Bella: http://www.bellabooks.com/9781633040311e-prod.html


Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00X08X9A2

Excerpt: Drama Queen: A Nicky and Noah Mystery by Joe Cosentino

September 12th, 2015

Drama Queen: A Nicky and Noah Mystery


Joe Cosentino


It could be curtains for college theatre professor Nicky Abbondanza. With dead bodies popping up all over campus, Nicky must use his drama skills to figure out who is playing the role of murderer before it is lights out for Nicky and his colleagues. Complicating matters is Nicky’s huge crush on Noah Oliver, a gorgeous assistant professor in his department, who may or may not be involved with a cocky graduate assistant…and is also the top suspect for the murders! You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat, delightfully entertaining novel. Curtain up!


Surrounded by darkness, I sat tensely watching as a young, beautiful man lay on the floor with blood dripping off his six-pack abs. I held my breath. Another muscular young man stood over the first and looked down with a vengeful gaze and devious smirk. My heart pounded as he strutted through the quiet street in his long flowing cape, weaving from corpse to corpse. His knife, erect, poised. “The Lord is vengeful and strong in wrath. And revenge is oh so sweet,” he said.

“Blackout then lights up!”

Tyler, the technical theatre graduate assistant running the lighting board, hit a button, and our Treemeadow College theatre once again sported its Victorian proscenium, cream-colored walls, maple wood wainscoting, bronze wall sconces, and ruby red stage curtain.

Sitting behind the director’s desk (actually a wooden plank temporarily set up in the center of the audience seating area) I scribbled a last note before shouting, “Good work, everyone! Please get out of costume and make-up as quickly as possible and join me in the first two rows of the house for notes.”

Students scurried about: the actors off the stage; the technicians behind the set securing lighting and prop pieces.

Since it is tech week for my show, I have been working in our Edwardian style theatre every evening alongside our workaholic technical director. Tyler Thompson is our technical theatre professor’s graduate assistant, who like all good technical directors, eats, sleeps, breathes, and basically lives in our Scene Shop behind the stage. Standing at five feet tall with mountainous shoulders, a broad back, powerful arms, thick hands, and stick legs, Tyler rules over all things sound, lights, projections, set pieces, and props at Treemeadow College. When he leaves, we will be at a total loss to find or do anything technical in our theatre.

Sets for plays used to consist of wooden flats screwed together to create the walls of a room or a slide projection of a building. Nowadays no set is worth its weight in a Tony Award if it doesn’t include moving film projections of farmland, urban settings, fireworks, or whatever exterior is called for in a given scene.

“I’ll fix the video of the street scene for tomorrow night, Nicky.” Tyler slumped in a chair next to me as the familiar smell of pepperoni, his staple food, and sawdust stung my nose. He wore his usual techie attire: a soiled white T-shirt under frayed overalls above worn workboats. This look was accented by a gold cross around his neck, tattoos on his arms (like an illustrated book with words, numbers, and pictures), and long, stringy, unwashed hair. Tyler scratched at his beard, a result of him not having shaved (or washed) since we started tech. “I also want to fix the sound cue for the siren, and change a few gels for the red wash across the stage during the murders.”

Before I could thank Tyler, David Samson, Professor of Technical Theatre and our show’s Scenic Designer, barreled down the theatre aisle like a bull in a field of tomatoes, shouting, “Tyler!” David is an imposing six feet two inches tall, weighing about a hundred and eighty pounds with a shaved head.

Tyler froze, and replied like a convicted chemical dumper facing an environmental lynch mob. “Yes, David?”

“You didn’t add in the new light cue I gave you for the top of Act II.”

“I’ll have it for tomorrow night,” Tyler said.

David’s strong features hardened. “Your procrastination and laziness are not acceptable.” He scowled. “Do it now.

“Sure, David,” Tyler responded as he leapt off the theatre seat and hurried into the lighting booth at the back of the theatre.

I came to Tyler’s defense. “David, Tyler has done an amazing job—”

“Nicky, the pacing of the show is too slow. The blocking isn’t balanced. The actors aren’t committing fully to their roles and to listening to one another. This comes as no surprise to me since our Acting professor is as incompetent as you are, Nicky, as our Directing professor. Unfortunately, it seems you’d rather flirt with one another than get to work! This is a disgrace to our department!” David raised his arms in the air like a preacher facing an unrepentant congregation. “You’re the director, Nicky. And I use that term lightly. Your other shows have been insulting to the intelligence of the audience, but this one has reached the pinnacle of being even worse! Will even you let an audience see this repugnant crap?”

“David, this is not the time or place to have this discussion.”

DramaQueencoverWith the student actors and technicians sitting in the front of the theatre (obliviously texting on their phones), my student stage manager, SuCho, screamed for everyone’s attention, and for me to come to the front of the theatre house to give them my notes. This thankfully sent David off to his office in a huff.

After I had given my first few notes, I noticed Noah Oliver standing in the back of the theatre. Noah is tall and lean with curly blond hair, blue eyes, and the sweetest smile I have ever wanted to kiss in an Assistant Professor. While I teach Theatre History and Play Directing, Noah is our department’s specialist in Acting, and for good reason. Noah is a terrific actor, a creative and passionate teacher, and a wonderful colleague. More importantly, I have had a crush on him since the moment he made his entrance into our humble campus three years ago. Noah is single, gay, and seems to really like me. Why don’t I ask him out? Noah is twenty-eight years young. As a junior professor in my department in need of my vote for tenure this year, if I make a pass at him it could be considered attempted coercion on my part.

It was difficult for me to concentrate on giving my notes to the students since Scotty Bruno, my graduate assistant and Assistant Director of the play, was talking, laughing, and obviously flirting with Noah in the rear of the theatre. I had reason to be concerned. Scotty has bleached blond hair, contact lens turquoise eyes, ultra-white bonded teeth, and muscles as if sculpted by Michelangelo, housed in multi-colored, stuffed shorts and tank top (in winter) that were not unnoticed by Noah. Unless I was becoming nearsighted, I could have sworn that Scotty whispered something into Noah’s ear then handed Noah a box. What the heck is in it? Love letters? Condoms? My heart on a silver platter? 

“Any notes for me, professor?” Paul Amour, my leading man, sat front row center and winked at me. Identifying as bisexual, Paul uses his charms with men and women alike to get their attention. Tall with shiny, wavy black hair climbing down his neck, chiseled features, and a body like a Greek god, getting attention wasn’t too difficult for Paul.

“You were like terrific tonight, Paul. I really believed you were like the murderer!” Ricky Gonzalez, Paul’s co-star and last onstage murder victim, sat next to Paul like an art dealer admiring the Mona Lisa. Ricky is shorter and darker than Paul with a smaller but equally cut physique. After he graduates from college and gets over his crush on Paul, Ricky will no doubt make some guy a wonderful husband.

“Thanks, Ricky.” Paul squeezed one of Ricky’s abdominal muscles.

Ricky beamed like a floodlight.

Kayla Calloway and Jan Annondale, who play murder victims one and two in the play, sat on the other side of Paul to reward their peripheral visions. Zaftig, giggly, and insecure, they hung on Paul’s every word, wishing they could hang on Paul.

“Your fight scenes were totally awesome tonight, Paul,” said Kayla.

Jan added, “And you really like aced your cool monologue at the end of the play.”

Before Paul could sign autographs, I said, “I have five more pages of notes tonight, people. Can I have everyone’s attention?”

As the cast members groaned I noticed that Noah and Scotty had left the theatre (to have a quickie in the lobby?). The students listened while I gave notes for improvement on their diction, movements, timing, reacting on stage (or lack thereof), character development, and emotional levels. After my last note, the students presented me with a blueberry cheesecake (thanks to the organic dairy farm bordering the college), singing “Happy Birthday” in four-part harmony (the lesbians at the lower notes and the gay men hitting the high notes). I was filled with gratitude until I noticed the thirty-five candles on top of the cake (obviously leaked to my students by Eve Harrington, my graduate assistant Scotty Bruno).

Allow me to break the fourth wall a moment—

This is the twentieth play that I have directed. Half of them were prior to my becoming a college professor, meaning when I had a low salary, no benefits, and no job security. Thankfully the fates led me to nabbing the coveted brass ring: a tenure track Assistant Professor position in the Theatre Department at a small, private New England college. This ultimately led to tenure and Associate Professor status with all the benefits it entails (salary, house, medical insurance, pension) and a hopeful promotion to full Professor next year.

My name is Nicky Abbondanza, PHD. The PHD (as an ex-boyfriend used to say before he left me for his life coach) stands for perky, hot, and adorable. He wasn’t much of a speller. My parents told me that my brother got the looks and I got the brains. Since my brother looks like Margaret Thatcher, I wasn’t too hopeful about my academic future.

Thankfully I was a straight B+ student and enjoyed writing academic papers such as “The All Male Acting Ensemble of the Elizabethan Theatre,” “Shakespeare’s Sonnets to His Mystery Male Lover,” and “Christopher Marlowe’s Secret Husband.” Catch my drift?

Because you, gentle reader, are always curious what your leads look like…well, I am over six-feet tall with straight black hair, green eyes, Roman nose, and an average to muscular build; meaning I go to the gym when I’m between boyfriends. I go to the gym a lot. And I’ll come right out and say that I have a huge penis. You might think this an idle boast—doesn’t everyone claim to be well-endowed these days, as if rulers aren’t standard measurements. The truth is my flaccid penis is nine and a quarter inches long and two inches wide. This is according to an ex-boyfriend who measured it while I was writing my dissertation. This blessing, or curse, back in high school caused teasing in the locker room: “Hey, it’s the original foot-long wiener!” At least they didn’t tease me for being gay. It has also solicited numerous more recent calls for “a viewing” at the gym. Finally, it has led to either great joy or incredible horror for anyone who dates me. I know what you are thinking. I should become a porn star. No thanks. I’ll keep my day (and night) job at the college. I don’t even watch porn, except in the evenings when I’m not working, during the day if I’m sick or depressed, on weekends, and during holidays.

Coming from Kansas, I truly am a friend of Dorothy’s who has settled down in Treemeadow, a little college town in Vermont, surrounded by snowcapped mountain landscapes dotted with white church steeples, quaint covered bridges over babbling brooks, and a warm and cozy fireplace burning next to a rainbow flag seen through the window of the LGBT bookstore.

“Thirty-five! Professor, you are well preserved for someone so old.”

“I hope I’m still working at thirty-five.”

To Paul and Ricky, and to all of my students, thirty-five is older than Methuselah.

“The first one back with a piece can feed me,” said Paul with a bad boy grin.

“No food in the theatre.” After laying down the law, SuCho yanked open the theatre doors and the students filed out into the lobby.

Ariella, our Professor of Costuming and the costume designer for the play (with costumes hanging over both arms) carefully made her way off the stage and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

“Happy birthday, Nicky.”

“So you’ve heard I’m ancient…and incompetent.”

Flicking back her long, black hair, Ariella said in her usual monotone, “Don’t let the kids get to you, Nicky. And don’t let David get to you either. The show is terrific.”

I unleashed a half smile. “Tell David that.”

“I already did. Right after his tirade about the ‘pedestrian and mundane’ costumes. Nicky, David doesn’t like anything, except David.” Are there tears brimming in her dark eyes? “Nobody knows that better than me.”

“Ariella, I hope this isn’t too personal, but with all of your complaints about David, why do you stay married to him?”

She offered a bitter smile. “That my friend is a very good question.”

Ariella went to the Costume Shop adjacent to the stage. I joined the students who were scattered throughout the theatre lobby licking their plastic forks clean of cheesecake while texting each other in dismay over the rising tuition at the college.

Paul, Ricky, Kayla, and Jan sat on the flared stairway leading to the balcony. Kayla, a beautiful dark-skinned African American, and Jan, a gorgeous pale-skinned Albino, were on either side of olive-skinned Ricky as if forming a three-layer cake. Paul faced them and appeared to be presenting some type of proposal. Since they are the officers of the Theatre Club on campus, I assumed they were discussing club business. As I am the club’s faculty advisor I walked over, leaned on a gold marble column, and overheard their conversation.

Jan whispered, “I don’t know if I can um go through with this, guys.”

Paul arched his massive back and slipped his muscular arm around her quivering shoulder, “Sure you can, Jan. Trust me. I’ll take care of everything.”

As Jan melted, Kayla combed her hair and giggled. “It could be like fun.”

With eyes only for Paul, Ricky said, “If you um want me to do it, Paul, I’m in.”

I made my way to the gold staircase railing, and asked if they needed my help.

“No thanks, professor, we’re cool,” said Paul with a contraction and release of his pectoral muscles to the delight of his cohorts.

“Cool cake, professor.” Kayla and Jan giggled as they each fed a piece to Paul.

Ricky added with a smirk, “Paul and I can like drive you home if you are too old to drive, professor.”

I grimaced. “Very funny.”

I left my students to their private discussion and joined my young graduate assistant seated on a red velvet bench in a turreted area of the lobby. As I dug into my sizable piece of cake, Scotty leaned into me like a cat facing a sardine, “Since it looks like the tech rehearsal will run late, I can teach your morning Theatre History class tomorrow.”

“That won’t be necessary, Scotty.” Just stick your finger down your throat then head to the gym as usual.

“With teaching your classes, assessing and updating curriculum, going to faculty meetings, advising students, writing your articles, advising the theatre club, and directing plays, I worry that you may get sick.”

You’d unleash the bubonic plague if it meant getting my job. I patted his shaved and oiled knee, and said a la Margo Channing, “I’m fine, Scotty. Just leave your notes on tonight’s performance in my office box tomorrow.”

“Am I too late for the party?” My knees dipped as Noah Oliver took off his coat and scarf and stood next to me. “Happy birthday, Nicky!” He winked at me.

Maybe we can adopt seven children, run away to the hills, and start a family singing act.

Scotty leapt from his seat like it was a pogo stick. “Have a piece of cake, Noah. No nuts!”

I beg your pardon?

“Thanks for remembering, Scotty.” Noah sat between Scotty and me and dug into the creamy wonder. Was that a familiar smile between Scotty and Noah?!

Scotty explained as if he was Noah’s husband, “Noah is allergic to nuts, Nicky.”

Hopefully not to mine.

Noah took me in with his baby blue eyes. Did I notice a look of lust in them? “How’s the show going?”

What show? Oh! “We’re all exhausted, frazzled, panicked, and certain of a great opening night.”

Noah squeezed my hand. “You’re an amazing director. The creative way you move your characters around the stage, how the elements of design compliment the story, and your unique vision is thrilling to watch. I expect nothing short of brilliance in this production.” Noah beamed with pride. “And you have some powerful student actors in the show.” Scotty collected our empty plates. “Noah is a terrific acting teacher.” He gazed at Noah with pure adoration. “The students are lucky to have you.”

Since theatre is a collaborative art, I said, “Tyler’s execution of David’s scenic design is amazing, and as usual Tyler has been a total work horse. Ariella’s costumes have an incredible gothic look, but they’re light enough for the students to move around in them.”

Noah whispered in my ear, and I restrained myself from throwing myself on top of him. “Can I speak to you about something…personal?”

“Sure.” How about a June wedding?

While Scotty stared at us with an inquisitive look on his face, Noah led me to a window seat in a corner of the theatre lobby. White snow fell softly outside the window behind us like cotton bits in a glass ball. I could tell something was bothering Noah, and it hurt me that he was hurting.

“I don’t want to take advantage of our friendship.”

Take advantage! “What’s wrong?”

“It’s about my tenure application.”

I thought back to the neurosis, prayers, nightmares, and sheer terror before my tenure decision. “Noah, anybody lucky enough to get a tenure track position nowadays goes through the jitters stage. It’s not fun, but it’s part of the game. I read your application. It’s very strong. All the students and all the faculty in the department like you.”

His head dropped to his chest. “Not everybody.”

David, the self-prescribed technical theatre god, strikes again.

“I went to David’s office while you were giving notes.”

Tongue firmly in cheek, I said, “And the two of you had a cozy little chat about your promising future at Treemeadow College?”

Noah let out an I Love Lucy, “Hah!” then continued. “After complimenting David on the set design for the show, I mentioned my positive student surveys, and my supportive evaluations from Martin as department head.”

“And when you asked if he will support your tenure, David said he’d have to think about it.” I sneered. “That’s what David said to me when I applied for tenure.” I felt my jaw, hands, and knees clench in unison. “His was my only no vote, which I will never forget.”

“I fared worse than you. David came right out and told me I am too easy on my students, and that like most gay men I am too weak to be a dynamic lecturer.”

“That’s a lie. And against the law in this state.”

Noah’s magnificent lips pouted. “David told me that he wouldn’t support my tenure if I gave him a thousand dollars.”

“He’s never supported anyone for tenure. He has voted against every new course and program modification proposal in the department. He even voted against having a department holiday party. But David’s is only one vote.”

Resting his warm hand on my grateful shoulder, Noah said, “Nicky, David is running for department head.”

“He won’t win against Martin.”

Slumping back against the window seat, Noah said, “There are only seven tenured faculty members in our department. David can be very persuasive.”

“Ariella may be David’s wife but she’s her own person, and she likes you a great deal. And I doubt Jackson Grier would support David since David voted against Jackson’s tenure too.”

“I heard Jackson and David arguing in David’s office tonight before I went in to talk to David about my tenure. Jackson slammed the door and left in a huff.”

“What were David and Jackson arguing about?”

Noah’s shrugged. “I heard David criticizing Jackson’s movement and stage combat choreography for the show. Then all I could get were the words, ‘fresh start.’” Soft lines surfaced on Noah’s handsome face. “David could be making deals, offering his support to faculty if he becomes department head and if they vote against my tenure.”

I stood and lifted Noah to his feet. “Come on, young man.”

He looked like a school boy at a fire drill. “Where are we going?”

“Where everyone in our department brings all of our problems.”

A delicious line formed between Noah’s eyes. “Is Martin here at this hour?”

“My bet is yes.” I pushed Noah in front of me, and said grandly, “To the Wizard of Theatre Arts.”

A few minutes later we were in the white stone building next door, which houses our faculty offices, lab theatre, rehearsal hall, and classrooms. Martin was just about to leave his office when Noah and I arrived like the Scarecrow and the Tin Man asking for our special wish.

Our department head is a short, thin, balding man who looks like Pinocchio, if Pinocchio was in his sixties. Besides being a terrific Theatre Management professor, Martin is honest, kind, incredibly competent, and a tireless advocate for everyone and everything in our department. When I grow up, I want to be Martin Anderson.

“Nicky! Noah! Come in. Have a seat.” Pretending he hadn’t been on his way home, Martin surreptitiously slipped off his hat and coat then settled us all on tall, leather wingback chairs around his cherry wood mantel fireplace with china cups filled with hot cocoa in our hands and monogrammed cranberry cloth napkins on our knees. Martin wore his usual wardrobe of a white button-down shirt, black pants, and matching sweater vest and bowtie (cranberry today).

I said, “Working on next term’s budget?”

Martin smiled revealing jagged teeth from biting on too many number two pencils. “The budget, course schedule, and curriculum reports for next term are finished. I was going over student grade appeals.”

Noah’s jaw dropped. “It’s only February. Grade appeals so soon?”

I patted Noah on the head, and said a la W.C. Fields, “The way our students are coddled at home and in high school, there are always grade appeals, my boy.” I took a sip of my sweet cocoa, and asked Martin, “Doesn’t Ruben ever complain about the hours you keep at the college?”

Martin smiled at the picture of him and his husband on his large cherry wood desk. “After over forty years together, we understand each other’s passions…for one another and for our work.”

Ruben is the C.E.O. of a gay rights organization, a devoted husband to Martin, and a loving father to their two adopted children, now grown women with families of their own.

“But enough about me. How’s the show coming?”

“I’ll let you know after opening night…and after I sleep about twenty-four hours.”

“You do terrific work…both of you.”


Martin looked like a termite in a wood shed. “Now tell me everything that is going on at rehearsals. Any love affairs among the students? Arguments between the staff? Artistic tempers flaring?”

Besides being an amazing department head, Martin is also an amazing gossip. Though he will keep any secret asked of him in confidence, everything else is fair game for a major Martin chin wag.

I filled Martin in on the latest antics of my cast and crew, including Ricky, Kayla, and Jan’s infatuation with my play’s leading man.

After I ran out of gossip, Noah said tensely, “Martin, we came to see you about David Samson.” Noah rested a shaky elbow on the arm of his chair. “Besides Ariella, who in our department might be swayed by him?”

Martin’s eyes twinkled like the Big Dipper. “I doubt Loptu would be…any longer.”

That peeked my interest. “What does Loptu have against David?”

Martin salivated over each word. “Well, they were once…an item.”

I couldn’t believe our bipolar Playwriting professor was once David’s mistress. “How do you know?”

“Loptu was in here weeping and wailing when David dumped her last week. I held her hand and let her cry on my shoulder…” he grinned, “…while I got the whole story out of her.”

Unleashing his warm heart, Noah asked, “How is Loptu now?”

“Fine, thanks to a steady supply of little red, blue, and green psychotropic wonders from her psychiatrist.”

“Does Ariella know about David and Loptu?” I asked.

Martin giggled merrily. “How could Ariella not know? We are a very small community here at Treemeadow.” Back to Noah’s question, Martin said, “However, Millie will probably do anything David asks.”

My jaw dropped to the cocoa stain on the carpet. “Millie and David are together?”

Martin was nearly orgasmic. “They are glued together like a televangelist and his wig.”

Noticing the look of fear on Noah’s face, I said, “As our Voice and Diction professor, Millie is Noah’s closest colleague. Regardless of her affair with David, she would never do anything to hurt Noah.”

“What’s this about?” asked Martin at the edge of his seat.

I stood by my man, or rather by the man I wished was my man. “Tonight David told Noah that he isn’t supporting Noah’s tenure application.”

Martin laughed. “Big news. David has never supported anyone or anything.”

I nodded. “But David said some untrue and probably illegal things to Noah.”

Martin’s curiosity was peeked, a relatively easy task. I filled Martin in on the latest words of wisdom from David to Noah.

When I was finished, Noah’s leg shook nervously, as he said, “My concern is that David might try to poison others in the department against me, and use his running for department head as leverage.”

Martin seemed to grow a foot in stature. “David’s a bully. And the only way to deal with a bully is to stand up to him.” Looking like a mother bear facing a hunter, Martin added, “David tells me that everything I do is wrong. Well, now I will do something that is right.” He put his hand on Noah’s shoulder. “And I promise, we won’t lose you, Noah.” Martin put his arms around us and walked us to the door. “The people in this department mean more to me than you know. I won’t stand idly by when a fox gets into my hen house.” We stopped at the door. Martin looked at us like a father sending his children off to bed. “Go home. Get some rest. And let me take care of David.”

After thanking Martin, Noah and I did exactly that. Unfortunately, each in our own beds.

I woke the next morning to the local news blaring from the radio alarm on my night table. Before I could hit the snooze button, I heard the news announcer’s top story. “Early this morning David Samson, Professor of Technical Theatre, was found dead in his office at Treemeadow College with a knife lodged in his back.”

DRAMA QUEEN (a Nicky and Noah mystery)

a comedy/mystery/romance novel


from Lethe Press

paperback, ebook, and audiobook available now

purchase links:

Purchase the audiobook narrated by Michael Gilboe at Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Drama-Queen-Nicky-Noah-Mystery/dp/B012O702CW/

Purchase the audiobook at Audible at: http://www.audible.com/pd/Mysteries-Thrillers/Drama-Queen-Audiobook/B012I834LS/ref=a_search_c4_1_9_srTtl?qid=1438019265&sr=1-9 

Purchase the paperback from Lethe Press at: http://www.lethepressbooks.com/store/p303/Drama_Queen%3A_A_Nicky_and_Noah_Mystery.html

Purchase the paperback from Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Drama-Queen-Nicky-Noah-Mystery/dp/1590214676/

Purchase the ebook from Smashwords at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/546002



Exclusive Excerpt: Straight Up – a new Dan Stagg Mystery by James Lear

September 5th, 2015

Straight Up


James Lear


Who is trying to kill the members of an elite special ops team that worked off the radar in Iraq in the ’90s? It’s up to Dan Stagg to track down the survivors — the men with whom he stormed an undefended surveillance station, killing everyone inside. And now, many years later, the team is being targeted in what seems like a series of unrelated attacks.

Dan teams up with his old comrade Al Benson, once a rising star of the USMC, now a respectable married civilian with a few secrets to hide. As they dig deeper into the secrets of the past, Dan discovers that Benson’s looking for more than just answers. An explosive affair threatens everyone’s future, and connects Dan to a past he thought he’d left behind.

Excerpted with Permission From Straight Up: A Dan Stagg Novel

Now, those of you who know me well will have rolled your eyes when I said I worked in a gym. ‘Oh yes, Dan, a gym. A place where guys come and take their clothes off. How convenient.’ I might bust your chops for that, or I might say ‘You’ve got me all wrong, I’m in a relationship now and I don’t fool around,’ and you’d pretend to believe me because you’d prefer to keep your limbs intact. But of course, you’re absolutely right. My official job at The Strong Box – ‘Lowell’s Premier Fitness and Martial Arts Facility’ (ie the only gym in town) – is personal trainer, specializing in kickboxing and other legitimized forms of violence. In between clients, who are sparse, I sit at the front desk, answer the phone, pick up wet towels in the locker room, mop the floors and generally clear up other people’s shit. It’s kind of like working for Uncle Sam, without the killing.

Of course there are opportunities, and yes, I’ve taken them. Not with the members: I can’t afford to lose this job, and the boss made us sign a piece of paper agreeing that any fraternizing with the clients would lead to instant dismissal. I guess a few too many horny housewives got banged up by their personal trainers. They’re safe from me, but their husbands might not be. Nobody need know that. I’m not what you’d call out at work.


I didn’t sign anything about co-workers, though. People move around a lot in the fitness industry – there’s a high staff turnover even in a little joint like the Strong Box, college grads trying to get a toehold in the business, former athletes whose competition days are over, even a few ex-military men like me. They’re all physically fit, and at a rough guess I’d say about 40 per cent of the men could be persuaded. You get talking about your bodies, you hit the showers after locking up at night, you compare abs or delts or whatever fucking muscle you like, and Bob’s your uncle. And it was just as I was putting the key in the ignition that I remembered I was sharing a shift with Lee, the young English guy who was doing a masters in sports science in a college over towards Boston. Like me he was living in cheap rented accommodation in Lowell, like me he was paying the rent by working at the gym, and in the couple of weeks he’d been there we’d really enjoyed complaining about stuff. He was 21, his first time abroad, his first time living away from home, and he was homesick. I guess I should also mention that he was tall and lean and had played rugby back at home, and hoped one day to play for his country. He had the English rose tattooed on his left pectoral muscle. ‘I want to wear that on my shirt one day,’ he said, the first time I saw him naked. If I had my way he’d never wear clothes again, but I just nodded and said something about sport.

He was already waiting when I pulled up to the kerb, leaning against the wall, wearing jeans and a thick sweater and a watch cap; it was September, the days still warm but the mornings cold as ice, a promise of the winter to come. He’d found a patch of thin early sunshine and was basking in it like a lizard, soaking up the warmth. His face was striking rather than handsome, particularly with the strong shadows accentuating his high cheekbones and deep brow. His eyes were close-set, his mouth large; in repose, he could look quite stupid, a brainless meathead. I liked this. I spent my career giving orders to guys like Lee, and I always had a soft spot for the dumb ones. When he heard the car door slamming he opened his eyes and smiled.


He stood up straight, pulled his cap off and ran a large hand over his head. The hair was cut in some crazy style, buzzed at the side but long at the top and back, a kind of modified Mohawk that would look fucking awful on anyone over 22. When you’re Lee’s age you can get away with it – just. His nails were bitten down to the quick, and he had a band-aid on his right middle finger.

I shook his hand, then inspected his fingers. ‘What’s the matter, Lee? Can’t you afford regular food? Been eating yourself?’

He pulled his hand away, stuffed it into his pocket, ashamed of the childish habit. ‘Yeah, right, I know.’

He had a habit of mumbling which, combined with a thick London accent and an unfamiliar vocabulary, made communication interesting. ‘How are you mate?’

‘I’m good. You?’

‘Yeah.’ He did a nervous little sidelong smile, hissed between his teeth. ‘All right. Cold innit.’

‘Let’s open up.’ I checked my watch. ‘Half an hour before we let ‘em in.’

‘I need a shower.’ He sniffed his armpit and grimaced. ‘I fucking stink.’

I scratched my 24-hour stubble. ‘And I need a shave. Come on.’

The Strong Box occupied the basement of two retail units, an outdoor clothing store and a tackle and bait shop, accessed by a metal staircase and a tiny front area into which garbage always blew. Our first job was to clear out the night’s debris.

‘I’ll do this,’ I said, opening the door: as the senior employee, I was entrusted with the keys. ‘You go get the water running.’

‘Cheers mate. I owe you.’

Yeah, and I can think of a thousand ways to make you pay, I thought, watching his ass recede into the gloom of the interior. I kicked the trash into a little pile and dumped it in the bin, hoping there were no sharps. Usual stuff: burger wrappings, cigarette butts, cans. I needed to wash my hands.

I could hear the shower as soon as I walked in; good boy, he’d done as he was told, first thing in the morning it could take five minutes for the water to get up to a bearable temperature. The boiler was always breaking down, which made for pissed off members and smelly employees. The Strong Box was not exactly high-end.


Releasing September 8, 2015








Excerpt from the new Corey Shaw Mystery by Alex Morgan

August 29th, 2015

Legacy of Hephaestus


Alex Morgan


Paranormal sleuth Corey Shaw is wrapping up what’s left of his European vacation by enjoying the beautiful men in Europe.  During his visit, the largest yellow diamond in the world is stolen from a factory in Amsterdam.  On his way home, an attempt is made on his life, and his house is broken into upon his arrival home in Boston. Just as Corey finds the “Lava Diamond”, a professor from Boston College disappears while on sabbatical at Bergen University in Norway.

Drawn into the fray, Corey travels back across the Atlantic to search for the professor only to discover a connection between the missing prof and the “Lava Diamond”.


As Corey paused to watch, one of the players leaned over the table to line up a shot and glanced up, locking gazes with him. His face split into a big grin. His short crop of curly red hair and blue eyes reminded Corey of Prince Harry of England, only sexier. The man returned his attention to his shot, although his smile remained.

Corey noted the long, sinewy forearms with a vascularity that spoke of strength and musculature. The pool player slid the pool cue back and forth several times through his long, out-stretched fingers, making Corey think he was insinuating something rather than lining up a shot. He thrust the pool stick forward, striking the cue ball, sending it flying across the table where it collided with the 4 ball with a sharp crack. The 4 darted off at an angle, straight into the corner pocket. Murmurs of approval rippled through the spectators.

‘Harry’ straightened up with a slight grin, acknowledging the mutterings of encouragement, and circled the table with his gaze on the remaining balls. His navy blue T-shirt hung over muscular pecs, and the short sleeves had been rolled up, exposing bulging biceps. An emblem on his shirt indicated he worked for a longshoreman company at the port. Or at least the company owned the T-shirt.

His path brought him next to Corey, where he stopped and bent over the table in front of him, bumping him with his round ass, contained in tight blue jeans.


“Sorry,” he said over his shoulder. His tone did not sound apologetic, and Corey nodded with a twitch of an eyebrow.

In an automatic, involuntary move, Corey reached out and placed an open palm on Harry’s back pocket. The ass didn’t yield under his touch.

“Nice,” Corey whispered, and Harry shifted his weight back, pushing into Corey’s hand. He fired off another shot, sinking the next ball.

Corey watched him as he circled the table several times, stopping to line up a shot and sink a third ball. Within a few short minutes, Harry had cleared the table and shook hands with his opponent to a smattering of applause. He turned to face Corey across the room just as another challenger stepped up to him. Harry glanced at Corey as if willing him to be patient and stick around.

Corey nodded again and backed against the wall, out of the way. Harry racked the balls in seconds and broke, sending them in all directions, sinking two. He continued to make short work of his opponent, clearing the table in several turns.

Before the game ended, Corey sought out the bar and ordered two Heinekens. When he returned, Harry was shaking hands with the loser.

Not wanting to look too eager or desperate, he approached the pool player with a slow pace. Harry looked up with a beautiful smile as Corey proffered the beer.

Bedankt,” Harry said.

“Good game,” Corey said, taking a sip and hoping the gorgeous man understood him.

“Do you play?” Harry asked in perfect English and took a swig.

“I’ve dabbled now and then.”

“You’re American,” Harry said. “On holiday?”

“Only a couple of days. Then I go to Oslo before heading home.”

“Perhaps I could show you some of the sights of our beautiful city,” Harry said with a suggestive wink.

“I like what I see in here.” Corey returned the gesture.


Wilde City Press: Alex Morgan