Friday, October 31, 2014

Haunted: Halloween Book Blast

About the book:

It doesn’t matter to Valerie Wiggins that most people believe Jason McLain killed his wife. She needs the three-time Oscar winner’s expertise in special effects if they are going to turn their local charity’s annual haunted house into a money maker. Besides, every since she first saw his picture in the tabloids, she’s been attracted to him: his piercing dark brown eyes, unruly brown hair, and unsmiling mouth. And even though he’s come to this small town in the Sierra Nevada mountains to hide, she won’t take no for an answer. Except once he says yes, he fears he’s pulled her into the darkness that continues to haunt him.

Excerpt from Haunted

“Nowadays every town and city in the United States has a haunted house at Halloween time. If you want Slaterville’s to bring people from miles around, it’s going to have to be different. More spectacular, frightening, and mysterious than any other haunted house in Northern California.”

Valerie Wiggins parked her white Ford in front of a run-down, peak-roofed mountain cabin and cursed herself for standing up and giving that speech at the last WIN meeting. The squeaking door didn’t get oiled, it got volunteered. It was now her responsibility to create a “different” haunted house, and her job to make sure it was more spectacular, frightening, and mysterious than any other haunted house around.

Just what she needed, another job.

She didn’t have the time. She didn’t have the energy.

Cut the bull, she told herself as she stared at the cabin. The truth was, she did have the time. And the energy. And she didn’t mind being in charge of the project. What she didn’t want to do was talk to the man who lived in this house.

“We have just the person who can help us turn our haunted house into a success,” she’d said at the meeting that night. “Living right outside of town.”

As if every woman in the room didn’t know about Jason McLain.

So now, thanks to her big mouth, she was the one appointed to talk to Slaterville’s newest and most infamous resident. His reputation alone scared most of the other women.

His reputation scared Val.

Unless you knew, you’d never guess a man who’d won three Academy Awards for special effects lived in this house. If he was as rich as the papers had said, he sure wasn’t using his money to upgrade his property. In the six months since he’d moved to Slaterville, he’d done nothing to improve the exterior of the old Dalton place. The fence was broken in several places; beneath the snow, the small patch of lawn that had existed years before was no more than weeds; the bushes around the house were overgrown and dying; and the porch sagged. All of the wood needed a fresh coat of paint.

The only changes she could see from back when the place had stood abandoned for years were the broken windows had been replaced and heavy drapes and venetian blinds kept passersby from looking inside. There were certainly no signs of life. The snow hadn’t been shoveled from the walkway, no smoke curled from the chimney, and no lights showed behind the closed drapes and blinds. There was nothing to indicate anyone lived in the cabin except the tire tracks that led to the garage near the side door.

Or perhaps away from it.

Maybe he’s not home, Val thought as she opened her car door.


Jason heard two raps at the side door and grumbled into the near darkness of his living room. It had to be Bud, back from the store. He’d said he was going for a six-pack of beer, but he’d probably bought more and couldn’t open the door.

Again there were two raps.



Jason pushed himself up from the sofa and started toward the kitchen. Why had Bud come anyway? It wasn’t as though an invitation had been issued. The past was better forgotten, and that included friendships. Besides, in the past three years, Bud hadn’t exactly been Mr. Stand-By-Your-Side.

Jason had to admit, if only to himself, that had hurt.

He shook his head as he walked between the sink and the table, both of which were piled with dishes. Dammit all, he’d left Hollywood to find solitude, to get away from the memories. Two and a half years of being harassed by the police and media had been enough. His own doubts were enough.

If Bud expected him to be Mr. Jovial, he’d driven five hundred miles for nothing, and a few beers wouldn’t change that.

From the author:

“Write what you love and know.” That’s the advice given to writers.

I fell in love with the Rhodesian Ridgeback the first time I saw one at a dog show. I love their temperament, their intelligence, and their personalities. I’ve shown them, bred them, whelped them, cried when I sent a puppy off to a new owner, and been as proud as a motherwhen one won at a dog show.

I also love living in the country. I have childhood memories of catching pollywogs in the creek that ran by our two acres in Walnut Creek, California; being able to pick ripe peaches from the tree (also almonds, pears, English walnuts, apricots and more); and sitting in my “thinking” tree making up stories.

When I married my husband, we were living in Santa Barbara, but his father was ill and we decided to move to Michigan to be closer to him. It was supposed to be a short-term move (just a couple years, my husband said). I won’t tell you how many years we’ve now lived in Michigan, but we now have grown children and teenage granddaughters. I haven’t regretted the move. Michigan is a beautiful state, and for 27 years we lived in the rural community of Climax. What a perfect location for a romance writer, and what a neat place to plot a mystery with a lot of suspense. (Yes, there are some similarities between the real Climax and my imaginary Zenith in The Crows and As the Crow Flies, but the events and people in those books are definitely fictional.)

We’ve now moved close to Lake Michigan (so my husband is near his sailboat), and we spend our winters in Florida, not far from the Gulf Coast. Both locations feed my love of being near water (remember that creek I played in and Santa Barbara) and are ideal places to nurture my desire to write. Whether I’m writing a romance, a mystery, or a combination of the two, I’m probably going to include an animal or two and there’s a good chance the characters will live in the country, the mountains, or near water. I’ve often used Michigan and California as settings, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Florida shows up in a future book. I’m sometimes asked if the characters in my books are based on me or someone I know. My answer is: Maybe bits and pieces, but my protagonists are always braver and smarter than I am (along with younger) and the antagonists are always nastier than the people I’ve known.

Connect with Maris:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Google+

Buy the book:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sneak Peek: Mobsters, Monsters & Nazis

Literary and publishing consultant, author, and blogger Dan O'Brien is announcing his latest project: Mobsters, Monsters & Nazis: a collaboration between Dan and Steve Ferchaud, who illustrated Conspirators of the Lost Sock Army and the Loose Change Collection Agency. What he's revealing today is the sketches for some of the interior illustrations (which will be black and white) of the first issue. It will be released as six issues (eBooks) starting on Halloween. It is influenced by film noir, pulp comics, and an abiding love of Lovecraft. It is now available for pre-order and Dan will be promoting it heavily starting in the month of October. He would love to hear what you think of it so far!

Visit Dan at: 

Pre-order the book:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cover Reveal: The Publicist Book 3

It's finally here, the long-awaited sequel to The Publicist! CLIMAX by Christina George is the final installment in the series. It comes in two parts:

The Covers

Here is the Bundled set version:

About the Book

Release date: December 15, 2014. You can pre-order now!

Kate Mitchell has never forgiven herself for breaking Nick Lavigne’s heart. Now he’s back and he’s moved on, and it’s affecting Kate’s life more than she’s willing to admit.

Kate Mitchell has everything. She's the head of a crazy successful publishing house, engaged to the traffic-stopping sexy Mac Ellis and she's about to sign one of the biggest authors of her career.

And that's when everything falls apart.

Everything is perfect…until it’s not.

In a city of 8 million people Kate manages to run into someone she never expected to see again.

Nick is handsome, impossibly kind, every girl’s dream, and Kate’s former fiancĂ©. He’s also the brother of the rising star author she’s trying to sign. Now that Nick’s back in town and has moved on he insists he’s over Kate, but part of him still can’t get past how amazing they were, and his sister won’t let anyone forget how brutally it ended.

When Mac is dealt a life-changing blow, it forces Kate to question every single choice she’s made.

Follow Kate as she embarks on a journey of life and love, navigating through the decisions that will change it all forever.

About the Author

Website  ~  Twitter  ~   Facebook  ~  Goodreads

Christina George has worked in publishing for twenty years (give or take). Here’s what this book isn't. It’s not a slam against publishing (though it is broken) and it’s not a slam against authors (though some of them are crazy). This book is not autobiographical though many of the stories are true. No you won’t know which ones, cause it’s more fun to guess, right? George continues to work in publicity and helps authors because at the end of the day she does love books, she loves publishing, and she loves authors. She hopes you’ll enjoy this romp through Kate’s world as much as she enjoyed creating it.

Let's Revisit the Characters...

Some Fun Stuff!

Head on over to Kate's site and listen to a sample of the audio book version of The Publicist and enter her Amazon gift card giveaway. She also has a playlist of songs for the book!

So which team are you on? Want to know who Kate ends up with?

Want to win a signed copy of all three books? How about a $20 Amazon Gift Card?

And now for the giveaway!

Cover Reveal: Tempt You

AVAILABLE FOR A LIMITED TIME: From 9 bestselling authors, a boxed set of novels ranging from Naughty to Nice and everything in between! These 9 sweet and spicy stories will TEMPT YOU to fall in love—or lust! Either way, you won't be able to stop turning the page.

Break it Up by E.M. Tippetts
Kyra Armijo's got two problems: her wild past of sex and partying and her overpowering crush on a member of the ultra-clean boy band, Triple Cross. Make that three problems: once they meet, her crush is besotted, but if his fans find out about her reputation, it'll wreck his image for good.

All She Wants by Anna Cruise
Annika Sellers always gets what she wants. But then she meets Stuart Woodcock, a sexy humanitarian who is indifferent to her charms, and Annika realizes she just might have met her match . . .

Love & Relativity by Rachael Wade
It’s no secret that Sanibel Island's notorious resident bad boy, Jackson Taylor, loves to get underneath Emma's skin, but this time he's gone too far. Now all he wants is to earn her forgiveness before she's gone for good, but their ideas of closure—and the future—are enough to keep them worlds apart. Love, life, and happily ever after? It’s all relative.

Deeper by Blue Ashcroft
Lifeguard Rain Wilson can’t afford to get distracted by her gorgeous co-supervisor Knight McAllister. As they find themselves drawn closer together and their pasts start to surface, Rain and Knight realize that maybe too much broken can make a relationship impossible. Then again, sometimes it’s the broken parts of us that fit together best.

8 Weeks by Bethany Lopez
After committing the ultimate betrayal, Cal asks his wife, Shelly, for 8 Weeks: 8 dates, to prove that they're meant to be together and their love is true. If at the end of the 8 Weeks Shelly wants to walk away, Cal won't stop her. Is 8 Weeks long enough to right wrongs and kick start a marriage that has stalled?

Real Eyes by Amy Evans
Two guys, one girl, a public relationship, a private crush. And one tour bus that will never be big enough for any of them to decide what's real to them versus public eyes.

The Ghost & The Graveyard by Genevieve Jack
Meet Grateful Knight, a nurse left destitute by an unscrupulous ex-boyfriend. She’s determined to do whatever it takes to recover financially, including live in a rent-free house on the edge of a graveyard.  Sparks fly when she meets the gorgeous cemetery caretaker and learns her attic is home to things that go bump in the night.

Zoey Rogue by Lizzy Ford
Meet Declan: A sexy incubus Enforcer who specializes in long nights of hot passion and hunting down threats to his supernatural society. His destined soul-mate defies his powerful sex magic—and he’s determined to claim the wild she-warrior, no matter what it takes.

Selling Scarlett by Ella James
Follow Elizabeth—code-named Scarlett—to the lush Nevada brothel where she'll auction her virginity and risk the only thing that's not for sale: her heart. The highest bidder is a familiar face with wicked hands and the devil's mouth. And a secret so dark that it could cost Scarlett her life.

Coming Nov 12!
For more details or a release day announcement visit or join their Herd News and get all the details in your inbox the minute it’s live!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Character Interview: Kyra Gregory's Serena

About the book:

Sebastian and Serena have lived privileged lives, their every desire tended to, with their status as the children of the country's ruler. However, the walls that contain them are not solely those of the palace, but of expectations and politics that come with their positions.

The country's solidifying alliance with Rome upon the return of a childhood acquaintance brings about changes that they never wished to see, causing devastation and despair to touch their lives and loved ones far too closely for them to sit back and do nothing any longer. They become determined to take action, even if it means that their country may not survive. Even if it means that their history would fade into nothingness, at least they would have lived freely.

Character Interview with Serena

Did you ever think that your life would end up being in a book?
I feel like remarkable lives are what is written about in books. It is unfortunate that, most of the time, a remarkable life is not the most happiest.

If you could rewrite anything in your book, what would it be?

Those that read it would immediately know what I would love to have changed.

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?
I would take all my loved ones by the hands and take them for a day away from the palace, away from duties. I would want to taste the sweet delicacies at the market, find myself some additions to my wardrobe, and enjoy the street and theatre performances.

What do you like to do when you are not being actively read somewhere?
In the past it could easily be said that if I could not be found in the common areas then I would be in intimate company. Nowadays, I like to walk through the market or enjoy the view from my balcony.

What impression do you make on people when they first meet you?
I think that, upon meeting me, people think that I am cold and distant, catty and with little to desire to make friends.

How about after they've known you for a while?
After having gotten to know me, I worry that some may not see me all too differently.

Tell us about your best friend.
That would be my brother, of course. We have had wonderful times and times of great troubles but we have never lost sight of each other. Of course, then there is Lydia. I would be lost without Lydia.

What are you most afraid of?
Another loss.

What do you like best about Leonardo?
His stubbornness. It's two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, I love that his stubbornness means that he is dedicated. On the other hand, when he is wrong I fear that it takes him far too long to realize it.

Will you encourage Kyra to write a sequel?

I hope to live my remaining days so peacefully that they are not worth writing about.

From the author:

At the time of writing this I’m a teacher and writer, working my way towards finding a place of my own in this vast world. I’m based on the little island of Malta, balancing all the different aspects of my life through a hectic schedule in order to fulfill my dreams.

I started out writing short stories, just for myself, and then began writing lyrics for a band that I was part of for a few years. As I became a bit more confident, I wrote fanfiction on the popular website but always kept my original works entirely to myself.

Connect with Kyra:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Buy the book:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Author: 
J.M. Edwards

About the book:

Meet Ruby Wisdom. Smart and sensible. Humorous and heroic. Tough and tender. As the only private investigator in tiny Wormwood, New York, Ruby handles a wide range of cases—everything from jewel heists and cheating husbands to stolen wedding gowns, kidnapped artwork and fraudulent heirs.

In Handcuffs & High Heels, Ruby is hired by the wife of a millionaire when the woman suspects her husband is having an affair. And he is—several of them. But when Ruby begins connecting the duplicitous dots, the deceitful spouse ends up in a much more difficult dilemma than being caught with his hands in Cookie’s jar. And that’s when the real investigation begins.

Handcuffs & High Heels, is a cozy mystery loaded with humor, romance, memorable characters and a sleuth who knows her way around baked goods and sweet treats as well as crime scenes and tricky investigations.

Guest Post by J.M. Edwards:

How to Read a Cozy Mystery

One afternoon while having coffee with a friend, our conversation drifted into familiar and welcome territory: books. More specifically, cozy mysteries. Kate and I are both fans of the genre, dedicated devotees who knit at least a few minutes of reading into every day.

“My favorite place to read is the bathtub,” she said. “There’s nothing better than a bubble bath, a glass of pinot noir and a few chapters of Miss Marple.”

In all the years that we’ve been friends, Kate had never mentioned that she read while soaking in a perfumed stew of foamy bubbles. For some reason, I always thought her favorite place to enjoy a good book was tucked in bed beside her husband, with one cat at her feet and another nestled under her arm. When I questioned her about that option, she smiled and nodded.

“That’s my second favorite,” Kate explained. “But, you know, there are actually lots of ways to read a cozy.”

With those words—and another refill of our coffee cups—Kate and I were off on a quest to list a few of our favorite ways to enjoy quality time with a cozy. As we discussed a few techniques as well as tips for maximizing the experience, we also identified potential hazards associated with each option.

Bath: Tuck inflatable pillow or rolled bath towel behind the neck. Position glass of wine, hot cocoa, chilled milk, ice water or other preferred beverage on a nearby surface. Hang DO NOT DISTURB sign on doorknob to ensure privacy and full enjoyment. Warning: Beware of severely wrinkled skin.

Bed: Build a small mountain of feather pillows against wall or headboard. Dim or extinguish lights in the room, with the exception of bedside lamp. Position bolster beneath knees, pull bed sheets and blankets to waist or just below the chin. Inform husband, boyfriend and/or children that there is nothing more sacrosanct than silence at the end of the day. Warning: Beware of fictional characters inhabiting your dreams.

Hammock: This technique is similar to the bathtub or bed. Of course, you don’t need to worry about a reading lamp, pillows or the DO NOT DISTURB sign. But there’s something truly magical about gently swinging in the shade beneath two towering trees for an afternoon of relaxation and reading. Warning: Beware of insects. And naps.

Coffee Shop: Find a table that’s clean and located as far as possible from crying babies, noisy conversationalists and the dissonant sputtering of the cappuccino machine. Warning: Beware of the highly-caloric baked goods and sweet treats. Kate once gained three pounds finishing the new Janet Evanovich.

Car: If you’re a passenger and motion sickness isn’t a problem, long-distance trips can be ideal for reading. And, if you’re traveling alone, audio books are a great way to fight the monotony of interstate highways as well as keep up with your TBR. Warning: This approach can be difficult if the driver is a Chatty Cathy. I learned this the hard way. During a ten-hour round-trip drive with my sister to visit our parents, I read the same chapter eight times—the same number of times that she told me about her husband’s good intentions to overcome his bad habits.

Plane: Similar to long-distance car trips. However, this technique comes with several potential hazards: crying babies, turbulence and talkative seatmates. To avoid two out of three, I recommend earplugs or earphones with the cord tucked into a pocket. Warning: The middle or aisle seats tend to be less conducive to enjoying your book.

Airport Terminal: Considering how often flights are delayed these days, this technique is becoming increasingly popular. Kate travels often for work, so she’s developed a nearly foolproof approach. Find an out-of-the-way seating alcove or one of the gates that isn’t being readied for arrivals or departures. Grab a beverage on the way, tuck yourself into a chair and enjoy a reading respite while everyone else scurries toward their destinations. Warning: Announcements from the public address system can be intrusive. You may want to keep those earplugs handy for maximum reading pleasure.

Beach/Poolside: Reading on vacation is one of my favorite things. I love seeing the sights, exploring the attractions and enjoying the local culinary fare. But there’s something impossibly relaxing about making yourself comfortable on a chaise lounge or beach towel, applying sun screen and ordering a cool drink before diving back into the book you started on the plane. Warning: Beware of sunburns. And naps.

About the author:

J.M. Edwards loves crime. But only when it’s fictional. A lifelong fan of mystery novels, police procedurals and thrillers, J.M. has worked as a copywriter, bartender, dog walker and newspaper reporter. When it comes to reading, she has a few favorites (Robert B. Parker, Sue Grafton, Dashiell Hammett, Robert B. Parker, Lee Child), but always enjoys learning about new authors to add to the TBR pile. In addition to writing the new Ruby Wisdom cozy mystery series, J.M. spends time gardening, traveling, spoiling a small herd of cats and dogs, doing volunteer work and taking the occasional nap.

Connect with the author:


Buy the book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Author: Janis Thornton

About the book:

When it comes to murder, forget the butler . . . it’s the housekeeper who knows where the bodies are buried.

Small-town newspaper editor Crystal Cropper never takes “no” for an answer, hates to be called a “senior citizen,” and uses the power of her pen to expose corruption in her small town.

Cleaning lady Gertie has a knack for sweeping skeletons out of closets—which makes her one of Crystal’s best informants. But Gertie’s latest hot tip has landed her in a coma, courtesy of an unknown assailant.

Now Crystal must follow the trail of dirt and gossip right to the doorsteps of several prominent local families to solve a decade-old murder and the disappearance of a young boy . . .

Interview with Janis Thornton

Janis, how long have you been writing, and how did you start?
Growing up, I was an only child and tended to make up little stories to entertain myself. I wrote poetry, too, and when I was 12 and 13, a national anthology of poetry by junior high students included my poems two years in a row. After that great start, it was 40 years before my next publishing credit. But...I’ve come a long way since my “Easter bonnets straight and tall, some are round and some are small” poem appeared in that anthology.

How did you come up with the title of your book?

Dust Bunnies and Dead Bodies was the stroke of genius of the editorial team at PageSpring Publishing. They felt this title represented the fun that readers could expect. My original title, Elmwood Confidential, is now the name for the series, which Dust Bunnies and Dead Bodies is starting.

Do you have another job outside of writing?
Yes, besides writing, I am a freelance personal historian and a part-time “doer of whatever needs doing” for a couple of great guys who are producing a new graphic novel series. Mainly, I do their graphic design projects, marketing, P.R., and run their graphic novel art museum.

How would you describe your book in five words?
Golden Girls meet Jessica Fletcher.

How did you create the plot for Dust Bunnies and Dead Bodies?

When I first began this project, all I had were the Crystal, Gertie, and Verlin characters, the small-town setting, and a vague inkling of a story about a 20-year-old unsolved murder. I wish I could say I sat down one evening and plotted the whole thing out, but that’s not how it worked. It actually was a long process of “write, delete, cry, repeat” before a doable storyline started to float to the top. During that time, reports about high school and college football coaches’ abuse of power were headlining the national news, and I decided to use that for the crux of the mystery. Once I had that element in place, the rest of the story came together organically.

What’s your favorite line from a book?
There is a lovely, short paragraph near the end of one of my most treasured books, Elizabeth Berg’s Talk Before Sleep, that always touches me. Here, the main character, Ann, tells the reader how she imagines the recent passing of her dearest friend, Ruth, who was a victim of breast cancer.

“I like to think that she looked out the window one last time the night she died and saw with a new understanding the placement of the stars. I like to think something incomprehensibly vast and complex moved into her soul at that moment, and that it, not pathology, was what took her breath away.”

That is wonderful! Tell us a book you’re an evangelist for.

As preparation for an interview I conducted this summer with author William Kent Krueger, I read his current best-selling book, Ordinary Grace, which had won numerous awards over the past few months. Before I reached the end of the prologue, the voice of the narrator, a 12-year-old boy, had hooked me, and I ate the book up. It’s a beautifully written story that seamlessly weaves together mystery, adventure, family, love, joy, loss, grief, and spirituality. In my opinion, it’s a magnificent book, and I can’t stop recommending it.  

What would your main character say about you?
Crystal Cropper would obviously say she owes everything she is and ever hopes to become to me. She might also say she wishes I would learn to cook so she could prepare herself a nutritious dinner that has nothing to do with nuking a frozen mystery casserole.

Are you like any of your characters?
I suspect Crystal and I are twins separated at birth (assuming it’s possible to be a fictional character’s twin) because we have so much in common. For example, she’s a blonde, Boomer-aged newspaper editor, and I’m a blonde, Baby Boomer-aged former newspaper editor; we like living alone, we hate to cook, we make jokes at inappropriate times, and we go crazy when someone refers to us as “seniors.” Where we differ is in the way we handle ourselves in the face of danger. I skulk away, while Crystal steels her nerve and jumps right in. I had great fun writing as Crystal and living vicariously through her. At times, she exemplified some facet of my actual life experience; other times she portrayed attitudes, actions, knowledge, courage, and skills that I’m too shy to exhibit.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.
Because I infused my main character, Crystal, with an unfiltered penchant for wisecracking, sarcasm and self-deprecation, my favorite scene shines a light on her vulnerable side, which she rarely reveals. The setting is Gertie’s hospital room, where Gertie lies in a coma after an intruder knocked her unconscious. Crystal pays a visit and, feeling uncomfortable in the presence of a comatose Gertie and not knowing what to do, she starts a one-sided conversation. To me, it’s bittersweet because I drew from my own experience with my dad, who was hospitalized several times before he passed away, and I tried to have Crystal project some of the emotions I felt.

You get to decide who would read your audiobook. Who would you choose?
Without hesitation, I would choose Meryl Streep. If the sky’s the limit, why not pick the brightest star?

I agree. Your last meal would be...
A Chinese chicken salad from Chin-Chin’s of Studio City, California (it’s to die for!) … and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Jamaican Me Crazy sorbet.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I am a huge movie fan and usually go a couple times a month. I also love theater, roaming through museums, hanging out with my son, Matt, Goodwill shopping, and taking road trips.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I’ve not yet discovered my dream home, but I would like to try Booth Bay Harbor, Maine; Estes Park, Colorado; and Florence, Italy, for an extended stay to see if any of them feels like a good fit.

What are you working on now?

Writing-wise, I am in the early stages of plotting and writing Book 2 of my Elmwood Confidential series, I’m a third of the way through a local history book, and I’m polishing a completed a paranormal romantic-mystery. My non-writing work includes piecing together my family history, designing the first trade paperback for a graphic novel series, helping the Midwest Writers Workshop Committee plan the 2015 conference, and cleaning out the attic.

Excerpt from Dust Bunnies and Dead Bodies

Chapter 1

Funny where your mind goes when you’re staring into the face of mortal danger. The night I stepped through Gertie Tyroo’s dark back door, uninvited and all alone, my mind conjured up an old movie, starring me as the classic damsel in distress—fragile, frazzled, and befuddled, desperate for a white knight to gallop in on horseback and rescue me.

Crystal Cropper, I thought, revolted by the helpless self-image, you are pathetic! You don’t need a white knight. You’re your own white knight. Now get on with it. And get on with it I did. Without further hesitation, I drew a deep breath and called out, “Gertie! It’s me, Crystal. You okay?” That’s when the living room light went out, somebody screamed, and all hell broke loose.

Rapid-fire footsteps scurried toward me through the opaque darkness, prompting my Ladies Kick Ass training to kick in. I stiffened in a defensive stance—feet fixed at forty-five degree angles, knees bent, one hand clamped around my can of mace, the other poised to strike a crippling blow. I thought I was ready to rock ’n’ roll, but I was quickly proved wrong when a solid shoulder slammed into my chest. It bulldozed me toward the open doorway and knocked the mace from my grip. I screamed “Noooo!” and swung my right fist, hoping it would connect with the assailant’s face. Yes! My knuckles delivered a solid blow, and my attacker mewled weakly. Invigorated, I pressed on, determined to further stun my assailant with a head butt to the chin. Unfortunately, the plan was stopped when two strong hands grabbed my upper arms and shoved me with a force that dislodged my hairpins. As my topknot unfurled, the thug grabbed a handful of my hair and yanked me out the door. Before I could rebound, I found myself tumbling down the back steps and onto the patio, where I landed hard on my left butt cheek, winded and dazed.

The intruder took my temporary incapacitation as an exit cue and bolted through the carport. My fears for Gertie pushed me up the steps and into the dark house. I groped the walls for a light switch, found one in the kitchen and flipped it on. An overhead fluorescent halo flickered to life, spilling light through the doorway to the front room. “Gertie!” I called again. “Where are you?” Still no answer.

Thinking I might catch a glimpse of the fleeing intruder, I rushed for the front door. But as I rounded Gertie’s sofa, I stubbed my foot on something large and doughy in my path. I nearly tripped and was set to give what-for to the poorly placed object, expecting maybe a hassock. But. Oh. My. God. It was Gertie.

The squeal of spinning tires resonated from the street, followed by the grinding roar of a souped-up engine. I scrambled for the front door, but my attempt to throw it open was stymied by the deadbolt. The louder the rumbling, the more my tangled fingers floundered over the stubborn lock. Finally disengaging the bolt, I threw open the door and dashed onto the sun porch as a light-colored pickup truck rocketed past. Although I hadn’t been able to read the license plate, I took note of the truck’s taillights—the left one was red, the right one orange.

With precious time wasting, I rushed back to Gertie. She was sprawled on her left side, wrapped tightly in her leopard-print coat. Her left arm extended unbent in alignment with her body and her hand rested on her tattered wool scarf. Her right arm jutted out before her at a ninety-degree angle gripping the strap of her straw handbag.

I grabbed a pillow and tucked it under her head. That’s when I discovered the blood soaking into the carpet. Its source was a deep wound on the back of her skull. I unbuttoned her coat and gently probed for her carotid artery with my fingertips. She had a pulse. It was weak, but it was there.

A table lamp lay on the floor within arm’s length. I set it upright and clicked it on. The room was chaos. The phone was off the hook and bleeping incessantly. I picked it up, tapped its plunger to get a dial tone, and punched 9–1–1.

About Janis:

Janis Thornton is a freelance writer, personal historian, and award-winning journalist. She is the author of two local history books, Images of America: Tipton County and Images of America: Frankfort. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Indiana Writers Center, Association of Personal Historians, and the Midwest Writers Workshop Planning Committee. She lives in a small Indiana town not unlike Elmwood. Dust Bunnies and Dead Bodies is her debut cozy mystery.

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