Friday, December 4, 2020




Death is one click away when a string of murders rocks a small Colorado town in the first mesmerizing novel in M. E. Browning’s A Jo Wyatt Mystery series.

Echo Valley, Colorado, is a place where the natural beauty of a stunning river valley meets a budding hipster urbanity. But when an internet stalker is revealed to be a cold-blooded killer in real life the peaceful community is rocked to its core.

It should have been an open-and-shut case: the suicide of Tye Horton, the designer of a cutting-edge video game. But Detective Jo Wyatt is immediately suspicious of Quinn Kirkwood, who reported the death. When Quinn reveals an internet stalker is terrorizing her, Jo is skeptical. Doubts aside, she delves into the claim and uncovers a link that ties Quinn to a small group of beta-testers who had worked with Horton. When a second member of the group dies in a car accident, Jo’s investigation leads her to the father of a young man who had killed himself a year earlier. But there’s more to this case than a suicide, and as Jo unearths the layers, a more sinister pattern begins to emerge–one driven by desperation, shame, and a single-minded drive for revenge.

As Jo closes in, she edges ever closer to the shattering truth–and a deadly showdown that will put her to the ultimate test.

Book Details:

Title: Shadow Ridge

Author: M.E. Browning

Genre: mystery

Series: A Jo Wyatt Mystery

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (October 6, 2020)

Print length: 296 pages

On tour with: Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours


A few of your favorite things: my wedding ring, Celtic harp, tea and book collections.
Things you need to throw out: Marie Kondo’s book. 

Things you need in order to write: tea, a mechanical pencil, a narrow-ruled notebook, computer, and Scrivener software.
Things that hamper your writing: social media. 

Things you love about writing: I can do it anywhere and make as many revisions as I want.
Things you hate about writing: when I can’t find the right word.

Things you never want to run out of: patience and tea.
Things you wish you’d never bought: a bread machine.

Favorite foods: sushi, chicken pot pie, French Onion Soup, fruitcake, baklava.
Things that make you want to throw up: mushrooms and blue cheese.

Favorite music: Celtic, classical, film soundtracks, anything by Alice in Chains.
Music that make your ears bleed: brass bands.

Favorite beverage: tea or a French 75 cocktail.

Something that gives you a pickle face: apple cider vinegar.

Favorite smell: all the mingled scents of Thanksgiving dinner.

Something that makes you hold your nose: the science experiment I recently found in the back of my refrigerator.

Something you’re really good at: scuba diving.
Something you’re really bad at: tennis.

Something you like to do: cycle.
Something you wish you’d never done: crash my road bike.

People you consider as heroes: people who go out of their way to be kind to someone else
People with a big L on their foreheads: bullies.

Last best thing you ate: lobster bisque.

Last thing you regret eating: an overcooked steak.

Things you’d walk a mile for: just about anything, I love to walk.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: spiders.

Things you always put in your books: determined women, difficult decisions, devious deeds.

Things you never put in your books: real events or people.

Favorite places you’ve been: Quebec City, Canada; Durham, England; Garden of the Gods, Colorado; Bloody Bay Wall, Little Cayman; any place with a hiking trail.

Places you never want to go to again: jail.

Things that make you happy: hiking, good books, better friends, sounds of nature.

Things that drive you crazy: traffic, long lines, loud icemakers that drop cubes in the middle of the night.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: landed on and been catapulted off an aircraft carrier.

Something you chickened out from doing: skydiving.

The last thing you did for the first time: had an essay published in Mystery Scene Magazine.

Something you’ll never do again: talk myself out of trying something new.


Chapter One

Detective Jo Wyatt stood at the edge of the doorway of the converted garage and scanned the scene for threats. She’d have the chance to absorb the details later, but even at a glance, it was obvious the occupant of the chair in front of the flickering television wouldn’t benefit from her first-aid training. The stains on the ceiling from the gun blast confirmed that.

Officer Cameron Finch stood on the other side of the sorry concrete slab that served as an entrance. “Ready?”

The only place hidden from view was the bathroom, and the chance of someone hiding there was infinitesimal, but someone always won the lottery. Today wasn’t the day to test the odds. Not when she was dressed for court and without her vest.

She pushed the door open wider. Her eyes and handgun moved in tandem as she swept the room.

A mattress on the floor served as a bed. Stacks of clothes took the place of a real closet. A dorm-sized fridge with a hot plate on top of it made up the kitchen.

Jo avoided the well-worn paths in the carpet and silently approached the bathroom. Its door stood slightly ajar, creating enough space for her to peer through the crack. Never lowering her gun, she used her foot to widen the gap.

No intruder. Just a water-spotted shower stall and a stained toilet with the seat up. A stick propped open the narrow ventilation window above the shower. Too small for even the tiniest child, but an open invitation to heat-seeking raccoons.

“Bathroom’s clear.” She holstered her gun. The cut of her wool blazer fell forward and did its best to hide the bulge of her Glock, but an observant person could tell she was armed. One of the drawbacks of having a waist.

She picked her way across the main room, staying close to the walls to avoid trampling any evidence. A flame licked the edges of the television screen—one of those mood DVDs of a fireplace but devoid of sound. It filled the space with an eerie flicker that did little to lighten the gathering dusk.

Sidestepping a cat bowl filled with water, she stopped in front of the body and pulled a set of latex gloves from her trouser pocket.

“Really?” Cameron asked.

Jo snapped them into place, then pressed two fingers against the victim’s neck in a futile search for a pulse—a completely unnecessary act that became an issue only if a defense attorney wanted to make an officer look like an idiot on the stand for not checking.

The dead man reclined in a high-backed gray chair that appeared to have built-in speakers. In the vee of his legs, a Remington 870 shotgun rested against his right thigh, the stock’s butt buried in the dirty shag carpet. On the far side, a toppled bottle of whiskey and a tumbler sat on a metal TV tray next to a long-stemmed pipe.

“Who called it in?” Jo asked.

“Quinn Kirkwood. I told her to stay in her car until we figured out what was going on.”

Jo retraced her steps to the threshold, seeking a respite from the stench of death.

A petite woman stood at the edge of the driveway, pointedly looking away from the door. “Is he okay?”

So much for staying in the car. “Let’s talk over here.” Not giving the other woman the opportunity to resist, Jo grabbed her elbow and guided her to the illuminated porch of the main house, where the overhang would protect them from the softly falling snow.

“He’s inside, isn’t he?” Quinn pulled the drawstring of her sweat shirt until the hood puckered around her neck. “He’s dead.” It should have been a question, but wasn’t. Jo’s radar pinged.

“I’m sorry.” Jo brushed errant flakes from a dilapidated wicker chair and moved it forward for her. “Is there someone I can call for you?”

She shook her head.

“How well did you know—”

“Tye. His name is—was—Tye Horton.” Quinn played with the tab of her hood string, picking at the plastic that kept the ends from fraying.

Jo remained quiet, digesting the younger woman’s unease. She was all angles: sharp shoulders, high cheekbones, blunt-cut dark hair, and canted eyes that looked blue in the open but faded to grey here in the shadows.

A pile of snow slid from a bowed cottonwood branch and landed with a dull plop. The silence broken, Quinn continued to fill it. “We have a couple classes together up at the college. He missed class. I came over to see why.”

“Does he often cut class?”

“He didn’t cut class,” she said sharply. “He missed it.” She pulled out her cellphone. “The project was due today. I should tell the others.”

What would she tell them? She hadn’t asked any questions. The pinging in Jo's head grew louder. “Did you go inside before the officer got here?” She looked at the woman’s shoes. Converse high-tops. Distinctive tread.

Quinn launched out of her seat, sending it crashing into the porch rail. “I called you guys, remember?”

“It’s a simple yes or no.”

The smaller woman advanced and Jo fought the impulse to shove her back. “No, Officer—”

“Detective Wyatt.”

The top of Quinn’s head barely reached Jo’s chin. “Tye and I were classmates with a project due, Detective. I called him, he didn’t answer. I texted him, he didn’t respond. He didn’t show up for the game last night, which meant something was wrong. He never missed a game.”

Football. Last night Jo had pulled on her uniform and worked an overtime shift at the Sunday night game. Despite the plunging temperatures, the small college stadium had been filled to capacity.

“Did you check on him afterward?” Jo asked.

“No.” Color brightened Quinn’s pale cheeks. “By the time the game ended, it was too late. After he missed class today, I came straight over. Called the police. Here we are. Now, can I go?”

“Was Tye having any problems lately?”


“With school? Friends?”

“I shared a class with him.”

Another dodge. “You knew he wasn’t at the game.”

“I figured he was finishing up his end of the project. Are we done? I’ve got class tonight.”

“I need to see your identification before you leave.”

“Un-fucking-believable.” Quinn jammed her hand into her jacket pocket and removed an old-fashioned leather coin purse. Pinching the top, she drew out her driver’s license and practically threw it at Jo.

“I’m sure you understand. Whenever there is a death, we have to treat it as a crime until we determine otherwise.”

The air left Quinn in a huff of frost. “I’m sorry. I’m just…” She dipped her face but not before Jo saw the glint of tears. “I’m just going to miss him. He was nice. I don’t have a lot of friends in Echo Valley.”

“Were the two of you dating?”

The sharpness returned to her features. “Not my type.”

“Do you know if he was in a relationship?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Would you know?”

Cameron joined the women on the porch and extended his hand to Quinn. “I’m Sergeant Finch.”

Jo sucked in her breath, and covered it with a cough. The promotional memo hadn’t been posted even a day yet.

“I’m sorry about your friend,” Cameron added.

Quinn crossed her arms, whether for warmth or for comfort, Jo couldn’t tell. “Your badge says Officer. Aren’t sergeants supposed to have stripes or something?”

“It’s official next week.”

“So. Really just an officer.”

Jo bit the inside of her cheek to keep from smiling. Served him right for acting like an ass.

“I wouldn’t say just.” Cameron hooked his thumb in his gun belt.

“Of course you wouldn’t.” Quinn drew a deep breath and let it out as if she feared it might be her last. “What happened?” she finally asked.

Jo spoke before Cameron could answer. “That’s what we’re here to find out.” She opened her notebook.

Quinn sized up the two officers like a child trying to decide which parent to ask, and settled on Cameron. “Will you get me the laptop that’s inside? It’s got our school project on it.”

“I’m sorry,” Jo answered. “But until we process the scene, everything needs to stay put.”

Quinn sought confirmation from Cameron. “Really?”

Jo shot him a look she hoped conveyed the slow torturous death he’d suffer if he contradicted her and compromised the scene.

Cameron placed his hand on Quinn’s forearm. “I’m certain it won’t take long and I’ll personally deliver it to you as soon as I can.”

“Thanks.” She shook off his hand and addressed Jo. “Am I free to go?”

Prickly thing. Jo handed Quinn’s license back to her. “I’m truly sorry about your friend. May I call you later if I have any questions?”

Cameron stepped closer, all earnestness and concern. “It would be very helpful to the investigation when she realizes she forgot to ask you something.”

The coin purse snapped shut. “Sure. Whatever.”

“Thank you,” Jo said, then added, “Be careful.”

Quinn jerked. “What?”

The wind had picked up, and waves of snow blew across the walkway. Jo pointed toward the street. “The temperature drops any lower and it’ll start to ice up. Be careful. The roads are going to be slick.”

Quinn bobbed her head. Hunched against the cold, she climbed into her bright yellow Mini Cooper.

Snow had collected on the bumper and Jo noted the plate. She’d seen the car around town, its brilliant color and tiny chassis a contrast to the trucks and four-wheel-drive SUVs most locals drove.

The car crunched down the driveway. Jo returned to the task at hand, ignoring Cameron as he followed her.

Two buildings—the main residence and the converted garage—stood at the center of the property. The driveway dumped out onto an alley and the hum of downtown carried across the crisp air. Dogs barked. Cars slowed and accelerated at the nearby stop sign, their engines straining and tires chewing into the slushed snow. A sagging chain-link fence ringed the property, pushed and pulled by a scraggly hedge.

Built in the days when a garage housed only a car and not the detritus of life, the building was barely larger than a tack room. A small walkway separated the dwellings. She followed the path around the exterior of the garage.

Eaves kept snow off the paint-glued windowsill on the far side of the outbuilding. Rambling rosebushes in need of pruning stretched skeletal fingers along the wall. Jo swept the bony branches aside. A thorn snagged the shoulder of her blazer.

She studied the ground. Snow both helped and hindered officers. In foot pursuits, it revealed a suspect’s path. But the more time separated an incident from its investigation, the more it hid tracks. Destroyed clues. This latest snow had started in the early hours of the morning, gently erasing the valley’s grime and secrets and creating a clean slate. Tye could have been dead for hours. The snow told her nothing.

As she stood again at the door, not even the cold at her back could erase the smell of blood. The last of the evening’s light battled its way through the dirty window, failing to brighten the dark scene in front of her.

She tried not to let the body distract her from cataloging the room. Echo Valley didn’t have violent deaths often. In her twelve years on the department, she’d investigated only two homicides, one as an officer, the second as a detective. Fatal crashes, hunting accidents, Darwin Award-worthy stupidity, sure, but murder? That was the leap year of crimes and only happened once every four years or so.

Cameron joined her on the threshold and they stood shoulder to shoulder. He had a shock of thick brown hair that begged to be touched, and eyes that said he’d let you. “Why so quiet, Jo-elle?”

The use of her nickname surprised her. Only two people had ever called her that and Cameron hadn’t used it in a long time. “I don’t want to miss anything.”

“What’s to miss? Guy blew his brains out.”

“It’s rarely that simple.”

“Not everything needs to be complicated.” He laughed. The boyishness of it had always charmed her with its enthusiasm. Now it simply sounded dismissive. Perhaps it always had been, but she’d been too in love to notice. “Hey, you got plans tonight?” He tried to sound innocent. She had learned that voice.

“Other than this? I don’t see as that’s any of your business.”

“Of course it’s my business. You’re still my wife.” He stared into the distance as he said it. A splinter of sun pierced the dark clouds and bled across his unguarded expression.


Jo stood as if on ice, afraid to move lest she lose her balance.

He seemed to wake up, and after a deep breath, he surveyed the room. “The landlord is going to be looking for a new tenant. You should give him your name. It’s got to be better than living with your old man.”

Fissures formed beneath her and it took her two blinks before she recovered her footing.

“I need to get my camera. I’ll be right back.”

She left him at the door. The December chill wormed through her wool dress slacks as she trudged the half block to her car. She drew breath after breath of the searing chill deep into her lungs to replace the hurt, the anger, the self-recriminations that burned her. She sat in the passenger seat and picked up the radio mic. She wasn’t ready to face Cameron. Not yet.

To buy herself some time, she ran a local warrant check on Quinn. Something wasn’t quite right about the woman. A warrant might explain things.

Dispatch confirmed Quinn’s address, but had nothing to add.

Jo grabbed her camera bag and crime scene kit and schlepped back to the scene, prioritizing her actions as she went. She’d need to snag another detective. Interrupt a judge’s dinner to get a search warrant. Swab the victim’s hands for gunshot residue. Try to confirm his identification. Hopefully, the person in the front house would return soon so Jo could start collecting background on the deceased. Take overview photos of the exterior first. Inside there’d be lights. Then evidence. Identify it. Bag it. Book it.

She reached the door before she ticked through all the tasks. Cameron was circling the chair.

Jo stopped on the threshold, stunned.

“No wonder they didn’t promote you.” Cameron peered into the exposed cranium. “If you can’t tell this is a suicide, you got no business being a cop—let alone a detective.”

“Get out.”

“We’re not home, sweetie. You can’t order me out here.”

“Actually, I can. Detective, remember? This is my scene and you’re contaminating it.”

He laughed. “Sergeant outranks detective.”

“I think it’s already been established that you’re not sporting stripes.”

“Yet. Couple more days.”

Three. Three days until he started wearing the stripes that should have been hers. Three days until he outranked her. Three. Damn. Days. “And until then, Officer Finch.” With exaggerated care, she took out her notebook and started writing.

“What are you doing?”

“Making a note of the path you’ve taken. Try to retrace your steps. I’d hate to have to say how badly you mucked things up.” She paused for effect. “You getting promoted and all.”

“You’re such a bitch.”

“Is that how you talk to your wife?”

He picked up the overturned bottle on the TV tray. “Johnnie Walker Gold.” He sniffed the premium Scotch whisky. “And here I would have pegged him for a Jack fan, at best.” Cameron tipped the bottle back into place and retraced his steps.

The latex gloves did nothing to warm her fingers, and Jo shoved her hands in her pockets. Had he changed or had she? “When did you become such an ass?”

“When’d we get married?” He shouldered past her, swinging his keys around his finger. Outside, the streetlamps flickered to life. “I’ll leave you to it. Even you can see it’s a slam dunk.”

She didn’t want to agree with him. “It’s only a suicide when the coroner says so.”

“Oh, Jo-elle.”

There was that laugh again, and she hated herself for warming to him.

“You’ve got to learn to choose your battles.”


Excerpt from Shadow Ridge by M.E. Browning.  Copyright 2020 by M.E. Browning. Reproduced with permission from M.E. Browning. All rights reserved.



 M.E. Browning served twenty-two years in law enforcement and retired as a captain
 before turning to a life of crime fiction. Writing as Micki Browning, she penned the
 Agatha-nominated and award-winning Mer Cavallo mysteries, and her short stories and 
 nonfiction have appeared in anthologies, mystery and diving magazines, and textbooks. 
 As M.E. Browning, she recently began a new series of Jo Wyatt mysteries with Shadow
 Ridge (October 2020).  
 Micki is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and 
 Sisters in Crime—where she served as a former president of the Guppy Chapter. A
 professional divemaster, she resides in Florida with her partner in crime and a vast array
 of scuba equipment she uses for “research.” 

 Connect with the author:

 Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads BookBub

 Buy the book:

 Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, December 2, 2020




After two heartbreaking losses, Luna wants adventure. Something and somewhere very different from the affluent, sheltered home in California and Hawaii where she grew up. An adventure in which she can also make some difference. She travels to a foreign place where she gets more than she bargained for.

Lucien, a worldly, well-traveled young architect, finds a stranger’s journal at a café. He has qualms and pangs of guilt about reading it. But they don’t stop him. His decision to go on reading changes his life.

Months later, they meet at a bookstore where Luna works and which Lucien frequents. Fascinated by his stories and his adventurous spirit, Luna volunteers for the Peace Corps. Assigned to Cambodia, she lives with a family whose parents are survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide forty years earlier. What she goes through in a rural rice-growing village defies anything she could have imagined. Will she leave this world unscathed?

An epistolary tale of courage, love and loss, and the bonds that bring diverse people together.

Book Details:

Title: The Shade Under the Mango Tree 

Author: Evy Journey
Genre: contemporary fiction 
Publisher: Sojourner Books (November 2, 2020)
Print length : 330 pages
On tour with: Pump Up Your Book


A few of your favorite things: Paris, French films, a view of San Francisco Bay, Sushi, crisp skin on roast pork, tandoori lamb, black rice pudding, macarons, steamed crabs, great bread.

Things you need to throw out: old clothes I haven’t used in ten years.

Things you need in order to write: quiet place, my laptop computer, a big glass of iced orange-flavored sparkling water, and imagination and motivation. 

Things that hamper your writing: fatigue, interesting conversations from the living area drifting into my writing space.

Things you love about writing: engaging with words, crafting a character, building a fictional life.
Things you hate about writing: agonizing over the most fitting descriptions.

Easiest thing about being a writer: writing.

Hardest thing about being a writer: promoting and marketing.

Things you love about where you live: I see SF Bay from my window; the gourmet ghetto is close by so good food is within easy reach; the multiculturality of the area; echoes of academia from a couple or so miles away.

Things that make you want to move: the chance to live in Paris.

Words that describe you: hard-working, loving, thoughtful, introspective, multicultural and multilingual, lover of art.

Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: obsessive-compulsive, skeptical, ill at ease with strangers.

Favorite foods: sushi, crisp skin on roast pork, tandoori lamb, black rice pudding, macarons, steamed crabs, great bread.

Things that make you want to throw up: chili grasshoppers.

Favorite song: Krystian Zimmerman’s rendition of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2.

Music that make your ears bleed: anything too loud.

Favorite smell: the scent of a Fragrant Cloud rose.

Something that makes you hold your nose: totten fish.

Something you’re really good at: procrastinating.

Something you’re really bad at: enduring grief.

Things you always put in your books: epigraphs (in almost all).

Things you never put in your books: dedication.

Favorite places you’ve been: Paris, Paris, and Florence.

Places you never want to go to again: nowhere—there was always something to like in places I’ve visited.

Favorite books: All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

Books you would ban: none, though I haven’t read everything. I choose what I read carefully.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: jump into the Pacific Ocean from a small boat before I could learn to swim.

Something you chickened out from doing: ride on the back of a camel on the hot North African desert.


Evy Journey, SPR (Self Publishing Review) Independent Woman Author awardee, is a writer, a wannabe artist, and a flâneuse who, wishes she lives in Paris where people have perfected the art of aimless roaming. Armed with a Ph.D., she used to research and help develop mental health programs.
She’s a writer because beautiful prose seduces her and existential angst continues to plague her despite such preoccupations having gone out of fashion. She takes occasional refuge by invoking the spirit of Jane Austen to spin tales of love, loss, and finding one’s way—stories into which she weaves mystery or intrigue.

Connect with Evy:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Book trailer

Buy the book:



Between Two Worlds ( A series with three standalone books)

Sunday, November 29, 2020




Jasper is no ordinary parrot. 

He lives in the rainforest, which secrets he’s eager to explore. Jasper loves his home and his family, and he's also in charge of his younger brother Willie - a responsibility Jasper takes very seriously.

When he meets Charlie - a spider monkey with a penchant for food and a laid back attitude - he realizes he’s in for an adventure he never thought possible.   Even if this means getting into danger and worrying his mother to no end.

Exploring the boundaries of the forest, Jasper understands that there is more to the world around him. Who are the strange new creatures that have come there? With Willie and Charlie by his side, he will soon find out.

Book Details
Title: Jasper, Amazon Parrot: A Rainforest Adventure
Author: Sharon C. Williams
Genre: children, children's interactive adventure books
Series: Jasper, Amazon Parrot, book 1
Publisher: Peculiar Possum Books - A Next Chapter Imprint; 3rd edition (July 9, 2019)
Print length: 48 pages


A Day in the Life of Jasper

My Amazon Yellow Cheek Amazon parrot, Jasper, has been with us since 1999 when we rescued and adopted him at the age of five. But not only that, he has become the focal point of my chapter book series- the Jasper, Amazon parrot series.

I grew up with dogs, cats, chickens, hamsters, gerbils, fish, and white mice. But nothing prepared me for living with birds. Nothing has prepared me to live with Jasper.

So, what is a day like in the life of Jasper?

I get up roughly at 5:25 am. My husband and I leave by 6 to go for our morning walk. Hearing my footsteps, Jasper will race down his cage, across the ladder that connects to the rail, goes to the very end by the stairs, and go vertical. He will get face down, tail in the air as he waits for me.

The point of that is he is ready for his morning pat. It is required of me to pat him at least 100 times. Rule number one says so. The point of me doing this as I pat him is to check his wings, breastplate, eyes, nostrils, feet, tail, back, and overall check. Birds tend to hide their sickness. By the time you notice that they are sick, it could be too late. It is a bonding moment for us. He loves it and expects it.

"Thank you," is said when we finished.

He might say, "Hello, hello, hello."

It all depends on his mood.

After, he will race to his cage. It is time to be fed. It does not matter that I have a routine to feed my other birds. In his mind, he needs to eat first. That includes clean water and food. Rule number two is complete.

But while he is eating, Cartoon Network needs to be turned on for him to enjoy. If not, then Nat Geo or a favorite movie of his. He does enjoy watching MMA and football. I have not figured out yet why. Now, you are not to walk in front of the TV or stand in front of it. Rule number three is complete.

Once he is done eating and is back in front of the TV, he will begin to groom himself. It is necessary for birds. With him being a large bird, this can take quite a while for him to go over each feather. It takes a good portion of his time during the day, especially if it is that time of year when he is molting.

If the sun is shining through the window by his cage, he will place himself either on our kitchen table or on his circular stand to enjoy the rays and a small nap, which can vary in length.

Now I am allowed to work at the kitchen table. But with that comes my bird wanting to help me. Do I need help? No. Does it matter? No. Jasper offers it happily. Rule number four is to be a helpful bird. Even if that means walking on top of the papers to tell me hi, so be it.

If no one is at the table, no sun shining through, and the cartoons are not to his liking, Jasper will climb his stand to look out in the back yard. It could be to either fuss at the squirrels or look at anyone who he might happen to see.

It is here that Jasper has learned the different sounds of the birds outside. He can mimic half a dozen birds. Jasper has spotted so many things by just looking out the window.

His key phrase is, "Mom, look out window. Mommmmmmmm, look out window!"

I am supposed to rush to the window to see what he wants me to see. I may not always see it in time or see what he wants me to see. But rule number five says I need to look out the window.

Jasper gets healthy treats in the morning that can range from fruit, veggies, or birdie snacks.

On the day of the week where he gets his shower, that will be between his breakfast and lunch, where I will spray room temperature water in a mist for him to get a good soak so he can get a proper wash.

Now, if his dad, aka my husband, has not come down from his office at all due to work, Jasper will call upstairs in a barrage that will last from five to ten minutes in hopes his dad will come down to talk to him.

He can range to where he says,  "Hello."

Or, he will say, "Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi."



"Hi. Hi. Hi. Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!"

He will vary.

His vocabulary is pretty good, and he has a variety of whistles and bird calls he can do. He imitates inanimate sounds well.

If dad does not come down soon enough, in his mind, he will resort to crying. And I must admit his crying is eerily similar to a baby. We have no idea how he learned that.

If a bug, which can be an ant, moth, fly, and the likes, comes near him, then he will sound the alarm. It goes like this.

"Help! Moooooom, help. Help, help, help Mom, help."

It is comical to me but not to him.

It is my job to kill the bug, show him the body to confirm the kill, and then dispose of it. I have now just completed rule number six.

Now anyone who walks by his cage, regardless of the time of day, is required by rule number seven, which is we must acknowledge him with terms of endearment and or patting. We must proclaim he is gorgeous, a good bird, a sweet bird, and no other pets compare to him. No other bird compares to him. It can go on for a while since no amount of time is ever enough for Jasper.

At lunch, Jasper will take a break from a busy morning of sun, birds, TV, eating, and grooming to come to the table for his lunch where he will have a riveting conversation with my husband about what is going on and to express any concerns he might have. Considering he looks at me and then goes on a tirade with his dad, I am sure he is talking about me. I know it.

It takes up the whole lunch hour. Usually, Jasper gets on my husband. Jasper will groom my husband, and in return, Dad pats him. Jasper could be on his shoulder all day. I believe the longest on record is four to five hours. In his mind, nothing beats sitting on his favorite person. It must happen at least twice a day. It is rule number eight.

Once my husband goes back to work, Jasper will check to see what is on TV. If it is something that we know he does not like, I will put on a movie that is a favorite of his. It could include How To Train a Dragon, Despicable Me, or something else. Those are some of his favorites.

He will proceed to repeat what he did in the morning. He will, now and then, come over so I can pat him and say hi while I work with my office being by his cage.

I am never, ever, to forget the afternoon snack.

It is in the afternoon that he will socialize with the other birds. It means he wants to have them give him their attention. The time length can vary depending on his mood that can change on a dime.
But they adore him and give him much homage.

As the day draws to a close, it will start to get dark outside the window by his cage. It requires rule number nine to happen. No darkness should ever be allowed to fall onto his cage, space, or him. Period.

If he is feeling friendly, he will climb down the rail that is by the couch in the living room and make his way onto the couch. Jasper will go to the person he loves the best, which is my husband, who has come down now that work is over.

If Dad falls asleep before Jasper, he will watch over his dad for hours to make sure he is okay and to keep him safe. Well, until 7:00 pm since that is when he goes inside his cage and settles in for the night.

There are rare occasions he stays out later or will come out again if he sees Dad stir or is awake. Jasper will need to see if my husband will pat him some more before it is time for bed.

The life of a beloved parrot is hard work.


Sharon C. Williams is a native of New England raised in Northern Maine. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and son. A flock of rescued birds owns her.

Sharon has a B. S. degree in Chemistry and two A.S. with one being in Biology and the other, Math. She loves to read, sketch, take pictures, walk, exercise, go to the movies, and listen to music. Sharon is a budding bird watcher and knits on the side. She is a huge sports fan of baseball, basketball, hockey, football, and MMA. She is also a shutterbug and is always looking for the next big shot.

At the moment, she has five books out with six short stories in three anthologies.

Connect with Sharon:
Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Pinterest  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:

Friday, November 27, 2020





Boy-meets-girl and they fall madly in love. 

She is desperate to be a wife just like all her friends...and he would do anything to feel like a man.

But as soon as they wed, their innocent romance takes a shocking and horrific turn. 

Strap in for a roller coaster ride about the dark side of marriage and parenthood in this haunting poetic thriller. 

Fair warning, these tales are not for the faint of heart.

Book Details

Title: Tales of Woe

Author: Tay Reem

Genre: contemporary poetry

Publisher: Owens Publishing House (October 3, 2020)

Print length: 128 pages


A few of your favorite things: my bamboo steamer for mandatory random dim sum nights with my closest friends. My first ever CD gifted to me for my 6th birthday . . . “Baby One More Time” – Britney Spears. I also still have the love letters my old high school sweetheart handwrote me that I’ll always cherish.
Things you need to throw out: I have a pair of chunky Louboutin studded boots that always declare war on my feet, they can go. My old cheerleading trophies can also go along with my giant hoop earrings.

Things you need in order to write: I prefer silence when I write and a crunchy snack.
Things that hamper your writing: my phone.

Things you love about writing: creating new worlds where nothing happens unless I write it. Getting comments and messages from my followers about how they felt reading my work.
Things you hate about writing: feeling like I am never finished finding the best way to say things.

Easiest thing about being a writer: writing.

Hardest thing about being a writer: writing well.

Things you love about where you live: it’s so quiet, there are always children laughing outside, the staff is always so helpful and there is a giant palm tree outside of my window.
Things that make you want to move: being so far away from my friends.

Favorite foods: spaghetti and meatballs, dumplings, chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes . . . I’ll honestly eat pretty much anything.
Things that make you want to throw up: raisins and olives. Disgusting.    

Favorite song: “L.O.V.E” by Nat King Cole.
Music that make your ears bleed: anything with a harmonica.

Favorite beverage: Raspberry Green Tea Lemonade from Starbucks.

Something that gives you a pickle face: Kombucha. Disgusting.

Something you’re really good at: telling stories!

Something you’re really bad at: spelling. I never said I was perfect.

Something you wish you could do: I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: I wish I never learned how to smoke. I don’t do it anymore, but I wish I never started. It has never helped me in life.

Last best thing you ate: mac and cheese from Catch LA. It was so good, I still dream about it.

Last thing you regret eating: an entire pack of half a dozen cupcakes. I knew it was a bad idea, but I did it anyway

Things you always put in your books: violence.
Things you never put in your books: basic boring characters.

Favorite places you’ve been: Barbados, Naples and London because of the food, the shopping, the people and the incredible scenery.
Places you never want to go to again: Denmark. Not my favorite.

Favorite things to do:
I love visiting beautiful wineries and going to tasking rooms, especially on a warm day. Watching the sunrise and the surfers in Newport Beach is something I do often. Off-roading has quickly become a new favorite activity.

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: washing dishes, going to Sunday school, and ab workouts.

Things that make you happy: late 90s – early 00’s pop music, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from Potbelly’s and finally achieving runners high.
Things that drive you crazy: when I’m looking for parking and think I’ve finally found a spot but it’s actually a fiat or a motorcycle parked deep into that spot making it look like it was open, so at first I’m relieved to finally stop circling the lot only to be disappointed then quickly enraged by how tiny fiats are and how annoying that its drivers always pull all the up when they park them, fooling hopefuls like myself every time.

Proudest moment: when I held the final version of my book in my hands.

Most embarrassing moment: when I got really drunk and accidently called the police on myself.

Best thing you’ve ever done: when I moved from Maryland to California.

Biggest mistake: deciding to get my doctorate. It ended up being a waste of time and money.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: move my entire life across the country because I was tired of the cold.

Something you chickened out from doing: some of my friends invited me to cliff dive, and I had to respectfully decline.

The last thing you did for the first time: I drove a speedboat for the first time not too long ago. It was the most fun I’ve had in a while.

Something you’ll never do again: I’ll never let anyone discourage me from doing anything I want to do ever again.


Tay Reem was raised in a small town in Maryland. She studied psychology at Morgan State University and later earned her Master’s in the same field. After many years working as a behavioral insights analyst, she left the corporate world to pursue her dream of becoming an author instead. Inspired by her own childhood and every day human experiences, Reem channels her empathetic side as fuel for her work. Her academic background in psychology and previous job as a behavioral analyst, prepared her for a universe of complicated characters portraying the light, the grey and the dark side of humanity. Her next book is set to do just that - tell real narratives about regular people who do what any of us would do given the right circumstance.  When she’s not thinking of her next big story, you can probably find her on a hiking trail in the hills or off-roading in the desert. She currently resides in Southern California where she is hard at work on her second book.

Connect with Tay:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:


Tuesday, November 24, 2020




Would You Date a Murder Suspect?

Greg Chase is a sixteen-year-old boy whose heightened deductive powers serve him well in his position as the New York Police Department’s youngest ever civilian consultant.

Forced to leave his job after his actions lead to the death of a suspect, Greg returns to school and finds himself immediately drawn to the new girl, a deviant loner named Mel Locket. Greg and Mel quickly make a connection—and build a romantic relationship—only for Greg to learn that Mel's withdrawn and mysterious exterior hides a dark secret. She might have murdered her former classmate and best friend.

Greg believes Mel innocent and takes it upon himself to prove it, but he’s in a minority. The police, Mel's therapist, and even her mother think she’s violent and unstable, capable at least of murder. They’re all right, of course. But did she really kill her old friend?

Book Details

Title: The Women in White

Author: Fred Tippett, II

Genre: YA mystery

Series: Greg Chase Mysteries

Publisher: Trinity Power Productions LLC (November 12, 2020)

Print length: 396 pages


Things you need in order to write: my desk and chair, either my laptop or a good pen and paper, free time, and (relatively) absolute silence.
Things that hamper your writing: loud noises, a lack of free time, and writer’s block.

Things you love about writing: the ability to build worlds, histories, and even change lives with the simple power of the page. The power to elevate others, right wrongs, or just make people think twice or think differently about the world in which we’re all living.
Things you hate about writing: definitely the revision process. A book idea is beautiful—and bearing it out on the page is often a pure exercise in catharsis. But once that’s done, any good writer (me included and especially) can expect to spend probably months revising and editing the work, killing darlings, and second-guessing the usefulness of almost every word that’s been written.

Easiest thing about being a writer: ideas for books come to me from everywhere. Everywhere. The news, day-to-day life, discussions with friends and family, things that I watch or read, and even things that I write! I already have so many ideas for future books that I really could be writing interesting stories forever, and they just keep coming.

Hardest thing about being a writer: just about everything that comes after the “ideas” part. Hahaha! An idea must be outlined—then written into a first draft. That first draft must be edited probably at least another two times (optimistically with the help of a good proofreader and/or editor the second time around) before it’s anywhere close to ready. Even once the book is ready to be published, an effective author still has tons of work to do with properly advertising it and choosing the best way to do that.

Things you love about where you live:
the clean air and the relatively peaceful and quiet nature of the southern suburbs.
Things that make you want to move: I’m really not a fan of the way in which many people where I live—some even in leadership—have chosen to handle, or mishandle, the recent pandemic and the safety measures that have been prescribed to ensure everyone’s best end. This is as opposed to the better ways that the pandemic has been handled in other environments.

Favorite foods: fried salmon, savory herb cauliflower rice, chicken and wild rice soup, spicy shrimp pizza, sautéed spinach, red velvet cake.
Things that make you want to throw up: baked salmon, green beans, plain baked chicken, pineapple upside down cake.

Favorite beverage: eggnog milkshake.

Something that gives you a pickle face: grapefruit.

Favorite smell: blueberry pancakes with blueberry syrup.

Something that makes you hold your nose: pork rinds.

Something you’re really good at: writing. LOL.

Something you’re really bad at: hockey in any way, shape, or form.

Something you like to do: long, quiet walks—usually in scenic parts of the cities that I visit.

Something you wish you’d never done: picked up a Netflix subscription. (I did not have it for long, but still. It really was time that I could’ve spent being far more productive than I was back then.)

Last best thing you ate: coconut pancakes with salmon croquettes.
Last thing you regret eating: oatmeal without honey.

Things you’d walk a mile for: exercise (hahaha), WiFi reception, the latest novel in my favorite series.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: bad reality television, country music.

Things you always put in your books: at least one important life lesson. It may be subtly pass-coded, but it’s there in each of my books for someone who’s willing to search it out. I tend to think that when a person reads a book—even just a fiction novel—s/he should learn something.

Things you never put in your books: an abundance of foul language. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m a big fan of the style of timeless authors like Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Erle Stanley Gardner. I believe that a novel can be great—classic, even—without including a noticeable amount of profanity.

Things to say to an author: “I loved your book!” 
“I can’t wait for the next one!” 
“So-and-so is my new favorite character!” 
“I feel so inspired by your work!”

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: “You really didn’t handle such-and-such situation the way that I would have.” 
“I really think you could’ve done a better job handling so-and-so’s character arc.” 
“Your new book really doesn’t stand up to the quality of your best work.”

Favorite places you’ve been: New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Atlanta.

Places you never want to go to again: Zimbabwe, Cullman, Bryn Mawr.

Favorite things to do: endurance running, walking, biking, cooking, writing.

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: vacuuming, dusting, fence setting.

Proudest moment: the day that I embraced fully the nature of my Christian faith.
Most embarrassing moment:
announcing to others the name of my childhood crush.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: braving a literal hurricane one night to go to the store and get groceries for my brother and parents.

Something you chickened out from doing: bungee jumping from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

The last thing you did for the first time: the last major one that I can recall was becoming a certified attorney almost a year ago now. I passed the Washington, D.C., bar exam and went through quite a strenuous set of trials to become a properly registered lawyer in Washington, D.C.

Something you’ll never do again: “Test” expired milk. That one’s a no-brainer.


Fred Tippett, II, is the author of the Young Adult Mystery novel The Women in White, which released on 12 November 2020. Fred currently lives in Alabama, though he is a Washington-DC-barred attorney. He holds a Juris Doctor Degree from the University of Pennsylvania—and primarily uses his legal education to bolster the credibility of police procedural elements for his novels.

Connect with Fred:
Website   |  Twitter  |  Instagram  |  Goodreads 

Buy the book:

Monday, November 23, 2020




When a beloved nun is murdered in a sleepy Catskill Mountain town, a grieving young widow finds herself at the center of the turmoil. Bianca St. Denis is searching for a job and seeking acceptance in her new home of Batavia-on-Hudson. Agatha Miller, the nun's closest friend and the ailing local historian everyone loves to hate, shares her painful personal history and long-buried village secrets with Bianca. Armed with this knowledge, Bianca unravels the mysteries surrounding the death while dealing with the suspicions of her eccentric neighbors.

However, Bianca's meddling complicates the sheriff's investigation as well as his marriage. Can Sheriff Mike Riley escape his painful past in a town where murder and infighting over a new casino vie for his attention?

Danger stalks Bianca as she gets closer to the truth. Can the sheriff solve the mystery before the killer strikes again? Can the town heal its wounds once the truth has been uncovered?

Book Details: 

Title: Winter Witness

Author: Tina deBellegarde

Genre: mystery, women’s fiction
Series: Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery Series
, book 1
Publisher: Level Best Books (September 29, 2020)

Print length: 298 pages

On tour with: Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours



Things you need in order to write: time. Once I have time, anything will do—my laptop or paper and pen. Even my voice memo recorder on my phone. Some of my best scenes were “written” that way.
Things that hamper your writing: phone calls.

Things you love about writing: I love when the characters take over my writing. I am a planner; I know where my story is going. But often, once I start a scene, the characters take over. They handle a problem better than I may have outlined. They behave “in character” but not necessarily the way I would expect. An added bonus is that they often tie things up nicely, or create a lead in to the next scene that was never planned. It’s amazing really. I know intellectually that I am the one who is doing it, but there is definitely a sense of channeling. For example, I recently wrote a scene for the upcoming book in the Batavia-on-Hudson, Dead Man’s Leap, where a character created a dramatic twist that worked so well with the planned story that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t planned it that way. (I can’t tell you more . . . it contains serious spoilers.)
Things you hate about writing: I am doing my best to create a “full-time” writing practice but I haven’t mastered it yet. I have enough time to produce the books in the series (two more are in the works right now . . . hopefully more down the road), but I need to manage my time so that I can work on other writing projects. I want to write more short stories and flash fiction. And I have other standalone book projects on the back burner also. It’s a problem similar to reading, so many books so little time.

Easiest thing about being a writer: working in my pajamas!

Hardest thing about being a writer: it changed my relationship to reading. When I read now it is very hard not to analyze, critique, or try to learn something about good (or bad) writing. It is much harder now for me to read just for the pleasure of it.

Things you love about where you live: I live in essentially the setting of my book Winter Witness. Batavia-on-Hudson is a fictitious village in the Catskill Mountains, but I live outside a village just like it. It is cozy and welcoming. Everyone knows everyone. Gossip abounds, we don’t always agree, but mostly we all find a way to get along. We have to, because we live too intimately to not get along.
I also love the scenery, the fresh air, the wildlife. This morning alone on my front lawn—six does, two bucks, and a flock of turkeys. (Actually I had to stop and look this up – a group of wild turkeys is a gang or a rafter! New knowledge! Gotta love it!) My home is isolated so we have no need for window treatments. Every window frame is a painting. Each one looks out on something like a green hill, a blue sky, autumn leaves, an expanse of snow. It’s all lovely. I am grateful for it every day. (Oh! And living in the country means I have enough room for a writing “she shed”—the perfect place to write!)
Things that make you want to move: nothing . . . I could live here forever.

Things you never want to run out of: books and paper.
Things you wish you’d never bought: the exercise equipment I never use.

Favorite smell: lavender and citrus.

Something that makes you hold your nose: killing a stink bug.

Last best thing you ate: lemon ice cream.

Last thing you regret eating: half a bag of gummy bears in one sitting . . . don’t ask me why I did it.

Favorite places you’ve been: Japan, Italy, Spain.

Places you never want to go to again: Florida in the summertime.

Favorite books: books with well-developed characters— Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Strout

Books you would ban: never!

Things that make you happy: cappuccino and croissant like Bianca in Winter Witness.

Things that drive you crazy: being asked to solve problems at night.

The last thing you did for the first time: I participated in a live book reading last night. I was very nervous, but I survived.

Something you’ll never do again: I thought I would write that I'd never do a live book reading again, but I know I will do more. And now that I’ve done one, I’ve decided they are fun. 



Thursday, December 15

She could have been sleeping, were it not for the gaping gash in the back of her head and the bloody stone next to her limp body.

Sheriff Mike Riley stood alone on the shore of the near-frozen lake. At his feet, Sister Elaine Fisher lay face down, ice crystals forming around her body where it met the shoreline. The murmuring water of the nearby stream imparted a peacefulness at odds with the scene. In the waning winter light, he paused ankle deep in the snow illuminated by the beat of red strobe lights.

Murder seemed so extreme. The villagers would be baffled. Murder didn’t happen in sleepy Batavia-on-Hudson. An occasional stolen bicycle, some were paid off the books, but that was hardly worth mentioning. Lately, there had been a handful of amateur burglaries. Murder was another story altogether.

But there was no denying it. Elaine’s body was there before him, lifeless on a cushion of snow at the edge of the lake.

Sheriff Riley ran his chapped hands through his salt and pepper hair. A knowing person might have noticed that he used this motion to disguise a quick brush at his cheek, to eliminate the one tear that slipped through.

He feared this day, the day his lazy job would bring him face to face once again with the ugly underbelly he knew existed even in a quiet place like Batavia-on-Hudson. Mike Riley wasn’t afraid of death. He was afraid of the transformation a village like this was bound to go through after an act of murder.

He cried for Elaine; though he barely knew her. But also, he cried for the village that died with her that morning. A place where children still wandered freely. A village that didn’t lock doors, and trusted everyone, even the ones they gossiped about. Now, inevitably, the villagers would be guarded around each other, never quite sure anymore if someone could be trusted.

He thought he could already hear the locks snapping shut in cars and homes as word of the murder got out. Mothers yanking children indoors, hand-in-hand lovers escaping the once-romantic shadows of the wooded pathways, and old ladies turning into shut-ins instead of walking their dogs across the windy bluff.

Sheriff Riley steeled himself not just to confront the damaged body of the first murder victim of Batavia in over seventy years, but to confront the worried faces of mothers, the defeated faces of fathers and the vulnerable faces of the elderly.

He squatted in the slush, wincing as his bad knee rebelled, and laid his hands on Elaine’s rough canvas jacket, two-sizes too big—one of her thrift shop purchases, no doubt. As reverently as was possible in the muddy snow, Mike Riley turned over her body to examine the face of a changing village.

Sister Elaine had no one left, she had no known siblings and of course, no spouse or children. Only Agatha Miller, her childhood companion, could have been considered next of kin. How Elaine had tolerated her grumpy old friend was a mystery to everyone.

The sheriff knew that Elaine’s death would rock the community. Even a relative outsider like Mike understood that Elaine had been an anchor in Batavia. Her kindness had given the village heart, and her compassion had given it soul. No one would be prepared for this.

Mike knew from experience that preparation for death eases the grief. You start getting ready emotionally and psychologically. You make arrangements. You imagine your life without someone. But Mike also knew that when the time comes it still slaps you in the face, cold and bracing. And you realize you were only fooling yourself. Then somehow, in short order, work becomes demanding, bills need to be paid and something on the radio steals a chuckle right out of your throat. For a brief second you realize that there are moments of respite from your grief and perhaps someday those moments will expand and you may be able to experience joy once again.

But for now, Elaine’s death will be a shock. No one had prepared for her death, let alone her murder.


Excerpt from Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde.  Copyright 2020 by Tina deBellegarde. Reproduced with permission from Tina deBellegarde. All rights reserved.



Tina deBellegarde lives in Catskill, New York with her husband Denis and their cat Shelby. Winter Witness is the first book in the Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery Series. Tina also writes short stories and flash fiction. When she isn't writing, she is helping Denis tend their beehives, harvest shiitake mushrooms, and cultivate their vegetable garden. She travels to Japan regularly to visit her son Alessandro. Tina did her graduate studies in history. She is a former exporter, paralegal, teacher, and library clerk.

Connect with Tina:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads 

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020



After fleeing the crush of a partnership at a large Chicago criminal-defense firm and a professional breakdown, Devlin Winters just wants to be left alone with a couple sundowners on the deck of her dilapidated mahogany trawler on Galveston Bay. But when an old flame shows up on the boardwalk with a mysterious little boy in tow and an indictment on his heels, fate has other plans, and Devlin finds herself thrust onto a sailboat bound for St. Kitts and staring down her demons in the courtroom, as she squares off against an obsessed prosecutor with a secret of his own.

Book Details:

Title: The Venturi Effect

Author: Sage Webb

Genre: legal thriller

Series: A Devlin Winters Novel

Publisher: Stoneman House Press, LLC (November 15, 2020)

Print length: 329 pages
On tour with: Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours



A few of your favorite things: books! Books! Books and maxi dresses!
Things you need to throw out: see above! No, I’d never throw out no-longer-needed books or dresses; I’d donate them. But living on a boat means enforced minimalism, and I know I need to cull the heard a bit!

Things you love about where you live: my husband and I live on a 40’ sailboat in a marina off Galveston Bay. I love it. We spend weekdays docked, so “the bosun” can go to work (mostly, I can work from my laptop wherever I am), and on the weekends, we anchor the boat in the bay and enjoy the quiet of being on the water. People dream of sailing to far-off islands, and there’s something to be said for that, but “sailing local” keeps it stress free while providing all the good times of being at anchor, taking the dinghy to the beach, enjoying meals at harborside dives under palapas, and generally taking in boat life.
Things that make you want to move: I like the heat, but the Houston-Galveston area is really hot in the summer—like really, really hot. And I have lupus, which means the sun is not my friend . . . at all!

Words that describe you: adventurous, caring, loves cats (and dogs!), jokes around.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: OCD!, easily stressed, moody, judgmental.

Favorite music: my husband spends a goodly portion of his free time as a local Texas red-dirt-country singer-songwriter, so there’s only one right answer to this question for me: his music is my favorite! Before I moved to Texas (and before I met my husband), I didn’t much like country, but now I love it. I like the story-telling nature of many of the songs, the genre’s general danceability, and the emotion of some of the ballads.
Music that make your ears bleed: Yung Gravy (with all due respect to his fans, he’s just not my brand of vodka!)

Favorite smell: salt air, cut grass, this apple-cinnamon air freshener we use, and (I know! I know! guilty face) some of the fiberglass-maintenance chemicals one encounters during boat work.

Something that makes you hold your nose: a big ol’ puff of diesel exhaust when I’m hooking up a camping trailer to a diesel tow vehicle. (We like to RV, too!)

Last best thing you ate: I appreciate good bread pudding, and I live in Texas, so it’s not hard to find. There’s a little waterfront restaurant in a neighboring marina, and sometimes when we’re feeling festive, we’ll walk over there and they have scrumptious bread pudding! We made this little evening passeggiata the other night and treated ourselves to the bread pudding. 

Last thing you regret eating: I suffer from food envy at almost every meal we eat out. Whatever my husband orders always ends up looking better than what I got, so I often regret my culinary choices. (It’s not that bad, really, but he teases me about it a lot!)

Things you always put in your books:
my writing often contains boats! I luv ’em, so they tend to sneak in. There’s usually some law, too.

Things you never put in your books: I can’t do a whole lot of violence or sex. Just too much for me. Nor do I tend to venture into areas that are completely foreign. I agree with people who say that the idea of “write what you know” has limits, but I also tend to use what I know as a springboard.

Favorite places you’ve been: I love Guatemala. I’ve gotten to go there a couple times, and it’s beautiful! It offers some great experiences in the realm of history, architecture, art, scenery, and food. I also love Michigan’s Mackinac Island (no cars allowed! only horses and bikes!); caves in general (gimme a “wild cave tour” any day!); and Rome (what’s not to love about the Eternal City???).

Places you never want to go to again: well, there was this awful truck stop along highway . . . ! I love road trips, and I love RVing, so there have been a number of dirty, sketchy, stops! I’m also not an L.A. person and can only take Vegas in very short bursts.

Things that make you happy: nothing feels quite as good as sitting in the cockpit of an anchored boat on a warm day, under a canvas awning, reading a good book . . . with a salty dog or cat at hand. 

Things that drive you crazy: deadlines have literally caused my hair to fall out (well, lupus caused my hair to fall out, but stress may or may not have provided a trigger!). I live with a lot of nonnegotiable deadlines and they can cause a ton of frustration!


Chapter 1

Red metal boxes lined the wood-railed tourist boardwalk, giving children access to fish food if the kids could finagle quarters from parents wilted and forlorn in the triple-digit Gulf Coast heat. With the food, kids could create great frenzies of red drum, snook, spotted sea trout, or whatever fish species gathered at the boardwalk’s pilings in agitated silver vortices. Devlin Winters lifted her ballcap and wiped a sleeve across her brow. She favored long-sleeved t-shirts for just this reason—their mopping properties . . . and to protect her from the Galveston Bay sun in its unrelenting effort to grill her and the other boardwalk barkers. In the two years she’d been on the boardwalk, she’d never fed the fish. 

A kid stopped beside one of the boxes. 

“Can I have a quarter, mommy?” the boy asked. 

He looked about eight or nine, though Devlin had little interest in guessing accurately the ages of the pint-sized patrons fueling her income stream.

“I’m not sure I have one,” the mom replied. 

She appeared a bit younger than Devlin, maybe late twenties. 

Once upon a time, Devlin would have looked at a mother like that and made a snide remark about crib lizards and dead ends, but nine bucks an hour in the sun makes it awfully hard for a carny to judge others. Lacking a more interesting subject, Devlin watched the woman paw through a backpack-sized purse. The chick produced a quarter and handed it to the kid, who dropped it into the box’s payment slot and ground the dial, catching in his miniature palm a limited portion of the fish food that spilled out of the machine when he lifted the metal flap. The majority of the pellets rained down onto the wooden boardwalk planks, bounced, and disappeared through the cracks between the planks. 

Devlin fancied she could hear the tiny fish-food BBs hitting brown water: plink, plink, plink. Once upon another time, when she was still at Sondheim Baker, but toward the end, she would go outside in the middle of the day. Instead of sitting at her desk, drafting appellate briefs for the Seventh Circuit, she would ride the elevator down to La Salle, down seven hundred feet of glass and stainless steel and terribly expensive architecture. She would drop down those elevator cables at random times, at times rich, successful attorneys should have been at their desks. And she would turn left out of that great glass building the color of the sky and walk over to the river, that nothing-like-the-Styx river that mankind had turned back on itself, contrary to nature. 

She would stand and look down into the water, which was sometimes emerald, sometimes the color of jeans before they are ever washed. Once or twice, she had reached into her purse (expensive purses, Magnificent Mile purses from Burberry and Gucci and Hermès) and she had dug around until she’d found a penny. She’d dropped the penny into the river and, even now, on the sauna-hot boardwalk with the whistle of the kid-sized train behind her and the pulses of unimpressive pop music overhead, she was sure she could hear those pennies hit the Chicago River, hit and sink down, down, and farther down.  

Plink. Plink. Pli—

“You want to try this one?”

The fish-feeding entertainment had run its course and the mother stood in front of the water-gun game Devlin guarded. She gestured toward Devlin and the row of stools in front of their narrow-barreled water guns.

“Is it hard?” The kid looked up at his mom, and the mom turned to Devlin.

“He can do it, right?” she asked. “I mean, he can figure it out, right?”

“Sure, it’s easy.” Devlin lifted her cap for another mop across her hairline, and then wiped perspiration away from her eyes under her sunglasses. “It’s fun, little dude,” she said to the kid in his obviously secondhand clothes. 

She wanted to care, wanted to be “affable” or whatever it is a carny should be toward summer’s ice-cream-eating cash-crop flux of kids. But wanting alone, without effort, is never enough.

The mom held out a five-dollar bill.

“You both wanna do it? I gotta have more than one person to run it for a prize.” Devlin rubbed the top of her right flip flop and foot against her left calf.

“Oh,” the woman said, “I wasn’t planning to play. I’m no good at these things.”

“Um,” Devlin stepped out of the shade of the game’s nook and cast her eyes up and down the boardwalk, “we’ll find some more kids.” She took the woman’s money without looking away from the walkway and the beggarly seabirds.

A young couple, likely playing hooky from jobs in Houston, held the hands of a girl sporting jet-black pigtails and lopsided glasses.

“Step right up, princess. You wanna win a unicorn, right?” Devlin reached back into her game nook and snatched a pink toy from the wall of unicorns, butterflies, bees, and unlicensed lookalikes of characters from movies Devlin had never heard of. She dangled the thing in the girl’s direction.

“Would you like to play, habibti?” The mom jiggled the girl’s arm.

“Tell ya what.” Devlin turned to the mom. “The whole family can play for five bucks. We’re just trying to get some games going, give away some prizes to these cuties.” She turned back to the first mother. “And don’t worry, I’ll give him three games for the fiver.”

“Hear that, Vince? You’ll get to play a few times. Is that cool?”

Vince picked at his crotch. Devlin looked away. 

“Yes, we’ll all play,” the second mother said. The dad pulled a twenty out of a pocket and Devlin started to make change while Vince’s mom hefted Vince onto a stool.

“Just a five back,” the father said. “We’ll play a few times.”

“Sure thing,” Devlin replied. Then she raised her voice to run through the rules of the game, to explain how the water guns spraying and hitting the targets would raise plastic boats in a boat race to buzzers at the top of the game contraption. She offered some tired words of encouragement, got nods from everyone, and counted down. “Three, two, one.” 

She pushed the button and the game loosed a bell sound across the boardwalk. 

A guy in waiter’s livery hurried past, hustling toward one of the boardwalk’s various restaurants, with their patios overlooking the channel and Galveston Bay. He’d be serving people margaritas and gimlets in just a few more steps and minutes. Devlin wanted a gimlet.

She drew a deep breath, turned back to her charges. “Close race here, friends.” 

An ’80s-vintage Hunter sailboat slid past in the channel, leaving Galveston Bay and making its way back to one of the marinas up the waterway on Clear Lake. 

When Devlin turned back to her marksmen, the girl’s mother’s boat had almost reached the buzzer. 

“Looks like we’ve got a leader here. Come on, madam. You’re almost there.”

Devlin checked her watch. She’d be off in less than an hour. She’d be back on her own boat fifteen minutes after that, with an unopened bottle of Bombay Sapphire and a net full of limes rocking above the galley sink.

The buzzer blared.

“Looks like we have a winner. Congratulations, madam.” Devlin clapped three times. “Now would you like a unicorn, a butterfly, or,” Devlin pulled a four-inch-tall creature from the wall, not knowing how to describe it, “this little guy?” She held it out for the woman’s inspection.

Habibti, you pick.” The mom patted her daughter’s back. The kid didn’t say anything, just pointed at the butterfly.

“Butterfly it is, beautiful.” Devlin unclipped the toy from the wall of plush junk and handed it to the girl. “Well, we’ve got some competition for this next one, folks, now that you’re all warmed up. Take a breather. We’ll start the next game when you’re ready.”

“Can I try?” A boy pulled at a broad-shouldered man’s hand, leading the guy toward the row of stools. It was hard to tell parentage with these kids and their mixed-up step- and half- and melded-in-other-ways families, and with this one, the kid’s dark curls and earnest eyes contrasted with the dude’s Nordic features and reminded Devlin of a roommate she’d had in undergrad, a girl from Haiti who’d taught Devlin about pikliz. Devlin hadn’t thought about Haitian food in ages. She decided she would google it later and see what she could find in Houston. A drive to discover somewhere new to eat would do her good.

Any chance at plantains and pikliz would have to wait, though. The kid and the dude now stood in front of Devlin. Ultra-dark sunglasses hid the guy’s eyes, and a ballcap with a local yacht brokerage’s logo embroidered on it cast a shadow over his face. Devlin cocked her head. She narrowed her eyes and hoped her own sunglasses were doing as good a job of being barriers. He reminded her of— 

“Still time to add another player?” The dude pulled out a wallet and handed Devlin a ten.

“Sure,” she said. “Is this for both of you? You should give it a try, too. This’ll get you both in on the next two games.”

She didn’t wait for confirmation. She shoved the money in the box beside her control board of buzzer buttons and waved the guy and his kid toward stools on the far side of the now-veteran players already seated. 

“Uh, sure,” the guy said, putting a hand on the kid’s back and guiding him to a seat.

Running through the rules again, Devlin envisioned those gimlets awaiting her. With Bombay Sapphire dancing before her, she counted down and then pushed the button to blast the bell and launch the game. The buzzer over the newcomer father’s boat’s track rang moments later. What kind of scummy guy just trounces a kid like that? Devlin rolled her eyes behind the obscuring lenses. 

“Looks like our new guy is the winner, ladies and gentlemen. Now, would you like a unicorn, a butterfly, or this little dude?” Devlin again proffered the hard-to-describe creature, walking it over for the fellow to examine.

“What is it?” the guy asked.

Devlin shrugged. “What do you get when you cross an elephant and a rhino?”

The guy’s sunglasses gave away nothing. But something she couldn’t articulate made her feel like he was studying her.

“An ’el-if-I-know,” she said.

Still nothing . . . except that feeling of scrutiny. 

“Dude, I’ve got no idea,” she replied to her reflection in the lenses.

“Grant, which one do you want?” The guy turned away and handed the unnamed creature to the kid, and then gestured at the identifiable unicorns and butterflies hanging on the wall over Devlin’s control station.

“Those are for girls,” Grant said, waving at the recognizable plushes on the wall.

“So is this one okay?” The guy patted the thing in the kid’s hand.

Grant wrinkled his nose. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“All right, folks. You’ve all got another game coming here. Competition is fierce. Who’s gonna take this last one?” Devlin strode back to her place at the control board.

“Deep inhale, everyone. Relax. All right, here we go. Three, two, one.” She pushed the starting button. 

Up shot the new guy’s boat again. What a bastard. Poor Grant. This patriarchal showmanship would be worth about five or ten grand at the therapist’s in twenty-five years. 

Out in the channel, two jetskis purred past, headed toward the bay. The day’s heat had cracked and the sky hinted at evening. Behind her, the victory whistle sounded. She turned. The dude with the sunglasses sat patting Grant’s shoulder, with Grant’s boat at the top of its track. So the guy wasn’t a complete fool.

“A new winner here, ladies and gentlemen.” She walked to Grant’s stool. “Now, little man, because you’ve won two prizes today, you can trade that one you’ve got and this one you’re going to get for one bigger one. You can pick from these if you want.”

She pointed at a row with only-slightly-bigger caterpillars, ambiguous characters, and a dog in a purple vest.

“That one,” Grant said, pointing at the dog.

“That one it is, good sir.” Devlin retrieved the dog, taking back the first creature and returning it to the wall in the process.

As she retraced her steps to Grant, the dog in her hand, fuzzy pictures coalesced in a fog and mist of bygone memories. 

Devlin handed the dog to Grant. “There you go.” 

She looked at the guy again, focusing on him for longer than she should have, feeling him perhaps doing the same to her. Yes, she had it right: it was him. She pushed a flyaway strand of bleached hair back into place beneath her cap and turned away.

“Thanks for playing this afternoon, folks,” she called. “Enjoy your evening on the boardwalk.”

The parents gathered their kids, and Devlin walked back toward her control board. Waiting for Grant and him to head off down the row of games and rides, she fussed with the cashbox and then lifted her water bottle to her lips. She could feel him and the kid lingering, feel them failing to move along, failing to leave her to forget what once was and to focus on thoughts of gimlets at sunset on the deck of a rotten old trawler.

“Um.” His voice sounded low and halting behind her. A vacuum, all heat and silence, followed and then a masculine inhale . . . and then the awkward pause. 

He cleared his throat. 

“Sorry to interrupt, but are you from Chicago?”


Excerpt from The Venturi Effect by Sage Webb.  Copyright 2020 by Sage Webb. Reproduced with permission from Sage Webb. All rights reserved.


Sage Webb practiced criminal defense for over a decade before turning to fiction. She is the author of two novels and the recipient of numerous literary awards in the U.S. and U.K., including second place in the Hackney Literary Awards. Her short stories have appeared in Texas anthologies and literary reviews. In 2020, Michigan’s Mackinac State Historic Parks named her an artist in residence. She belongs to International Thriller Writers and PEN America, and lives with her husband, a ship’s cat, and a boat dog on a sailboat in Galveston Bay. 

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