Saturday, March 6, 2021




The medium of limitless possibilities that is photography has been with us for almost 200 years.

Despite its great advancements, its early days still influence and dazzle a majority of professional photographers and artists. Such is the case of Cendrine Marrouat, Hadiya Ali, and David Ellis, three members of the PoArtMo Collective.

The result? Seizing the Bygone Light: A Tribute to Early Photography. This unique collection of artistic styles brings together different innovative concepts of both gripping writing and stunning visual imagery.

In the first part of the book, photographer and painter Ali introduces us to two of her favorite photographers by reimagining and recreating images in the nature of her photographic idols — Irving Penn and Karl Blossfeldt.

In the second part, photographer, poet, and author Marrouat shares a selection of her reminigrams, a digital style that she personally created to honor and pay homage to the early days of photography.

Author and poet Ellis rounds things off with a series of pareiku poems (the poetry form he co-created with Marrouat), offering fresh outlooks for his sincere, heartfelt adoration of photography of the past.

A fascinating and compelling book, Seizing the Bygone Light: A Tribute to Early Photography will leave you with a deep sense of appreciation and a greater understanding of photography.

PoArtMo Collective is a gathering of inspirational artists, writers, and photographers that combine their talents to produce positive, mixed media projects that stimulate the minds of the people who delve into them.


1. What is your book, Seizing the Bygone Light: A Tribute to Early Photography, about, and why did you decide to publish it?

Cendrine Marrouat: Seizing the Bygone Light: A Tribute to Early Photography is PoArtMo Collective’s new book. As the title indicates, this co-authored project (authors: Hadiya Ali, David Ellis and Cendrine Marrouat) pays homage to old photography, which has greatly influenced us as artists.

The book is divided into three parts. In part 1, Hadiya has “recreated” the timeless photographic styles of Irving Penn and Karl Blossfeldt. Part 2 features some of my reminigrams, a type of digital image that I created years ago. Finally, in part 3, David shares a series of pareiku poems, our own visual poetry form. Each piece is inspired by archival images.

The beginnings of photography were mostly marked with the documentation of the minutiae of everyday life. Seizing the Bygone Light: A Tribute to Early Photography looks at that triviality with a refreshed and positive outlook. That’s what makes our project unique and why we wanted to share it with the world.

2. What type of reader do you hope to appeal to with Seizing the Bygone Light: A Tribute to Early Photography?

David Ellis: We hope to capture the attention of a wide variety of readers. The ultimate goal for us when we created this project was to have an amalgamation of artistic influences, along with a blending of visual and written material. You get to appreciate the skills of the photographers of the past and we try to frame that with homage, inspiration and poetic nuance that celebrates the uniqueness of all that is around us.

These frozen-in-time capsules are magnificent in their stature, I sincerely hope that any reader will take the time to have a detailed look and find themselves bathed in magical nostalgia. Perhaps they will be motivated to take pictures in a similar fashion or write poetry themselves and that would be a really wonderful outcome for the book!

3. Tell us about PoArtMo Collective.

Cendrine Marrouat: I co-founded PoArtMo Collective in 2019 with photographer Isabel Nolasco, who left last year.

PoArtMo Collective currently has four members: Hadiya Ali (photography and paintings), David Ellis (poetry), Azelle Elric (drawings), and myself (photography, poetry and digital art).

Despite our diverse backgrounds, we believe that good art is all about memorable storytelling. Our goal is to create and release inspirational, positive and uplifting art and artistic projects, including ebooks.

4. In 2019 you founded Auroras & Blossoms. What is its purpose?

David Ellis: The purpose of Auroras & Blossoms is to provide a platform for positive, inspirational art across a variety of mediums. We are encouraged to share the wonderful gifts that people have submitted to us with people who are keen to be uplifted constantly by the art that they read, write and create. It is through our magazines, anthologies, guides, journals, poetry forms, marketing books, artistic movements, and support of the artistic community that we genuinely hope to bring joy and happiness to people when they need it the most.

Auroras & Blossoms is about everyone, about giving people a chance to express themselves and ultimately about making the world a better place through our art and our utmost respect for it.  

5. How did Auroras & Blossoms come about?

Cendrine Marrouat: In early 2019, David and I were discussing the frustrating process of submitting to magazines and journals. We were getting tired of the way many publications heavily factored an artist's credentials and publishing credits into their selective processes. Further, positivity in the arts was not encouraged enough.

We wanted to change the status quo, so we decided to create a platform that would promote positive, uplifting and inspirational written and visual art; and give artists (ages 13 and over) of all levels a place where they could showcase their work and build their publishing credits.

Auroras & Blossoms officially launched in October 2019 and has grown by leaps and bounds since then. We run a magazine, regular submission calls for anthologies, a monthly show, an artistic movement (PoArtMo), PoArtMo Collective, and a series of guides for authors and artists. We have also created several poetry forms. Also, we pay ongoing royalties to artists whose work has been selected to appear in our magazine and anthologies.

6. What is Auroras & Blossoms looking for in submissions?

David Ellis: We are looking for any material that is positive, uplifting in nature and leaves the reader in a better place than when they first started admiring the art.

Our submission guidelines are extremely detailed and specific, so you will be able to find all of the different art types that we accept in our general submission FAQ.
Our anthologies sometimes have specific themes when it comes to submissions, but we will accept any regular submissions that take us on a journey (it can be sad or nostalgic) that winds up giving us a positive overall message.

Finally, I can definitely tell you what we don’t want! We are a family-friendly platform, and do not want any swear words or dirty words. We also do not want any erotica or anything to do with politics.

7. What is included in your Auroras & Blossoms Creative Literary Journal?

David Ellis: In our Auroras & Blossoms Creative Literary Journal, we accept poetry all the time, but we are giving priority to six-word stories, short stories, flash fiction, essays, drawings, paintings, and photography, which we would like to see more of in the future.

8. What is included in your guides and workbooks?

David Ellis: In our guides and workbooks, you can find a myriad of ways to market yourself as an artist, plenty of writing/art prompts to stimulate your creative juices, social media tips and how to improve your own efforts in your given craft too!

9. How did the two of you meet?

Cendrine Marrouat: We met online in the mid-2010s. At the time, I was looking for blogs to promote one of my books. David’s warm and (very) professional response impressed me.

After he had interviewed me for his blog, we stayed in touch and developed a friendship. David has great business ethics and acumen. He is also the best business partner I have ever worked with.

10. What’s next for you as a team?

David Ellis: So many things! We would love to recruit more members into our PoArtMo Collective and create artistic projects with them where they can earn royalties and be proud to be associated with fellow artists.

Cendrine & I are constantly looking at new genres for us to be able to release books into. We are both still extremely passionate about our writing and poetry but we want to continue putting our positive, inspirational philosophy out into the art/writing communities in as many different ways that we possibly can!

11. Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you, your site, or your book?

Cendrine Marrouat: David and I have more than three decades of combined experience as authors, writers, artists, and marketers. Our goal has always been to educate and inspire people, as well as encourage artists to create meaningful work.

We believe that Auroras & Blossoms and PoArtMo Collective offer much needed alternatives to many of the online platforms focusing on the “15-minute fame” motto. And we are confident that you will agree.


Cendrine Marrouat is a French-born Canadian photographer, poet, and the multi-genre author of more than 30 books. In 2019, she co-founded the PoArtMo Collective with Isabel Nolasco, and Auroras & Blossoms with David Ellis. A year later, Ellis and she launched PoArtMo (Positive Art Month and Positive Art Moves) and created the Kindku / Pareiku, two forms of poetry. Cendrine is also the creator of another poetry form (the Sixku) and a type of digital image (the Reminigram).

Cendrine writes both in French and English and has worked in many different fields in her 17-year career, including translation, language instruction, journalism, art reviews, and social media.

David Ellis lives in Tunbridge Wells, Kent in the UK. He is an award-winning poet, author of poetry, marketing
workbooks/journals, humourous fiction and music lyrics. He is also a co-author and co-founder of Auroras & Blossoms, and the co-creator of PoArtMo (Positive Art Month and Positive Art Moves) and the Kindku / Pareiku.
David’s debut poetry collection (Life, Sex & Death) won an International Award in the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards 2016 for Inspirational Poetry Books.

David is extremely fond of tea, classic and contemporary poetry, cats, and dogs but not snakes. Indiana Jones is his spirit animal.

Hadiya Ali is a 19-year-old Pakistan-born artist who now lives in Oman. A keen observer of people, she noticed at a very young age how talented market workers were at what they did – but that they seemed unaware of their own talent. So she decided to capture their stories with her camera. Before she knew it, her project had attracted attention and she had been booked for her first professional photoshoots, suddenly realizing that she, too, had been unaware of her own talent all this time.

Hadiya works on projects that capture unique stories and themes. Some of her photography is featured in The Auroras & Blossoms PoArtMo Anthology: 2020 Edition.

Connect with the authors:
Website   |  Blog  |   Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Instagram  |  YouTube   |  Goodreads

*Buy the book:

*Book to be released mid-March


Wednesday, March 3, 2021



A wayward descendant of Mexico’s national hero, a femme fatale who recites poems in cantinas, a Tunisian prostitute in Barcelona, a Spanish psychiatrist who fights brave bulls, the wise owner of the world’s oldest restaurant. They are just a handful of the characters portrayed in VIDAS: Deep in Mexico and Spain, the first memoir to capture Mexico and Spain from the perspective of an American and the knowledge of an insider. VIDAS explores subjects as diverse as the art of blasphemy, the cult of the Virgin Mary, superstition and witchcraft, the bordellos of Mexico, Spain’s paradise of drink and food, the bullfight and the running of bulls in Pamplona, the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Every chapter of this vibrant travel memoir depicts a different person or place, which combined create a cross-section of the most populous Spanish-speaking countries in the New and Old World. VIDAS is a passage from childhood to adolescence and maturity, a tribute to nature and the open road, an exaltation of love, food and wine, a journey from the tender, mortal flesh to the luminous world of the spirit.

Filled with photographs, this engaging and unique memoir provides a sensory travel experience many of us are craving today. VIDAS: Deep in Mexico and Spain offers the opportunity to learn about faraway lands and striking events while never leaving home. This timely "armchair travel" memoir is for anyone searching for an escape during our troubled time.

Book Details:
Title: VIDAS: Deep in Mexico and Spain
Author: Edward Stanton
Genre: nonfiction, travel, memoir, culture
Publisher: Waterside Publications (March 1st, 2021)
Print length: 178 pages


A few of your favorite things: books and bonsai trees. These may seem like very different things, but of course paper is made from wood. Not the wood from my bonsais, however.
Things you need to throw out: books I’ll never read again.

Things you need in order to write:
I’m a graphomaniac, so I need things to stop me from writing.
Things that hamper your writing: watering, fertilizing, pinching, pruning, and repotting bonsai trees.

Things you love about writing: the solitude.
Things you hate about writing: the loneliness.
Easiest thing about being a writer: is there anything easy?
Hardest thing about being a writer: knowing when to stop.

Things you love about where you live: clean air and old trees.
Things that make you want to move: Republicans.

Things you never want to run out of: books, wine, and trees.
Things you wish you’d never bought: anything that runs on gasoline.
Favorite foods: Chiles en nogada and the dozens of moles from Puebla, Mexico.
Things that make you want to throw up: all fast food.
Favorite music: Corridos and rancheras from Mexico, cante jondo from Spain.
Music that makes your ears bleed: Garth Brooks spoiling an otherwise musically perfect Inauguration.
Favorite beverage: the wines of La Rioja and Ribera del Duero, Spain.
Something that gives you a pickle face: all fast food.
Favorite smell: Hawthorn blossoms in May, with memories of Marcel Proust.
Something that makes you hold your nose: Trumpty-Dumpty and the suckers who actually believe him.
Something you’re really good at: editing someone else’s work.
Something you’re really bad at: editing my own work.

Something you wish you could do: surf the giant waves at Nazaré, Portugal.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: nothing.
Something you like to do: spend time with Melissa Ann.
Something you wish you’d never done: trying and failing to install apps on my computer.

Last best thing you ate: a perfect dal with a garlic nan.
Last thing you regret eating: fast food (about 30 years ago).

Things you’d walk a mile for: to see an ancient tree.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: people who actually believe Trumpty-Dumpty.
Things you always put in your books: tricksters.
Things you never put in your books: Republicans.

Things to say to an author: I read your last book twice.
Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: Cherchez la femme.

Favorite places you’ve been: Nayarit, Mexico; Moutrás, Galicia, Spain.
Places you never want to go to again: I’d go anywhere again in the right company.

Favorite things to do: write, care for bonsai, spend time with Melissa Ann.
Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: creating a new password.

Things that make you happy: ancient trees, good wine & company.
Things that drive you crazy: I’ve already mentioned those.

Proudest moment: my parents seeing me receive an award at their alma mater.
Most embarrassing moment: after a certain age nothing should embarrass you.

Biggest lie you’ve ever told: I’ve never told a lie.
A lie you wish you’d told: “I’m a conscientious objector” before being sworn into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

Best thing you’ve ever done: marry Melissa Ann.
Biggest mistake: an earlier marriage.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: surf waves that were too big.
Something you chickened out from doing: surfed even bigger waves.


Wide as the Wind

Culture and Customs of Spain (Cultures and Customs of the World) 

Hemingway and Spain: A Pursuit 

The Tragic Myth: Lorca and Cante Jondo (Studies in Romance Languages)


Born in Colorado and raised in California, Edward Stanton has lived in Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, and Spain. He’s the author of twelve books, some of them translated and published in Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese. Road of Stars to Santiago, the story of his 500-mile walk on the ancient pilgrimage route to Compostela, was called one of the best books on the subject by the New York Times; Stanton’s environmental novel Wide as the Wind, the first to treat the tragic history of Easter Island, won the Next Generation Indie Book Award for Young Adult Fiction and three other international prizes. While teaching at colleges and universities in the Americas and Europe, he’s also published short stories, poems, translations and essays. The Fulbright Commission, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Spanish Ministry of Culture have supported his work with grants and fellowships. Recently his students and colleagues published This Spanish Thing: Essays in Honor of Edward F. Stanton.

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

Buy the book:


Monday, March 1, 2021




Kane Kulpa learned which laws could be bent and which broken after a short stint in prison courtesy of Detective Vincent Bayonne. Bound by time, integrity, and the reality of life in Central City, Bayonne and Kane made peace with the past. Now, gang tension spirals from corrupt to deadly, and a series of murders stresses Kane and Bayonne’s uneasy alliance. Kane balances on a razor’s edge to protect his bar, power, life, and family, and Bayonne hustles to keep another lonely man from being strangled.

Central City is a city struggling for identity. The cops protect the rackets, and the criminals shelter the injured. Innocence is only an appearance, and rage finds a voice.

Book Details

Title: Central City

Author: Indy Perro

Genre: mystery: hard-nboiled/noir

Series: Central City, book 1

Publisher: Dog’s Name Press (March 28, 2020)

Print length: 243 pages


Things you need in order to write: either a computer or a notebook. Now that I think about it, however, I get a fair amount of work done when I’m not at my desk and ideas get a chance to bubble to the surface of my subconscious. That’s definitely a part of writing.
Things that hamper your writing: distraction. 

Things you love about writing: the opportunity to smooth ideas out, to connect them, develop them, and turn them into imagery.
Things you hate about writing: the business of doing business. To paraphrase Allen Toussaint, it’s a sad thing and a bad thing, but oh so necessary, that this cold world holds your values to become monetary.

Easiest thing about being a writer: putting words on a page.

Hardest thing about being a writer: developing the skill to write well enough that you won’t be ignored.

Things you never want to run out of: words and combinations of words.
Things you wish you’d never bought: I wish I’d never bought into the idea of prestige. Nothing, in my opinion, poisons art more quickly or with greater ruthlessness than prestige.

Words that describe you:
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: ambiguous.

Favorite foods: anything Mexican or Central American.
Things that make you want to throw up: coconut; it’s a hell of a thing to do to chocolate.

Favorite beverage: limeade.

Something that gives you a pickle face: an excess of dill.

Favorite smell: puppy breath.

Something that makes you hold your nose: my dog’s breath now that she’s no longer a puppy.

Something you wish you could do: dunk a basketball.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: criticize.

Last best thing you ate: a lime popsicle.

Last thing you regret eating: I’m not sure what you call it, and perhaps it shouldn’t have been that color or texture or consistency.

Things to say to an author: The same things you’d say to anyone.

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: If you’re a writer, what do you do for a living? Also, any statement that conveys a belief that being a writer is comparable to being a samurai or some other historical profession or mythological being. I assure you, being a writer has more in common with being a carpenter than being a Viking.

Favorite places you’ve been: Clifton, Arizona, which lives up to its name.
Places you never want to go to again: in North Platte, Nebraska, there’s a diner that serves omelets made with canned mushrooms.

Things that make you happy: art museums, concerts, great movies, and Led Zeppelin.

Things that drive you crazy: people who don’t like Led Zeppelin.

Biggest lie you’ve ever told: “It’s not a lie, if you believe it.”

A lie you wish you’d told: “No, those pants don’t make you look fat. Why do you ask?”

Best thing you’ve ever done: Marriage.

Biggest mistake: I was counting my chickens when, all of a sudden, I tripped and dropped my eggs.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: I once summited a volcano during a thunderstorm.

Something you chickened out from doing: nobody said the high dive would be so . . . high.

The last thing you did for the first time: I recently discovered the importance of Willie Nelson, and I must admit that’s a bigger deal than it sounds.

Something you’ll never do again: summit a volcano during a thunderstorm. That’s just stupid.


Indy Perro is a novelist, an independent thinker, and a recovering academic. Indy has a degree in history, graduate degrees in religious studies, comparative literature, and education, and has spent more than a decade teaching philosophy, religious studies, writing, and literature. He lives in northern Colorado, and when he’s not at his desk, he loves to hike, run, read, and study languages. Central City is Indy’s first novel.

Connect with Indy:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter Goodreads 

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Sunday, February 28, 2021




Wilderness guide Crystal Rainey leads a group of college students to a private campground amidst the awe-inspiring Olympic Rain Forest. The excursion is ruined when the charming hostess Roxie is discovered standing over the land owner's body, murder weapon in hand.

Enlisted to investigate the crime to absolve her friend, Crystal descends on the quiet city of Forks to find loggers, developers, and eco-protesters circling the property, intent on either exploiting or protecting the bastion of old-growth forest. The list of suspects is intimidating. Can Crystal find answers in a community determined to keep her in the dark?

Book Details:

Title: Spring Upon a Crime    

Author: ML Erdahl

Genre: cozy mystery

Series: A Seattle Wilderness Mystery

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press (January 13, 2021)

Print length: 294 pages



A few of your favorite things: my loving and supportive wife, my cuddly little dogs, and my purry gigantic cat.
Things you need to throw out: since I live in a cozy little home, I work hard to keep my house free of clutter, so if I find something to throw out, it goes!

Things you need in order to write:
time and a quiet place.

Things that hamper your writing: noise distracts me but so does stress. If I’m worried about something, the words come painfully slowly.  2020 was not an easy year to tap the creative faucet.

Things you love about writing: I love the actual crafting of a book. Dreaming up a story, putting it to paper, and polishing it to a novel that people look forward to reading.
Things you hate about writing: I’m a perfectionist, so I re-read the nearly final version at least four times to root out the last typos. Far and away, this repetitive task is my least favorite part about writing.

Easiest thing about being a writer: the easiest thing about being a writer is having an outlet for my imagination.

Hardest thing about being a writer: the hardest thing about being a writer is putting your work out there for others to read and judge. 

Things you love about where you live: the evergreen forests and ample outdoor activities. There’s always something to do if you are willing to go for it.

Things that make you want to move: the dark and wet winters in the Pacific Northwest put me in a grumpy mood throughout January and February, when I’ve finally had enough.

Things you never want to run out of: coffee. It’ll be a dark day at my house when I don’t get my morning cup of Joe.

Things you wish you’d never bought: plane tickets right before the Covid19 pandemic. I still have a credit with Delta.

Favorite foods: mozzarella sticks, pizza, and Croque Monsieur (a fancy French grilled cheese sandwich). Cheese is the reoccurring theme here.

Things that make you want to throw up: cauliflower and broccoli. Most cruciferous vegetable make my toes curl.

Favorite music: I’m a rock and roll guy when I work out, but classical music helps me write.
Music that make your ears bleed: anything that is an ear worm. I love Billy Joel’s “We didn’t Start the Fire”, but it loops in my brain for days after I listen to it.

Favorite beverage: the Aztec Mocha at Cafe Fonte next to Pike Place Market. Coffee, chocolate, cayenne, cinnamon, and black pepper.  It will change your world.

Something that gives you a pickle face: tomato juice. I could never gag that stuff down.

Favorite smell: grapefruit, jasmine, and coffee.

Something that makes you hold your nose: steamed broccoli. It makes the whole house smell like farts.

Something you wish you could do: I wish I had an ounce of musical aptitude, but trust me when I say, it just isn’t there. 

Something you wish you’d never learned to do: this will sound weird, but learning to write. It has made me hyper-aware of typos, plot holes, and poor writing. I can’t read books or watch TV shows without evaluating the storytelling.

People you consider as heroes: enlightened and philanthropic souls. The Dalai Lama, Dolly Parton, and Bill Gates are three that come to mind.

People with a big L on their foreheads: narrow-minded and intolerant souls are difficult for me to cope with.

Last best thing you ate: a maple bar from Chuck’s Doughnuts, the best doughnuts in my hometown.
Last thing you regret eating: salmon. I know the irony of a Pacific Northwesterner not liking salmon, but I don’t like any seafood. However,  my wife and I try to eat healthy, so we occasionally forget how much we dislike fish, cook it, and regret it.

Things you’d walk a mile for: a cup of coffee in the morning. I am a Seattlite after all.

Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: seafood. Do you sense a repeating theme?

Things you always put in your books: pets and humor. Two things that make me happy.

Things you never put in your books: I’ll kill off people in every book, but I’ll never write about hurting an animal. There’s probably something to discuss with a psychologist in that statement, but it’s the truth.

Things to say to an author:
I loved the passage in your book where . . . 

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: I liked your book, but I found a small typo on page 222.

Favorite places you’ve been: the outdoors and history are two of my passions so several of my favorites include St. George Island wildlife sanctuary, British Museum, and Moran State Park on Orcas Island.
Places you never want to go to again: Florida in August. Being from a northern state, I instinctively want to travel during the summer, but I thought I was going to pass out in Key West when it hit 106 degrees.

Favorite books: cozy mysteries, naturally, but I also enjoy historical fiction and fantasy novels.

Books you would ban: I don’t like horror or serial killer novels. They’re too dark and keep me up at night, staring at the ceiling, waiting for the monsters to get me.

Things that make you happy: having my pets snuggle in my lap after a long day.

Things that drive you crazy: plumbing. I’ve become pretty handy over the years, but plumbing never fails to drive me up the wall.

Proudest moment: winning awards for my first book. The validation of someone acknowledging my writing felt amazing.

Most embarrassing moment: throwing up in the garbage can in Kindergarten. I can probably let that go at this point, but my brain refuses to cooperate on that front.

Best thing you’ve ever done: marrying my wife. I know it’s cliche, but I’d do it a thousand times over if I could.

Biggest mistake: buying a brand new Saturn. Wow, that thing was a hunk of junk. I did learn a whole lot about maintaining a car, though.

The last thing you did for the first time: I went on a horse drawn sleigh ride for my 18th anniversary.

Something you’ll never do again: buy tickets to see the famous medium John Edward. He was extraordinarily rude when I told him my dead grandfather’s first name didn’t begin with the letter G.


Award-winning author ML Erdahl lives amidst the trees of the Pacific Northwest, where he pens humorous cozy mystery novels set in the wilderness he has spent his lifetime exploring. The only thing slowing him down is when his adorable rescue dogs, Skip and Daisy, demand to be pet and cuddled on his lap while he types. When he’s not wandering the mountains, you can find him gardening, reading, or searching for the best coffee in Seattle with his wife, Emily.

Connect with the author:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, February 26, 2021




Recently widowed, Rebecca Parcell is too busy struggling to maintain her farm in Morristown to give a fig who wins the War for Independence. But rumors are spreading in the winter of 1780 that she’s a Loyalist sympathizer who betrayed her husband to the British—quite a tidy way to end her disastrous marriage, the village gossips whisper.

Everyone knows that her husband was a Patriot, a hero who died aboard a British prison ship moored in New York Harbor. But “everyone” is wrong. Parcell was a British spy, and General Washington—who spent that winter in Morristown—can prove it. He swears he’ll safeguard Becca’s farm if she unravels her husband’s secrets. With a mob ready to exile her or worse, it’s an offer she can’t refuse.

Escaped British prisoner of war Daniel Alloway was the last person to see Becca’s husband alive, and Washington throws this unlikely couple together on an espionage mission to British-occupied New York City. Moving from glittering balls to an underworld of brothels and prisons, Becca and Daniel uncover a plot that threatens the new country’s future. But will they move quickly enough to warn General Washington? And can Becca, who’s lost almost everyone she loves, fight her growing attraction to Daniel, a man who always moves on?

 Book Details:           

Title:  The Turncoat’s Widow

Author’s name: Mally Becker

Genre: Historical mystery/suspense with elements of romance

Series: Revolutionary War mystery, book 1        

Publisher: Historia/Level Best Books (February 16, 2021)

Print length: 300 pages


A few of your favorite things: the first Valentine’s Day gift my husband gave me. A drawing my son made for me in pre-school. My mom’s wooden recipe box.
Things you need to throw out: ouch. All the unfinished craft projects that have been banished to the guest room closet. Turns out, I’m not as craftsy as I thought!

Things you need in order to write: coffee, sunlight, and more coffee.
Things that hamper your writing: perfectionism. The day’s creativity dries up if I stop to search for the perfect phrase or sentence, especially while writing a first draft.

Things you love about writing: I love when the characters take over and the story heads in a direction I didn’t foresee. Yes, that happens occasionally.
Things you hate about writing: there’s almost nothing I hate about writing, nothing except proofreading. By that stage of the game, I’ve read what I’ve written so often that I skip right over missing punctuation and words.

Things you love about where you live: New Jersey gets such a bad rap, but I love it here. My husband and I are an hour from the ocean, an hour from New York City and even closer to rivers, lakes and hiking trails. Most important, though, is that our son, my siblings, my dad and friends all live close by.
Things that make you want to move: New Jersey’s weather is pretty grim in February.  In fact, all of us here in New Jersey are pretty grim in February.

Things you never want to run out of: I never want to run out of laughter, love, or reruns of old Mel Brooks movies.
Things you wish you’d never bought: beautiful notebooks. Although they make me melt, I buy too many. I’ll never get around to using them all.

Favorite foods: chocolate anything and everything, except for . . .
Things that make you want to throw up:  . . . chocolate wine. Yes, there is such a thing.

Favorite smell: I love the scent of pine and spruce trees. It’s a wonderful Christmas smell, but you’ll also catch that scent if you breathe deeply while hiking in the Adirondacks on a sunny summer day.
Something that makes you hold your nose: burned popcorn, because the scent lasts all day.

Something you’re really good at: appearing calm in an emergency.

Something you’re really bad at: being calm in an emergency.

Things to say to an author: “I thought about your story today.” A librarian was kind enough to read a draft of The Turncoat’s Widow a few months ago. She told me that she thought about my main character when she drove by a place I’d described in my book. The fact that my story stayed with her as she was going about her day was tremendously flattering.

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: “Would you like a few constructive suggestions about your last book?” Someone actually said that to one of my author friends.

Favorite places you’ve been: I’ve been visiting Lake Placid, New York, since I was a kid. That part of the world is my happy place. I also love Paris, and I’m hoping that the third book in my American Revolution series will take place there.
Places you never want to go to again: I am relieved that I will never again have to visit my son’s extremely large regional high school. He loved that school. But I have a terrible sense of direction. After four years, I still got lost on “back to school” night.  

People you’d like to invite to dinner (living): oh, good. A dinner party! Ask Louise Penny and Lyndsay Faye, Barack and Michelle Obama, Stephen Colbert, and film producer Sam Pollard (“MLK/FBI”) if they’re free next Sunday at 7 pm. No need to dress up.

People you’d cancel dinner on: anyone who talks only about themselves and interrupts others as they speak.

Favorite things to do: COVID’s made me even more appreciative of my family. Spending time with any of them is my favorite thing. 

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: taking my car to have its oil changed. I dread hearing, “Well, little lady. Your car also needs an ….” expensive widget I’ve never heard of.

The last thing you did for the first time: sign a publishing contract for my debut novel, The Turncoat’s Widow.

Something you’ll never do again: ride down the Grand Canyon on the back of a mule. I needed to do that once, but once was enough.


Chapter One

Morristown – January 1780

There was a nervous rustling in the white-washed meeting house, a disturbance of air like the sound of sparrows taking wing.

Becca Parcell peered over the balcony’s rough, wood railing, blinking away the fog of half-sleep. She had been dreaming of the figures in her account book and wondering whether there would be enough money for seed this spring.

“I didn’t hear what ….” she whispered to Philip’s mother.

Lady Augusta Georgiana Stokes Parcell, known simply as Lady Augusta, covered Becca’s hand with her own. “Philip. They’re speaking of Philip.”

Becca couldn’t tell whether it was her hand or Augusta’s that trembled.

“The Bible says, if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee, does it not?” The preacher’s voice was soft, yet it carried to every corner of the congregation. “They’re here. Amongst us. Neighbors who toast the King behind closed doors. Neighbors with no love of liberty.”

Philip was a Patriot. He had died a hero. Everyone knew. Minister Townsend couldn’t be talking about him.

The minister raised his eyes to hers. With his long thin arms and legs and round belly, he reminded her of a spider. She twisted her lips into the semblance of a smile as if to say “you don’t scare me.” But he did.

“Which of your neighbors celebrates each time a Patriot dies?” Townsend’s voice rose like smoke to the rafters, took on strength and caught fire. “Their presence here is an abomination.” He rapped the podium with a flat palm, the sound bruising in the quiet church. “Then cast them out. Now.”

Men pounded the floor with their feet.

Becca flinched. It wouldn’t take much to tip the congregation into violence. Everyone had lost someone or something to this endless war. It had been going on for almost five years.

Townsend’s thin arm rose, pointing to her.

Becca’s breath caught.

“And what of widows like Mrs. Parcell? Left alone, no longer guided by the wise direction of their husbands.”

Guided? Becca pulled her hand from Augusta’s. She rubbed her thumb along the palm of her hand, feeling the rough calluses stamped there. She had learned the rhythm of the scythe at the end of the summer, how to twist and swing low until her hands were so stiff that she’d struggle to free them from the handle. She’d fallen into a dreamless sleep each night during the harvest too exhausted even to dream of Philip. She, Augusta and their servant Annie were doing just fine.

“He hardly slept at home, as I hear it,” a woman behind her sniffed to a neighbor.

Becca’s spine straightened.

“No wonder there were no babes,” the second woman murmured.

Becca twisted and nodded a smile to Mrs. Huber and Mrs. Harrington. Their mouths pursed into surprised tight circles. She’d heard them murmur, their mouths hidden by fluttering fans: About her lack of social graces; her friendship with servants; her awkward silence in company. “What else could you expect from her?” they would say, snapping shut their fans.

Relief washed through Becca, nonetheless. This was merely the old gossip, not the new rumors.

“Some of you thought Mr. Parcell was just another smuggler.” The pastor’s voice boomed.

A few in the congregation chuckled. It was illegal to sell food to the British in New York – the “London Trade” some called it — but most turned a blind eye. Even Patriots need hard currency to live, Becca recalled Philip saying.

“He only married her for the dowry,” Mrs. Huber hissed.

Becca’s hand curved into a fist.

Augusta cleared her throat, and Becca forced herself to relax.

“Perhaps some of you thought Mr. Parcell was still a Tory,” the minister said.

The chuckling died.

“He came to his senses, though. He was, after all, one of us,” Minister Townsend continued.

One of us. Invitations from the finer families had trickled away after Philip’s death.

“We all know his story,” Townsend continued. “He smuggled whiskey into New York City. And what a perfect disguise his aristocratic roots provided.” The minister lifted his nose in the air as if mimicking a dandy.
“The British thought he was one of them, at least until the end.” The minister’s voice swooped as if telling a story around a campfire. “He brought home information about the British troops in the City.”

Becca shifted on the bench. She hadn’t known about her husband’s bravery until after his death. It had baffled her. Philip never spoke of politics.

Townsend lifted one finger to his chin as if he had a new thought. “But who told the British where Mr. Parcell would be on the day he was captured? Who told the Redcoats that Mr. Parcell was a spy for independence?”

Becca forgot to breathe. He wouldn’t dare.

“It must have been someone who knew him well.” The minister’s gaze moved slowly through the congregation and came to rest on Becca. His eyes were the color of creosote, dark and burning. “Very, very well.”
Mrs. Coddington, who sat to Becca’s left, pulled the hem of her black silk gown close to avoid contact. Men in the front pews swiveled and stared.

“I would never. I didn’t.” Becca’s corset gouged her ribcage.

“Speak up, Mrs. Parcell. We can’t hear you,” the minister said in a singsong voice.

Townsend might as well strip her naked before the entire town. Respectable women didn’t speak in public. He means to humiliate me.

“Stand up, Mrs. Parcell.” His voice boomed. “We all want to hear.”

She didn’t remember standing. But there she was, the fingers of her right hand curled as it held the hunting bow she’d used since she was a child. Becca turned back to the minister. “Hogwash.” If they didn’t think she was a lady, she need not act like one. “Your independence is a wickedly unfair thing if it lets you accuse me without proof.”

Gasps cascaded throughout the darkening church.

From the balcony, where slaves and servants sat, she heard two coughs, explosive as gun fire. She twisted. Carl scowled down at her in warning. His white halo of hair, fine as duckling feathers, seemed to stand on end. He had worked for her father and helped to raise her. He had taught her numbers and mathematics. She couldn’t remember life without him.

“Accuse? Accuse you of what, Mrs. Parcell?” The minister opened his arms to the congregation. “What have we accused you of?”

Becca didn’t feel the chill now. “Of killing my husband. If this is what your new nation stands for – neighbors accusing neighbors, dividing us with lies – I'll have none of it. “Five years into this endless war, is anyone better off for Congress’ Declaration of Independence? Independence won’t pay for food. It won’t bring my husband home.”

It was as if she’d burst into flames. “What has the war brought any of us? Heartache, is all. Curse your independence. Curse you for ….”

Augusta yanked on Becca’s gown with such force that she teetered, then rocked back onto the bench.

The church erupted in shouts, a crashing wave of sound meant to crush her.

Becca’s breath came in short puffs. What had she done?

“Now that’s just grief speaking, gentlemen. Mrs. Parcell is still mourning her husband. No need to get worked up.” The voice rose from the front row. She recognized Thomas Lockwood’s slow, confident drawl.
She craned her neck to watch Thomas, with his wheat-colored hair and wide shoulders. His broad stance reminded her of a captain at the wheel. He was a gentleman, a friend of General Washington. They’ll listen to him, she thought.

“Our minister doesn’t mean to accuse Mrs. Parcell of anything, now do you, sir?”

The two men stared at each other. A minister depended on the good will of gentlemen like Thomas Lockwood.
The pastor blinked first. He shook his head.

Becca’s breathing slowed.

“There now. As I said.” Lockwood’s voice calmed the room.

Then Mr. Baldwin stood slowly. Wrinkles crisscrossed his cheeks. He’d sent his three boys to fight with the Continental Army in ’75. Only one body came home to be buried. The other two were never found. He pointed at Becca with fingers twisted by arthritis. “Mrs. Parcell didn’t help when the women raised money for the soldiers last month.”

A woman at the end of Becca’s pew sobbed quietly. It was Mrs. Baldwin.

“You didn’t invite me.” Becca searched the closed faces for proof that someone believed her.

“Is she on our side or theirs?” another woman called.

The congregation quieted again. But it was the charged silence between two claps of thunder, and the Assembly waited for a fresh explosion in the dim light of the tired winter afternoon.

With that, Augusta’s imperious voice sliced through the silence: “Someone help my daughter-in-law. She’s not well. I believe she’s about to faint.”

Becca might be rash, but she wasn’t stupid, and she knew a command when she heard one. She shut her eyes and fell gracelessly into the aisle. Her head and shoulder thumped against the rough pine floorboards.

Mrs. Coddington gasped. So did Becca, from the sharp pain in her cheek and shoulder.

Women in the surrounding rows scooted back in surprise, their boots shuffling with a shh-shh sound.

“Lady Augusta,” Mrs. Coddington huffed.

Independence be damned. All of Morristown seemed to enjoy using Augusta’s family title, her former title, as often as possible.

“Lady Augusta,” she repeated. “I’ve had my suspicions about that girl since the day she married your son. I don’t know why you haven’t sent her back to her people.”

“She has no ‘people,’ Mrs. Coddington. She has me,” Augusta’s voice was as frosty as the air in the church. “And if I had doubts about Rebecca, do you think I’d live with her?”

Becca imagined Augusta’s raised eyebrows, her delicate lifted chin. She couldn’t have borne it if her mother-in-law believed the minister’s lies.

Augusta’s featherlight touch stroked her forehead. “Well done,” she murmured. “Now rise slowly. And don’t lean on me. I might just topple over.”

“We are eager to hear the rest of the service on this Sabbath day, Minister Townsend. Do continue,” Thomas Lockwood called.

Becca stood, her petite mother-in-law’s arm around her waist. The parishioners at the edges of the aisles averted their eyes as the two women passed.

As they stepped into the stark, brittle daylight, one last question shred the silence they left behind: “Do you think she turned her husband over to the British?”

Someone else answered. “It must be true. Everyone says so.


Excerpt from The Turncoat's Widow by Mally Becker.  Copyright 2021 by Mally Becker. Reproduced with permission from Mally Becker. All rights reserved.


Mally Becker became fascinated with the American Revolution when she peeked into the past as a volunteer at the Morristown National Historical Park, where George Washington and the Continental army spent two winters. A former attorney, volunteer advocate for foster children, and freelance writer, Becker and her husband raised their wonderful son in New Jersey where they still live. The Turncoat’s Widow, featuring Becca Parcell, is her first novel.

Connect with Mally:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:
Amazon   |  Barnes & Noble 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, February 21, 2021



No one talks to the cops. Everyone talks to the bartender. And Avalon Nash is one hell of a bartender.

Avalon is on the run from her life in Los Angeles. Having a drink while waiting to change trains in the former Olympic town of Tranquility, New York, she discovers the freshly murdered bartender at MacTavish’s. A bartender herself, she’s offered the position with the warning he wasn’t the first MacTavish’s bartender to meet a violent end.

Avalon’s superpower is collecting people’s stories, and she’s soon embroiled in the lives of artists, politicians, ghost hunters and descendants of Old Hollywood.

Can Avalon outrun the ghosts of her past, catch the ghosts of Tranquility’s past and outsmart a murderer?

The first book in the Bartender’s Guide to Murder series offers chills, laughs, and 30 of the best drink recipes ever imbibed.

Book Details:

Title: Book Death in Tranquility
Author: Sharon Linnéa

Genre: mystery 

Series: Bartender’s Guide to Murder
, book 1
Publisher: Arundel Publishing (September 2020)

Print length: 278 pages


A few of your favorite things: my new backflow incense burner, Santa Cruz, California, Lake Placid, New York, Kealekekua, Hawaii, traveling. 70s music, the color green, painted ceilings.
Things you need to throw out: photo albums of ancestors no one can identify. But it’s hard!

Things you need in order to write: a computer or a pencil and paper. And coffee.
Things that hamper your writing: meetings or Zoom calls.

Things you love about writing: getting to know the characters, processing emotions, having a new world in which to live and play.
Things you hate about writing: it’s hard.

Easiest thing about being a writer: storytelling.

Hardest thing about being a writer: having a job that requires you to think clearly, keeping your butt in the chair.

Things you love about where you live: the hills and valleys, the people, the house where I raised my family, its proximity to the arts and excitement of NYC.
Things that make you want to move: the cold winters.

Things you never want to run out of: coffee.
Things you wish you’d never bought: 1,000 piece puzzle with flimsy pieces.

Words that describe you: storyteller, mother, wife, justice-seeker.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: carb-lover.

Favorite foods: risotto, fresh bread, coconut, cardamum buns.
Things that make you want to throw up: mayonnaise, pickles.

Favorite music: music by the Doubleclicks.
Music that make your ears bleed: anything cranked up loud enough to make the room shake.

Favorite beverage: peach iced tea.

Something that gives you a pickle face: pickle juice or olive juice.

Favorite smell: lily of the valley.

Something that makes you hold your nose: burning plastic.

Something you’re really good at: solitaire, booking good places to stay, seeing the humor in a situation.

Something you’re really bad at: watching horror films.

Something you wish you could do: edit movie trailers.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: use social media?

Something you like to do: read wonderful books.
Something you wish you’d never done: traveled 6 hours for a school field trip.

People you consider as heroes: those who act with courage and compassion, including Hawaii’s Princess Ka’iulani an Sweden’s Raoul Wallenberg. (I have written biographies of them and have gained great respect for them both.)

People with a big L on their foreheads: those who care only about themselves.

Last best thing you ate: strawberry champagne soup.
Last thing you regret eating: escargot.

Things you’d walk a mile for: to see my friends.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: people who want to convince you that only they are right.

Things you always put in your books: (in novels) female clergy, because somehow that’s who many of my friends are. Not always, but often . . . 

Things you never put in your books: loooong passages of description.

Things to say to an author: would you sign or send me bookplates for the copies of your book I plan to give as gifts to my friends?

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: Yes! I will donate to the cause for which you’re selling the chance to be a character in your next book!  (If you want to get spanked in my next book, try telling my dog she can’t step a paw on your lawn.)

Favorite places you’ve been: Arundel, England; Stockholm, Sweden; Kealekekua, Hawaii.

Places you never want to go to again: the restroom at the gas station on Warwick Turnpike.

Favorite books: whatever I’m reading at the moment! Right now, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, which really draws you in. And entertaining mysteries.

Books you would ban: That being said, we can do without poorly written books that show the author doesn’t respect their craft or their readers.

People you’d like to invite to dinner: Regé-Jean Page, Dev Patel, Sam Heughan, Kate McKinnon, Michael Curry, Joan Chittister, David McCallum. I hope we’d have a couple of days.

People you’d cancel dinner on: anyone not interested in listening as well as speaking.

Favorite things to do: read, write, travel, imagine, be together with positive world-changers, running our clothing bank.

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: running for office, 3-hour Zoom meetings.

Things that make you happy: graham crackers, my kids’ happiness, my husband, friends, my dogs and cats, watching Karma unfold.

Things that drive you crazy: being on hold while being told my call is important to them.

Proudest moment: watching my kids be kind and stand up for others.

Most embarrassing moment: like I’d tell you!

Biggest lie you’ve ever told: he can’t, he’s dead.

A lie you wish you’d told: I love this tuna salad.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: ziplining through the tops of the California Redwoods.

Something you chickened out from doing: eating the tuna salad.

The last thing you did for the first time:
ate escargot.

Something you’ll never do again: eat escargot.


Chapter 1

Death in the Afternoon

“Whenever you see the bartender, I’d like another drink,” I said, lifting my empty martini glass and tipping it to Marta, the waitress with teal hair.

"Everyone wants another drink,” she said, “but Joseph’s missing. I can’t find him. Anywhere.”

“How long has he been gone?” I asked.

“About ten minutes. It’s not like him. Joseph would never just go off without telling me.”

That’s when I should have done it. I should have put down forty bucks to cover my drink and my meal and left that magical, moody, dark-wood paneled Scottish bar and sauntered back across the street to the train station to continue on my way.

If I had, everything would be different.

Instead I nodded, grateful for a reason to stand up. A glance at my watch told me over half an hour remained until my connecting train chugged in across the street. I could do Marta a solid by finding the bartender and telling him drink orders were stacking up.

Travelling from Los Angeles to New York City by rail, I had taken the northern route, which required me to change trains in the storied village of Tranquility, New York. Once detrained, the posted schedule had informed me should I decide to bolt and head north for Montreal, I could leave within the hour. The train heading south for New York City, however, would not be along until 4 p.m.

Sometimes in life you think it’s about where you’re going, but it turns out to be about where you change trains.

It was an April afternoon; the colors on the trees and bushes were still painting from the watery palate of spring. Here and there, forsythia unfurled in insistent bursts of golden glory.

I needed a drink.

Tranquility has been famous for a long time. Best known for hosting the Winter Olympics back in 19-whatever, it was an eclectic blend of small village, arts community, ski mecca, gigantic hotels and Olympic facilities. Certainly there was somewhere a person could get lunch.

Perched on a hill across the street from the station sat a shiny, modern hotel of the upscale chain variety. Just down the road, father south, was a large, meandering, one-of-a-kind establishment called MacTavish’s Seaside Cottage. It looked nothing like a cottage, and, as we were inland, there were no seas. I doubted the existence of a MacTavish.

I headed over at once.

The place evoked a lost inn in Brigadoon. A square main building of a single story sent wings jutting off at various angles into the rolling hills beyond. Floor-to-ceiling windows made the lobby bright and airy. A full suit of armor stood guard over the check-in counter, while a sculpture of two downhill skiers whooshed under a skylight in the middle of the room.

Behind the statue was the Breezy, a sleek restaurant overlooking Lake Serenity (Lake Tranquility was in the next town over, go figure). The restaurant’s outdoor deck was packed with tourists on this balmy day, eating and holding tight to their napkins, lest they be lost to the murky depths.

Off to the right—huddled in the vast common area’s only dark corner—was a small door with a carved, hand-painted wooden sign which featured a large seagoing vessel plowing through tumultuous waves. That Ship Has Sailed, it read. A tavern name if I ever heard one.

Beyond the heavy door, down a short dark-wood hallway, in a tall room lined with chestnut paneling, I paused to let my eyes adjust to the change in light, atmosphere, and, possibly, century.

The bar was at a right angle as you entered, running the length of the wall. It was hand-carved and matched the back bar, which held 200 bottles, easily.

A bartender’s dream, or her undoing.

Two of the booths against the far wall were occupied, as were two of the center tables.

I sat at the bar.

Only one other person claimed a seat there during this low time between meal services. He was a tall gentleman with a square face, weathered skin, and dark hair pulled back into a ponytail. I felt his cold stare as I perused the menu trying to keep to myself. I finally gave up and stared back.

“Flying Crow,” he said. “Mohawk Clan.”

“Avalon,” I said. “Train changer.”

I went back to my menu, surprised to find oysters were a featured dish.

“Avalon?” he finally said. “That’s—”

“An odd name,” I answered. “I know. Flying Crow? You’re in a Scottish pub.”

“Ask him what Oswego means.”  This was from the bartender, a lanky man with salt-and-pepper hair. “Oh, but place your order first.”

“Are the oysters good?” I asked.

“Oddly, yes. One of the best things on the menu. Us being seaside, and all.”

“All right, then. Oysters it is. And a really dry vodka martini, olives.”

“Pimento, jalapeño, or bleu cheese?”

“Ooh, bleu cheese, please.” I turned to Flying Crow. “So what does Oswego mean?”

“It means, ‘Nothing Here, Give It to the Crazy White Folks.’ Owego, on the other hand means, ‘Nothing Here Either.’”

“How about Otego? And Otsego and Otisco?”

His eyebrow raised. He was impressed by my knowledge of obscure town names in New York State. “They all mean, ‘We’re Just Messing with You Now.’”

“Hey,” I said, raising my newly delivered martini. “Thanks for coming clean.”

He raised his own glass of firewater in return.

“Coming clean?” asked the bartender, and he chuckled, then dropped his voice. “If he’s coming clean, his name is Lesley.”

“And you are?” I asked. He wasn’t wearing a name tag.


“Skål,” I said, raising my glass. “Glad I found That Ship Has Sailed.”

“That’s too much of a mouthful,” he said, flipping over the menu. “Everyone calls it the Battened Hatch.”

“But the Battened Hatch isn’t shorter. Still four syllables.”

“Troublemaker,” muttered Lesley good-naturedly. “I warned you.”

“Fewer words,” said Joseph with a smile that included crinkles by his eyes. “Fewer capital letters over which to trip.”

As he spoke, the leaded door banged open and two men in chinos and shirtsleeves arrived, talking loudly to each other. The door swung again, just behind them, admitting a stream of ten more folks—both women and men, all clad in business casual. Some were more casual than others. One man with silvering hair actually wore a suit and tie; another, a white artist’s shirt, his blonde hair shoulder-length. The women’s garments, too, ran the gamut from tailored to flowing. One, of medium height, even wore a white blouse, navy blue skirt and jacket, finished with hose and pumps. And a priest’s collar.

“Conventioneers?” I asked Joseph. Even as I asked, I knew it didn’t make sense. No specific corporate culture was in evidence.

He laughed. “Nah. Conference people eat at the Blowy. Er, Breezy. Tranquility’s Chamber of Commerce meeting just let out.” His grey eyes danced. “They can never agree on anything, but their entertainment quotient is fairly high. And they drive each other to drink.”

Flying Crow Lesley shook his head.

Most of the new arrivals found tables in the center of the room. Seven of them scooted smaller tables together, others continued their conversations or arguments in pairs.

“Marta!” Joseph called, leaning through a door in the back wall beside the bar.

The curvy girl with the teal hair, nose and eyebrow rings and mega eye shadow clumped through. Her eyes widened when she saw the influx of patrons.

Joseph slid the grilled oysters with fennel butter in front of me. “Want anything else before the rush?” He indicated the well-stocked back bar.

“I’d better hold off. Just in case there’s a disaster and I end up having to drive the train.”

He nodded knowingly. “Good luck with that.”

I took out my phone, then re-pocketed it. I wanted a few more uncomplicated hours before re-entering the real world. Turning to my right, I found that Flying Crow had vanished. In his stead, several barstools down, sat a Scotsman in full regalia: kilt, Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket and a fly plaid. It was predominantly red with blue stripes.

Wow. Mohawk clan members, Scotsmen, and women priests in pantyhose. This was quite a town.

Joseph was looking at an order screen, and five drinks in different glasses were already lined up ready for Marta to deliver.

My phone buzzed. I checked caller i.d. Fought with myself. Answered.

Was grabbed by tentacles of the past.

When I looked up, filled with emotions I didn’t care to have, I decided I did need another drink; forget driving the train.

The line of waiting drink glasses was gone, as were Marta and Joseph.

I checked the time. I’d been in Underland for fifteen minutes, twenty at the most. It was just past three. I had maybe forty-five minutes before I should move on.

That was when Marta swung through the kitchen door, her head down to stave off the multiple calls from the center tables. She stood in front of me, punching information into the point of sale station, employing the NECTM—No Eye Contact Tactical Maneuver.

That’s when she told me Joseph was missing.

“Could he be in the restroom?”

“I asked Arthur when he came out, but he said there was nobody else.”

I nodded at Marta and started by going out through the front hall, to see if perhaps he’d met someone in the lobby. As I did a lap, I overheard a man at check-in ask, “Is it true the inn is haunted?”

“Do you want it to be?” asked the clerk, nonplussed.

But no sign of the bartender.

I swung back through into the woodsy-smelling darkness of the Battened Hatch, shook my head at the troubled waitress, then walked to the circular window in the door. The industrial kitchen was white and well-lit, and as large as it was, I could see straight through the shared kitchen to the Breezy. No sign of Joseph. I turned my attention back to the bar.

Beyond the bar, there was a hallway to the restrooms, and another wooden door that led outside. I looked back at Marta and nodded to the door.

“It doesn’t go anywhere,” she said. “It’s only a little smoker’s deck.”

I wondered if Joseph smoked, tobacco or otherwise. Certainly the arrival of most of a Chamber of Commerce would suggest it to me. I pushed on the wooden door. It seemed locked. I gave it one more try, and, though it didn’t open, it did budge a little bit.

This time I went at it with my full shoulder. There was a thud, and it wedged open enough that I could slip through.

It could hardly be called a deck. You couldn’t put a table—or even a lounge chair—out there.

Especially with the body taking up so much of the space.

It was Joseph. I knelt quickly and felt for a pulse at his neck, but it was clear he was inanimate. He was sitting up, although my pushing the door open had made him lean at an angle. I couldn’t tell if the look on his face was one of pain or surprise. There was some vomit beside him on the deck, and a rivulet down his chin. I felt embarrassed to be seeing him this way.

Crap. He was always nice to me. Well, during the half an hour I’d known him, he had been nice to me.

What was it with me discovering corpses? It was certainly a habit of which I had to break myself.

Meanwhile, what to do? Should I call in the priest? But she was within a group, and it would certainly start a panic. Call 911?

Yes, that would be good. That way they could decide to call the hospital or the police or both.

My phone was back in my purse.

And, you know what? I didn’t want the call to come from me. I was just passing through.

I pulled the door back open and walked to Marta behind the bar. “Call 911,” I said softly. “I found Joseph.”

It took the ambulance and the police five minutes to arrive. The paramedics went through first, then brought a gurney around outside so as to not freak out everyone in the hotel. They loaded Joseph on and sped off, in case there was anything to be done.

I knew there wasn’t.

The police, on the other hand, worked at securing the place which might become a crime scene. They blocked all the doorways and announced no one could leave.

I was still behind the bar with Marta. She was shaking.

“Give me another Scotch,” said the Scotsman seated there.

I looked at the bottles and was pleasantly surprised by the selection. “I think this calls for Black Maple Hill,” I said, only mildly surprised at my reflexive tendency to upsell. The Hill was a rich pour but not the absolute priciest.

He nodded. I poured.

I’m not sure if it was Marta’s tears, or the fact we weren’t allowed to leave, but local bigwigs had realized something was amiss.

“Excuse me,” the man in the suit came to the bar. “Someone said Joseph is dead.”

“Yes,” I said. “He does seem to be.”

Marta swung out of the kitchen, her eyeliner half down her face. “Art, these are your oysters,” she said to the man. He took them.

“So,” he continued, and I wondered what meaningful words he’d have to utter. “You’re pouring drinks?”

It took only a moment to realize that, were I the owner of this establishment, I’d find this a great opportunity.

“Seems so,” I said.

“What goes with oysters?” he asked.

That was a no-brainer. I’d spied the green bottle of absinthe while having my own meal. I poured about three tablespoons into the glass. I then opened a bottle of Prosecco, poured it, and waited for the milky cloud to form.

He took a sip, looked at me, and raised the glass. “If I want another of these, what do I ask for?”

As he asked, I realized I’d dispensed one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite libations. “Death in the Afternoon,” I replied.

He nodded and went back to his table.

It was then I realized I wasn’t going to make my train.

* *

Ernest Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon


•    3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) absinthe
•    ½ to ¾ cup (4 to 6 ounces) cold Champagne or sparkling wine


Hemmingway’s advice, circa 1935: "Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly."

Chapter 2

No Known Address

Since I found the body, I got to talk to the lead investigator.

He was in his mid-thirties, just under six feet, walnut skin, black hair cut short. He would have benefitted from a beard. He looked ripped; the king of ripped you got from taking out your frustrations in the gym. His demeanor was no-nonsense.

“Investigator Spaulding,” he said, and he pulled out a notebook. “State Police.”

“State Police? Isn’t that the same as State Troopers? Don’t you manage highways?”

He stopped writing in his small, leather-covered notebook and looked up.

“Common misconception. The local P.D. is small—only 9 on staff. When something big happens, they ask for assistance.”

“They ask?”

“It’s a dance.”

I wasn’t a suspect (yet), so he didn’t need to write down my stats, but I could read upside down as he made notes. He asked my name, and began guessing at the rest. Nash, Avalon. Female. Caucasian. Blonde hair. 5’7 was his guess at my height. The next thing he wrote down could go seriously south, so I said, “healthy weight.”

He looked up.

“5’7” and at a healthy weight,” I supplied. “If I’m charged with something, we’ll get more specific.”


Did he really need to know all of this? “Twenties,” I said, waiting to see if he’d have the gall to object. He didn’t.

“Best way to reach you?”

I gave him my cell number.

“Permanent address?”

“I don’t have one.”

He looked up.

“I’m in the process of moving from California to New York. I’m only in town to change trains. I don’t have a New York address yet.”

“A relative’s address?”

I held up my phone.  “This is your golden ticket,” I said. “If you want to reach me, this is it.”

I saw him write ‘no known address.’ Yep, that pretty much summed it up. I glanced at my watch. Seven minutes until my train pulled into—and, soon after, departed from—the station.

“Um, Detective,” I started.

“Investigator Spaulding,” he corrected.

“Investigator Spaulding, my train is about to arrive. I don’t know anything except what I’ve told you. I came in for a drink and helped Marta find the bartender, whom I hope died of a massive heart attack—well, of natural causes. You know what I mean.”

At that point, his phone buzzed and he gave me a just-a-minute finger. He answered, listened for a while, and started to write. Then he hung up, flipped his notebook shut and said, “I can’t let you leave. He was murdered.”

“Great,” I said, the tone somewhere between rueful and intrigued, as I headed back toward Marta, then I turned back toward Investigator Spaulding. “Can I continue to pour drinks?”

He considered less than a moment. “By all means, serve truth serum to anyone who will imbibe.”

Then he turned and walked toward the other officers.

I went to stand with Marta behind the bar. In my imagination, I heard the train chug in across the street.

Investigator Spaulding cleared his throat, and the room went silent. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “This is now a homicide investigation.” He had to pause as everyone shuffled or gasped, or cried out. “Please do not leave until we have taken your statement.”

A woman in her fifties came and sat down in front of me at the bar. Her hair was in a no-fuss bob, she wore a free-flowing skirt with a linen jacket, both of which were in style twenty years ago, but they worked on her. “Got anything stronger than those Death things?” she asked. “I’m not big on Champagne.”

“Sure.” I said. I sized her up. “Layers in a martini glass work for you?”

“Honey, it’s the strength, not the glass.” She looked shaken and sad. I went for the rums and found Malibu Black, the stronger brother of the original. What a bartender Joseph must have been! I decided to try something new. Malibu Black, mango pineapple vodka, and pineapple juice. I mixed it over ice, shook, and poured. I sank some Chambord and topped it with Jägermeister Spice.

“See if this does it,” I said.

Her hand shook slightly as she held up the glass, appreciated the layers, and then took a sip. The jury was out. She took another. She nodded and smiled.

It occurred to me that everyone in the room knew Joseph. They’d lost one of their own.

Another woman in skinny white pants and a white shell with a fancy pink sports jacket came and sat next to her. They were about the same age, if I had to guess, but the new woman was thin as a rail, muscular, and with her blonde hair in a ponytail. I was guessing she colored her hair not from a darker shade, but to cover the white. The two women embraced. “Suzanne,” said the new arrival.

“Gillian,” said no-fuss-bob Suzanne. Then, “Can’t believe it.”

“I can’t, either,” replied hard-bodied Gillian. She had the remains of an Eastern European accent. They sat a respectful moment. “What are you drinking?”

Suzanne looked at me. “No Known Address,” I said.

“Okay,” Gillian said. “I’ll have one.” She then turned and I was dismissed to my task.

“I can’t believe it. One of the only straight, available guys between forty and crotchety, and he’s gone!” said Suzanne.

“There’s Mike,” Gillian said, tilting her head toward the state police investigator. “And I’m not sure Joseph was available.”

“First, really? Maybe if he worked out. Second, you or I crook our little fingers and get a guy away from Sophie.” They both looked back, shooting daggers toward one of the three women in the center wall booth. I knew which must be Sophie, as one of them was crying copiously while the other two petted her solicitously.

“And do we have a suspect?” asked pink jacket Gillian.

This time, they looked at a younger woman who sat at a table with two newly arrived Chamber men. She was gorgeous—skin the color of chai latte and hair as dark as a sky at new moon. She was staring off into space.

I almost said, “You know I can hear you.”  But maids, taxi drivers, and bartenders… well, we’re invisible, which is partly how we get the good gossip.

They stopped talking abruptly as two men approached. “Can we get some food?” asked the first. He was in a polo and navy blue slacks.

I heard snuffling and saw that Marta was in the shadows, leaning back against the wall. “Hey,” I said, “would you ask the chef if we can continue to order food?”

She nodded and swung through the kitchen door.

Arthur, the man in the suit who had ordered earlier, accompanied the newcomer in the polo. Arthur addressed his companion in an audible hiss. “I’m telling you… we can’t let word of this get out. Tranquility has to be considered a safe haven. For everyone. For…the festival folks. It’s part of what lures them here. Change of pace.”

“How do we not let the word get out? It’s a matter of record! And everyone in town knows about it—or will, within minutes.”

From the furious pace of thumbs texting throughout the room, it was clear he was correct.

“I mean, don’t print this as front-page news.”

“It is front page news, Art. And, the film festival folks are already committed. They’ve submitted their films. They’ll come.”

Marta returned with a positive nod. I slapped down two menus. “Marta will be out to take your order,” I said. As they turned, I added. “And if it’s a film festival, you don’t need to worry. Film people eat news like this for breakfast.”

Arthur looked at me in surprise, but gave a raised-eyebrows look that inferred I could have a point.

They left with the menus and I turned back to Marta, trying to help get her mind on something other than her boss’s death.  “Can you help me add these drinks to people’s tabs?” I nodded toward the POS.

For the record, I hate point of sale machines. Each one hates humans in its own unique way. I pointed at people and she pulled up their tabs and showed me how to input the drinks I’d served.

I only had the Scotsman’s tab left undone when the man in the artist’s shirt stopped right before me. He was likely late 40s and had a face that was long but not unattractive. His shoulders were unusually broad, and he exuded self-confidence and a self-trained impishness. His shirt had one too many buttons left undone.

“Okay,” he said, “I wasn’t going to drink, but Joe…”

“You weren’t going to drink because it’s late afternoon, or because you’ve been sober for seven months?” I had no interest in tipping someone off the wagon.

He laughed. “I haven’t been drinking because this isn’t my favorite crowd,” he said. “And I don’t usually drink. But murder seems an excuse, if there ever was one.” He extended his hand. “Michael Michel,” he said, and smiled, waggling his eyebrows as if this should mean something to me.

I took his hand and shook. It was apparent I didn’t recognize him.

“The Painter Who Brings You Home,” he said, and the trademark practically bled from the words.

“Right,” I said, trying to sound impressed. “Nice to meet you. I’m Avalon. What’ll ya have?”

“Vodka tonic lime.”

“Care which vodka?”

He shook his head while saying, “Whatever you’ve got. Grey Goose.”

Ah, a fellow who pretended not to drink, who knew exactly what he wanted.

I poured and went for the garnish tray. The limes were gone. I looked at the back bar and found lemons and oranges. No limes, though clearly there had been some. I walked along the front bar and found, below patron eye level, a small cutting board with a lime on it. The lime was half-cut, some of them in rounds, a few in quarters. Some juice was dripping down onto the floor.

I reached for a wedge, and then I stopped short.

Joseph never would have left this on purpose. It was obviously what he’d been doing when he was interrupted by death—or someone who led him to his death. Or by symptoms that eventually spelled death.

I leaned down and sniffed.

It was lime-y. But there was something else, also.

I backed away.  I walked over to Marta and said, quietly, “Don’t let anyone near that end of the bar.”

Then I walked over to Investigator Spaulding, where he sat at a booth interviewing someone. “Investigator?” I said. “Sorry to interrupt, but this is important.”

He looked at me, squinting, then seemed surprised, since I’d made such a point of being Ms. Just-Passing-Through.      

He stood up and stepped away from the booth.

“I believe I’ve found the murder weapon,” I said.

As we walked together, I realized that the door to the smoker’s porch sat open. It was crawling with half a dozen or so more crime scene people.

Together we walked to the limes. I said, “Don’t touch them. If this is what Joseph was doing when he died, if they are poisoned, my guess is that the poison can be absorbed through the skin.”

Investigator Spaulding looked at me like, Of course I knew that, but he stepped back. As another officer and two crime scene investigators came over, I backed away, removing myself as far as possible from the action.

I returned to the Artist Shirt. “I think today we’re going with a lemon and a cherry,” I said. I smelled them before putting them in the drink.

It struck me then that perhaps Joseph hadn’t been the intended target. Maybe there was someone who consistently ordered a drink garnished with lime, and the murderer had injected the poison into the lime, not realizing it could be absorbed as well as ingested.

Like, for instance, the man before me, Mr. Vodka Tonic Lime.

Still, this was a pretty non-specific way of poison delivery. The limes could have been served to half a dozen people before anyone realized they were toxic. Who would do something like that?

The police were letting people go once they had been interviewed. I asked Investigator Spaulding if I could go. He nodded, adding, “Please stay in town until tomorrow morning, in case we have any further questions.”

As if I had a choice. All the trains had gone, except the 11 p.m. to Montreal.

The bar had been sealed off with crime-scene tape, a welcome relief as I didn’t relish closing a dead man’s station on the night of his murder. Why would I even think that? I didn’t work here. But my need to leave a bar in pristine condition ran down to bone and marrow.

As I headed for my bag, which I’d left on my original stool, I saw I wouldn’t even be allowed to access the POS machine.

The only patron whose drink I hadn’t input was the man in the kilt. I looked around the emptying room to find he’d moved to a pub table over to the side. “Sorry, sir,” I said. “I wasn’t able to enter your drinks into the machine. I guess you’re on the honor system to pay up another day.”

He gave a small smile. “Lass,” he said, “I’m Glenn MacTavish. Owner of this place. Seems I’m out a bartender and will be needing another. You have any interest?” he asked. 

I stopped and stared. “There’s really a MacTavish?” I asked.

“Aye, and you’re looking at him.”

“But… you don’t know anything about me.”

“You keep a clear head and you know what you’re doin’. That’s all I really need to know. Besides, you don’t know anything about me, either.”

“I, well—thank you for the offer. It’s a beautiful bar. Can I think on it overnight? I’ve been told not to leave town.”

“Aye,” he said. “You can tell me in the mornin’ if you might be stayin.’ And while you’re decidin’, I could pay you for your services tonight with a room here at the hotel.”

That seemed fair. The Hotel Tonight app was offering me a room at a local chain. Staying at MacTavish’s Seaside Cottage for free seemed infinitely more attractive.  “All right,” I said. “I should probably let you know they’re expecting me in New York City.”

“All right,” he said. “I should probably let you know Joseph isn’t the first bartender to work here who’s been murdered.”

* *

No Known Address


•    ½ oz. Malibu black
•    2 dashes Chambord
•    ½ oz. mango pineapple vodka
•    2 dashes Jägermeister Spice
•    1 oz. pineapple juice


Shake pineapple vodka, Malibu Black and pineapple juice over ice and strain evenly into martini glasses.

Sink a dash of Chambord into each flute by running it down the side of the glass.

Layer a dash of Jägermeister Spice in each glass.


Excerpt from Death in Tranquility by Sharon Linnéa.  Copyright 2020 by Sharon Linnéa. Reproduced with permission from Sharon Linnéa. All rights reserved.



Sharon Linnéa is the author of the bestselling Eden thrillers with Chaplain (COL) Barbara Sherer from St. Martin’s, which follow the exploits of female Army chaplain Jaime Richards. Her biography of Princess Kaiulani of Hawaii won the Carter G. Woodson Award and her biography of Raoul Wallenberg was described as “one of the definitive biographies of the Holocaust” by the Museum of Tolerance. She wrote the teen spy novel Colt Shore: Domino 29 as Axel Avian and the Hollywood mystery These Violent Delights. Sharon has been a book editor and an editor at three national magazines, as well as a celebrity ghost. In her youth she wrote Spidey Super Stories for Marvel.  Death by Gravity, the second in the Bartender’s Guide to Murder, follows Death in Tranquility, the series premiere.

Connect with Sharon:
Website Blog  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  The Bookstore Plus* 

*Preferred indie bookstore, will send paper copies