Friday, February 26, 2021

FEATURED AUTHOR: MALLY BECKER


 

ABOUT THE BOOK


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






LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH MALLY BECKER


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.



EXCERPT FROM THE TURNCOAT'S WIDOW

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.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR  

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 






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Sunday, February 21, 2021

FEATURED AUTHOR: SHARON LINNÉA


ABOUT THE BOOK


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





LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH SHARON LINNEA



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.





EXCERPT FROM DEATH IN TRANQUILITY

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.

“Joseph.”

“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

Ingredients

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

Method

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.”

“Age?”

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

Ingredients

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

Method

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.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR  


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

 


Thursday, February 18, 2021

FEATURED AUTHOR: GRAY BASNIGHT

 



ABOUT THE BOOK


An innocent math professor runs for his life as teams of hitmen try to prevent publication of their government’s dark history…

College professor Sam Teagarden stumbles upon a decades-old government cover-up when an encoded document mysteriously lands in his in-box, followed by a cluster of mini-drones programmed to kill him.

That begins a terrifying flight from upstate New York, to Washington, to Key West as Teagarden must outfox teams of hitmen equipped with highly sophisticated technology. While a fugitive, he races to decode the journal, only to realize the dreadful truth—it’s the reason he’s being hunted because it details criminal secrets committed by the U.S. in the 20th Century.

If he survives and publishes the decoded diary, he’ll be a heroic whistle blower. But there is no guarantee. He may also end up dead.





Six years after his Flight of the Fox ordeal that dubbed him the American Prometheus, humble math professor Sam Teagarden becomes embroiled in another mission involving decoding a secret document provoking tragic reactions around the world. Unearthed in northern Israel, the ancient parchment is called the Q Document, for the German word quelle, meaning: source. Biblical scholars believe it may be the original source for the two Gospels: Matthew and Luke. If decoded, it could shed light on the creation of the world’s most widely observed religious faith.

Book Details:
Author: Gray Basnight
Genre: thriller
Series: Sam Teagarden
     Publisher:
Down & Out Books





DIRTY DOZEN WITH GRAY BASNIGHT



1. What’s one thing that drives you crazy?

Theft and thieves. My apartment has twice been burglarized.  I’ve had minor items stolen from my car by valet parking attendants. My bicycle was pinched from the backyard when I was twelve. These awful acts make me so bitterly angry, I scare myself. I just want go Rambo on thieves. (See Q5.)     

2.    What is your guiltiest guilty pleasure?

Cookies. I like my chocolate chip cookies chewy, never hard or crisp. And I was always partial to Hydrox over Oreo. But then – shocker, Hydrox was discontinued, which means Oreo won the battle of the cream-filled chocolate sandwich war. And I do not like Oreos. Blech! 

3.    What is your most embarrassing moment?
It was in 8th grade gym class. Guys wore jock straps, gym shorts, and t-shirts. We used to prank each other by sneaking up behind and yanking the shorts and jocks down – to the ankles! When it was my turn to be pranked, the entire girl’s gym class was watching. (Wow, did I just admit that publicly?)

4.    What is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done?

As a freelance broadcast news writer, it’s not good to say “no” when the phone rings with an offer of a work shift. Consequently, I once accepted three shifts in a row at three different stations. It meant working 24 hours straight. Fortunately, I got through it without disaster, but it was very dumb.  And I only did it once.    

5.    What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?
I witnessed a man smash the window of a parked car in NYC – he reached in and stole a cellphone and a GPS device. I chased him, but he saw me and ran much faster.  When he ducked into a large pharmacy, I noted the precise time and reported it to my local precinct. A detective contacted the pharmacy, got a photo of the thief from the security camera, and asked me to confirm the image as being the very same smash-and-run thief. I did confirm it. Unfortunately, I never learned whether he was, as they say, “nabbed.”  (See Q1.)

6.    On what life choices would you like to have a re-do?
I’d have delayed college by two years and enlisted in the U.S. Army, if they’d have accepted me. Then I would have used military benefits to pay for my tuition.  Although there’s always a risk of being sent into harm’s way, I’ve come to believe that facing challenges bigger than college offers a superior means of character formation at the impressionable age of 18.

7.    What makes you nervous?
Drivers who tailgate. This makes me claustrophobic, and I don’t have claustrophobia.

8.    What makes you scared?
The Dunning-Kruger Effect. That’s the theory suggesting that people often overestimate their skills at particular tasks, not because of hubris, but because they lack self-awareness. Very scary stuff that helps explain why so much tends to go wrong.     

9.    What’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told?
I don’t lie much. At least not big ones. I tend to agree with Abraham Lincoln who said, “No one has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.”  On the other hand, my response to one of these questions just might be a lie. Can you guess which one? (Hee hee.)       

10.    What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?
Staying in a relationship for seven years when it should have ended much earlier. But I did inherit a tiny and quite affordable rental in Greenwich Village, so that part worked out.

11.    When was the last time you did something for the first time?
My wife and I built a house a few years back. We didn’t construct it ourselves, but we bought the property, contracted out the work, and supervised the process. When it was over, we were both so proud, not only to have a house, but because we met the challenge.    

12.    One of your main characters has to die. Which one would you kill off?
Ouch. Okay, if required, I’d kill Sam Teagarden, the everyman hero and protagonist in my two run-for-your-life thrillers. I don’t want to do it because he may return for a third adventure. On the other hand, killing him may establish an intriguing plot for a fourth adventure. Remember, Conan Doyle killed off Holmes at the Richenbach Falls. Then he magically reappeared for 12 more stories!




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After almost three decades in broadcast news writing fact-based stories, Gray Basnight now writes fictional ones. Originally from Richmond, Virginia, he’s lived in New York long enough to consider himself a native. His latest book, Madness of the Q (Down & Out, December 2020), brings back math professor Sam Teagarden in an international thriller sparked by the discovery of an encoded ancient Biblical document. Gray is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Authors Guild.

Connect with Gray:

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  

Buy the book:
Flight of the Fox: Amazon
Madness of the Q: Amazon

 



Tuesday, February 16, 2021

FEATURED AUTHOR: G.P. GOTTLIEB

 




ABOUT THE BOOK


Alene Baron doesn’t go looking for mysteries, they find her. When the highly disliked owner of a business neighboring the Whipped and Sipped Cafe turns up dead, the list of potential suspects is pretty long, including all of the members of his quarrelsome family. Missing wills, convenient accidents, and enough red herring to feed the lunch crowd spice up this tantalizing tale. As always, while pondering the evidence, Alene also comes up with creative vegan dishes to serve her customers and share with you.


Book Details:
Title: Smothered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery
Author: G.P. Gottlieb
Genre: culinary mystery
Series: Battered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery, book 2

Publisher: D.X. Varos Ltd. (February 16, 2021)

Print length: 256 pages










IFs ANDs OR WHATs INTERVIEW WITH GP GOTTLIEB

 Ifs


If you could time travel for an infinite period of time, where would you go?


I’d like to take all the great train rides in the world, including the Orient Express and the Rocky Mountaineer.

If you could be anything besides a writer, what would it be?
I always wished I could be a torch singer but that never worked out!

If you had to do community service, what would you choose? 

Until the pandemic struck, I used to volunteer every week at a nearby hospital. I’d walk over with my guitar and spend a few hours singing to patients. Mostly, I sang one on one for those on the long-term care floors filled with broken hips and elderly, sometimes there for weeks without visitors. I have a masters in voice, so I loved to watch their faces when they realized that I could really sing. I compiled a repertoire of feel-good songs and made a songbook for groups like the mental health unit or the headache clinic. I loved making people smile, especially those who were suffering and had few reasons to smile. My heart breaks to think of all those people who have suffered from the virus, who’ve been forced to lie alone in hospital beds, sometimes struggling for their lives. If only I be impervious, immune to this virus, I’d march over there with my guitar tomorrow.


If you were on the Amazon bestseller list, who would you choose to be one before and one below you?

Donna Leon and Louise Penny.



If you could meet any author for coffee, who would you like to meet and what would you talk about?  
Agatha Christie – I’d meet her in London, perhaps for High Tea at some fabulous place like The Savoy.


If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be? 

I can – and I choose to live right in the great city of Chicago (other great places are good for visiting)!




Ands

5 favorite possessions:   


  • my 4 guitars
    and 

  • electric piano


5 things you need in order to write:  

  • my Laptop
  • 
a cup of herbal tea
  • 
a comfy chair 

  • quiet 

    and 

  • a full tummy


5 things you love about writing:  


  • creating characters
  • 
imagining dialogue 

  • putting characters in funny situations 

  • throwing readers off with red herrings 

    and
  • 
coming up with tricky solutions


5 things you love about where you live:  


  • family
  • 
Lake Michigan 

  • Lyric Opera
  • 
Art Institute 

    and

  • Botanic Gardens


5 things you never want to run out of:  


  • water 

  • electricity 

  • healthiness
  • 
love 

    and 

  • bananas


5 words to describe you: 

  • 
creative 

  • kind 

  • caring
  • 
considerate
    and 

  • a little kooky


5 things that drive you crazy: 


  • pollution and litter
  • 
inconsideration of people or the earth
  • 
rudeness, especially while driving
  • 
lies/liars 

    and 

  • people who make a ridiculous amount of noise while chewing food


5 people you consider as heroes: 


  • veterans of our armed forces
  • people who stand up for truth no matter what it costs them
  • people who devote their lives to helping others
  • people who sacrifice themselves for the sake of others
    and
  • everyone involved in figuring out a vaccine to protect against Covid 19


Whats


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

People yelling.


What’s the loveliest sight you’ve ever seen?

The Northern Lights.


What’s the most beautiful sound you’ve heard? 

My first child’s laughter (and the 3rd movement of the Brahms Symphony #4 Opus 90).



What’s your favorite time of day? 

Sunrise.


What’s your favorite meal?

It’s a draw between breakfast and dinner- lunch isn’t much of anything.


What’s your favorite vacation spot? 

Puerto Vallarta.


What’s your favorite thing to do?

I love to walk.


What’s your favorite snack? 

A fresh peach or apple (depending on the season).


What’s your favorite dessert? 

Ice Cream.


What’s your favorite beverage? 

Water.


What’s your favorite ice cream? 

Depends on the moment – and does it come with jimmies?


What’s your favorite thing to do when there’s nothing to do? 

READ.


What’s your favorite quote?

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And, if not now, When.” -Rabbi Hillel


What’s your favorite candy bar? 

Three Muskateers.


What’s your favorite movie snack?

Popcorn.


What’s your favorite social media site? 

I read Twitter to check the pulse of the nation and Facebook to check the pulse of my friends and family or to post what I’m thinking about, but I ADORE scrolling through Instagram, watching cooking or baking videos, looking at delightful art and recipes. It feels like when I used to flip through fashion and gossip magazines only while waiting for the dentist or getting my hair done.

What’s your favorite color?  

I love rich, peacock blues, the color of a summer sky before sunset.


What’s your all-time favorite picture of yourself?


What’s one thing you never leave the house without?

Lip gloss.

What drives you crazy?

I’m crazed about children going hungry, getting poor educations, and not being taken care of in one of the richest countries in the world!


What do you know now that you wish you knew then?

I wish I’d committed to writing a book and getting published when I was younger instead of waiting until a battle with cancer gave me the impetus to make my dream happen.

What is your obsession?

I’d have to say cookies.


What is a pet peeve? 

I once started writing an essay about how to become a murder victim in one of my books. It was a list of irritating things that drive me around the bend, and on top of the list was people who chew and pop their gum so loudly that I can hear them on the other side of a store.

What are your idiosyncrasies? 

I like my apartment to be clean and organized at all times – even though nobody is allowed to gather and we haven’t had guests since the pandemic began. I wake up and start straightening up.  

What do you collect?

I used to collect record albums. Then I collected cassettes, and later C.D.s There doesn’t seem to be any music to collect these days. 


What smells remind you of your childhood? 

There’s this mildewy smell in old apartment buildings that reminds me of visiting my grandparents. I remember walking up the stairs and wondering if it was the smell of old people – and of course it turns out that they were younger than I am now.



What author would you most like to review one of your books? 

Do you think I could get Agatha Christie?


What book are you currently working on?

I’ve started on book 3 of the Whipped and Sipped Mystery Series (all the titles are both cooking and murder terms). It’s set in the summer of 2020, you know, remember when we were in the middle of a pandemic and nobody could go anywhere? 




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Already known for her imaginative baking and fabulous dinners, G.P. Gottlieb began writing throughout her varied career. After recovering from breast cancer, she turned to writing in earnest, melding her two loves, nourishment for mind and body in recipe-laced murder mysteries. She is also the host of New Books in Literature, a podcast of the New Books Network.

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

Buy the book:
Amazon 
|   Barnes & Noble 

     



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Thursday, February 11, 2021

FEATURED AUTHOR: BOBBY JOHNSTON


 

ABOUT THE BOOK


Sinners, saints and saviors collide in Bobby Johnston's stories, which chronicle the savagery and poetry of oppressive Catholic upbringing in 1970s Rust-Belt America. Johnston weaves landscapes of transgression and absolution, humor and resilience into his sharp-eyed tapestry of recall.


Book Details

Title: The Saint I Ain’t: Stories from Sycamore Street

Author: Bobby Johnston

Genre: literary fiction, short story, coming of age, Americana, poetry

Publisher: Fomite Press (January 9, 2021)

Print length: 125 pages






LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH BOBBY JOHNSON


A few of your favorite things: musical instruments, classic Mercedes-Benz vehicles, cats.
Things you need to throw out: anxiety, VHS tapes, used guitar strings.


Things you need in order to write: Macbook Pro, time, space.
Things that hamper your writing: Youtube, musical instruments, anxiety.


Things you love about writing: freedom.
Things you hate about writing: juggling projects in progress.

Easiest thing about being a writer: finding inspiration.

Hardest thing about being a writer: engaging on social media.


Things you love about where you live: Dodgers games, incredible variety of restaurants, weather.
Things that make you want to move: traffic, smog, wildfires, earthquakes.

Things you never want to run out of: new musical instruments, new movies to watch, ideas, time, space, old and new friends.
Things you wish you’d never bought: rental of the film Hillbilly Elegy.

Words that describe you: honest, independent, artistically adventurous, stubborn.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t:
stubborn.

Favorite foods: street tacos, BBQ, Asian cuisine, Buffalo wings, Italian sandwiches, cheese, popcorn.
Things that make you want to throw up: fish.

Favorite music: good music of any genre.
Music that make your ears bleed: bad music of any genre.

Favorite beverage: beer.

Something that gives you a pickle face: milk.

Favorite smell: BBQ.

Something that makes you hold your nose: burnt hair.

Something you’re really good at: composing music. 

Something you’re really bad at: dancing.


Something you wish you could do: dancing.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: worry so much.


Last best thing you ate: Buffalo wings.

Last thing you regret eating: Buffalo wings.

Things you’d walk a mile for: The Buffalo Bills. The Los Angeles Dodgers.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: The New England Patriots. The San Francisco Giants.

Things to say to an author: “I bought the printed version.”

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: “It’s not my cup of tea.”

Favorite places you’ve been: Paris, France. New Orleans, Louisiana.

Places you never want to go to again: Las Vegas, Nevada.

Favorite things to do: spend time with family and friends. Jogging.

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: house cleaning, changing cat litter box.

Best thing you’ve ever done: being a birth partner with my wife.

Biggest mistake: Not trying out for Jeopardy when I was younger.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: publishing this book.
Something you chickened out from doing: learning to dance.

The last thing you did for the first time: bought property.

Something you’ll never do again: ocean diving (sharks).



BOOK TRAILER




ABOUT THE AUTHOR  


Bobby Johnston is a Los Angeles based film composer, multi-instrumentalist, and US Air Force veteran. Bobby’s composer credits include original scores for directors Larry Clark, Laura Gabbert, Stuart Gordon, and Darren Lynn Bousman. Called “A new voice in film” by Film Score Monthly, Johnston broke into the movie industry with an unusual approach to composition; using only acoustic instruments and often performing every instrument himself. In subsequent years, he has accented his process by bringing in many instrumental soloists. Johnston scored the award-winning documentaries City of Gold and Bleed Out (HBO), and his music has been featured extensively on the popular radio program This American Life. The Saint I Ain’t is his first book.




Connect with Bobby:


Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter Goodreads

Buy the book:

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Monday, February 8, 2021

FEATURED AUTHOR: KARYNE. E. MESSINA Ed.D


ABOUT THE BOOK

 
Donald Trump’s behavior is encouraging the development of a generation of people inclined to hateful identity politics and bigotry, while also dismantling our country’s institutions and natural resources. Aftermath is a guide on how we can heal, with ideas on how each of us can help bridge the divide that has only grown deeper since Election Day in November 2016, due in part to the way Trump constantly shifts blame. This behavior is known in psychoanalytic circles as projective identification, a phenomenon people employ who unconsciously dislike something about themselves. Instead of taking responsibility, they blame those feelings, thoughts, or actions on others. Trump is an expert at this, and it’s hurting all of us.
 
To heal will take time, patience, and a willingness to take stock of our viewpoints and square them with divergent ones. It’s not so unusual anymore for families and friends who find themselves on opposite ends of the political spectrum to refrain from engaging in any sort of meaningful conversation for fear that such discussions will ruin already fractured relationships. It shouldn’t be that way.
 
Though rooted in psychoanalysis, Aftermath gets at the essence of projective identification as nurtured by Trump, and how we can combat its prevalence in order to once again engage in thoughtful, meaningful debate with those on opposite ends of the political rainbow without resorting to violent rhetoric.
 
We must demand that our leaders engage in a process that incorporates a respectful way of communicating between and among people. Aftermath shows the way.

Book Details:

Title: Aftermath: Healing from the Trump Presidency

Author: Karyne Messina, Ed.D

Genre: psychology

Publisher: International Psychotherapy Institute (November 2020)

Print length: 388 pages

 



LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT INTERVIEW WITH KARYNE E. MESSINA Ed.D

 
A few of your favorite things: my new Tesla, my engagement ring that belonged to my husband’s grandmother, Tesla ring that starts the car.
Things you need to throw out: old folders.

Things you need in order to write: time, time and more time.
Things that hamper your writing: friends who won’t get off the phone.

Things you love about writing: it’s creative, spontaneous, and fun to write down the sequence of thoughts that emerge in my mind.
Things you hate about writing: not having enough time to write on a full-time basis.
 
Easiest thing about being a writer: ideas come to me easily.

Hardest thing about being a writer: editing my writing.

Things you love about where you live: it’s peaceful, safe, and near family members.
Things that make you want to move: it’s not close to a river, lake or ocean.

Words that describe you: happy, satisfied, generous, kind, straightforward.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: someone who never goes on a vacation.
 
Favorite foods: pasta, seafood, paella, apricots.
Things that make you want to throw up: cilantro.
 
Favorite music: jazz.
Music that make your ears bleed: atonal music.
 
Favorite beverage: chi latte.

Something that gives you a pickle face: diet ginger ale.
 
Favorite smell: the ocean.

Something that makes you hold your nose: smells from the swamp.
 
Something you’re really good at: talking with patients.
Something you’re really bad at: tennis.

Something you wish you could do: play squash well.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: work so many hours a day.

Something you like to do: paint, blow glass.

Something you wish you’d never done: didn’t stay in touch with old friends.

Last best thing you ate: lobster.

Last thing you regret eating: a hot dog.

Things you’d walk a mile for: to save someone’s life.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: passive aggressive people.

Things you always put in your books: examples of blame-shifting since it is present in so many relationships.

Things you never put in your books: information about my patients.

Things to say to an author: keep trying; don’t give up.

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: it’s easy to get books published.

Favorite places you’ve been: the Amalfi Coast.

Places you never want to go to again: parts of Florida.

Favorite things to do: boating, writing, painting.

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: cleaning a boat.

Things that make you happy: gardening.

Things that drive you crazy: cleaning up after an adult.

Best thing you’ve ever done: had children.

Biggest mistake: selling Zoom stock.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: taking private pilot lessons.

Something you chickened out from doing: parachuting.

The last thing you did for the first time: drove a Tesla—it drives itself.

Something you’ll never do again: go on a roller coaster.
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Karyne has written two books on the topics of misogyny and projective identification, with a third in the works. Her first book, Misogyny, Projective Identification, and Mentalization: Psychoanalytic, Social and Institutional Manifestations (Routledge, 2019), explored the genesis of hatred and ingrained prejudice towards women and the phenomenon known in the world of psychoanalysis as projective identification. In her second book, Aftermath: Healing from the Trump Presidency (International Psychotherapy Institute), she argues that we the American people were stuck in a toxic, psychologically harmful, four-year relationship with President Trump and offer ideas on how to heal.
 
Karyne is a licensed psychologist and certified psychoanalyst by the American Board of Psychoanalysis. She is a supervising and training analyst at the Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis and is on the medical staff of Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, part of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Karyne maintains a full-time private practice in Chevy Chase, Maryland, as well as memberships with the American Psychological Association, the Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the Washington School of Psychiatry, the American Board of Psychoanalysis, and the International Psychoanalytical Association.



Connect with Karyne:
Website  |  Twitter Instagram

Buy the book:
Amazon