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The Summer Job ~ Not a Christmas Story

The Summer Job – Not a Christmas Story

by

Kerry J Donovan

© Dec 2015

 

Pure Whimsy

 

The summer sun flared through the window, highlighting the dust hanging in the stifling air. The fifty-something woman behind the desk smiled without mirth and waved him into the applicant’s chair.

“Take a seat please, Mr St Nicholas.”

Graham St Nicholas obliged. Never let anyone say he wasn’t an obliging fellow.

The woman, Gladys Emmanuel according to the rectangular nameplate atop her workstation, paused for a moment before dropping a hand into an open drawer. She retrieved a thick sheaf of papers and pushed it across the cluttered surface. The package pushed a stack of papers and files aside as it progressed.

“Here is our standard application and CV pro-forma pack,” she said, popping a boiled sweet taken from a bowl on her desk into her mouth. “Please complete it, in triplicate, and return the copies to me by tomorrow. We’ll then arrange an appointment with one of our job placement specialists who will put your details into our system and see what we can come up with.”

Graham St Nicholas flicked through the information and couldn’t hold back a sigh. “This looks rather complicated,” he said, trying not to sound too despondent. Jolly was his default position but these circumstances made it difficult. “I’m a rather long way from home. Isn’t there an easier way to do this without so much travel? I just need something to tide me over until the busy season.” He looked up to see the lady frowning and added, “But I would be more than happy to put in the effort if there were a real opportunity for me here with Jobs4Unlimited.”

The woman peered through her black horn-rims, pursed her lips, and sniffed as though a bad odour attacked her nose.

“To be perfectly honest Mr St. Nicholas, we’ve never had to place a person with your skill set at this time of the year. Furthermore, your age does count against you. I mean, there aren’t many openings for double-millenniogenarians. I am not sure what Ebenezer Stroud in our Pensions Department would have to say about it. However, we can but try.”

Her pinched lips thinned into a smile.

Continue Reading »

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Win Twelve Mystery and Crime Novels

Win TWELVE Crime/Mystery eBooks!

(2) Grand Prize Kindle Virtual “Gift Baskets” of ALL TWELVE eBOOKs!

(10) Winners of Individual Books (randomly selected titles)

Plus a special bonus chance to win!

For a chance to win, all you need to do is click the image or the title on the page, or HERE, fill in your name and email address, and enter! Nothing easier. And if you want to receive my crime novelette, The DCI Jones Casebook: Raymond Collins for FREE and be in the running to win a KINDLE FIRE, check out my contest HERE.

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Book Review ~ Bone Maker by DF Bailey

Bone Maker

by DF Bailey

This is a great mystery thriller in the classic, fast-paced ‘investigative reporter’ genre.

Well written in an easy style with believable characters and an interesting plot, Bone Maker has all the elements needed to make it well worth the reader’s time and money.

Will Finch, a dogged reporter with a tragic past, is sent to the sticks to write the story of the apparent accidental death of a federal witness in a fraud case. He’s been mauled by a black bear of all things (the victim, I mean, not Will). I say ‘apparent accidental death’ because all is not as it first appears. Finch soon discovers a web of deceit and corruption and finds himself in very deep waters.

We also have a very dodgy (and well-realised) sociopathic local sheriff, and a collection of locals who may or may not be in the sheriff’s pocket. Add to that a distressed maiden and political intrigue, and you have a plot complex enough for the most demanding thriller aficionado.

This is a great read.

A classic story told in a classic way and an ending that doesn’t leave you hanging, but makes you want to read the next in the series.

Yep, DF Bailey is one to watch and one to read.

Thoughts on cover art: Unexceptional. Not particularly enticing.

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Where does Mr Bailey lose his half star? For me, Will Finch, is a shade underdeveloped. I would have liked a little more of Finch’s inner angst. Still, he’s a likeable enough hero and one I enjoyed spending time with. I have no doubt the readers will learn more about Will Finch’s character as the series progresses.

Will I be reading more from DF Bailey? You bet.

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Bone Maker: a Classic, Fast-Paced Mystery Thriller by D.F. Bailey

Series: Will Finch Mystery Thriller Series Book 1

A death in the wilderness. A woman mourns alone. A reporter works a single lead.

If you have an appetite for organized crime series, you’ll love this new crime trilogy. Add a slice of noir novels, the juice of steamy PI mysteries, the zest of a financial thriller series. Soon you’ll be stewing in this new technothriller trilogy—and begging for more.

Following a family tragedy that has broken his spirit, crime reporter Will Finch returns to his news desk in San Francisco eager to reboot his career and renew his lease on life. When he’s assigned to cover the grisly death of a witness to a multi-million dollar bitcoin fraud, Finch discovers some troubling complications: A Mercedes-Benz abandoned in the wilderness. A wounded bear. A cop who rules a remote town with an iron fist. And the witness’s fiancée — a US senator’s daughter — knows there’s something mysterious about her lover’s death. But what?

Inspired by true events, Bone Maker is the first thriller in this series of noir crime novels — a crime trilogy that races from coastal Oregon to San Francisco, Moscow, Honolulu and Washington DC. It intersects the worlds of international finance, cryptocurrency software algorithms, and corruption that reaches from the US Senate to Turk Street in the Tenderloin District.

Amazon links:
US: http://www.amazon.com/Bone-Maker-Finch-Mystery-Thriller-ebook/dp/B018EZ7SAW/
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bone-Maker-Finch-Mystery-Thriller-ebook/dp/B018EZ7SAW/

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Book Review ~ A Secondhand Life by Pamela Crane

Hi guys,

I’ve just finished reading, A Secondhand Life (The Killer Thriller Series Book 2), by Pamela Crane. The blurb and buy links appear at the foot of this post.

Here’s my review:

A Secondhand Life

by Pamela Crane

This novel asks some intriguing questions. Who has been killing teenage girls for nigh on twenty years? What links the killings? Why haven’t the cops identified the killer, and can the first victim help solve the crime?

We find the answer to all these questions within the pages of this well-written novel.

When she was twelve years old, Mia Germaine was involved in an accident that caused the death of her father. In the accident, Mia’s heart was damaged and she receiving a transplant from the first victim of the above-mentioned serial killer, the twelve-year-old Alexis.

Scroll forward twenty years and Mia starts having dreams, apparently from Alexis, in a vivid and terrifying case of the phenomenon known as, ‘organ memory’. The theory posits that the transplanted heart is telling Mia who killed Alexis.

Spooky, right?

In this taut murder mystery, we have an evil swine who’s been killing young girls with impunity for years and the local police don’t have a clue who he is or how to catch him. We also have a plucky female hero who’s determined to catch said serial killer despite the risk to her relationships and her life. On top of that, we have the occasional glimpse from inside the head of the killer and from this we learn his sick motivation. Add to that a growing list of suspects, each as plausible than the last, and Ms Crane gives the reader a great serial killer whodunit with a twist—organ memory.

Do we also have a satisfying ending where everyone lives happily ever after? Heck now, that would be telling and as you know, I don’t do spoilers.

Add in a few stellar and shocking scenes that had my pulse racing and others that had me pulling for Mia, and you have a book to recommend. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and cheered Mia along the whole way through the book. And given that I’m a cynical old soul, that’s a neat trick for Ms Crane to have managed.

I can recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good crime thriller.

Thoughts on the cover art: Great, top notch.

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So, why did I knock off the half star? A number of reasons. First, I’m a mean SOB and very hard to please. Second, I worked out (some might say, guessed) the killer’s identity quite a while before the ultimate revelation. Third, and finally, I have a problem with the ‘organ memory’ theory—I’m a scientist, remember, and had to suspend my disbelief at that part. On the other hand, suspension of disbelief isn’t a bad thing for a reader and Ms Crane handled that part of the story in a subtle, understated manner. Bravo.

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A Secondhand Life: a good crime thriller by Pamela Crane

Series: The Killer Thriller Series Book 2

A heart never forgets its last beat…

In a freak collision when she was twelve, Mia Germaine faced death and the loss of her father. A heart transplant from a young murder victim saved her life, but not without a price. Twenty years later, chilling nightmares about an unresolved homicide begin to plague Mia. Compelled by these lost memories, she forms a complicated connection to the victim—the girl killed the night of Mia’s accident—due to a scientific phenomenon called “organ memory.”

Now suffocating beneath the weight of avenging a dead girl and catching a serial killer on the loose dubbed the “Triangle Terror,” Mia must dodge her own demons while unimaginable truths torment her—along with a killer set on making her his next victim.

As Mia tries to determine if her dreams are clues or disturbing phantasms, uninvited specters lead her further into danger’s path, costing her the one person who can save her from herself. More than a page-turning thriller, “A Secondhand Life” weaves a tale of second chances and reclaimed dreams as this taut, refreshing story ensnares and penetrates you.

Amazon links:
US: http://www.amazon.com/Secondhand-Life-Killer-Thriller-Book-ebook/dp/B00SU9NO9M/
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Secondhand-Life-Killer-Thriller-Book-ebook/dp/B00SU9NO9M/

 

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Book review ~ Dark Space by Jasper T Scott

Hi guys,

I’ve just finished reading my first sci-fi for ages. Here’s my considered review:

Dark Space

by Jasper T Scott

 

Dark space is a fair-to-middling space opera with a tried and tested plot that hardly breaks any new ground. The human race is defeated by alien invaders. A small band of survivors hide in an uncharted part of the galaxy (Dark Space) and try to rebuild their civilisation. Mr Scott ups the ante by introducing a plucky independent pilot, Ethan Ortane, who is forced by an unscrupulous villain to infiltrate the defence forces and destroy the only battle cruiser capable of defending Dark Space from the evil aliens.

Ethan wears an ingenious ‘holo-skin’ to enable him to board the battle cruiser and commit sabotage. But, in a hideous double-cross …

And that’s as far as I go. You know me, no spoilers in my reviews.

Overall, the writing is acceptable, but the author’s use of ‘filtering’ is unnecessary and annoying. Filtering is where the narrator tells us when a character hears a sound, or sees a sight. Here’s an example to illuminate my point:

Filtering:

“Ethan saw the spaceship bank to port.”

Here’s the same thing without the filtering:

“The spaceship banked to port.”

You’ll notice both sentences say the same thing, but without the filtering, the second one is more efficient and effective at keeping the reader ‘in the moment’. We ‘see’ the spaceship bank to port without having the character, Ethan, get between us and the action. Make sense?

Apart from that, Mr Scott handles the story well and the battle scenes are frenetic and exceptionally well realised.

Without dishing up any spoilers, there are a few pieces of unbelievable science (e.g. the holo-suits and the space gates) and some unacceptable coincidences (the family reunion), but as I said, overall, it’s a pretty good effort.

Dark Space is Book 1 in a six-book series. Will I read more from Mr Scott? Possibly.

Thoughts on the cover art: Excellent (if a little busy), but typical for this genre.

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Dark Space by Jasper T Scott

Series: Dark Space Book 1

HUMANITY IS DEFEATED

Ten years ago the Sythians invaded the galaxy with one goal: to wipe out the human race.

THEY ARE HIDING

Now the survivors are hiding in the last human sector of the galaxy: Dark Space–once a place of exile for criminals, now the last refuge of mankind.

THEY ARE ISOLATED

The once galaxy-spanning Imperium of Star Systems is left guarding the gate which is the only way in or out of Dark Space–but not everyone is satisfied with their governance.

AND THEY ARE KILLING EACH OTHER

Freelancer and ex-convict Ethan Ortane is on the run. He owes crime lord Alec Brondi 10,000 sols, and his ship is badly damaged. When Brondi catches up with him, he makes an offer Ethan can’t refuse. Ethan must infiltrate and sabotage the Valiant, the Imperial Star Systems Fleet carrier which stands guarding the entrance of Dark Space, and then his debt will be cleared. While Ethan is still undecided about what he will do, he realizes that the Imperium has been lying and putting all of Dark Space at risk. Now Brondi’s plan is starting to look like a necessary evil, but before Ethan can act on it, he discovers that the real plan was much more sinister than what he was told, and he will be lucky to escape the Valiant alive. . .

Amazon links:
US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CGOSBTU
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00CGOSBTU

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Book Review ~ An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity by Stuart Campbell

Hi guys,

This is an interesting novel. Here’s my review:

An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity

by Stuart Campbell

I won’t repeat the blurb (see below), nor will I give away any spoilers (as usual), but this is a beautifully crafted, off-key story of murder, mystery, misunderstanding, and misdirection. How’s that for alliteration? I’d have added ‘confusion’ here too, but would have been unable to gloat over my clever use of M. By the end though, Mr Campbell sorts out the confusion and completes the story in a highly satisfactory way.

Told in first person by the three leading characters—Jack, the husband, Thea, the wife, and Fiona, the possibly deranged cop—this is a tour de force by Mr Campbell.

The married couple is well realised, believable, and described with all their faults and insecurities, but neither is completely likeable. Jack is weak and Thea is cold, and both have guilty secrets to hide from the authorities and from each other. I had a slight problem with the motivation of the detective, Fiona, which seems extremely suspect at first. By the end of the story, though, Mr Campbell explained her rather strange behaviour to my satisfaction. In fact, the whole story arc is extremely well handled, and, I can see this working well as a three-handed play.

By necessity, the minor characters are less well defined, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment. They did what they needed to do by acting as antagonists and moving the story along rather well.

I have only one extremely minor gripe. One scene—the one with the golf clubs (no spoilers)—came as a complete surprise and should have left me shocked, shattered, and angry. Unfortunately, it didn’t, which probably had something to do with matter-of-fact way the victim reacted to it left me somewhat underwhelmed and a little disappointed. More should have been made of the outcome and the payback. In fact, I wanted more of this part of the story, but Mr Campbell preferred to leave us hanging. As I said, it is a minor gripe, but enough to cost the novel half a star on my arbitrary and rather harsh rating scale.

All that being said, I have no hesitation to recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys well-written, well-constructed, off-key, and darkly humorous stories. Nice work, Mr Campbell. Nice work indeed.

Thoughts on the cover art: Undistinguished. The font makes the text difficult to read when you view the cover as a thumbnail.

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An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity: a story of murder, mystery, misunderstanding, and misdirection by Dave Stanton

Jack Walsingham’s comfortable life is under pressure. With his bookshop going broke and past indiscretions catching up, Jack begins to dabble in embezzlement. Meanwhile his wife Thea, frustrated by a dead end in her career, is experimenting with some genteel theft of her own. But soon the couple are out of their depth, blackmailed by a figure from the past and implicated in two grisly killings. Their salvation comes in the form of Detective Sergeant Fiona Salmon, a recently widowed book-loving gym addict on the edge of an emotional melt down. A bizarre triangle develops, in which Thea, Jack and Fiona each find their own version of redemption in the face of betrayal and infidelity.

An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity is at once a psychological thriller, a crime mystery, a dark comedy, and a love story.

Amazon links:

US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00R63GXW8
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00R63GXW8

 

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Book Review ~ Dark Ice by Dave Stanton

Hi guys,
I’ve been doing a load of reading lately and thought it might be nice to share my reviews on the writing competition, as it were. There’s the first one:

Dark Ice

by David Stanton

If you enjoy gritty, fast-paced crime, you can’t go far wrong with Dan Reno (pronounced Renault). He’s tough, he’s clever, he’s witty, and he always gets his man. No, he’s not a Mountie, he’s a private detective working out of Lake Tahoe, on the border of Nevada and California. It’s a stunning backdrop to the tale, but more of that later.

In this episode, which takes place in the depths of a snowy midwinter, Dan Reno is hunting the killer of two beautiful blonde women. He has a personal interest in the case as he finds one of the bodies naked and abandoned in a snowdrift while he’s out skiing.

During the investigation, Dan also runs foul of two rival motorcycle gangs. What he doesn’t know is whether the cases are linked. As well as the murders and the biker gangs, there is a drugs connection, seedy nightclubs, and an allegedly dirty cop who might be at the centre of it all.

Stanton’s writing is crisp, clean, and first rate. The cases are interesting and tough to crack, there’s a real police procedural, sifting through the clues, feel to Dan’s investigations. But above everything is the landscape. Superbly realised by a writer of great skill, it forms a wonderful backdrop to the action, and becomes a major character in the novel.

The human characters are well drawn, especially Dan and his best mate, Cody, and there’s a love interest, too. And to prove he’s note a complete Neanderthal, Dan has a new addition to his household in the shape of a fluffy kitten—although he still calls his significant other, ‘Doll’ in a throwback to the noir 1950s gumshoes, Sam Spade and Philip Marlow.

If you like action, criminal investigation, and a noir style, you’ll love this novel as much as I did. In fact, what’s not to like? I whistled through this book in a couple of days.

Thoughts on the cover art: A bit misleading—there’s no rope climbing scene in the book—could use a rethink.

If you are an author and would like me to consider reviewing your work, visit the Contact Page and drop me a line. But remember, I can be very choosy. 🙂

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Dark Ice: a Hard-Boiled Crime Novel by Dave Stanton

Series: Dan Reno Private Detective Noir Mystery Series—Book 4

Two murdered girls, and no motive…

While skiing deep in Lake Tahoe’s backcountry, private detective Dan Reno finds the first naked body, buried under fresh snow. Reno’s contacted by the grieving father, who wants to know who murdered his daughter, and why? And how could the body end up in such a remote, mountainous location? The questions become murkier when a second body is found. Is there a serial killer stalking promiscuous young women in South Lake Tahoe? Or are the murders linked to a different criminal agenda?

Searching for answers, Reno is accosted by a gang of racist bikers with a score to settle. He also must deal with his pal, Cody Gibbons, who the police consider a suspect. The clues lead to the owner of a strip club and a womanizing police captain, but is either the killer?

The bikers up the ante, but are unaware that Cody Gibbons has Reno’s back at any cost. Meanwhile, the police won’t tolerate Reno’s continued involvement in the case. But Reno knows he’s getting close. And the most critical clue comes from the last person he’d suspect…

Amazon links:
US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00VZ46C7U
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00VZ46C7U

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“Friday-Fortnight” Interview with Aurora Springer

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Hi guys,

It’s a wonderful early spring day here in Chez Donovan. The daffodils are in bud, the days are lengthening, and I’m in the sunroom with an author friend and fellow-scientist (okay, I’m a former scientist, but who’s to know?), Aurora Springer.

Morning Aurora, thanks for dropping by. How are you this fine afternoon?

AS: Fine? Fine? I’m from Atlanta, Georgia. It’s freezing in here. Let me shunt up closer to the fire and warm my hands around this coffee mug. Ah yes, that’s better. Thanks. Now, where were we?

KJD: And here was me thinking you Southern Belles were tough?

AS: Careful what you say when this gal’s got a handful of scalding coffee, boy. [Laughs.]

KJD: Glad you can take a joke, Aurora. (Gulp).

Talking of Atlanta, what is the best thing about the place?

AS: I live in the suburbs and my neighbourhood is convenient for walking the dog. What’s more, the Appalachians are about two hours north of our house.

KJD: That sounds great. The nearest mountains to us are the Pyrenees, over ten hours south of here. Now, let’s begin this little skirmish with a general question, what’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?

AS: Can’t really narrow it down to one, so let me see. Have kids? Break my shoulder falling off a jet-ski? Bare my inner thoughts in my novels? Not much.

KJD: I can relate to two of those. Never been on a jet-ski, but will add it to my bucket list. The broken shoulder sounds painful, and I do know what that feels like. So far, I’ve fractured four bones in my lifetime. It’s a wonder I can still walk upright without a stick.

What do you do to relax when you aren’t working, writing, or falling off jet-skis?

AS: Sometimes I read books by other authors. I take the dog for walks, and in the warmer months, I enjoy canoeing around the lake by our rural retreat.

KJD: Apart from the dog-walking thing, I love the sound of that. As my regular readers will know, I’m not a pet owner, me.

Moving on to the writing part of this interview, like me, you’re a scientist, how does science inform or influence your writing?

AS: That’s a great question. Some of my characters are scientists, or else they share a scientist’s curiosity. In my science fiction stories set on other planets, I try to describe physically realistic landscapes and diverse life forms. Also, I can introduce pseudoscientific explanations for things like teleportation.

KJD: Excellent, I love pseudo-science and resorted to it a little in my fantasy thriller, The Transition of Johnny Swift.

[Hell, we’re not going down that ‘let’s plug my books’ route again are we? Ed.]

Sorry boss, back to the interrogation chat. If there were a single thing you’d like to change about yourself, what would it be?

AS: I’d like to grow wings and fly! Or possibly fly without the aid of wings.

KJD: That would be fantastic, a bit like teleportation, eh? I can see a bit of a trend here. You are a dreamer, right?

AS: Exactly. Aren’t all writers of fiction?

KJD:  Can’t argue with that. So, what’s the best advice you can offer to a fellow author?

AS: Editing and polishing your creation is critical and takes longer than you think.

KJD: Amen to that, my friend. Do you have any favourite anecdotes related to your writing?

AS: Published in 2014, my first full-length novel was written some thirty years ago when I was a researcher at Yale University. In the story, I have aliens eating lunch with human scientists in a fictitious version of the cafeteria on the Kline Biology Tower.

KJD: Ha, brilliant, love it. Nothing written is ever wasted. You can always edit, update, and improve.

What is the first thing you do when starting a new novel? Do you research and write a detailed plot outline, or do you go with the flow?

AS: I don’t plot too much in advance, I just write as the story dictates. I fill in with research as necessary, luckily my husband knows a lot about firearms. After the initial draft, I generally list the chapters/events, and sometimes switch the order of scenes.

KJD: That sounds pretty much the way I work, too. What excites you about writing and the writing process?

AS: I love exercising my imagination, creating believable characters and extraordinary worlds. 

KJD: Agreed. It’s great being able to do what you like in your head without the men (and women) in white coats coming to take you way, isn’t it?

[Tumbleweeds blow across the sun-room …]

Okay. Now, what can you tell me about your latest project? If possible, I’d love a sneak preview.

AS: So glad you asked that. Some people accuse me of a campy, comic book style, so here it is—a superhero story about a teenage girl who juggles university classes with fighting villains and grumbles about her mother’s rules.

KJD: Love it already. Please tell us more.

AS: As you insist. The story has a hunky hero, aliens, animals, mystery, and fantastic fights. Who could ask for more? The eBook was published at the end of February. Here’s a brief excerpt:

Inspector Parkins crouched on one knee to examine the corpse. Her skin was flaccid and dry. Blood had gushed from her neck, leaving red streaks on her pink shirt. He did not bother to touch the body. The skin temperature would hold no clues in the sultry heat of the Atalanta summer. Parkins grimaced. The irregular gash across her throat was horribly familiar.

Glancing at the officer, he noted the name on his badge. “Look at her neck, Trooper Cagle. Seen anything like it before?”

With a grunt to acknowledge the Inspector’s request, Cagle leaned over the body and frowned. “It’s strange, now you mention it. I didn’t notice at first. The cut appears to have been made by a weapon with a serrated edge. I’ve never seen a knife with serrations that big.” He stared at the Inspector in alarm and whispered, “What is it?”

“Wish I knew.” Standing up, the Inspector made a fast decision, warning, “Keep an eye on the streets. I’ll file a request for more troopers on night patrol. This death is the second case I’ve seen in the last three weeks with the same type of injury on the neck.” He glowered at the startled officer. “We may be looking for a serial killer.” 

“A serial killer,” Cagle repeated slowly. He shook his head and murmured, “With that weird slash, it may be time to call in the Secret Supers.” 

“They’re an urban legend,” Parkins snapped.

The trooper tilted his head and asked, “How long have you been in the city, Inspector?”

“Six weeks on Monday,” Parkins replied, running his fingers through his thinning hair. His thoughts were elsewhere. He stepped aside and beckoned to the ambulance crew waiting with a stretcher. “Take her to the morgue. I’m ordering an autopsy.”

Suppressing a shudder, Inspector Parkins guessed what the medical examiner would find. A body drained of blood like the first murder case. Not a normal killer. He could imagine the careful wording of the official police reports for public consumption. Maybe they did need the Secret Supers. Whoever, or whatever, they were. 

KJD: Thanks for that. Love the murder mystery element. As you know, I usually write police proced—.

[Stop that! Ed.]

Damn, can’t get away with anything these days.

So, what’s next in your writing life?

AS: Several things. I have a good start on the next books in my new superhero series. Also, I have ideas for a “near future” story set in our solar system, and a “distant future” intergalactic adventure. 

KJD: That sounds wonderful. But, I’m afraid tempus fugit and we have to end our discussion. Thanks millions for your time.

AS: And thanks for your excellent hospitality, now that I’m finally warm again.

KJD: Before you go, as a scientist, can you help me work out the flaws in my teleportation system? Why is it that whenever I dial in ‘Paris’, I end up in Texas?

Are you an author? If you would like to take part in one of my FFI’s, drop me a line.

About Aurora

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Aurora Springer is a scientist morphing into a novelist. She has a PhD in molecular biophysics and discovers science facts in her day job. She has invented adventures in weird worlds for as long as she can remember. In 2014, Aurora achieved her life-long ambition to publish her stories. Her works are character-driven romances set in weird worlds described with a sprinkle of humor. Some of the stories were composed thirty years ago. She was born in the UK and lives in Atlanta with her husband, a dog and two cats to sit on the keyboard. Her hobbies, besides reading and writing, include outdoor activities like gardening, watching wildlife, hiking and canoeing.

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Super Starella

Superhero Murder Mystery & Romance

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Teen superhero, Starrella, and the flying horse, Rockette, challenge the vicious villains in the skies of Atalanta.

A quiet summer at her uncle’s farm turns frighteningly weird for seventeen-year old Estelle Wright after she trespasses onto an Army base. Blown into the air and knocked unconscious, she wakes with a nascent superpower. Not to mention a winged horse with a snarky attitude and a mind of her own.

Back home in Atalanta, a serial killer is targeting the students at Goldman University. Before long she must juggle college classes with sneaking out of the house after dark to battle vicious monsters. Estelle’s life is in danger, but who can she trust with her secret: handsome Captain Copper from military intelligence, or hunky Toby, the tough gangster with a motorbike?

Young adult superheroes, quirky animal sidekicks, and a dash of romance enliven this thrilling adventure. Book 1 of the Secret Supers.

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Proposal ~ A Short Story by Kerry J Donovan

Proposal

The station clock hanging from the wrought iron roof brace seems to have stopped. The dark hands and black numerals of the Victorian timepiece fade behind a grey mist swirling in from the sea. I squint to bring the numbers into focus. Less than three minutes to go.
Come on, John. Breathe. She’ll be here in a minute.
Jayne called earlier, when the train left Euston, so I know she’s aboard. All I can do is wait and hope I can hold myself together until she arrives. The tension hurts like a knife thrust through my stomach, but all I can do is wait.
I try to stay calm, but the thoughts in my head churn. Can I find the right words? Will she say yes? Why is everybody staring at me? Did I brush my teeth properly? Why am I shaking?
I stare up at the near-stationary clock and beg it to tick faster, but Sod’s Law of ‘Screw Me Over’ doesn’t leave me alone and the fog rolls in again, thicker this time.
The temperature drops like a rock thrown from a railway bridge.
I’m wearing my second best rig especially for Jayne. My preferred fashion statement is one I’ve cultivated for the past decade: stonewashed chinos; blue denim shirt; worn trainers. Jayne says the clothes add to my Bohemian façade. She slays me sometimes. My best ensemble, a dark blue business suit, is reserved for special occasions. Like the registry office? Trouble is the denim shirt is too thin. It doesn’t provide much protection from the cold bouncing in chilling waves off the concrete platform. My back’s freezing, but that’s the least of my worries.
A shiver racks through me. Cold sweat tickles my brow.
The elderly woman beside me leans closer. She’s ignoring my personal space, but I forgive her, life’s too short, right? She must have picked up on my nerves because she nods and gives me a comforting smile. “Don’t worry, son. The train’ll be here soon.”
I nod and return the smile. “What’s the time?” I ask surprised how weak my voice sounds. Thirst dries my throat. I could do with a drink, but don’t want to ask. Don’t want to be any trouble.
“Nearly half past.” She looks worried for me.
Must be gone half past by now, surely. I want to confirm the time on my wristwatch but I can’t look. My clenched and trembling fists are the only things holding my knotted stomach together.
“You’re very pale,” says the Good Samaritan.
“I’ll be alright when Jayne gets here.”
“Jayne’s you wife?”
“Not yet. Might be. Let you know in a couple of minutes.”
A shadow falls across her face and she frowns but says nothing.
I stare up at the clock again, but it still hasn’t moved. Is the damned thing broken?

#

Today started well and for once, improved by the minute.
Jayne phoned after breakfast to confirm she’d booked leave for the whole of next week. I punched the air in silent delight, but played it cool. “That’s good, babe. Guess we can find something to do.”
She lit my morning with one of her infectious giggles. “I can think of plenty of ways to occupy our time, and none of them involves leaving the apartment.”
“Wow,” I replied. “Can’t wait.”
She didn’t know it, but I’d reserved a suite for us in the most expensive hotel I could afford. Not the most expensive in town, of course, but pricey enough.
After her call, I had a manic burst of creativity. I found the ending for the short story I’d been fretting over for nearly a week. The words flew from my mind, through my fingertips, and into the computer. After three edits and a final proof read, I hit the ‘send’ button with a joyous flourish and celebrated with a cup of tea. It’s not that I’m teetotal. I like a drink as much as the next bloke, but at eleven o’clock in the morning? Nah. That way leads to ruin. Time enough for the bubbly stuff later—during the celebration I hoped was coming.
It only took the commissioning editor an hour to accept the submission, and next month’s mortgage was covered. He even accepted my proposal for a monthly series on local walks.
One proposal accepted, and one more to make.
I punched the air again and this time accompanied it with a whoop of joy. Before finishing for the day, I completed another chapter of my book. Things couldn’t have been better. Five more chapters I’d be able to type those words all writers love, The End. Then the hard graft will start, the edits, and the re-edits, but that’s another story. I hadn’t felt as good in years. Everything was tumbling into place.
Two hours spent cleaning the flat and fifteen minutes to shave filled the rest of the afternoon. Jayne would barely recognise me without the designer stubble, but I wanted to make the day special.
The sun beat down and warmed my world.
On the way to the station, after smiling and nodding at each passing stranger, I collected the sapphire engagement ring from the jeweller’s and placed it carefully in my button-down shirt pocket. The stone match my Jayne’s cornflower-blue eyes, I couldn’t have chosen better. Didn’t even mind that I’d be paying for the blooming thing for the next twenty years.
The cross-town walk to the station gave me the chance to rehearse my speech. On the way, I had second thoughts about the location. A railway station didn’t seem like the most romantic place for a proposal, but I couldn’t think of a more suitable venue. Jayne and I met under the clock three years ago to the day. You might say we bumped into each other, although after seeing her on the same train every day for a week, I made sure to time my exit from the train just right. I’m clever like that.
I paused at the concessionary stands on the station concourse long enough to pick up a small bunch of pink carnations, Jayne’s favourite, and marched towards the ticket barrier.
My nerves jumped.
Pete, the railway guard who’d known Jayne and me since our first meeting, winked and pointed to the flowers. “Bloody hell Johnny, you’re splashing out a bit. Special occasion or guilty conscience?”
I showed him the ring.
“Wow! Who’d you steal that from?”
“Cheeky bugger!’ I clapped his arm and threw him a hurt look. “I’ve been saving up for months to make the deposit on this hunk of rock.”
“Beautiful, mate,” he flicked a glance to his left and frowned. “Better put it away though, it ain’t safe here.”
“Don’t worry on my account, mate. I can handle myself.”
I pushed through the barrier and sidestepped a scruffy-looking man, a big guy with a ponytail and a wizard’s beard, who staggered along the platform.
Pete screamed a warning.
A hand on my shoulder pulled me around and I stumbled. Wizard-man, spat in my face. “I’ll have that, fucker,” he said.
His arm swung left to right at waist height, something brushed my shirt. He snatched the little red box from my hand before I knew what was happening.
What the fuck?
The energy drained out of me as though flushed from a cistern. I started to shake. Something wet splashed on the concrete at my feet. I stared down at the eight-inch gash in my stomach. Offal spewed out of my belly like a spilled can of sausages-in-tomato-sauce.
Jesus! What the hell? Oh God, no. Not now.
I collapsed and had to use both hands to hold the loose flaps of my belly together. Blood and guts oozed between my fingertips. I vomited over my nice clean shirt.
Everything hurt. My vision dimmed.

#

The haze clears for a second and the clock reads seven-thirty-three. The train’s late. Of course it’s bloody late.
Typical!
I’m still hanging on, but it’s a toss-up for who’ll reach me first, the train, the ambulance, or the hearse.
The concerned old dear, the Good Samaritan, leans over me with sadness and worry in her eyes. Her skin is as pale as mine feels. I try to say something fit for an epitaph, but my mind’s woozy and the thoughts won’t gel. What’s the use of a writer who can’t think of anything to say.
Looking on the bright side, the publicity might do something for my posthumous book sales. Dying didn’t do Stieg Larsson’s sales any harm. Yeah, right? Who’s going to know, or care? Who but Jayne? And maybe Pete.
I’m going into shock, I can hear Angels. No, it’s the train’s horn.
Pete’s standing over me, eyes glistening. “Ambulance is on its way, mate. Hang on. We got the drunken bastard, he didn’t get far. Here’s your ring.”
He holds up something red but it’s out of focus, I can’t see it properly.
“Need … Jayne … soon.”
Pete can’t hear me, I’m trying to shout above the noise in the station and the babble of onlookers, but my voice is weak, coming out as a whisper.
“What did you say?”
He kneels and I speak into his ear. “Jayne… hurry.”
A tear drops from Pete’s cheek and splashes onto mine. My vision’s going. I can’t see the clock any more, or the station roof. Pete and the Good Samaritan fade and blur, but the sound of steel scraping on steel registers clear and loud.
“It’s here, Johnny, the train’s here! I’ll go fetch her.”
Colours fade to grey and white. I struggle to breathe. My fingers are numb but I don’t let go. I can’t let go.
“Johnny!” Jayne’s silhouette casts a shadow. Hair brushes my face. Her perfume blots out the iron-rich stench of my blood.
She’s here. I made it. I can go now.
“Love you, babe … marry me?” I manage. Pete hands her something red.
“Oh, God … yes, darling, yes. Just stay with me,” she cries and brushes her lips against mine. The two-tone ambulance siren drowns out her next words.
I want to reach out and touch her face, but I daren’t or I’ll lose my grip and my grip’s the only thing holding me together.
My hands relax. I give way to the light.

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“Friday-Fortnight” Interview with PC Zick

Kerry_J_Donovan PC-Zick_Profile_200px

Hi guys,

Okay, I know it’s not Friday, sorry I’m a day late, but I hope everyone’s having a wonderful 2016 so far. It’s been busy for me with a new book—On Lucky Shores—published and another Casebook nearly finished.

Talking about On Lucky Shores, I’d like to introduce you to my American editor, PC Zick who is an author, editor, all around star. As usual, I’ve put all her contact details at the foot of the interview so you can concentrate on the chat for now and ask questions later.

KJD: Hi, Pat, how you doing?

PCZ: Very well, Kerry. Great to meet you in person at last. Love these French cakes, what are they called?

KD: Er, cakes, I guess. Despite my claims, I don’t really speak the lingo here. Don’t tell anyone, will you?

PCZ: Pass me another of those delicious lemon ones, and my lips are sealed.

KD: Deal, help yourself. Only one though, the other five are for me. Now, before we get down to the authorly stuff, what’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?

PCZ: In 2004, I travelled to Morocco. I had a friend working in Casablanca, but I travelled in trains around the country-blond and alone. Quite an experience.

KJD: 2004? You must have been a teenager! But Morocco? Blimey. How intrepid of you. I’ve seen Midnight Express. I’ve never been further south than Bordeaux. I’m really impressed. There are probably loads of stories to tell—

PCZ: Wouldn’t you like to know, but as the saying goes, “What happens in Morocco …”

KD: Ah, but Casablanca. “Of all the gin joints …” Sorry, point taken. Good job neither of us is named Sam.

Now, I’d like to learn more about the real you. Let’s delve into your likes and dislikes. Imagine you’re planning a dinner party and have a choice of five guests, (you can chose from anyone in history living or dead). Who do you chose and why?

PCZ: John Lennon – because of his genius for writing lyrics that stay in my head and his rebel stance throughout his career. Tina Fey – because she cracks me up and because of her ability to write satire. I find satire the most difficult of genres to do effectively. Pat Conroy – because of his writing, of course, but also because of his damaged psyche that he parlayed into writing beautiful prose. Jeff Daniels – I admire his career, but also he’s my age, and we grew up fifteen miles from one another. I know we must have been at a grasser or two together, and it would be great fun to share memories. He also rented my mother-in-law’s house twenty years ago to film the movie “Sleep.” And finally, to round out the table for interesting juxtaposition, Mother Teresa. How did she find her inner peace that allowed her to shine love on the world?

KJD: Jeff Daniels rocks. Interesting stuff.  Mother Teresa was beatified recently and is well on her way to being made a saint. A great guest for any dinner party, I guess. Great choice.

I mentioned in the intro that you are an editor. Can you give us a little background to your life as an editor?

PCZ: I began editing as a newspaper reporter on a small weekly. I had to wear many hats in that job. Then I started my own paper and became the editor-in-chief, which involves much more than actual editing. Then I took a job as editor-in-chief for two regional magazines in Florida. From there, I began editing fiction. There are different skill sets and styles when going from non-fiction to fiction, but I’ve always been a self-starter. Also, I believe editing teaches me things about my own writing.

KJD: Fascinating. And let me take the opportunity to thank you for doing such a great job editing my latest novel, On Lucky Shores.

[That’s three mentions of your new book. Enough already, Ed.]

Sorry, boss.

PCZ: Sweet. You are welcome.

KJD: Without naming names, can you give me some examples of bad writing you have to deal with? And no, you’re not allowed to mention my new novel or my writing in any way, shape, or form.

[Thin ice there, buddy! Ed.]

PCZ: At the magazines, I hired many freelancers who knew nothing about writing but just wanted to write. I spent lots of time pulling out my hair. As the editor of fiction, there was one client several years back that I had to turn down after attempting to read nearly 100 pages of his manuscript. He wasn’t ready for an editor, and he needed to study the craft of his chosen genre. It’s tough sometimes to deliver my truth to someone, but I would have done this gentleman a disservice by taking his money on something that was nowhere near ready for publication.

KJD: I told you not to mention my manuscript!

Kidding, but I think I might have read his book, too. Teehee. What are the two or three most common writing mistakes you’ve found when editing a manuscript?

PCZ: I will attempt to keep this simple. If someone is serious about becoming an author, these are basics to learn. I see the same mistakes repeated often.

One, learn Point of View (POV). It will mark an author as an amateur if this is not done correctly. Read books that offer basic instruction on it and don’t submit to an editor until your POV is correct. Read other bestselling authors and study their use of POV. Sure, you can experiment, but you’d better know the technique before you do that.

Two, dialogue is another area that will label your fiction as amateurish. Learn the basics of writing it properly. Don’t try to emulate real speech exactly. Capture the essence. And stay away from dialect unless you’re an expert with a doctoral degree. I could go on but those are the ones I see most often, not only as an editor, but also as a reader.

KJD: What’s the best editorial advice you can offer to an author?

PCZ: Learn the craft of writing fiction—don’t leave that to your editor. If I receive a manuscript so full of troubled areas, it is very difficult to be an effective editor. I was teaching a workshop last year on writing—just a basic introductory course. When I talked about getting the craft and mechanics right before submitting to anyone, one of the students (an adult), said, “I thought that was the job of an editor.” Everyone else agreed that’s what they thought. So I say it loudly and succinctly: Learn the craft. If you don’t, no one, including your editor, will want to read what you’ve written.

KJD: Never a truer word. I’ve been writing novels, off and on, since 1985 and still consider myself a novice.

And now let’s move on to your writing. What is the first thing you do when starting a new novel? Do you research and write a detailed plot outline?

PCZ: I’m generally a pantser (fly by the seat of my pants). I write a few things down, but if I get the first line of a novel, then I’m off. I write the entire first draft, which I see as my outline. Then I go back and revise before letting anyone see it. Now as I get into the area of climax and resolution, I might start outlining a bit on a legal pad with a sharpened #2 pencil.

KJD: I’m pretty much like that myself—apart from the pencil part. I rarely resort to paper and pen. The word processor is both my friend and my enemy (if you see what I mean).

What excites you about writing and the writing process?

PCZ: That’s easy. I love telling stories. Ask anyone who’s ever sat on my porch drinking wine with me. I turn a trip to the grocery store into a story. I love it when the characters become real to me and their story pushes its way onto the page. I love researching. I guess I love just about everything. I even love editing my own work.

KJD: Tell me a little about your latest novel.

PCZ: I wrote Misty Mountain during National Novel Writing Month in November. I actually wrote a 40,000-word romance in one month. I’d never done that before, and I was quite pleased with the results. I didn’t have time to think about it. I just wrote the story and set a word count deadline for every day. I published Misty Mountain on January 19 of this year. Here’s the opening chapter:

LACY SCHUMACHER LIFTED A TRAY filled with hot chicken wings from the kitchen window countertop. When she turned to head to a booth in her section, “Your Cheating Heart” blasted from the stage at the front of the bar. Suddenly, her feet went out from under her when she slipped on a puddle of beer spilled by one of the customers. Chicken wings flew in the air, and the small cup of blue cheese dressing landed on top of her head and rode with her on her descent to the floor. A celery stick landed on her chest.

She heard the laughter all around her, making the humiliation complete. Then a hand appeared to help her to her feet. She felt the growing wetness on the back of her jeans from the beer as she stood and faced George. She pulled the container from her head. Blue cheese dripped down her long brown curls. He grabbed some napkins from a nearby table and started dabbing at her hair. That’s all she needed. They’d only been dating a few months, but now any doubt he had about her abilities to do anything gracefully were probably dashed.

“It’s all right,” she said, as she took the napkins from his hand. “I’ll be right back.” She headed for the bathroom, hoping she could clean up well enough to continue her shift at Misty Mountain, the bar where she’d worked for several years.

Misty Mountain hopped on a cold Thursday night in January, and Lacy longed to go home and soak her aching feet in a hot bath as she used a wet paper towel to dab at her hair. Too bad her house didn’t have a hot tub like so many of the rental cabins in the Smoky Mountains.

The economics of the town depended on the tourists whose visits to the mountains were as unpredictable as the weather during the winter months. Locals accounted for a fraction of the crowd most of the time, and the part-timers were scarce from Christmas to Easter. But tonight, the restaurant was enjoying the first busy night of January.

“It’s the winter festival in Blue Ridge,” Julie Cole had told Lacy when she’d come in for her shift a few hours earlier. “We could have a big crowd tonight.”

Julie and Lacy had started working at Misty Mountain about the same time several years earlier. Julie, more outgoing than Lacy, gravitated to bartending. She loved teasing and laughing with the customers. Lacy enjoyed her job most of the time, but she was quieter.

“The band from Nashville will draw a crowd, too,” Lacy had responded. “I can use the tips, and I bet you and Johnny could use the business.”

“That’s for sure. It’s been a slow month so far.” Julie had stopped washing glasses and put her elbows on the bar. “So have you two talked yet?”

Lacy tied a black apron around her waist. She knew Julie meant well, but she didn’t want to talk about George. Julie, and her husband Johnny, owned Misty Mountain, and George was Johnny’s brother. Even though she and Julie were good friends, she felt uncomfortable discussing George with her. Small towns bred familiarity—she knew that all too well.

Lacy shook her head. “It hasn’t come up.”

“It will. Especially if Becca ever finds out the two of you are dating.”

Becca, George’s ex-wife, lived in Nashville, where the two of them had moved twelve years earlier. She knew Julie was right. Maybe it was time to just end it with George before it went any further. It was inevitable that Lacy would be left heartbroken when Becca found out, and George inevitably succumbed to her demands. Even though they were divorced, they had a child together, and Lacy felt certain Becca would use that to manipulate George.

“George is buying into the bar,” Julie had said as she poured the pitcher of beer. “Did he mention it to you?”

Lacy shook her head. George had moved back to Murphy after his divorce, but his son still lived with Becca in Nashville, four hours away. Last time they’d talked about it, he said he wasn’t sure what he was going to do. He’d been handling the music end of the bar for a month, bringing bands in from all over the south for live music on the weekends. Maybe he’d decided to stay, even though it made seeing his son more difficult. He certainly didn’t need to tell Lacy about all his decisions.

“He sure has been bringing in some good music.” Lacy had said. “I guess he’s decided to stay in Murphy for a while.”

She’d been burned too many times in the past by men she fell for who hadn’t fallen for her in return, so she tried not to think about George’s sandy brown hair that fell softly over his collar or his brown eyes that sparkled whenever he talked about music and his passion for finding just the right sound. She didn’t think about his broad shoulders or the way he looked in his solid-colored flannel shirts rolled up halfway on his forearm. She most certainly didn’t think about those things or about the way he kissed her good night when he walked her to the door of her house. So far that was as far as the relationship had gone, and that was fine with her. She liked George and enjoyed spending time with him, but that was it. She didn’t need another relationship to turn out like the last one—with her boyfriend engaged to another woman.

KJD: Wow, so much information packed into such a short passage. I guess that’s down to your journalism background. Nice. Thanks for the sample. My readers will love it.

What’s next in your life?

PCZ: My husband and I are transitioning into a new era in our lives. He retired in December, and we moved to a cabin in the Smoky Mountains. We also have a home in Florida where we’ll live in the winter, starting next year. I probably will never retire. Right now, I’m between writing projects and finishing up some big editing jobs. However, I have books to write this year, and I plan on expanding my editing business by actually promoting rather than depending on word of mouth. You’ve not seen the last of me!

KJD: So glad to hear that. Pat, it’s been a gas. Thanks millions for visiting and thanks again for the wonderful work on my novel. Darn, what was it called again?

PCZ: Do you mean On Lucky Shores?

KJD: You got it. J

[That’s it. This interview is over! Ed.]

Are you an author? If you would like to take part in one of my FFI’s, drop me a line.

About PC

PC-Zick_Profile_200px

Bestselling author, P.C. Zick describes herself as a storyteller no matter what she writes. And she writes in a variety of genres, including romance, contemporary fiction, and nonfiction. She’s won various awards for her essays, columns, editorials, articles, and fiction.

Many of her novels contain stories of Florida and its people and environment, which she credits as giving her a rich base for her storytelling. “Florida’s quirky and abundant wildlife – both human and animal—supply my fiction with tales almost too weird to be believable.”

Her Behind the Love trilogy—contemporary romance—is also set in Florida, but she’s now working on a series set in the Smoky Mountains.

Home Town: I’ve lived in Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina in the United States.

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Buy The Book

Misty Mountain

Contemporary Romance

PC-Zick_Misty-Mountain_200px

 

When Lacy and George begin dating, each of them keeps a shield around their hearts. Lacy’s been hurt so many times, she’s afraid to let another man come close. George, reeling from a bitter divorce, doesn’t trust women for fear they’re all like his ex-wife.

Working together at Misty Mountain in a small town in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains creates its own set of problems, especially when the ex-wife moves into town. Lacy’s family history causes further complications when too many want to remind her of her sister’s bad reputation and subsequent death.

It’s a complicated mess, but the attraction between Lacy and George keeps them coming back to simpler solutions. If they can put down their shields long enough to discover the love growing between them, then nothing will stand in their way to finding happiness.

 

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  • Reader Reviews

    • On Lucky Shores is an action packed adventure that I greatly enjoyed. The author has given us a select group of characters – some are nasty pieces of work, others are very likeable. Sophie Bristow Harris
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