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Caffeine & Nicotine Tour

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Mystery/Supernatural

 

Date Published: 11/10/2020

Publisher: Darkstroke

Kelly Jenks knows the dead boy is going to show him something awful. Jonathan is seven. He never wears shoes, and his feet are always clean. He cruises between this world and the next in a 1967 Cougar XR7. Jonathan has a message for Kelly: There is a faceless man preying on the city’s homeless.

Jackie Carmichael hires Kelly to find an employee who has vanished. The case appears simple at first, but Kelly soon discovers that the missing girl is not who she seems. As Kelly attempts to separate the facts from the lies, Jonathan brings him another message: Jackie Carmichael is hiding something.

With the beaches, mansions, and dive bars of Orange County, CA as the backdrop, Caffeine & Nicotine is a dark and brutal look at what happens when the dead pass sentence.

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EXCERPT

Chapter One

 

Oliver Trunk: the proverbial rock in my shoe.

I had spent the last week looking under every overpass and dumpster I could think of. I talked to a bunch of people who said, “Yeah, I saw Oliver last night down at . . .” Insert the name of some bar, or strip club, or parking lot. I was a step behind from the word go. It was making me cranky. 

Oliver thought of himself as an entrepreneur, which meant he dealt a little meth and coke, and beat the shit out of his girlfriend if she held back any of her tips. Oliver’s girlfriend was a stripper at a low-level club. In the beginning, Tina Mullins had thought he was charming and kind of cute in a white-trash, Joe Dirt, kind of way. Those days passed quickly, however. Oliver’s newest business plan was to pimp her out on her nights off from the club.

Which is where I came in. Find Mr. Trunk and serve him a restraining order.

***

I had put out a number of feelers with my fellow down and outs. A hundred bucks for the guy or gal who got me a current line on Trunk. Not where he was yesterday or last week, but where he was that very minute.

The winner was Judy, an old gal who sang the blues at some of the seedier joints in the city. Judy was in her sixties. She only wore blue jeans, green T-shirts, jean jackets, and cowboy boots. I’m not sure about her choice of underwear or bras, but I’d bet she doesn’t wear either of them. She sounded like Janis Joplin when she sang. I’d caught her show a few times. They were generally free, and there was plenty of booze in the places she played, so it was a win-win. 

Judy called around midnight and said, “Kelly, you owe me a hundred.” She sounded like Bob Hoskins.

I was kind of inebriated when she called. I had been experimenting with perfecting a Pink Vodka Lemonade all night. It had taken a few rounds before I had an epiphany about adding a little Malibu to the cocktail. Damn, I nailed it after that.

My ability to walk and talk might have been affected.

“Why tonight?” I felt like my enunciation was spot on.

“What? Totally mumbling, Kelly.”

I enunciated harder with a softer word. “Where?”

“Down at Spinnakers. I gotta go. We’re starting our next set.” 

“Keep him there.” It came out as “ee im air,” or something close to that.

“Dude, I can’t understand you.”

I tried again. She hung up. 

I weighed the pros and cons.

In true drunken fashion, the pros won out. I was over this rock in my shoe.

I made a pot of coffee with double the coffee. I hopped in the shower with water that was too hot. I was hoping the steam would do something. I’m not exactly sure what, but I was determined to erase the effects of the six Pink Vodka Lemonades I had ingested over the last three hours. I toweled off without falling over and counted it as a clear sign that I was no longer falling down drunk. I put on some cargo shorts and a T-shirt, then pulled on some ankle socks and a pair of Nikes. I filled two thermoses with coffee that was slightly thinner than tar. I added them to my trusty backpack, which contained all the tools of my trade: pack of cigarettes, lighter, .45 Beretta px4 Storm, couple Snickers bars, and a bottle of water. 

Forty-five minutes after Judy hung up on me, I stepped out of my Airstream trailer and stumbled down the two steps. They’re tricky in the dark, even when I’m sober, so I didn’t count it against myself. My trailer is parked underneath a thirty-foot oak tree. Its trunk has a seven-foot radius. The tree is massive. I don’t know how old it is, or how it is still standing in the middle of the city, but it’s proof that the world isn’t completely screwed up. The leaves whispered in the late-night breeze blowing in from the Pacific: You can do this, Kelly.

My yard was surrounded by an eight-foot corrugated metal wall. I managed to get the latch open, and a five-foot section swung out and away from me. I stepped through the opening, promptly tripped on the bottom lip and went down face-first into the alley. 

“Fuck.” I laid there for a few moments with my face pressed against the cool asphalt. I weighed the pros and cons again. The pros still won, although the cons had more of a say this time. I took it as further evidence that I was sobering up rapidly. I regained my feet. 

My Cougar was waiting for me in its parking spot. I popped the lock, climbed in, and started her up. 

“You got this, my magic car,” I whispered to her. She had never let me down in those types of moments. And there have been plenty. “OK, let’s go.” I dropped her into reverse, hit the gas, and ten minutes later, I was parked in the lot behind Spinnakers. I rubbed the steering wheel and told her I loved her. I fished out a thermos and took a long drink. The coffee bordered on undrinkable, but I choked it down. I lit a cigarette and put my right earbud in, started up the shuffle on my phone and waited. 

***

The moon had taken the night off. I couldn’t see any stars because of the sodium-vapor lights in the parking lot. The handful of cars around me all looked black or white. A dirty white cinder block building squatted at the edge of the lot. The air was washed-out yellow. All in all, a very ugly place.

I was parked next to a ‘95 Mustang. It could have been brown, purple, green, or blue, but it just looked black. That production model of Mustang is probably one of the worst cars ever manufactured, along with its distant cousin, the Pinto. This particular automotive tragedy belonged to Mr. Trunk.

Trunk was the last one out of the bar. He had some assistance from a none too happy bouncer who went by the handle of Axe. The man was a monster. He was six nine, and easily three hundred pounds. He had a spiderweb tattooed on his shaved head. He only worked the Spinnaker on Monday and Tuesday. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday he worked up in LA. He lived local. We’ve had a few friendly conversations over the years. He’s a nice enough guy if you can look past his numerous assault charges and the one attempted murder. I can, so we’re good. I gave myself a mental head slap for not reaching out to him about Trunk. 

I checked my phone. 2:13 A.M. Sarah McLachlan was singing in my ear about monsters.

Axe shoved him into the parking lot, and said, “Don’t come back.”

“Fuck off, you overgrown piece of shit.”

Axe laughed, then went back into the bar. I imagine Zeus laughed the same way when mere mortals got snippy with him for bedding their wives.

“Fucking dick,” Trunk yelled, as he weaved over to his Mustang. I was parked next to him. Driver side to driver side. I watched him dig his keys out of his jeans. He dropped them. He bent to pick them up. He fell over. Things were looking up. Trunk was more intoxicated than I was.

He staggered back up, swore, and laughed to himself. Then he crossed the remaining space to our cars. He was an average idiot in an average idiot’s body. Beating up women didn’t require much of a workout. His drug clientele were mostly strung out junkies or high school rich kids. Trunk was trying to restart the white leather high-top fashion craze. I didn’t see it catching on too soon, but stranger things have happened.

He ignored me as I sat in my car smoking a cigarette. As he struggled to get the key into the car door, I said, “What’s up, Oliver?”

He turned around, and said, “I don’t know you, longhair.” He turned back around and began fighting with the keyhole again.

I popped my door open and climbed out. “Longhair? You say it like it’s a bad thing.”

He turned back around. I hit him with a straight right to the nose. It wasn’t my best punch, but he was drunk, and it did the job. He dropped his keys. He fell back against his car. As he started to right himself, I kicked him in the balls. I connected a lot better that time. Might have popped one of them. He was on the ground, moaning. I gave him a nice solid kick to the face. 

Done. 

I threw my hands up in the air and spun a circle. And the crowd goes wild! I felt so much better. The rock was out of my shoe. 

I dragged him over to the back of the Cougar. I popped the trunk, then piled him in. I might have hit his head on the bumper a couple of times in the process. These things happen. I pulled his arms behind him and wrapped duct tape around them. I taped his ankles together. I slapped a piece of duct tape across his nose and mouth. He wouldn’t be able to scream or breathe, so it was a classic two-for-one.

I shut the trunk, found his keys on the ground, and took a moment to unlock his car and put the key into the ignition. I shut the door. The car wouldn’t have lasted the night in this neighborhood, but I didn’t want the thieves to break anything when they stole the car. I climbed back into the Cougar and sat there for a minute. I lit a cigarette and drank some coffee. I replayed it in my head. The people that had come out between my arrival and Trunk coming out hadn’t paid any attention to me. They were all your standard Tuesday night drinkers. I thought I was clean. I never saw Judy. I finished the cigarette, pulled two pieces of gum out of my backpack and popped them in my mouth. 

I felt fairly sober. I was probably walking the legal line as far as blood alcohol content was concerned, but I’d have much bigger problems if I got pulled over for something. I started the Cougar up, then pulled out of the lot, and headed out to the desert.

***

I got to my disposal site a couple minutes before four A.M. 

I took my time. Speed limit all the way. Windows down. Wind throwing my hair all over the place. I sipped my second thermos of sludge, smoked, and listened to music that bounced all over the musical genre map. I like the drive out the 15 in the middle of the night. It’s peaceful. I like the way the sodium-vapor lights look from the freeway. Everything is still that washed-out yellow, but you can see the stars and the mountains looming up in front of you.

I jumped on the 395 for thirty minutes. The lights of passing cars filled the interior of the Cougar for brief moments. A glance in the rear view during these moments revealed what might have been a beautiful young woman. Her blond hair did not move in the wind. She was smiling. Then the interior would go dark, and she would be no more. The sound of happy laughter drifted beneath the road noise. And a smell like a field of wildflowers in full bloom lingered all around me.

I left the last high desert city behind. I turned onto a dirt road with no marker. I cruised slowly. I knew the spots that would give the Cougar and her low-slung body trouble. It took about five minutes to cover the mile from the highway to the gate.

My headlights lit up the iron bars. It was a fancy gate out in the middle of the desert. The designer probably envisioned it blocking the end of a Beverly Hills driveway. There were ornate spikes all along the curved top. Two silhouettes of horses rearing up on their hind legs. It might work in the Texas wastelands, but there weren’t any horses around these parts. Scorpions, tarantulas, and rattlesnakes, but no wild stallions running free. 

The gate was mostly decorative. Three lines of barbed wire ran to the north and south. The property was five hundred acres of useless scrub brush and the aforementioned poisonous things. If somebody wanted to get to the house beyond the gate, they wouldn’t have to try very hard. 

I came to a stop, leaned out the window and punched in the code. The gate rolled away to my left. I drove through and the gate closed behind me.

Fifty yards in was a one-story log cabin. It was one of those kits you can buy online. They ship the materials to the building site along with all the nuts and bolts. An enthusiastic person could probably put one together in a couple weeks. The owner of the property had paid ten guys from the Home Depot parking lot to throw this one up in a day.

I liked it. There was a cozy bed inside. I wanted nothing more than to go climb into that bed and sleep. I had one more thing to do before I could call it a day.

I drove past the cabin another hundred yards. The road ended in a wide spot where I could flip the Cougar around. I turned the car off and climbed out. Big stretch. My body ached from the drive. My brain felt mushy because of the alcohol still in my system and a lack of sleep.

I popped the trunk. I don’t know if he ever regained consciousness. Don’t know if he struggled as his lungs ran out of oxygen. Didn’t much matter either way. He was dead. 

I pulled the body out of the trunk. It hit the ground hard. I grabbed the feet and dragged the body into the desert for a few feet. There was a lid somewhere. I just had to find it. I felt like I was in the right spot, but I didn’t see it. 

I relented and pulled my phone out, used the flashlight and searched the ground. I was about ten feet too far north. I pulled the bone bag over to a brown plastic lid set into the ground. I took a moment to light a cigarette in preparation. I filled my lungs with smoke and held it in as I pulled the lid upward. The smell that drifted up out of the hole was still godawful. I worked as quickly as I could. I got the feet into the hole, then lifted the body by the shoulders until it just kind of slid in. A second later, I was rewarded with a thick splash.

Restraining order served.

 

About The Author

Eric Weule


Eric Weule is the author of several novels. He lives in Southern California. Caffeine & Nicotine is a stand-alone novel, which features Kelly Jenks from The Interview.

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Dark Secrets of the Bayou Blitz

 

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Mystery, Suspense

 

 

Date Published: November 2020

Publisher: Raven South Publishing

Catherine “Tink” Mabrey, an up and coming attorney, is shocked by her recent inheritance from her estranged family on the bayou. After her mother died during childbirth, Tink’s father had quickly relocated them to the big city of Atlanta, Georgia. With no memory of her mother, she is determined to learn more about her lineage and decides to visit the bayou town of Kane, Louisiana. Candace, Tink’s co-worker and best friend, agrees to make the trip with her.

Before she has time to explore her family’s history, or decide what to do with the declining property, local murders plague Tink’s homecoming. She quickly finds herself caught in the middle of a multiple murder investigation – and quite possibly, the prime suspect. When Candace retreats back to Atlanta, Tink, with the support of an unlikely cast of characters, sets out to discover clues that have haunted and tormented her family for generations.

Could a concealed crime from the 1800’s, or the family’s estate itself, harbor keys to unlocking the past? The more they learn, the more they question whether some secrets are best left buried.

Other Books By Kim Carter:

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Sweet Dreams, Baby Belle (2017)

 

Murder Among The Tombstones (2017)

No Second Chances (2017)

Deadly Odds (2018)

And The Forecast Called For Rain (2018)

When Dawn Never Comes (2018)

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About The Author

Kim Carter is an author of suspense, mystery and thriller novels. She was a finalist in the 2018 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award and recipient of the 2017 Readers’ Choice Award for her book Murder Among The Tombstones. This is the first book in her Clara and Iris Mystery series. The characters in this series are a couple of overly curious widows who become private investigators and were inspired by Kim’s mother and her mom’s best friend.

Her other titles include: When Dawn Never Comes, Deadly Odds, No Second Chances, And The Forecast Called For Rain, and Sweet Dreams, Baby Belle.

Kim’s writing career started after she suffered an illness that made her housebound for a couple of years. An avid reader of mystery novels, she embarked on writing as a means of filling her time. Kim shared those early writings with friends and family who encouraged her to pursue writing professionally. Her health struggles and successes have been chronicled on The Lifetime Television in early 2000, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Women’s Day Magazine, and Guideposts.

Prior to her illness, Kim worked in many different capacities in county government ranging from Park Director with Parks and Recreation to the Grant Department with Human Services. But, ultimately, it was her job as a correctional officer that provided her the opportunity to interact with a variety of people from all walks of life. Her experiences ran the gamete of inspiring success stories to tragic endings, much like her mysteries.

She self-published her first book No Second Chances. One of the guest speakers at the launch party she had at the Performing Arts Center in Newnan, Georgia included her close friend retired Atlanta Police chief Eldrin Bell. This connection would become helpful as she started doing more research for other books, this time working with a small publishing house.

Kim started networking and made connections with the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office. Her research has taken her many places including morgues, death row and the occasional midnight visit to cemeteries.

She is a college graduate of Saint Leo University, has a Bachelor Degree of Arts in Sociology. Kim and her husband have three grown children and live just outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

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Sins in Sunlight Tour

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Of Courts and Desire, Book 2

 

Dark Paranormal Romance

Date Published: January 18, 2021

Publisher: FyreSyde Publishing

The Sunfire Queen, Sierra, has waited for her chance to rule, thinking life would be better with her mother dead. She was wrong. The Court of Light is in Shambles. Her people are terrified and despise her. She has no friends, no love, and no hope. When a new war hovers on the horizon, Sierra must find the lost beastkyn Mikhail or her court will perish, and she’ll lose her shot at redemption.

Quick to grin and quicker to kill, Mikhail has made his share of mistakes–being imprisoned has given him time to ponder each poor decision. But when Sierra frees him, he earns the opportunity to make some more. She’s gorgeous and despite her fiery nature, as cold as the snow-capped mountains of Russia. He can’t wait to see how fast he can make her melt.

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Excerpt:

Mikhail leaned down, giving her plenty of time to turn her head or pull away. The orange specks bloomed in her eyes. He closed the minuscule gap, capturing her lips. They were as soft as rose petals. He stifled a hiss of pleasure as her mouth opened under his, and when his tongue swept over hers, her entire body shuddered, and she moaned. 
He deliberately kept his hands where they were, but how they wanted to roam down her body. Too soon, the song ended, and she broke the kiss. 

He opened his mouth to apologize, but stopped. He wasn’t sorry about keeping secrets. This was how his life was. Yet, when he looked up and found her brown eyes leveled on him, the scent of sadness rolling through the car, he was sorry this was the life he had to offer. 
“How many other secrets are you hiding?” she asked, but not accusingly, more like she was as tired of his issues as he was of hers. 
“Enough.” 
“So, where does that leave us?” Sierra asked, voice low. 
He smiled, baring his teeth. “The closest thing to friendship two Kyn royals can have.”

The pink lightkyn made a strangled sound, her back pressed harder against the door. He expected her to disappear into the glass.
Scalded by shame again, his talons shrank. He ran a hand through his hair. None of this was the girl’s fault. He opened his mouth to apologize, but before the first syllable left his lips, she exploded into laughter. The sound was like chiming bells and as lyrical as a child’s rhyme. Although beautiful, it was joyless and manic, the kind of sound the condemned might make as they laughed on their way to the gallows. 
Reassessing her threat level, it was his turn to take a step away. Was she dangerous or merely unbalanced? Any creature who laughed like that needed to be handled carefully. 
“Are you well?” he asked as the loud peals continued to ring out. 
“No, I am most certainly not,” she said between gasps. “Are you?” She collapsed against the door, dropping her injured arm.
Wary of the lightkyn and her bizarre reactions, he shook his head. “No.”
She sobered and looked at him with soulful brown eyes. “I suppose you wouldn’t be. Would you like to come inside?”
“Who are you?”
“Sierra.”
“Sierra,” he said, tasting the name. It rang with power and depth, matching this girl with wild laughter and sad eyes. “Will you help me escape before the new ruler finds me?”
She smiled, revealing even white teeth, and tilted her head. The last of the sunlight fell across her face like a mask. “I’m afraid it’s too late for that. I am the new Queen of The Court of Light.”

 

About The Author

Rachel Hailey

Rachel Hailey was born and raised in the South. She’s all about that nerd life and in between writing she’s dedicated herself to raising the next generation of nerds.If she’s not online or staring at a book she can usually be found at the local game store rolling dice, shuffling cards, or planning her next cosplay.

Her childhood was most prominently shaped by the works of R.L. Stine, Stephen King, Anne Rice and the Brothers Grimm.

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The Last Book Blitz

 

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Sci-Fi, Time Travel

 

 

Publisher: Cougar WebWorks

The Last Book departs from Thomas Mann’s last, unfinished novel and propels its hero into the speculative waters of time travel, alternative history, and a dystopian future.

When precocious 19th-century con-man Felix Krull is recruited by an astral-traveling presidential candidate, Sophie Vaughan, he embarks on a quest across time to find her and prove his mettle on a world stage. His daredevil joyride through ’70s middle America tests his powers of persuasion and faith in a charmed destiny.

Fast-forwarded to 2036, Felix discovers Sophie caught in a multidimensional struggle between the controlling Hierarchy and the dissident Panarchists. First grappling with a new identity, then tested in his loyalty to Sophie, Felix faces a final showdown for the fate of the world.

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Nowick Gray began writing The Last Book upon finishing Thomas Mann’s last, unfinished novel The Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man—determined to follow where the precocious con-man led. Nowick has published over dozen books of genre-bending fiction and creative nonfiction, exploring the edges of reality and illusion, choice and manifestation. He makes his home on Salt Spring Island, BC, where he also works as a copyeditor and enjoys hiking, kayaking, and playing African drums.

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The Walls of Orion Reveal

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Young Adult, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy

 

Date Published: April 13, 2021

Publisher: Acorn Publishing

Orion City has been on lockdown for ten years. Courtney Spencer, a disillusioned barista doomed to live a “normal” life in a quarantined fishbowl, is certain she’ll never see over the Wall again. Until one rainy evening, Courtney unintentionally befriends W, an eccentric customer who leaves a switchblade in the tip jar. The unexpected acquaintance soon opens the door to a frightening string of questions that flips everything she knows upside down. Stumbling into a world of secrets, lies, and disturbing truths, Courtney grapples with a burning temptation to look again at the Wall. Surrounded by citizens trained to ignore its looming shadow, Courtney no longer can. Intrigued and terrified to expand her world, Courtney finds herself toeing a knife’s edge between the law and justice, learning quickly that the two are not always compatible. She wants to cling to her morals. She also wants to stay alive. But most of all, she wants to see a certain customer again, despite everything in her whispering W is dangerous. In a gritty urban clash of hope and fear, passion and survival, The Walls of Orion explores the edges of light, dark, and the gray in between.

About The Author

A world-romper from the Pacific Northwest who quite enjoys the label “crazy,” T.D. Fox supplements a hyperactive imagination with real life shenanigans to add pizzazz to her storytelling endeavors.

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in Intercultural Studies, her favorite stories to write usually involve a clash of worldviews, an unflinching reevaluation of one’s own internal compass, and an embrace of the compelling unease that arises when vastly different worlds collide.

When not recklessly exploring inner-city alleyways during midnight thunderstorms in the States, she can be found exploring rainforests without enough bug spray somewhere along the equator.

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