Tag Archives: mystery

13 Steps to the Cellar – Reveal

13 Steps to the Cellar cover
Mystery
Date Published: September 4, 2019
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
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Thirteen Steps to the Cellar. They were steep; they were narrow—but was a fall down them enough to have caused the twenty-seven deep lacerations to her aunt’s head? 
Callie Harris travels from her home in Alabama to her aunt’s former mansion in Maine to unravel the haunting forty-year-old mystery of Dr. Laverne Harris Doss’ brutal death.
Why wasn’t a murder weapon found? Was her uncle justly convicted of the killing? Was his mistress involved? Or was the murderer the bearded stranger rumored to have arrived by train that night?
In the charming town of Richmond, located on the banks of Maine’s historic Kennebec River, Callie uncovers the community’s darkest secrets—a botched police investigation, a betrayed widow’s lie, a dead woman’s blackmail, and a wealthy philanthropist’s shame. The web of intrigue extends far beyond her suspicions and its connection to her personal story pierces Callie to her core.





About the Author

TERESA MATHEWS is a graduate of The University of South Alabama.  She’s a member of the Mobile Writers Guild and serves on the Board of Directors for the Alabama Nursery and Landscape Association.
An avid gardener and artist, she has multiple book covers to her credit. Several years ago after visiting the site of her real-life aunt’s murder, Teresa discovered a third passion–storytelling. Although inspired by an actual tragedy, Thirteen Steps to the Cellar is fiction.
Raised on the Gulf Coast, Teresa, her husband, and son now live on a farm with a second home on the sparkling white sands of Fort Morgan, Alabama. This is her first novel.
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Romantic Suspense / Contemporary Romance Date Published: September 17, 2019 She’s in love with her
(Sherlock and Me series) Cozy mystery Date Published: March 2019 Super sleuth Lucy James is
Literary / YA (older teen) Publisher: Cur Dog Press Published Date: February 7, 2019 Seventeen
Contemporary Fiction Date Published: August 2018 Publisher: Pearl Button Press “Tournament night in a sweltering

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The Best Laid Plans – Blitz

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21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense
Mystery/Suspense Anthology
Publisher: Superior Shores Press
Date Published: June 18, 2019
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Whether it’s at a subway station in Norway, a ski resort in Vermont, a McMansion in the suburbs, or a trendy art gallery in Toronto, the twenty-one authors represented in this superb collection of mystery and suspense interpret the overarching theme of “the best laid plans” in their own inimitable style. And like many best laid plans, they come with no guarantees.
Stories by Tom Barlow, Susan Daly, Lisa de Nikolits, P.A. De Voe, Peter DiChellis, Lesley A. Diehl, Mary Dutta, C.C. Guthrie, William Kamowski, V.S. Kemanis, Lisa Lieberman, Edward Lodi, Rosemary McCracken, LD Masterson, Edith Maxwell, Judy Penz Sheluk, KM Rockwood, Peggy Rothschild, Johanna Beate Stumpf, Vicki Weisfeld, and Chris Wheatley.
Heirloom by Tom Barlow
Me and my dimwitted brother, a cash withdrawn at gunpoint, make a midnight escape on ATVs through gnarly mountain trails chased by a blizzard. Lucky I’m too smart to fail.
Spirit River Dam by Susan Daly
Imogen doesn’t anticipate surprises at her trendy art gallery, until the day her ex walks in with an intriguing old painting. Is it a Fake? Or a Fortune?
Fire Drill by Lisa de Nikolits
You’ll never know my name, I’m not that important. But I’ll fight for what’s mine. So beware, world, because you’ve got no idea what I’m capable of.
Gambling Against Fate: From Judge Lu’s Ming Dynasty Case Files by P.A. De Voe
As the emperor’s representative in maintaining peace and order, I am challenged daily to ferret out criminals hiding among the innocent.
Callingdon Mountain by Peter DiChellis
I’m a private eye who spends his days investigating a baffling murder case the news media calls an “impossible” crime. The cops sure can’t solve the mystery. Can I?
Lunchbreak by Lesley A. Diehl
Spurred on by his buddy, Ben decides this is the day to shut up his nagging wife for good, but she thwarts his plans with some creative culinary intervention.
Festival Finale by Mary Dutta
My name is Charles Attlee, but of course you know my work. You don’t want to miss my killer book festival appearance.
A Sure Thing by C.C. Guthrie
The hit on an eighty year-old rancher seemed like a sure thing. I left the Buffalo snow behind for sixty-degree days in Oklahoma figuring, what could go wrong?
Last Thoughts by William Kamowski
Timothy, an empathetic techie, takes care of people online—for better or for worse—especially sad young women who need to script their final moments.
Sucker Punch by V.S. Kemanis
I’m Freddy, behind the butcher counter at Food Super. I’ll never look at the meat and bone saw in the same way after my “best friend” Zach roped me into his latest moneymaking scheme.
Better Dead Than Redhead by Lisa Lieberman
I’m Ashley Early. The best thing about being a primatologist? Chimps don’t find themselves accused of murdering their hair model. Unlike Alex, my twin sister.
Oubliette by Edward Lodi
Choose as your target a frail, elderly woman who lives alone, and what could possibly go wrong?
The Sweetheart Scamster by Rosemary McCracken
I’m Pat Tierney, a financial planner. The day my seventy four year-old client Trudy Sullivan said she had a new man in her life, I had questions to ask her.
Deadly Dinner by LD Masterson
I didn’t take this nursing home job to kill someone, I’m just looking for a way to score. But if it means helping some rich old biddy to her just reward…well, that’s okay, too.
The Stonecutter by Edith Maxwell
I’m Eleanor, a middle-aged librarian. A Portuguese stonecutter and I are in love, but it’s bittersweet and attempting to fix things could prove dangerous. I think I’ll try.
Plan D by Judy Penz Sheluk
My name’s Jenny and most of my days center around trying to think of inventive ways I can kill my lazy, job-losing husband, Ted—without getting caught.
Frozen Daiquiris by KM Rockwood  Penelope’s new McMansion doesn’t provide automatic entrée to the upper crust. Maybe if she hosts a society fundraiser in the new house, and everything goes according to plan…
The Cookie Crumbles by Peggy Rothschild
Angry with my mom and jealous of my talented older sister, I’m planning the perfect prank and hoping revenge is sweet.
Thank You For Your Cooperation by Johanna Beate Stumpf
Marsha watches people. As surveillance operator for the subway, this is her job. Lately, a new commuter has appeared on Marsha’s screens. And he’s going to change her life.
Who They Are Now by Vicki Weisfeld
Yolanda and Bill are Delray Beach, Florida, cops investigating the murder of a beloved sportscaster during the chaos of a Category 5 hurricane.
The True Cost of Liberty by Chris Wheatley
I am Gerald Worthington. Life consists of dealing antiques, dining at second-class restaurants, enduring tedious social engagements and wishing my wife’s new husband would drop dead.
About the Author

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Editor Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of the Glass Dolphin Mystery and Marketville Mystery series. Her short stories can be found in several collections. Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves as Vice Chair on the Board of Directors. Find her at www.judypenzsheluk.com.
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  Science Fiction, mystery, fantasy Date Published: February 6, 2018 Publisher: Chattercreek The mystery that
Mystery Publisher: BookBaby Published: July 2019 You don't get over killing your sister's husband. Accident
Coming of Age / Mystery / Humor Date Published: June 8, 2019 Publisher: Acorn Publishing

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Pharaoh’s Star – Tour

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Science Fiction, mystery, fantasy
Date Published: February 6, 2018
Publisher: Chattercreek
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The mystery that unfolds on a dark, eerie back road in upstate New York sends Nick Dowling on a frantic quest to understand his past. What he discovers about himself slowly drives him toward madness. Where does the truth unfold, in mystery or in the dream? Is truth the illusion he can’t embrace? Just who is Nick Dowling?

Excerpt

Suddenly he noticed lights, as if coming from a house. Thinking he might finally be off Fox Hollow Road and onto something that would take him into town, he breathed a sigh of relief. 

“Shit,” he said, as he got closer to the house. “Looks like a frigging dead-end.” 

He slapped his hand on the steering wheel. He decided to knock on the door and ask for directions as he stopped the jeep near the driveway. It was quiet, desolate. He took a deep breath and confronted his fear. “Get hold of yourself, man,” he said. 

Nick stared back at the farmhouse. It was familiar, which was not unusual. At every turn in upstate New York there was a farmhouse. 

“A compelling sight,” he said. 

The house was stately and white. Lace curtains moved with the wind, like the porch swing. He could hear the creak. The house stood against the night in shades of grey, like an old postcard photograph picked up at a flea market. Nick could see bicycles lying on the grass. A dog lifted his head from the porch and stared at him. Nick felt strangely nostalgic. 

He’d assumed years ago that he’d been raised in Phoenicia, New York, because that’s what it said on the hotel register when he checked out of the room he’d awoken in, with no memory at all of how he had gotten there. Phoenicia, New York, was another small town within biking distance. He must have been on a lot of country roads in his childhood, staring at houses just like this one. He never went to Phoenicia, though, it was too frightening to confront a past he couldn’t recall, but he’d insisted on buying a second house in New Kingston after finding the town on a Google search for vacation homes. Had he subliminally chosen to be near Phoenicia? 

He didn’t have any answers, perhaps he never would. Perhaps he didn’t want them. As he stared at the house, it drew him in, engulfing him in a black and white fantasy, like an old film. He couldn’t have any connection at all to this farmhouse. New Kingston wasn’t written on the hotel register. 

Nick stared at the house for several more minutes before the image faded, simply drifted off into the night, leaving behind a phantasmal mist. Nick drifted into the ebbing image, falling into a mindless stupor, as if inebriated. 

“God,” he cried out. “What the hell is happening to me?” 

He struggled to escape the blank plateau into which he had fallen, but he couldn’t. It was as if his thoughts were being gripped by a distant hand. He suddenly felt floated right up to a shadowy shape in the sky. 

“Leave me alone!” he shouted. 

His head fell sharply to his shoulder, an action that seemed to come from somewhere else, another person―another body. 

“Stress can cause people to black out,” Jenna once told him. 

“Yes, of course, that’s it―stress,” Nick whispered. He looked back at the house again. The noise returned, overbearingly loud―the drill into concrete…deafening. 

Quickly switching the radio back on to fight the noise, he thought about screaming out for help. The sound hovered above him, precariously close. 

He turned the radio up louder. Nothing but staticDamn. 

The noise continued…threatening to use its power…devour him. It was directly over his head, so very close. He felt lifted by it, lifted up to someplace far, as far as space. 

“This is madness,” he whispered. “This is impossible.” 

He had spent his entire adulthood distracted by the ordinary pressures of survival. He never considered himself particularly introspective, not much caring to delve into the remnants of feelings hidden beneath the debris of inconsequential information―feelings his wife insisted were vital links to his mental well-being. Nick never questioned his life after waking up in a Chelsea hotel with no past. He walked out into the city and survived. Surviving took up all his time, owned his thoughts. He didn’t need to know the rest, the forgotten past. The only choices he needed to make were the ones he faced in his profession as a circulation vice president for a major New York newspaper. It took twenty years, but he finally had an executive’s salary. 

He didn’t want to know his inner life. The dreams he had over the years had been too disturbing to probe―images of violent anger, blood everywhere he looked, murders he could not explain. 

“My inner life is uneventful and average,” he’d told Jenna when they first met. “I can’t devote much time thinking about it.” 

And then, years later, new torment, new dreams…monsters haunted his sleep, metaphors for himself, he surmised. 

No, Nick did not want to find his past or obsess on any uncomfortable emotions, especially not with his dreams, blood on his hands, a dead child at his feet…a battered woman. 

“Am I insane?” He looked out into the night and shook his head. “Am I?” 

He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. He switched the radio back off and listened for the quiet stillness of night to return, soft and melodic. He listened until all he heard was the wind. 

As he stared back at the old farmhouse tears came into his eyes. He suddenly wanted to leap from the car and run to the front door, as if he belonged there, behind the majesty of its silent repose. 

I’m home. Mom! I’m home, he wanted to shout. 

His eyes blinked as the lights in the farmhouse flickered. He switched the radio back on. He needed the music to ground him, but the static had returned with an irritating repetition. He tried to find a clear station. He was agitated. He wanted to get the hell out of there. He knew that by now the only general store in town would be closed and he’d have to deal with the supermarket for a 

lousy quart of milk. He hated the supermarket: big, cold places…so why the hell can’t I get off this damn road and make it to the goddamn general store? 

“Shit,” he said, switching off the radio altogether. 

The lights from the house flickered again, as if an electrical storm was passing over, but the night was clear. Nick backed the jeep up, deciding he would leave the way he had come in…no need to ask for directions. As his breathing returned to normal, he was grateful for its steady rhythm. He was making rational decisions like his old self. It had all been imagination, just imagination. 

As Nick backed up the jeep, he noticed a man at the window of the old house peering through a torn shade. 

“What the hell happened to the lace?” He whispered as he stared in awe at the tattered blind. He quickly thought of his wife and the look in her large dark eyes as she gave him that half parted smile and suggested therapy. How the hell would he ever explain any of this to her? 

He sat quietly. His eyes drifted back to the house. He looked quickly for the dog. All he saw was a tired old porch―empty…no porch swing. No dog. 

“Shadows playing tricks,” he said. The oblique shape in the sky expanded and lowered itself closer to the Earth.

 

About the Author

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Olivia Hardy Ray is the pen name for Vera Jane Cook, who is the author of Dancing Backward in Paradise, 2007 winner of the Indie Excellence Award for notable new fiction and an Eric Hoffer Award for publishing excellence, also in 2007. Dancing Backward in Paradise received a 5 Star Review from ForeWord Clarion. The Story of Sassy Sweetwater was a finalist for the ForeWord Clarion Book of the Year Award and the recipient of a five star review from ForeWord Clarion. Where the Wildflowers Grow was her third southern fiction novel and is receiving 5 star reviews from Amazon.com. Her latest southern fiction novel just released is Pleasant Day. Her woman’s fiction novel is Lies a River Deep and the soon to be released ‘Kismet’. Under her pen name she is also the author of Annabel Horton, Lost Witch of Salem, and Pharaoh’s Star. The sequel to Annabel Horton, Lost Witch of Salem is Annabel Horton and the Black Witch of Pau. That novel will be released this summer. Jane, as she is called by friends and family, writes in the genres she loves: southern fiction, women’s fiction, mystery and fantasy paranormal fiction. She lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her spouse, her Basenji/Chihuahua mix, Roxie, her Dachshund, Karly, her Chihuahua, Peanut, and her two pussycats, Sassy and Sweetie Pie.
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Science fiction Date Published: January 26, 2019 Dax, low status and a non-conformist, is stuck
Science Fiction, Humorous Science Fiction Date Published: February 2019 A robot possessing unique artificial intelligence
Science Fiction Date Published: May 3rd, 2019 Publisher: Chandra Press If you like the epic
Science Fiction / Steampunk / Fantasy / Fiction Date Published: 7 May 2019 Aubrey Hartman

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Brooklyn Bitters – Blitz

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Mystery
Publisher: BookBaby
Published: July 2019
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You don’t get over killing your sister’s husband. Accident or not. When twenty-four-year-old Kate Hathaway graduated with honors from Emory University, she couldn’t wait to begin an exciting career in publishing. But one stupid mistake on a cold, rainy morning in Atlanta changed everything. Not only was Glen Lloyd Hastings her brother-in-law but he was also her best friend. Tormented by guilt, she vowed to do anything to make amends to Stacey—her provocative, pampered sister. The once-brilliant career woman settles into a life of loneliness and caring for her ailing mother. On a business trip to New York City, she meets an enticing, mysterious man who coaxes her out of solitude and into a fiery love affair. Not so fast. Stacey won’t allow it. The sisters become entangled in secrets, back-stabbing, and betrayal. Is it revenge or something far more sinister?
Praise for Sally Saylor De Smet:
“De Smet pens a chilling tale.”–Manhattan Book Review
“There is a natural flow of De Smet’s pen that allows the reader to be an active listener.”–Feathered Quill Book Awards.
“De Smet’s writing style is haunting and delicious.” –Reader’s Favorite.
Excerpt
An Excerpt from Chapter Four
Gunner
I slowly looked up to find a tall man with wavy brown hair, cobalt blue eyes, a mustache, and thick brows. His eyes had a hint of amusement, like he was waiting for me to say something. “Um…how do you know I don’t live here?”
“Well, young lady,” he said, flashing a wide grin. “This is a hotel.”
“Oh, yeah,” I replied with an awkward giggle.
“So, are you here for the writer’s conference?”
I tried not to gawk, but the man brought a lot of heat with him. “I work in publishing. I’m here from Atlanta. You?”
“Brooklyn. May I sit here?”
“S-Sure,” I said, glancing around to notice there were plenty of other seats. It only took one glance to catch the other women in the lounge ogling him. He was gorgeous — the red-carpet, leading-man brand of gorgeous. Think Tom Selleck. Robert Redford.
He held me in his stare. “Did I mention I wrote a book on how to discover a beautiful woman in a bar?”
I checked out his left hand — no wedding ring. No tan line either. “Is that why you’re here? To shop your book?”
He smiled and waggled his brows. “Passé. Don’t need it now. I’ve found the most exquisite woman here,” he said, motioning to my drink.
Heat raced through my body as I turned and discreetly dabbed my forehead with a napkin. The bartender set my fresh cocktail down along with something red for the stranger. “Bloody Mary?”
“Brooklyn Bitters,” he said, bringing the glass to his enticing lips. “Nothing like vermouth and Campari with a slice of orange. The only difference between a Manhattan and a Brooklyn Bitters is whiskey. Never understood why New Yorkers would elevate Canadian whiskey over sweet vermouth. You should try it.”
With his imposing size, muscular arms, and prominent jawline, he looked more like an Olympian than a dude from Brooklyn. “I’ll stick with mine. Thanks.”
“So,” he said. “Should I know your name?”
“I don’t know. Should you?”
The stranger leaned forward with his eyes on me. “Shouldn’t I know the name of the woman I might spend the rest of my life with?”
I nearly spewed my drink. “You’re hilarious! Keep working on that book. It’s loaded with clichés.”
“Now, you’re offending me,” he pretend-whined. “You’re not married, are you?”
I held up my left hand. “No, and you?”
“Engaged once, but it didn’t work out.” He extended his hand. “Gunner Baldwin. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
We shook hands. “Katherine Hathaway…call me Kate.”
“Interesting you’re in publishing. My mom was a writer.”
“Oh? What does she write?”
For the first time since he sat down, he glanced off with a pained expression. “Did. My parents were killed in a plane crash when I was a teenager.”
“Your parents? I’m so sorry.”
“Thank you. She wrote romance novels. Funny, here I am at a writing seminar. She used to take me to bookstores and the library. I still go once a week. Makes me feel closer to her. My mom would have loved this, mingling with fellow authors.”
“I’m sure,” I said, wishing I could think of something wise or comforting.
“Do you suppose this could be fate? How do I say this? I feel like we were meant to meet. Does that sound ridiculous?”
It did, although there were coincidences. His mother wrote romance novels and I did put that dress in the suitcase. Could this be destiny? “Well,” I answered, remembering my addiction to love stories. “I don’t know you.”
“Tell me, Kate,” he said, touching my hand. “Do you believe in destiny?”
I swallowed hard as an air bubble crept down my throat. The word destiny had been on my mind not one minute ago. “It’s possible…well, yes. Maybe.”
He swiveled and faced me with his hands on his knees. “Tell me about Kate Hathaway,” he said, motioning to the bartender to serve me a third cocktail.
He was the most breathtaking man I’d ever seen, but he was more. He had a way of caressing me without touching. The unfamiliar sensation both exhilarated and scared me. I took a long drink. “Not much to tell.”
He leaned closer.  “I feel a pull. Don’t you?”
His words sent shivers racing up and down my arms, hinting that my life might gain color and excitement. The feeling alarmed me; no way could I let my long absence from dating and addiction to romance novels derail my common sense. I straightened up and cleared my throat. “As I said, I don’t know you.”
He tilted his head back and moaned. “Oh, my God, you think I’m a stalker.”
“Are you?”
“Touché,” he replied, with a chuckle. “Not at all, but I am intrigued by you. Okay, how about this. What is your favorite music and what makes you laugh and cry?”
“Couldn’t you start with something simple like what’s your favorite hobby?” I pointed my finger in a “you first” gesture.
He cocked his head and grinned. “All right, you win. Standing in line at the DMV makes me cry, and Robin Williams makes me laugh. As far as music, I’m a rock n’ roll guy. Country too. If you lived in Brooklyn, I’d take you to La-Morz. Bob Dylan played there last week. What do you like?”
“Classical. Artists and poets inspired so much of the music.”
“Tchaikovsky?”
“You like classical music?”
He raised his eyebrows. “Do you think a guy who wears cowboy boots can’t appreciate classical music?”
“No, I didn’t mean…” I stopped and put my fingers to my lips. “Actually, I did.”
“That’s okay. Truth is, I couldn’t tell an opera from a symphony. I hear Amadeus is an interesting new musical. We should see it. Both of us appreciating music and all.”
I held the glass over my mouth to hide my smile. It seemed like we were on a first date instead of a chance encounter.
Gunner gestured for another Brooklyn Bitters. “What makes you cry?”
“Music. Every ballad I’ve ever heard makes me cry, but as far as classical, I would say Adagio in G Minor. My grandma used to play it at night. I always wondered what she was thinking about.”
“Don’t you mean who she was thinking about?”


“Ah,” I said. “My grandpa was alive, so maybe she was reminiscing about a long-lost love.”
He nodded as the bartender set down his cocktail. “Some loves get under your skin.”
“Like a bad rash?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Well, that’s awfully cynical, Miss Hathaway.”
I laughed. “But true.”
He rested his head on one hand and smiled. “If we become a couple, what would our song be?”
I glanced over my shoulder and made a face. “Are you for real? You better slow down on those Brooklyn Bitters!”
“I’m only on my second. Let’s see,” he said, stroking his chin. “Do you like the Stones? ‘Wild Horses?'”
“Oh, I love that song.”


A mariachi band took the stage, tuning their instruments. One member announced something about Latin Night and the guests clapped and whistled. Gunner put his hand over mine, which made me look at him. “Let’s go with ‘Wild Horses’ then.”
I turned to hide the goofy grin on my face.
The band played an up-tempo song as couples got up to dance. The music was boisterous and the audience even louder. “Kate! It’s too noisy! Let’s go somewhere quiet! There’s a veranda on the ground floor!”


“Well, okay. For a little while!”


Gunner bent down to whisper in my ear. “One love, one heart, one destiny.”
“Shakespeare?”
He winked and held out his hand. “Bob Marley.”
We stood in the elevator with two young women with long blonde hair and svelte figures wearing short, slinky black dresses. They huddled together, eyeing Gunner, not trying to hide it even with me standing next to him. He either didn’t notice or was too polite to make eye contact. Their bold flirtation reminded me he was movie star gorgeous and could have his choice of women — so why me?
About the author:

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Author of the award-winning thriller, Pages in the Wind, Sally Saylor De Smet lives in San Diego, California. The daughter of a Naval officer, she was the shy kid who stayed in her room a lot, channeling her sensitivity into stories and art. Her writing explores emotions through intrigue and mystery. Her storytelling skills have been recognized by the psychiatric community and educators for blending fiction and psychology into a compelling narrative.
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21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense Mystery/Suspense Anthology Publisher: Superior Shores Press Date Published: June
  Science Fiction, mystery, fantasy Date Published: February 6, 2018 Publisher: Chattercreek The mystery that
Coming of Age / Mystery / Humor Date Published: June 8, 2019 Publisher: Acorn Publishing

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Section Roads – Book Tour

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Coming
of Age / Mystery / Humor
Date
Published:
June 8, 2019
Publisher:
Acorn Publishing
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When
attorney Cullen Molloy attends his fortieth high school reunion, he doesn’t
expect to be defending childhood friends against charges of murder… 
In
a small town on the high plains of Eastern New Mexico, life and culture are
shaped by the farm roads defining the 640-acre sections of land homesteaders
claimed at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Cullen and Shelby Blaine explore
first love along these section roads during the 1960’s, forging a life-long
emotional bond.
  
      As junior high school band nerds, Cullen
and Shelby fall under the protection of football player and loner, Buddy Boyd.
During their sophomore year of high school, Buddy is charged with killing a
classmate and is confined to a youth correctional facility. When he returns to
town facing the prospect of imprisonment as an adult, Cullen becomes Buddy’s
protector.
       The case haunts the three friends into
adulthood, and it isn’t until their fortieth reunion, that they’re forced to
revisit that horrible night. When a new killing takes place, Cullen, Shelby and
Buddy find themselves reliving the nightmare.
  
         Murder is an easy thing to hide along
old country section roads.
Advance
Praise
“An
ambitious, evocative small-town tale located somewhere between Peyton Place and
The Last Picture Show.” –Kirkus Review
 
Read
the Full Review

EXCERPT

July 2009 Friday

 

“I’ll ride with Buddy,” Shelby whispered. “Do you mind? It’ll give us a chance to talk.”

“No, I think that’s a good idea.” Cullen lifted his eyebrows, which Shelby dismissed with a wave.

             Buddy stood a little apart from them at the Enterprise counter. They’d been through the greeting rituals. A hug for Shelby, which she returned with a kiss to his cheek. A polite, interested handshake with Lori.

Cullen and Lori left them and began an hour-long drive through the agricultural blight of West Texas.

“So, what’s the deal with Buddy?” Lori asked. “I know you worked together a long time ago, but you really haven’t talked much about him.”

They drove along a paved road—an impossibly straight line heading north. Deep green alfalfa fields alternated with stubby rows of cotton and weedy, untilled soil bank every few miles forming a pattern replicating itself off into a horizontal infinity. Heat waves shimmered along the pavement. From the soil bank, dust and debris climbed columns of rising, swirling air.

At the age of five, Cullen came to believe these thermal dust devils were pathways for souls fleeing to heaven. He believed this because on the summer day his grandmother was buried at a rural cemetery with brown grass and a few gnarled, wind-battered elms, one of these dust devils sprang from an uncultivated field across the road and as it grew—sucking dirt and paper and tumbleweeds along—passed over the mounded red earth marking the new grave. A spurt of dust leaped from the mound, painting a segment of the great undulating pillar a pale rosy shade. This pink apparition climbed as the thermal moved across the cemetery, finally disappearing into a hot, whitish-blue, eastern New Mexico sky.

Dust devils always made Cullen think of the people he loved who were no longer alive. His mother and father rested with his grandmother at that same cemetery.

Cullen had a ready description when his friends asked him about his home town. Arthur, New Mexico, along with hardscrabble oil patch towns like Hobbs, Artesia, Midland and Odessa, was located on a high plane called Llano Estacado which, Cullen originally speculated, was Spanish for something like really windy dry flat place.

Occupying Eastern New Mexico and Northwest Texas, the region is characterized by hot blustery summers and even colder blustery winters. The wet part of the Llano received barely twenty inches of rain during a good year. “Arthur,” Cullen would note, “is in the dry part.”

Bleak as they might be, the Hobbses, Odessas and Artesias of the world were at least plopped down atop semi-vast underground puddles of oil. Not Arthur. Not a drop. If tumbleweeds had been a cash crop, though, the homesteaders would have prospered.

Arthur and Arthur County were named for Chester A. Arthur, America’s twenty-first president. Researching a junior high school history assignment, the most compelling facts Cullen found about him were that Arthur was America’s fifth fattest president and owned eighty pairs of pants.

The community of eight thousand—at an elevation of four thousand feet above sea level—had nothing geographical, like a river or a canyon or an oasis, to warrant its location.

Arthur just was.

The flat monotony spread in every direction. “Given a clear day,” Cullen was fond of saying, “you could climb a six-foot stepladder and see the earth curve.”

He often puzzled over the pioneers’ judgment. Certainly, more attractive locations waited further west. He supposed the settlers might have been tired and stopped to rest, thinking they would wait for a good rain to replenish their water supplies before they moved on. And when the livestock had all died of thirst, they were stuck.

Still, despite this hardship, there grew a civilization defined geographically by dirt roads that formed the borders of all those perfectly square six hundred and forty-acre sections of land claimed by early twentieth century homesteaders.

As Cullen composed his answer to Lori’s query about Buddy, he thought of those section roads, and all the ways straight lines and straight laces had twisted the paths of this small group of friends.

“I told you about Christy Hammond, didn’t I?” Cullen answered. “The girl who was shot to death our sophomore year?”

Lori gave a little gasp. “That was Buddy? Oh, no. And he went to jail?”

“Juvenile detention. He pled guilty to manslaughter. They kept him until his eighteenth birthday. They took him away in November of 1966. He came back May of 1969.”

“At least he got to come back.”

Cullen gave a rueful laugh and shook his head.

“No, that was part of the punishment. A lot of people thought he should have been charged with murder. They thought he should have been sent away for life. When the judge didn’t agree, half the town was furious at the injustice of it all. Christy’s uncle is a lawyer. He convinced juvenile court authorities to make Buddy finish high school here as a condition of his release.”

“But why would they—”

“It was their last shot at punishing him,” Cullen said. “They had a few weeks to give him hell when they knew he couldn’t fight back.”

About
the Author

 photo Author_zpslfaxxb8o.png

Mike
Murphey is a native of eastern New Mexico and spent almost thirty years as an
award-winning newspaper journalist in the Southwest and Pacific Northwest.
Following his retirement from the newspaper business, he and his wife Nancy
entered in a seventeen-year partnership with the late Dave Henderson, all-star
centerfielder for the Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners.
Their company produces the A’s and Mariners adult baseball Fantasy Camps. They
also have a partnership with the Roy Hobbs adult baseball organization in Fort
Myers, Florida. They love baseball, fiction, cats and sailing. They split their
time between Spokane, Washington, and Phoenix, Arizona. Mike enjoys life as a
writer and old-man baseball player.
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  Coming of Age / Mystery / Humor Date Published: June 8, 2019 Publisher: Acorn
Coming of Age / Mystery / Humor Date Published: June 8, 2019 Publisher: Acorn Publishing

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