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Review & Giveaway: The Code of the Hills

The Code of the Hills

by Nancy Allen

on Tour April 14 – May 16, 2014

 

Book Details:

Genre: Legal Thriller
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Number of Pages: 400
ISBN: 9780062325945

Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

A powerful debut thriller set in the Ozark hills, about a young female prosecutor trying to do right by her vulnerable clients-but by breaking their silence, she herself may fall victim to THE CODE OF THE HILLS.

Elsie Arnold may not always have it all together, but a raucous night at the bar now and then is just how she blows off steam after a long week of hard-fought trials. When she is chosen to assist on a high-profile incest case, Elsie is excited to step up after four years of hard work as an attorney for the prosecutor’s office, and ready to realize her ambition of becoming the Ozarks’ avenging angel. There might even be media attention.

But as soon as Elsie she begins to sink her teeth into the State of Missouri vs. Kris Taney, things start to go wrong -which is when her boss dumps the entire case on her. The star witness and victim’s brother, who has accused Taney of sexually abusing his three daughters, has gone missing. The three girls, ages six, 12, and 15, may not be fit to testify, their mother won’t talk, and the evidence is spotty. To make matters worse, it seems that some people in town don’t want Elsie to lock Taney up – judging by the death threats and chicken parts left for her to find.

Elsie is determined to break the code of silence and find out what really happened, refusing to let a sex offender walk, but the odds – and maybe the community – are against her. Even as Elsie fights the good fight for her clients, she isn’t so different from them: her personal life is taking a one-two punch as her cop boyfriend becomes more and more controlling. And amidst all of the conflict, the safety of the three young Taney girls hangs in the balance.

Review:

I read a lot of murder mysteries and find that at times (perhaps its the rampant violence in our culture) I’m immune to the death. Yes, someone dies. Yes, it’s terrible. But I’m not horrified. In The Code of the Hills, author Nancy Allen horrifies us. (Note: This involves crimes against children and, although we learn of them through retellings and only briefly, I realize this subject matter isn’t for everyone.) It’s not just the horrible things that happen to the Taney children. We aren’t subjected to graphic descriptions of crimes, just broad strokes that let us know what happened. Instead it the attitude of the family. The matter-of-fact acceptance, almost indifference to the events that makes you feel as if you are in some alternate universe. Who could accept this?

Prosecutor Elsie Arnold gives voice to what we readers are feeling. How could the Taneys not see this coming? How could they live with this? Why didn’t they escape when they could? Allen does a great job of making us feel we ARE Elsie before hitting us with a haymaker. Elsie, who has been fighting for justice, for action, for change, suddenly finds her life spiraling downward into a situation that, although not exactly the same, mirrors the Taney family’s in many ways. Elsie, who was the knight in shining armor, is transformed into a victim in an instant. How could this happen to Elsie? And fast on the heels of that question comes: Could this happen to us?

The Code of the Hills does a great job of not clearly defining the good guys and the bad guys. There are a few wearing white hats, a few wearing black hats,  but many more wearing gray. And unraveling who is who makes this book a puzzle worth solving.  The Code of the Hills will bring out the rubbernecker in you. You won’t want to read any further and yet you won’t be able to stop.

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Winner of The Moon Sisters

Did you stop by for my post for the Everybody’s Talking About Sisterhood event organized by The Muffin to promote Therese Walsh’s new SueBookCovernovel The Moon Sisters? Well, today’s the day we announce the three winners:

The winner on The Muffin was Maria M.

The winner of a participating blogger (makes you want to participate in our next event, doesn’t it?) was Vickie S. Miller at Vickie S. Miller Blog

And the winner from among those who entered the contest on one of the participating blogs was Robyn C. who entered right here on Words by Webb!

If you didn’t win, don’t give up. The Muffin has plenty of blog tours and giveaways coming up including:

Sue Silverman’s memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club on March 31

Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers to Create Online Buzz for Their Booksand Still Have Time to Write by Frances Caballo on April 7

The Opposite of Everything by David Kalish on April 21

BarbaraCoverDanger in Her Words by Barbara Barth on May 5

I’ll give the heads up when those tours begin so you can enter and hopefully win yourself a great book!

Author Showcase: Carey Baldwin

Confession

by Carey Baldwin

BOOK BLAST on March 11th

on Tour April 2014

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Thrillers, Suspense

Published by: Witness Impulse

Publication Date: March 11, 2014

Number of Pages: 384

ISBN: 9780062314109 / 0062314106

Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

For fans of Allison Brennan and Karen Rose comes Carey Baldwin, a daring new name in suspense, with the story of a serial killer out for blood—and the only woman who can stop his reign of terror.

They say the Santa Fe Saint comes to save your soul—by taking your life.

Newly minted psychiatrist Faith Clancy gets the shock of her life when her first patient confesses to the grisly Saint murders. By law she’s compelled to notify the authorities, but is her patient really The Saint? Or will she contribute to more death by turning the wrong man over to the police?

Faith is going to need all her wits and the help of a powerful adversary, Luke Jericho, if she’s to unravel the truth. But she doesn’t realize she’s about to become an unwitting pawn in a serial killer’s diabolical game: For once he’s finished with Faith, she’ll become his next victim.

Read an excerpt:

Prologue

Saint Catherine’s School for Boys

Near Santa Fe, New Mexico

Ten years ago—Friday, August 15, 11:00 P.M.

I’M NOT afraid of going to hell. Not one damn bit.

We’re deep in the woods, miles from the boys’ dormitory, and my thighs are burning because I walked all this way with Sister Bernadette on my back. Now I’ve got her laid out on the soggy ground underneath a hulking ponderosa pine. A bright rim of moonlight encircles her face. Black robes flow around her, engulfing her small body and blending with the night. Her face, floating on top of all that darkness, reminds me of a ghost-head in a haunted house—but she’s not dead.

Not yet.

My cheek stings where Sister scratched me. I wipe the spot with my sleeve and sniff the air soaked with rotting moss, sickly-sweet pine sap and fresh piss. I pissed myself when I clubbed her on the head with that croquet mallet. Ironic, since my pissing problem is why I picked Sister Bernadette in the first place. She ought to have left that alone.

I hear a gurgling noise.

Good.

Sister Bernadette is starting to come around.

This is what I’ve been waiting for.

With her rosary wound tightly around my forearm, the grooves of the carved sandalwood beads cutting deep into the flesh of my wrist, I squat down on rubber legs, shove my hands under her armpits and drag her into a sitting position against the fat tree trunk. Her head slumps forward, but I yank her by the hair until her face tilts up, and her cloudy eyes open to meet mine. Her lips are moving. Syllables form within the bubbles coming out of her mouth. I press my stinging cheek against her cold, sticky one.

Like a lover, she whispers in my ear, “God is merciful.”

The nuns have got one fucked-up idea of mercy.

“Repent.” She’s gasping. “Heaven…”

“I’m too far gone for heaven.”

The God I know is just and fierce and is never going to let a creep like me through the pearly gates because I say a few Hail Marys. “God metes out justice, and that’s how I know I will not be going to heaven.”

To prove my point, I draw back, pull out my pocketknife, and press the silver blade against her throat. Tonight, I am more than a shadow. A shadow can’t feel the weight of the knife in his palm. A shadow can’t shiver in anticipation. A shadow is not to be feared, but I am not a shadow. Not in this moment.

She moves her lips some more, but this time, no sound comes out. I can see in her eyes what she wants to say to me. Don’t do it. You’ll go to hell.

I twist the knife so that the tip bites into the sweet hollow of her throat. “I’m not afraid of going to hell.”

It’s the idea of purgatory that makes my teeth hurt and my stomach cramp and my shit go to water. I mean what if my heart isn’t black enough to guarantee me a passage straight to hell? What if God slams down his gavel and says, Son, you’re a sinner, but I have to take your family situation into account. That’s a mitigating circumstance.

A single drop of blood drips off my blade like a tear.

“What if God sends me to purgatory?” My words taste like puke on my tongue. “I’d rather dangle over a fiery pit for eternity than spend a single day of the afterlife in a place like this one.”

I watch a spider crawl across her face.

My thoughts crawl around my brain like that spider.

You could make a pretty good case, I think, that St. Catherine’s School for Boys is earth’s version of purgatory. I mean, it’s a place where you don’t exist. A place where no one curses you, but no one loves you either. Sure, back home, your father hits you and calls you a bastard, but you are a bastard, so its okay he calls you one. Behind me, I hear the sound of rustling leaves and cast a glance over my shoulder.

Do it! You want to get into hell, don’t you?

I turn back to sister and flick the spider off her cheek.

The spider disappears, but I’m still here.

At St. Catherine’s no one notices you enough to knock you around. Every day is the same as the one that came before it, and the one that’s coming after. At St. Catherine’s you wait and wait for your turn to leave, only guess what, you dumb-ass bastard, your turn is never going to come, because you, my friend, are in purgatory, and you can’t get out until you repent.

Sister Bernadette lets out another gurgle.

I spit right in her face.

I won’t repent, and I can’t bear to spend eternity in purgatory, which is I why I came up with a plan. A plan that’ll rocket me straight past purgatory, directly to hell.

Sister Bernadette is the first page of my blueprint. I have the book to guide me the rest of the way. For her sake, not mine, I make the sign of the cross.

She’s not moving, but her eyes are open, and I hear her breathing. I want her to know she is going to die. “You are going to help me get into hell. In return, I will help you get into heaven.”

I shake my arm and loosen the rosary. The strand slithers down my wrist. One bead after another drops into my open palm, electrifying my skin at the point of contact. My blood zings through me, like a high-voltage current. I am not a shadow.

A branch snaps, making my hands shake with the need to hurry.

What are you waiting for my friend?

Is Sister Bernadette afraid?

She has to be. Hungry for her fear, I squeeze my thighs together, and then I push my face close and look deep in her eyes.

“The blood of the lamb will wash away your sins.” She gasps, and her eyes roll back. “Repent.”

My heart slams shut.

I begin the prayers.

Chapter One

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Present Day—Saturday, July 20, 1:00 P.M.

Man, she’s something.

Luke Jericho halted mid-stride, and the sophisticated chatter around him dimmed to an indistinct buzz. Customers jamming the art gallery had turned the air hot, and the aromas of perfume and perspiration clashed. His gaze sketched the cut muscles of the woman’s shoulders before swerving to the tantalizing V of her low-back dress. There, slick fabric met soft skin just in time to hide the thong she must be wearing. His fingers found the cold silk knot of his tie and worked it loose. He let his glance dot down the line of her spine, then swoop over the arc of her ass. It was the shimmer of Mediterranean-blue satin, illuminated beneath art lights, that had first drawn his eye, her seductive shape that had pulled him up short, but it was her stance—her pose—that had his blood expanding like hot mercury under glass.

Head tilted, front foot cocked back on its stiletto, the woman studied one of Luke’s favorite pieces—his brother Dante’s mixed-media. A piece Luke had hand-selected and quietly inserted into this show of local artists in the hopes a positive response might bolster his brother’s beleaguered self-esteem.

The woman couldn’t take her eyes off the piece, and he couldn’t take his eyes off the woman. Her right arm floated, as if she were battling the urge to reach out and touch the multi-textured painting. Though her back was to him, he could picture her face, pensive, enraptured. Her lips would be parted and sensual. He savored the swell of her bottom beneath the blue dress. Given the way the fabric clung to her curves, he’d obviously guessed right about the thong. She smoothed the satin with her hand, and he rubbed the back of his neck with his palm. Ha. Any minute now she’d turn and ruin his fantasy with what was sure to turn out to be the most ordinary mug in the room.

And then she did turn, and damned if her mug wasn’t ordinary at all, but she didn’t appear enraptured. Inquisitive eyes, with a distinct undercurrent of melancholy, searched the room and found him. Then, delicate brows raised high, her mouth firmed into a hard line—even thinned, her blood-red lips were temptation itself—she jerked to a rigid posture and marched, yeah, marched, straight at him.

Hot ass. Great mouth. Damn lot of nerve.

“I could feel your stare,” she said.

“Kind of full of yourself, honey.”

A flush of scarlet flared across her chest, leading his attention to her lovely, natural breasts, mostly, but not entirely, concealed by a classic neckline. With effort, he raised his eyes to meet hers. Green. Skin, porcelain. Hair, fiery—like her cheeks—and flowing. She looked like a mermaid. Not the soft kind, the kind with teeth.

“I don’t like to be ogled.” Apparently she intended to stand her ground.

He decided to stand his as well. That low-back number she had on might be considered relatively tame in a room with more breasts on display than a Picasso exhibit, but there was something about the way she wore it. “Then you shouldn’t have worn that dress, darlin’.”

Her brow arched higher in challenge. “Which is it? Honey or darlin’?”

“Let’s go with honey. You look sweet.” Not at the moment she didn’t, but he’d sure like to try and draw the sugar out of her. This woman was easily as interesting and no less beautiful than his best gallery piece, and she didn’t seem to be reacting to him per the usual script. He noticed his hand floating up, reaching out, just as her hand had reached for the painting. Like his mesmerizing customer, he knew better than to touch the display, but it was hard to resist the urge.

Her body drew back, and her shoulders hunched. “You’re aware there’s a serial killer on the loose?”

Luke, you incredible ass.

No wonder she didn’t appreciate his lingering looks. Every woman he knew was on full alert. The Jericho charm might or might not be able to get him out of this one, but he figured she was worth a shot. “Here, in this gallery? In broad daylight?” He searched the room with his gaze and made his tone light. “Or are you saying you don’t like being sized up for the kill?” He patted his suit pockets, made a big show of it and then stroked his chin thoughtfully. “I seem to have misplaced my rosary somewhere, I don’t suppose you’ve seen it?”

Her shoulders eased back to a natural position.

“Seriously, do I look like someone who’d be called The Saint?”

If the glove doesn’t fit…

Her lips threatened to curve up at the corners. “No. I don’t suppose you do.” Another beat, and then her smile bloomed in earnest. “Looking a little is one thing, maybe it’s even flattering…but you seem to have exceeded your credit line.”

He turned his palms up. “Then I’d like to apply for an increase.”

At that, her pretty head tipped back, and she laughed, a big genuine laugh. It was the kind of laugh that was a touch too hearty for a polished society girl, which perhaps she wasn’t after all. It was also the kind of laugh he’d like to hear again. Of its own accord, his hand found his heart. “Listen, I’m honest-to-God sorry if I spooked you. That wasn’t my intention.”

Her expression was all softness now.

“Do you like the painting?” he asked, realizing that he cared more than he should about the answer.

“It’s quite…dark.” Her bottom lip shivered with the last word, and he could sense she found Dante’s painting disturbing.

Always on the defensive where his brother was concerned, his back stiffened. He tugged at his already loosened tie. “Artists are like that. I don’t judge them.”

“Of course. I-I wasn’t judging the artist. I was merely making an observation about the painting. It’s expressive, beautiful.”

Relaxing his stance, he pushed a hand through his hair.

She pushed a hand through her hair, and then her glance found her fancy-toed shoes. “Maybe I overreacted, maybe you weren’t even staring.”

Giving in to the urge to touch, he reached out and tilted her chin up until their eyes met. “I’m Luke Jericho, and you had it right the first time. I was staring. I was staring at—” He barely had time to register a startled flash of her green eyes before she turned on her heel and disappeared into the throng of gallery patrons.

He shrugged and said to the space where her scent still sweetened the air, “I was staring at your fascination. Your fascination fascinates me.”

Saturday, July 20, 1:30 P.M.

Faith Clancy strode across her nearly naked office and tossed her favorite firelight macaron clutch onto her desk. After rushing out of the gallery, she’d come to her office to regroup, mainly because it was nearby.

She could hear Ma’s voice now, see her wagging finger. “Luke Jericho? Sure’an you’ve gone and put your wee Irish foot in the stewpot now, Faith.”

Well, it was only a tiny misstep—what harm could possibly come of it? She braced her palms against the windowsill. Teeth clenched, she heaved with all her might until wood screeched against wood and the window lurched open.

A full inch.

Swell.

Summers in Santa Fe were supposed to be temperate, and she hadn’t invested in an air conditioner for her new office. She sucked in a deep breath, but the currentless summer air brought little relief from the heat. Lifting her hair off the back of her damp neck with one hand, she reached over and dialed on the big standing fan next to the desk with the other. The dinosaur whirred to life without a hiccup.

That made one thing gone right today.

The relaxing Saturday afternoon she’d been looking forward to all week had been derailed, thanks to Luke Jericho. Okay, that wasn’t even half fair. In reality, the wheels of her day had never touched down on the track to begin with. She’d awakened this morning with a knot in her stomach and an ache in her heart—missing Danny and Katie.

Walk it off, she’d thought. Dress up. Take in the sights. Act like you’re part of the Santa Fe scene and soon enough you will be. Determined to forget the homesick rumbling in her chest, Faith had plucked a confidence boosting little number from her closet, slipped on a pair of heels and headed out to mingle with polite society. Even if she didn’t feel like she fit in, at least she would look the part. But the first gallery she’d entered, she’d dunked her foot in the stewpot—crossing swords with, and then, even worse, flirting with the brother of a patient.

Rather bad luck considering she had just one patient.

Her toe started to tap.

Her gaze swept the office and landed on the only adornment of the freshly-painted walls—her diplomas and certificates, arranged in an impressive display with her psychiatric board certification center stage. A Yale-educated doctor. Ma and Da would’ve been proud, even if they might’ve clucked their tongues at the psychiatrist part. She blinked until her vision cleared. It wasn’t only Danny and Katie she was missing today.

She kicked off her blasted shoes and shook off her homesick blues…only to find her mind returning to the gallery and her encounter with a man who was strictly off limits.

There was no point chastising herself for walking into the art gallery in the first place, or for refusing to pretend she didn’t notice the man who was eyeing her like she was high tea in a whorehouse, and he a starving sailor.

Care for a macaron, sir?

Had she realized her admirer was Luke Jericho, she would’ve walked away without confronting him, but how was she to know him by sight? It wasn’t as if she spent her spare time flipping through photos of town royalty in the society pages.

She’d recognized his name instantly, however, and not only because she was treating his half-brother, Dante. The Jericho family had a sprawling ranch outside town and an interest in a number of local businesses. But most of their wealth, she’d heard, came from oil. The Jerichos, at least the legitimate ones, had money. Barrels and barrels of it.

Luke’s name was on the lips of every unattached female in town—from the clerk at the local Shop and Save to the debutant docent at the Georgia O’Keeffe museum:

Single.

Handsome.

Criminally rich.

Luke Jericho, they whispered.

When she’d turned to find him watching her, his heated gaze had caused her very bones to sizzle. Luke had stood formidably tall, dressed in an Armani suit that couldn’t hide his rancher’s physique. The gallery lights seemed to spin his straw-colored hair into gold and ignite blue fire in his eyes. She could still feel his gaze raking over her in that casual way, as if he didn’t wish to conceal his appetites. It was easy to see how some women might become undone in his presence. She eased closer to the fan.

“Dr. Clancy.”

That low male voice gave her a fizzy, sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, like she’d just downed an Alka-Seltzer on top of the flu. When you’re all alone in a room, and someone else speaks, it’s just plain creepy.

It only took a millisecond to recognize the voice, but at a time when someone dubbed The Santa Fe Saint was on a killing spree, that was one millisecond too long. Icy tendrils of fear wrapped themselves around her chest, squeezing until it hurt her heart to go on beating. The cold certainty that things were not as they should be made the backs of her knees quiver. Then recognition kicked in, and her breath released in a whoosh.

It’s only Dante.

She pasted on a neutral expression and turned to face him. How’d he gotten in? The entrance was locked; she was certain of it.

“Did I frighten you?”

She inclined her head toward the front door to her office, which was indeed locked, and said, “Next time, Dante, I’d prefer you use the main entrance…and knock.”

“I came in the back.”

That much was obvious now that she’d regained her wits. “That’s my private entrance. It’s not intended for use by patients.” Stupid of her to leave it unlocked, but it was midday and she hadn’t expected an ambush.

To buy another moment to compose herself, she went to her bookcase and inspected its contents. Toward the middle, Freud’s “Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis” leaned haphazardly in the direction of its opponent, Skinner’s “Behavior Therapy”. A paperback version of “A Systems Approach to Family Therapy” had fallen flat, not quite bridging the gap between the warring classics.

Dante crossed the distance between them, finishing directly in front of her, invading her personal space. “Quite right. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

She caught a blast of breath, pungent and wrong—a Listerine candle floating in a jar of whiskey. In self-defense, she took a step back before looking up at her patient’s face. Dante possessed his brother’s intimidating height, but unlike Luke, his hair was jet black, and his coal-colored eyes were so dark it was hard to distinguish the pupil from the iris. Despite Dante’s dark complexion and the roughness of his features—he had a previously broken nose and a shiny pink scar that gashed across his cheekbone into his upper lip—there was a distinct family resemblance between the Jericho brothers. Luke was the fair-haired son to Dante’s black sheep, and even their respective phenotypes fit the cliche.

Dante took a step forward.

She took another deep step back, bumping her rear-end against wood. With one hand she reached behind her and felt for the smooth rim of her desktop. With the other hand, she put up a stop sign. “Stay right where you are.”

He halted, and she edged her way behind her desk, using it as a barrier between herself and Dante. Maybe she should advise him to enroll in a social skills class since he didn’t seem to realize how uncomfortable he was making her. Though she knew full well Dante wasn’t on her schedule today—no one was on her schedule today—she powered on her computer. “Hang on a second while I check my calendar.”

“All right.” At least he had the courtesy to play along.

When he rested his hand on her desk, she noticed he was carrying a folded newspaper. She’d already seen today’s headline, and it had given her the shivers. “Any minute now.” She signaled to Dante with an upheld index finger.

He nodded, and, in what seemed an eternity of time, her computer finished booting. She navigated from the welcome screen to her schedule, and then in a firm, matter-of-fact voice, she told him, “I’m afraid you’ve made a mistake. Your appointment isn’t until Monday at four pm.”

As he took another step closer, a muscle twitched in his jaw. He didn’t seem to care when his appointment was. Gesturing toward the leather armchair on the patient side of her desk, she fended him off. “Have a seat right there.” If she could get him to sit down, maybe she could gain control of the situation; she really ought to hear him out long enough to make sure this wasn’t some sort of emergency.

Dante didn’t sit. Instead, from across the desk, his body inclined forward. Her throat went dry, and her speeding pulse signaled a warning. If this were an emergency, he most likely would have tried to contact her through her answering service, besides which, he’d had plenty of time already to mention anything urgent. He must’ve known he didn’t have an appointment today, so what the hell was he doing here on a Saturday?

Dante had no reason at all to expect her to be here. In fact, the more she thought about it, the less sense his presence made. Pulling her shoulders back, she said, “I am sorry, but you need to leave. You’ll have to come back on Monday at four.”

The scar tissue above his mouth tugged his features into a menacing snarl. “I saw you talking to my brother.”

He’d followed her from the art gallery.

Even though Dante’s primary diagnosis was schizotypal personality disorder, there was a paranoid component present, exacerbated by a sense of guilt and a need to compensate for feelings of inferiority. His slip and slide grip on reality occasionally propelled him into a near delusional state. She could see him careening into a dark well of anxiety now, and she realized she needed to reassure him she wasn’t colluding with his half-brother against him. “I wasn’t talking to your brother about you. In fact, I didn’t have any idea I had wandered into your brother’s art gallery until he…introduced himself.”

“I don’t believe you.”

As fast as her heart was galloping, she managed a controlled reply. “That hardly bodes well for our relationship as doctor and patient, does it? But the truth is, we were discussing a painting.”

“Discussing my painting, discussing me, same difference.”

His painting?

That bit of information did nothing to diminish her growing sense of apprehension. That painting had had a darkness in it like nothing she’d ever seen before. A darkness that had captivated her attention, daring her to unravel its mysterious secrets.

Then Dante dropped into the kind of predatory crouch that would’ve made a kitten roll over and play dead.

But she wasn’t a kitten.

Defiantly, she exhaled slow and easy. If she didn’t know better, she’d think Dante was intentionally trying to frighten her. “I’m happy to see you during your regular hour, and we can schedule more frequent sessions if need be, but for now, I’m afraid it’s time for you to go.”

He returned to a stand. “You’re here all alone today.”

A shudder swept across her shoulders. He was right. No one else was in the building. She shared a secretary with an aesthetician down the hall, and today Stacy hadn’t been at her post. The aesthetician usually worked Saturday mornings, but she must’ve finished for the day and gone home. Home was where Faith wanted to go right now. She wished she’d kept her clutch in hand. Her phone was in that clutch. “We’ll work on that trust issue on Monday.”

With Dante’s gaze tracking hers, her eyes fell on her lovely macaron bag, lying on the desktop near his fingertips. He lifted the clutch as if to offer it to her, but then drew his hand back and stroked the satin shell against his face.

The room suddenly seemed too small. “I don’t mean to be unkind. We’ve been working hard these past few weeks and making good progress up to this point, and I’d hate to have to refer you to another psychiatrist, but I will if I have to.” She paused for breath.

“You’re barefoot.” Slowly, he licked his lower lip.

Feeling as vulnerable as if she were standing before him bare-naked instead of bare-footed, she slipped back into her shoes. Jerking a glance around the room, she cursed herself for furnishing the place so sparsely, as if she didn’t plan on staying in Santa Fe long. It wasn’t like she had anywhere else to call home anymore, and now here she stood without so much as a paperweight to conk someone on the head with if…The window was open, at least she could scream for help if necessary. “We’re done here.”

“I’m not leaving, Dr. Clancy.” He opened her purse, removed her cell and slid it into his pants pocket, then dropped her purse on the floor.

Her stomach got fizzy again, and she gripped the edge of her desk. Screaming didn’t seem like the most effective plan. It might destabilize him and cause him to do something they’d both regret. For now at least, a better plan was to stay calm and listen. If she could figure out what was going on inside his head, maybe she could stay a step ahead of him and diffuse the situation before it erupted into a full-scale nightmare. “Give me back my phone, and then we can talk.”

Here came that involuntary snarl of his. “No phone. And I’m not leaving until I’ve done what I came here to do.” Carefully unfolding the newspaper he’d brought with him, he showed her the headline:

Santa Fe Saint Claims Fourth Victim.

Author Bio:

Carey Baldwin is a mild-mannered doctor by day and an award-winning author of edgy suspense by night. She holds two doctoral degrees, one in medicine and one in psychology. She loves reading and writing stories that keep you off balance and on the edge of your seat. Carey lives in the southwestern United States with her amazing family. In her spare time she enjoys hiking and chasing wildflowers.

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To Sign up either complete the linky with your Blog Name, book format, requested date(s) and how you’d like to host or email me at gina at partnersincrimetours.net. Thank you for your interest in this tour.





Giveaway:

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Everybody’s Talking About Sisterhood

Today at The Muffin, Therese Walsh is celebrating the release of her new novel The Moon Sisters with a group blogging about…you guessed it: sisterhood! Two dozen women are posting their take on sisterhood and at each blog you can enter to win a copy of The Moon Sisters, including here on Words by Webb. Don’t forget to leave a comment!

In The Moon Sisters,  Therese Walsh wanted to write about one sister’s quest to find will-o’-the-wisp light, which was her mother’s unfulfilled dream. Also called “foolish fires”, these lights are sometimes seen over wetlands and are thought to lead those who follow them toMoonSisters treasure. Despite the promise, they are never captured and sometimes lead to injury or even death for adventurers who follow them. The metaphor of that fire – that some dreams and goals are impossible to reach, and that hope itself may not be innately good – eventually rooted its way into deeper meaning as the Moon sisters tried to come to terms with real-world dreams and hopes, and with each other, in their strange new world.

Olivia and Jazz Moon are polar opposites: one a dreamy synesthete, able to see sounds and smell sights and the other controlling and reality driven. What will happen when they are plunged into 24/7 togetherness and control is not an option? Will they ever be able to see the world through the other’s eyes and confront the things they fear the most? Death. Suicide. The loss of faith and hope. Will they ultimately believe that life is worth living, despite the lack of promise?

The writing of The Moon Sisters was a five year journey and at times author Therese Walsh felt like it was her own “foolish fire”. But remember, some fires are worth the chase!

You can read my review of The Moon Sisters here.

Unlikely Sisters

We weren’t supposed to be together. There were rules on the maternity floor. Women who were having babies roomed together. Women who had babies in distress or lost babies roomed together. When I ended up on the maternity floor much too early for my baby to be born and they began pumping me full of steroids in a last ditch attempt to mature my baby’s lungs I was placed in a room alone. At night I would lie in the darkness,listening to the sound of the baby cribs being wheeled to rooms up and down the hall but not my room.

They came one day and apologized. The floor was overcrowded and they were bringing a new mother to share my room. A new mother and her baby. They pulled the curtain so I wouldn’t have to see this new baby, be taunted by its healthiness. I turned my back on my new roommates and stared out the window, counting the minutes until my husband would arrive.

Thankfully, it was quiet on the other side of the curtain. Until it wasn’t. The baby was crying. First, a soft whimper that grew into a “where is everybody?” wail. I peeked around the curtain. No new mom in the bed but the bathroom door was closed. I was on bed rest but couldn’t listen to the heartbreaking cries anymore. I shuffled over to their side of the room.

“Shhh. What’s the matter? Where’s your mama?” I reached out my hand and stroked the soft baby cheek, curly baby hair, tiny baby fingers. When the new mom returned, bubbling over with what I could only imagine was an apology in rapid Spanish I was already crying, thinking of my poor little baby, too young to be born.

It soon became clear that she was just seconds away from crying too. Between the two of us we were awash on a sea of pregnancy hormones. “No, no,” I smiled trying to recall some high school Spanish. “Muy bonita.” She smiled. “Mucho, mucho…” I twirled my fingers over the baby’s black curls.

“Cabello,” she added.

She patted my belly. “Manana.”

“No, no. Baby muy pequeno. Muy muy pequeno. No manana.”

“Ah.” To my surprise me were suddenly standing there hugging while a stream of Spanish surrounded us. The most I got out of it was “madre Maria” and “Dios” which I took to mean that she would pray for my muy pequeno baby.

I have felt the sisterhood of women many times in my life. But I will never forget the sisterhood of mothers I felt that day.

When have you felt the sisterhood of women?

Category: Giveaways, News  4 Comments

Deep Sleep

Comment on today’s post before February 20 and I’ll enter you to win an e-book copy of Deep Sleep. Spread the word!

Deep Sleep

Author: Francis Fyfield

Hardcover: 276 pages (also available in paperback, audiobooks and e-formats)Deep_Sleep_Frances_Fyfield_Cover

Publisher: Witness Impulse (January 21, 2014)

Synposis:

Pip Carlton is a devoted husband and a highly respected pharmacist, cherished by his loyal customers. When his wife dies in her sleep, with no apparent cause, he is distraught. Comforted by his caring assistant, Pip ignores the rumors about Margaret’s death, relieved that the police seem to have moved on.

But Prosecutor Helen West refuses to believe that Margaret simply slipped into her final slumber. As she probes deeper into the affairs of the neighborhood, she uncovers a viper’s nest of twisted passion, jealous rage, and lethal addictions.

As a sudden act of violence erupts, shaking the community, one lone man, armed with strange love potions, prepares to murder again…

Review:

This was a puzzling story with many couples tenuously connected. Let’s see…there was

  • the lawyer and the police officer
  • the other police officer and his ex-wife
  • the ex-wife and the chemist
  • the chemist and the chemist’s assistant (who is also the ex-wife from the second pair)
  • the chemist and his wife

It’s quite a puzzle fitting pieces in and seeing how the couples and their motives fit together. At times it feels like there were just too many people to keep track of. There is quite an eerie aura to this book, it gives you the shivers at times. But the two main characters Helen and Bailey (the lawyer and the police officer) are a fascinating couple and I’ll gladly give Francis Fyfield another try to see these two. I just hope the next book involving these two is a little…simpler.

Perhaps it’s just that, for all my complaints about my husband’s love of action flicks I’m just an action girl at heart. But if you love books that delve into the motivations and emotions of people this book is for you.

 

Two Lessons in Indie Publishing

TWO LESSONS IN INDIE PUBLISHING FROM THE LAST YEAR

By Christopher Meeks

meeksI’m an accidental publisher. I never intended to go the route I have, starting my own publishing company. I had an agent, and I was doing what I wanted to do: writing quality fiction.

However, after I’d published a number of short stories in journals, enough to make a book, I suggested a book of these stories to my agent. He said there wasn’t enough money in short fiction for him to even send out my manuscript. That’s when I started White Whisker Books. I would publish my short story collection, The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea. It’s been an Amazon Bestseller off and on for the last two years. Now I’m writing novels.
I’d worked for a publisher at one time, so I had experienced how it was done from the inside: getting a quality editor, obsessed proofreaders, a great book designer, and an energetic publicist—so I mirrored that. I’ve been doing it ever since, not only leaving the agent and publishing my novels, too, but also publishing books by talented friends.

I started in 2006, and things have changed a great deal. At first, it was all about printed books, using print-on-demand technology. Then eBooks became a force, and for the do-it-yourselfer and small publishers (which I’ll call “indies”), it’s meant a lot of cost savings in terms of not having to take back printed books that didn’t sell.
Still, 2013 was the year that eBooks found their level: about 20% of all books sold. That means 80% of publishing is still in traditional printed books. Indies can make a perfectly good living in eBooks alone, but part of me wants to know is there a way to crack that 80% that’s cost effective? It’s a question I can’t answer right now. I still sell printed books through Ingram—and it’s only a small part of sales. I still take back books, which cuts down severely in the profit I make there.

As I look back on 2013, here are two big things I’ve learned:

1) To sell eBooks beyond your friends and family, you need to advertise. Otherwise, how will people find your book? Many indies hope that, magically, word-of-mouth will do it. That’s rare. It’s certainly a slim possibility, but even so, you may need to advertise to start the word-of-mouth.

There are thousands of places willing to take your money, but early in 2013, I discovered BookBub. It’s mostly an email service that sends out daily notices of great books that are at a discount. Subscribers select the categories of books they like read, and rather than being deluged, they are likely to get just four or five recommendations each day. You, the author, pay for a recommended spot if BookBub chooses you. With a single sponsorship, I’ve sold between 600 and 1600 books in a day. Most people who’ve used it have had similar results.

The BookBub people are geniuses. Right from the start, they only took sponsorships for books that were highly regarded. That meant a book needed a number of traditional and customer reviews, and the average customer review had to be four stars or higher. The cover and blurbs had to appeal to them. The books also had to be discounted at least 50% for the day so that their readers would buy it now.

Of course, news of this service spread, and now every author wants their book there. A book can appear, however, only once every six months, so it’s not in and of itself a marketing plan. You want your book seen more than twice a year. However, it makes for a nice pair of blips on the yearly sales chart.

There are other places that work similarly, though not with such high sales. However, you can use these services for the same book every two to four weeks. Places I can recommend are BookGorilla, Kindle Books and Tips, Kindle Nation Daily, and EReader News Today (ENT). I hope to discover others.

What this all means in practical terms is you need at least a dozen reviews on Amazon to start things. Your book better be well-written, well-edited and proofed, and with a great cover design to get those reviews. If you are less than professional in those areas, you’re not likely to get top reviews.

One of my company’s books, Iron City by David Scott Milton, a fabulous mystery from a veteran writer who’s been with big publishers, has twenty-six reviews, most of them four- and five-star, but there are enough below that to take his average rating to just below four stars. Now I can’t place sponsorships for it.

New books typically don’t have enough reviews to get sponsorships. What I’m saying is that not every book can be advertised. Thus, if you get a spot in one of these places, make the price low. While 99 cents seems absurdly low, it will sell books if indeed 99 cents is a special price.

If your book sells well on a particularly day, your ranking on Amazon and Barnes and Noble will go up. If it goes up enough, it will show as a top seller in certain lists. I hope Blood Drama, for instance, will show up in the thriller, suspense, literary, or contemporary fiction lists. Once the book makes it on a list, people looking at those lists might look at the book’s landing page. If the reviews, the cover, and the price all look great, you might have a sale. The more sales, the longer you stay on those lists.

2) Blog tours are important. One way to get reviews is a blog tour. I did my first blog tour last year, and I found it wonderful. A blog tour is managed by a tour operator—some are better than others. This book is on a blog tour through a company called Partners in Crime, which has been a pleasure. It’s how I found Jodi Webb.

What a tour operator does is contact bloggers and literary websites that might be appropriate for a book and invite the people associated with them to be a part of the tour. A site might get involved in one of three ways: review the book that’s on tour; interview the book’s author; ask the author to write a guest blog, which is what I’m doing here with Jodi.

To sum it all up, I’ve found that if your book is truly good, and you either want to help your publisher or you are publishing the book yourself, you need to get on a blog tour. If you get good reviews, advertise your book.
I didn’t start writing to become a publisher or a marketing expert. It’s the writing I love. To be true to my writing, though, I’ve learned how to get my books out there. Try one of my books to see see if I get you involved in my story. If I do, this has all been worth it.

Blood Drama

Author: Christopher Meeks

Paperback: 240 pages (also available in e-formats)BloodDrama

Publisher: White Whisker Books (May 13, 2013)

Synposis:

Everyone has a bad day. In the crossover thriller BLOOD DRAMA, graduate student Ian Nash, after losing his girlfriend, gets dropped from a Ph.D. program in theatre. When he stops at a local coffee shop in the lobby of a bank to apply for a job, the proverbial organic matter hits the fan. A gang of four robs the bank, and things get bloody. Ian is taken hostage by the robbers when the police show up. Now he has to save his life.

FBI Special Agent Aleece Medina’s analysis of the bloody bank heist drives her into the pursuit of a robbery gang headed by two women. She doesn’t anticipate how this robbery will pit her against both the bandits and the male higher-ups in the FBI while the media heats up during a giant manhunt.

The robbers are about to kill Ian, and all he has at hand is his knowledge of the stage.

Review:

If you enjoy books with unlikely pairs then Blood Drama is the book for you. Ian Nash and Aleece Medina could not be more different yet through a twist of fate they find themselves working toward the same goal — the capture of a gang of bank robbers. Medina just happens to be an expert at bank robbers while Nash is an expert at…well, a few playwrights most of us have only a glancing knowledge of. But somehow they make it work.

Blood Drama is a book full of surprises — including a few I really never saw coming. That’s what makes a book great, the things you never would have guessed in a million years. This story grabs you from the very beginning when you wonder “How will this poor soul ever survive being kidnapped?” When you mix Nash with FBI agent Medina, he suddenly becomes this guy convinced that he alone can stop the bank robbers. You’ll keep reading if only to find out what kind of crazy trouble Nash gets himself into.

Thank you Christopher Meeks for staying true to reality and not wrapping everything up with a neat little bow at the end. I’d love to see what happens to Nash and Medina, separately or together, in another book.

Check out an excerpt of Blood Drama here and if you like it ( I know you will!) comment on today’s post before February 13 and I’ll enter you to win an e-book copy of Blood Drama. Spread the word!

When Good Bras Go Bad

When Good Bras Go Bad

Author: Gayle Trent

Paperback: 112 pages (also available in e-books)Bras-Cover-189x300

Publisher: Grace Abraham Publishing (August 1, 2006)

Synposis:

Myrtle Crumb, the sassy sixty-something sleuth from Between a Clutch and a Hard Place, is back. This time she must go undercover in the middle school cafeteria to prove her granddaughter is not a thief. Still, Sunny knows more than she’s telling; and it’s starting to affect her relationship with her grandmother. Is Sunny’s new friend Alicia the thief? If so, how far will Sunny go to protect her? Sunny might be fixing to learn a powerful lesson: that betrayal “is like when a good bra goes bad. First it lets you down, and then that underwire pokes you right in the heart.”

Review:

Gayle Trent is an old favorite of mine (no, Gayle I’m not saying you’re old!). Her ability to create memorable characters leaves me in awe! And Myrtle is QUITE the character. She storms into her granddaughter’s life bulldozing not only her granddaughter but the lunch lady, the principal and the school’s security guard. In the grand scheme of things, the mystery in When Good Bras Go Bad isn’t that serious. Of course, in Myrtle’s granddaughter’s life (and by extension Myrtle’s life) this mystery is all-important. This is a light-hearted romp that is perfect to help you de-stress after a tough day.

Myrtle is that slightly wacky little old lady we all knew from our neighborhood growing up. Both her familiarity and her unpredictableness will make her a favorite for readers of all ages.

If Myrtle sound like fun to you (and she is) check out the latest Myrtle Crumb mystery for FREE here. But hurry, I’m not sure how long this special price will last.

Congratulations!

Syllabub_CoverCongratulations to Marjorie who won an e-book copy of Murder by Syllabub. I hope everyone else will continue commenting. There are more giveaways coming up!

5Ws with Toni Piccinini

Thanks to WOW Blog Tours for the opportunity to interview a fascinating author with an equally intriguing book. Toni Piccinini wrote The Goodbye Year as a sort of step-by-step guide to surviving that last year your child lives at home. As a mom who has lived through two of these years I know it’s a tough time with lots of contradictions. You want them to grow up but you still want them to need you. You’re excited to see them going away but you still want the same old family dynamic you’ve had for years. You remember the things you did when you were their age and away from home for the first time and you cringe. You realize that you’re…well, old.

If you’re dealing with all these issues (or will be soon) it’s time to read The Goodbye Year. And now you have a chance to win a copy (thanks, Toni!) by just leaving a comment by October 30. Spread the word to all your friends who have teens. It’s a book we all should read.

The Goodbye Year: Wisdom and Culinary Therapy to Survive Your Child’s Senior Year of High SchoolTonibook_cover_new2

Author: Toni Piccinini

Paperback: 264 pages (also available in e-books)

Publisher: Seal Press (September 10, 2013)

Synposis:

For many mothers, a child’s senior year brings about a serious look back on the past eighteen. Every event—from Halloween to Mother’s Day—becomes The Last Time.

Toni Piccinini knows exactly what that’s like, and in The Goodbye Year, she offers the loving support every soon-to-be Empty Nester needs. Think of Toni as your bossy-but-loving Italian auntie, with modern sensibilities and a packed pantry. With the wisdom she’s acquired from saying goodbye three times to her own children, she reassuringly holds your hand while encouraging you through the insanity of the college application process, the rejections and the acceptances, and the teary dorm drop-offs. Even better, she reminds every mother that the best is yet to come—freedom, creativity, flexibility, and the Me Years.

5Ws with Toni Piccinini

Toniauthor_photoWHO
Who are some of your favorite writers and why?

I’m glad you added the “some” to your question. To name one favorite writer might be like naming a favorite child, though on some days that wouldn’t be too difficult. (Smiley face to moms)

I resonate with the themes of interior life, which most often means female writers. I just finished “The Lifeboat” a debut novel by Charlotte Rogan told from the limited perspective of a 1914 twenty-two year-old bride. We know she is flawed and her withholding is purposefully transparent. As a reader it engages me to feel as if I know more than the character telling the story. When a writer can do that, I am in awe. I never tire of Jane Austen, Alice Munro, and Margaret Atwood. The stories they tell exist on the level of words not said, random appointments rescheduled, and the seemingly insignificant decisions we make that change the course of a life. Anita Shreve’s “Testimony” is a parent’s nightmare. The story unspools chapter after chapter with the characters’ different voices—in first, second, and third person—fraying at the ends as the events of one night tear apart the fabric of their lives. Curtis Sittenfeld, Lionel Shriver, Gillian Flynn, Audrey Niffenegger, and Donna Tartt are simply wicked good. Though their writing voices are uniquely their own, they each possess a courage to look into the dark closets of their characters’ souls. At times asking the reader to suspend belief whether it’s time travel or parallel lives acted out side by side, the authenticity of the characters they create allow us to say, “Okay, I’ll go along with this.” Carol Edgarian writes about a financially strained marriage with small sick children in her latest novel, “Three Stages of Amazement.” Its humanity gives us heartache, heartburn and laughter at the absurdity of how we sometimes live our lives.

Jodi, I could just go on and on. I heart writers! Like most readers I want to be lost in a book. I want to live in the world on the pages, even if at the end of the last chapter, I’m happy to be back in mine.

WHEN
When do you do your writing? Are you a daily writer? Night owl? Morning bird?

About ten years ago I “discovered” Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” and I started morning pages. Ms. Cameron challenges any artist, which is any human being, to write freehand (and fill up) three notebook pages—freehand—first thing in the morning before we do anything else. Doing this every morning (takes about 25 minutes) is magical. The writing is not meant for anyone and often is a laundry list of “to dos” and a whine about the weather or a loved one. But getting it out and onto the page with pen to paper opens a channel to the divine. When much is on my mind I leave it on the page and in that open space creativity comes in. Doing the morning pages sets me up to do the “real” writing of the afternoon. The Deadline compresses my thoughts and gets my butt in the chair. When I’m under pressure I will write anytime of day for hours at my desk, in a library, in a café, or in bed because I have to! Procrastinating will do that to you. I am imagining what it would be like to turn something in days ahead, but right now that’s still in the realm of paranormal fiction in my writing life.

WHERE
Where did you get the idea to write The Goodbye Year? How did you make the jump in writing from antibiotics to personal essays?

When I was reporting scientific findings for professional journals often my principle investigator (PI in lab jargon) would laugh at the narrative I wanted to spin about the lives of the bacteria. He’d laugh, use his red pen, and tell me to follow the guidelines. Ironically, there’s not much room for experimental writing when writing about experiments. The Goodbye Year came years after when I noticed that much of my morning pages were about the hole I felt was forming with the realization that Page’s senior year would be the last time our family of five would be together.

WHAT
What is the one thing every parent should know when they begin their goodbye year?

Your child is not the same guy he was when he was ten, but maybe you’re still trying to be the same mother. This is a path to misery. Enjoy these last times. As hard as it is, allow your child to make mistakes, own them, and support the growth that comes as he or she prepares for the next stage of life.

WHY
Why did you select Seal Press? Can you tell us a little about your road to publication?

I would have selected Seal Press if that were an option, but blessed be, they selected me. In 2010, my agent had shopped a version of “The Goodbye Year” to several publishers, including Seal Press. At the time it didn’t fit their list, but in March of 2012 an editor remembered the submission, contacted my agent and made me an offer. It was a complete surprise. The team at Seal Press, from editors to designers to sales to publicity, has been so supportive and exceptional.

Giveaway: Murder by Syllabub

Would you like to load up your e-reader? Win a free e-copy of Murder by Syllabub by leaving a comment before October 22.

Syllabub_Covers=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380771831&sr=1-1&keywords=murder+by+syllabub”>Murder by Syllabub

Author: Kathleen Delaney

Paperback: 336 pages (also available in e-books)

Publisher: Camel Press (July 1, 2013)

Synposis:

A ghost in Colonial dress has been wreaking havoc at an old plantation house in Virginia. The house is owned by Elizabeth Smithwood, the best friend of Ellen McKenzie’s Aunt Mary. Mary is determined to fly to the rescue, and Ellen has no choice but to leave her real estate business and new husband to accompany her. Who else will keep the old girl out of trouble?

When Ellen and Aunt Mary arrive, they find that Elizabeth’s “house” comprises three sprawling buildings containing all manner of secret entrances and passages, not to mention slave cabins. But who owns what and who owned whom? After Monty–the so-called ghost and stepson of Elizabeth’s dead husband–turns up dead in Elizabeth’s house, suspicion falls on her. Especially when the cause of death is a poisoned glass of syllabub taken from a batch of the sweet, creamy after-dinner drink sitting in Elizabeth’s refrigerator.

Monty had enemies to spare. Why was he roaming the old house? What was he searching for? To find the truth, Ellen and her Aunt Mary will have to do much more than rummage through stacks of old crates; they will have to expose two hundred years of grudges and vendettas. The spirits they disturb are far deadlier than the one who brought them to Virginia.

Murder by Syllabub is the fifth book of the Ellen McKenzie Mystery series. But don’t worry, you can easily enjoy this one without reading the books that came before it.

Review:

When I first saw this title I was clueless…syllabub? Was that some sort of weird plural form of syllabus, that overly optimistic semester plan college profs hand out on the first day of class? Turns out it’s a colonial drink. One that is ideal for hiding poison in when you want to kill someone.

It was fun seeing the regular characters of the Ellen McKenzie mystery series out of their element, in fact transplanted across the country from sunny California to colonial Virginia. It added a twist that made the mystery even more difficult for Ellen to unwrap. Not only did she have to solve the mystery of the murder but the mystery of why people act in such a different way in this area that revolves around colonial history.

My favorite character in Murder by Syllabub was Cora Lee, that incredible combo of femininity and iron that results in a true Southern lady. I wish everyone was so wonderfully drawn as she was. This was a tough mystery to solve. There were so many people and so many possibilities and no one seemed to have a clear motive. Of course when it was all explained it was an “of course, why didn’t I see that” moment.