Saturday, March 26, 2016

Savvy Saturday: Interview with DJ Davis and Her New Man Troy

Today on Savvy Saturday we have DJ Davis here again to tell us a little about her new book. Welcome back DJ!

DJ: Thank you. I’m thrilled to be back with my second novel from Champagne Books. As a new author, who knew very little about the publishing business, I feel as if I’ve found a family. From query to release, the talented, warm people at Champagne made it easy and fun.

So DJ, I see you brought a helper to talk about your new book.

DJ: Yes, I did. Meet Troy Hart. Troy is a man of the mountains who enjoys quiet places, restoring old cabins, cooking over a campfire, and spending time with his obnoxious⎯but lovable⎯friend Eric.

Welcome Troy! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Troy: Well, I like the history of the old west and Colorado in particular. Eric would tell you it’s my gig. It is, but it’s more than that. Sometimes, when I touch certain antiques, I have visions of the its past. Sounds pretty cool, huh? Most of the time it is. But sometimes history doesn’t stay in the past. When the dead start walkin’ and talkin’ in my head, things tend to go bad in a big way.

Where is this book set, DJ?

DJ: The setting in the remote mountains of central Colorado near my fictional town of Rockglen. Those who read my first novel, Courageous Cain, will recognize it. Gordon Wolfe, who is now the sheriff, makes a cameo appearance.

Is there any significance to the location?

DJ: There certainly is. Colorado has its own bits of interesting Civil War history. Troy’s adventure begins where history left off, when the ghost of an outlaw forces him to fulfill his dying wish.

In April, 1864, Captain James Reynolds of the Texas Cavalry rode north toward the Colorado Territory. It is widely believed he had plans to recruit enough men along the way to raid and burn Denver as Quantrill had Lawrence, Kansas.

The gang (which had dwindled to nine men) came to the town of FairPlay, Colorado, as it had once been home to Jim Reynolds and his brother, John. They robbed their way up and down South Park, stealing from ranches, stage coach stations, miners and travelers.

The ranchers and miners formed a posse. The gang fled up Deer Creek above the present day town of Conifer, where the Reynolds brothers cached their treasure, to the tune of $65,000, in a prospect hole. That night, July 30, 1864, they were attacked. One man was killed and two escaped. One was shot not long after while stealing horses. The other was Jim’s brother, John.

The remaining gang members were captured, tried, and sentenced to Fort Leavenworth, but never got there. Their escort, the Third Regiment of Colorado Volunteers, executed them on the way. The prisoners were manacled together and blindfolded. Jim Reynolds refused to tell what they had done with money and the gang was shot down.

John Reynolds went to Santa Fe where he befriended Albert Brown and started robbing again. In October, 1871, they headed for Denver. Near Taos, in an attempt to steal fresh horses, Reynolds was mortally wounded. Before he died, Reynolds told Brown about the cache and drew a map of the area. He told Brown to look for a butcher knife with a broken handle stuck in a tree, pointing to the prospect hole.

Brown searched the Deer Creek area, but never did find the treasure. A forest fire had burned the timber and the knife marker was lost.

Some believe the treasure was discovered in 1906 by two prospectors who found $18,000 in gold dust in an abandoned shaft, but the location wan’t right. Many others believe Jim Reynolds’s cache is still there, buried in the mountain. Who knows? Maybe it is. I sure hope, because Troy’s life depends on it.

I hear there is a romantic interest. Care to tell us a little about her, Troy?

Troy: What can I say about Summer Star? She stole my heart. But I stole hers, too, and it wasn’t easy. She considered herself damaged goods. You wouldn’t believe what I had to go through to convince her I didn’t agree. But I had to do it, because of something my grandfather used to say. He would gaze at the night sky and point out Venus. Some call it the evening star or the morning star. He called it the summer star. He often told me that a man who’d found his summer star had found his heart. He was right.

Thank you for being here today DJ and Troy! We loved hearing from you.

Summer Star will be released on April 4th! Save the date, and head on over to Champagne Books for your copy.

Loner and history buff Troy Hart gets more than he bargained for when his psychic connection to the past leads him to the mountains of Colorado. The legend of buried treasure is nothing new, but falling in love is—and that’s the last thing Troy wants.

Troy’s visions of the old west are all fun and games, until the ghost of an outlaw forces Troy to fulfill his dying wish. To save his own life, and the life of the woman he loves, Troy must follow the trail of greed, betrayal and revenge on a treasure hunt for lost Civil War gold.

Now the fun is over and the game is survival as Troy battles the elements, a dead man, and his own heart deep in the remote high country.

DJ Davis is a Colorado native and the rugged high country sets the scene for her stories. When she's not writing, she can be found hiking with her dogs, photographing the wildlife, or camping with her husband. A Great Dane runs her life.

A portion of each sale of her novel "Courageous Cain" will be donated to Big Bones Canine Rescue in Windsor, Colorado. Help us help big dogs in need.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Savvy Saturday: An Interview with Paula Kennedy and the Characters of Her New Book

Welcome back to Savvy Saturday! Today we have Paula Kennedy, author of the Angels of the Night series, teacher, mother, and avid reader. Hello Paula!

Paula: Hey! It’s great to be here.

So Paula, who are these two pouting gentlemen behind you?

Paula: I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get them in the same room. Seating them together might not be such a good idea.

Let me introduce Darcy Wallace and Max Wilson from the Angels of the Night series. If you’ve read the first two books you’ll know they really don’t like each other. Unfortunately that’s extended beyond their roles in the story. Hopefully things will stay civil.

Darcy Wallace: Not likely.

Max Wilson: Screw you, Wallace! Right here, right now. Let’s go.

Paula: Guys! Relax. Sorry about that. Like I said, they’re really struggling to get along.

Welcome! So, guys, I’ve heard there is going to be a new book. What can you tell me about it?

Paula: Do one of you guys want to start?

Darcy: (lifts hand) Sure. Deception is the third installment in the Angels of the Night series and picks up where the second leaves off. We discover pretty early on Max Wilson has been kidnapped by a group of female vampires. (grins) Can’t say I was disappointed we didn’t see him at all at the beginning of the book.

Max: (folds arms) I’ll second that sentiment. It was nice to not have to look at your ugly mug.

Darcy: (laughs) Once it’s discovered Max is missing, the Masons refuse to send scouts to find him.

Max: (cuts in) That’s because their member numbers took a huge hit in the battle with Morana. They can’t spare the bodies. You can read about this battle in the second book, Divinity if you’re curious.

(smooths his hair and pops his collar) Allison is devastated I’m missing though.

Darcy: (crosses his arms) She wasn’t that upset.

Max: (punches Darcy in the arm) Sure she was. Allison was so upset, in fact, she went to Jonas Osbourne for help.

Darcy: And if you’ve read the first two books, you’ll know how dangerous Jonas is. Allison goes to Jonas for help finding this dick head, (gestures to Max) and Jonas ends up stealing her away to his manor house where he locks her in the basement. It’s left up to me and Robert to bring her back. The whole thing is pretty intense. I don’t want to say much more.

Max: Well they do end up finding me but something happens that evens up the odds between Wallace and me.

Darcy: Shut up. You can’t give too much away.

Max: Screw you. I’ll say what I want.

Paula: I think we better move on!

Any hints about the bad guys this time around?

Max: Darcy, of course. Any of the triplets could easily fall into the ‘bad guy’ category.

Darcy: (shoves Max) Why is this guy even here? (smooths his shirt) Jonas is around for a large portion of the book and we see someone return from the first book, Discovery. I think most readers would agree this mysterious person falls into the ‘bad guy’ role. I can’t say much more than that. You’ll just have to read it to find out. (winks)

Are there any surprises in the book?

Max: My character makes a complete transformation at the end of the book. I really can’t get into it. But I will say, it evens up the odds between Wallace and me.

Paula: There is a huge change at the end of the book. It was tough to write, I won’t lie. I think we should leave it as a surprise though.

What is Allison going to do next?

Max: Her taste in men is going to improve. A lot!

Darcy: (shakes head) Don’t believe anything this guy says. Allison stays with me. End of story.

Max: We’ll see.

Darcy: (eyes glinting) I guess we will, yeah.

Who can we trust in this next episode, and who should we watch out for?

Darcy: I’m not sure we can answer that without giving too much away. My best advice is to be wary of everyone.

Max: For once, the man has good advice.

Paula: Good job guys. We made it through without a fight! Thanks for having us. We’d love to come back another time.

Angels of the Night: Deception

This third installment in the Angels of the Night series picks up where the second leaves off and we discover Max Wilson has been kidnapped by a group of female vampires. The Masons refuse to send scouts to find him, their numbers having been greatly sapped in the battle with Morana, and Allison is devastated. Determined to bring him back, Allison believes an ancient vampire, Jonas Osbourne, can help and, despite protests from her guardian Thomas, meets with him alone. To her horror, Jonas incapacitates Thomas and steals her away to his manor house where he locks her in the basement. Trapped, Allison is at the complete mercy of Jonas’ desires. Her only hope of escape is her vampire boyfriend Darcy, but will his love be enough to bring her back from the brink of insanity? Can he find her before she forever succumbs to Jonas’ cravings? Find out if some angels deserve to die.

Author Bio

When Paula is not spending time with her children, she’s buried in her endless ‘to be read’ pile of books or frantically baking muffins with the freezer full of bananas her husband threatens to throw away. Born and raised in Northern Ontario, Paula has an Honor Bachelor degree in Psychology from Laurentian University and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Western Ontario. A teacher by day, Paula loves to inspire her students to be extraordinary and work hard for what they are passionate about.

Paula is represented by the amazing Susan Miller at Donaghy Literary.

Social Media Links:

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

New Smyrna Swing by D.D. Queens Review from LASR

New Smyrna Swing by D.D. Queens

New Smyrna Swing by D.D. Queens
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (178 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia
Newbie Florida P.I. Jenna Palmer’s bad day starts when she finds her Albert E. Gator mailbox smashed to smithereens. Things go from bad to worse after she returns home from a therapeutic mani-pedi to discover her ex inside her house—the same ex who’d run off with their lottery jackpot, and a bartender from the local biker bar. But the worst part is, he’s dead. Now she has to solve the toughest case of her fledgling career.
The distractingly handsome, by-the-book Detective Bryce Johnson is also on the case, and Jenna is his prime suspect. Time is running out, and leads are tough to find. While Jenna’s chasing down clues, Detective Johnson is chasing her, convinced that she knows more than she’s telling. There’s an undeniable chemistry sparking between them, but there’s a murder to solve and justice to be served.
Is Jenna really the only one with a motive for killing her ex?
Jenna is an odd character, and I had a hard time deciding how I felt about her. There were times when I was highly annoyed by her attitude, and then other times when I felt sorry for her. Jenna has a very easy going attitude, and despite her lack of close friends, she is friendly and pleasant with most of the people she meets. However, she doesn’t seem to be overly concerned with anything that doesn’t directly affect her. I found her to be self-centered, and I don’t like how she treats the few friends that she has. Fortunately, as the story progressed, Jenna made some progress in that department. I truly believe she is well on her way to being a more compassionate person.
When Jenna’s ex is killed, she is the prime suspect. Understandably, she wants to clear her name as quickly as possible. However, I don’t think she went about it in quite the right way. She seems to go out of her way to irritate the detective on the case. With all the stunts she pulled, I’m very surprised that she didn’t get in serious trouble. I couldn’t help but think that if she had been more forthcoming with the information she had compiled, she and Detective Johnson would have gotten along much better. Despite this issue, I will admit that Jenna really does have a talent for being a good detective. There were very few leads in the case and she does an excellent job of tracking down every shred of evidence she can find.
The conclusion of the mystery caught me off guard. There were very few suspects, but the true culprit was not someone I had ever seriously considered. Once Jenna began to suspect this character, everything wrapped up in a quick, but satisfying way.
I think New Smyrna Swing is a good book. I enjoyed watching Jenna solve the case in her unique way. I recommend it to anyone looking for a quick and fun mystery.

Serena's Fall by M. K. Smith Review from LASR

Serena’s Fall by M.K. Smith

Serena’s Fall by M.K. Smith
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (267 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia
Betrayed by her once-upon-a-naive-time friends, Serena, the last Water Fey, can’t touch any man she would ever want without dooming him to a hero’s brutal death. So she lives outcast among her own kind, caring for orphaned Fey children, casualties of an ancient war that broke magic and doomed the Fey to possible extinction.
Now her friends are back, desperate to use her powers to stop the return of the greatest evil the Fey have ever faced. Prophesy says if she doesn’t magic-up a hero and bond him to a mysterious, mystical sword, the human world will be the next to fall.
Two potential heroes surface—Lance, the free spirited surfer, and the doomed warrior Gramm. Both men want her, both need her, and both have a claim to her heart.
But Serena’s tired of human heroes dying because some Water Fey said so. With her combat boots strung tight and her corset even tighter, it’s time to weave some new lines of destiny.
Serena has certainly found herself in an impossible situation. As the last Water Fey, her powers and the hero of her choosing are the only chance left at saving the world for humans as well as the Fey. Serena’s life hasn’t been easy, and she isn’t at all sure the world is worth saving. However, when her old friend Chloe calls for her help, Serena reluctantly agrees to a meeting, even if it means seeing Rachel again. Once I read how dire the situation is, I couldn’t fault Serena for walking away, but even in the first pages of this story I could tell that Serena isn’t a quitter. Chloe wants to save the world and I could tell that Serena was going to figure out a way to make it happen.
Serena is an interesting character. She has suffered a lot at the hands of people she should have been able to trust. Consequently, she is understandably very guarded. She wears her makeup and corset like armor against the rest of the world. As I read, I couldn’t believe how many hard choices Serena faced. She has to make a lot of personal sacrifices for the good of the mission as well as for the sake of repairing relationships. Once Serena is fully on board with the plan to save the world, she takes on immense responsibility. She is uncompromising and unwilling to sacrifice anyone along the way.
The relationship between Serena, Chloe, and Rachel is beyond toxic. It was quite painful to read, especially when the trio first reconnected. Few details were initially revealed concerning the tragic circumstances that caused the friendship to fracture. However, the little I knew left me very confused about why Chloe and Rachel seemed so indifferent to the pain Serena endured. Gradually more details were revealed that went a long way to explaining everyone’s behavior. I do wish those details had been provided sooner in the story.
I am pleased to say that Serena and Chloe truly mend their relationship. Unfortunately, Serena and Rachel will never be close again. They can barely manage to be polite to each other. The only reason they tolerate each other is for the sake of the mission and Chloe. From what I read, I don’t believe Rachel has any redeeming qualities. While I know that Rachel’s life has been far from perfect, it certainly doesn’t in any way excuse her behavior.
Overall, I liked reading Serena’s Fall. Serena is an intriguing and well rounded character, and I’m curious to know what will happen next. Serena and Chloe accomplished a lot in this book, but the world is still in peril. I hope that Mr. Smith has a sequel planned for Serena and her friends.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sale, sale, sale!

If you haven't seen yet, there is a sale going on! 
Highland Promise is now on sale through the end of the month for $0.99. 
For the link, click here.

And Courageous Cain will be $2.99 for a limited time during March 14-25th. 
For the link, click here.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Savvy Saturday: The Story of Rajana and Avadur by Shiela Stewart

Like this backstory? Get the full deal here.
Centuries ago, Rajana was a young peasant girl who did whatever she could to survive. She stole food from outdoor carts, pick pocketed the rich, and stole clothing and blankets hanging to dry on lines outside. On the best of days, she could find shelter in a barn, or shed, but most of the time she slept on the streets. More times than not she was ushered away by the authorities. It was not an easy life for her.

Hearing talk about a woman with grand riches and beautiful jewels, Rajana decided to make her the next target. She watched the home for days, studying the woman, learning her patterns. She often had other women visit, and at least one a week they all left for several hours. Tonight was that night. Hiding in the shadows, Rajana waited for the women to leave. Quietly, she snuck up to the house and entered through an open window. The home was beautifully decorated with fine silks and cloth. She stood in awe at all that was before her. Knowing she had several hours, she took her time wandering about the house. She sat on the ornate sofa, then stretched on the large and very soft bed. She then went through the closets and swooned over the dresses. Unable to resist, she began to try them on. Each one was silky and beautifully decorated. She was sure the woman wouldn't miss one, and decided to keep on the royal blue lace gown.

The dress may be beautiful, but it wouldn't fill her belly or make her rich.

She went through drawers and closets looking for the jewels the people on the streets spoke of. In a large room, she saw several drawers, and could only stare upon opening them. In one drawer were jewels, gems, and crystals. She had hit the jackpot!

Grabbing a wicker basket on the floor, she loaded it full of her find. This was going to keep her in the lifestyle she so yearned for. Carrying the basket, high on her job well done, she suddenly heard the door open. Terrified, she searched for somewhere to hide. But it was too late.

She pleaded with the woman not to turn her in, promised never to do it again, but all the woman did was smile. To her surprise, the woman began to chant, her arms stretched up above her.

She felt her legs give and the room went dark. When she awoke, she was in a cage in a dark, dank cave. Once again, the woman was before her, and once again, she began to chant. Rajana felt a great pain in her body, enough to make her make her cry out for relief. The woman said nothing as she opened the door and held out a goblet. Needing water, Rajana took it eagerly only to nearly choked on the blood inside. But then, something inside of her rose up and the blood became an ambrosia. The woman grabbed hold of her and dragged her out into the night. She cursed her to live forever needing only blood to survive, and never being able to walk in the sunlight again without being burned severely.

She called her a vampire.

It took Rajana days to acclimate herself to her new life, and without hesitation, began to feed on humans. She hid in the daylight and stalked her prey at night. She hated what the woman had done to her. Seeking revenge, she captured the woman, who she tortured for days. When she realized all the witch could give her, she insisted on being granted mighty powers of mind control, teleportation, and so much more. When she was done with the witch, she felt benevolent and instead of killing her, curse the witch to live as she did. 

High on her new found powers, Rajana decided she wanted a man to fulfill her life. She drank from those who had ridiculed her, and soon realized she too could make them as she was. And so she set out to find just the right man. Avadur was a powerful Duke, who was incredibly handsome. Using her mind control, she lured him to the home of one of her victims and made him hers. She soon learned his charm was as vicious as a snake’s venom. He demanded she take him to the witch who had granted her powers. Avadur tortured the witch for days, refusing her the blood she now craved. And when she finally gave in, she granted him powers as well.

Rajana began to despise the man she had created and when she found out she was pregnant, decided to run away. She hid until her baby was born, and despite the monster that helped create him, she loved the child with all her heart. To her greatest fear, Avadur found her with the help of the witch. He took her son whom she named Basil, and pleaded with Avadur not to take him from her. She learned that day, just how evil he was when he instructed the witch to lock her away in a place where she could see everything, watch her child grow, but not be able to reach him. Using black magic, the witch created a realm and locked Rajana away. Over the years, Rajana watched as Avadur beat their son, forced him to feed and create more vampires, and would starve him until he agreed to become as vicious as his father. She vowed one day to exact her revenge and after decades, she finally found a way to lock him with her. She did not let him roam free, but instead, locked him in a room of eternal darkness and fed him only once a week. She watched as her son grew to be a strong man, a leader and was overjoyed when he found a love to call his own.

And she hoped, one day, to be reunited with her child.

Raised on a rural farm in Saskatchewan, Canada, Shiela Stewart relied on her vivid imagination to fill her days. Never did she realize that her need to tell a story would someday lead to becoming a published author.

In the fall of two thousand and six, Shiela published her very first book and she hasn’t stopped since.

When not writing, Shiela spends time with the love of her life and biggest supporter, William. She enjoys doting on her children and granddaughter. She has a strong affection for animals which is evident in the five cats, one dog, plenty of fish and one turtle she owns.

Some of her other passions are home d├ęcor, crocheting and knitting.

Where to find Shiela:

Shiela’s Book blog

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Excerpt from All Mad Here by Brantwijn Serrah

All Mad Here
A Four Courts Novella
By Brantwijn Serrah
Paranormal/Fantasy Erotic Romance
Champagne Books:

He doesn’t know it, but Finn is about to get his birthday wish.


“You are almost free,” she said. “But alas, for riddle number three.”

Finn had no worries. The first answer had been tied to Spring and Autumn, the second to Winter. She had but one Court left to draw from.

Nineva swept up close to him. “What did my sister give you, which I now wish for you to give to me?”

“Wait, what?” he asked.

She seized him before he could react, pulling him to the grass with her, drawing him into another kiss. Finn flailed a moment, once more caught off-guard, but he planted his hands on either side of her, holding himself above her.

“Bloody hell, lass! What do my Ladies mean by all this?”

“Finn,” she said. Her hand stole down, sneaking to his groin, where she teasingly caressed him.

“What did my sister give you, which I now wish for you to give to me?”

He stared.

“Nina,” he whispered. “The rules of this game are...very unclear to me.”

“Ah, well...allow me to make them clearer,” she said.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

New Release! All Mad Here by Brantwijn Serrah

All Mad Here
A Four Courts Novella
By Brantwijn Serrah
Paranormal/Fantasy Erotic Romance
Champagne Books:

Finn expected a quiet birthday: a night off, touring the local bars with his sister Reagan. But his two princesses, Nineva and Nerissa, have already planned a big surprise. Before he knows it, Finn finds himself in a version of Wonderland, racing the Red and White Queens for his fondest birthday wish. Can he best the Red Knight, find the White Rabbit's missing token, and outsmart the Chesire Cat, before he gets turned into a sheep?

And can Nina and Neri possibly know his true birthday them?

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Savvy Saturday: When Roses Wept by Keith Wayne McCoy

My father was on a submarine somewhere in the Pacific that summer of 1943. A child of six, I understood only that Daddy was far away saving the whole world from a bad man with a silly moustache. My younger brother and I missed his broad shoulders which we heartily rode and the flighty rough-housing which had often raised objections from our mother, disturbed by the racket. Though he was the ultimate hero in our adoring eyes, we sensed her despair and, so, allowed the lingering hugs and kisses. She was canning green beans in pretty blue jars one afternoon when she saw a plume of dust unfurling down our country road. She began crying as she watched two uniformed men step from their car. At the door, she collapsed and began screaming and even at my young age, I recognized the remote regard with which the men patiently held an envelope down to her. They had obviously done this many times before.

She grasped our little bodies and though we wept to see her weep, startled to suddenly be children without the presence of a coherent adult, we knew that our father would not lift us again or bring a hand to his face in mock astonishment and utter, “Did you make this?” Our grandparents, aunts, and uncles arrived and fell into each other’s arms and we were equally thunderstruck at their unadulterated lack of decorum. Death had descended sinisterly over our big house, insinuating itself down halls, wrapping around balusters, and whispering through screened windows and doors, saturating the very fabric of our furniture and clothes.

At the funeral, she made us kneel and kiss the flag-draped coffin as she rested her head against it. Other adults urged her up but she remained steadfast. I wanted to see my Daddy but was tersely told by a grandfather that I should be strong and remember him when alive as he had died a violent death and mustn’t be seen by anyone.

In the midst of the upheaval, I tossed and turned one night, sweating in my upstairs bedroom and woke my little brother to prepare a makeshift bed for us on the floor before the screen door of the entrance hall. A great fan blew luxuriously warm night air over us.

I had just dozed when I was aware of a presence. Whether by sound or supernatural nudge, I opened my eyes to see a very large man open and step through the screen door, careful not to let it bang behind him. The intruder headed with stealthy intent for the staircase and had just wrapped a massive hand around the newel post when he saw us in the floor. Miraculously, I pretended sleep though a scream threatened to flare from my throat. He slowly stepped backwards without turning, and tiptoeing, left exactly as he had entered. I lay still for several interminable minutes, shivering, then rose to shut the main door and deadlock it despite the heat. I did not tell my mother of the incident as she was still very much a fragile adult, and I did not want yet another torment to press on her. I would confront this newest trial on my own. I began locking the doors before bed each night and though she never questioned my rationale, I was perplexed to hear her softly unlatching the front screen door each night when she thought my brother and I slept. In the morning, the door was always mindfully latched. Furthermore, the giant floor fan was moved into our upstairs bedroom.

I thought she was once again grieving heavily a few nights later when I heard her in the downstairs bathroom moaning. I padded to the door and softly asked if she wanted to hold me tight. This time she answered negatively and gasped raggedly. She agonized and the pain seemed to overwhelm her vocal chords as pitiful, hissing cries emanated from beyond the door. I offered to call a grandparent but she suddenly regained her voice and sternly told me to go back to bed. I stood unable to listen because of my thundering heartbeat, and she wickedly screamed at me to go upstairs. I dutifully climbed the risers and slipped under the sheet, straining to hear.

The bathroom door creaked open and I heard her stagger into the pantry and rummage, sobbing and groaning. When I heard the screen door object, I rose and went to the window. She walked heavily to the garden shed and emerged with a spade though I could not tell that which she held in her other hand. I could see the excruciating pain in her gait and when she stopped before the rose bush and lifted a foot to press down on the spade, her tightly restrained whimper was unbearable to me. The crickets chirped their somnolent song as she dug and finally dropped the object into the hole. She dropped to her hands and knees and scooped at the earth.

The next morning, she did not rise to prepare our breakfast but slept obliviously until noon. Her eyes were circled and her voice spent when she asked us if we knew just how much she loved us. We nodded compliantly and stayed inside to minister her as she languished on the sofa, sobbing and staring at some invisible object in the ceiling corner. Attentive but scared, I debated calling an elder yet feared her reproach as she had insisted throughout the day that her illness was a private matter between the three of us that no adult should be made aware. She smiled weakly when she assured us that we were much too strong to give in to despair and our little circle would never be broken. I felt a certain sense of superiority in the knowledge that we constituted her entire being and felt the unmistakable stirrings of what was surely manhood in our household.

But soon a giant trespassed into our blissful existence and knocked me from my soaring climb to the top of the world of man. He was the giant in the night I had seen and dreamed of since first laying eyes on him from the floor of the foyer. The flat-footed fool never had to fight as my father had and, fairly or unfairly, never had a chance of approaching any level of respect in my eyes. His sole objective seemed to be to countermand my importance to my mother and brother and, quite simply, to rigidly reinforce the fact that I was a mere child. When he kissed my mother and held her hand, I wished to spit upon him or, even worse, strangle him. After they married, I threw a cast-iron doorstop through the window when my mother suggested my baby brother and I call the intruder “Daddy”. I persuaded my brother to call him by his first name, never letting him forget through stories, real and imagined, the heroic nature of our father. Yet I could never quite forgive nor forget the fact that he nevertheless allowed the man to become an authority figure.

Adolescence brought all hope of mutual tolerance to an incontrovertible end, and hate became my intimate companion. We were growling dogs circling each other. My mother was forever on the fence regarding our relationship, and once she realized her efforts were fruitless, she divided her loyalty and love into an unhealthy balance between the two of us. When friction escalated to shouts and sometimes physical confrontation, she simply tended her prized rose bush with a dogged determination. Pruning, dead-heading, and daily waterings from a magic bucket were her luxury chores. Neighbors and even townsfolk came to admire the dazzling, perfectly-shaped explosions of pink throughout the summer. She was photographed more than once for the local newspaper standing before her masterpiece and enigmatically refused to allow any cuttings. When the petals wept to the ground in late summer, my mother wept as well on her knees among them with her face in her hands, despondent in some curious way that the males in her life failed to interpret. When the bush died, she was inconsolable for weeks.

Many years after my mother and stepfather slept in the ground next to each other and I finally realized my interrupted quest for the full blessings of a family by becoming husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, an old childhood friend came to me with an ancient riddle. A swimming pool was being dug at the old homestead and an encrusted jar rolled eerily from the shovel of a backhoe to the feet of an onlooking little girl. Presented to me after being cleaned and wiped to a gleam, already marveled at by so many at the worksite, was a blue Ball jar like those from far memory but containing a tiny skull and clearly articulated skeleton: the mystery of a brother or sister and a father’s child finally given birth in another century.

Keith Wayne McCoy majored in Creative Writing at the University of Southern Indiana. He has won scholarships to several writing conferences and studied under such luminaries as John Hawkes, Bob Shacochis, Amy Hempel, and Sigrid Nunez. His novel "The Travelers" was a quarter-finalist in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. In addition to writing, Mr. McCoy is a world-class collector of furniture and memorabilia from the 1930s luxury liner QUEEN MARY. He lives in southern Illinois. Visit his blog here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Tattle and Wrye column March 2013 edition



Tattle arrives in her version of a superhero costume.  Red cape, princess hat, roller sneakers and an ST (Super Tattle) embroidered on her jumper.  Picture this!  (Holds hands up as if framing a photo)

Wrye looks at her hands. "Ummm...what?"

"You're in an airplane hurling toward the earth, total nosedive...."

Wrye clears his throat, interrupting, "Are you in the plane, too?"

(Makes a wrinkled-up nose face)  "No way, I'd be hurling."

"Too much info!  Besides, we don't have time for flying.  We are about to take our Love of Literature Leap into a review of THE LESSON by JOYCE WARD."

"Oooh," Tattle peeks over his shoulder.  "Oh yes, this was indeed a super read.  Just like her.  Just like her story.  Just like me when I rescue your plane about to crash into the earth."

"You don't have superpowers."

"Hmmm, guess you wouldn't make it then, huh?"  A considering look develops and she holds up her fingers again, framing Wrye.  "Your next life, wings or horns...."


"Never mind, let's just tell our readers about THE LESSON!" 

"Cue Twilight Zone music with a sprinkling of the Night Gallery themes and," Wrye snaps a finger.  "Ta da!  THE LESSON is ready for your nail biting experience."

Tattle's costume morphs into black on black attire, her voice turns eerie and the surroundings turn to black and white.  "When Pamela Tripp's favorite Uncle Mack dies at just forty-eight years old, Pam experiences her second dose of emotional battering.  Her father had died not that long ago, and since then her behavior had become bitter..."  Screw her face up as if she ate a lemon.  "And brittle.  Meanwhile, her mother had become the epitome of cookie cutter perfection and the two personalities clash like symphonic cymbals."

Wrye interrupts, "At the Mason and Sons Mortuary, Mrs. Tripp is not pleased to see her daughter's punkish look, her artistic boyfriend, Kevin, or that they are as high as a supersonic airplane.  Of course, smoking marijuana, is how Pam has been coping."

"A confrontation is inevitable, and Pam would have dashed out the exit except for a desperate need to pee and her inability to pass up plucking, from a florist's bouquet, her favorite flower, a green cymbidium orchid."  Tattle snares an orchid out of the air and inhales deeply.

As he finger drums the Hitchcock theme song, Wrye adds, "The assistant director, Philip, gives them both a dressing down, but perhaps feeling pity, directs her to the less crowded bathrooms on the lower level, adding a warning to avoid the construction area."

"Her amorous, misguided and curious boyfriend trashes the embalming room, and then does the exact opposite of what Philips warned against.  Disobeying the sign, Caution.  Enter at your own risk, he drags Pam through a door.  Hence begins the real tale, down a dark, creepy path that pushes the boundaries of sanity and astonishing possibilities."

If there had been a camera, Wrye would have leaned into it.  "Be prepared to hold your breath and feel your skin crawl from page one to the end.  Joyce Ward captures the emotional turmoil of a troubled young woman in mourning with realistic intensity. At the same time, you find yourself part of the story, part of the character yet want desperately to guide Pam out of her self-perpetuating problems.  Yet, you will find yourself as trapped as the character, only your entrapment is by Joyce's intoxicating prose."

Tattle pretends to take a microphone from Wrye, taps it for sounds.  "Joyce's writing draws you in like a spidery web with just a tickle of traumatic promise.  Soon enough, though, you are enmeshed in a cocoon of devilment, confusion and apprehension.  Each page brings you closer to the unexpected as your pulse increases and your fear evolves.  If you like a ride into the twisted macabre, read THE LESSON.  But be warned, you will read it in one sitting and, for your own safety, have plenty of light!"

"We can't wait to read more by this new author with a fresh voice birthed from a yesteryear formula."

Hope you enjoyed our leap into our review of THE LESSON by JOYCE WARD.  Until next time, keep reading!

Dona Penza Rutabaga Tattle, Esq. and Associate Wrye Balderdash
of Blather City, Wannachat

Created and written by:  Angelica Hart and Zi

Books by: Angelica Hart and Zi
Books by: Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane