‘The Art of Betrayal,’ by Connie Berry

AUTHOR: Connie Berry

WEBSITE: https://www.connieberry.com

PUBLISHER: Crooked Lane

FIND OUT MORE: 

1. Amazon: The Art of Betrayal: A Kate Hamilton Mystery: Berry, Connie: 9781643855943: Amazon.com: Books

2. Barnes&Noble: The Art of Betrayal: A Kate Hamilton Mystery by Connie Berry, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

3. Booksamillion: The Art of Betrayal : A Kate Hamilton Mystery by Connie Berry (booksamillion.com)

4. Indiebound: The Art of Betrayal: A Kate Hamilton Mystery | IndieBound.org


ABOUT THE BOOK: 

American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton is spending the month of May in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, tending her friend Ivor Tweedy’s antiquities shop while he recovers from hip surgery. Kate is thrilled when a reclusive widow consigns an ancient Chinese jar—until the Chinese jar is stolen and a body turns up in the middle of the May Fair. With no insurance covering the loss, Tweedy may be ruined. As DI Tom Mallory searches for the victim’s missing daughter, Kate notices puzzling connections with a well-known local legend. Kate’s most puzzling case yet pits her against the spring floods, a creepy mansion in the Suffolk countryside, the murky depths of Anglo-Saxon history, and a clever killer with an old secret. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Connie Berry is the author of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries, set in the UK and featuring an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. Like her protagonist, Connie was raised by antiques dealers who instilled in her a passion for history, fine art, and travel. During college she studied at the University of Freiburg in Germany and St. Clare’s College, Oxford, where she fell under the spell of the British Isles. In 2019 Connie won the IPPY Gold Medal for Mystery and was a finalist for the Agatha Award’s Best Debut. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and is on the board of the Guppies and her local Sisters in Crime chapter. Besides reading and writing mysteries, Connie loves history, foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British. She lives in Ohio with her husband and adorable Shih Tzu, Emmie. 


FOLLOW CONNIE BERRY: 

Website: www.connieberry.com

Facebook: https://facebook.com/thekatehamiltonmysteryseries

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@conniecberry

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/conniecampbellberry

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/@conniecampbellberry



CHAPTER ONE:

Long Barston, Suffolk, England

The fourth of May was one of those glorious spring days in England that almost convince you nothing evil could ever happen again. Mild, green-scented air wafted through the open door of Ivor Tweedy’s antiquities shop. A curious bumblebee meandered inside, had a quick look-around, and buzzed out again in search of the window boxes along Long Barston’s main street.

I was perched on a stool behind the counter, polishing silver, when I heard a soft cough. 

She stood framed in the doorway, clutching a large striped tote bag as if it held her firstborn—a ridiculous image because the woman had to be in her late sixties. Her thick, iron-gray hair was pulled into a coil at her neck, and she wore a pair of those light-sensing eyeglasses that never quite make it to clear. She was obviously ill at ease, which in itself wasn’t unusual. Antiques shops often attract timid souls hoping to raise a little cash by selling grandma’s pearls or grandpa’s collection of vintage cameras. They come expecting to be cheated.

“Hello.” I pulled off my latex gloves and came around the counter, feeling like a kindergarten teacher on the first day of school. “Welcome to The Cabinet of Curiosities.” 

The woman stepped into the shop. I couldn’t see her eyes behind the darkened lenses, but she seemed more wary than timid, which set off alarm bells. Twice in my life I’d been offered stolen property—in both cases, the items brought in by dodgy looking men in their twenties. This woman looked respectable, even old-fashioned. She wore a well-cut linen skirt, a crisp white blouse, and flat orthopedic sandals. An expensive but well-worn Gucci handbag hung from one bone-thin arm. “I was expecting the owner, Ivor Tweedy.” 

“I’m afraid Mr. Tweedy is recovering from surgery. I’m filling in while he recuperates.”

“You’re American.” Her lips thinned in disapproval.

“I am.” Obviously.

Once, this woman had been quite beautiful. I could see it in her bone structure, the line of her mouth, the way she held her head and shoulders. 

She studied me for a moment. Her eyes shifted to the small-paned front window. “Do you have somewhere more private?”

“Of course.” I grabbed the binder Ivor used to record sales and commissions. “Just let me lock up.” I closed the shop door, shot the bolt, and flipped the Open sign in the window to Closed. “My name is Kate Hamilton. And yours?” When she didn’t answer, I tried another tack. “Have you brought something for appraisal?”

“Not for appraisal, no.” Now that she’d been out of the sun for a few minutes, her glasses had partially lightened, allowing me a glimpse of pale, hooded eyes. “I have something I wish to sell.”

I led her through a maze of display cases to an alcove furnished with an early Regency pedestal table and two folding campaign chairs that, according to Ivor, had traveled with Wellington into the Battle of Waterloo. 

Once we were seated, the woman settled the carry-all on her lap and peeled down the fabric, exposing a large, roundish object swathed in bubble wrap. 

“Be careful. It’s heavy.” She handed the bundle to me.

“Well, let’s take a look.” I placed the object on the table and used the edge of my thumbnail to peel back a strip of clear tape. That’s when I felt it—the tingling in my fingertips, the flush of heat in my cheeks, the pounding of my heart against my ribcage. I’ve experienced these symptoms from childhood in the presence of an object of great age and beauty. 

Some would call it a gift. I’ve always thought of it as an affliction. My father, who taught me about antiques, had half-jokingly called me a divvy—an antique whisperer—born with the ability to spot the single treasure hidden among the trash that frequently passes for antiques. He wasn’t right, of course. My eyes can be fooled by a masterful fake as easily as the next person. 

It’s the internal symptoms that never fail. 

The client watched me, her bony fingers clasping and unclasping in her lap. 

I peeled back a layer of bubble wrap and took a sudden breath. 

Even before the wrapping was fully removed, I knew what was inside. The technical term is húnpíng, a distinctive type of stoneware jar found in the Han-dynasty tombs of early Imperial China. 

The final layer of wrapping slid away. Each húnpíng is unique—some fairly simple, others wonderfully complex. This example was nothing short of dazzling.

The bulbous jar had the earthy gray-green glaze known as celadon, typical of the period. The lower two-thirds of the vessel featured a procession of mold-pressed figures—leaping chimera; riders astride coiling, dragon-like creatures; peak-helmeted warriors wielding long pikes, ready to strike. The fullest part of the jar culminated in a wide mouth supporting a fantastical, multi-storied architectural complex with triple-tiered, tiled roofs and curved corner eaves surrounded by gates and pillars, each entryway guarded by a pair of oversized guards. I tilted the jar to peer at the bottom. Unglazed, unmarked—typical of the Han period. 

“Do you know what this is?” I asked.

“Some kind of urn?” 

“It’s an ancient Chinese funerary jar from the Han dynasty. In English we call it a soul jar or spirit jar.”

“Han?”

“They ruled much of China for four centuries, roughly 200 B.C. to 200 A.D.”

“Is it valuable?”

“If authentic, very.” 

“Oh, it’s authentic. How much is it worth?”

“My guess would be thirty or forty thousand pounds, but to be sure I’d have to consult someone who specializes in early Chinese ceramics. I’m not an expert.” 

She blinked and shoved her glasses higher on her nose. “How long would that take? To consult, I mean.”

“Two or three days, perhaps a week.” I clicked open my pen. “First I’ll need your name and the history of the piece, as far as you know it.”

Her shoulders stiffened, as if I’d asked to see her bank balance. “My name is Evelyn Villiers. My husband bought the urn forty years ago in Hong Kong. He traveled a great deal for business and often purchased pieces for his art collection. If necessary, I can tell you the name of the shop and exactly what he paid for it. He kept meticulous records.”

“That would help,” I said, tossing my earlier caution to the wind. This woman actually had documentation. “It’s a wonderful piece. May I ask why you’re selling?”

“Not for the money, if that’s what you’re thinking.” Mrs. Villiers snapped open the clasp on her handbag and pulled out a white handkerchief. “My husband died eighteen years ago. We had one child, a daughter. When I’m gone, she’ll inherit a large trust fund from her father. I can’t stop that, but I refuse to let her inherit his art collection as well. I’ve decided to sell now, while I’m able.” She met my eyes, as if daring me to criticize. 

Criticism was the last thing on my mind—pots calling kettles black and all that. My own daughter, Christine, and my son, Eric, had recently (and unexpectedly) inherited twenty thousand pounds each from their Scottish aunt, a sum I’d persuaded them to invest in a money-market account in Ohio. Eric’s share would help pay for his doctoral degree in nuclear physics. Christine had intended to spend hers, meaning it would have been gone in months, with no more to show for it than a handful of receipts—and very possibly a lady’s Rolex. Christine’s latest boyfriend, the son of an Italian manufacturing executive, had a Rolex. Doesn’t everyone?

Mrs. Villiers cleared her throat, and I put my parenting issues aside. Whatever had caused a rift between this woman and her only child had been a tragedy, and I wasn’t about to take advantage. 

“We’d love to help you sell the jar, Mrs. Villiers, but you might want to consider Sotheby’s or one of the other large auction houses in London. Buyers from all over the world receive their catalogs. Wealthy Chinese collectors are paying top prices for objects like this. I’m sure you’d realize more from them than you could from us.”

“No public auctions. No catalogs.” Mrs. Villiers pinched her lips together. “I insist on doing this privately, without publicity. That’s why I came to you…well, to Mr. Tweedy. Just write a check. Whatever you think is fair.”

I felt my cheeks turn pink. Ivor’s checking account currently held just about enough to cover expenses for the month of May. “I’m afraid we’re not in a position to purchase the piece outright. If you’re sure you want us to handle the jar, I suggest consignment. We find a buyer. You get the proceeds, minus a reasonable commission. Why don’t I show you our standard contract? If you’re satisfied, we’d be happy to handle the sale.” I turned to the back of the binder, snapped open the rings, and pulled out a printed legal document. As I organized the papers, I tried to make conversation. “Will you be going to the May Fair on the green this evening?”

She mumbled something that sounded like wagon bell.

I looked up. “Sorry? I didn’t catch that.”

“I said if you can guarantee my privacy, I have more to sell. A lot more.”

That was not what she’d said, but I let it go, swept away by the glorious possibilities. What Mrs. Villiers was proposing was nothing short of a miracle—a source of high-quality antiques without any financial investment on Ivor’s part. This woman wasn’t offering an odd piece now and again but an entire collection, and if the húnpíng was any indication of the quality, a collection that would place The Cabinet of Curiosities among the highest tier of England’s private dealers. I couldn’t wait to tell Ivor. “What sorts of things did your husband collect?”

“Like the urn—you know, pottery, porcelain, paintings. Old stuff. Special figurines as well—nearly fifty pieces. I can’t remember the name, but they’re marked on the bottom with crossed swords.”

“You mean Meissen.” My heart kicked up a notch.

She brightened. “That’s right. Meissen.” 

 The famous Meissen factory near Dresden was the first European manufacturer to crack the closely held Chinese secret formula for true hard-paste porcelain. Europeans called it “white gold” in the eighteenth century, beloved for its translucency, resilience, and pure white hue. The Chinese had been producing porcelain since the seventh or eighth century, exporting it all over the world. Then came Meissen with its crossed-swords mark, creating stunning pieces that surpassed even the Chinese in beauty. I couldn’t wait to get my eyes on them.

“And jewelry,” Mrs. Villiers said. “Wallace loved fine jewelry.” 

She obviously hadn’t shared that interest. Except for a small heart-shaped locket around her neck, she wore no jewelry of any kind. 

“We have a tiered commission structure,” I said. “The higher the sale price, the lower the percentage.” In the description column I wrote Chinese Húnpíng Jar, Han dynasty, approx. 16″ high and 11″ wide. Value to be determined. “Now, if it’s all right, I’ll take a few photographs. That way you can take the jar home until I’ve arranged for an expert to examine it.”

“No. I want you to keep it.” 

“All right—if you’re sure.” I turned the consignment form toward her and handed her my pen. “Read through the contract carefully. The payment terms are in the final paragraph. Print your name, address, and telephone number there, and sign at the bottom.” 

While Mrs. Villiers examined the contract, I used my cell phone to snap several images. I couldn’t believe our good fortune. I felt like pinching myself. Finally, laying the jar carefully on its side, I took a shot of the unglazed bottom. 

Mrs. Villiers turned over the final page. Placing her index finger at the top, she drew it down slowly, stopping briefly at the final paragraph. At the bottom, she printed out her information and added her signature.

Mrs. Evelyn Villiers

Hapthorn Lodge, Hollow Lane,

Little Gosling, Suffolk. 

She’d included a phone number. Her signature was a squiggly line. 

Standing, Mrs. Villiers smoothed her skirt and gathered her handbag and the now-empty carry-all. “Thank you for your assistance.”

“My pleasure.” I held out my hand, and she took it. “I’ll put a copy of the contract in the mail. And I’ll telephone you when I’ve arranged for the appraisal.”

“No mail,” she said firmly. “And I never answer the telephone. Text me at this number, and I’ll contact you.” Picking up the pen I’d provided, she scribbled a different number at the bottom of the contract. 

“Of course. I’ll be in touch soon.” Something floated in the air—a vague uneasiness. Why didn’t Mrs. Villiers answer her phone? To avoid telemarketers?

I stood at the front window and watched her cross the High Street and turn left toward the river. She scurried past the shops—shoulders hunched, head bent—until she disappeared down a side street. Had she driven herself, or was someone waiting for her?

That was the least of my questions about Mrs. Evelyn Villiers.

I checked my watch. If I left immediately, I could be at The Willows by eleven thirty.

Time to break the good news to Ivor.



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‘Complicit,’ by Amy Rivers

Genre: psychological thriller/suspense 

Author: Amy Rivers

Websitewww.amyrivers.com                    

Publisher: Compathy Press

Purchase link:  www.compathypress.com

ABOUT THE BOOK 

A tangled web of deception and duplicity where predators are shielded by respectability and no one is safe

Kate Medina had been working as a forensic psychologist and loving every minute until a violent attack left her shaken to the core. Retreating to her hometown where it’s safe, she accepts a job where the prospect of violence is slim to none. As a high school psychologist, Kate tends to the emotional needs of the students. It’s not the career she envisioned for herself.

Five years later, a student disappears, leaving the school in crisis and Kate at the helm of another traumatic event. Roman Aguilar, the lead detective, reaches out to Kate for assistance. Kate’s position at the school and her training make her an ideal ally, but her complicated relationship with Roman puts them at odds. 

When the girl’s body is found, changing the focus of the investigation to homicide, Kate finds herself in the middle of a situation she never anticipated. What started as her desire to help puts Kate directly in the crosshairs of an enemy who remains largely in shadows. As her past and present collide, Kate is dragged into the middle of a dangerous game where only one thing is clear-no one can be trusted.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Rivers writes novels, short stories and personal essays. She is the Director of Northern Colorado Writers. Her novel All The Broken People was recently selected as the Colorado Author Project winner in the adult fiction category. She’s been published in We Got This: Solo Mom Stories of Grit, Heart, and Humor, Flash! A Celebration of Short Fiction, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses, and Splice Today, as well as Novelty Bride Magazine and ESME.com. She was raised in New Mexico and now lives in Colorado with her husband and children. She holds degrees in psychology and political science, two topics she loves to write about.

Connect with Amy on the Web:

Website: www.amyrivers.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amyrivers.writer

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WritingRivers

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amy.rivers38/


Chapter One

April 1996

Kate pushed past her scowling sister, ready to get out of the house and away from the drama of the night before. She loved her family dearly, but Tilly’s propensity to get into screaming matches with their parents had Kate counting down the days until she left for college. 

“I’m coming!” she yelled as she raced out of her house, letting the screen door slam behind her. She’d heard the familiar half-dead horn honking from her room and knew there was more where that came from. Kate pretended to be annoyed but Roman’s enthusiasm was infectious, even from a distance. 

“Princesa!” 

“Sorry, Dad!” Kate shouted, but she kept her pace, yanking open the passenger-side door of Roman’s beat-up old car and throwing her bag into the back seat as she slid in beside him.

“Impatient much?” she complained, buckling her seatbelt. A trickle of sweat was already sliding down her neck. In one deft move she gathered up her curly brown hair, forming a messy ponytail and pulling the scrunchie from her wrist to secure the hasty hairdo. 

“What?” she asked, noticing Roman staring at her. “By the way, the honking? What the hell! My dad was pissed.” 

Roman smiled. “Nah, he’s used to me. Besides, it’s already hot and I want to get there before we miss out on the shade.” He eased the car away from the curb. Kate hoped her dad wasn’t watching them as they turned off her street. It would be pretty obvious that they weren’t heading for school. 

“What are we listening to?” Kate asked, cranking up the radio, the only part of Roman’s car that was shiny and new. R.E.M. blared through the speakers. Kate started singing at the top of her lungs, and before long Roman joined her. They kept the windows rolled up to let the air conditioner do its job. It also muffled the racket they were making. As much as Kate loved ditching with Roman she hadn’t been caught yet, and with a month left before graduation, she was hoping to keep it that way. 

The song faded out in the middle of a verse. “God, this guy is terrible,” Kate groaned, turning down the volume to drone out the boring banter from their least-favorite local D.J. 

“Yeah he is,” Roman agreed. “Would have been nice if he’d left town after high school, eh?” As the words left his mouth, a shadow settled over his features. Kate looked away, hoping they could avoid yet another argument about Kate’s post-graduation plans. 

Kate had stopped talking openly about her plans after their first big fight. Roman hadn’t entirely settled on a direction for his life, but Kate had her mind set on attending an out-of-state college and leaving her dusty hometown far behind her. She knew she’d miss her best friend, but that didn’t give him the right to keep her from pursuing her dreams. 

Luckily, Roman didn’t seem bent on picking a fight. He began to hum, and Kate felt the tension leave her shoulders. 

When they reached the spot where the road crossed the creek, they could already see other cars driving up the creek bed. 

“They never learn, do they?” Roman said as he drove past, heading for a spot further up the road where they could park on the shoulder and hike down. 

“Idiots,” Kate muttered, remembering the last time they’d driven up the creek bed, barely escaping the truant officers who knew the creek was a favorite ditching spot. All they had to do was camp out at the entrance and it was like shooting fish in a barrel. 

Roman parked near an outcropping of creosote bushes that nearly hid his car from view.

They both got out, slid on their backpacks, and walked toward the cliff overlooking the creek. Kate felt the red dirt shift underneath her feet as she neared the edge. “Must still be a little wet from the rain last week,” she called back as Roman joined her. 

“Want me to go first?” he asked playfully. 

“Yeah, right,” Kate said, smiling. She started down the steep bank, lead foot sideways to compensate for the sliding that happened as she moved down. 

They hiked upstream to a place where the water pooled and the mesquite trees provided some shade. Sometimes the place was packed, but today only a few kids were hanging around. 

Kate and Roman found a spot where some big rocks formed a natural seat at the water’s edge. They took off their shoes and stuck their feet into the cool water, using their backpacks as chair backs. 

Fluffy white clouds dotted the bright blue New Mexico sky. For a while they sat in silence, soaking up the sunshine. 

“Tell me you’re not going to miss this,” Roman said quietly. Kate closed her eyes and tried to maintain a neutral tone. 

“I will miss it,” she said. “But there’s so much I want to do, Roman. And I can’t get the education I want here.” 

“I know,” he said miserably. Kate wished she could make him understand. She was excited about her upcoming move, but also scared. And it would have been nice to have Roman as her ally rather than having to survive his moodiness. 

“It’s not like I’ll never be back,” Kate said. “Thanksgiving is just a few months away, and you know I’ll be home for luminarias and your mom’s posole at Christmas.” She tried to infuse her words with positivity. 

Roman didn’t respond, so Kate opened her eyes again and resumed her study of the clouds. She was so relaxed that she started to feel drowsy. 

“Hey,” Roman said, shaking her shoulder. “Wake up, Kate. You’re going to burn.” 

Kate sat up, stretching back muscles that had started to cramp against the hard rock surface. “Sorry, I must have dozed.” 

Roman laughed. “Slept is more like it. You’ve been out for, like, an hour. I didn’t want to wake you, but your face is getting pink.”

“I didn’t sleep well last night.” Kate reached up to rub her eye and winced at her tender skin. She wasn’t prone to sunburns, but it was getting to that part of the day when the sun was most intense. Looking around, Kate noticed the other kids had all gone.

“Where is everybody?” she asked, a hint of panic creeping into her voice. She scanned the surrounding area for lurking truant officers—or worse, the police. 

“Must have been your snoring,” Roman teased, skipping a stone across the water. 

“I don’t snore!” 

“How would you know? You weren’t the one who had to listen to you.” 

Kate scooped up a handful of water and threw it at Roman. He shouted “Hey!” but his eyes were bright with mischief. It was a look Kate had grown to love over the years. A look that usually landed them both in trouble. Roman seemed to think most rules didn’t apply to him until he got caught. He was the perfect balance for Kate’s uptight nature. 

Roman started jogging up the creek. 

“Wait up!” Kate called, struggling to pull her socks and shoes on while Roman widened the gap between them. She left her backpack behind and sprinted in his direction. When she finally caught up, she was sweating again. “Dammit, Roman,” she panted, wishing she’d grabbed a drink of water before chasing him. 

“Aw, come on. Don’t be mad,” he said, bumping her arm. A playful jab between friends. Something he’d done a hundred times. 

Except this time it didn’t feel the same. There’d been a lot more awkward moments lately. Kate couldn’t put her finger on what was different, but his touch made her shiver. His skin was warm and soft against hers. Roman looked as uneasy as Kate felt. He dropped his arm to his side and leaned away. 

Kate’s body felt heavy, keeping her frozen in place. She looked at Roman, wondering why she’d never noticed the green flecks in his hazel eyes. Or maybe she had, but they’d never seemed quite as lovely. Her heart began to race. 

“Kate,” Roman said, his voice raspy, barely a whisper. 

Something akin to terror squeezed Kate’s heart as she saw the determination in Roman’s eyes. Suddenly, she knew exactly what he was going to say, and a part of her wanted him to. He reached out and entwined his fingers with hers. Needing time to think, Kate turned. “Let’s walk,” she managed to get out.

She began upstream again but kept her hand in Roman’s, her mind a storm of feelings and thoughts. She didn’t dare look back at him for fear her heart would melt her resolve. Despite the fluttering occurring in her at this moment, in less than two months she’d be leaving town. And she didn’t want anything keeping her torn between her past and her future. It would be hard enough just to leave her best friend.

She’d almost found the courage to tell him when they rounded a bend and stopped dead in their tracks, their hands breaking apart. 

There was a car.

It was much further up the creek than anyone dared drive, and Kate could see that the interior had been burned out. The license plate was missing and the windows had all been smashed in. But the thing that caught her attention, the thing that had Kate trembling where she stood, was the sight of a charred hand hanging through the open driver’s side door.

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Picture Book Review: Five Funny Tummy Men, by Jean Reed

The Dark Phantom Review

Why does your tummy ache? Why does it make noises? What happens in your stomach after you eat? Why should you eat slowly?

In this educational picture book, the author answers these questions and more, describing the “five tummy men” that inhabit our stomachs and their specific jobs:

Mr. Boss, the one in charge

Mr. Swallow, catcher of food

Mr. Grinder, most happy when you chew well

Mr. Piler, sorter of nutrients into piles for different parts of your body

Mr. Deliveryman, carrier of piles to your body

FIVE FUNNY TUMMY MEN encourages dialogue between children and adults, making it a good resource for class or homeschooling discussions. Children are told to eat healthy and chew well and not snack a lot between meals, and in a simple, clear and friendly manner this cute little book explains exactly why. Recommend for readers 4-8. A multicultural edition of the book is…

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‘Somebody Else’s Troubles,’ by J.A. English

Somebody Else’s Troubles by J.A. English 

Published by Zimbell House

An inventive, intriguing, and extraordinarily thought-provoking tale, Somebody Else’s Troubles centers on a titillating question: who among us hasn’t dreamed of walking to the corner store and simply disappearing?

About Somebody Else’s Troubles:  Ohio businessman Travers Landeman has plenty of troubles. Between a marriage that is loveless at best, a hateful, greedy, self-consumed wife, and a family business changing in unexpected and unwelcome ways, Travers copes in the best way he knows how: by making a conscious effort not to think.  But when his teenage nephew, Matthew Calkins, reaches out to him for help, Travers turns away. When his inaction causes unspeakable guilt, Travers fakes his death on the Caribbean Island of Mabuhay, an act that sets into motion a most unusual series of events—events that will bond together a most unusual cadre of people.

Years pass and it appears that Travers, now settled in to a new life with a new family and a new name, has gotten away with it.  Or has he?

The Atlantis Fidelity Insurance Company hires Albert Sydney McNab to bring Travers back to Ohio. But McNab, a bumbling, sore-footed, ne’er-do-well with a litany of failed careers—waiter, bus driver, door-to-door salesman—is surprisingly somehow hot on Travers’ trail.

Chicago bookseller Joe Rogers leads a group of amateur archaeologists to Mabuhay. Dealt a fistful of trouble when he acquired Chicago’s oldest bookstore, The Yellow Harp, Joe Rogers has a penchant for vodka, an abject ineptitude for following orders, and an abundance of useless knowledge. But at a dig site in Mabuhay, Rogers discovers an ancient treasure—a jeweled mask. Will Joe, who has his own axe to grind with Atlantis Fidelity Insurance, step off the sidelines and get back in the game?

Esmerelda McNab, United Nations Ambassador of the UN’s newest member nation, the Commonwealth of Mabuhay, has her own set of troubles—protestors who denounce her part in the sale of the mask that Joe Rogers discovered as “cultural genocide.”

Do love, peace, and redemption even exist on Mabuhay?  Or are somebody else’s troubles just that?

A brilliantly-rendered tale, Somebody Else’s Troubles takes readers on an unforgettable journey spanning from the streets of Chicago’s gritty Austin neighborhood to the remote island paradise of Mabuhay.  Resplendent with richly-drawn characters that spring to life in the novel’s pages, Somebody Else’s Troubles is peppered with wit and subtle humor. Novelist J.A. English delivers a clever, captivating, smart, seamless story replete with fascinating historical detail and literary allusion.   A beautifully written literary novel about escape and inertia, action and inaction, faith and doubt, and finding home—and hope—in the unlikeliest of places, Somebody Else’s Troubles is destined to stay with readers long after the final page is turned.

About the author:

A proud native of Paterson, New Jersey, J.A. English came of age in Mexico City, Mexico. He received his B. A. cum laude from Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and an M. A. from Rice University in Houston, Texas. English is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. He has lived for a half century in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s west side, where he still maintains a residence, but now spends much of his time in Sosua, Dominican Republic. English is a widely-published writer whose works have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Reader and Co-Existence, the literary journal which featured the works of Henry Miller.  Visit J.A. English online at:  https://sites.google.com/view/somebodyelsestroubles/home

Find out more on Amazon

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An Excerpt from ‘Stepping Stones: A Memoir of Addiction, Loss, and Transformation,’ by Marilea C. Rabasa

Author HeadshotMarilea C. Rabasa is a retired high school teacher who moved west from Virginia eleven years ago. Before that, she traveled around the world with her former husband in the Foreign Service. She has been published in a variety of publications. Writing as Maggie C. Romero, Rabasa won the International Book Award, was named a finalist in both the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards and the USA Best Book Awards, and earned an honorable mention in The Great Southwest Book Festival, for her 2014 release, A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.  She lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for a number of years and now resides in Camano Island, Washington. Visit her online at:  www.recoveryofthespirit.com

Stepping Stones - Cover Art-1

About the Book

Addiction is a stealth predator. Unrecognized, it will grow and flourish. Unchecked, it destroys.

Marilea grew up in post-WWII Massachusetts in a family that lived comfortably and offered her every advantage. But there were closely guarded family secrets. Alcoholism reached back through several generations, and it was not openly discussed. Shame and stigma perpetuated the silence. Marilea became part of this ongoing tragedy.

Her story opens with the death of her mother. Though not an alcoholic, it is her inability to cope with the dysfunction in her life that sets her daughter up for a multitude of problems.

We follow Marilea from an unhappy childhood, to her life overseas in the diplomatic service, to now, living on an island in Puget Sound. What happens in the intervening years is a compelling tale of travel, motherhood, addiction, and heartbreaking loss. The constant thread throughout this story is the many faces and forms of addiction, stalking her like an obsessed lover, and with similar rewards. What, if anything, will free her of the masks she has worn all her life?

Read Marilea’s inspiring recovery story and learn how she wrestles with the demons that have plagued her.

Find out more HERE.

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EXCERPT

The Woods

            Whether it was thirty degrees with two feet of snow on the ground or ninety degrees and humid, I learned to fashion a life for myself outdoors, usually in the woods.

Areas hollowed out by the wind became the rooms in my make-believe home fashioned on tree stumps and big granite boulders. Draping an old, tattered sheet over a low horizontal branch, I cut squares in it to make windows. Bits and pieces in the garage that had been left for the dump found new purpose in my imaginary home. Rusty tin cans, smashed under my feet, became ashtrays. An oversized bottle was turned into a lamp. A couple of old crates were repurposed as chairs. A broken old radio left near the brook added a nice touch to the kitchen table, itself a small scrap of plywood. Playing out my fantasies was a favorite pastime.

            Inside the house, there was no escape. My family had moved into a converted schoolhouse in Massachusetts when I was six months old. There were four bedrooms upstairs, and since I was just a baby, my parents gave me the littlest one, the size of a large walk-in closet. As I grew, I felt terrible resentment toward my sister, Lucy, not only because she had been awarded the room with a window facing the lake and was a graceful dancing student but also because she was so much closer than I to our father. Still, I tried tagging along with her, though I felt she didn’t want me around.

One day I snuck into her room while Daddy was working in the basement and Mom was napping across the hall. I could do anything! I started by smashing one of her ballerina statues on the floor.

I looked at all her ballet costumes and pretty pink tutus. My sister was such a star, but I wanted attention too. I gazed at the perfumes and talcum powder on her dressing table. Just for a little while, I can be a princess too.

She had a growing collection of Joyce shoes, all carefully lined up in her closet. I just wanted to wear them in her room for a few minutes. I hoped that by putting on her shoes her magic would rub off on me. Maybe my parents would love me as much as they loved her.

I shuffled around, but the shoes were swimming on me as I struggled to keep them on my feet. So I gave up and put them back in her closet. Lucy would be home soon, and my princess time was running out. As I heard her approaching the stairs, I returned to my place in the corners of the house. Lucy went right into her closet.

I hadn’t been careful to put the shoes back where they’d been neatly placed.

Why had I been so careless?

Exploding out of her room, Lucy confronted not me but our mother, who was awake by then, about my latest theft. Tears streaming down her face, she implored:

          “Mother, Mary has been in my closet. She took my favorite shoes again. And she
smashed my favorite ballerina on the floor. You always let her get away with this. Please do something this time!”

          “Lucy, you’re the older of the two of you. You do something.”

          What could my sister do? There was no justice to be found in our house.

Hiding in my little room with the door closed, I listened to my mother and sister. Eventually I left and went outside to my home in the woods. There I performed a mock trial:

Using one of my father’s hammers, I banged my pretend gavel on a large granite boulder.

“You know why you were bad, Mary,” bellowed the judge. “You went into Lucy’s room

without permission. You wore her shoes. And you broke her statue. What do you have to say for yourself?”

“I just wanted to feel special. I thought if I put on her shoes, I’d feel special

like she is. And I’m sorry I broke the ballet statue, but I’m so angry. Daddy loves her more than me!”

“That’s not an excuse, Mary. There is no excuse for what you did.”

“But I just wanted to get her attention!” I cried, breaking out in sobs.

The judge thundered back at me, unmoved, “You are guilty of jealousy and theft.” Guilty, guilty, guilty . . .

Unable to convince the judge of my innocence, I went back inside the house, ran to my room, and slammed the door.

But I wasn’t punished.

Guilty, guilty, guilty . . . those words buried themselves in a pocket next to my heart. And there they remained, like a ship’s anchor, weighing me down for the rest of my life.

Mother busied herself making dinner, and my sister remained in her room. Invisible walls, unaddressed resentments, perpetual isolation.

I learned from a very early age a terrible lesson: I could get away with things. If I were sneaky enough, or had enough enablers around me, my behaviors might yield no consequences. With no one slapping my wrist, the naughtiness continued. And my frustration and anger continued to chip away at my self-confidence and cloak itself in chronic depression.

I wasn’t always a brat, though. Mother wrote in a diary entry dated 2/26/56:

“L and M quarreled, and I smacked them both. L stayed in her room and sulked. After a while M went into the kitchen, got out a plate of cookies, and poured a glass of milk. She carried up the cookies and on the way said to me, ‘I’m going to take these cookies up to Lucy and make her feel better.’”

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The Rising Place, by David Armstrong

 

Genre: Historical Romance

Author: David Armstrong

Website: therisingplace.com 

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
About the Book:
 
The Rising Place is based on an interesting premise: What if you found a hidden box of letters from World War II that belonged to a reclusive old maid who had just died—would you read them? And what if you did and discovered an enthralling story about unrequited love, betrayal, and murder that happened in a small, southern town over seventy years ago?
When a young lawyer moves down south to Hamilton, Mississippi to begin his practice, one of his first assignments is to draft a will for Emily Hodge. “Miss Emily” is a 75-year-old spinster, shunned by Hamilton society, but the lawyer is intrigued by her and can’t understand why this charming lady lives such a solitary and seemingly forgotten life.
After Emily dies, the lawyer goes to Emily’s hospital room to retrieve her few possessions and bequeath them as she directed, and he discovers a sewing box full of old letters, hidden in the back of one of her nightstand drawers. He takes the letters back to his office and reads them, and he soon learns why Emily Hodge died alone, though definitely not forgotten by those whose lives she touched.
About the Author:
 
David Armstrong was born and raised in Natchez, Mississippi. He is an attorney, former mayor, and former candidate for the U.S. Congress. Currently, he serves as the Chief Operating Officer for the city of Columbus, Mississippi. David received both an undergraduate and a master’s degree in political science from Mississippi State University, before going on to receive a law degree from the University of Mississippi.

The Rising Place Place, David’s second novel, was made into a feature film by Flatland Pictures before it was published by The Wild Rose Press. His third novel, The Third Gift, will be released by The Wild Rose Press this summer. He has also written four screenplays.

David is the father of two grown sons, William and Canon, and lives in one of the oldest and most haunted antebellum homes in Columbus with a snarky old cat named Butch.
Find out more: therisingplace.com 
 
Read an excerpt! 
 
When Emily Hodge died, I assumed I would be one of the few people at her funeral. She had lived such a solitary life. She didn’t really seem like a loner, but that was before I learned about the murders and Miss Emily’s past.
She had no family that I was ever aware of. Once, though, when I went to see her in the retirement center before she moved to the hospital, she said something about a “Mr. Wilder” who had visited her years earlier when she used to live in her little yellow house. But I wasn’t sure who this Wilder fellow was or where he was from, and I doubted he was still alive. That was a long time ago, like Miss Emily had said.
And that yellow frame house of hers on Monmouth Avenue has gone through several tenants since Miss Emily moved out and went to the Methodist Retirement Center. Most of the asbestos shingles on the front bottom of the house were covered now with kudzu vine and badly cracked, and Miss Emily would have hated they were so noticeable, so I never told her. I realized several years ago that there were some things it was best Miss Emily never know about.
I never understood why Miss Emily didn’t marry and have her own children. She certainly was attractive enough, in her younger days. She showed me an old picture of herself one Sunday afternoon at the General Hospital when I went by her room to visit. She was a “striking woman,” as she herself commented. But it was more than just a striking woman I saw in that faded, seventy-year-old photograph. She was beautiful. Standing on the running board of an old Ford in a long, pink dress with a cream-colored, flapper hat on her head, she reminded me of someone from that old Bonnie and Clyde movie. It was hard to believe the pretty young woman in that photo was her. I probably stared at it too long, and it seemed to make her uneasy that I thought she was so beautiful.
“You were a lovely girl,” I awkwardly told her. When I handed the picture back to Miss Emily, she replaced it in a brown sewing box and slid it into the bottom drawer of the nightstand next to her bed. After she closed the drawer, I somehow knew Miss Emily would never show anyone that photograph of herself, again.
On the day of her funeral, it started raining about eight o’clock that morning. It was to be only a short, graveside service—just like she wanted—with no open casket, and she specifically requested that no flowers be sent. It was the only request of hers I didn’t honor. I couldn’t bear the thought of that precious lady, who had lived and died all alone, being buried without flowers. It just wasn’t right, so I ordered the finest arrangement of yellow roses I could find. I thought the color was appropriate, considering how much she loved her yellow house on Monmouth Avenue, and she always liked roses. As I’ve matured, I’ve learned that sometimes people want things but just don’t know how to ask for them. I do believe Miss Emily would have liked those yellow roses.
It was a simple, Methodist prayer service that lasted only twenty minutes. No one cried during the service. I don’t think Miss Emily would have wanted that. It’s hard to cry for someone you don’t really know. But the old black people there seemed to know her as they passed by her casket after the last prayer. And when Reverend Elton read the quote from Saint Theresa (Miss Emily’s favorite saint), “Let nothing disturb you; let nothing frighten you. Everything passes except God. God alone is sufficient,” all the black people shouted a loud, “Amen!”
But the most intriguing thing of all was that gray-haired stranger who kept staring at the small headstone next to Miss Emily’s grave that read, “Baby Boy, 1942,” and who then stayed after everyone else had left. As we were leaving, I noticed from my car that the old man was crying. He picked a single yellow rose from the arrangement on top of Miss Emily’s bronze casket and then gently placed it on the small grave, in front of the headstone. When my wife and I drove away, I looked back before we left the cemetery. The gentleman was limping away in the rain with his cane.
Before she died, Miss Emily had already disposed of most of her possessions, but there were two beautiful paintings and an antique rose vase still in her hospital room that she had left to a friend. She had given away all her clothes to a couple of nurses who promised they would take them to the Salvation Army for her, but I doubted that would ever happen. I remember commenting to Miss Emily years ago, when I was still a young lawyer, that a friend had once promised to retain our firm and then sought legal services elsewhere. Emily said, “Don’t put too much stock in other people, David—they’ll just disappoint you.”
As I was about to turn off the light and leave her empty room, I remembered the sewing box of letters in the bottom drawer of the nightstand next to her bed. I also remembered that wonderful old photograph of her leaning against a car on the beach, which she had shown me several years ago. I didn’t know why at the time, but I wanted that picture. I would keep it as a remembrance of this dear lady I had come to love.
I didn’t open the letter box until after I had returned to my office. I don’t know if Miss Emily would have liked my reading her letters, but I think I finally understand her now and why she died alone, though definitely not forgotten. I know I’ll never forget her. How could I?

 

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Excerpt Reveal: ‘Riley,’ by Paul Martin Midden

Riley FRONT COVER hi-resGenre:   Contemporary adult fiction

Author: Paul Martin Midden

Websitehttp://www.paulmidden.com

Publisher: Wittmann Blair Publishing

Find out morehttp://www.paulmidden.com/riley.html

About the Book:

Riley, a young writer, finally divorces her husband and begins a novel about a fictional couple in conflict. Supported by her best friend, Jennifer, she begins her life of freedom. In a complicated turn of events, she meets and beds Edward, a shy young man who falls for her instantly. She does not want to continue the relationship, however, and her refusal lays the groundwork for a series of dangerous events. Her conflicts and those of her characters play out in this psychologically intriguing story.

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About the Author:

Paul Martin Midden is the author of five previous novels, each of which explores different writing styles. He practiced clinical psychology for over thirty years. Paul’s interests include historic restoration, travel, fitness, and wine tasting. He and his wife Patricia renovated an 1895 Romanesque home in 1995 and continue to enjoy urban living.

Excerpt:

Riley Cotswald sat at her desk staring at the blank screen in front of her. What do I write? she wondered. That’s a stupid question, came an immediate reply from somewhere in her head. Questioning myself about writing never helped anything. The only thing that matters is putting words on paper. I learned this with my first book.

She turned her head away from the screen and peered through the window of her small DC apartment. The sky was a Washingtonian blue, she observed, and if she looked down just a bit she could see the cherry blossoms beginning to burst. Just like me, she hoped.

But she did not feel herself bursting; all she felt was stuck at her desk, like a child in detention.

Knowing that distraction and procrastination were the two big things that worked against her getting anywhere with her writing, she forced herself to turn back to her computer screen. She had been able to do this earlier in her life, and she always associated writing with a special kind of experience, a mystical or even a spiritual one, whatever that meant. It was something she couldn’t put into words; the irony of that was not lost on her nonreligious self.

I can do this, she told herself; and she forced herself to place her hands over the keys. The only way to start is to start, she thought. And so she believed.

She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and commanded her fingers to move.

They weren’t listening.

Riley leaned back in her chair. This is harder than I remembered.

She lectured herself: It doesn’t matter that you have no idea what to write about. Remember when you started? When you wrote that first book? The one that sold? The one that allowed you to write full time? It wasn’t that long ago; just a year ago you were on a book tour, touting you image as an up-and-coming young author. And you promised yourself and your publisher that you would produce another. That is why you are here. To produce another saleable book.

She sighed. Back the, ages ago, writing just seemed to flow and took on a life of its own. All Riley had to do was channel it and type. This was, of course, the narrative she told herself. The fact is she cannot really remember how she did it. Not exactly.

But this mystical narrative seemed to her to be largely true, although in a corner of her mind she thought perhaps the whole experience was romanticized a bit by time. She believed that’s how it should happen. Magically. The stories are inside me and all I need to do is make my fingers move across the keyboard. The narrative will take care of itself.

But maybe not. Maybe there is some other way. An outline? A summary? No. Writing is an art. Being creative is just that: an act of creation, one that required, even demanded, discipline, but one which at base was artistic, creative. So create! Write!

She tried to stop thinking and closed her eyes once more. She knew what she was doing. All these thoughts were just distractions. And the more self-critical the thoughts, the more distracted she became and the further away she came from the act of creation.

Riley sprang out of her chair to move, to breathe, to stop the pattern of useless thinking that was preventing her from doing the writing she most wanted to do. She walked around her small apartment. If Cameron were there she would engage him somehow; she would whine to him. She wouldn’t call it whining, but that’s what it would be. It was always whining. It was saying out loud what went through her head, albeit in a more articulate voice. She would berate herself, and he would reassure her, no matter how dismal she judged her life to be at that moment or how crippled she felt putting words to paper. Or how little he actually understood what she was saying.

On reflection, that seemed like one of the best reasons to be with someone: having someone to complain to. And have that person reassure you, even if you knew that the soothing words were insincere, as in Cameron’s case. He tried to be sympathetic, but that trait did not seem to exist on his genome; the fact was dismal on the listening end. . . She shook her head. She didn’t need to go there.

Riley sat back down and repositioned her fingers over the keyboard. She took yet another deep breath. In the back of her mind, she could hear a familiar voice: Scream all you want, young lady. If this is what you want, this is what you must do. It’s as simple as that.

She straightened her shoulders.  Okay, this is what I want, so this is what I must do. She replaced her fingers over her keyboard and started typing.

Adam Wilkerson did not want to do what he knew he needed to do.

She sat back and checked in with herself. This is more like it.

He had been thinking about it for weeks, maybe even months. Definitely months. A year? Could be a year. He tried to avoid it; in fact, he tried everything he could think of to shield himself and his wife from what he needed rather than wanted to tell her. He wondered about how she would take it. He didn’t think she would take it well.

Adam was sitting at home, waiting for his wife to return. It was Saturday; she had gone shopping. Where or for what he had no idea. It was hard to imagine that she really needed anything. He thought she was just killing time until . . . until what? Until night fell and she could go to sleep and forget her own unhappiness for a few hours. That is, if she slept. That nocturnal pleasure has been coming hard for Mrs. Wilkerson recently. Adam knew this all too well; his wife wasn’t the only one lying awake in silence at night. What he didn’t know was what to do about it.

Touchy ground, Riley mused. She felt herself pale a bit, and she noticed her hands were sweaty.   Anxiety, she knew. And maybe excitement. Perhaps both. She did not take her eyes off the screen.

Adam wondered, even at this late date, if there were some way to avoid this, to somehow give his marriage yet another lease on life. Then he could avoid the discussion he promised himself he would have. But his mind was blank. He had tried everything. He tried being assertive and firm and then warm and kind; he tried to be inviting and disclosing and a little removed and distant. Nothing, absolutely nothing helped impede the belief that had been growing in his mind that he was just out of gas. By which he meant that the marriage was out of gas. No more fuel in the tank. Running on empty. The relationship platitudes were coming fast enough to fill a silly daytime advice show. 

Riley leaned back in her chair without taking her eyes off the screen. This was a habit of focus: looking at the screen was still writing, even if her hands were not tapping on the keys. She knew the anxiety was there and she knew why. She didn’t want to give her nervousness any space; nor did she want to draw comparisons to her current life. She was sure that would make it harder for her to write.

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Excerpt reveal: Maximilian’s Treasure, by James D. Bell

maxstreasure-forprint
Genre: Romance/Adventure 
Author: James D. Bell
Find out more on Amazon       
About the Book:
Rumors of a legendary treasure fuel a battle over possession of a Choctaw family farm.  Two young lawyers, John Brooks and Jackson Bradley, agree to help the family keep their farm.  Early legal success prompts the drive-by murder of the patriarch of the family.  The grandson chases the suspects whose bodies are found on the farm, scalped.  At the same time clues to a vast treasure are found on the farm.  Jackson, pursued by fortune seekers, adventurers, an exotic beauty and a homicidal maniac, follows the clues from a Caribbean reef to the Chiapas jungle.  John stays behind to defend the grandson and continue the fight for the farm.  His efforts are complicated by arson, murder, race riots, and the realization that he lost his one true love.  Though there is great distance between them, their adventures are intertwined as they rush toward a triple climax that could shake the world.  Join the adventure and discover your Maximilian’s Treasure.
JamesD.Bell-Photo
About the Author:
James D. Bell is an award-winning author and retired Judge who received the highest bar association approval ratings ever given to a Mississippi Circuit or County Judge. He is listed in Preeminent Lawyers, Outstanding Lawyers of America and Top 100 Attorneys of North America.  He is the author of two novels, Vampire Defense and Maximilian’s Treasure.  His short story, The Adventures of Sherlock Hound, was published in Mardi Allen’s collection, Dog Stories for the Soul, alongside stories from Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Willie Morris and others.  The son of a Choctaw mother and a Mississippi businessman, Judge Bell is devoted to his wife, Joanne.  They live near Jackson, Mississippi and have four children.  Judge Bell returned to law practice but is frequently called back to the bench by the Mississippi Supreme Court for short term assignments.
 
Find out more: 

 

EXCERPT

“Why did this have to happen?” cried Erma as she sat on the couch, her head in her hands.  Karen sat next to her with her hand on Erma’s shoulders, trying to comfort her.  The deputies were interviewing witnesses one at a time.  Most family members waited on the porch for their turn to be questioned.  Jackson, Peter and Karen sat with Frank and Erma in the den.

“It’s the treasure,” said Frank in disgust.

“How do you know it’s the treasure?” asked Jackson.

Peter sat on the edge of his chair and listened.

“He’s right.  It seems that everything bad that happens to this family has something to do with that old treasure.  I hate that treasure,” said Erma.  “It has brought nothing but sadness and tragedy to us.  It doesn’t even exist.  It never existed.”

“Yes, it does.  But I would give it up in a minute if I could undo all that’s happened,” said Frank.

“It doesn’t even have to exist to kill us.  People believe in it, and we get killed.  Nothing good has ever come from that old rumor.  I hate that treasure,” repeated Erma.

“I don’t blame you, after what I saw today,” said Karen.  “What else has happened?”

“The list is too long.  So many things have happened over the years.  There was the cave in at Hummingbird Well, where Frank found that coin.”  Tears filled Erma’s eyes. She excused herself and retreated to the bedroom.

Frank shook his head.

“I found the coin in Hummingbird Well, over near Pinishook Creek.  It was an old fashioned well.  We lowered a bucket on a rope.  One day, when I pulled the bucket up, I found the coin.  The one I showed Mr. Brooks.  I always believed the gold was in Hummingbird Well.  To me, it confirmed the rumors about the treasure.   We searched around the well and the creek, and then we started digging up the well.  The sides fell in.  Erma’s two boys were trapped.  We could hear them calling for us because the water was rising.  They drowned before we could get to them.”

“Oh, no!” said Karen as she rose and tapped on the bedroom door.  Karen cracked open the door, looked back at Jackson, Peter and Frank, and stepped into the bedroom, closing the door behind her.

Peter, Jackson and Frank sat in silence for a few minutes.

“Did you find any gold in the well?” asked Peter.

“No.  We never found the gold.  I believe it’s still there.”

As Frank said that, Erma returned to the room, wiping her eyes, followed by Karen.  “I’m sorry.  I’m alright.  I dealt with this a long time ago.  It’s just that the murder of Uncle German brought up old wounds.”  Karen put her arm around Erma, who gave Karen a hug and said, “Thank you.  Frank still believes that gold is in that old well.  He can have the gold, for what good it’ll do him.”

“Maybe Frank James lost one coin or dropped just one coin down the well,” guessed Jackson.

“No.  We were told that Sankky’s last words were something like, ‘You will draw the gold from the hummingbird.’ They say it was hard to understand her exact words when she died, but she said something like that.  We knew that she named the old well, Hummingbird Well, so I knew we would find the gold there,” said Frank.

“That’s why Frank was drawing water from the well,” said Erma.  “He always thought he would get lucky one day and draw gold up from the well.  One day he finally did.  We thought that was a great day.  But, then tragedy struck.  That gold is cursed,” said Erma, almost spitting out the word cursed.
A thought struck Karen, and she sucked in a little air. Her eyes darted around the room and came to rest on the hummingbird painting.  “She said ‘draw’ and ‘hummingbird.’  Erma, may I look behind Sankky’s painting?”

Erma starred at Karen for a moment, then she turned and looked at Frank, eyes wide open.

Frank said, “Well, I’ll be.”

“Yes, darlin’, you can look,” said Erma.

Everyone’s eyes were glued on Karen as she walked to the hummingbird painting.  She lifted the frame from the wall and laid it face down on the checker table.

“Can someone help me get the back off of this frame?”

Frank used a pocketknife to pry off the back of the picture.  Everyone leaned in to get a better look.

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On the Spotlight: ‘False Flag in Autumn,’ by Michael Bowen

Title: False Flag
Genre: Political Thriller
Author: Michael Bowen
Websitewww.michaelbowenmysteries.com              
Publisher: Farragut Square Publications
Find out more on Amazon
About the Book:  
 
Josie Kendall is an ambitious political apparatchik whose memoirs will not be titled Nancy Drew Goes to Washington.  Josie has no objection to the truth—but she doesn’t let it push her around.  When a rogue White House aide tries to use her as an unwitting pawn in a plot for a spectacular October surprise before the 2018 mid-term elections, Josie calls on her D.C.-insider husband, her edgy uncle, and colorful denizens of the Louisiana demi-monde to help her out-hustle the hustlers.  But then Josie finds herself facing an even more daunting question:  is there a false-flag attack planned in order to influence the 2020 presidential election?  Josie will be forced to decide whether to venture out of the Beltway cocoon—where the weapons are leaks, winks, nudges, and spin—into a darker world where the weapons are actual weapons.  Josie will end up on the side of the angels even if, Josie begin Josie, the angels play a little dirty.
About the Author
 
Michael Bowen recently retired from a 39-year career as a trial lawyer. The author of nineteen published novels, as well as scholarly and political commentary, Bowen is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where he served on the Harvard Law Review. Bowen and his wife Sara, a noted lecturer on Jane Austen and Harvard Law graduate, live in Fox Point, Wisconsin.
Connect with the author on the web:

 

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‘Fortunate Son – The Story of Baby Boy Francis,’ by Brooks Eason

Fortunate Son front cover (3)GenreMemoir 

AuthorBrooks Eason

Website: www.brookseason.com             

Publisher: WordCrafts Press, Nashville, TN

Find out more: https://www.wordcrafts.net/books/fortunate-son/

ABOUT THE BOOK 

On the eve of the birth of his first grandchild, Mississippi lawyer Brooks Eason learned the truth about a mystery he’d lived with for nearly fifty years: the story of his birth and his birth mother’s identity.  Perhaps even more surprising was how the story was finally revealed:  It turned out that Eason was a potential heir to an enormous fortune from his birth mother’s family.  His original identity finally saw the light of day only as result of litigation in four courts in two states, initiated in an effort to identify and find the heir.  Eason, who was raised in Tupelo by loving parents, found out on the day his granddaughter was born that he began his life as Scott Francis, which remained his legal name for the first year of his life.  Fortunate Son – The Story of Baby Boy Francis is the story of how he learned the story. 

And what a story it is.

A truth-is-stranger-than-fiction memoir that unfolds in the Deep South, Fortunate Son is a deeply personal and deeply moving story about families, secrets, and choices.  Resplendent with intrigue, drama, and mystery—all the hallmarks of a blockbuster novel—Fortunate Son is a true story, unembellished, unpretentious, and at times almost unbelievable.  Eason, a gifted storyteller with an incredible story to tell, delivers a gripping, satisfying, meaningful memoir.  Told with candor, wit, and honesty, Fortunate Son is a thoughtful and thought-provoking first person narrative that will have readers turning pages. 

Though Eason was ultimately not the beneficiary of the fortune, he is quick to point out that he received a different kind of wealth:  knowing the truth and finally being able to dive headfirst into the story of his origin, uncovering fascinating blood relatives and stories along the way. 

Much more than a memoir about birth and adoption, Fortunate Son is a long love letter from the author to the parents who raised him, a heartfelt thank you to the birth mother who gave him the whole world when she gave him away, and a moving tribute to his beloved daughter who faced circumstances similar to those his birth mother faced and bravely chose to keep her baby.  A tale of two stories that unfolded in different times, Fortunate Son is an extraordinary story extraordinarily well-told. 

Brooks Eason - photo
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brooks Eason loves stories, reading and writing them, hearing and telling them. He also loves music, dogs, and campfires as well as his family and friends. His latest book is Fortunate Son – the Story of Baby Boy Francis, an amazing memoir about his adoption, discovery of the identity of his birth mother, and much more.
Eason has practiced law in Jackson for more than 35 years but has resolved to trade in writing briefs for writing books.  He lives with his wife Carrie and their two elderly rescue dogs, Buster and Maddie, and an adopted stray cat named Count Rostov for the central character in A Gentleman in Moscow, the novel by Amor Towles.  In their spare time, the Easons host house concerts, grow tomatoes, and dance in the kitchen.  Eason, who has three children and four grandchildren, is also the author of Travels with Bobby – Hiking in the Mountains of the American West about hiking trips with his best friendVisit Brooks online at www.brookseason.com.  WordCrafts Press is an independent publishing company headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit WordCrafts online at www.wordcrafts.net.
EXCERPT
CHAPTER 1
It was a Tuesday morning in June 2004. The day had started like any other. I walked the dogs, ate breakfast while reading the paper, then drove downtown to work. I was in my office on the 14th floor of the Trustmark Bank Building when my phone rang. It was my father, Paul Eason. He rarely called me at work but had just listened to an intriguing voicemail. He was calling to tell me about it.
Daddy was 82 and lived by himself in Tupelo, Mississippi, in the home where I grew up. It was the only home he and my mother Margaret ever owned. She had died five years earlier in the bedroom they shared for more than forty years. I lived three hours south of Tupelo in Jackson, where I had practiced law for two decades. 
The message was from a woman in New Orleans, also a lawyer. She said her firm was conducting a nationwide, court-ordered search for Paul Eason, age 46. I go by my middle name, but my first name is Paul and I was about to turn 47. I told Daddy I would return the call. 
Why a court in New Orleans would order someone to search the entire country for me was a mystery. A theory occurred to me, but after all these years it didn’t seem possible. Because I didn’t know the reason for the call, I decided not to identify myself as the Paul Eason the lawyer was trying to find. I would just say I was Brooks Eason and was returning the call she had placed to my father. But when she came to the phone, she already knew who I was.
“I can’t believe we found you.” 
“What is this about?”
“An inheritance.”
“Tell me more.”
*        *        *
That was the day I began to learn the story that had been a mystery to me all my life, the story of my birth and second family. In the days that followed, I found out that my name was Scott Francis – or rather that it had been – for the first year of my life. I was nearly fifty years old, but until then I didn’t know I had started life with a different name, much less what it was. My name, as well as the rest of the story, had been a secret. This is the story of how I learned the secret. But this story is about more than that. It is also about the wonderful life my parents gave me, about my exceptional daughter and granddaughter, who was born just days after Daddy received the voicemail. and about how times and attitudes changed from when I was born until she was born.
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