Avengers of Blood

Share

A Thursday mystery teaser

By Gae-Lynn Woods

GOOBER WAS A MYSTERY. He’d appeared one morning about forty years ago, nestled in the gnarled roots of the ancient hanging tree on the courthouse lawn, abandoned in the middle of the night. In spite of announcements on the local radio station and in the newspaper, the toddler’s parents never came forward to claim him. An elderly widow took him in and over time, Goober became a fixture in Arcadia. The odd man was probably closer to forty-five than to forty given the silver that peppered his nearly black hair. People said that Goober wasn’t truly retarded, but Martinez wasn’t so sure. Goober hadn’t finished high school and his ability to read and write was limited. Granted, he was always polite and seemed eager to help, but there was a slowness about the man, almost an innocence, that Martinez thought reflected some sort of mental challenge.

He stiffened as Forney County’s Forensic Examiner, Tom Kado, came through the gas station’s front door. As Martinez had done, he nodded briefly at the officer near the door and stopped to remove the booties covering his shoes. He shoved them in a plastic garbage bag and rubbed his eyes. Kado was new to the force, having joined only a couple of months ago. Martinez found the younger man arrogant and disrespectful of the last forensic examiner, Hank Comfrey, who had held the job for nearly five decades before dropping dead of a heart attack earlier this year. Kado was full of new procedures and science but didn’t seem to trust his gut as old Comfrey had. Martinez wasn’t sure the science was all that reliable. The wariness he felt for Kado was justified when a crucial DNA sample in a recent case was found by the state lab to be contaminated. If Martinez was the detective assigned to this murder, and he surely would be because there were no other detectives in Forney County at the moment, Kado would have to walk the straight and narrow to Martinez’ satisfaction. He met Kado at the tailgate where Goober sat, still torturing the baseball cap.

“You okay, Goob?” Kado asked.

Goober nodded but his gaze was glassy and his face devoid of color. Kado climbed up in the pickup’s bed, opened a cooler and passed a root beer to Martinez, then took one for himself and Goober. He took the cap from Goober’s hands and replaced it with an open can. “Drink.”

Slowly, Goober did. “Thanks,” he said, burping quietly.

“You up for talking?” Martinez asked.

Goober nodded.

“Why did you come to Whitehead’s tonight?”

“I ran out of potato chips.”

Photo by Matthew Smith on Unsplash

Martinez looked at the mower parked by the station’s pumps. “Did you pump gas?”

“I was gonna check her after I got the chips.”

“What time did you get here?”

“Right about five-thirty.”

“You sure?”

He pulled a beat-up Timex from a pocket and held it out. “It was almost five-thirty when I came around Church Bend.”

Martinez compared the little watch to his own. It was two minutes fast. “Did you pass anybody on the road?”

“Naw, my mower don’t go that fast.”

Kado bit back a smile, and the detective’s jaw tightened. He tried again. “Did you see any other vehicles on the road?”

“Just some tail lights.”

“Where?”

“When I was coming around Church Bend.” He turned and pointed into the night. “A car was farther down the road.”

“What kind of car?”

Goober shrugged. “All I saw was red lights.”

“What happened when you got to the store?”

“I went inside to make sure Mr. Whitehead was still open.” He blinked. “There was gas on the floor. And then smoke came out of the door in the back. So I went to see what was burning.”

“Why didn’t you call the fire department right then?”

“I was scared,” he answered in a small voice.

“You were scared but you headed toward the smoke, to the fire?”

Goober nodded, his eyes fixed on some distant, internal point.

Martinez and Kado exchanged a glance. “What happened next?”

“The smoke was bad, but the back door was open. I heard a noise and went outside and saw… the zombie. He was hanging.” He shuddered and root beer sloshed onto his overalls. “And black all over.”

“Did you see flames?”

“He was breathing fire. Like a dragon. I tried to put it out.” Goober’s eyes filled with tears and he drew a deep, stuttering breath. “But the zombie fell off the rope and started to get up. I figured he was coming after me. He fell and I ran away.”

Avengers of Blood

A deadly game of cat and mouse is playing out in Forney County…

Detective Cass Elliot is still on suspension after killing a fellow officer and Sheriff Hoffner refuses to sign her release papers. But when four people are murdered in one night, one with the exceptional brutality of a lynching, the Medical Examiner side-steps Hoffner to hire Cass and loan her to Forney County’s overstretched police department.

As Cass and her partner investigate, they realize that three of the murders were committed by the same person but find no connection between the victims. Their frustration intensifies when another victim survives and disappears instead of coming to the police.

Sheriff Hoffner is frantic about anonymous letters claiming one of his star officers is dirty, and Cass suspects a link to the current crimes. The pieces fall together when she uncovers the true identity of the man who was lynched, revealing connections between the victims, the killer, and an unpunished crime committed nearly fifty years ago.

Gae-Lynn Woods

is a Texan mystery writer who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Visit Gae-Lynn’s

BestSelling Reads page   |   Amazon author page   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Google+   |   Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website   |    Blog

Share

When a book idea strikes

Share

Monday musings on new ideas for books

By M.L. Doyle

It never fails. I usually get hit with the good idea stick when I’m at my desk … at my day job.

Like most indie authors, I don’t make millions writing books (don’t I wish), so I have to earn a living doing something not as fun or as cool or as fulfilling as writing books. Ah well.

That said, it’s at the job where I actually earn a living that I get ideas for the job that isn’t responsible for putting food on the table. I’ve never asked, but I’m guessing my real employer wouldn’t be too happy with me dashing off a chapter or two while I’m supposed to be doing what I get paid to do.

It’s frustrating as hell.

Between having the first two books in my Desert Goddess series made into audio books, I’m sketching out ideas for book three. I’d been rolling a bunch of ideas around but hadn’t really landed on anything that was worthy of a jumping-off point. Until, off course, I got to work.

It felt as if, as soon as I booted up my computer, opened Outlook and started scanning through the piles of emails that would govern my day, that Hester, Gilgamesh, Sarah, Reuben, Quincy, Rashid and everyone else in my made-up world, demanded my attention. The opening scene unfolded. The emotion and atmosphere made themselves real. I could hear Hester in my head and the new character that will make his debut in this book, finally became a solid, fleshed-out human. For the first time, I could see his thoughts, could feel his fatigue, his hunger and confusion. He finally took shape and I knew exactly how I would make him work.

I grabbed a post-it pad, scribbled a quick tease of the ideas, and stuck them in a notebook. Throughout the morning, between meetings, phone calls, discussions with colleagues, I kept scribbling ideas and setting them aside for later. By the end of the day, I had a decent stack.

Photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash

At home, I spent some time sticking the post-its to the wall, moved them around, tried to build a bit of a timeline. There is still a lot of work to do plot-wise, but I’m finding the sticky note method works for me.

Once I sat down to write, I flew through the words that tied all of those ideas together. Chapters one and two were done in a flash.

Writing and my day job, for obvious reasons, have to be separate, but I’ve yet to figure out how to tell my brain to stop firing when I get to the office. I’m not even going to try.

M.L. Doyle

calls on her years of serving as an Army Reservist to write about women in combat boots. She co-authored the memoirs of two brave soldiers to ensure their stories keep their proper place in history. Her work with Spec. (Ret) Shoshana Johnson, an African-American POW of the Iraq War, was finalist in the NAACP Image Award. She also co-authored with Brig. Gen (Ret.) Julia Cleckley the story of her rise through Army ranks from humble beginnings and despite great personal tragedy.

Mary has written the three-book Master Sergeant Harper mystery series, and Limited Partnerships, a four-novella erotic romance series. Her latest release, The Bonding Blade, is the second book in her Desert Goddess urban fantasy series.

Mary’s essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in The War Horse, The Wrath-Bearing Tree, The Goodman project and O-Dark Thirty.

Check her out on Facebook.com, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and you can read excerpts of all of her work on her website at www.mldoyleauthor.co

Share

New book launch: Somewhere in Wine Country

Share

A new series by BestSelling Reads author Toby Jane

Nothing could go wrong with this scenario.

I watched my family’s vineyard fall under the auction hammer, holding back tears of grief and rage. What should be mine went to a stranger.

I want to hate Kane McCallum and his dark blue eyes. He has everything: looks, money, even a big, lovable dog. Now he’s offered me a job managing the vineyard—my vineyard.

I can stay in my family’s home, but only if I work for him.

I’m a billionaire looking for something more.

I don’t want to care what happens to prickly Meg Villier, but I see hard work and courage in her calloused hands.
Passion in the curve of her generous mouth.
Tenderness in the way she treats my dog.

Available TODAY from Amazon:

Toby Jane

is the romance pen name for bestselling mystery writer Toby Neal. Romance allows her to indulge in the delight of love stories with happy endings, big families, and loving pets.

Toby also writes memoir/nonfiction under TW Neal.

If you like Marie Force’s Gansett Island series, Bella Andre’s Sullivans, or Melissa Foster’s Remingtons, you will love Toby Jane’s Michaels sisters, and their children, in the Somewhere Series.

 Visit her on her:

Share

A tree soldier in the Pacific Northwest

Share

A historical Thursday teaser from the novel

By J.L. Oakley

Camp Glacier

A couple of hours later, Hardesty was standing along the edge of the camp parade ground with the rest of his young squad mates. They all looked like they wanted to bolt.  He followed their line of sight. Behind the camp craggy, white mountains painted amber by the afternoon sun leered over trees most likely bigger than anything they’d ever seen. They had startled him too when he first came out. 

“Holy cow. Do you see them trees?” Costello dropped his duffle next to Hardesty with a thud.

“I see them,” Spinelli said on the other side of him. “Wonder which place is ours?”

Hardesty wondered too. The long wooden buildings lined up in neat rows looked no different from the last camp he had been in. Even the smoke brought the smell of roasted ham out of a building that suggested the cook house. It made his stomach growl.

A military type officer showed up with a clipboard and ordered the group to gather around. “Welcome to Camp Kulshan, F-23, one of the oldest Civilian Conservation Corps camps in the state of Washington. We make campgrounds, roads, bridges and fight fires. Three departments run it here: the Army, Department of Agriculture and Department of Labor. During your time here you’ll not only be sending money home to your folks, but will have the opportunity to finish high school and learn a trade. There’ll be more about that later. For now…”

Spinelli turned to Hardesty.  “That true about the girl and the bear?” he whispered.

“Where’d you hear that?” Hardesty was surprised news traveled so fast. 

“At the store. I didn’t know there were bears there. Only bear I seen was at the Bronx Zoo.”

“I think you’re safe,” Hardesty said. 

“…shots. You’ll line up at the infirmary and get your paperwork put away. Dinner is being held for you in mess.”

Spinelli slapped his arm. “I’m doomed.”

Hardesty followed the group into the barracks and once given the parameters of his new world, tossed his duffel on the nearest lower bunk. Identical to the last one he had been in, the barracks had double-decker bunks lining the fir plank walls on both sides, twenty-five to a side. The fir floors were worn and creaky. In the middle, trunks had been dragged in and left in a jumbled stack. He spied the worn army-drab one that was his.

My whole life’s in it. That’s all I have left.

“Hey,” Spinelli said. He held in his hand the mimeographed camp paper, The Mountain Call: An Avalanche of Events. “Mind if I go up?”

Photo by Devin Lyster on Unsplash

“Nope. The place is all yours.” Hardesty smiled. He liked Mario Spinelli the minute they met at the train station in Seattle. He acted tough, but he had seen the kid’s eyes when they left the train two hours later and headed east into the rugged Cascade Mountains. He was scared. The whole lot of them, their false bravado trying to cover the fact that they were about to meet their match: the forests of the Pacific Northwest.  For some reason, at the camp orientation, the kids started following him around.

Hardesty just wasn’t sure he wanted to be nursemaid. All he wanted to do was mind his own business and keep his head low.

Spinelli spread out his bedding and slapped his pillow before climbing down. “Do you remember where we take a leak?”

“Bath house. Out the front door to the left. How’s your arm?”

“Not a twinge,” he answered, even though he moved his shoulder like it had been struck with a bat.

Lights were out at 9:45. Taps called not long after. Soon the camp descended into snores and stirrings.  Except for a family of raccoons ambling forth in the direction of the mess hall’s garbage cans, no one was out. While the camp slept, the woods leaned over the buildings and grounds, jagged black guardians poking into the starry night sky. For once there was no hint of rain.

A faint light appeared at one of the barracks doors as a figure stepped out onto the small porch and slipped down the stairs. When he was sure of the direction he wanted to go, the flashlight went out. A few yards and he was in the forest.

It was chilly under the boughs of cedar and hemlock, a musky scent of lichen and moss caught in the damp air. At an old stump, some ten feet across, Hardesty found a spot on the other side, where he threw down his jacket on a log. When he became accustomed to the space around him, he turned the flashlight back on.

He didn’t like breaking curfew, but he had a hard time sleeping. Too much crowding in after a long day. Thirty hours ago he had been in Oregon. Now he was as far away as he could get without leaving a region he had grown to love. He hoped that he could start fresh again.

He took a brass medallion about the size of a silver dollar out of his pocket. He rubbed the hard, stamped surface between his fingers and read the words like Braille:

••LOYALTY•CHARACTER•SERVICE••

Honor Award

C.C.C.

The words rose in an arch over two wooden barracks set in the woods. Smoke from a chimney curled up to touch the middle “R” in the word “CHARACTER” overhead.

Hardesty knew the words by heart just like he knew the way the scars lay on the palms of his hands.

He had been proud when he was given it, but truth be told, some days he didn’t feel like he deserved it.

And why he ran away again.

Tree Soldier

One mistake can ruin a life. One mistake can transform it.

A government forestry camp set deep in the mountainous forests of the Pacific Northwest might not seem the likely place to find redemption, but in 1935, Park Hardesty hopes for just that.

Blaming himself for the fiery accident that caused his brother’s disfigurement and the death of the bootlegging woman he loved, planting trees, building bridges and mentoring tough, homesick New Jersey boys brings him both penitence and the renewal of his own self-worth.

When he wins the love of Kate Alford, a local naturalist who envisions joining the Forest Service, which allows only men, he also captures the ire of a camp officer who refuses to let her go.

Just when he is ready to seek his brother’s forgiveness, he is falsely accused of rape. Every aspect of his life he has tried to rebuild is put in jeopardy.

In the end, the only way he can defend himself is to tell the truth about his brother, but he risks being kicked out of the camp. Worse, he could lose Kate’s love forever.

Get it on Amazon.

J.L. Oakley, historical fiction

J.L. Oakley

writes award-winning historical fiction that spans the mid-19th century to WW II. Her characters come from all walks of life, but all stand up for something in their own time and place.

Her books have been recognized with a 2013 Bellingham Mayor’s Arts Award, the 2013 Chanticleer Grand Prize, the 2014 First Place Chaucer Award, 2015 WILLA Silver Award and the 2016 Goethe Grand Prise.

When not writing, Janet demonstrates 19th century folkways, including churning some pretty mean butter.

Her most recent historical novel, Mist-chi-mas: A Novel Of Captivity, launched in September 2017. It is set in 1860 on San Juan Island in Pacific NW during a time with the British Royal Marines and US Army jointly occupied the island—peacefully.

Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @JlOakley13.

Share

Clipped Wings

Share

Enjoy this sample of the brand new Paradise Crime Mystery Novella Book 4.5 with Hawaii Recipes

By Toby Neal

Rosario dried her hands on a clean white towel and took the order sheet on its clipboard off of the metal rack that held her favorite pots and pans, and headed for the walk-in refrigerator.

She pulled open the heavy steel door of the walk-in, and parted the dangling plastic panels that helped keep the cold inside. As she stepped through, she inhaled deeply, taking in the rich smells of ginger, onions, garlic, and fresh vegetables, with overtones of the tropical fruits that were a unique part of Hawaiian cooking. She stepped forward on the raised rubber flooring with its round holes for traction and drainage, and examined the rack of metal shelves that lined the chilly room.

She had established an order of storage for the items, so it was a fairly rapid process to check how many eggs and how much butter, cheese, salad dressing, sauces, fruits and greens she had.

Rosario and her brother Wayne had grown up poor on the Big Island. They were the surviving offspring of a Portuguese paniolo ‘Hawaiian cowboy’ on a big Waimea estate, and his Hawaiian wife, their beloved Mama, who’d cleaned and cooked for the family that owned the ranch. Wayne had taken to the paniolo lifestyle in his father’s footsteps, while Rosario had learned her mother’s skills in cooking and estate management.

Photo of the Island of Hawai’i by Sarah Humer on Unsplash

Their parents had died in a car wreck when she and her brother were in their late teens, and Rosario had moved to California, hoping to build a better life for herself—which she had done in working her way up to into establishing Aunty’s Hawaiian Food Place with her partner, Momi.

Rosario ticked down her order sheet on autopilot, her mind drifting back to the ways that life had taken dark turns: her brother Wayne and his wife Maylene falling into drugs. Maylene’s death by overdose while Wayne was incarcerated, which had brought their feisty daughter Lei to live with Rosario at age nine.

Her niece Lei had had a traumatic and abuse-filled childhood that had left her with lasting scars, but Lei had come so far in overcoming her past that she was now an FBI agent on Oahu.

And with any luck at all, she’d be coming to her aunt’s for Christmas this year.

Rosario inhaled the smell of baby new potatoes, parsley, mint, and ginger in their boxes, instinctively sniffing for anything spoiled.

There was—a small red potato with a spot of black rot. Rosario extracted the offending tuber from the box and opened the square, sealed bin where she stored spoiling food and leftovers from the restaurant to feed to pigs at a friend’s farm, in trade for a supply of fresh pork.

Her eyebrows rose as she dropped the spoiled potato into the bin.

It should be nearly full after three days. She had the waitstaff scrape plates into a special garbage bag, and then deposit it in the bin along with any expired, unsold food from the stand of convenience foods Rosario kept stocked at the counter. Several bags of leftover food and a half dozen expired hard-boiled eggs, along with some papayas and avocados she’d bought for garnishes that had been overripe, should be in the bin.

But there were only two eggs, no papayas or avocados, and a couple of white plastic bags of leftovers.

Rosario was the one to take the bin to the pig farm twice a week; who would take food meant for the animals?

Clipped Wings

Clipped Wings cover

Even Christmas can be darkest before dawn.

She just wants to survive.

The sixteen-year-old Robin Hood bandit responsible for starting an anarchy movement in Hawaii is now the target of an escape plot at a juvenile detention center, sparking FBI agent Lei Texeira to get involved with a manhunt.

She just wants to find the burglar.

Someone is stealing food from Aunty Rosario’s restaurant kitchen, but the holiday takes an unexpected turn when she catches the thief in the act.

Favorite Hawaii recipes submitted by readers and served in Aunty Rosario’s Hawaiian Food Place restaurant are included!

Clipped Wings 4.5 takes place between Broken Ferns #4 and Twisted Vine #5. A portion appeared as a short story in an anthology.

Find out more on the author’s website.

Toby Neal

Award-winning, USA Today bestselling social worker turned author Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. Neal is a mental health therapist, a career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her stories. Neal’s mysteries and thrillers explore the crimes and issues of Hawaii from the bottom of the ocean to the top of volcanoes. Fans call her stories, “Immersive, addicting, and the next best thing to being there.”

Neal also pens romance, romantic thrillers, and writes memoir/nonfiction under TW Neal.

 Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.

Share

Thursday teaser: What Had to be Done

Share

The new young adult novel by USA bestselling author

DelSheree Gladden

I lose my train of thought when my pool cue is suddenly yanked out of my hand. I whip around to find a tall, not-at-all-lanky frame and set of blue eyes staring down at me. The combative set of his jaw is surprising and a little upsetting. Suddenly, I remember Carlos’s warning.

Tamping down my fear, I hop down from the pool table where I’d been sitting. I land a scant few inches away from him. He dwarfs me by about six inches, but that doesn’t stop me from glaring at him.

“I wasn’t finished with that.”

“Sure looked like you were.”

“Looks can be deceiving,” I say, almost choking on the words. “Take you for instance…tall and built as you are, I would have pegged you for someone willing to look out for a girl new to town, not one who goes around snatching pool cues out of their hands and making them want to slap you.”

“What does you being new to town have to do with anything?”

I snatch the pool cue out of his hand and stamp it down on the ground. Thankfully, he is still focused on my eyes and not on my shaking hand. I do not want to start off my tenure here in Santa Fe as the class weenie. “Generally, new arrivals like me come to a party to make friends, not a hit list.”

“Maybe I’m not interested in friends.”

“I doubt that,” I say.

“Why?”

“Because you wouldn’t have come over here and barged in if you didn’t want to know who I was.”

In a flash, his pushy demeanor disappears. A grin replaces his scowl. “Wrong again. I already know who you are, Anna Elizondo.”

“Then why did you come over here, Dave?”

He laughs at the fact that I know who he is as well. He must realize Carlos warned me about him. The merriment in his expression folds quickly. “I came over here because I’ve heard some not so nice things about you, but you look too sweet and innocent for them to be true.”

Surely Carlos wouldn’t say horrible things about me to his friends. Is that why he disappeared so quickly?

“Who told you about me?”

“You don’t know?” Dave asks. “Didn’t Carlos tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

Photo by Santiago Steinkamp on Unsplash

He doesn’t answer. What he does is turn around and call out to someone. When he turns back, all of my false bravado falls away when I see who’s coming toward me. In three years, he’s grown nearly a foot. I can see the same honey-colored eyes I looked into almost every day for years, but never before have I seen such brazen anger in them.

“Felix,” Dave drawls, “look who’s here. It’s your favorite person. Say hi to Anna.”

In front of Dave, I stood my ground. In the face of Felix’s frozen glare, I wilt like flowers in July. My hand shakes to the point that the pool cue I’m holding clatters to the ground. I can’t stop staring at him. The same lips I wanted to kiss a thousand times curl up in a sneer. His hands held mine so many times, the touch always strong but gentle. Now, both of his hands are balled up at his sides.

I haven’t cried since my mom died, but I feel a tear slip down my cheek.

“Felix.”

The single word slips out unbidden. He flinches as if my voice were acid.

“What are you doing here?” he demands.

“I…I live here,” I say weakly. “What are you doing here?”

He half turns. For a moment I think he’s going to walk away from me like I did him three years ago. He almost does. Before his face vanishes completely, he snaps back around. “I spend summers with Carlos’s family. He’s a real friend, unlike other people.”

After his attack, he waves me off and walks away. Dave, who called Felix over in the first place, looks stunned by Felix’s reaction. He watches his friend storm off with a frown.

“Well,” Dave says, “I guess Carlos didn’t tell Felix you’d be here, either.” He walks away after him.

I’m too shocked to move. Lacey comes around the pool table to stand next to me.

“I’m gonna make a wild guess and say Felix is the friend you crushed.”

I swipe at my eyes to brush away the evidence of my betrayal. What I did to Felix…crushed is putting it mildly.

What Had to be Done

Everyone has bad days. Anna Elizondo is going on three years of bad days.

It started with her mother’s illness and eventual death, continued with a decision that ruined a friendship, and culminated in her father announcing they were broke and moving away right before her senior year of high school.

Maybe a fresh start will turn things around. Or maybe it will put her face to face with her former best friend, Felix, and the hatred in he still carries for her.

The only bright spot in Anna’s move to Santa Fe is meeting her new swim coach, a long-time hero who has big plans for her athletic career. The pool is her refuge, but she can’t hide there forever. Living in a small town makes it impossible to stay out of Felix’s way, and unlikely their history will remain just between them for long. If Anna can’t find a way to make things at least tolerable with Felix, it’s going to be a very long summer.

Get it from:

DelSheree Gladden

was one of those shy, quiet kids who spent more time reading than talking. Literally. She didn’t speak a single word for the first three months of preschool, but she had already taught herself to read.

Her fascination with reading led to many hours spent in the library and bookstores, and eventually to writing. She wrote her first novel when she was sixteen years old, but spent ten years rewriting and perfecting it before having it published.

Native to New Mexico, DelSheree and her husband spent several years in Colorado for college and work before moving back home to be near family again. Their two children love having their seventeen cousins close by.

When not writing, you can find DelSheree reading, painting, sewing and trying not to get bitten by small children in her work as a dental hygienist.Check out her latest books, get updates and sneak peeks of new projects at

And find her on social media

Share