Thursday teaser: A Case of Sour Grapes

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A Case of Sour Grapes - mystery by Gae-Lynn Woods

This week’s mystery teaser comes from the acclaimed novel

By Gae-Lynn Woods

PARKING AROUND THE SQUARE was a nightmare during business hours, but I managed to slip my Lexus into a spot vacated by the flower shop’s delivery van. The hike up the steps to the agency’s second floor offices seemed much steeper than I remembered from my interview yesterday. Well, interview might be a little strong. I called Aunt Kay to tell her I wanted to be a private detective, and after she stopped laughing and got the hiccups under control, she invited me to come in for a chat. It took a while to convince her that I was serious, that this wasn’t another flight of fancy from her daft niece. She finally relented after I talked non-stop for forty-five minutes. Thank goodness for that. I was going hoarse.

But now that the moment of truth had arrived, standing outside the door with “Lost and Found Investigations — No Job Too Big or Small” written on the frosted glass, nerves fluttered in my stomach. I wasn’t sure I was up for this. I knew for sure I wasn’t up for being a police detective like my best friend. That girl had balls of brass. Mine were more like copper: warm and pretty, but easily dented.

This is it, I told myself. The point of no return. Here’s to finding my rapist.

I shifted my lucky Louis Vuitton bag higher on my shoulder and twisted the doorknob before my Blahnik’s walked me right back down the stairs. Three pairs of green eyes, each a variation of my own, glanced up at me.

Cousin Cindy smirked. “Maxine Leverman finally arrives. Ten bucks, please. Everybody pay up.”

The agency was beautifully designed. Four glassed-in offices opened onto the reception area, one each for Babby and Kay, one for Cindy, and the last for temps or in this case, me. The glass walls were on tracks and remained open unless a meeting demanded privacy. The rest of the walls were a pale blue, and the building’s original hardwood floors were covered by Persian rugs and runners. Morning light fell through the skylights and the sense was of an open, airy space. Except for Cindy’s office, which had an artfully placed Japanese screen hiding her clutter. The rest of the area housed a conference room, storage closets, a fully equipped kitchen, powder room, and a full-sized bathroom.

Aunt Babby scowled as she dug in her purse. “If you’d waited until ten o’clock, Maxine, I’d have won. Five more minutes. If you’re going to be late, do it right girl, and help your aunt win some hard cash.”

I pulled off my over-sized shades and placed the bag of donut holes from The Palace on Babby’s desk, and the large envelope from the bank on Aunt Kay’s desk. “You three had a pool on when I’d get here?”

“Not just the three of us,” Cindy said. “Jake the janitor thought you’d make it by ten after eight. Silly man. But Arty was the real skeptic. He didn’t think you’d get here until noon.”

“Who’s Arty?” I asked.

“The gorgeous lawyer who rented the other half of the floor. Cindy’s been trying to get her talons into him since he arrived,” Kay answered. “He saw you come upstairs yesterday. Cindy filled him in on your less attractive attributes, time-keeping being one of them.”

I sipped my extra large coffee from The Golden Gate and watched as Babby peeked in the bag. She seemed to battle with herself for a moment, but finally picked a donut hole and popped it in her mouth. Her eyes rolled. “Grease, flour, and sugar make up for many a shortcoming, sweetie pie, but next time bring me a cinnamon roll.”

“Be careful what you wish for, Aunt Babs. With Max’s track record, you’ll be eating donuts every day.” Cindy stood and smoothed the black pencil skirt over her shapely hips and sauntered to the door. “For the record, Arty’s into me.” She shook her mane of chestnut colored hair and checked her teeth for lipstick in the mirror near the agency’s door. “Be back in a flash.”

Babby plucked another donut hole from the bag. “I’m off to the post office and bank. Given that it’s hot enough to fry chicken, I’ll be driving. Show Maxine that financial stuff, Kay. See what she can do with it.”

About A Case of Sour Grapes

Wine, women, and song. What could possibly go wrong?

Meet Maxine Leverman, lover of expensive shoes, beautiful handbags, and her lingerie wearing ex-husband’s hush money. When she pleads her way into a job at family run Lost and Found Investigations, Maxine’s only goal is to gain the concealed carry license and PI skills she needs to find the man who attacked her, and then kill him. (Or maybe just put him in jail, that decision can wait.)

But when she secretly takes a missing husband case on her first day at the agency, she stumbles into a high-stakes game of blackmail and murder. Maxine must unravel the links between a forgotten folk punk band, an international drug cartel, and the tangled history of the missing husband to keep the women in his life alive.

Fans of the early Stephanie Plum novels and Stuart Woods’ Holly Barker series will love Maxine’s tenacity, grit, and lust for life.

Meet the author

mystery author Gae-Lynn Woods

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

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Thursday teaser: Trojan

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This week’s sample is from the bestselling action-thriller

By Alan McDermott

Abdul al-Aziz pulled up outside the building he’d been told to report to and saw Karim’s right-hand man, Javad Zarifa, waiting by the door. Half a dozen vehicles already dotted the area around the two-storey stone building, beyond which lay a vast expanse of desert.

Two German shepherds chained to a wall snarled as he approached the door. He’d never been invited here before. He hoped he’d have something worthwhile to report home afterwards.

After the usual greetings, Zarifa showed Abdul inside, where a dozen others were already gathered. They were lining the walls of the room, and on a long wooden table a video was playing on a laptop.

‘Ah, our guest of honour,’ Karim said, opening his arms wide and smiling. ‘Come, sit. You are just in time.’

Immediately, Abdul sensed something was wrong, but before he could react, two men grabbed his arms and forced him into a chair facing the old Dell.

He recognised the person on the screen, a man with an AK-47 standing over a kneeling figure. It was him.

‘I see you recognise yourself,’ Karim said. ‘This was taken shortly after you joined us, remember? It was your initiation, your way of showing me that you were one of us.’

Abdul nodded, trying to hide the panic invading every sinew of his body. He wanted to convince himself that his worst fear wasn’t about to come true, but one glance at Karim told him everything he needed to know. The smile was gone, replaced with a glare that could strip paint from walls. He remained silent, hoping that by playing dumb he could find a way out of the situation.

‘This film has never been released,’ Karim said. ‘No-one knows that you killed this man. That is all about to change.’

‘I don’t understand. It was a simple head shot. How will that instill fear in our enemies?’

‘It won’t,’ Karim told him, ‘but it should come as a shock to the British public when they discover that the man who pulled the trigger is one of their spies.’

Before Abdul could fashion a response, he was hoisted to his feet and the laptop was moved out of the way. The others in the room crowded in as he was picked up and thrown onto the table, where four men held his legs and two others pinned his shoulders to the wooden surface.

Photo by Michael Fenton on Unsplash

Abdul could see a video camera being set up on a tripod, and he began pleading with his captor. ‘Nabil, this is a mistake! Why are you doing this?’

‘I suspected a traitor among us for some time, and it was simply a case of finding him. That’s why I let you and certain others believe you were delivering explosives to England. Only one of those packages was intercepted. Yours.’

‘It’s not true!’ Abdul shouted. ‘Maybe the explosive was detected by customs.’

‘Unlikely,’ Karim said, drawing closer. ‘We switched packages before they were shipped out. The consignment that the police picked up contained normal shock absorbers. There was nothing in the box to raise any suspicion at all.’

Abdul realised there was little point in further protestation. It was now just a matter of how Karim chose to deal with him. Any hopes of a swift death with a bullet to the head were quickly dispelled when he heard the roar of a small engine starting up. The men around him started masking their faces, and it was obvious his demise was about to be filmed.

‘We are going to send a message to your masters,’ Karim said. ‘They can send as many spies as they like, but this will be the fate that awaits them.’

Karim stood aside to make way for the soldier wielding the chainsaw.

Trojan

When the British Security Service learns that a horrifying new weapon is in enemy hands, agent Andrew Harvey is called in to track it down before it reaches home soil.

The clock is ticking. Andrew and his girlfriend, Sarah, also a secret service operative, have only one lead: a beautiful refugee, desperate not to lose her son. But is she desperate enough to betray everything she believes in? And will she do it in time to help them prevent a terrifying attack?

As Andrew and Sarah race to unravel a convoluted web of subterfuge and exploitation, they discover there is more at stake than even they knew. And somewhere, at the heart of it, lurks a faceless enemy, who is prepared to use everything—and everyone—at his disposal.

Exclusively at Amazon.

Alan McDermott, action-thrillers

Alan McDermott

is a husband, father to beautiful twin girls, and a full-time author. Alan lives in the south of England, and in 2014 he swapped writing critical application for the NHS to penning thrillers that have gone on to sell close to a million copies. His debut novel, Gray Justice, was well received and earned him membership of Independent Authors International. That book launched in July 2011, and by the time he’d written the follow-ups, Gray Resurrection and Gray Redemption, it had attracted the attention of a major publisher.

Alan signed with Thomas & Mercer in 2013 and has now written six novels in the Tom Gray series and a spinoff called Trojan. Alan’s eighth novel, Run and Hide, introduced a new female lead, Eva Driscoll, and a new thriller series that includes Seek and Destroy and Fight to Survive.

Alan can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page   |   Amazon Author page   |   Website   |   blog   |    Facebook    |   Twitter

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Once Upon a [Fallen] Time

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A time-travel fantasy romance teaser

By Samreen Ahsan

“She is a witch?” I asked hesitantly.

There were magic and excitement, a hope dancing in his eyes—that I had never seen before.

“It doesn’t affect her,” he said. “For the first time, I feel like I hold the reins of my fate in my own hands.” He stood up and walked around the room once again, my gaze tracking his every move. “I feel like…” for the first time, I noticed King Stefan was out of words. He was troubled delivering his emotions. “I feel as if I am able to write my own story. No one else holds the power.” I looked at him confounded. Was he implying that she had a royal blood in her? “She is a woman who has come out of my dreams.” His dreams? What was he saying? “You spend your entire life having one dream—a woman standing in your garden—surrounded by nature…” I held my breath tightly, my heart hammering. “And one fine day… she just starts living with you,” he snickered and shook his head. “There’s a dream legacy passed from seven generations of Hue men—a woman haunting them all their lives.” I stared at him, not able to believe what I was hearing. He was talking about my dream. “She is holding our weapon but she’s standing in our garden which is full of natural gems. It seems like nature is in love with her. She’d create all the life within this castle. She is wearing a beautiful white dress with every possible flower stitched to it.” He rubbed his beard, his eyes showing his fascination. “She looks sinfully tempting but she also looks like a killer. And we are so consumed by lust that we don’t see her intention.” He looked me in the eye. “I was not supposed to share this dream yet. Hue men normally share it with their sons when they reach the deathbed, but since she’s already here—before my death—I had to share.” He moved in closer. “Tell me… did you ever have this dream?” I could sense danger lurking behind the walls of this castle.

I felt like the walls of the chamber were closing in on me. I couldn’t even imagine what he would do to her. She was not just in my dreams, but she had been haunting all Hue men in the past? Was she truly Jasmine after all? Because that was the only witch that had haunted Hues.

“It was not just the garden of our castle,” he referred to the poem, “but I call it hortus delicarium (the garden of pleasure), where she gave me hope.” I wanted to shut down my mind. “She is a rose in this garden, attracting everyone with her beautiful charms.” This was my dream, my garden, my fantasy. He made me believe that dreams do have significance in our lives just like how Guillaume de Lorris had narrated in his poem. “The rose is inhabited by Déduit (Pleasure) and his companions, Jeunesse (Youth)Richesse (Wealth), Liesse (Jubilation), and Beauté (Beauty).” He was using the exact French words to make me understand his dream. He assumed I couldn’t picture it in my head.

Bloody hell! She was not just my fantasy but my forefathers’ as well.

“You sound like a poet,” I grunted. “You were the one who used to say poetry is a waste of time.”

“Yes,” he sank deeper in his chair, “but I never knew a dream could shape reality.”

I held my breath tightly and recalled the poem to argue.

“So, you’re saying she is Idleness, who is the intimate acquaintance of Diversion,” I chuckled as I recalled Guillaume’s words, “the elegant charmer who owns the garden.” I couldn’t agree more with him that she was indeed a charmer. “She could lead you to damnation,” I added. “In your case, she doesn’t own the garden.” Or does she? I wondered if she had any relation with this castle. I hated to admit it, but my father was right—she truly didn’t have any curse affecting her inside the castle.

He watched me for a while and changed the topic. He had mixed feelings for her—he couldn’t decide if she was an angel or a devil.

Once Upon a [Fallen] Time

Samreen Ahsan continues the saga that began in Once Upon a [Stolen] Time.

In Once Upon a [Fallen] Time, the past and future collide in the tale of love, obsession, betrayal and the hope for redemption.

The tortured Edward Hue, the last king in the cursed dynasty, is in deeper anguish over the woman he loves when he discovers which woman his father has chosen for him to marry.

“The author’s style is magical in itself as she sets the past and present onto a direct collision course. 5-stars!”—Tome Tender Book Blog.

Find it on Amazon.

About Samreen Ahsan

History, art and literature are my passions. I love digging out information about prophecies, divine miracles and paranormal events that are mentioned in history and holy books, that don’t sound possible in today’s modern world.

Since childhood, I have been into reading and writing—and yes, it can’t happen without imagination, which luckily has no boundaries. Dance and music are also pastimes I enjoy, as well as reading romance fiction. I love to travel and explore historical cities.

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Book launch: Death Comes Ashore

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A new urban fantasy series

By Corinne O’Flynn

The deepest mysteries lie within… 

When Detective Corey Proctor became a cop, she put her ridiculous family history well behind her. Being the only female descendant of the Proctors and Coreys of Salem Witch Trials fame made her a target at an early age. But there’s no magic here, thank you very much… her kidnappers saw to that.

As she begins investigating a murder on New England’s Nahant Island, Corey’s troubled past comes roaring back like the turbulent waves that carried the victim’s body to the shore. Dark memories stirred up by the victim’s likeness threaten Corey’s ability to remain focused on the job. When a friend calls, worried that her daughter is missing, it’s one more thing to add to the ever-growing list. 

Corey’s always managed to keep her past where it belongs… in the past. But as her investigation progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that all she’s worked so hard to contain is threatening to reveal itself, ready or not.

Available now exclusively on Amazon.

Corinne O’Flynn

is a productivity geek, graphic designer, ghostwriter, and the author of an ever-growing list of fantasy and mystery novels and short stories.

Married, raising four kids, she is the founder and executive director of a non-profit organization, and a professional napper. She also serves on the board for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW).

You can check out all of her books on her website or on Amazon.

Anyone interested in staying connected can sign up for her emailsWhether you’re a fan of mystery or fantasy stories, or a fellow busy human looking for ways to build your own productivity systems, Corinne O’Flynn invites you to join her as she shares what she learns on her adventures.

“I believe in doing things with intention, and making sure those intentions are good. :)”

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The impact of travel

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Part 3 of our series on how travel has inspired our members to write new stories and books.

By Caleb Pirtle III

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

I spent much of my early career writing travel stories for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and then Governor John Connally’s Texas Tourist Development Agency.

They were simple, traditional travel stories that told a vacationer where to go, how to get there, and what the cost would be when the family arrived.

When I became travel editor for Southern Living Magazine, however, all of my thoughts about travel abruptly changed.

I had come to a crossroads and took an entirely different direction..

We won two Discover America Awards because I turned our travel columns into short stories.

All true.

All authentic.

Just told from a new and different point of view.

Those days of travel writing remain with me still even though I no longer write travel.

But I remember the places.

I remember the characters.

I remember the faces.

I remember the stories those characters told me while sitting out whistling and whittling on a courthouse lawn or wedged into the back corner of country honky-tonk sipping a beer.

As the years go by, those characters remain in a locked room in the back of my brain, a place I refer to as central casting.

No matter what kind of character my novels need – hero, heroine, villain, or bit player – one is hanging around and waiting to be thrown onto the printed page.

The following travel story about Maine’s Hendrick’s Head Lighthouse was printed in Confessions from the Road, a collection of true short stories gleaned from my time as a travel editor.

***

IT BEGAN with a storm.

Hendrick’s Head Lighthouse. Photo by John Shaw.

Nothing fierce.

Nothing out of the ordinary.

It was little more than a gale blowing across the sea during the chilled evening of March in 1871. A ship’s captain battled the winds, fighting the swells of the Atlantic, headed toward the distant shore hugging the coastline of Maine.

It wasn’t far now.

He could see the splinter of beam from the lighthouse flashing at him.

Only a half a mile to go.

Only a half a mile from safety.

The ship suddenly trembled, and the captain heard the deadly, cracking of lumber breaking hard and in agony against the rock ledge.

The captain’s muscles tightened.

The ship was taking on water.

It was quiet for a moment.

Then came the screams.

Only a half a mile to go.

He would never make it.

Even the screams died away.

The cold, bitter sea water churned around his knees and kept rising.

The winds battered his ship.

The rains lashed at his face.

One last scream.

Then the ominous sound of night when there is no sound at all.

Early the next morning, as faint shards of light swept the shoreline, the keeper of Hendrick’s Head Lighthouse and his wife began picking through the debris that had washed upon the rocks.

A dying ship was a rest.

A captain, his crew, and his passengers had been drawn to the unforgiving ebony floor of the Atlantic.

No hope.

No prayers.

No survivors.

He stopped.

The keeper heard a faint and gentle cry in the wind. He and his wife found a feather mattress bound with a rope. It held a tiny cargo, a wooden box, and wedged inside was a baby girl. She was alone but had not been abandoned.

Some heart-broken mother had done her best to save the baby, to cast her to the sea and pray that the ocean would not claim her.

There had been a prayer.

And a survivor.

The family of the lighthouse kept her as its own.

They looked for any trace of the mother until all traces had been washed away and buried by the sea.

But on some nights when the sky is dark, and a gale stalks the rim of the Atlantic, the silence is broken by a faint cry caught in the throat of a distant wind.

“It’s the mother,” I am told. “She walks among the rocks, and sometimes you can see her shadow outlined against the ocean. After all of these years, she is still searching for her baby.”

“Has anyone ever seen her face?”

“We only hear her grief.”

“She keeps coming back?”

“No.” There is a slight shrug. “She never left.”

It began with a storm.

So long ago.

It has yet to end.

Caleb Pirtle III

began his career writing about history and travel. He learned quickly, however, that what happens is never as important as those who make it happen. Many of those people have made their way into his novels.

He is the author of more than 65 published books, including the new noir suspense thrillers, Golgotha ConnectionSecrets of the Dead, Conspiracy of Lies and Night Side of Dark. His other novels include Back Side of a Blue Moon and Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever

He has written such award winners as “XIT: The American Cowboy,” “Callaway Gardens: the Unending Season,” “The Grandest Day,” “Echoes from Forgotten Streets,” and “Spirit of a Winner.” His nonfiction works include Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk and No Experience Required.

Caleb earned a journalism degree from The University of Texas and became the first student at the university to win the national William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. As a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he received both the Texas Headliner’s and Associated Press Awards.

He served as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine, and his travel writing was given the National Discover America Award three times. For more than two decades, Pirtle was editorial director for a custom publishing company in Dallas.

He has also written teleplays for network television.

Find more about Caleb at his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

You can find Confessions from the Road on his website or on Amazon.

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Thursday teaser: The Eastern Front

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By Scott Bury

Maurice stepped to the table. “Good morning, sir. I know you’re busy, so I would like to quickly help you resolve an error—my draft letter is a mistake.” He put it on the table in front of the officer.

The officer looked up, arching one eyebrow. “That’s a new one. What kind of mistake?”

“I am not eligible for service, as I am not a citizen of the Soviet Union. I’m a Canadian.” He showed his birth certificate.

The officer struggled to sound out the Roman lettering. “Doh-meen-i-yon off Kanada,” he read. He frowned, then shook his head and looked Maurice straight in the eyes. “You are still required to report for duty, comrade.”

“But I’m a Canadian citizen.”

“It doesn’t matter, tovarisch. You live here now, and you must help defend the Motherland.” He was already looking at the next man in line. “Report to the train station by seven tomorrow morning or you’ll be arrested. Next.”

Maurice’s flash of anger was quickly replaced by a despairing acceptance. He had known all along the Soviet army would never care about such an insignificant detail as his citizenship.

He took the long way home, stopping in a café for hot tea as much for the warmth as to delay telling his family the bad news.

He returned to the little farm by lunchtime. Tekla and Hanya wept quietly when they heard. His mother even helped him pack warm clothes and tried to hold out some hope.

“Maybe there won’t be a war. Maybe you’ll serve your two years and then they’ll let you out, and then we can all go back to Canada.”

“Who would we go to war with, anyway?” Hanya asked, joining in. “Russia and Germany are allies now. Germany is fighting England, and they’re too far from us.” She did not mention what they all thought: Finland remained a dreaded enemy.

“That’s right,” Tekla said. “Germany is our ally. There’s no reason for Russia to fight them.”

Maurice agreed, and they sat down to a subdued supper. Tekla poured too much of her homemade vodka, and Maurice drank it all.

The next morning, the women drove Maurice to the train station in the horse-cart. His mother gave him a big basket of food for the journey east: sausage, bread, a small flask of hot tea, some apples left from the fall, a jar of preserves.

The train station was surrounded by military policemen carrying rifles. Maurice also saw other men in peaked caps with maroon bands—the NKVD, the Soviet security police. They strutted, ordering people around in rough and guttural Russian, smoking and looking officious.

The platform was crowded with young men and their families saying goodbye. Like Hanya and Tekla, all the inductees’ parents fussed over them. Mothers wept, fathers gave their sons brave smiles and manly kisses on each cheek.

Maurice thought of his father in Canada and wondered whether he worried about his family in Russian-dominated Ukraine.

“Write to us as soon as you’re settled and tell us where you are and how you’re doing. Please don’t forget, my dear,” Tekla said. She tucked his scarf closer around his neck. She had to stand on her toes to kiss his cheek. She cried, but Hanya smiled bravely.

“Be careful, Maurice. Look after yourself.”

The train rumbled and squealed into the station. MPs pushed the young men onto the cars. Maurice found a seat with three fresh-faced, silent young men, all holding baskets from their mothers, looking at him as if seeking some kind of hope or comfort.

Maurice waved at his mother and sister through the window as the train chuffed away. He felt lonelier than ever before. He patted a secret pocket he had sewn under the waist of his pants, inaccessible from the outside, which held his Canadian birth certificate.

He made himself a promise: he would never part with it until he got back to Montreal.

The Eastern Front Trilogy

A Canadian in the Soviet Red Army

He was a man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Drafted in the spring of 1941, Canadian-born Maurice Bury found himself facing Operation Barbarossa—the greatest land invasion in history.

Unprepared for the assault, the Soviets retreated and were captured by the millions at a time. By the fall, Maurice and his men were starving in a POW camp.

As the last of their strength ebbed, Maurice conspired to find an escape for himself and his men. After a nightmarish journey across Ukraine, he joined the underground resistance against the Nazi oppressors.

He risked death time after time, but he also found ordinary people who risked their own safety to help him. Not only in standing against the Nazis, but an even more dangerous ambition: to return home to Canada.

It’s a story that reads like fiction. It’s not.

The Eastern Front Trilogy is available as a paperback through Amazon or wherever books are sold.

Scott Bury

can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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