Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Body on Baker Street by Vicki Delaney. This book is the second in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery series and was released last week.

Gemma Doyle is about to tell a hapless personal assistant that the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium couldn't possible host a book signing on such short notice, until she discovers the author is none other than Renalta Van Markoff. This bestselling author has been taking the world by storm with her controversial version of Sherlock Holmes stories and Gemma agrees to host the signing. Upon meeting her, however, Gemma glimpses a nasty side to the woman, although fans are oblivious. After her brief talk, Renalta starts to sign books, but after a gulp of water she collapses-and Gemma smells murder, literally. Who could have done the deed? The mousy and put upon PA, the smarmy publicist, the stalker fan? Surely it couldn't be Donald, the local Holmes scholar, even if he did threaten the author...could it?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Chocolate - Healthy or Harmful - Guest Post & Giveaway

I'm happy to let Nancy J. Cohen take over Cozy Up With Kathy today. Nancy pens the Bad Hair Day Mystery series. HAIR BRAINED, the fourteenth book in the series, was released last week.

Chocolate—Healthy or Harmful? 

We’ve all heard that dark chocolate is good for you. It’s certainly a treat we crave when we need a mood boost or wish to reward ourselves. Why is it considered a healthful addition to your diet? And how can chocolate be harmful to dogs?

Flavonoids help protect plants from environmental toxins. In humans, these antioxidants help our body's cells resist damage from free radicals. Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in chocolate. In addition to having antioxidant qualities, flavanols can lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain, and make blood platelets less sticky.

Chocolate lore dates back in history. Early South American natives would harvest cacao beans and grind them with water and spices to create a beverage. Spanish conquerors brought the plants home to Spain, where the drink became a treat enjoyed by royalty. From there, it made its way to France. At some point, somebody added sugar to the mix. Cacao eventually entered the United States, and Hershey noticed it. Now chocolate is a treat enjoyed around the world.

Here’s a conversation between Marla, my hairstylist sleuth in The Bad Hair Day Mysteries, and Teri the chocolatier who operates an artisan chocolate factory. Marla is investigating an accident that landed her best friend in the hospital. One of the last places this friend had visited was a chocolate shop. Teri is answering Marla’s question about the health benefits of chocolate.

“Cocoa contains flavonoids that are powerful antioxidants. These prevent cellular damage due to free radicals and help to lower your risk for heart disease. Flavonoids also improve blood flow to your brain and cause your body to release endorphins. Dark chocolate has a higher content than milk chocolate. You’ll want to avoid cocoa powder that has undergone Dutch processing. It’s been treated with alkali agents that reduce the flavonoid value.”

“How about caffeine? Like, if I eat too much chocolate, won’t it make my heart race?”

“Cocoa contains some caffeine, but it also has theobromine. Both of these compounds can increase your heart rate. Again, dark chocolate has a higher concentration than milk chocolate. And these chemicals are usually not present in white chocolate.”

Marla thought of her pets back home. She’d heard cautionary tales about canines and sweets. “Why is chocolate so dangerous to dogs?”

“They metabolize theobromine more slowly. Dogs can get theobromine poisoning from even a small amount of milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is even more toxic to them. It can lead to seizures and death. The same risk is reported for cats, but they’re less likely to eat anything sweet.”

“When my friends were here, did they try your desserts?” Marla pointed to the other tour guests sitting at various tables and indulging in treats.

Teri chuckled. “Yes, they made an afternoon of it and seemed to enjoy their visit. Your tall blonde and I got into a discussion on recipes. Sometimes you can discover hidden treasures in old recipe books. She’d found a love letter inside one of her mother’s cookbooks. It was addressed to her mom and predated her marriage.”

“Oh?” This was news. Tally hadn’t mentioned anything to Marla about it, but that seemed to be the norm for their relationship lately. “Did she say any more on the subject?”

“Yes, it led her to an unexpected, and unnerving, discovery.”

Oh my. What did Marla’s friend Tally discover in her mother’s vintage cookbook? Will this revelation help Marla in her quest to track down a murderer?

Chocolate is a sweeter topic. Which kind do you fancy—dark or milk chocolate? What’s your favorite treat?

Follow Nancy Online


When hairstylist Marla Vail’s best friend is hurt in a suspicious car accident, Marla assumes guardianship of her infant son. No sooner does Marla say, “Baby want a bottle?” than she’s embroiled in another murder investigation. Her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, determines the crash may not have been an accident after all. But then, who would want Tally—or Ken in the car with her—out of the way? As Marla digs deeper into her friends’ lives, she realizes she didn’t know them as well as she’d thought. Nonetheless, it’s her duty as their son’s guardian to ensure his safety, even if it means putting her own life at risk. Can she protect the baby and find the culprit before someone else ends up as roadkill?

Nancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail. Titles in this series have made the IMBA bestseller list, been selected by Suspense Magazine as best cozy mystery, and won third place in the Arizona Literary Awards. Nancy has also written the instructional guide, Writing the Cozy Mystery. Her imaginative romances, including the Drift Lords series, have proven popular with fans as well. Her first book in this genre won the HOLT Medallion Award. A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, she is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who's Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. When not busy writing, Nancy enjoys fine dining, cruising, visiting Disney World, and shopping.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Unexpected Outcomes - Early Book Blast

Unexpected Outcomes

An Angela Panther Mystery

by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

September 19, 2017 Book Blast



When a frantic 911 call stumps a suburban Atlanta police department, psychic medium Angela Panther is asked to help. Without a body or a ransom note, the cops question whether there’s even a crime, but Angela's certain the woman's no longer among the living.
On the outside, the woman’s family seems run of the mill, but Angela’s sixth sense tells her something different, she just has to find the evidence—and the victim’s remains, to prove it.
With the help of her best friend, Mel, and Fran, her celestial super sleuth mother, she sets out to find it and stumbles into a web of dark, dangerous family secrets worse than she ever imagined.
When a desperate spirit forces Angela to act on impulse, she makes one wrong move and lands right in the path of the killer. Alone, and begging for her life, Angela realizes she might not make it out alive.
This book is the 4th in the series but as with all the others, can be read as a stand alone.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Indie
Publication Date: September 19 2017
Number of Pages: 300
Series: The Angela Panther Mystery Series Book 4 | Each is a stand alone mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon  | Goodreads 

Read an excerpt:


“I can’t believe I’m gonna die. Please, no. Why are you shooting at us?”
I pulled the trigger and watched as the bullet raced through the air, smacking my best friend in the center of her chest.
I bolted upright; sweat dripping from my forehead, tears streaming down my cheeks, my heart beating faster than ever. I’d just dreamed I’d shot my best friend. My best friend. “It’s just a dream,” I mumbled. “Just a dream.”
My husband, Jake rolled over and rubbed my leg. “You okay, Babe?”
I lay down and snuggled into him. “I just shot Mel in my dream.”
He squeezed his arms tight around me. “We both know that would never happen. You’d be lost without her. It was just a dream. Don’t let it upset you.”
I glanced at the clock. It was four AM, and I knew I wouldn’t fall back asleep, so I kissed Jake and got up for the day, resigned to the fact that I’d be exhausted before nightfall. I shuffled to the bathroom, closed the double doors, and flipped on the light. My eyes sunk like anchors in the blue and black pits swelling below them. Sleep eluded me most nights, and the nights I did catch a few z’s, were restless and fitful, and it showed.
Downstairs I made a fresh pot of coffee and while waiting for it to finish, replayed the dream in my head. Nothing was clear except Mel. Images of gravel and trees flashed briefly, too fuzzy and indistinct to identify with any clarity. My gift was communicating with the dead, not predicting the future, and half of me thought the dream meant nothing. The other half though threw red flags up all over the kitchen, practically screaming Danger, Will Robinson. That half knew the Universe didn’t have a rulebook and the fear of what it could mean crushed my heart like a ton of bricks. Six months ago I couldn’t feel what a ghost felt, but that had changed, so I knew anything was possible, and that scared the bejesus out of me. I powered on my phone and pounded out a text to Mel.
“I had a bad dream,” I wrote.
It didn’t take long for her to respond. That’s how best friends worked. No matter what time it was, they were there when we needed them. “Wow, me too. It was so strange. I shot you.”
My heart raced into the anaerobic zone. I snatched my keys from the key box, slipped on my tennis shoes and bolted out the door and into my car in the garage. Both of us having the same dream wasn’t a coincidence. It meant something, and I didn’t need my spidey sense to tell me that.
I sped fifteen miles over the speed limit and made it to Mel’s house in record time. I killed the lights as I drove into her driveway, and sent her a text. “Don’t freak when the garage door opens; it’s just me.” I’d had the code for years, just like she had mine because best friends shared that kind of stuff.
She met me in her kitchen, her long black hair pulled into a bun, and her feet snuggled into the fuzzy teddy bear slippers I’d bought her for Christmas last year. “It’s a little early for coffee, doncha think?”
I couldn’t speak. I just flung myself at her and wrapped my arms around her neck, holding on for dear life.
“I…I…you’re cutting off my oxygen.”
I softened my vice-hold but didn’t let go.
She broke free and raised her eyebrows my direction. “I’m sorry I killed you, but it was just a dream.” She shuffled over to her coffee maker and grabbed the pot. “Flavored or regular?” Clearly, ending my life didn’t impact her as much as her death did me. Then again, she didn’t know I’d bumped her off too. The double sucker punch would surely knock her out, or at least I’d hoped it would.
I sat at the counter feeling a bit embarrassed for freaking out but based on the changes in my life over the past few years; I was justified. “Either is fine.”
She rinsed the pot and asked again why I’d showed up at such an ungodly hour.
I knew Mel’s dream increased the probability of the Universe giving me a message I didn’t want to hear. Was Mel going to die? Was I? And by whose hand? I couldn’t imagine any situation where I’d kill my best friend, but then again, a few years ago I couldn’t imagine talking to dead people, and that was a daily occurrence.
She placed a fresh cup of coffee next to me. I held it to my nose and took in the spicy, fruity smell, stalling to answer her question.
“So you gonna spill it or are we gonna sit here and pretend you’re just here to hang out at butt-early o’clock?”
“How did you kill me?”
“Why? You do something that would cause me to carry through?” She giggled, but I didn’t think it was funny and my expression told her so. Her smile flipped over. “Come on, what’s going on?”
“I dreamed I killed you too.”
She dropped into the seat next to me. “Well, that’s alarming.”
I nodded.
“I shot you twice in the chest. Some place outside, but I’m not sure where. It was a quick dream.”
“Mine too, and it was the same.” I sipped my drink. “Did I say anything to you?”
She tightened her bun. “I think so, but I can’t remember.”
“I can’t believe I’m gonna die. Why are you shooting at us?”
She pointed at me. “That’s really freaky.”
It was.
“But,” She rubbed my shoulder. “We didn’t shoot each other, and we’re not going to, so it’s all good. Now can you go home so I can go back to sleep? I’ve got a busy day tomorrow. Deadlines.”
“It means something. I know it does.”
She stared into her cup. “I know you’re right, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s that we can’t rush the powers that be into telling us what we don’t know. If you’re supposed to find out, you will. If you’re not, you won’t. But I don’t think one of us is gonna bite the bullet anytime soon.” She grimaced. No pun intended.”
“I would never shoot you.”
“Of course not. You don’t have a gun.”
“There is that.”
“But I do.” The left side of her upper lip lifted. “And I know how to use it.”
“So in other words, don’t tick you off.”
“If I didn’t shoot my cheating ex-husband, there sure as heck ain’t any reason I’d shoot you.”
“You didn’t have a gun then.”
“Good point.”
I guzzled the last bit of my coffee and when I stood, hugged her again. “I love you.”
“Who doesn’t?” She joked and squeezed me back as hard as I’d squeezed her. “Love you too.”
I drove home thinking about the dream, the air in the car replaced by an impending doom so thick, if I’d had a knife, I could have sliced it into pieces.
* * *
“I can’t believe I’m gonna die. Please, no. Why are you shooting at us?”
I jumped high enough out of my seat I nearly smacked my head on the ceiling of Detective Aaron Banner’s office. “Oh, my gosh, last night Mel and I dreamed we said the same things to each other.”
He smacked his hand down on the stop button of the recorder, and we locked eyes. “Care to explain?”
I did.
He rewound the tape and played it again from start to finish. The boom of a gunshot echoed through the recorder. Something heavy dropped onto the ground with a thud. A woman screamed. “No, why? Oh my God, no.”
A man’s voice mumbled something I couldn’t make out. Then another man muttered something else, but I couldn’t understand him either. Whatever happened, happened in real time, and it was abominable.
“Why? Please God, don’t kill me. My babies. They need me. I can’t believe I’m gonna die. Please, no. Why are you shooting at us?”
The line went dead.
I rubbed my neck. The call had come into the dispatch center earlier that morning, and Aaron called me in to help.
“It’s hard to listen to. Sounds like maybe two men and a woman, but I’m not sure. Thought you might be able to help us with her identity or maybe the location. We don’t know if it’s a robbery or an assault or if the woman is dead—nothing.”
The woman on the line never spoke to the operator directly, and never said her name. It appeared she was just trying to give clues to what was happening. Because of the shots, time was important, and we didn’t have much of it.
“The operator called back once the line went dead. Got a voicemail for a girl named Sarah.”
“Can you trace the call or find out the billing address for the owner?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Track phone. They’re not traceable. We’ve been calling the number back since we received the call, but it just goes straight to voicemail.” He paused and played the recording one more time. “Usually the phone company doesn’t keep the information on the purchaser, but the carrier gave us the number for the last call. Belongs to a man by the name of Stu Walker.” He tapped a pencil on his desk.
“Have you called him or sent anyone out there?”
“Got voicemail on his line, too. Sent a squad out twice already but no one’s been home. Thought I’d call you and have you come out with me.”
I stood. “Let’s go.”
Aaron and I met a few years back when a little boy’s spirit asked me to give his parents a message. I’d been able to communicate with spirits for some time, though according to my mother Fran Richter, I’d done it as a child too, but as I aged, the gift lessened until it disappeared completely. It resurfaced when my mother died and decided to test the psychic waters. When her ghost appeared to me, I thought I’d flipped my lid. It was even harder when other ghosts came around asking for help with their earthly business. I wasn’t thrilled at first but eventually realized the curse was truly a gift. Ever since Aaron saw my gift up close and personal, I’d been his psychic medium consultant, off the record and free of charge. We’d also become friends, and I was grateful for all of it, but for the friendship most of all.
We arrived at a shabby brown stucco house on the outskirts of town, where the city had yet to pilfer all the farmland from its owners and stack two hundred plus home nearly on top of each other in an upscale, amenities-laden subdivisions. The house was in disrepair, with shutters hanging by a hair and a boarded up window in the garage. A Pitbull sat chained to a tree near the gravel driveway. It was thirsty and tired. I wanted to unleash it and take it home with me. The whole scene matched the stereotype image other parts of the country have of the south. I said a silent thank you to the Universe for the blessings in my life.
Aaron knocked on the door and a young man, maybe in his twenties, with a shaved head and a dark, brown, at least six-inch long beard, opened it. “Yeah?”
My spidey senses sent a smidgen of a tingle zipping down my spine.
Aaron flashed his badge. “You Stu Walker?”
The man’s shoulders curved inward just a bit. “Yessir.”
“We understand you made a call to a woman named Sarah at about 9 AM this morning. Can you tell me anything about that woman?”
He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “Uh, yeah. Sarah Rochen. My cousin. Why you asking?”
“We’re trying to locate her whereabouts. Do you happen to know where she is?”
I caught his eyes widen for a millisecond. Had I blinked, I would have missed it. It sent my spidey sense shooting back up my spine like a just lit firework.
He examined the ground near his feet and then shook his head. “I haven’t talked to her since this mornin’, but you might could talk to her ma.”
Aaron took down the mother’s phone number. “Thank you, Mr. Walker. What was your conversation with Ms. Rochen about?”
He rubbed his head. “I told her I might could get her a new car, and she was supposed to call me back later today to go and see it before she went back to Savannah.”
“Do you know why she was going to Savannah?”
“That’s where she lives.”
“Do you know what she was planning to do today or why she was in town?”
He shook his head. “Something ‘bout seeing her kids.” He hemmed and hawed and kicked at the ground. “I don’t know anything about it really, but her ma might know.”
Aaron cut the meeting short. “You got an address for her mother?”
“I don’t know the address, but I could get you there from here.”
“It’s okay. I can get it through my department. Thank you for your time. You have a nice day.”
I smiled at him and followed Aaron back to the car.
In the car I gave Aaron my two cents. “Something’s not right about that guy.”
“He’s just a good ol’ country boy.” He got on his car radio and asked to have an address run on Sarah Rochen’s mother’s cell number. “You have time to go there, too?”
Based on the address, her mother was only fifteen minutes from where we were. Dawsonville was growing, but there were still a lot of traditional neighborhoods and farms instead of designated subdivisions like mine. Sarah’s mother, LuAnn Jacobs, lived in one of them. Her house, a blue and white, hardieplank sided ranch, sat on a small, weed infested hill. Aaron trudged up the gravel and dirt driveway, and the bumping from the holes in it agitated my sciatica. I rubbed my leg to relieve the throbbing.
LuAnn Jacobs answered the door immediately. “We’re looking to convert, but thanks.” She slammed the door before Aaron could respond.
I giggled under my breath. Aaron however, did not.
He tapped on the door once more. “Mrs. Jacobs, I’m Detective Aaron Banner.” He flipped his badge toward where the closed door met the frame.
She cracked the door open, snuck a peek at the badge, and then swung it open again.
“G’moring, ma’am. Earlier this morning we received a 911 call from a woman who we now believe to be your daughter, Sarah Rochen.”
Aaron explained that the call was disturbing, but didn’t go into any detail. “Have you heard from your daughter, Mrs. Jacobs?”
“Uh, not since breakfast. What’s going on?”
“Do you know why Sarah was in town?”
She clasped her arms across her chest, and in a sticky, almost too sweet voice, said, “Yeah. Uh, she and her husband Larry, they came up from Savannah yesterday, for a visit and maybe to buy a new car.”
A man stood in the doorway behind Mrs. Jacobs. His greasy brown hair was long enough to be pulled into a ponytail at the base of his neck. We made eye contact, and I shivered. The man was scary.
Mrs. Jacobs chewed a piece of gum the way Emily did, her mouth open, making juicy, chomping sounds while she spoke. “Just for a visit. They came to visit.” She explained that they’d come to see their two daughters, and they’d hoped to take them home if they could get approval for the new car.
I forced back the anger brewing in the pit of my stomach. My misophonia—generally coined the hatred of human sounds, and particularly those related to eating—fought to get the best of me, but I refused to let it, instead, focusing on the task at hand.
“Can you explain why her children are here in town?” Aaron asked.
“The county took them away, and they’re living with family ‘til Sarah and Larry get their house in order. They came here so they could get a safe car. Stu was supposed to get them a deal on one.
“When did they arrive?”
“When was the last time you saw your daughter?”
“Last night. She came by to visit with Ashley.”
“Is that one of her daughters?”
“Her oldest. She’s been living with us,” she angled her body toward the man behind her and placed her hand on his shoulder. “My husband Johnny and me, ‘til this whole mess is handled.”
I glanced back at the man and caught him eyeing me again, but he cut away and focused on his wife. The hairs on the back of my neck shot to attention.
“What happened when she came by last night?”
“Nothing. She came by to visit Ashley, and Larry stayed back at the hotel so she could have some alone time with her kid. Also because we don’t want that man here at our house.”
“Why is that?”
“He’s not good enough for my kid or her babies.”
My brain wrestled between her words and the juicy chomping. I wanted to reach into her mouth and yank the clump of gum out like I used to do with my kids, but of course, I couldn’t. I had to force myself to focus on her words, not the chomping.
She said they’d decided to stay at a hotel somewhere about halfway between her house and Sarah’s cousin, Jenny’s house, where her other daughter, Lizzie stayed. LuAnn explained that Sarah told her they’d planned to see Lizzie the next day.
“They got that little two-door thing, and those back seats just aren’t big enough for two car seats, and the seatbelts don’t work neither, so they hoped to get a minivan or an SUV. Stu said he knew someone who could give them a good deal.”
“Is Ashley here with you now?” Aaron asked.
She nodded, and I noticed her husband’s facial expression shift. If I’d blinked, I would have missed it. “She’s in the kitchen eating pancakes. You wanna see her?” She poked her husband. “Johnny, go fetch Ash for them, will ya?”
He stood there for a second, his eyes drilling into his wife’s.
She grimaced. “Please?” Chomp.
A minute later a petite, strawberry blond haired girl ambled over to the door, Johnny’s hand squeezing her left shoulder. She kept her eyes glued to the ground, even though I’d raised the tone of my voice several octaves when I said hi. Her skin was so pasty, I assumed she hadn’t seen the sun in months, and it was unlikely she’d had a good meal in that time either, her face shallow, her cheeks barely there. It made my heart hurt. The good news was she was safe with her grandmother, even though she didn’t appear happy about it.
“Okay,” Aaron said. “So they stayed at the hotel last night?”
“Right, and then they were going to her cousin’s to see Lizzie. I just…I just talked to her a bit ago. She was happy. She was excited to possibly be getting to take her babies home with her.”
“What kind of car were they driving?” Aaron asked.
“Lemme think about that for a bit.” She chewed on the gum like a cow.
“Johnny, what kind of car they do they have again?”
“One of those old Datsuns. A 240Z, I think.”
“That’s right. A gold one. Larry loves that car. He’s torn up that they have to sell it. Too bad for them. Shouldn’t have bought something like that with the babies.” She rubbed her hands together. “Is my baby okay?”
“We’re doing our best to find out, ma’am.” Aaron asked for Sarah’s cousin’s contact information, wrote it down, and then closed his notebook. “We’ll be in touch as soon as we have more information. In the meantime though, if you could write any phone numbers you have for Larry and Sarah, as well as their address, I’d appreciate it.” He handed her his notepad and pen. “And if you hear from your daughter or think of something that might help us, please call me right away.”
She wrote out the information and handed him back his things as he gave her his business card.
As LuAnn closed the door, her husband pushed it back open and stepped outside. “I was you, I’d be looking at Larry Rochen for doing something he ought not to do.” He spoke as if he’d just had a tooth pulled, and his face was still numb, except from the looks of his teeth, it was obvious he hadn’t been to a dentist in years.
Aaron had already stepped away from the door, but he paused and flipped back around. “Why is that?”
He pushed back his shoulders. “Marriage was doomed from the start.”
LuAnn Jacobs opened the door and stepped partially out. “Everything okay out here?”
Johnny Jacobs’s face morphed into a snarl like one of a dog ready to attack. “Get inside, woman.”
Her jaw tensed, and I caught her hands form into fists. She noticed me notice them, released them, and did as she was told.
Back in the car, Aaron called in the make and model of the Rochen’s vehicle and got the tag number. “Set up a BOLO for the vehicle and notify the surrounding counties,” he told his dispatch. He dialed Jenny’s number and put the call on speaker.
“She’s not here,” Jenny said. “She called and said she had something to do before she came by, and she’d call on her way.” She confirmed Lizzie was still there.
Aaron asked her to notify him if she heard from her cousin, but didn’t give any details as to why. I assumed he figured the word would get out soon enough.
“Do you think Larry’s involved?” I asked. “Johnny Jacobs sure threw him under the bus. Actually, LuAnn Jacobs didn’t seem like that big of a fan, either.”
“We usually look at the spouse first in domestic cases.” He headed south on the highway. “We’ll go back to the department, and I’ll find out what we can about him and his family. I’ll get the DA to ask for a warrant to get their financials. See if there’s been any recent transactions since the call, or shortly before. You get anything from the mother?”
I exhaled. “I’m pretty sure I’ve explained the difference between psychic and psychic medium before, so…”
He nodded. “I know the difference, but you’ve got a good—what does Mel call it?”
“Spidey sense?”
He snapped his fingers and pointed at me. “Spidey sense. Figured it was worth a shot to ask.”
“Actually, spidey sense is my term, and I did notice LuAnn didn’t refer to Johnny as Sarah’s father, but other than that, not really. But there’s definitely something off about him.”
“You don’t have to be psychic to notice that. I’m guessing he’s a stepparent.”
“Did her chewing grate on your last nerve?”
He laughed. “The kinds of things I see every day, that’s nothing.”
“Yeah? Well, someone needs to teach that woman some manners. Five more minutes and my brain would have imploded.”
“Glad you didn’t leave me with that mess.”
“You should be. It would have been massive.”
“I bet.”
He dropped me off at my car in the department’s parking lot, and I headed home, calling Mel on the way. “Just hung out with your boy toy.”
“Without me? Rude.”
“Deadlines, remember?”
Aaron and Mel had been a couple for some time, and things were serious between them. They were happy, and I was happy they were happy. After Mel’s husband cheated on her with a younger woman—whom he knocked up and married—she definitely deserved happiness. Though the relationship was a bit awkward for me at first, her dating my uno
“Did you give him a sloppy kiss for me?”
“Yup. A big one, wet, tongue-wrestling one. I think he liked it, too.”
“Oh goodie, because that’s all he’s getting today. These deadlines are gonna be the death of me.” She heavy-sighed.
“You’re working a lot lately.”
“Don’t I know it.”
“I miss hanging out with you. ” My voice bordering on whiny.
“Right back atcha, and you can blame the cheating rat bas—“ She cut herself off. “My ex for that. I don’t get to spend a lotta time with my kids either.”
“I’m sorry.”
“It is what it is. I just don’t like it a whole lot.”
“Neither do I, but you’re providing for your kids and showing them how a single mother steps up, and that’s important.”
“Can you tell them that, please? All they do is complain about me never having time for them.”
“They’re young. They’ll understand eventually.” I knew that didn’t matter at the moment, but it was all I could think to say.
“Well, eventually better come soon because I can only handle so much.”
I decided not to tell her about the 911 call and the connection between our dream since she already had enough on her plate. “Anyway, he’s got me helping him with a possible case. Lemme know when you’ve got time to discuss.”
I made it home just in time for my oldest kid Emily, to ignore me. She’d been on a roll as of late, only talking to me when it was an absolute must. She felt she had reason and to a point she sort of did, but it’d been going on for months, and my patience bucket had reached its limit and teetered on its edge.
A few months back her boyfriend Mike’s mother was killed in a car accident. He was at our house when I found out, and since the Universe had a wicked sense of humor, that’s when his mother’s spirit decided to make an appearance. As the saying goes, the poop hit the fan.
Emily didn’t know about my gift. Jake and I had decided to keep it from her because she bordered a bit on ridiculously overly dramatic to the hundredth power, and what she didn’t know wouldn’t make us crazy. With the death of Michelle Stevenson, Mike’s mom, she’d obviously found out. I’d been working to re-establish trust with her ever since but to no avail. Emily got her stubbornness from me, and sometimes dealing with her was like looking into a magical mirror and glimpsing bits of teenaged Angela and middle-aged Fran and their relationship. It made me want to apologize to my mom.
I’d chosen to handle Emily’s latest angst with a slow and steady approach. It hadn’t worked, but I refused to give up. It was better than the alternative; losing my cool, which never worked either, and usually just caused more drama. “Hey Em, how’s it hangin’?” Ugh. My attempts at being cool, calm and collected had such an 80s air to them.
She sat on the couch, I assumed, planning creative ways to ignore me.
My mother shimmered in beside her. “Ah Madone, this kid ain’t ever gonna forgive you if you don’t try and make her.”
I’d already told Emily her grandmother was present more often than not, but she couldn’t see her, and that just made her even more angry with me. Knowing her brother, Josh also had the gift made it a billion times worse, too.
“Your grandmother says I should use force to get you to stop being mad at me.”
“I didn’t say that. I said you oughta make her forgive you.”
“Okay, I stand corrected. She’s saying I should make you forgive me. Apparently, there’s a difference.”
Emily scanned the room for her grandmother. When she couldn’t see her, she huffed and stood. “Can you not? It’s really bizarre, you like, talking to Grandma.” She stomped to the stairs and pounded up them to her room where she drove her point home by banging her bedroom door closed.
“That went well,” I said.
“You oughta drag her back down here by her ear lobe. Time she stops acting like a two-year-old.”
Well then, Ma’s patience had plummeted to rock bottom too, but she was right. I initially thought I’d give Emily some time to adjust to the news, to deal with the fact that ghosts actually existed, and that some of them, her grandmother included, showed up at our house. It turned out my gift didn’t impress her, and she already believed in ghosts. She was peeved we’d kept it a secret, but wouldn’t fess up to what bothered her the most, so all I could do was assume it was that Josh shared my ability. And that was somehow my fault because apparently, I could control what the Universe did. “Why is everything always my fault with that kid? It’s impossible to change something I can’t control.”
“That right there is whatcha call karma. You did the same thing to me when you were her age.”
I rolled my eyes. “I didn’t blame you for everything.”
“You gotta be kidding me. You blamed me for your wavy hair, those child-bearing hips, and remember that whole 1966 red Mustang thing? That was my fault too.”
“Well, actually that kinda was. Had you married that guy I could have had it.”
When I was sixteen, her fiancĂ© Buddy died, she briefly dated a wealthy man who wanted to marry her so badly he told me if I could convince her to, he’d get me a 1966 red Mustang. I gave it my best shot, but couldn’t close the deal, and I never let her forget it.
“I didn’t love him, and I couldn’t help that. I wanted my Buddy, and no one else compared.”
I didn’t understand that until I met Jake. If something–God forbid—ever happened to him, I’d spend the rest of my life alone. My stepmother Helen once said something about my father, and it made sense to me. She said, when you’ve had the best, no one else could live up to that, so why bother trying? I realized my mother never dated anyone after Buddy died, and I understood why.
“I know, but it was a red 1966 Mustang.”
“But it was a red 1966 Mustang. Madone, and it woulda been a loveless marriage.”
“I know, and I get that now, but then all I cared about was myself. What you wanted didn’t even cross my mind.”
She raised her eyebrows.
The irony hit me. I dipped my head back and sighed. “I hate it when you do that.” I poured myself a glass of water and plopped onto a barstool. “I don’t know what to do.”
“You gotta show her that she’s got a bit of the gift, too.”
“But she doesn’t.”
“That don’t matter.”
“Okay then, how do you propose I do that?”
“Ya know, give her a few signs, make her recognize them. Like you got mad at me for doing before.”
Ma had tossed a few pillows, moved a few things on Em’s dressers, and one time she ripped the sheets off her bed after a miracle had happened, and Emily had actually made the thing. Instead of getting the hints, Emily just accused a family member—me—of deliberately messing up her room and of course, snooping. But now that she knows her grandmother is around if Ma did it again, she might realize it’s not me, but her Grandmother, and maybe she’ll think she’s got a little bit of the gift. Maybe being the operative word in that sentence.
“That’s not a bad idea,” I said. “But it’s probably—”
Before I could add to that, she interrupted me. “I’m on it.”
I chuckled, figuring she’d probably headed up to her granddaughter’s room to toss a pillow or two.
I snatched a Diet Coke—affectionately known as Diet Crack in my house—from the fridge and headed to the deck, my place for contemplation and focus. I wanted to try and connect with Sarah Rochen. If she was dead, and I was pretty sure she was, I might be able to concentrate on her spirit and find her. If I was wrong, and she wasn’t, then I was out of luck.
Summoning spirit wasn’t tops on my list of things to do. I could do it, but I didn’t like it, so I avoided it as much as possible. Mel once asked me what I didn’t like about it, and I couldn’t come up with anything other than it made me feel icky. Feeling icky wasn’t reason enough not to do something except workout, so I centered my mind on the photo LuAnn Jacobs gave Aaron and gave it a shot.
“Sarah, can you hear me?” I closed my eyes and thought about the things she’d done since coming to town. “Sarah? Hello? You there?” The dream played like a movie in my mind’s eye. Me holding a gun pointed at Mel. Mel on her knees, begging me not to shoot her. The gravel, the trees. Pulling the trigger. The booming sound of the bullet exploding from the gun.
I flinched, and my eyes burst open. Sarah was definitely dead. I just had to figure out what was trying to tell me through the dream. Whatever it was, was key to what happened, where we’d find her body, and the answers to the questions running through my mind. And I wouldn’t stop trying to find out until I figured it out.
Excerpt from Unexpected Outcomes by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson. Copyright © 2017 by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson. Reproduced with permission from Carolyn Ridder Aspenson. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Carolyn Ridder Aspenson currently calls the Atlanta suburbs home, but can't rule out her other two homes, Indianapolis and somewhere in the Chicago suburbs.
She is old enough to share her empty nest with her husband, two dogs and two cats, all of which she strongly obsesses over repeatedly noted on her Facebook and Instagram accounts, and is working on forgiving her kids for growing up and leaving the nest. When she is not writing, editing, playing with her animals or contemplating forgiving her kids, she is sitting at Starbucks listening in on people's conversations and taking notes, because that stuff is great for book ideas. (You have officially been warned!)
On a more professional note, she is the bestselling author of the Angela Panther cozy mystery series featuring Unfinished Business An Angela Panther Mystery, Unbreakable Bonds An Angela Panther Mystery and Uncharted Territory An Angela Panther Mystery, The Christmas Elf, An Angela Panther Holiday Short, The Ghosts, An Angela Panther Holiday Short, The Inn At Laurel Creek, a contemporary romance novella, Santa's Gift, a Cumming Christmas Novella and 8 To Lose The Weight, a lifestyle eating program. Carolyn is also a freelance writer and editor with Literati Editing.
For more information, visit Carolyn Ridder Aspenson Author on Pinterest Carolynridderaspenson on Instagram Twitter: @awritingwoman

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Death Distilled - Review & Giveaway


DEATH DISTILLED by Melinda Mullet
The Second Whisky Business Mystery

Tired of the heat and needing to rest and recuperate from her work as a photojournalist, Abi Logan returns to Abbey Glen, the distillery recently left to her by her uncle. Instead of relaxing, however, she discovers human remains near the pub and an over excited friend wanting to turn the distillery into a special event destination. The biggest shock, however, is a celebrity crush from her past has literally appeared on Abi's doorstep asking for her help. Believing that his former band mates deaths have not been accidental, Rory Hendricks believes he's next in a murderer's sights and wants Abi to use her journalistic skills to pick out a killer. As if finding a killer wasn't dangerous enough, Abi also has to deal with Rory's sexual magnetism, her feelings towards Grant, a historical mystery, and some new furry family members. So much for a respite!

In DEATH DISTILLED we learn a great deal of history of the founders of what is now Abbey Glen. Secret tunnels, discovered diaries lead to new knowledge and add interest and a sense of history to the novel. A rock and roll bad boy, once a crush, adds a sexual magnetism and yearnings for days of youth. As we watch Abi, we relive our crushes from the past and wonder how we would react if we met them in the present. Mixing the past and the present provides depth to the novel as well as heightening emotions. Readers are left to contemplate what they would do if a crush from the past turned up asking for help. The question is also raised if love is worth taking a risk, as well as the consequence of loving too much.

In this, the second book in the Whisky Business Mystery series, Melinda Mullet delivers a fresh mystery filled with nostalgia. Complex characters and a finely tuned mystery make DEATH DISTILLED an adult mystery worth savoring.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Show Business for Shy People - Guest Post, Giveaway, & Cat Got Your Secrets Review

Show Business for Shy People 
By Julie Chase

It’s been said that writing is show business for shy people. I feel like that couldn’t be more accurate, and I started writing for this very reason. Because I love people, but am endlessly uncomfortable with them…usually. Unfortunately, I’d finished my BA in psychology and registered for graduate coursework with the intention of becoming a motivational speaker before I realized one problematic thing: I’m an introvert.

I’d never heard the term until then, but the moment I did, I felt the truth of it in my core. It was like a light had been ignited and all the little challenges of my life made more sense. THIS was why I panicked in crowds, hated parties and most social interaction unless I knew everyone and was able to leave at any point without question.

So, knowing I had this issue, this personality type that meant being physically with people drained me of energy, how could I possibly help anyone?

I didn’t know, so I let the dream go.

Until ten years and three kids later, when I watched an author interviewed on Oprah. The author had penned a book that I’d recently read, and the story had given me so much escape and pleasure that I wanted to hug her, and I’m not a hugger. So, when she explained to Oprah that she was “no one special” just a “stay at home mom of three little kids,” I thought…..I, TOO, am a stay at home mom to three little kids. Maybe I could do what she had done.

She’d had a story to tell, and she told it. I wanted to do that too. My busy mind quickly took the shiny new concept a few steps further, and I wondered if maybe I could use my stories to help other people like I’d originally wanted to do. Of course, the way I helped them would be different. I wouldn’t write motivational or self-help books. I would write humor and provide readers with a much-needed escape. Stories that could give them a respite, a reprieve from their daily chaos and turmoil. Maybe I could be an author.

And then it hit me. Just because I couldn’t meet the people in real life and become their friend or confidant didn’t mean I couldn’t dream up the kind of friend they needed, then share that character with them.

So, I did.

In the eight years since I saw that fateful Oprah interview, I have never stopped trying to make people smile. I’ve published two short stories, three novellas and nineteen novels in four unique genres. I have contracts in place for seven more titles to be released in 2018 & 2019, as well as two this fall, beginning with this week’s new release, Cat Got Your Secrets. If you’re looking for an upbeat, happy new read, or are in the market for a fun new friend, I hope you’ll give Lacy and her gang in New Orleans a try. The Kitty Couture Mysteries are near and dear to my heart, and I can’t wait to share the latest installment with you.


Cat Got Your Secrets, Kitty Couture Mystery, book 3

Lacy Marie Crocker has settled into a comfortable groove back home in New Orleans, and with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, she’s busier than ever running a thriving pet boutique, helping her mother organize the upcoming National Pet Pageant, and untangling her complicated love life. But when delivering a king-sized order of dreidel-shaped doggy biscuits for a Saint Berdoodle’s bark-mitzvah, Lacy stumbles into yet another murder scene―and the last person to see the victim alive was her own father.

It’s up to Lacy to clear her dad’s name from the suspect list before Detective Jack Oliver has to cage him for good. But just when she starts pawing at the truth, she receives a threatening letter from a mysterious blackmailer bent on silencing her with her own secrets. And Lacy’s not the only one with bones in her closet.

Time’s running out in this deadly cat-and-mouse game in Cat Got Your Secrets, the delightfully funny third novel in Julie Chase’s Kitty Couture mystery series, perfect for “all those feline fanciers who love to read Rita Mae Brown” (Suspense Magazine).


About the author:

Julie Chase is a mystery-loving pet enthusiast who hopes to make readers smile. She lives in rural Ohio with her husband and three spunky children. Julie is a member of the International Thriller Writers (ITW), Romance Writers of America (RWA), and Sisters in Crime (SinC). She is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. Julie also writes as Julie Anne Lindsey.



The Third Kitty Couture Mystery

Lacy Marie Crocker is back at Furry Godmother whipping up organic treats and outfits for pets of all types. But when she stops to deliver some driedel-shaped doggy biscuits for a St. Berdoodle's Bark-Mitzvah she discovers a crime scene. The victim is Wallace Becker, the owner of the Cuddle Brigade, a popular pet sitting business. The problem is that Wallace is also a friend of Lacy's dad. The dad who's acting strange...and the last person to be seen with the victim! Now Lacy's bound and determined to prove her father's innocence, with or without the help of a certain hunky homicide detective or a charming lawyer. But will Lacy wind up in a killer's sights yet again?

The Kitty Couture Mystery series is a cute cozy series and the third book in the series fits right in. Although Lacy has struggled to make it on her own and be her own person, she does have a Cinderella like aura which the villain describes perfectly, "you bounced down the driveway like little blue birds followed you through life". Lacy is a perky cheerful soul, albeit nosy and a bit immature. Fortunately she's also quite a bit likable. She's a caring person who genuinely wants to help others, animals and people alike. I enjoy watching the relationship between Lacy and her mother grow and develop, as well as Lacy's relationship with her two possible beaus, Chase and Jack.

CAT GOT YOUR SECRETS is a cute cozy filled with ever evolving characters, a great location, and an in-depth mystery. Julie Chase gives readers plenty of wonderful visuals, such as the apparel Lacy creates. But, my favorite visual is that of Penelope regally riding Spot, cat atop a robotic vacuum, priceless and memorable!

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