Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss
Alexandra Burt | Exclusive Excerpt: SHADOW GARDEN
Author Guest / July 13, 2020

6 DONNA Marleen extends a round porcelain bowl with pills. I scoop them up, put them in my mouth, and take a sip of water from a glass on the nightstand. She leaves the room and I lean back and listen to the sounds of the house. Marleen karate-chops the throw pillows on the couch (I don’t care for that look but I won’t correct her) and wipes the kitchen counters (there is the tearing of a disinfectant wipe from the container, followed by the sound of the garbage can lid clinking shut shortly thereafter). Her heels clack, make their way down the hallway and into the powder room, followed by a silence during which she undoubtedly straightens towels on the shelf. The house phone rings. Marleen’s explanation about someone punching in the wrong numbers at the gate sounds contrived. I want to get up, hurry from my bedroom down the hallway and into the kitchen, want to get to the bottom of this–want to grab the receiver and demand to know who is on the other end of the line–but the phone stops ringing. I don’t want to be in this state of mistrust but– That book on the…

Hannah Mary McKinnon | Exclusive Excerpt: SISTER DEAR
Author Guest / June 26, 2020

Chapter 1 The police didn’t believe me. A jury wouldn’t have, either, if I’d gone on trial, and most definitely not the judge. My attorney had more than a few reservations about my story. Ms. Allerton hadn’t said as much. She didn’t need to. I saw it in her eyes, could tell by the way she shuffled and reshuffled her papers, as if doing so might shake my lies clean off the pages, leaving only the truth behind in her inky, royal blue swirls. After our first meeting I’d concluded she must’ve known early on–before she shook my hand with her icy fingers–that I was a liar. Before she’d walked into the room in shiny, four-inch heels, she’d no doubt decided she’d heard my excuses, or a variation thereof, from countless clients already. I was yet another person claiming to be innocent. Another criminal who’d remained adamant they’d done nothing wrong, it wasn’t their fault, honest, despite the overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary, a wall of impending doom surrounding me. And still, at the time I’d believed the only reason Ms. Allerton had taken on my case pro bono was because of the amount of publicity it gave…

Kimberly Belle | 20 Questions: STRANGER IN THE LAKE
Author Guest / June 8, 2020

1–What’s the name of your latest release?  Stranger in the Lake 2–What is it about?  Stranger in the Lake is a story about Charlotte, a woman who’s left her trailer-park past behind to marry Paul, an older, wealthier man with a gorgeous house on an Appalachian lake in North Carolina. Their relationship is the focus of much small-town gossip, but Charlotte is able to ignore it until a woman’s body washes up under their dock—in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife drowned. At first, the woman’s death seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage and dark secrets that have been simmering under the lake’s waters for years. 3–What word best describes your main character(s)?  Rags-to-riches 4–What makes your story relatable?  All my stories tend to focus on familial relationships. Parent-child, husband-wife, siblings. I love exploring the emotions that come along with these types of bonds, mostly because they’re so universally recognizable. Toss in the suspense angle—a lying spouse, a child gone missing,…

Danielle M. Haas | Exclusive Excerpt: GIRL GONE LONG
Author Guest / May 25, 2020

Putting the book back on the shelf, Connor’s gaze floated to two pictures in wooden frames. One photograph was of a young woman with a book—much like the ones on the shelf—opened and covering the bottom half of her face. Her mouth wasn’t shown, but there was no denying the smile in her blue eyes or the obnoxious French writing scrawled over the cover of the book. The second picture was of a young Gabriel with a wide grin and black tie draped around a white button-down shirt with his arms wrapped around the waist of a young woman. A curtain of dark, curly hair rained over her face as she twisted away from him, but there was no denying the playful grin beaming from her. The clinking of glass alerted him to someone behind him. He swiveled, and ice ran through his veins. Gabriel lingered at a drink cart set up beside the lone brown leather chair on the other side of the desk. He had the lip of a crystal decanter pressed against a short glass. Amber liquid flowed from one container to the other. Gabriel waited until his glass was filled before lifting his gaze to Connor….

Debbie Wiley | Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night…
Author Guest / May 21, 2020

by senior reviewer Debbie Wiley Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie. When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing- wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the king?  I have a love/hate relationship with birds that started with Mother Goose and the Song of Sixpence nursery rhyme. Sure, there are birds I dearly love, like the graceful Sandhill cranes and the majestic owls, but it is the mystery of those blackbirds that has left me with a healthy dose of fear for birds. I know I’m not alone as look at Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, or Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (shudders). Several authors recently have challenged me to rethink how I feel about some of these maligned birds and I’d like to share their wonderful books with you. Heather Webber tackles the Song of Sixpence directly with a bit of magical realism in MIDNIGHT AT THE BLACKBIRD CAFE. Anna Kate Callow has arrived in Wicklow, Alabama, to bury her beloved Granny Zee. Unbeknownst to her, she inherits her grandmother’s entire estate, including the Midnight Cafe under one condition- she has to remain in Wicklow and run the cafe for a specific amount of time. Anna Kate has preconceptions about Wicklow….

Pip Drysdale | 20 Questions: THE SUNDAY GIRL
Author Guest / May 15, 2020

1–What’s the name of your latest release? The Sunday Girl 2–What’s it about? It’s an answer to the question: what would happen if a good girl snapped? 3–What word best describes your main character? Flawed. 4–What makes your story relatable? Most of us have had one really terrible breakup where, in our darker moments, we’ve toyed with the idea of revenge. Most of us, however, don’t actually go through with it. Not so for Taylor Bishop! And so, through her we get to live vicariously… 5–Who are the people your main character turns to when they need help? One of the key themes of The Sunday Girl is how abusive relationships isolate us and make it almost impossible to ask for help. But when Taylor does reach out, it’s to her best friend, her mother and, briefly, the police. 6–What do you love about the setting of your book. Well it’s set in London, and London is a second home for me. 7–Are you a plotter (follow an outline) or a pantster (write by the seat of your pants)? I’m a hybrid. I go in with an outline knowing how it begins, a couple of things that happen in the…

Debbie Wiley | Urban Fantasy and Fantasy Escapist Reads
Author Guest / April 9, 2020

Times are stressful right now. Parents and teachers are learning how to implement distance learning, going to the grocery store feels like a live version of Pac-Man, and we’re all desperately hunting for toilet paper. Nerves are frayed as everyone fears that even the slightest cough could mean a dangerous virus has entered their home. Quarantines are the norm. Who would have thought this is what 2020 had in store for us? Now, more than ever, is time to stop, take deep breaths, and read some good books that take us all away to other places right now. Urban fantasy and fantasy are two of my favorite genres and fortunately, there are some phenomenal new books out there right now to dive into. Here are a few of my recent favorites: The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs is one of my go-to series when things seem depressing as Mercy Thompson Hauptman is one of the best kick-butt, loyal, and compassionate characters out there. SMOKE BITTEN is the latest in the series and things are definitely in a chaotic state in the Tri-Counties. Mercy’s mate and Alpha wolf, Adam Hauptman, has been emotionally distant, a rarity for a werewolf. There’s…

Maxine Mei-Fung Chung | 20 Questions: THE EIGHTH GIRL
Author Guest / March 16, 2020

1–What’s the name of your latest release?  The Eighth Girl: A Novel 2–What is it about?  The Eighth Girl is about a young woman named Alexa Wu who is living with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) previously known as multiple personality disorder. Only three people know about her condition–her stepmother, Anna; her psychiatrist, Daniel and her best friend, Ella. When Ella starts work in a high-end gentleman’s club and catches the attention of its shark-like owner, Alexa finds herself the unwitting keeper of a nightmarish secret. With lives at stake, she follows Ella into London’s cruel underbelly on a daring rescue mission. Threatened and vulnerable, Alexa will discover (with the help of Daniel) whether her multiple personalities are her greatest asset, or her most dangerous obstacle. 3–What words best describes your main character(s)?  Alexa is a complicated heroine. While having survived trauma, she finds beauty in nature and small acts of human kindness which she records with her camera. She is also someone who others underestimate, and an advocate for the greater good. At the heart of Alexa is a longing for connection, a need to be understood. Daniel, who has also survived trauma at the hands of his alcoholic father…

Michael McAuliffe | Exclusive Excerpt: NO TRUTH LEFT TO TELL
Author Guest / February 27, 2020

From Chapter 1 White Night February 1994 Lynwood, Louisiana The bald tires of Frank Daniels’s corroded pickup rolled over a shallow bed of popping gravel and stopped next to two men in pointy hoods. The men huddled together, shifting around an imaginary fire and stomping their feet now and again. Their hoods were for show, not warmth. The other conspirators waited inside the clapboard frame house. Daniels got out of his truck and acknowledged the security detail with a half salute, which was all the formality he could muster given the late hour. With a rocking gait and fixed grin, he waddled up to the house in oversized boots worn to accommodate his swollen feet. The sentinels followed, hoods now in their hands. He wasn’t yet much of a Klansman, not compared to Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, but Daniels soon would fix that by leading his own white night. The residents of Lynwood wouldn’t know it right away, but the town’s coming racial reckoning would be the doing of the Klan’s new grand dragon. All revolutions started somewhere, and that Friday evening Lynwood would join Fort Sumter as a cradle of insurrection. He closed the door behind him and…

Tom Threadgill | Exclusive Excerpt: COLLISION OF LIES
Author Guest / February 3, 2020

Amara scanned the long list of agencies who participated in the crash investigation. It’d be easier to name who wasn’t involved. The National Transportation Safety Board had coordinated the inquiry, but the FBI and virtually every state and local resource had been active as well. With fewer than ten thousand people in Cotulla’s county, their limited resources meant they needed all the help they could get. Because the bus driver was a veteran, even the Department of Defense had stepped into the fray. When everybody’d had their say, the crash boiled down to one finding: suicide-murder. No charges were filed since the lone culprit was already dead. The Feds promised to do more for PTSD victims. The railroad put up crossing gates at every intersection in the county. The elementary school students planted seventeen trees in memory of their friends. The community grieved. And the Reyeses still mourned. All the families probably did. Amara dragged her finger across the screen and leaned closer. Who’d done the body IDs? She jerked when Sergeant Norwood popped his bubble gum. “Whatcha working today, Alvarez?” “Paperwork on the Leon Valley burglaries mostly.” She shrunk her internet window and grabbed a pen. “Then I’ve got…