into this moment
weightless in a space
to past or future
though my skin
and my bones
© Neetu Malik
Previously published in The Writers and Readers Magazine, UK.
Our theme: An Element of Mystery (broadly interpreted)
We are seeking never-published short stories of 2,000 words or fewer for a chance to win:
$250 and publication in our upcoming anthology: An Element of Mystery: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales of Intrigue or in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable.
$100 and publication in An Element of Mystery or in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable
$50 and publication in An Element of Mystery or in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable
Charlaine Harris is a true daughter of the South. She was born in Mississippi and has lived in Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Texas. After years of dabbling with poetry, plays, and essays, her career as a novelist began when her husband invited her to write full time. Her first book, Sweet and Deadly, appeared in 1981. When Charlaine’s career as a mystery writer began to falter, she decided to write a cross-genre book that would appeal to fans of mystery, science fiction, romance, and suspense. She could not have anticipated the huge surge of reader interest in the adventures of a barmaid in Louisiana, or the fact that Alan Ball would come knocking at her door. Since then, Charlaine’s novels have been adapted for several other television series, with two in development now. Charlaine is a voracious reader. She has one husband, three children, two grandchildren, and two rescue dogs. She leads a busy life. www.charlaineharris.com is her website.
Date Published: May 12, 2020
Recent MBA grad Bronwyn Crewse has just taken over her family’s ice cream shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and she’s going back to basics. Win is renovating Crewse Creamery to restore its former glory, and filling the menu with delicious, homemade ice cream flavors—many from her grandmother’s original recipes. But unexpected construction delays mean she misses the summer season, and the shop has a literal cold opening: the day she opens her doors an early first snow descends on the village and keeps the customers away.
To make matters worse, that evening, Win finds a body in the snow, and it turns out the dead man was a grifter with an old feud with the Crewse family. Soon, Win’s father is implicated in his death. It’s not easy to juggle a new-to-her business while solving a crime, but Win is determined to do it. With the help of her quirky best friends and her tight-knit family, she’ll catch the ice cold killer before she has a meltdown…
Abby L. Vandiver, also writing as Abby Collette, is a hybrid author who has penned more than twenty-five books and short stories. She has hit both the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller list. Her latest cozy series, An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery, published by Penguin Berkley, is out now, with the second book, A Game of Thrones, coming in March 2021.
Flashing red and blue lights lit up the dark, dreary corner where North Main and Bell streets met. Yellow crime scene tape draped around trees cordoned off the perimeter of the wooden overlook. Floodlights invaded the stillness that surround the falls and voices bombarded my eardrums. I was numb, but not from the cold.
I had panicked once I realized I’d tripped over a body. Not a panic borne from fear, it was because I didn’t know how I could help. What to do. Blowing out a breath, I had to calm myself so I could figure it out.
It was dark and I hadn’t been able to see clearly enough to make a decision. Had the person still been alive? Should I try to start some life saving measures?
Not that I knew any . . .
Should I go get help?
The body hadn’t moved, even after me falling over it.
Not a grunt. Not a moan. Not a whimper.
Feeling with my hands in the dark, I found a face. I leaned in, my face close, to see if I could feel a breath.
I laid my head on its chest to listen for a heartbeat.
I should call for help.
Crap. I’d left my cellphone in my knapsack, sitting on the prep table in the ice cream shop. All I had was my aluminum bowl and scoop, so I started banging them together.
“Help!” I yelled out and hit the scoop on the side of the bowl. “Hey! I need help! Anybody! Somebody help me!”
But all my noise making hadn’t gotten one response. I looked down at the silhouette of Dead Guy and back up to the street. No lights from passing cars. No footsteps crunching in the snow.
I needed to get up the hill to get help.
But the snow was thick and cumbersome, I trudged up at a slow crawl. My foot sinking into the snow with each step forward, my gloves wet and covered with the powder. It seemed to be deeper and heavier the more I tried to get up to the sidewalk. Bent over, hands clawing in the snow up the incline, I was out of breath with heavy legs by the time I made it to the top. Once my feet were planted on the sidewalk, I had to place my hands on my knees to catch my breath and slow my heart before I could go any further.
With what I knew lay at the bottom of the falls, it made the night more ominous. The streets more deserted. The lights more dim.
I looked one way down Bell Street then the other. Not quite sure where I should go to get help. I just knew that I wanted to tell what I knew. Get someone else there with me. Then my eye caught sight of the woven scarf I’d seen on the kid who’d been down the hill with me. With Dead Guy.
I started to grab the scarf but thought better of it. People always come back to where they’d lost their things to find them. The little boy might return. Maybe I’d report the lost item to the police.
The police . . .
I had to call the police. Or an ambulance.
I scurried around the block, past the front of the ice cream shop to the side door and unlocked it. I hastily dumped the contents of my knapsack and had to catch Grandma Kay’s tin recipe box as it tumbled out before it dropped onto the floor. Hands slightly shaky, still breathing hard, I found my phone and pushed in the three numbers.
“911. What’s your emergency?”
I had to make a restroom pit stop to try to collect myself.
I shook my head. There hadn’t been anything I could have done. He hadn’t moved. He hadn’t made a sound. He wasn’t breathing and I didn’t know how long it would be before someone came along to help.
I ran warm water over my hands at the sink, dried them off and started to head back into the kitchen to get my knapsack, and ran right into Felice.
“Hello there, Muffintop, I said and stooped down, running my fingers through her white coat. “How did you get down here?” She looked up at me, fluffed out the end of her tail, then eyes half-closed, she blinked slowly. I picked her up. “You want some kisses, Sweetie?” I said knowing it was me that needed comforting. She rubbed her cheek up against mine. “Thank you.”
Holding her, I walked around to the back area where the stairs led to Rivkah’s apartment, and called up. No answer. “She must still be at the restaurant.” I looked at Felice. “Did you just come down for me? To make me feel better?”
“Mrra,” she said.
I met her forehead with mine, but only for a moment, she didn’t have to be gracious. She jumped out of arms and ran up the steps. I watched as she strutted up, I didn’t know how she’d gotten out. Rivkah never left the door unlocked.
Tonight I was glad she had.
I went over to the prep table and stuffed everything back into my bag, grabbed the bowl and scooper and headed back outside. By the time I got out there, a police cruiser was pulling up in front of the store. The officer got out of the car and walked over to me.
“Are you the person who called 911?” he asked.
“I am,” I said.
“What’s going on?”
I pointed toward the falls. “There’s a guy down there. I think he’s dead.”
Date Published: November 2020
Publisher: Raven South Publishing
To avenge the past, one must first unearth its secrets.
Catherine “Tink” Mabrey, an up and coming attorney, is shocked by her recent inheritance from her estranged family on the bayou. After her mother died during childbirth, Tink’s father had quickly relocated them to the big city of Atlanta, Georgia. With no memory of her mother, she is determined to learn more about her lineage and decides to visit the bayou town of Kane, Louisiana. Candace, Tink’s co-worker and best friend, agrees to make the trip with her.
Before she has time to explore her family’s history, or decide what to do with the declining property, local murders plague Tink’s homecoming. She quickly finds herself caught in the middle of a multiple murder investigation – and quite possibly, the prime suspect. When Candace retreats back to Atlanta, Tink, with the support of an unlikely cast of characters, sets out to discover clues that have haunted and tormented her family for generations.
Could a concealed crime from the 1800’s, or the family’s estate itself, harbor keys to unlocking the past? The more they learn, the more they question whether some secrets are best left buried.
Murder Among The Tombstones (2017)
No Second Chances (2017)
Deadly Odds (2018)
And The Forecast Called For Rain (2018)
When Dawn Never Comes (2018)
Kim Carter is an author of suspense, mystery and thriller novels. She was a finalist in the 2018 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award and recipient of the 2017 Readers’ Choice Award for her book Murder Among The Tombstones. This is the first book in her Clara and Iris Mystery series. The characters in this series are a couple of overly curious widows who become private investigators and were inspired by Kim’s mother and her mom’s best friend.
Her other titles include: When Dawn Never Comes, Deadly Odds, No Second Chances, And The Forecast Called For Rain, and Sweet Dreams, Baby Belle.
Kim’s writing career started after she suffered an illness that made her housebound for a couple of years. An avid reader of mystery novels, she embarked on writing as a means of filling her time. Kim shared those early writings with friends and family who encouraged her to pursue writing professionally. Her health struggles and successes have been chronicled on The Lifetime Television in early 2000, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Women’s Day Magazine, and Guideposts.
Prior to her illness, Kim worked in many different capacities in county government ranging from Park Director with Parks and Recreation to the Grant Department with Human Services. But, ultimately, it was her job as a correctional officer that provided her the opportunity to interact with a variety of people from all walks of life. Her experiences ran the gamete of inspiring success stories to tragic endings, much like her mysteries.
She self-published her first book No Second Chances. One of the guest speakers at the launch party she had at the Performing Arts Center in Newnan, Georgia included her close friend retired Atlanta Police chief Eldrin Bell. This connection would become helpful as she started doing more research for other books, this time working with a small publishing house.
Kim started networking and made connections with the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office. Her research has taken her many places including morgues, death row and the occasional midnight visit to cemeteries.
She is a college graduate of Saint Leo University, has a Bachelor Degree of Arts in Sociology. Kim and her husband have three grown children and live just outside of Atlanta, Georgia.
KANE, LOUISIANA, 1859
EMMANUEL SINCLAIR STOOD BACK and surveyed the sprawling plantation that had encompassed his life for the past two years. He nodded with pleasure as if someone were there awaiting his approval. Placed perfectly amidst rows of river oaks, magnolias, and sycamores, the estate was breathtakingly beautiful. The well-designed landscape surrounding the home contrasted sharply with the bald cypress and coastal willows rising prominently from the waters in the bayou.
Emmanuel had no doubt, Lucretia, his soon-to-be bride, would be delighted with her stately new home. Within the next twenty-four hours, she was scheduled to go by train from Baltimore to the Ohio River.
Lucretia would then travel by steamboat via the Ohio and the Mississippi to New Orleans, where Emmanuel would be waiting for her. Lucretia’s trip would be grueling, but she’d experienced many challenges over her eighteen years. Her grandparents had been part of the Expulsion of 1755 when the British ejected all French-Acadians refusing to pledge allegiance to the King of England. Originally settling in Maine, her family relocated to New York before putting down permanent stakes in Baltimore.
Young Lucretia longed for consistency, and it had been Emmanuel’s stability that’d won her over. By the age of thirty-five, he’d already made his fortune in the cotton business. His father had died seven years earlier, leaving Emmanuel a sizeable concession of land and a fledgling cotton crop, which, at best, kept the plantation self-sufficient. But it was the combination of Emmanuel’s business savvy, the increase of cotton production, and Louisiana’s strategic ports that’d quickly increased his wealth.
AS EMMANUEL HAD BEEN STEADILY BUILDING a prosperous empire, Thaddeus Jackson had been constructing a flourishing kingdom of his own, on an equally expansive plantation a few miles away. Thaddeus had his father, Mathias, to thank for being born a free man of color. He had caught Andrew Jackson’s eye as a standout on the battlefield during the War of 1812. His grueling work ethic and leadership skills played pivotal in constructing breastworks, later referred to as Line Jackson.
Thaddeus had quickly tired of the story, even as a young boy, and considered his father nothing more than a yes-man who’d covered cotton bales with logs and mud to protect the white army. However, Andrew Jackson had been quite impressed— enough so, in fact, that he’d facilitated Mathias’s freedom. Not one to take any blessing for granted, Mathias had chosen to acquire Jackson’s surname out of gratitude.
Thaddeus had found much to dislike about his father, but he’d inherited many of his most admirable traits. He was a powerful leader and quick learner with a sense of adventure. These characteristics had led to his success as a Mississippi River privateer. His tall frame and good looks didn’t hinder him either. Both his appearance and self-confidence had also captured Fatima Lambert’s attention.
Fatima came with quite the story of her own. With a shortage of white women in the state of Louisiana and laws forbidding interracial marriage, the institution of plaçage enabled her to be a mistress to the very wealthy, and incredibly old, William Lambert. She’d been merely a teenager when he’d spotted her working his fields and had quickly arranged for her to be a kept woman.
Accustomed to hard labor and the unrelenting heat, she hadn’t objected to being at his beck and call and his bed when he’d insisted. Fortunately for Fatima, she’d only had to suffer through a few sessions of his sexual desires before he’d dropped dead of a heart attack at the ripe age of seventy-eight.
With William being a childless widower and having no other heirs with whom to split his fortune, Fatima had become the proud owner of not only his cotton plantation but his slaves as well. It wasn’t her attractiveness as a mulatto that’d lured Thaddeus to pursue Fatima; it’d been her property and the glorious cotton fields that promised a lifetime of financial security. Once he’d set his sights on her, there was little Fatima could do but concede to his advances. After all, who wouldn’t want a bright, handsome husband to take care of things?
A RABBIT SCURRIED beneath some underbrush, drawing Emmanuel’s attention to the cool, damp breeze and dark clouds promising an impending storm. He walked to the front porch, paused long enough to grab his oil lamp, and made his way inside. Emmanuel hesitated briefly to take in the magnificence of the grand staircase winding its way, like an ornate ribbon, up to the second and third floors. One of his slaves, who’d been trained as a blacksmith, had spent the past few months creating it, and he hadn’t disappointed.
It would surely take Lucretia’s breath away. Aside from a bed and some office necessities, the remaining furnishings would be left to Lucretia’s desires. Yet another of Emmanuel’s wedding gifts to her. Although it was midday, and the many windows gave way to ample light, thunder clouds had begun to darken the home’s interior. Emmanuel made his way up the stairs, down the corridor leading to the west wing, and entered his office. He slid the mantel a smidgen to the left.
This released the mechanism holding the entire faux fireplace intact, enabling him to unlock the steel door leading to an array of complex tunnels, and ultimately, his concealed vault. THIS WAS where the lives of two greedy and shrewd businessmen merged.
This was the beginning of a tale older than time, filled with greed, lust, superstition, and murderous secrets they’d both take to their graves.
It was a story meant to be locked away forever…
Forgiving Mariela Camacho: A Kurchenko & Gonzalves Mystery, Book 3 of a series
by A.J. Sidransky
Black Opal Books 2021
When a tenant reports a terrible odor coming from apartment 7-F, detectives Kurchenko and Gonzalves know it can only mean one thing: a dead body. But despite all of their training and experience dealing with crime on New York City’s streets, the detectives aren’t prepared for what they are about to encounter.
Sidranky’s first book in this three-part series, Forgiving Maximo Rothman, (reviewed by this writer on December 22, 2020), introduced us to Maximo: his harrowing escape out of Nazi Europe, life as a refugee in the Dominican Republic, and the horrific event that forces him to flee to New York City. In book two, Forgiving Stephen Redmond, (see my review of January 22, 2021), Stephen grapples with his feelings toward his father Maximo, his own dark past, and eventual self-discovery.
In this third and final book of the series, Forgiving Mariela Camacho, Kurchenko and Gonzalves take center stage as they discover how closely their Russian and Dominican lives intersect. Now, more than ever, their partnership will be tested and challenged. How well do they really know each other? How deep is their trust in the other? Solving the case and saving the lives of those they love will depend on how well they can answer these questions.
In Forgiving Mariela Camacho, the most powerful of the three novels, Sidransky weaves a tale of passionate once-in-a-life-time-love, deep-rooted hate, the self-debasement dire circumstances impose upon the most pure and, above all, how essential forgiveness is to the human heart.
The author expertly connects the lives of the seemingly disparate characters and safely carries us to a masterful and satisfying conclusion: the redeeming power of love.
As one of the characters states, “We each have our own destiny.” Sidransky’s novel will make you ask, “What is mine?”
Join us next month on March 22nd for an interview with A.J. Sidransky. You don’t want to miss it!
How do you heal a broken heart?More info →
And then there were three . . .
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