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 Stephen Redmond: A Kurchenko & Gonzalves Mystery, Book 2 of a series
By A.J. Sidransky
Black Opal Books 2021
Stephen Redmond never understood his late father, Maximo Rothman, or the mysterious ‘other life’ he never spoke about. He considers that maybe, like the changing neighborhood, his dwindling religious community, and the old ways that are disappearing, he should let go of the past and move forward.
But when Detectives Kurchenko and Gonzalves arrive to discuss the dead body found sealed in the wall of a building his father co-owned, Stephen realizes that the past has a will of its own and an iron grip. Shaken by the news of such a gruesome discovery, and knocked off balance by a murky memory he often wondered whether it was real or imagined, Stephen drags himself back through the past forty years in search of the truth. But if and when he finds the truth, what will he do with it?
Sidranky’s first book in this series, Forgiving Maximo Rothman, (reviewed by this writer on December 22, 2020), introduced us to Stephen’s father Maximo: his harrowing escape out of Nazi Europe, life as a refugee in the Dominican Republic, the horrific event that forces him to flee to New York City, and his attempt at creating a better life for his son.
In this second novel, we find Maximo’s son coming to terms with his father’s secret life, and facing the buried ghosts of his own past actions, as he tries to heal the broken pieces of his heart in the hope of finding a peaceful and blessed life.
Forgiving Stephen Redmond is a moving and memorable mystery that touches on themes of the relationship between fathers and sons, confronting a past that won’t let go, guilt, love, learning how to forgive others, and above all, the importance of forgiving ourselves.
Forgiving Stephen Redmond will touch your heart!
Date Published: June 26, 2020
Publisher: Jan-Carol Publishing, Inc.
Seventeen-year-old Jerrod has struggled with the guilt of his actions for an event that took place almost a year ago. His friends have abandoned him, his family ignores him, and he lost his best friend. To make matters worse, he was unable to access records that may have revealed his father’s whereabouts. His sister, Ella, guides Jerrod as he tries to learn and accept secrets his family has tried to hide. However, a sinister spirit may be influencing Ella’s actions, and it has an agenda of its own.
I had been thinking a long time about the past, and early morning light had run away the shadows. I didn’t want to relive those terrible moments in time, but my mind kept pushing me back to them.
My mother’s bedroom door creaked open, and her feet padded softly down the carpeted hallway. I thought she would go downstairs, but her footsteps stopped outside of my room.
I lay frozen on my bed, looking at the door. I could hear my mother’s breath, soft and sad.
The knob turned, and the door inched open slowly. My mother stood in the doorway with a laundry basket against her hip.
Oh, she was putting away laundry. No big deal.
“Hey, Mom,” I said, rising from my bed. “I’ll get that for you,” I offered, motioning to the laundry basket.
My mother didn’t move or look at me. She seemed like she was unsure about something.
She was trying to get her emotions under control, but she let a tear fall as she looked at the floor. “I never blamed you,” she whispered. “You never hurt anyone.”
The last words seemed to be too much for my mother, and she burst into tears. I watched her with my hands up. What was I supposed to do?
Before I could decide on a course of action, my mother turned around and closed my door. I lowered my hands and stared at the door.
I had waited almost a year for my mother’s forgiveness. Now that she had pardoned me, I still felt cold and alone. I had pictured us holding and hugging each other, but my mother had left without a show of affection.
My mother may have been trying to keep her emotions in check, like her father had taught her to do when she was young. She was probably ashamed of her tears. Besides, she was from the city, and city girls weren’t supposed to cry.
I settled under my comforter and tried to push the gnawing emptiness away. I tried to pretend my twin was on the bed above me and that he was only sleeping. I wanted to talk to him, and I knew he would understand.
No matter how mad I made him, he always listened to me and tried to help.
The morning light landed on Josh’s model car collection, but it was dusty and mostly forgotten. One of the models was missing because of me.
I enjoyed most of my memories of the past, but I had been avoiding one of the worst times for our family. My thoughts shifted back to the day I had hidden my brother’s favorite model truck in the kitchen stove.
It was nice to hear that my mother didn’t place blame on me, but her actions over the past year suggested otherwise. We both knew I had hurt a lot of people during my seventeen years, and Josh wasn’t the only brother who had died because of me.
About the Author
Courtnee Turner Hoyle was raised in Unicoi County, surrounded by the traditions and dialect of the area. She embraced the regional stories, mountain views, and culture -except sweet tea and unannounced visits – and sought to correct the misconceptions about the local people and the town stories that turned into rumors.
Despite the challenges that face a young mother, she graduated East Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English, with an emphasis in technical writing, and a Bachelor of Business. She received a Master of Arts in Teaching from the same university, and began writing novels. She volunteers with community organizations, and she has been involved with Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians for several years as a Troop Administrator. She also volunteers with the Girl Scout Service Unit in her area. Her responsibilities include planning events, organizing social media releases for the service unit, and writing articles about the activities and accomplishments of all the troops in her county.
She resides in Erwin, Tennessee, with her children and husband. She has hiked the section of the Appalachian Trail near her home, has visited many of the caves and other mountain trails in the area, and is fascinated by their enigmatic appeal. She likes reading, writing, and any reasonable music. Most of all, she enjoys sharing adventures with her children and making memories through their experiences.
Every writer is subject to the influences of their time, influences that shape their work in some way. From Stephan King’s brand of horror—which he’s said was influenced by the pervasive fears of the cold war — to the oh so mannerly and delicately choreographed plots of Regency era literature, a reader can feel the spirit of the author’s era. I think that’s why I love H. G. Wells and his manly adventurers whose waistcoats and stiff collars are never out of place despite the monsters and hazards that beset them, and they always have time for a full service tea.
Covid is the strongest influence on us at present, changing behavior at a really basic social level, and I am eagerly anticipating how that will be reflected in contemporary fiction. Each genre presents a host of different affects to play with. How will full dress PPE impact the mystery and crime genre? With my mask in place, my sunglasses on my nose and a cap on my head, I am hard to recognize. Add gloves to that, and I don’t have to sweat over fingerprints. And if you’re not short and a touch chubby like me, it would be easy to quickly blend in with the (6 feet apart) crowd and make a smooth getaway. Does anyone want to get near enough to grab a suspect?
Science fiction, viewed through this lens, might use the long-lasting effects of a worldwide pandemic in interesting ways. The population has been decimated, but the disease is at last eradicated. Does the population retain a fear of personal distance? Does it become ritualized? Do they formalize ways of washing their food, like futuristic raccoons? Has public dining or public attendance at an event become distasteful, and if it is replaced, what with? That could be really fun.
Fantasy always gets a lovely reality pass. That’s part of why we love it. Fantasy isn’t required to reflect anything about the real world. But again, every writer is working through the lens of their own reality and all these new behaviors and social concerns are bound to be reflected somehow. Maybe it’s a race of creatures that are forever shunned—The Cooties. You can’t ever get close to them or they will sicken you, but the hero requires the help of those outcasts and so the taboo has to be overcome. It could be that a virus has been locked in a magic cave and as the ultimate weapon, it must be guarded by the heart of a dragon. The influence of this pandemic will be in there somewhere.
Then there’s Romance! I am especially eager to see how this genre deals with our current reality. One of the hallmarks of Romance fiction is its timeliness. We never tire of boy meets girl stories set in the shared here and now. These are tales that reflect our contemporary social and moral norms with the clarity of a mirror image. How will masks and gloves and 6 feet apart influence a love story? How will a chance meeting play out? Is love at first sight possible?
I have complete faith in Romance authors to create inventive and realistic approaches to this current social reality. I haven’t come across any yet. I may not have looked hard enough, but if you know of a romance in the time of Covid, I hope you’ll share it with me. I can’t wait to read it.
We’re here today with author, Alice Duncan, or should I say author Emma Craig, Rachel Wilson, Anne Robins or Jon Sharp. A woman who started her prolific writing career in 1995.
In an effort to avoid what she knew she should be doing, Alice folk-danced professionally until her writing muse finally had its way. Now a resident of Roswell, New Mexico, Alice enjoys saying “no” to smog, “no” to crowds, and “yes” to loving her herd of wild dachshunds.
Handy Links for Alice:
Jann: Alice, what can you tell us about your writing career and your life in New Mexico.
Alice: I began writing when I still lived in Pasadena, CA. I remember the moment well, actually. My daughter Robin and I were visiting my folks in Roswell, and we decided to drive to Fort Stanton and visit Billy the Kid’s grave (hey, you take your thrills where you find ‘em). As Robin drove, I looked at the bleak landscape, and a scene suddenly leapt into my mind. So I withdrew a pad of paper and a pencil from my purse and wrote it down. This was, I think, in August of 1993. From then on, I wrote down snippets and scraps and, in October of that year, I started to write my first book. It stank, but I kept going. I was mega into historical romances at the time, so I wrote historical romances. My first book, ONE BRIGHT MORNING, set in New Mexico in the late 1800s, sold to Harper on the day of the Northridge Earthquake in January of 1994. It was published in January of 1995. I thought I was on the road to success.
Silly me. However, as I’ve always possessed more determination than sense, I’ve been writing ever since. Once I moved to Roswell (Pasadena being too expensive to live in anymore) my infatuation for the old west gradually faded, and I became nostalgic for good old Pasadena. As the mere notion of writing anything contemporary gives me the willies, I decided to write historical cozy mysteries. So that’s what I’ve been doing for nearly twenty years now. All of them, except for three books in a series called The Pecos Valley books are set in Southern California. Daisy Gumm Majesty, my favorite character of all time, lives in Pasadena.
Jann: Your Daisy Gumm Majesty and Mercy Allcutt mysteries are set in the 1920’s. Why did you select this particular time period?
Alice: The 1920s is a fascinating decade. The War to End All Wars (which, unfortunately, wasn’t) had ended in 1918; the Spanish flu pandemic (which started in a fort in Kansas, but never mind that) wiped out a third or more of the world’s population (in other words, of those remaining after the War) in 1918-1919; the automobile had been invented and was becoming a way of life; young people started to believe their lives meant nothing so they might as well drink, smoke and party; parents were freaked about their children’s loose morals; hemlines were rising; the flickers were drawing people in by the boatload and showing them lives nobody really lived but wanted to live; and, basically, the world, it was a’changing.
Jann: ePublishing Works is republishing your Mercy Allcutt historical cozy mystery series. How wonderful! Who is Mercy Allcutt? Tell us about the world you have created for this series.
Alice: Mercy Allcutt came into being when I thought Daisy Gumm Majesty was floating belly-up in the goldfish bowl of publishing. You see, My publisher at the time, Kensington, said there wasn’t enough mystery in the first Daisy book (in which conclusion they were probably correct), and decided I should take out the dead bodies, add a subsidiary romance since the heroine was already married, and they marketed them as romances. This decision flopped magisterially, which fits the name, but didn’t do the books any good. The first two Daisy book tanked, as so many of my books do, and I had to move on to another name and another historical romance series (my Titanic books which, while perfectly good romances, weren’t what I wanted to write). So there I was, stuck in 19th century romance, when I wanted to be in a good, cozy, roaring-twenties’ mystery!
Thus was born Mercy Allcutt, a Boston Brahmin who longs to live “among the people,” an opportunity for which didn’t exist in her family’s estate on Beacon Hill in Boston. She bucks family pressure, moves to Los Angeles to live with her sister Chloe and Chloe’s movie-mogul husband, and gets a job, something no other female in her family has ever done before. She wants to become a member of the worker proletariat because she yearns to write books. Gritty books. Books set on the mean streets involving “real” people.
She figures a sheltered young lady from Boston knows beans about, grit, real people or mean streets. Therefore, she gets a job as secretary to a private detective, Mr. Ernest Templeton. Mercy and Ernie have several adventures together. One of them involves a woman I modeled more or less after Aimee Semple McPherson, who was a big Gospel preacher in the 1920s and who built the Angelus Temple in Los Angeles. That book was Fallen Angels, which was republished a few months back. It won the Arizona/New Mexico Book of the Year Award for mystery-suspense in 2012, which is weird because I didn’t enter it. Someone entered it for me. I don’t personally care for contests for more reasons than I want to go in to here.
Anyway, I was glad about Mercy, but I was absolutely thrilled when Five Star picked up the Daisy books. Then Five Star closed their mystery line, and I moved to ePublishing Works, a “small” publisher and the only that’s ever made any money for me! Go figure.
Jann: The reissue of Angels of Mercy will be available this month. What has Mercy gotten herself into in this book?
Alice: Mercy, who really does try to live on the income from her job as secretary to a P.I., dips into her Great-Aunt Agatha’s legacy to purchase the Bunker Hill home her sister and brother-in-law own (her parents are scandalized that Los Angeles commandeered the name Bunker Hill, by the way). Chloe and Harvey Nash (Mercy’s sister and brother-in-law) are moving to Beverly Hills. Mercy’s motives are pure. She wants to operate a boarding house for young women who, unlike her, actually have to live on their incomes as working women. All goes well until she allows a cuckoo into her nest. Then things get dicey. Mercy’s apricot-colored toy poodle plays a pivotal role in the book, too. I love dogs.
Jann: What’s the best writing advice you ever received?
Alice: Never give up. I also have a favorite quotation: “Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” That’s by Henry Van Dyke. I’d leave out the “very” if it were up to me, but it isn’t. Anyway, I didn’t write “The Story of the Other Wise Man,” and Henry Van Dyke did, so what the heck.
Jann: In your books, who is your favorite character and why?
Alice: Daisy Gumm Majesty is my favorite character in my mysteries series. Daisy’s me, only with a supportive family and none of my neuroses (she has plenty of her own, so she’s not boring). And she also has a black-and-tan dachshund. I’ve collected dachshunds for most of my life, and it’s not my fault. I think a dachshund magnet was implanted in me at birth. I now belong to New Mexico Dachshund Rescue, but I managed to end up with seventy-billion wiener dogs even before that.
My favorite character from my historical romances is Loretta Linden, a wealthy San Francisco feminist who survived the sinking of Titanic. Her book, A PERFECT ROMANCE, is the middle book in my three-book Titanic series.
Jann: Do you ever run out of ideas? If so, how did you get past that?
Alice: Oh, yeah. I didn’t at first, but I’ve been doing this for 25 years or more, and I’m old and tired. In order to get past that, I ask people for suggestions! They come up with some doozies. I use them and acknowledge the donors in my books. I appreciate them so much, it’s difficult to quantify how much.
Jann: What profession would you hate to do?
Alice: I’ve pretty much hated every day job I’ve ever had, mainly because I’ve always wanted to write books. I wouldn’t have minded being a librarian, but I had to support my two daughters by myself by the time I was 19 years old, and that didn’t leave much room for writing. After my daughters grew up, writing books just seemed so hard. I mean, how do you string 400 or so pages of one story together? A friend of mine recommended historical romances, so I read them and realized that’s what I’d wanted to write since I was five. So I did.
Jann: What’s your all-time favorite book?
Alice: Oy. That’s a big job; finding one book out of thousands. However, I think my all-time favorite book is THE ROOTS OF HEAVEN, by Romain Gary. Contains elephants.
Jann: What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Alice: Not sure about a statute of limitations, but I don’t think I’d better answer that.
Jann: What turns you off?
Alice: Anachronistic language and cultural mind-sets in historical fiction. There’s a PBS series called “Frankie Drake,” which is set in Canada in the 1920s. It’s absolutely teeming with modern cultural sensibilities and modern expressions. Drives me nuts (not a long drive). But people will watch it and think that’s the way it was. It wasn’t. Trust me. I’ve done so much research into the 1920s (especially in Pasadena and Los Angeles) and the American west, and I know that’s not the way things and language were. Gah.
Jann: What’s the funniest (or sweetest or best or nicest) thing a fan ever said to you?
Alice: I’ve received several letters and emails from people who tell me my books have helped them through hard times, and that makes me glad. The most amazing one came from a woman in Australia, who was, at the time she first wrote, homeless and living in her gold VW Bug with her cat, Koto. I used her story (with her permission) for the Daisy book, Bruised Spirits. I’m happy to say she’s doing much better now, although she nearly got burned out a couple of weeks ago, thanks to Australia’s hideous drought and ghastly brushfire problems.
Jann: Alice, it has been so much fun talking with you today. Thank you for giving us peak into your writing career.
She fell in love with a rock star and lost everything…More info →
All that glitters isn't gold.More info →