Hello and welcome to the fifth of my posts about a brand new series of 13 suspenseful “Friday the 13th” short stories, each by a different author.
Today, I am happy to share Anna Kittrell’s “Scorned” – Now available for pre-order…releasing Nov 13.
While contemplating my upcoming “semicentennial” birthday, I was reminded of an experience I had a few years ago. A woman approached me following an author presentation and said, “The whole time you were up there talking, me and the gal next to me were just sitting here trying to figure out how old you are, trying to get clues from the things you were saying.” It was then I realized that I do the exact same thing! Why is knowing a person’s age so intriguing? Maybe it’s because aging is one thing we all have in common. Or maybe we just want to see how we measure up in the gray hair and wrinkles department. Whatever the reason, for some of us, age-guessing makes for a fun and fascinating pastime.
Gwen, the main character in my Friday the 13th story, SCORNED, detests the thought of growing old. But as I pedal without brakes toward the big Five Oh, there’s one thing I’d love to share with Gwen—there are plenty of things left to look forward to in middle age and beyond. Why should all of the excitement in life be reserved for the first half? Why can’t the second half be even more fun? At age forty I was published in Writer’s Digest, learned to apply false eyelashes, and got braces on my teeth. At forty-one my first book was published, and at forty-three I had the divine honor of becoming a grandmother! Today I approach fifty with ten published books and several magazine publications under my belt. My advice to Gwen and anyone else who abhors the thought of growing older is this: LOVE yourself fully—including your age. After all, growing older isn’t an affliction, it’s an opportunity.
When bank manager Gwen Chester discovers her husband, Robert, is seeing a younger woman, she does what any confident businesswoman would do—doubts herself. But her quest to get into shape leads her to a local gym, she comes face to face with Tara, the young beauty who has stolen Robert’s heart and, more importantly, Gwen’s self-worth. Overcome with rage, Gwen threatens Tara who, to Gwen’s horror, is found dead the following morning.
With all fingers, including Robert’s, pointing to Gwen as the killer, she enlists a friend’s help in a desperate scheme to find out the true identity of Tara’s murderer. The plan goes awry when Gwen finds her friend lying dead in a retail storeroom. Gwen decides to conduct her own investigation and discovers that not only is her marriage in danger—so is her life.
Can Gwen escape an intricate web of deceit and murder? Or is “till death do us part” a vow her husband intends to keep?
Anxiety eased from Gwen’s mind while she worked her muscles. Inhaling positivity and exhaling negativity, she closed her eyes, envisioning the unsightly parts of her life melting away with unsightly pounds.
“Thanks for the ride. I’ll see you in an hour, if that’s okay. The oil change should be finished by then.”
Gwen’s eyes snapped open. The same voice she’d heard two months ago, through Robert’s office door, right before she’d burst in. “I love you too, Robert,” the voice had said sweetly, awakening Gwen to her own ignorance and inadequacy. The words had emptied her soul. She’d never forget Tara Sanlander’s voice as long as she lived.
Oblivious to Gwen’s stare, Tara gazed into the wall mirror and pulled her long hair into a high ponytail. A short middle aged woman stood beside her, looking hopelessly out of place.
“Not a problem,” the shorter woman said. “I’ve got all day.” She glanced at the floor. “Well, would you look at that?” She grunted, bending over. “A penny!”
“Careful, Mom. You don’t need another fall.”
“It’s my lucky day!” She stood up, clenching the coin in her fist as she left the gym.
Gwen turned her eyes back to Tara, who tossed her head and gazed at her reflection, making sure the blonde ponytail was just right. Her gaze met Gwen’s and her movements stopped. Gwen watched with amusement, the girl’s suntanned features turning white as a chunk of provolone cheese.
“Hello, Tara.” Gwen didn’t bother to drop the kettlebell as she took measured steps to the woman and stood beside her, facing the mirror.
Tara tried to turn away, but Gwen grabbed her wrist.
“Let go of me before I scream for help.”
“Oh, you’ll scream all right,” Gwen said, unable to believe she could hold her voice steady. Controlled rage—it was the best she could describe it. She didn’t know where this part of her was coming from, but she couldn’t stop it. She didn’t want to. Her marriage was a disaster. Tara had won. Might as well scare the hell out of her.
“I said, let go!” Tara jerked her arm from Gwen’s grip with all her might, whipping Gwen’s entire body, causing the kettlebell to strike the wall mirror—shattering it into a million pieces.
Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved Oklahoma hometown where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, Tim. She has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations–stories she used to sell on the playground for a dime, written on notebook paper. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.
Hello and welcome to the fourth of my posts about a brand new series of 13 suspenseful “Friday the 13th” short stories, each by a different author.
Today, I am happy to share Margo Hoornstra’s “Dead to Rights” – Now available for pre-order…releasing Nov 13.
Several sources helped me create this murder/mystery. My husband was great with plot points and brainstorming. Good friends we camp with were instrumental in fleshing out various scenes. Although, plotting the details of a murder and its aftermath around our nightly campfires gave new meaning to telling spooky stories in the dark.
Police Dispatcher Whitney Rhoades has one word for her current life…contentment. Even after a disfigured body is discovered near her home. When word gets out she’s found a piece of a broken mirror, the deadly mishaps begin to pile up, and her peaceful contented world becomes a nightmare.
Veteran Detective Gabriel Tate knows a vendetta when he sees it. What he doesn’t know is who wants Whitney dead. But despite her terror, she tosses his offer of protection back in his face. She trusted him once and he betrayed her. He can’t…won’t let that happen again.
Unless he can regain her trust…and soon…the results could be fatal. Find a murderer or risk losing her again…permanently.
“What was I supposed to do? She attacked me first. With a mirror of all things. She would have sliced my neck open if I hadn’t punched her.” He let out a sickening laugh. “That stopped her. But then she started bleeding from her nose. Crying and choking. It wouldn’t stop. None of it would stop.” His tone lowered as if remorse had finally taken hold. “I had every right to defend myself, but I didn’t mean to hit her that hard. I never intended to break her nose. I sure as hell never expected her to die on me.”
Being forced to walk in front of him, she was hearing what amounted to a confession to murder. Without the benefit of cameras recording every word in an official interrogation room. Without the luxury of a confessed murderer being unarmed and in custody.
There was only one reason he’d be so freely confessing to her. What better way to clear his conscience? Then make sure she’d never tell anyone.
“It wasn’t supposed to happen.” His voice jarred Whitney out of her thoughts.
Her step faltered, which earned her another sharp jab from the gun barrel. Wincing as pain radiated through her ribs, she had no choice but to continue moving.
“It was an accident.” She spoke the first words that came to mind. “Everyone will see that.” Convincing him she was on his side was the only way she had a prayer to get out of this alive.
“You’re damned right it was an accident. Her fault. Not mine. She never should have resisted.” The strength of his voice rose before falling to a mere whisper.
When they reached the top of the ridge, he came along side and turned to face her.
“That mirror evidence is our little secret. Yours and mine. Of course, you’re not going to be around to talk about it. And I’m sure not going to tell. Don’t worry. If you don’t die from the fall, I’m an excellent marksman. You can even decide the location of the kill shot ahead of time. Brains or heart? Your choice.” With an ominous chuckle, he nudged her in the side one more time. “Should I push you, or would you rather jump?”
Wife to one, mother to four, mother-in-law to four, and grandmother to four so far, Margo is a Detroit native who couldn’t be happier now living in rural mid-Michigan. A communications specialist by trade, she has worked as a magazine editor, television producer, and speech and script writer. When not writing these days, she enjoys walking outdoors in every season, hates to cook, loves to read, and can be found at www.margohoornstra.com
Hello and welcome to the third of my posts about a brand new series of 13 suspenseful “Friday the 13th” short stories, each by a different author.
Today, I am happy to share Dianne McCartney’s “Vanity Kills” – Now available for pre-order…releasing Nov 13.
The subject of body-shaming has always interested me. I have a tall, stocky build and my daughter is on the other end of the spectrum, yet we have both suffered this behavior, mostly from other women. Those experiences are what spawned this story.
Detective Marcus Flint is hot on the trail of a demented killer. His initial victim, Carla Sharkley, is found with her body altered to look much bigger than her real size. Her face is made up like a clown’s. What bizarre message is this twisted killer trying to send?
Further investigation links her to a group of high school friends, cheerleaders, who were known bullies. Is the killer one of the victims of their abuse?
A search for similar crimes reveals several suspicious deaths, one in Marcus’s home state of Tennessee and two more out of state. All occurred on Friday the 13th.
When Marcus meets the lovely Eleanor Trask, one of the targets of their abuse, he is more determined than ever to solve this case. All bets are off, though, when the killer goes off script to reach his final goal.
Will Eleanor become his final sacrifice?
At one forty-five, he headed down to the morgue. Dr. Georges Appel, the medical examiner, wouldn’t let anyone in to watch the autopsy unless they were present from the beginning. A fastidious man, he made an excellent medical detective, never missing a thing.
He grunted a hello as his assistant set up the equipment. Autopsies were not for the faint of heart, but it had never bothered Marcus. His old trainer had advised him to think of the body as a box that no longer contains a person. It had helped.
The doctor entered the room, washing his hands at the sink before putting on gloves. “Your victim was dressed in size twenty clothes, even though she is perhaps a size six without the padding.”
He explained the reason behind the subterfuge or their best guess about it.
“People can be so odd. Is this his only victim?”
“We haven’t confirmed yet, but I don’t think so. We found a similar case upstate.”
“Before we begin, I assume you noted that she had signs of being restrained on her wrists. Probably handcuffs.”
“I did. Thank you.”
The doctor murmured his observations into a recorder as he worked, beginning with the surface examination of the skin, fingernails and toenails, taking scrapings. Y-shaped incision to open the torso. The initial blow to the heart had been the death blow. On examining it, he said, “Very deep, you see. Your killer is strong. The knife was likely a hunting knife, kept quite sharp as the edges are crisp. Maybe six or seven inches long.”
“Do you think the strike to the heart was intentional and the others were random?”
“Yes. He’s making a comment, don’t you think?”
He continued to work. “She didn’t bleed much after the initial wound, because the heart stopped beating. He accomplished his task very quickly. The poor girl never had a chance.”
Dianne McCartney is an award-winning writer, speaker and contest judge from Canon City, Colorado. Her books, Just One Night, The Daughter of Death and The Road to Justice are published by The Wild Rose Press. A long-standing member of the OWFI and The Rose Rock Writers, she has sixty writing awards from contests in Oklahoma, Texas and Tennessee.
Hello and welcome to the second of my posts about a brand new series of 13 suspenseful “Friday the 13th” short stories, each by a different author.
Today, I am happy to share Leah St. James’ “Azrael’s Chosen” – Now available for pre-order…releasing Nov 13.
Fun Fact: Azrael’s Chosen is set in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, a giant wildlife area stretching across seven counties, marked by towering pines, more than 850 other plant species, and hundreds of species of mammals, bird and reptiles. Its most famous inhabitant is the legendary Jersey Devil, said to have been spawned in 1735 to the Leeds family. As the 13th offspring, thus cursed for eternity, this dragon-like creature roams the Pine Barrens on the hunt for unsuspecting prey.
Blurb: In the depths of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, teens play a game of life and death. Years later, a killer emerges, vowing to fulfill a teenage oath. As New Jersey State Police Detective Shannon Morgan tracks the killer, she finds herself the next to be chosen.
“I followed the dripping noise into the sanctuary. That’s when I saw her … there.” The priest convulsed and waved a limp hand toward the altar.
Shannon questioned him a bit more and, when she figured she’d gotten as much as possible, she tucked the notebook inside her jacket and stood. “Thank you, Father. As I’m sure you’re aware, this is an active crime scene, so we’ll have to cordon off the sanctuary until further notice. We’ll be as quick as we can with the investigation. We know you’ll want the use of your church back.” Although who knew what they’d have to do to sanctify the space.
Nevaro whipped out a hand and grabbed her wrist before she could turn away. “Wait.”
Tensing at the priest’s sudden touch, Shannon eased back onto the pew. “Yes?”
His mouth twisted, and he looked to the altar. “She is one of ours.”
Trying to stem the shock – and annoyed at herself for neglecting to ask that question – Shannon retrieved her notebook. “One of your parishioners?”
“Marge. Marjory Hanson. A regular.”
“Are you … sure?” Shannon didn’t want to make it worse by highlighting the obvious state of the body and lack of recognizable features.
“Her hair – same color, length. Same body type and size.” He pointed toward the body. “But more than that, her right ankle, inside. The tattoo.”
“Hold on.” Shannon hadn’t noticed that detail in her initial observation. She strode forward and to the side of the table for a better angle. There, where Father Nevaro had said. A circle in black with something inside. A word? Maybe an inch and a half long.
The forensic examiners would take photos, but she snapped one with her phone and returned to the priest. “Do you know what this is?”
“Legio.” At her blank look, he explained. “Latin for legion.” He grimaced once more but held her gaze. “I didn’t believe her. Now she’s dead. They’re back. The Legion.”
About the author:
Leah St. James writes thought-provoking stories about good and evil, the mysteries of life, and the enduring power of love. A native Jersey girl, she lives in southeastern Virginia with her husband where they enjoy not shoveling snow.
Hello and welcome to the first of my posts about a brand new series of 13 suspenseful “Friday the 13th” short stories, each by a different author. My intent was to post 1 per day beginning Nov 1 with the last one on Nov 13. But a couple of hospital stays threw a monkey wrench in that (because God forbid I plan anything ahead of time and pre-schedule the post… :))
Today, I am happy to share Jannine Gallant’s “A Deadly Game” – Now available for pre-order…releasing Nov 13.
A Deadly Game takes place in the Northern California redwoods where I grew up. I knew the towering trees, hanging fog, and small-town atmosphere I remember so well from my youth would be the perfect setting for a suspenseful story of murder.
In the heart of the redwoods, a madman plays a deadly game . . .
Deep in the redwood forest, a serial killer took the lives of three local women and devastated the small town of Woodvale. All in the name of love. Now, three years later, a delusional psychopath is determined to finish what his brother couldn’t . . . and punish the woman who betrayed him.
Sheriff Harley Boone is rocked to his core when the mutilated body of a young woman is discovered in the forest. Flashbacks to the gruesome murders that plagued his town won’t let him rest until he finds the man responsible—putting an end to the nightmare, once and for all. Because the killer is still out there, and his next target is the woman Harley loves.
Caroline Farnsworth didn’t believe she’d ever recover from the trauma of discovering her fiancé was a murderer . . . let alone dare to love again. But she’s back in Woodvale to make a new life with Harley—only to face the unimaginable. With a killer stalking her every move, she’s fighting for her future . . . if she survives.
“Harley, the car stopped.” Her voice shook.
“Drive away. Now!”
“I can’t. I’m penned between the SUV and a redwood tree. Maybe I can back up . . .” She turned to see what was behind her. Ferns and manzanita. “I’m not sure if I can make it.”
“Stay in your car and lock the doors. I’m on my way. Don’t try backing up unless the person gets out and approaches you. I’ll be there in a minute.”
Her teeth chattered as she stared at the other vehicle. Seconds ticked by before the driver’s side door opened. “He’s getting out. Oh, God.”
“I see your lights ahead through the trees. Almost there.”
A glow approached, just visible around the bend. When the lights grew brighter, the other driver got back inside his vehicle, slammed the door, and peeled out, roaring up the road toward town. Harley rounded the corner, passed the SUV, and screeched to a stop beside her.
Her finger shook as she lowered the window.
“Are you okay?”
She nodded, not sure she could speak coherently.
“I’m going after him. As soon as I flip around, drive straight to my house.”
“All right.” Her voice squeaked.
He pulled forward, made a three-point-turn, and raced away, his powerful engine accelerating loudly. She stared after him as shudders wracked her body. Finally, she shifted into gear and headed for home.
Write what you know. Jannine Gallant has taken this advice to heart, creating characters from small towns and plots that unfold in the great outdoors. A recent empty-nester, she grew up in a tiny Northern California town and currently lives in gorgeous Lake Tahoe with her husband. An avid outdoor enthusiast, Jannine enjoys hiking and snowshoeing in the woods around her home with her dog, Ginger. You’ll discover the beauty of nature woven into all her fast-paced romantic suspense novels. To find out more about this author and her books, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter. You can also find her on Facebook.
Welcome to my weekly feature where authors share about the hobbies, careers, or passions of their characters.
I’m pleased to introduce today’s guest, Amber Daulton
“For the Love of Baking” by Calista Barlow, the heroine from Arresting Jeremiah
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to bake. And not just simple sugar cookies. My dream was to run a bakery or maybe manage a fancy restaurant. I spent my childhood learning everything I could from a master chef. I was definitely lucky, at least in that regard. But let me back up…
My mother and I lived in this gorgeous manor when I was a child, but we weren’t the homeowners. Not even close. Mom was a maid, and I was the maid’s daughter who always snuck into the kitchen to “help” the moody head chef, Pascal Caron. After a while, Chef Caron realized I seriously wanted to learn how to cook and bake, and I wasn’t just there to annoy him. He took me under his wing, and my eyes opened to the world of culinary and artsy dishes.
Then I grew up. After my secret boyfriend dumped me and left me pregnant when I was eighteen, I learned quickly that life wasn’t fair and my dreams had to go on hold.
For the next ten years, I worked dead-end waitressing jobs with no end in sight, but I never stopped whipping up fantastical creations in my meager kitchen. I make everything from scratch, and I use graham cracker crusts for my shells. What do I make? Well, let’s see…cheesecake, doughnuts, muffins, tarts, pies, cakes, brownies, and more. Hmm, I would love something chocolatey right now. Sorry, but I skipped lunch and my belly is growling. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, your mouth will water from one taste of any of my desserts—I guarantee it. I’m not normally an over-confident person, but I know I rock in the kitchen.
Mom, my daughter Lacey, and my best friend, Shana, are the best! They’re so supportive. Then there’s Jeremiah—better known as Jim. He’s unlike any man I’ve ever met. He’s so sweet and sexy, and more than determined to fulfill my dreams of opening a bakery. How could I have lucked out with him?
Now, I’m off to bake Jeremiah and Lacey a yummy surprise. He loves anything with blueberries in it, so we’re having a torte for dessert tonight. But don’t tell him, okay? First things first, though, I need to make a sandwich or I might just eat the dessert all by myself. It’s been known to happen, and yet I complain about my waistline. *sigh* Anyway, thank you so much for reading!
Injured Parole Officer Jeremiah “Jim” Borden never expected Calista Barlow, the sassy blonde waitress he’s craved for months, to ring his doorbell. She slips into his heart—and his bed—but he’s obsessed with a gangland investigation that threatens his career and maybe even his life.
Calista doesn’t trust easily, not with a daughter to protect and the stalker who keeps calling her. After her violent ex-boyfriend returns, she finds solace in Jim’s arms.
Jim may have to forego his need for answers to protect the ready-made family he adores, but how will he and Calista escape an unseen enemy that is always one step ahead of them?
“What were you thinking when you tried on the necklace?”
Air whizzed through her teeth. Silence stretched between them as they walked toward the diner. She sighed, her voice soft. “No offense, but I don’t know or trust you enough to let you in that much. I’ve made some mistakes—things I don’t want to talk about. Give me some time.”
Trust? He couldn’t blame her for that. If he demanded to know her secrets, he had to tear down the barbwire he’d erected around his.
No. That couldn’t happen. His life depended on his silence. Did her private thoughts and memories hinge on life and death too? His stomach twisted. Nothing bad would happen to her, not if he was around to stop it.
“What can you tell me?” Hell, only an asshole would ask something like that without opening up in return.
“The necklace reminded me of something I once wanted more than anything. Not the pearls itself, but what it represented. I couldn’t have it because I wasn’t good enough.” She pulled from his grasp and wrapped her arms around her middle.
“I’m sorry I forced you to try on the necklace. I thought you liked it. All women deserve something that makes them feel pretty.” The stench of oil filled his nose and he sneezed. He glanced at the noisy passing cars and pulled Calista farther back along the sidewalk, away from a puddle in the road, before a vehicle splashed them. “I understand about lack of trust and the need for secrecy. I hope someday you can tell me what happened, but I do know one thing, even if you never tell me. You were good enough. You always have been and will always be.”
Her blue-green eyes widened. She traced her fingertips over his smooth jaw, leaving sparks in her wake.
“You’re so kind. I almost believe it when you say it. God, I wish I’d met you years ago, Jeremiah.”
“Why do you call me Jeremiah? Everyone else calls me Jim.”
“It feels more personal, as though you belong only to me. I may have to share Jim with the rest of the world, but Jeremiah—the strong, kind man I’ve admired over the past several months—is all mine.”
Her admission branded him like a fire poker to his skin. If he were alone, he’d beat his chest and roar. No woman had ever wanted to claim him. No one but her ever called him Jeremiah.
Amber Daulton is the author of the romantic-suspense series Arresting Onyx and several standalone novellas. Her books are published through The Wild Rose Press, Books to Go Now, and Daulton Publishing, and are available in ebook, print on demand, audio, and foreign language formats.
She lives in North Carolina with her husband and demanding cats.
Looking for something new and fabulous to read? Try these…
Retiring Texas Ranger Benjamin Edwards has one last assignment before taking his final exam to become an attorney. Female Professor Jessie Reeves is primed to prove she can make it in a man’s profession. When their lives cross paths, they are never the same.
Twenty-seven-year-old workaholic Georgiana Bennet lost her sense of taste in an accident. When she arrives at Lake Okoboji, Iowa, looking for a cure she meets Michal, the handsome co-owner of the Lucky Star Ice Cream Bar, and his three eccentric partners. The three women weave their way into Georgiana’s world as she finds herself spending long days in the sun with Michal and warm evenings under the stars. But the day she sees fairy wings on her new female friends changes her forever.
The fairies manipulate Georgiana’s life, including her love life, until she makes a decision that complicates everything.
Tall, beautiful and slender, she dressed like a boy and fought like a warrior and won Laird Macgregor’s interest in a single moment. Jillian was fighting to protect her father and save her heritage – could she trust a Highlander to help her?
When the train US Marshal Reese Calhan is riding on explodes, he is one of two survivors. Trouble is, the other survivor is the woman who betrayed him years ago. A woman he thought was dead. This time he will not fall prey to her wiles. He’ll see the vixen jailed for her crimes if it kills him. Recovering from a recent jilting and now a train explosion, Shanna Johnston has no idea why the handsome stranger insists he knows her and calls her by another woman’s name. His heated looks and knowing kisses spark a fire in her she cannot ignore–even as her own mysterious past is closing in.
Naomi’s life has been destroyed…
When Naomi Adelman’s crooked politician husband was arrested, her life, and that of her daughters, was destroyed. Divorced and rebuilding her life, Naomi is wiser, stronger, and determined not to let anyone hurt her or her family again. Her new life doesn’t include falling for her charming and good-looking neighbor.
Max bet everything and lost…
Max Bruder bet his entire career on the Adelman story and lost everything. So, he figures that karma has smiled down on him when Naomi moves in next door. This is his chance to revitalize his career. Except the closer he gets to her, the deeper he falls for her. And soon, the line between interview subject and lover blurs.
If they fall for each other, they may jeopardize their chance at a future.
When Max’s true motive is revealed, will Naomi be able to forgive him? And will Max be able to stop the whispers to protect her before it’s too late?
With her stepfather’s sudden death, Lady Anastasia Covington goes from living a privileged lifestyle to selling vegetables in the village marketplace in the blink of an eye. Alone and at the mercy of her nefarious stepsister, she yearns for love and acceptance.
Disguised as a simple soldier, Prince Percival catches a dark-haired emerald-eyed beauty in his arms. He is bewitched. The more he sees her, the more intrigued he is by her contradictions. Forced to keep his identity a secret, he must somehow convince Lady Anastasia he is the right man for her.
But time is running out. Lady Anastasia’s mother is determined to find a proper suitor and see her wed –and someone wants her dead.
After one concussion too many, Ben Leit is done as the NFL’s golden boy quarterback. Then his father, who was about to expose a bombshell sports scandal, is murdered.
Mimi Fitzroy, CIO for Rex Sports International, panics as she discovers thousands of stolen emails that prove Rex is breaking federal laws—big time. As Ben and Mimi work together to find a killer, they also find a connection they weren’t expecting and didn’t want.
They are headed for an explosive showdown in Seattle…and not everyone will walk away.
I’ve never been through labor, and what I knew about it from my sister wasn’t enough to write about it convincingly in Frozen Crimes. The closest experience I had was from an episode with endometriosis and an ovarian cyst that made me believe the pain I felt was close to a contraction. I had to lay down on my side on the couch, because it was too painful to sit, and I seethed between my teeth as tears flowed, but even that wasn’t all I needed to know, so I did what any good writer would do…I Googled it.
I researched what contractions feel like, what happens to the uterus during contractions, and the stages of labor. I learned a lot and put all of that in my story, from reddish-brown discharge at the beginning of the process to even a mention of what is called “the bloody show,” which I don’t actually write about.
Still, I needed to know the facts. I had to know what Beth would be experiencing (in the middle of a blizzard!) and the time limit Donovan would be contending with before the baby came.
While writing Beth’s labor in Frozen Crimes I researched these questions:
– Can you hear your water break? (You can…it’s a popping sound.)
– When does a woman go to the hospital when she’s in labor? (Usually when contractions are 2-3 minutes apart.)
– How long and frequent are contractions in the beginning? (About 65 seconds long and ten minutes apart. Gradually, they become longer and more frequent.)
– How long after 10 centimeters dilated is the baby born? (Two or more hours.)
– How do nurses and doctors measure the cervix? (With the width of their fingers.)
– What items would you need for a home birth?
Her eyelids grew heavy and lowered. Sleep pulled her back under. A few hours later, though, the same jab of pain returned. She inhaled sharply and held her breath. Her uterus felt as though it had transformed into a balled fist. Throbbing pain dominated her entire abdomen and back, and a tremendous pressure radiated along her pelvis. She seethed between her teeth. Her heart beat erratically, and sweat dampened her scalp.
No, no, no. Panic rushed through her, flooding her body. This can’t be happening. I can’t be going into labor. It’s a month too soon.
She knew very well that early labor was an unwanted possibility and that false alarms happened all the time. Please let it be a false alarm. Please. I can’t have this baby now. Not now.
It took her a long time to fall back asleep, and when she finally did, another contraction pried her awake. She couldn’t deny it anymore; she was in full-blown labor.
This was their worst nightmare come true. She peeked at Donovan on the other side of the couch, but she didn’t want to wake him. Maybe she could fend off the labor long enough for them to get freed. Some women could be in labor for days, and hers had only begun. There was no reason for her to raise the alarm so soon, especially when they had no way of getting to the hospital. So, she’d grit her teeth and bear it. For as long as she could.
When disasters strike around every corner, is it possible to have a happily-ever-after?
BLURB: Beth and Donovan are expecting their first child. Life couldn’t get any better…until a stalker makes his presence known. This person sends disturbing messages and unsettling items, but it isn’t long before his menacing goes too far.
Hoping for a peaceful Christmas, Donovan takes Beth to Michigan. Days into their trip, a winter storm named Nemesis moves in with the goal of burying the state. Snowdrifts surround their house, and the temperature drops below freezing.
Except, the storm isn’t the only nemesis they must face. Everyone’s lives are at stake—especially that of their unborn child. Will they survive, or will they become a frozen crime?
To get the exclusive prequel to the Disaster Crimes series, sign up for Chrys’ newsletter. By signing up, you agree to receive Chrys Fey’s newsletter. After you confirm subscription, you will receive an email (so check your inbox and spam folder) with directions on where to snag your eBook copy of THE CRIME BEFORE THE STORM.
Chrys Fey is author of the Disaster Crimes Series, a unique concept that blends disasters, crimes, and romance. She runs the Insecure Writer’s Support Group Book Club on Goodreads and edits for Dancing Lemur Press. https://www.chrysfey.com
I am living proof that everything has its time and place, and cannot be rushed. My first publisher, Domhan Books, didn’t even exist when I started my first novel in 1982. It took me 18 years and 10 novels to get my first contract. My debut novel was actually the tenth one I wrote, Destiny Lies Waiting, and after eight years of research, writing and re-writing, I submitted to every major publisher, as well as many smaller ones. My first agent retired, and my second agent gave up on me. My work didn’t seem to fit into any of the molds cut out by the major publishers of romance.
But I never gave up. Something kept me going, and made me sit down to write. It was the belief that deep down, I knew somewhere in this world was a publisher willing to take a chance on me, who appreciated my style, my brand of humor, my unique voice. Now I realize that my first nine novels provided invaluable experience. Each novel was a vast improvement on the one before, but I needed to do more living, more maturing, and much more writing before Id be worthy of publication.
As I matured, the writing matured with me. There is no better way for novelists to learn their craft than to write novels one after the other. The late actress Vivian Vance said, There’s nothing like a lot of experience when the big break comes. Its so true. Seven novels later, I’ve made the most of my big break, and still have plenty of other novels bubbling away inside me.
So, to all you aspiring novelists slaving away: keep writing. Keep practicing. Most of all, don’t ever give up on your dream. Just having a dream makes you very special. If you get impatient because it’s taking so long, just ask yourself this: Why does 16-year Scotch take 16 years? Some things are worth waiting for.
Thank you, Diana. Very inspiring and something all struggling authors need to hear.
And now, some fascinating info about Diana’s latest book…
Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne called themselves Adam and Eve as he suffered the shame of his family’s connection to the Salem Witch Trials.
My passion for history and travel has taken me to every locale of my books and short stories, set in Medieval and Renaissance England, Paris, Egypt, the Mediterranean, colonial Virginia, New England, Washington D.C. and New York. My urban fantasy romance, FAKIN’ IT, won a Top Pick award from Romantic Times. I’m a member of Romance Writers of America, the Richard III Society and the Aaron Burr Association. My husband Chris and I own CostPro, an engineering firm based in Boston. In my spare time, I bicycle, golf, play my piano, devour books of any genre, and spend as much time as possible living the dream on my beloved Cape Cod.
About FOR THE LOVE OF HAWTHORNE
Salem, Massachusetts witnessed horrific and shameful events in 1692 that haunted the town for three centuries. Accused as witches, nineteen innocent people were hanged and one was pressed to death. Judge John Hathorne and Reverend Nicholas Noyes handed down the sentences. One victim, Sarah Good, cursed Noyes from the hanging tree: “If you take away my life, God will give you blood to drink!” She then set her eyes on Judge Hathorne. “I curse you and your acknowledged heirs for all time on this wicked earth!” Hathorne was not only Sarah Good’s merciless judge; he also fathered her son Peter and refused to acknowledge him.
In 1717, Nicholas Noyes choked on his own blood and died. Every generation after the judge continued to lose Hathorne land and money, prompting the rumor of a family curse. By the time his great great grandson Nathaniel was born, they faced poverty.
Ashamed of his ancestor, Nathaniel added the ‘w’ to his last name. His novels and stories explore his beliefs and fears of sin and evil, and he based many of his characters on overbearing Puritan rulers such as Judge Hathorne.
When Nathaniel first met Sophia Peabody, they experienced instantaneous mutual attraction. Sparks flew. He rose upon my eyes and soul a king among men by divine right, she wrote in her journal.
But to Sophia’s frustration, Nathaniel insisted they keep their romance secret for three years. He had his reasons, none of which made sense to Sophia. But knowing that he believed Sarah Good’s curse inflicted so much tragedy on his family over the centuries, she made it her mission to save him. Sarah was an ancestor of Sophia’s, making her and Nathaniel distant cousins—but she kept that to herself for the time being.
Sophia Peabody’s home next to Charter Street Burying Ground, resting place of Judge Hathorne, Salem, MA
Sophia suffered severe headaches as a result of childhood mercury treatments. She underwent routine mesmerizing sessions, a popular cure for many ailments. Spirits sometimes came to her when mesmerized, and as a spiritualist and medium, she was able to contact and communicate with spirits. She knew if she could reach Sarah and persuade her to forgive Judge Hathorne, Nathaniel would be free of his lifelong burden.
Sarah Good’s son Peter had kept a journal the family passed down to the Peabodys. Sophia sensed his presence every time she turned the brittle pages and read his words. John Hathorne’s legitimate son John also kept a journal, now in the Hawthorne family’s possession. Living on opposite sides of Salem in 1692, Peter and John wrote in vivid detail about how the Salem trials tormented them throughout their lives.
Nathaniel finally agreed to announce their engagement, and married Sophia on July 9, 1842. They moved into their first home, The Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts. Wanting nothing else but to spend the summer enjoying each other, we became Adam and Eve, alone in our Garden of Eden, Sophia wrote in her journal.
The Old Manse, the Hawthornes’ first home as newlyweds
As success eluded Nathaniel, they lived on the verge of poverty. After being dismissed from his day job at the Salem Custom House, he wrote The Scarlet Letter, which finally gained him the recognition he deserved. But the curse he believed Sarah cast on his family still haunted him. In the book he asks for the curse to be lifted.
The House of the Seven Gables, Salem, MA, built in 1668
Sophia urged Nathaniel to write a novel about the house, knowing it would be cathartic for him. While they lived in Lenox, Nathaniel finished writing The House of the Seven Gables. The Gothic novel explored all his fears and trepidations about the curse. He told Sophia, “Writing it, and especially reading it aloud to you lifted a tremendous burden off my shoulders. I felt it physically leave me. I carried this inside me since my youth and couldn’t bring it out to face it. And I have you, and only you, to thank.”
But he did not believe the curse could be lifted.
Sophia invited renowned spiritualist John Spear to The Gables. She explained that she needed to complete one final step to convince Nathaniel the curse was lifted.
John Spear urged Nathaniel to forgive Judge Hathorne. “You don’t have to say it out loud,” John said. “Just forgive him in your heart.”
Nathaniel whispered his forgiveness.
John, Nathaniel and Sophia went to Judge Hathorne’s gravesite to give the journals proper burial.
Grave of Judge Hathorne, Charter Street Burial Ground, Salem, MA
Why I wrote FOR THE LOVE OF HAWTHORNE
I live near Salem and have been to all the Hawthorne landmarks there, and in Concord. The House of the Seven Gables has been my favorite house in the world since I’m a kid. I’ve always felt a strong spiritual connection to Salem, and always wanted to write one of my books set there, including the witch trials.
I read several of his books and stories, to get a better background on him. Nathaniel wrote from the heart, about his true beliefs, and his loathing of how the witch victims were treated. He did consider it disgraceful, and it certainly was. He added the ‘w’ to his last name to distance himself from the judge. That tormented him and his family all his life. It must have been cathartic to him to have his writing as his outlet.
The Wayside, the only home the Hawthornes ever owned, in Concord, MA
Nathaniel added that room at the top for his writing studio
An Excerpt From FOR THE LOVE OF HAWTHORNE (Sophia and Nathaniel’s visit to his cousin Susan Ingersoll at The House of the Seven Gables)
I went over to a curio cabinet and swept my eyes over the items on the shelves—a china doll wearing a calico dress, a stack of gold cups and saucers, a red and blue glass checkerboard propped up to display its surface…and a wooden hammer on the top shelf. Upon closer inspection, I saw it was a gavel that judges use in trials. Out of curiosity I picked it up and a shock ran through me as if electrified. Dear God, was it that gavel?
I dropped it to the rug. It landed with a thump. I bent to retrieve it. Somehow I knew it wouldn’t shock me this time—that was only an initial warning. “Something about it made me want to touch it, to pick it up and hold it.”
Nathaniel approached me. He stared at the gavel in my hand, horror darkening his eyes. His lips parted but no words emerged. I knew what he was thinking—the curse. He turned to his cousin, pointing at the gavel, his arm trembling.
Susan hurried over to us, took it from me and placed it back on the shelf. “Yes, it’s Judge Hathorne’s. What happened, Sophie? Are you all right?”
I looked down at my open hands, palms up. They burned as if I’d touched a hot poker. “That gavel—it carries something evil. Has anything happened to you with this, Susie?”
Nathaniel backed away and before Susan could answer me, he grasped her arm. “I begged you to get rid of that accursed thing! You know it shouldn’t be here!”
She looked from him to me, heaving a deep sigh. “I’m not inclined to dispose of it, Natty. It’s a family heirloom, notwithstanding its past.”
He gripped the chair, his face drained of color. “It’s downright evil. You know what he used that thing for.”
She held her hands up in surrender. “Very well, I’ll conceal it.” She took it off the shelf and slid it behind the checkerboard.
“That should not be in this house!” He stood his ground, his eyes fixed on the checkerboard as if it would melt in such close proximity to that horrid object.
“It’s fine there, Natty. It’s concealed from sight now.” She looked at me and gestured for me to sit again. I sat and gulped my sherry.
“Nathaniel’s always overcome with distress at the witch trials.” Susan explained what I already knew.
“And so should you be,” he cut in.
“If I must speak for Judge Hathorne, I heard stories of him from my grandfather.” Susan looked from Nathaniel to me. “The whole hysteria that caught up the judge was started by unscrupulous men to further their own riches. But spectral evidence was still admissible. No sane person could believe that blithery.”
In 2010, I and three of my writer friends—Amanda McCabe, Kathy L Wheeler, and Krysta Scott—began meeting each Friday evening for Martinis and various other libations at the Martini Lounge in Edmond, Oklahoma. In time, we came to dub our gatherings the ‘Martini Club.’ During one of these get-togethers, an idea was tossed around to write stories centered around a Martini Lounge-like establishment. The idea blossomed from there, and the ‘Martini Club 4’ series was born.
Each of the four authors wrote our own, stand-alone novella, but the girls from each are friends, and they interact in one another’s stories. This first series is set in the 1920s, and the follow-up novellas are set in the 1940s.
I and my BAFF’s (Best Author Friends Forever) had a blast brainstorming and creating the MC4 Vintage Historical Romances over drinks and during a few out of town retreats (over drinks, as well :)). Sadly, Kathy and Amanda have moved out of state and the Martini Lounge was converted into an Italian restaurant, so, like the Roaring Twenties, our Martini Lounge gatherings are bygone days. (Although, never fear, Krysta and I have a few other friends who now meet for drinks on as many Friday nights as possible, though COVID has certainly put a damper on that. We still call our get-togethers MC (Martini Club) 🙂
Step back into the days of prohibition, gangsters, and speakeasies with the Martini Club 4 Series.
**** FREE for a limited time!! – Ruined, Reckless, and Rebellious are free and Runaway is only 99 cents!!
(See below for info about the 1940s novellas)
About the Books:
Jessica: An aristocratic reporter with a penchant for trouble, she encounters sexy, mysterious Frank Markov, owner of an elegant new speakeasy and a man with secrets she’s dying to uncover. ~ Rebellious by Amanda McCabe
Eliza: She fled England in pursuit of a better life, but her illusions are shattered when she falls prey to a scoundrel who draws her into a life of prostitution. When she meets Vince Taggart, a former boxer in search of his missing friend, she finds hope and the promise of love. ~ Ruined by Alicia Dean
Margaret: Her impulsive nature lands her face-to-face with gangsters and bootleggers. Even more disarming is her undeniable attraction to the enigmatic Harry Dempsey. ~ Reckless by Kathy L Wheeler
Charlotte: Her dreams of owning her own bakery crumble when blackmail and murder land at her feet. Is the dashing detective her ruin or her salvation? ~ Runaway by Krysta Scott
Blurb: Can an aristocratic lady melt the cold heart of a Russian gangster?
Lady Jessica Hatton fled her high-society London debutante life for one of investigative journalism in New York—only to be relegated to the fashion pages. Searching for a juicy story leads her to Club 501, the city’s most glamorous speakeasy—and its handsome, mysterious owner, Frank Markov. But his past of war and revolution puts their hearts—and their lives—in danger…
Excerpt: “Do you smell that, Meggie?” Jessica Hatton cried as she leaned into the cold, salt spray wind, her t-strap shoes perched on the lowest rung of the ship’s railing. She’d lost her hat, and the short strands of her hair blew into her eyes, but she didn’t care. England was far behind them. They had escaped.
“It smells like freedom!” she shouted, and threw up her arms. It felt like she could fly all the way to America.
“I only smell old fish,” Meggie said. “Now come down from there, Jess. If you tumble into the drink, it will all be over before it even starts.”
Jessica laughed and shook her head, but she did climb down. She spun around to see Meggie stretched out on one of the deck chairs, the glossy mink collar of her coat drawn close around her.
The sky was grey and dismal-looking, the water not as glassy-smooth as when they slid past Ireland yesterday and headed out to open sea. Several of the passengers had retreated to their cabins, but Jessica couldn’t stand staying inside. Not when there was so much to be seen.
“It smells like fish and freedom,” Jessica insisted. “But we can go in now. Maybe Charlotte and Eliza will want to play some cards or mah-jong.”
“Finally,” Meggie grumbled as she swung her feet down to the damp deck. But her smile was broad. Jessica knew Meggie was loving it all just as much as she was.
Blurb: She vowed she’d be no man’s doxy, but fate had other plans…
After the Earl of Goodwin attempts to force himself on her, housemaid Eliza Gilbert flees England for New York, hoping to build a better life. But the land of opportunity proves as harsh as the London docks, and she finds herself in a situation more dreadful than the one she escaped.
Former boxer, Vince “The Fist” Taggart dreams of marrying, having a family, and living a quiet, peaceful life. But when a girl he’s known since childhood disappears, he heads to New York in search of her and meets Eliza, a woman with a less than honorable reputation. Inexplicably captivated, Vince can’t force himself to stay away, especially when he learns Eliza is the key to finding his missing friend.
Excerpt: Eliza lifted her gaze, then looked away when she met his eyes. They were just too…striking, too blue. “I’m afraid you’ll have to speak to Oscar. He handles all my transactions.” She could never have a normal outing with a man. A lump of regret rose in her throat. She turned and started up the stairs.
Vince caught up to her in a few steps and grabbed her arm, taking the bag from her at the same time. “That was a lousy thing to say.”
She opened her mouth to accuse him of going around Oscar so he didn’t have to pay. But that was ridiculous. He hadn’t taken what he’d paid for the first time. She lifted a hand and rubbed her forehead. His attention confused her. What was his angle? He didn’t want sex. Did he think she was hiding something about Cynthia and if he spent time with her he could draw it out? “What do you want from me?”
Singer Margaret (Meggie) Montley needs money…fast. Her friend is in a dire situation with nowhere to turn. While Meggie is on the brink of stardom, it’s not soon enough to save her friend.
Harry Dempsey is out to avenge the deaths of his father and brother at the hands of a ruthless gangster. But trouble spirals out of control when Meggie Montley shows up the night he meets his nemesis to settle the score. Saving the impetuous woman from a crime lord might be easier than saving her from her own reckless behavior.
Excerpt: Meggie launched herself from her hiding place and threw her arms about Harry’s neck. Locked in his muscular embrace, she rested her chin on his shoulder. His arms tightened around her. “Oh, Harry. I came as fast as I could. Just as we’d planned.” The words, she’d intended to carry, came out breathless.
“Fast, huh?” The whisper was against her ear where no one else could hear, raised goose prickles over her entire body. “Guess I’ll have to do something about that.” He lifted his head. “What are you doing with my girl, Joe?”
Joey’s hands flew into the air, indicating his surrender. “Sorry, Dempsey. Had no idea she was anyone’s quiff—”
Meggie’s cheeks burned, and she stiffened at the insult. Harry’s one arm gripped her closer. The other shot up, jerking her body like a rag doll. She couldn’t see Harry’s face with her own now buried in his neck, but she felt the corded muscles contract.
Blurb: Can she prove her innocence before more than her dreams are destroyed?
After escaping an arranged marriage, Lady Charlotte Leighton lands on a new shore, determined to realize her dream of opening her own bakery. But her plans are shattered when her former fiancé follows her to New York. Now, she finds herself in a fight for her freedom.
Haunted by a string of failures, Detective Felix Noble is determined to solve his latest case. But his efforts to find a murderer are jeopardized by a forbidden attraction to his number one suspect. While he’s certain Charlotte Leighton is keeping secrets, instinct tells him she’s not the murderess he first believed.
Excerpt: Long thin fingers curled around a glass and lifted it from the tray. Charli followed the direction of the drink. Derrick Chaunce, or as the local duffs referred to him, “Slick”, grinned, exposing yellowed teeth.
“You … You…” Her throat closed. The rest of her diatribe wouldn’t budge.
He winked. His thin hair slicked back in the latest fashion exaggerated the gaunt cheekbones and sunken eyes, tinging him with an unhealthy, dilapidated look. He gulped the whiskey. A bit of the amber liquid escaped through the gap in his teeth and down his chin. Her stomach lurched.
“Thank you, sweet cakes. Put it on my tab.” He skulked off.
Charli whirled around. How did the bounder get past Tiny? Ira fumed about customers who ran up a high tab without reconciling at the end of the night. Now she would have to explain yet another charge added to Slick’s mounting debt. She sighed and rolled her eyes to the heavens. The customer was always right. Even when they were wrong.