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Lunar Croakies – A Fat Red Moon on a Magical Night

Chapter One

It’s the End of the World as We Know It.

“Have you seen Vel?” I asked my assistant as she buzzed past, wings whirring softly in the quiet space.

“No.” Sebille stopped in front of me and popped into full size, her expression perplexed. “I was just looking for Baca. One of the ceiling tiles is loose in the bookstore. I was going to have her fix it.”

I frowned, looking around the enormous, warehouse-like space of the artifact library. “I just realized I haven’t seen Mr. Wicked or Hobs either since dinner.”

Our gazes met and locked, alarm widening her iridescent green eyes and my blue ones in matching indications of concern. “What are they up to?” I asked, knowing it was a rhetorical question since nobody but the aforementioned little monsters knew the answer.

If my cat, Mr. Wicked, was missing, along with the brownie, Baca, and her constant companion, Hobs, that was concerning enough. If the newest member of our strange gang was missing too, things were almost guaranteed to get squiggy. Vel, our little demon dog, was a sweet but undisciplined disaster waiting to happen. We’d gotten her from the demonic plane, and I suspected she was just a puppy with massive powers she seemed to have little control over.

The front bell rang and a clear, worried voice called out. “Naida? Sebille? I need to talk to you.”

I looked at Sebille and she rolled her eyes. “What does she want now?”

Sebille didn’t usually react that way to our friend Lea, the earth witch who lived above the magical herbs shop next door. The sprite generally saved that level of derision for me. But Lea had been in something of a dither for the last couple of weeks. She’d read some signs in tea leaves or something. We assumed she was reading them wrong. But she was sure of her results. And they were bad. Really bad. Basically, she was predicting the end of the world.

Two brisk knocks on the dividing door between the store and the artifact library had me sighing. As much as I loved my friend, like Sebille, I was getting just a wee bit tired of the drama about the full moon. I mean, we had a full moon a dozen times a year, right? What made the current full moon so different?  

I threw a wisp of my Keeper magic toward the door and it opened, revealing a harried, wild-eyed earth witch wearing pink and lace footie pajamas.

“Ah!” Sebille said, holding up her arms as if to ward off a boogie. “What are you wearing?”

Looking perplexed, Lea glanced down at her curvy form. “My PJs. Why? What’s wrong with them?”

“Other than the obvious?” Sebille asked.

“Says the woman who wears red and white striped footie PJs to bed all the time?” I said, in Lea’s defense. Not to mention the green and purple polka dot dress Sebille was currently wearing with black and red striped stockings and fire-engine-red shoes that matched her long, red hair. My assistant was the last person who should be picking on somebody else’s clothing choices.

“I wear them in the winter,” Sebille responded. “It’s only October. Way too early for the Full Monty, pajama-wise.”

Lea hurried over, the plastic bottoms of her footie feet scraping softly on the concrete. “My heat’s broken, and the shop is freezing.” She fluttered her hands dismissively. “That’s not important. I just read the tea leaves again.”

I didn’t look at Sebille. I didn’t want to see the face I knew she was making. “Oh?”

To be honest, I was with Sebille about the tea leaf overdose. Lea had just learned to read tea leaves, and she was seeing danger around every corner since starting. The whole thing had a “Chicken Little” feel to it. “I take it you saw something alarming?”

Sebille elbowed me in the side hard enough to make me grunt. She didn’t want me to encourage the witch. If she could communicate telepathically, she’d no doubt be telling me, “Shut it. The witch finds enough trouble without us encouraging her.”

I didn’t disagree.

Lea ran a hand through her long, light brown hair, her movements jerky and agitated. “Nothing new,” she responded. “Just the same death and destruction.”

“Can you give us anything to work with?” I asked. “Any detail at all?”

Lea shook her head, looking like she wanted to cry. “I’m getting the full moon, with a blood-red haze over it. And howling. Lots of howling. Then I get this feeling of death.” She shuddered, clearly affected by what she was seeing.

Even if it was all in her imagination.

“Look, Lea…” I began.

The bell on the front door clanged again. Hippopotamus halitosis! “Did somebody replace the front door with a revolving one?”

Lea frowned. “It wasn’t locked when I came inside. In fact, the knob is kind of kluge.”

“Kluge how,” I asked, heading for the front of the building. I tugged the dividing door open and found a man with broad shoulders and mahogany-brown hair standing by the front door. He was staring down at something in his big hand.

“Kluge like that,” Lea said. She nodded toward the doorknob in my boyfriend Grym’s palm.

He looked up, an apology in his dark caramel gaze. “I’m really sorry, Naida. It just came off in my hand.” It might have been the result of his gargoyle DNA. Or the door might have been compromised already, as Lea suggested.

Panic swirled through me. Had Croakies been broken into?

I looked at Sebille. “I need to do a quick read of the whole place.”

She nodded. “I’ll make tea.”

Tea would fix everything. Well, not everything. “We might need cookies too.”

The sprite nodded.

Grym turned back to the door and tried to stick the handle back into it. “Where’s Baca? She can fix this in no time.”

The brownie was becoming indispensable.

I closed my eyes and lifted my hands, palms up. Tugging power from my core, I released it in dual waves of silvery energy that spread throughout the bookstore and then moved into the much larger artifact library at the back. As it moved through the building, I mentally inventoried every magical book and artifact, finding nothing out of place or missing. 

Opening my eyes, I shook my head. “I don’t know where Baca is,” I said, belatedly answering Grym’s question. “I can’t find any of them.” Noting Grym’s dour expression, I realized he hadn’t just come to Croakies to say hey. “What’s wrong?”

Grym was a detective with the Enchanted Police. I gathered from his manner that he had business of a police nature to share with us. I also guessed it wasn’t good news.

He motioned toward the table by the bookshelves. “You might want to sit down.” He took the tea Sebille offered him and nodded at Lea. “All of you.”

Panic swirled in my chest, making my heart flutter with concern. “What’s wrong?” I repeated, my tone going slightly shrill. “The kids are okay, right? You’re not here to tell us something’s happened to them?” Suddenly the idea that I hadn’t seen them since dinner took on a sinister feel.

My question was based on recent experience. There had been a whole Pied Piper thing that still gave me nightmares. The sight of all of my friends and loved ones being marched away to almost certain death had left me scarred.

Grym gave me an apologetic look. “No. This isn’t about them. But…” He stared into his teacup and sighed. “You might want to keep them close for a bit.”

“Why?” Lea asked. She glanced toward the door, and I didn’t need to read her mind to know she was thinking about her little cat, Hex, alone in her apartment next door.

Grym set the tea down on the table and shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “You remember Rhonda across the street?”

I nodded. “The banshee.” I’d only met Rhonda a couple of times, but both times had been memorable. She’d joined us for a pretty chaotic Christmas party where someone had spelled the cookies to mix up our bodies with our spirits. I would never forget the experience, having spent way too much time as a frog, craving bugs. I shuddered at the memory. The second time, we’d been battling a building-sized snake, and she’d screamed the monster to sleep for us. “I haven’t seen her for a while.” Even as I spoke the words, I knew what he was going to say. 

“Well, she…” his brows lowered as he seemed to be struggling with the right words. “Somebody…” He shook his head. “She’s dead.”

“Oh!” Lea said, shuddering violently. She looked at Sebille and me. “See! I told you. Somebody’s already been killed! I was right.”

I held up a hand for her to calm down. “How did she die?” I asked Grym.

He winced. “I don’t really want to…”

Sebille, Lea, and I all gave him the stink eye.

“You can’t come in here and tell us Rhonda’s dead and then not tell us what happened,” Sebille said.

“She’s right,” I told him.

“Was she murdered?” Lea asked, looking as if she’d just eaten a bug.

I sympathized.

“Yes,” he finally said. “She was killed. Somebody, or something, chewed on her.”

He May be a Distinguished Member of the Community. But Joey isn’t Buying What he’s Selling.

Lord Acton once said, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

I wouldn’t know. I have no power.

My name is Joey and I’m an unabashed bumpkin. I live in a quaint and quirky country town named Deer Hollow. We’re pretty simple and laid back in the Hollow. But that doesn’t mean the occasional murder can’t happen here. It’s just that when it does, it seems more surprising somehow.

Especially when a corpse turns up in the mayor’s kitchen.

(Psst! If you’re keeping track, he does have power.) But don’t worry, we’re on it. By “we” I mean me, the Greek deity (my boyfriend Hal), and my sweet Pitbull Caphy. Yeah, I didn’t include my snooty Siamese cat, LaLee or our adorable pot-bellied pig Ethel Squeaks. Not because I love them any less. But let’s face it, the cat isn’t going to get her paws dirty delving into a messy murder, and the pig…well…she tends to hoard all the evidence in her little tent in my kitchen, so…

5 Stars! Another Exciting Nonstop Action Pack Laugh Out Loud Cozy Mystery!!!

“I said I didn’t want peas,” a cranky elderly woman I didn’t know barked out. “They give me gas. I wanted the green beans.”

I bit back a retort and apologized, grabbing the plate back. “I’m sorry. I’ll go fix it.”

“Miss!” I barely made it two steps before one of the pre-teens in booth four waved me over.

I forced myself to smile. “Yes?”

“We asked for catsup twenty minutes ago. Our fries are cold now. We want new fries.”

I looked around the table and fought panic. Six plates with burgers and fries. I’d have to drop off the pea-phobic lady's plate and come back. It had been a long time since I’d hustled plates, and I wasn’t sure I could carry six of them at once. That meant two trips, and my dogs were beyond tired.

Max came up behind me and handed the kids a bottle of catsup. “Stop torturing Joey,” she told the complaining teen, glowering down at him. “Or I’ll tell your mom I saw you kissing Missy Palentine outside the library last night.”

The boy’s pimply face paled, and he slumped in his seat.

I fought a grin. Whispering, “Thanks!” to Max, I hurried to the kitchen for a pea-extraction. Stopping in front of the pass-thru window, I was surprised to see Hal working the grill. “Where’s Tom?”

Hal looked up, his handsome face flushed from the heat of the grill. His dark eyes twinkled as he looked at me. “Cigarette break out back. I think he’s smoking a whole pack. He’s been gone for a while.”

I frowned. “You doing okay?”

He actually grinned. “I’m having a ball. Did I ever tell you I worked in a place a lot like this to put myself through college?”

“You did not.” I grinned back. “But now that I know, I’m going to make you do all the cooking from now on.”

He arched a midnight brow. “I already do all the cooking. Even, it seems, when we go out to eat.”

I laughed. He wasn’t wrong. “Can you swap out these peas for green beans, please?” I leaned in. “Peas give her gas.” He grimaced and quickly made the switch. Handing it back to me, he said, “Even if Tom’s heading for Mexico right now, I’d rather be back here than dealing with all those people out there.”

“You have no idea,” I whispered. “It’s an angry crowd.”

I took the plate back to the old woman. “Here you go.”

“About time,” she groused.

I turned away so I wouldn’t say something about how rude she was. The booth nearest the door was empty, and the table was covered in dirty dishes. I went to get the bin and started filling it.

The door jangled, and I looked up to find a familiar face coming through the door. When the server from the mayor’s house spotted me, she blanched, glancing at the door as if she was considering making a run for it.

I gave her a smile and picked up the now-full bin. “If you’ll give me just a minute, I’ll wipe this down and get you menus.”

I hurried away, hoping she didn’t leave. I’d love to question her about what she saw in that kitchen. When I returned, the woman was sitting down across from a dark-haired man who was around the same age. They were both wearing the white shirts and black trousers of the catering crew.

“Sorry,” I said, offering another smile. “Apparently, there’s a flu going around, and poor Max was short of help.”

I handed them menus.

“You work here?” the woman asked, looking surprised.

“Just for tonight. What can I get you to drink?”

By the time I brought two sweet teas to the table, the couple was ready to order. I took their orders and hesitated. The woman’s expression turned wary. “I’m sorry, I just wondered if you were doing okay? Finding that guy was…” I shuddered.

She chewed her bottom lip. “It was gruesome.”

“Yes.”

“You and your friends seemed pretty chill about it, though.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond. Telling her that I found bodies all the time probably wouldn’t go over very well. I settled on, “We date cops.” The truth. Sort of.

As if that explained everything, she nodded.

I offered my hand. “I’m Joey.”

The woman shook it. “Karinne Magness.” She nodded at her dinner companion. “That’s Prince.”

“Nice to meet you, Prince. I love your music,” I quipped. 

He gave me a flat stare in return. “Whatever.”

Alrighty then. I nodded toward his clothes. “Looks like you worked the party too?”

“I did. I was on the dessert table.”

“My favorite place,” I said, grinning. Talking about food made my stomach rumble. I was really going to enjoy that banana cream pie Max had set aside for us.

He shrugged. Clearly, the guy had no sense of humor.

“It’s quite a shock about your boss, huh?”

Karinne shuddered. Prince frowned at his silverware.

“Do you know of anybody who might have wanted him dead?”

Prince snorted. “That list is long. The guy was a jerk.”

Karinne glared at him. “That’s not fair, P. He was understandably nervous since the client threatened him like that.”

My spidey senses perked. “Mayor Robb threatened Jonathan Calliente?”

Karinne looked irritated by my question. “I told that cop this.”

I fought not to cringe. If she refused to tell me because she’d already told one of the deputies her story, there’d be nothing I could say to get her to open up. I couldn’t exactly say I was a cop. Though, I might be able to throw the PI card at her.

Fortunately, I didn’t need to go that far.

“The cop didn’t seem all that interested. But I think it’s important. Jon was a nervous wreck after the argument.” She glanced at her companion. “He was a little short with everybody because of it.”

“This was before the party?”

Shaking her head, Karinne clarified. “Just after it started, I guess. That woman got right in John’s face and told him he’d never work in the area again. She said the mayor would see to that.”

“What woman?”

“I don’t know her name. The petite blonde. She works for the mayor. You know her. She was with you in the kitchen this afternoon.”

I blinked. Cecily? “But you said the mayor threatened him.”

Karinne gave me a sigh of exasperation. “She’s the mayor’s right hand, isn’t she? You don’t think a man like Robb would do his own dirty work, do you? I’ve had experience with these politician types. Believe me, they’re not going to stick their necks out. And they’re used to taking what they want.”

Karinne was bitter. That was obvious. I wondered what kind of experience she’d had. But I didn’t want to get her off track by asking. Besides, she was right. I didn’t think Robb did his own dirty work if he could help it. In fact, I knew he didn’t. But what if the dirty work was Cecily’s own? “Do you know what it was about?” I asked. “What did he do that made her threaten him?”

Karinne shook her head. “I have no idea. All I heard was her telling him he’d never get another job.”

Prince fidgeted in his seat, drawing my gaze to his guilty face.

“What?” I asked. “Do you know something?”

The order pickup bell jangled. “Order, Joey,” Hal called out.

Prince nudged Karinne’s arm. “Come on, I’m not hungry anymore.”

Not wanting to chase after them and cause a scene, I watched them walk out of Sonny’s with a sinking feeling in my gut.

Prince knew something that might throw light on the murder. And I’d just lost my chance at finding out what. “Jeezopete!” I said under my breath, heading to the window to pick up my order.

Get Unbaked! The Prequel.

How in the name of the goddess’s favorite sports bra am I going to do this Magical Librarian job? I have no idea what I’m doing. And the woman who’s supposed to be training me is…well, let’s just say she’s distracted and leave it at that. I guess I’ll bumble through. It’s become something of a trademark move for me.

My name is Naida Griffith and I’m a sorceress. I actually found that out not too long ago. I’ve lived with an undefined something burning in my belly for a while, feeling as if something wasn’t quite right under my skin. Then, on my eighteenth birthday I started getting headaches. Bad ones. And random stuff started following me around.

Recently I was approached by a group called the Société of Dire Magic to become Keeper of the Artifacts. A magical librarian. Given that magical artifacts have taken to following me around, I decided I might have an aptitude for the job. So I said yes.

But in the first few days, I’ve been flogged by flip flops, bludgeoned by gnomes, and discovered a corpse in a suitcase. Then there’s the woman who’s supposed to be training me. She’s…interesting. 

Will I survive the training long enough to get the job as artifact librarian? You might as well ask me if a caterpillar gets manis or pedis. Who knows? But I know one thing for sure. This gig is hard. I’m going to do my best to succeed. Or die trying.

Come to Silver Hills. Where making friends can prove deadly and making enemies might be easier than you think.

Emotions are aflutter at Silver Hills as a new heartthrob moves into the residence. Will all that fluttering still a single heart? And if love dies, will Flo’s very own amour find itself in the crosshairs of the estimable Detective Brent Peters?

Agnes and Hertz are on the outs. Secrets tear the tender fabric of a pulsing heart. What do the secrets have to do with murder?

Affairs of le cœur aside, will Agnes break the clothing store shopping for a party dress? What will break during a rousing class of Zumba? And will Flo be able to soldier through her dance injuries to follow a chubby cherub to a killer?

So many questions. So much hopping, tapping and fluttering. And still a murder to solve.

What will Flo and Co. do?

They’ll do what they always do, of course. Hearts out and chins up, they’re goin’ in!

I really enjoyed Love Hertz. The characters are interesting and hilarious. Flo and Agnes get into so many crazy situations that will have you laughing. This book is so fun. The mystery has so many twists and red herrings to keep you guessing right until the end. This book is full of adventure, mystery, laughs and some romance. A great read!

The last note hit the air, leaving behind a startling silence.

Agnes didn’t stop with the music. She did one last step slide and flung her right arm up, her fist heading right for Flo’s chin.

Flo’s growl deepened. She blocked Agnes’ upward strike with a downward strike of her own forearm and, reaching out as Agnes’ eyes snapped open in surprise, flicked her friend hard between the eyes.

Agnes frowned, reaching up to rub her head. “Ow! Why’d you do that, Flo?”

“Because you’re a menace,” somebody mumbled behind Flo.

Dabbing her face with a towel, TC turned around, her pretty face filled with pleasure and glistening with sweat. Her grin slid slowly away when she saw the carnage Agnes had left in her wake.

Bodies were strewn everywhere. Women rubbing red places on their limbs, carefully pushed to their feet, favoring tender joints. Groans filled the air.

Agnes stood at the epicenter of it all. Her own brand of Level 5 hurricane.

Hurricane Agnes.

“What happened?” TC asked, all the joy of the dance seeping out of her. She hurried to help a woman whom Flo thought looked slightly familiar up off the floor.

Agnes happened,” Celia said, rubbing one of her hips.

“Hurricane Agnes,” Flo said, feeling a grin tugging at her lips.

Agnes looked around, her eyes going wide. “Did I do that?”

“O-blivious,” the woman standing next to TC said.

Then someone laughed.

Someone else joined in.

A hoot burst out of Celia’s mouth and she gave into it, doubling over with laughter and holding her sides.

Flo felt a chuckle tickling her throat and set it free, reaching to give a sweaty, panting Agnes a hug. “I have to say, hun. With you around, nothing is ever boring.”

Agnes gave her a wincing smile, glancing around as, one by one, the other dancers joined in the laughter. Then she shrugged and reached for her water bottle. “That was fun.”

The room erupted in howls and hoots.

Fortune Croakies – I give you Frog and Cat!

Apple Trees and Frog Pee

It isn’t every day that you find yourself staring at a frog’s squishy butt bulging from the underside of a sink drain. I would have felt better if I’d believed it would never happen again. However, because I appeared to be frog-cursed, there was a strong possibility I’d eventually end up lying on my back under the sink, eyeing the posterior region of Mr. Slimy again.

Sighing, I gave the squishy bulk a tentative poke with my finger, earning a forlorn, “Ribbit!” for my efforts. Something trickled downward, hitting my cheek and dripping down to the paper towel I had draped under my head to keep “under the sink” cooties off my hair.

I realized, too late, what had just dripped on me.

“Argh!” I shoved out from under the sink and bent over while grabbing frantically for more paper towel to wipe frog pee off my cheek. “I can’t believe it!”

The figure lounging against my refrigerator grinned. “You shouldn’t poke a stressed frog, Naida.”

I glared at the source of almost all my problems.

Okay, I know I previously said that about Mr. Wicked, my adorable kitten who was probably better at being an artifact keeper than I was. But I’d reassessed the players and decided Rustin Quilleran, former witch and current frog squatter, was definitely more trouble than my sweet little kitten.

I mean, Wicked was curled up on his pillow, purring happily.

Rustin was driving a fat frog bus that got itself jammed in my drain and peed on my face.

I’ll let you do the math.

“Not funny. You need to keep a better lock on the contents of your bladder.”

His grin widened. “I think you have a mistaken view of my ability to control your wedged friend,” he told me. “I’m just a passenger on that particular bus.”

Which, normally I’d be happy about. I mean, when Rustin had gotten stuck in the frog because of a spell his horrible family had performed, I’d felt terrible. We’d tried everything to get him out of there. But, in the end, the evil Jacob Quilleran had interfered, making certain poor Rustin didn’t escape the fate Jacob had locked him into.

I still hadn’t found out why Rustin’s Uncle Jacob had felt the need to lock him in a frog.

Rustin wasn’t being very forthcoming with the information.

I hurried past him, into my bathroom, where I put soap onto the wet paper towel and scrubbed my cheek until I was in danger of removing a layer of skin cells along with the frog pee.

“What are you doing here, then? Standing there laughing isn’t helping at all.”

Rustin shrugged. “I was bored. Your life is generally good for a few laughs. I’m happy to report that this morning has been no exception.”

I barely resisted zapping him with my almost worthless keeper magics. I pretty much had only enough oomph in my zapper to curl someone’s hair or make them pee themselves.

Trust me when I tell you I’d had enough of making stuff pee for the day.

Flinging the soiled paper towel into the trash, I glared at him. “I’m so glad I could entertain.”

“Me too.” His grin never wavered.

A part of me was happy to see it. I’d been so worried that Rustin would lose his humanity because of his enforced incarceration in the frog. But his cousin Maude and his very powerful Aunt Madeline had been working on reversing the spell. They hadn’t managed yet to free him. But they’d created a metaphysical barrier between Mr. Slimy’s ─ a.k.a. the frog’s ─ consciousness and Rustin’s so he could maintain his power, brain capacity, and humanity…basically his soul.

That was as good a result as we could have hoped for under the circumstances.

Even though that meant, as Mr. Slimy’s current foster parent, I was also the unlucky owner of the ethereally handsome and eternally snarky witch who was stuck inside the frog.

You thought I was kidding about the challenges of my life, didn’t you?

The bell jangled downstairs in my bookstore, and I glanced at my stuck amphibian.

“Ribbit.” Slimy’s sticky tongue snapped out and snagged a massive fly that had tried to make a break for the window above the sink.

Sucker.

I looked at Rustin. “Keep an eye on the squishy, green bus. I have to go see who’s downstairs.”

He nodded, casting what appeared to be an affectionate glance toward Mr. Slimy.

I shook my head. How anybody could be fond of a frog was beyond me.

Although, I realized as I bounced down the steps to the first floor, that I’d begun to form an attachment which transcended disgust. In fact, I almost dreaded the day Madeline managed to find a way to extract her nephew. I was going to miss him.

Unlocking the door that separated the bookstore from the artifact library behind me, I blinked in surprise.

Had I just had a Freudian moment? Was I going to miss the witch? Or the frog?

I shrugged, shoving the question aside for another time. It would probably be an easy choice.

I mean, one of them just peed on me.

A Chat with Flo from Silver Hills

Hi! I'm Flo from Silver Hills. I'm so glad to meet you, hun. I don't have a lot of time because Agnes and I are about to go to yoga class and we need to make sure to get a spot at the front of the class. Why, you ask? Oh, you haven't read Dose Vidanya yet have you? LOL All jokes aside, that was a very trying time for us. Finding that dead guy so close to the Book Club cookie table just about did Agnes in. Especially when some well-meaning person told her they thought dead-guy spores might be airborne. I don't think I've ever seen Agnes regret eating cookies before. Oh, you've never met my friend Agnes? She's a great friend and very loyal. But there are challenges to being around her. For one thing, she's never met a crime scene she couldn't debauch. A fact that has tested young Detective Peters' anger management skills many times.

In Freezer Bernie, Agnes was at the top of her game. When she accidentally dumped lemon gelato into the victim's gunshot wound…well…let's just say it was a good thing Detective Peters didn't have easy access to his weapon on that one!

Being around Agnes can occasionally get a bit slap-sticky. But that's half of her appeal, hun. The fact that she's a genuinely kind person is definitely the other half. Sam injects humor in almost all her stories, but she puts an extra little punch of it in the Silver Hills books. She says the humor is as much a part of the plot as solving the mystery. I think she's right because I've made so many good friends since the series started. People feel like they know us after reading the books, and they tell me they want to move into Silver Hills!Oh, by the way, did you know there was a new Silver Hills book available? There is! Fowl Campaign hit the shelves a couple of days ago. And the best news is that right now it's only $2.99, in honor of the new release. If you enjoy a great murder with fun characters and a healthy dose of humor, you should grab a copy while it's still on sale. Thanks for visiting with me, hun. I hope to see you in the pages of a Silver Hills book soon! 

hugs,

Flo
“Once I started this newest Silver Hills adventure, I couldn't put it down! What a rollercoaster ride this book is!!!! I laughed out loud and had my blood pressure elevate at several points. Sam Cheever has done it again!!!!!”

So MUCK Fun!

Mucky Bumpkin is Full Throttle Country Fun!

A dead Realtor, a cranky cat, an adorable, depressed pibl, and a boyfriend who hasn't been…shall we say…totally honest recently. Joey's got bigger problems than figuring out when she'll get her next slice of banana cream pie. Though that certainly ranks high on her list of concerns.

I’ve always been perfectly aware of my shortcomings as a person.

Mostly.

I consider myself generally a good person. With good instincts about people and a desire to be kind to others unless they’re unkind to me. But I do have an aversion to pushy people. Which has put me on the wrong side of salesmen of all kinds more than once.

My second least favorite of these is real estate agents. Not that being a Realtor is innately bad. It’s just that the act of buying or selling a house is way too much like dealing with used car salesmen for my taste.

Which brings me to my first least favorite type of salesmen.

Fortunately, it wasn’t a car salesman standing on my porch that sunny, cool-ish fall day in the rural area just outside of Deer Hollow, Indiana.

But it might as well have been.

The woman standing in front of Caphy and me had lipstick on her teeth and hair that looked as if squirrels might have built it on her head for nesting. Lucky for her my dog was much more tolerant than I was. Even when she was being none-too-subtly dissed by said lipstick-teethed intruder.

“Miss Fulle, you should chain that beast up.”

The hand on Caphy’s collar tightened briefly as I fought to contain my instant rage. Cacophony, Caphy for short, was about the sweetest animal that ever lived. She was more than my best friend. I credited her with saving my life when I’d gone into the deepest depression imaginable after my parents were killed in a plane crash on our property.

She was also a pit bull.

And that was all some people saw when they looked at her.

Caphy smiled at the woman, her muscular tail whipping painfully against my leg. She whined softly, quivering with friendly excitement.

I drew myself up to my full five feet four inches, tucked a strand of shoulder-length red-blonde hair behind one ear, and narrowed my blue eyes at her. “She’s fine,” I told the woman with the squirrel’s nest for hair. “She lives here. Whereas you…” I let my statement trail away, allowing my uninvited guest to gather my implication all by herself.

The woman frowned slightly, moving a purse the size of her extra-large backside in front of her like a shield. “Oh…um…okay. Well.” She extended her hand a few inches in front of her, a white rectangle stuck between two short fingers. “Here’s my card. My name is Penney Sellers. I was wondering if you’re interested in selling your house.”

I blinked several times. “Not in the least.”

As I responded, I realized it was true. After my parents’ death, when I initially learned that I’d inherited the house and the family auction business, my first thought was to sell the too-big house rather than live here. Too many painful memories existed within its familiar walls. I still thought I’d sell eventually. But I wasn’t quite ready to make that decision.

The auction business was another matter entirely. I still hadn’t accepted the responsibility they’d left in my less-than-capable hands. There was no way I could fill their shoes in the business, and being there was just too painful for me to face.

I glanced down at the card, grimacing at the obviousness of the woman’s name. “Is Penney Sellers really your name?”

In response she gave me a slightly snotty smile. “I can offer you a premium price. There aren’t many homes in this area of this quality.”

“Not interested. You do know there’s a huge subdivision going up on the south side of Deer Hollow, right?” Of course she knew that. But I was making a point.

“Those houses are fine. But they don’t have the…” She swung her arms toward the pond and the trees. “Ambiance. The setting here is truly spectacular.”

“Thank you. But I’m not interested in selling.” I backed into the house, tugging gently on Caphy’s collar. Her gaze locked onto the other woman, who’d taken a step toward the door as if she was thinking about pushing her way inside. A low growl emerged from Caphy’s throat and the hair in front of her tail spiked.

Penney Sellers stopped dead in her tracks, her gaze shooting to the endlessly sweet creature who was giving her fair warning.

But Caphy’s warning didn’t stop the realtor’s mouth from moving. “Do you own all those woods over there?” The woman asked. Her expression was perfectly innocent. But there was a gleam in her eye that I didn’t like.

“Yes. All the way to the big stone marker on Goat’s Hollow Road. 100 acres.”

The gleam flared, making her look positively demonic. “A hundred acres! My goodness. I’d love to talk to you about subdividing the property. We could build a dozen homes and still have sizeable properties.”

“Not interested. Thanks for stopping by.”

“But…”

I slammed the door in her face and locked it. Pressing my ear against the warm wood, I listened for her to climb into her car and drive away before I took a full breath. A soft whine drew my gaze to Caphy. “It’s all right, girl. She’s gone.”

The pibl’s tail snapped sideways once and then she nuzzled me, snorting softly. She was sensitive to my moods, and the alarm I was feeling was no doubt putting her on edge. I couldn’t have explained the panic tightening my chest if someone offered me a thousand dollars to do it.

It was an unreasonable fear. But undeniable.

Nobody could force me to sell my house. Nobody could make me give up my private little wonderland. It was all I had left of my parents.

It was also the place where Caphy and I had grown up. Where we’d run and played, where I’d climbed trees and learned to swim. But the new subdivision was affecting my life in ways I hadn’t expected. When I’d first learned it was coming it had seemed harmless. After all, the three hundred acre plot on the south side of Deer Hollow was miles away from me. The homes were supposed to be decent ones, built on quarter acre lots and not all exactly the same. I reasoned it would be nice to have some new blood in town.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t counted on the other stuff that came with those homes. The constant traffic through town from looky-loos. The noise, mess, and invasion of people who thought the town had been conjured up for their enjoyment.

And the realtors, builders and construction people who clogged the streets and turned the few restaurants Deer Hollow boasted into hotbeds of noise and inaccessibility at meal times.

Still, I could deal with all that.

It was the other thing that had my nerves thrumming like a banjo in the mountains of Kentucky.

The sense of impending doom.

I couldn’t explain it. Hadn’t experienced it before. And I suspected it had something to do with the body we’d discovered in my woods not all that long ago. I was pretty sure I wasn’t completely over finding that mangled corpse or the terrifying events that came after.

Whatever the cause, it was all too real.

And it was making me as jumpy as a fat-legged frog in a French restaurant.

When the article declaring Deer Hollow as one of the best places to raise a family in the United States came out in the The Indianapolis Star weeks earlier, I’d never expected such a vast and immediate change in my world.

But suddenly the Hollow was on the news almost every night. Articles were being written about what a great spot it was. The local artists, authors, and businesses were being examined, highlighted, and, in some cases, given an anal probe, the likes of which the people in my little community had never experienced.

Our recent murder-driven scandal had been examined, the article’s author lamenting the fact that it had apparently been overlooked when choosing America’s favorite spots to live.

But, so far, my family’s involvement had been blissfully absent from speculation. A fact I thought had much to do with a certain uber-sexy PI and his connections with the FBI.

For that, I was both grateful and tense.

I felt as if the other shoe was going to drop at any moment.

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Wherein May was Sad out of only one Eye

I tucked the tiny bottle of fake tears more deeply into my tissue and sniffed daintily, scoping out the assembled crowd of mourners with a practiced eye. My baby blues caught on a handsome, dark-haired man standing back from the rest, and I did one of those embarrassing jerk-away things with my eyes, hoping he didn’t notice me noticing him again.

He totally noticed me.

He’d been staring at me since I’d arrived at the viewing an hour earlier. And his expression was anything but friendly. Somehow my eyes kept traveling to him, though I swear on the life of my spunky Pomeranian, Shakespeare, that it was pure accident.

I wasn’t ogling the mourners.

Really, I wasn’t.

Of its own volition, my gaze accidentally slipped over the spot where he’d been again, and I blinked.

He was gone.

To cover my surprise, I turned to the elderly woman next to me and let my bottom lip quiver. I gave a practiced little sob and squeezed the fake tears in my tissue just as a big hand landed on my shoulder.

I yelped, gripped the tiny bottle as if it was the only thing keeping me from plunging a thousand feet off a bridge to my death, and then yelped again as I shot a stream of faux sadness right into one wide blue eye.

Fake tears ran like the River Jordan down my artificially pale cheek. “Oh!” I exclaimed as I tried to deal with the mess.

I jerked around to eye the owner of the hand and forgot how to speak.

Across the room he’d been yummy, definitely an eight-star performance on opening night. But up close and personal, Mr. Hostile was a solid fifteen stars, with a good three-minute standing ovation added in.

Even with the glare on his face.

I couldn’t help wondering why he seemed so angry with me. Surely it wasn’t because I was ogling him at the viewing of the man who was supposed to be my boyfriend. I gave that one a few moments of thought.

Nah. That couldn’t be it.

Hostile Hottie stuck the hand he’d accosted me with in front of my face, all but daring me to shake it. “Eddie Deitz.”

I blinked. “Huh?” Brilliant, MayBell. Oscar-worthy response.

My poor tissue was swamped with fake tears, and there were more of them trailing down one cheek. I couldn’t seem to get them under control. So, I decided to embrace the dramatic substance of the moment. I quivered my bottom lip and sniffled behind the lump of saturated tissue.

Accepting his challenge, I placed a limp paw into his and allowed it to be pumped. “MayBell Ferth. It’s a pleasure.”

Ugh! I wanted to kick myself. Who says that at a funeral? Jeezopete!

His gorgeous green gaze narrowed slightly, bringing my attention to the thick fringe of black lashes framing his eyes.

I’d do a year’s worth of PiYo classes to have lashes like that. And that was saying something because I hated PiYo with the power of a thousand suns.

“Is there something wrong with your eye?” he asked.

I mopped ineffectually at the fake tears with my soggy tissue. “Um, no, I’m just sad.”

Stupid, May. Stupid.

His expression told me he didn’t believe I was sad out of only one eye. I couldn’t blame him for his skepticism.

NOTE: Mourning Commute is available exclusively on Amazon. If you don't have a Kindle you can use Amazon's free Reading App. That's how I read on all my Apple devices! It's also available in Print. 

Happy Sleuthing!

A Strange Profession Makes Great Fiction!

 

 

When I was asked to write Mourning Commute, I spent some time pondering the idea of hired mourning. It wasn't the first time I'd thought about it, I'd actually already written a scene with paid mourners. Perhaps you recall this dignified and sedate scene from Naval Gazing?

***

A long, wailing sob broke the stillness, its fulsome, alarming tenor enough to break through even the little old man’s stupor. He flinched once but, no doubt suffering under nine decades of emphasis on manners and how to behave in polite society, kept his gaze fixed on the casket in front of him.

However, the emitter of the wail was not to be ignored. Another hefty wail broke the silence and it seemed the sound broke something loose in the rest of the assembled mourners. Loud sobbing bubbled up to fill the previously mostly silent cemetery. The sound rose to match the wailing in loudness and, in one or two instances rose above it.

Not to be outdone, one mourner called out, “Help me Lord Ja-eee-sus!” Sounding like a good old-fashioned television preacher working a crowd for money.

With that, the stakes were raised. Never one to let someone beat her at her own game, Agnes let off wailing and, giving her competition a very un-Christian glare, threw back her head and screamed, flinging herself forward toward the unsuspecting deceased.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, Agnes caught her oversized sneaker on a blade of grass and toppled, arms akimbo, onto the surface of the casket.

Everything stopped. It was as if someone had been playing with a time machine and, seeing the pure entertainment value in that place and time, hit a giant ‘Pause’ button to savor the train wreck more completely.

***

Yeah, not Agnes's finest moment. But you have to admit it was a good bit of acting. #:0) The truth is that professional mourning has been a “thing” for a very long time. It has its roots in several cultures and is mentioned several times in the Bible. In ancient times, the profession was meant to comfort and entertain a grieving family and was performed mostly by women. The jobs were coveted because they provided a way for women to earn their own money. For the deceased, having paid mourners was a sign of prosperity and importance.

Like her ancient sisters, May Ferth believes her job is a comfort to her clients. She takes great pride in serving the grieving family's needs. But it soon turns out to be the role of her life. May bumps up against a cold-blooded killer while performing her part, and is soon running for her life in a truly ugly pair of shoes!