Painted to Death

Painted to Death
Sarah Vernon
Publication date: January 10th 2023
Genres: Adult, Cozy Mystery


Sam Green is an art student with some pretty creative habits when it comes to solving mysteries, in this new series from author and artist Sarah Vernon. It’s the coldest part of a Boston winter when her friend Catherine is found dead in the painting studios one evening. The police are quick to rule her death a suicide, but Sam knows that something doesn’t seem right. Despite the protests of her friends Rebecca and Stephanie (although — happily — with the help of her crush Arun), Sam starts to poke around the old art department building. Peering into the dark corners of studios and underneath piles of musty art supplies, Sam soon uncovers some surprising suspects and motives behind Catherine’s death, in an art department simmering with artistic jealousy, resentment, and more relationship drama than a daytime talk show could handle. The only question is, will Sam be able to find out who killed Catherine before that person finds Sam?


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EXCERPT:

It was a dark and stormy night. Yeah, for real. That’s how I’m starting, because why mess with what works?

Also, it really was dark and stormy the night this all started, the wind bursting in through all the tiny cracks around the old, barely insulated windows of our triple-decker apartment. I say started, but this was actually a couple of weeks after Catherine had died. I just thought I’d start right in the middle of it, because we all know the worst Agatha Christies are the ones where Poirot doesn’t even come into it until page seventy-five, and you have to first get through hours and hours of slow English family drama, or worse, a bumbling English inspector.

We were huddled in the living room, with Benny on the floor leaning against the coffee table, and Rebecca, Mel, and me on the couches, mugs of mulled wine steaming in our hands. We would have all preferred to be outside smoking, the distraction of a cigarette easing the conversation, but there’s that dark and stormy night again. Plus, our landlord had recently made it harder to disarm the smoke alarm, so no more smoking inside either.

So here we were, trying to have a casual conversation about a topic that defies casual conversation. Mel – the kind of roommate we weren’t quite close to yet, who still attached herself to any kind of group activity at our apartment – was trying hard to make everyone smile, telling unfunny jokes and keeping the wine topped up. Rebecca had taken the comforting aunt approach, keeping her hand on Benny’s shoulder while he told us about his afternoon.

“I just feel like they weren’t even asking the right questions,” he was saying. “It’s like, the cops didn’t ask about her family much at all – what kind of mood she had been in. All they wanted to know was things like, did she have a boyfriend?” Rebecca tutted and leaned down to pat his back. “I mean, what is this, twenty years ago? Do they still only go for the boyfriend?” Benny frowned into his cup, the steam blurring his glasses.

In fairness, people are still most often killed by their immediate loved ones. And twenty years ago is not all that long ago. But forgive Benny’s nearsightedness; in fairness, at twenty-two, it was essentially a lifetime to him.

“What did you tell them?” Mel wanted to know.

Rebecca and I shot her a sharp look, but she was innocently fiddling with her hair, short and newly dyed lavender, and wouldn’t meet our eyes. Benny had called us as soon as the police had finished interviewing him, desperate for our company and already on his way over. We had all agreed it would be best not to ask for specifics, but Mel was apparently determined to be as annoying as ever.

“Obviously the truth,” Benny replied. “That she had dated a few different people so far this year, but none was particularly serious. And really,” he continued indignantly, “even if someone had been a serious boyfriend, how can they actually think that proves anything? All that shows, I think, is how easy it was to love her.”

Benny’s chin dropped to his chest and Rebecca was immediately on the floor next to him, her arm around his back. I swear she actually said, “There, there.”

“Sam, maybe you can get out some extra blankets? Benny, why don’t you just spend the night here, on the couch?” Rebecca looked at me expectantly.

“Of course,” I said, a clap of thunder accentuating my voice. “It’s way too stormy out for you to go anywhere, anyway.” I got up, dragging Mel with me. “Mel, help me get the blankets down.”

She followed me, obviously reluctantly, out into the hall. I opened the door to the hall closet, still holding onto her arm.

“Sam, what’s up? Let go of me,” she whined. I rolled my eyes.

“What was all that back there?” I hissed. “We agreed we weren’t going to ask him for specifics. Benny’s been through enough as it is – we don’t have to make him relive everything.”

Her eyes grew wide, an expression of innocence we were familiar with, as Mel always proclaimed that she was never the one who left dirty dishes out or forgot to buy toilet paper. It was frankly gross that she would try to pull the same crap here, in the middle of a murder investigation.

“Sorry, I didn’t think it was prying just to ask what he answered to one question,” she said, still in her most exasperating whine. “And come on, Sam, it’s not like you’re not curious. Benny was her best friend. Basically her brother! Who else is going to know what’s really going on?”

“But you don’t need to know what’s going on,” I said, reaching up to the top shelf for an extra quilt. “If the police want to call you up and tell you everything they’ve found out in the past two weeks, they’ll do that. You don’t have to ask Benny for the recap.” I pushed the quilt into her arms, turning back for sheets.

“Fine,” Mel said. “I’m sorry. But for the record, I’ve heard you and Rebecca whispering. I know I’m not the only one who wants answers.” This last word she delivered in a true crime podcast-perfect whisper.

Author Bio:

Sarah Vernon is an author and artist based in Massachusetts, where she writes the Triple-Decker Mystery Series.

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Whispers in the Waters

Whispers in the Waters
Sarah Chislon
Publication date: September 27th 2022
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Mystery


Ladies don’t shame their families.

Ladies don’t confront Otherwordly threats.

Ladies certainly don’t admit some taint of the fae has touched their souls—unless they wish to find themselves confined to an Institution.

Gently-bred herbalist Jessa Caldwell is trying to be a lady. She conceals her true nature amongst her plants and her sketches—where she can almost shut out the whispers she alone hears. But a threat to her beloved aunt forces her from the comfort of home to a town perilously near an Otherworldly Crossing, with its ever-present risk of fae incursions.

To protect her aunt and the townsfolk she comes to care for, she must uncover the individual responsible for a series of increasingly dangerous attacks—but to find this saboteur will require embracing the part of herself she fears most, an act that could cost her dearly. In a world where Vigilists lock up fae-touched mortals, Jessa must decide if she’s willing to risk exposing her true nature to obtain the truth and protect those she loves.

Whispers in the Waters, a gaslamp fantasy novella, serves as the prequel to Tattoo of Crimson, the first book in the Blood of the Fae series. If you like quick-minded heroines who solve cases with logic and intuition, Otherworldly intrigues, and beautiful yet deadly fae, then you’ll love this mystery set in a world of manners and mythical monsters.


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EXCERPT:

I rounded a bend, and the slight woman I’d seen in the stratesman’s shadow when we’d arrived in Milburn stumbled down the lane, her gown of muslin streaked with dirt and littered with forest debris. She clutched a ragged silk shawl around her shoulders, as though it could shield her from notice.

Nelda, Mrs. Wilkins had called her. Her palm dripped blood, and tears streaked her cheeks. For a moment, I remained rooted in place. If the townsfolk were to be believed, Nelda had brought a vengeful attack against Melle and her family. But the downcast lines of her body spoke of brokenness and distress, not malice.

“Nelda?” I hoped she wouldn’t take offense at the use of her given name from a stranger. I hurried forward. “You’re hurt. What happened?”

“I . . . I don’t know.” Nelda lifted her hand and watched as blood wept from it, one drop after another splatting against the dusty surface of the road. The wound cut deep.

Could Mrs. Wilkins have been right when she’d suggested madness? I shifted the bundle of clothes from one arm to the other. “Can I accompany you home and find someone to tend your injury?”

She laughed, a wild, off-key sound. “Home? I have no home.”

“Then where are you staying?” I lowered my voice in an attempt to soothe her. “I’ll help you there and fetch an herbalist, if it suits you.”

“Staying? No one will house me. Not after what’s happened at the mill.” She jabbed toward the trees with her uninjured hand. “I stay in the forest. At least here, I’m close. Close to where home used to be.”

I drew in a sharp breath. To live in the forest, this close to a Crossing? It was unthinkable. Otherkind might lurk anywhere, not to mention natural predators. Had the entire town truly forsaken her, simply because she’d wed the wrong man and he’d abandoned her? Or was there more that I missed? Society offered swift condemnation for those who failed to abide by its strictures, but other than a poor choice in a husband, what wrong had she done?

She swayed, and I rushed to steady her. “You can’t stay out here. You need proper shelter and someone to look at your wound. Come with me into Milburn, and we’ll find an herbalist.”

“No, I can’t.” She backed away, every scrap of color leeching from already-pale features. “No one here wants to help. They’d only try to lock me up!”

Author Bio:

Sarah Chislon lives in Virginia with her husband and three daughters. When she’s not writing, she’s homeschooling her children and running a web development business with her husband. As an avid reader and a lifelong story-weaver, she delights in creating fantastic worlds and exploring them alongside her characters.

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Shadow of the Gypsy – Guest Post

Shadow of the Gypsy

by Shelly Frome

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Josh Bartlett had figured all the angles, changed his name, holed up as a small-town features writer in the seclusion of the Blue Ridge. Only a few weeks more and he’d begin anew, return to the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut and Molly (if she’d have him) and, at long last, live a normal life.

After all, it was a matter of record that Zharko had been deported well over a year ago. The shadowy form John had glimpsed yesterday at the lake was only that — a hazy shadow under the eaves of the activities building. It stood to reason his old nemesis was still ensconced overseas in Bucharest or thereabouts well out of the way.

And no matter where he was, he wouldn’t travel south over eight hundred miles to track Josh down. Surely that couldn’t be, not now, not after all this.

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Why Write Fiction?

by Shelly Frome

Finding myself between projects, I often ask myself why I can’t simply go on with my life, do the chores, make the rounds, engage in social activities, etc.? Then I start to recall what other writers of fiction have disclosed. To cite a few, there’s the opportunity for revenge, a source of entertainment with the potential to entertain others, a chance to confront something or someone that will never play itself out in reality.

Personally speaking, I myself began to consider what Anne Lamott suggested on you-tube that led to the development of my latest tale Shadow of the Gypsy. She put it this way:  How alive are you willing to be? Diving deep within yourself, delving for your truth that potentially will become so meaningful it will double back on your readers’ lives? What’s truly at risk here during the course of this possible odyssey? What’s the driving force underpinning something you can’t afford to lose like a loved one; the chance of hitting the jackpot and a carefree life; a rung atop the ladder of success, etc. Now let it happen and work through the throes of the aftermath. Along these same lines, what are you so conflicted about you can’t afford to face the consequences? But if you do go through with it fictitiously, the pull of what happens promises to be much more compelling than continuing to remain stuck.   

As a case in point, during the early days of vaguely contemplating Shadow, I recalled feeling greatly deprived as a kid because I never had a father and my mother barely looked out for me. On the other hand, it left me free to experience all kinds of things and see for myself. But to write about my own life was too pat, just a matter of this happened and then that. Nothing that built toward some meaningful closure. Nothing that would sustain my imagination.  

But then, finally, came the trigger of the magical what-if? What if the mother in question was a complete mystery, a former foster child from Hungary who, rumor had it, had been taken in by some denomination which ran an exclusive private school in the pristine hills of Connecticut? What if she had some dicey connection with a rogue gypsy who was also from the “old country”? What would her estranged son have to gain by confronting her? What would he have to lose as his life potentially turned upside down?  It was a start. It was a beginning.

It had promise well beyond the same old routine.

Shelly Frome is a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at UConn, a former professional actor, and a writer of crime novels and books on theater and film. He also is a features writer for Gannett Publications. His fiction includes Sun Dance for Andy Horn, Lilac Moon, Twilight of the Drifter, Tinseltown Riff, Murder Run, Moon Games, The Secluded Village Murders and Miranda and the D-Day Caper. Among his works of non-fiction are The Actors Studio: A History, a guide to playwriting and one on screenwriting, Shadow of the Gypsy is his latest foray into the world of crime and the amateur sleuth. He lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

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Legacy Audiobook – Tour

Legacy

Deadly Curiosities Book 5

by Gail Z. Martin

Genre: Supernatural Mystery Adventure

A dark witch dynasty.

A malicious, immortal undersea place-spirit.

Eternal guardians who wagered their souls to protect Charleston.

Omens of impending disaster have the city of Charleston on edge. Tremors warn of earthquake risk, while a potentially catastrophic storm gathers strength over the ocean and heads for land.

A last-man-standing promise among elderly veterans creates a dangerous inheritance involving an imprisoned, wish-granting goblin. A sea captain and a swashbuckler worked blood magic to protect Charleston from an ancient evil with a spell that bound their souls and their descendants to the task, but danger looms as its power fades. The head of a witch family wants artifacts and secrets—and he’ll do anything to get them.

Cassidy Kincaide runs Trifles and Folly, an antique and curio store where her touch magic helps get cursed and haunted objects out of the wrong hands. More than once, she and her allies have saved the world from supernatural threats.

The clock is ticking for Cassidy and her friends to stop the dark warlock, capture the goblin, and restore the guardian spell before a malevolent ancient entity takes its vengeance on Charleston and the coast. It’s going to take all the magic, courage, and quick thinking they can muster—and for once, that might not be enough.

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Gail Z. Martin writes urban fantasy, epic fantasy, steampunk and more for Solaris Books, Orbit Books, Falstaff Books, SOL Publishing and Darkwind Press. Urban fantasy series include Deadly Curiosities and the Night Vigil (Sons of Darkness). Epic fantasy series include Darkhurst, the Chronicles Of The Necromancer, the Fallen Kings Cycle, the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, and the Assassins of Landria.

Together with Larry N. Martin, she is the co-author of Iron & Blood, Storm & Fury (both Steampunk/alternate history), the Spells Salt and Steel comedic horror series, the Roaring Twenties monster hunter Joe Mack Shadow Council series, and the Wasteland Marshals near-future post-apocalyptic series. As Morgan Brice, she writes urban fantasy MM paranormal romance, with the Witchbane, Badlands, Treasure Trail, Kings of the Mountain and Fox Hollow series. Gail is also a con-runner for ConTinual, the online, ongoing multi-genre convention that never ends.

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The Berlin Device – Blitz

The Berlin Device

A Xander Berlin Adventure Book 1

by Tammy Wunsch

Genre: Action, Adventure, Mystery

Xander has led a life of luxury with a cushy job in the family business. After his father’s mysterious disappearance, Xander became CEO of the multi-million dollar, international enterprise and tries to prove himself to everyone, including himself.

Xander discovers encrypted files in his father’s hidden safe that detail his illicit activities. His father was more than disreputable—he was a member of a secret and diabolical organization whose sole objective is world domination. In the files are plans for the Berlin Device—a satellite weapons system that has the potential for unparalleled destruction.

Chloe has scrimped and saved for an amazing hiking vacation. When nothing goes right in her travels, fate intervenes and she and Xander are thrown together in a hopeless quest across Europe to recover the device before more innocent people die.

Dodging bullets, bombs, and barbaric henchmen, Xander and Chloe discover a mysterious facility that could become their final resting place…if their enemies have their way.

Can they escape with their lives?

More importantly, can they save the planet from The Berlin Device?

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Tammy Wunsch is an International Writer of Mystery, Travel, and Wine – with a side of Course Development – who currently resides in the Quiet Corner of Connecticut. Formally educated in business, she has worked in a variety of industries and is both entrepreneurial and adventurous by nature. She is passionate about animals and loves to travel, cook, kayak, and read.

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