Trading Secrets by Rachael Eckles

Trading Secrets, by Rachael Eckles, is a Suspense Thriller / Contemporary Romance. It was released in May 2020 and is available for sale on Amazon. (Warning: Explicit Sexual Content. Ages 18+) This is the first book in the Trading Secrets trilogy. Book 2 is set to be released in Spring 2021.

Synopsis:

Celeste Donovan, a high-powered finance executive, seems to have it all–the penthouse apartment, the supermodel physique with a mathematician mind, and a trail of beautiful men she has loved and left behind.

But when her boyfriend Theodore is killed in a mysterious accident, she discovers Omar, her abusive ex she had hoped would never resurface, is behind his death.

Now she’s caught in a game of cat and mouse, trying to anticipate Omar’s next move, as she realizes he will stop at nothing to get to her. She sets out alone on a whirlwind journey to entrap him, determined to put an end to Omar’s destruction.

Soon Celeste is thrust in the middle of the largest financial scandal in decades. This time, however, powerful government officials are in bed with some of the world’s most dangerous men.

When she discovers that those she thought she knew best are involved in a secret society warring with Omar and his coconspirators, she must decide how far she will go to avenge Theodore’s death and whether she is willing to risk her own life to save everyone she loves.


Excerpt: 

The moment the blues walked into her office, Celeste knew something was wrong, terribly wrong. Her heart pounded, and her throat tightened. The two nondescript men in NYPD uniforms exchanged somber glances. The shorter one cleared his throat and began talking, but Celeste’s hearing was muffled. She replayed the words in her head, struggling to make sense of the situation.

“Ms. Donovan … listed as his emergency contact … accident while flying in the Berkshires … rough patch … plane down … body badly burned … next of kin identified him … truly sorry for your loss, ma’am.”

Then they were gone, and she was alone on her sofa with no recollection of how she had gotten there. Was it the same day or a week later? Her face was streaked with dried tears, her tongue heavy and coated from her vices. A near-empty Macallan and overturned Xanax container taunted her from the coffee table. She reached for the prescription bottle and emptied the last two pills into her hand, washing them down with a gulp of scotch. Fred Warren’s warnings all those weeks ago were legitimate, she was in danger, grave danger. But she had failed to realize the love of her life was in danger as well.

Theodore’s gone. And I could’ve stopped it.


Praise:

“A stylish, fierce, globetrotting crime thriller that fans of Janelle Brown and Kimberly McCreight will fall for… an absolute page turner… Eckles’s prose is crisp, her dialogue crackling, witty and withering… In Celeste, Eckles has created a fascinating and highly memorable character. Sure, she’s a dysfunctional powerhouse, largely despised by other women, who has surrounded herself with morally ambiguous men. But when pitted against the diabolical Omar, it’s impossible not to root for her.” BestThrillers.com

“Eckles provides a fast-paced thriller that takes readers on a wild ride of revenge and intrigue. Vivid descriptions of stunning clothes and opulent locations pack the pages, as do steamy encounters… that will please fans of contemporary romance… readers will find this to be a compelling and satisfying page-turner.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Eckles engages readers from beginning to end with this tale of betrayal, love, and international intrigue. She creates a strong, likable protagonist. Though Celeste’s lifestyle may be foreign to many, it is still very relatable. For those who enjoy a great love story, the relationship between Celeste and Theodore delivers. Likewise, for those whose tastes lead toward the thrill of clandestine encounters and hair-raising escapes, this novel has plenty to offer. A well-written, descriptive narrative and a fast-paced plot keep the action moving along nicely… this is a very entertaining read that should keep readers turning the pages with its exciting plot twists.” RECOMMENDED by the US Review

“Reminiscent of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Eckles’s complex thriller grips the reader from the opening prologue. A tale of high-stakes Wall Street espionage and manipulation, the hunt for the ultimate evil opponent, an around-the-world, whirlwind adventure and a journey into the heart and soul of an extraordinary woman. Trading Secrets is, at once, a spellbinding, heart-stopping thriller and an exploration of the complex nature and vulnerability of the human heart.” -Traci Medford-Rosow, USAToday bestselling author of Unblinded and Inflection Point.


About the Author:

Rachael Eckles grew up in the Midwest. After graduating from law school, she followed her heart and moved to the east coast. Trading Secrets is her first novel. She currently lives in Manhattan with her puppy, where she is working on book 2 in the Trading Secrets trilogy. Readers can connect with Rachael on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Goodreads. To learn more, go to https://www.rachaeleckles.com

 

 

Solving Cadence Moore by Gregory Sterner

solving cadence moore
Solving Cadence Moore is a suspenseful hometown Mystery / Crime Thriller novel by Gregory Sterner.
“A deftly crafted and compelling read from cover to cover … an extraordinary and unfailingly engaging read by a novelist with a genuine flair for narrative driven fiction and one that is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.” Midwest Book Review

Synopsis:
How much will one man risk to solve the unsolvable?
Ten years ago, famous young singer Cadence Moore disappeared without a trace on a remote highway in western Pennsylvania. To this day her fate remains unknown. Was she kidnapped or murdered? Or did she simply run away in search of a new life, leaving behind the abuse and heartbreak that haunted her?
Charlie Marx, host of the popular conspiracy radio show “Underground Broadcast,” is obsessed with Cadence. Desperate to find her after deceiving his boss to save his job, he launches an investigation of his own, digging deep into the missing woman’s past and uncovering her darkest secrets. Working feverishly for weeks, he claims to have solved the mystery and promises to reveal Cadence’s fate at the end of a groundbreaking podcast series and live radio special.
But is it all a lie? As years of twisted details slowly unravel, Charlie races to solve the biggest mystery of the decade. If he succeeds, it will mean closure for Cadence. If he fails, his entire world will come crashing down live on air—and the truth may be lost forever.

Excerpt from Solving Cadence Moore:
Chapter 1 – The Pitch
Charlie Marx sat with his arms crossed, refusing to visually sell his reaction to the sales pitch he was getting. As a successful conspiracy radio show host, Charlie had learned to trust nothing but consider everything, qualities which had made him very effective throughout his career.
His boss (as well as his mentor and friend), Tyler Reubens, had been in the public radio game for fifteen years, becoming a national celebrity by hosting a hugely successful syndicated show covering everything from intimate personal stories to murder mysteries called United Way of Life. Tyler, while still sitting at the helm of United Way of Life, was also now a big player at the executive level as a senior producer for WHHW (his home station) and programming liaison to UPR (the public radio juggernaut of which WHHW was an affiliate).
Tyler’s superiors were looking for on-demand content for various multimedia outlets (a trend the entire entertainment world had already been moving strongly toward for five years and public radio had been one of the first to plant a flag in podcast land, but had never had a smash hit). Tyler was reaching out to the one person who in his mind had the one show he was almost positive would connect with a large audience for the podcast mini-series UPR was prepared to push to the moon (or so went Tyler’s initial sales pitch).
The one man with the one show also happened to be a personal protégé of Tyler Reubens himself, Charlie Marx. Charlie was a former college DJ and conspiracy newsletter writer. Tyler had plucked him from obscurity and offered him an assistant producer job for United Way of Life, simply because he liked his work and was impressed by the buzz Charlie had managed to drum up for his conspiracy rag. Charlie produced a few conspiracy oriented segments for United Way of Life during anniversary years of the Kennedy Assassination and the Apollo Moon Landing. These segments had garnered such positive reviews that Tyler lobbied for Marx to be granted his own time slot on WHHW with a conspiracy-themed show called Underground Broadcast. Underground Broadcast eventually became one of the most popular programs on WHHW and had been considered at least on two occasions for national syndication over UPR stations, although that had never actually come to fruition.
All of that had taken place three years before and now Tyler wanted Charlie to captain a new vessel, one which would sail into the on-demand islands and, if all went as planned, land Tyler a fat new contract when his re-up period went into effect a few months later.
Tyler knew Charlie wouldn’t argue with him or refuse the offer. But at the same time, he’d been around a long time and he knew how to get what he wanted. You could force a man to walk the plank at the point of a sword or you could gently take his hand and lead him there. You could train a soldier to take orders or you could gain his respect and have him willing to die for you on the battlefield out of loyalty alone. Tyler knew good sales pitches needed emotional buy in. He had to sell the concept, sell the logic of the concept, and sell the benefit of the concept.
Tyler was very good at this approach and he knew Charlie was stone facing him across the desk, trying not to show any cards at all. Tyler liked that. He’d trained this man well. But just because he taught Charlie everything Charlie knew, that didn’t mean he’d taught him everything Tyler Reubens knew.
Tyler looked straight ahead and leaned forward, his smile never wavering. He said, “Charlie, this is an opportunity. Now before you say anything else, rest assured… I read your email. I understand you think this case is a bottomless pit. But listen buddy, your credibility and your show’s credibility is not at risk here. It’s all in how we play it. I’ve been doing this a lot longer than you my friend and the story is what it’s all about. If the story is there, the ending is inconsequential… if not completely, then at least secondary to the journey. Even if this thing is the ultimate cold case… even if we’re barking up a dying tree, if we carve out the right story we will succeed. We will accomplish what I’ve promised my bosses we can accomplish.
“I stuck my neck way out for you guys. For me too… I’m not trying to bullshit you. But I did that because I believe in you and I think your show is going to be the one that breaks through. They could have had Artie Rothstein do a podcast, they could have had Barry Shearing do a podcast, hell… half of the national guys already have podcasts, but this isn’t just a podcast Charlie… it’s a series and it’s a live radio special to conclude it. UPR’s never done anything like this before.
“The big bosses aren’t sold on it either, you can bet your last long dollar on that one. I’ve had to tread very lightly every time I’ve pushed an angle on it. At this point, every UPR show which also airs as a podcast has been barely a mild success as far as downloads go. The bigwigs have no reason to think a special is going to be any different. But these guys are fossils Marx. They haven’t seen the trend that’s been creeping up on their asses for half a decade now. But I see it. I know you see it, too. You’ve been water coolering the podcast angle for at least a year… I hear everything my friend.”
Charlie continued to sit with a stoic expression on his face, nodding every few moments and sitting slightly forward to express that he was paying attention. But he did not facially sell a single word of this. Not yet. He loved the idea, he loved the potential, but he hated the case. He’d personally been obsessed with Cadence Moore for years but he didn’t think there was anything he could do with it that hadn’t already been done and he feared this program would be a disaster and a letdown if they went in the Cadence direction.
Tyler kept rolling, “So, of course you know the reason none of them have been runaway hits as podcasts is because ninety percent of the fucking audience listens on the radio. Listeners are creatures of habit, we all know that. They might tune into a podcast here and there if they’re at the gym or they miss a week but usually when they discover something on the radio, they’re likely to keep listening on the radio. But if we sell it as something new… something different… c’mon Charles, you see where I’m going here.
“And besides all that, the reason I know you and your show are the way to go with this thing is because Rothstein and Shearing… just to name two, their formats won’t work to generate a mass audience of new listeners… I’m confident about that. Shearing’s a commentator… a satirist. Rothstein’s a writer, a sketch guy… a brilliant one sure, I mean they’re both great at what they do, but their shows don’t lend themselves to breaking new ground.
“In your case, I’m confident that your format is exactly what the doctor ordered for this particular story, and I also truly believe people will like the idea of a local radio guy, someone who’s not a national name, breaking into the mainstream with a special about an unsolved case which just recently became hot news again. I’m not talking out my ass here pal, I have good instincts and I know there is a right and wrong way to do this thing. The big bosses aren’t sold, but I guarantee you, once I’m through with them, I can get spots, I can get the air time… we will push this to the moon!”
Tyler noticed the very subtle grin that had permeated Charlie’s face. Charlie hadn’t intended it to be visible but his facial muscles betrayed him. Tyler drove in a little harder, “I’m not fucking around here man, I believe in it! And… I appreciate you guys, I really do Charlie. You’ve brought a damn big audience to WHHW. You guys aren’t a huge deal yet but you’re a big deal. I think this is exactly what is needed to make you bigger… to make you national names. If this works out the way I envision it working out, it could make your career and hammer out a giant hit for us.
“The Cadence case is truly one of the classics… never been solved! It’s a favorite of yours, that’s no secret… and I agree with almost everything I’ve ever heard you say about it. This is one of those deals where once you get into it, you can’t get out. How many of these things, these legendary cases, are actually still floating around without a conclusion?
“Cadence Moore has hooked people from the start and she will hook them again, Charlie. The Moore to the Story film got the public ramped up about wanting to know what happened to that girl. Jesus, half the people who saw the film didn’t agree with the answer those guys came up with. They still want closure and they’ve never gotten it. Those people are the ones I’m counting on to be the new listening audience once we start popping out the podcasts.
“I think, if nothing else, you guys can do a better job than those dicks Barnes and Angstat did with the movie and if you can’t solve anything, you can at least offer something fresh. Your mission, your crew’s mission, is to get this as close to solved as possible so when the finale airs people believe the answer is coming. Close is the operative word here Charlie. You have to run a completely different angle than the film ran. And if the real answer doesn’t come, which, let’s be honest, we both know it won’t… people need to feel like they got something… something better than they got with that shitty movie.”
Charlie Marx knew where his bread was buttered and he respected Tyler Reubens more than he respected just about any man in the world. This man was his boss but also the person who’d given him his one and only break in professional life, but Charlie was diametrically opposed to Tyler’s take on this particular program.
He felt if they tackled Cadence, they’d wind up with nothing. There were reasons a case stayed cold for a decade. They’d hit brick walls and the whole thing would be considered a grand failure that would damage Charlie’s credibility and cost him a good portion of his dedicated listeners (If only he knew the position he’d be in in a few weeks, losing a few listeners would have seemed like a pleasant dream). Charlie had things to say but dutifully waited until he knew it was his turn to talk. Once he was sure Tyler was finished, he began his own pitch.
He responded honestly, “So, if I understand correctly, you’re telling me Tyler… even if we don’t solve it… which as you said, we won’t… this thing will be produced like one of your United Way of Life stories… no matter what the ending, the audience will stick with us if they think something is coming?”
Tyler smiled a little bit wider, knowing his pitch had just been caught. He said, “Precisely! You got the picture Marx. I knew you would, that is why we’re talking right now.”
Charlie continued, “Okay then. So, when the thing everyone thinks is coming doesn’t come, this is my concern. I have never lied to my audience, Tyler. When we haven’t been able to deliver an answer to a mystery or a theory, I’ve always told them that up front and usually why the thing will never be answered. When something is a bottomless pit, which I’ve told you Cadence Moore is, I tell my listeners it’s a bottomless pit so they know what they’re getting.
“Credibility for us is life blood and if we lose it on this podcast series experiment, we lose it for the radio, too. I’m just trying to make you understand the biggest reason why your short-term goal may not be worth the long-term consequences. What makes you so sure when they realize they’ve been hoodwinked like a gang of sorry chumps, they won’t say fuck you to us, fuck you to WHHW, and fuck you to UPR?”
Tyler considered this sincerely. The time between Charlie’s question and Tyler’s response was a solid thirty seconds, which in the room and in the moment felt like an hour. Tyler finally said, “Because… fuck… because, Marx. Because I believe in you and I know we can do this. For Christ’s sake, Charlie, this shit is the difference between the men and boys. We take a risk, we make history, we grab a big audience, and we get a chance to do much bigger things on much bigger stages on much bigger days! That’s what we do! That’s what people who are successful do! So, let’s stop being pussies and just fucking do it!”
Charlie had to be careful how he proceeded. Tyler was a friend but he also held the strings, the marionette strings as well as the purse strings. Charlie said, “Tyler, I hear you… every word. But I need you to hear me too right now. I am not questioning your judgment… I’m just questioning your approach. What if we looked at some alternatives? You want an unsolved case?
I’ve got plenty… and those plenty have lots of loose leads dangling that me and my team could sink our teeth into and actually solve. It damn sure wouldn’t be the first time.”
Tyler would indulge him for a moment, even though in his mind it was going to go down his way and this special was Cadence or nothing. When Tyler was set on something, that something was going to happen. He said, “Okay, Charlie, tell me what unsolved cases you have in mind.”
Charlie let out a sigh of relief and smiled slightly. He was about to start talking when Tyler held up a finger. Tyler added, “Oh… but before you do that, my time is short and so is yours, so, I hate to waste any of it for either of us. As you list off these unsolved cases, make sure you only mention the ones that a massively successful film has recently been made about. That way, I can make sure the attention we need for our special will be the same whether we focus on Cadence or not.”
Charlie visibly sank in his chair. He said, “Tyler, you know I can’t do that. Nothing I’d be able to solve in time for a podcast series is going to have the national prominence of Cadence Moore. But, you said it yourself; Barnes and Angstat fucked up the movie and didn’t solve anything. Do you want us painted with the same stain those two idiots are currently being painted with?”
Tyler smiled. He said, “Charlie, they can stain me any color they want as long as the eventual color it all turns into is green. Barnes and Angstat may be a couple of jerks but they’re rich jerks, Marx, and they’re jerks who currently have a bigger audience for their product than either of us have for ours. So, if you’re gonna sit there and tell me it’s a better idea to dig up Katie Marsh or Herman Jackson (two missing children whose parents had alleged ties to occult activity in New Mexico), then be prepared to tell me how we’re going to monetize that. If you want to sell me on another conspiracy theory… like a podcast about deadly vaccines or a podcast about mass shootings being orchestrated by the government to create a police state… well again pal… tell me how we turn the crap into cash. If you can’t do that Charlie… then stop wasting my time and let’s get back to talking about how you’re gonna produce the Cadence Moore special.”
Tyler was studying Charlie’s face and knew he had nothing to say. Tyler had simultaneously stumped him and sold him, using cold hard logic as his weapon. He could now reel him back in a little and get some more buy in. He said, “Look Marx, I’m not trying to be a douche. But, you have to check the naiveté at the door if you want to be part of something this potentially big. It needs to be a hit, Charlie. It needs to connect with an audience. If you want to stay true to your art form and die with every shred of your credibility intact, then that’s fine. But if you make that decision, you’re not going to make this journey with me, and WHHW is as high as Underground Broadcast is ever gonna get. I’m not threatening and I’m not bullshitting. I’m being honest. It’s Cadence or bust pal… Cadence… or… bust. You got it?”
What could Charlie possibly say? He had his marching orders and he had to move ahead. He didn’t like it at all and he thought it would fail, but as someone who understood loyalty as well as logic, Charlie wasn’t going to say no to Tyler Reubens. He owed this man his career and if Tyler wanted to take a huge risk and was asking Charlie to climb aboard, he had no choice but to go along. He shook his head and said, “You’re the boss, boss. Lets fucking do it then. I’ve said what I had to say and you said what you had to say. At the end of the day, you sign the checks and you gave me my name… I won’t say no, even if I think it’s a terrible idea. If we both lose our shit on this, you’ll owe me a shot… every night… for eternity.”
Charlie really didn’t like it. He really didn’t like it at all. He knew the odds of solving the Cadence case were next to impossible and his credibility was definitely on the line. (If Charlie only knew in this moment how severely he was about to risk his own credibility and his career, he likely would have choked).
Tyler slapped him on the shoulder and said, “Shots, every night forever… you got it Marx. But I have a feeling, you’ll be the one buying drinks when all of this is over. I wouldn’t lead you to the cliffs, Charlie… I’m leading you to the tippy top. Believe that!”
Charlie didn’t respond. He just extended his hand and sealed the deal. What the hell had he just agreed to?
UNDERGROUND PODCAST 1: (Official Transcript) Intro
Charlie Marx’s Underground Podcast: Episode 1 (Intro). Original Drop Date: November 1, 2013. (Brought to you by United Way of Life, courtesy of Tyler Reubens, this program is funded and sponsored by WHHW, a subsidiary of Universal Public Radio)
(Narration by Charlie Marx) Welcome friends to the Underground Podcast. I am your host, Charlie Marx. The late-night hour is upon us weary travelers. Mysteries abound and the truth alarms sound… bringing out the seekers in every single town. Rest easy good friends… you have reached the final end… of your desired destination.
This is the place where we lift the curtain of accepted reality, and look deeper… down into the depths of the stories that permeate our consciousness. Yes, weary travelers, you can now take a rest, put your feet up, and plug in your minds. The investigation has begun, and it’s gonna be damn good fun!
This series is the most important program in the history of our show which you have up until now known as Underground Broadcast, but here we are now… arriving up to date with the rest of society, and we find ourselves in podcast world. This podcast tonight is in fact the most important program of my career. Those of you just stumbling across this by accident may be asking yourselves why that is.
Well travelers, we will begin our quest to answer one of the most perplexing and legendary unsolved riddles in the annals of modern crime. We will finally dig up the answer to the question that has haunted the masses for years.
We will reveal the specifics of how one Cadence Moore, a beautiful young college circuit-singing sensation, just on the brink it seemed, of breaking out into mainstream American mega stardom, on one tragic night just disappeared without a trace, never to be seen or heard from again.
Seekers of knowledge, sailors of the dark information seas, my listeners one and all, that all comes to an end. During this series, we will definitively answer the question: Whatever happened to young Cadence Moore? Legally, I must state a disclaimer, so I will state it now. Anyone listening to this should be of legal age and younger downloaders may find the violent subject matter, mature content, and strong language of this program offensive. We will be running on a several second delay during our live special and the worst language will be edited, but the podcasts will air in their entirety. You have been warned.
Okay, then… with our disclaimer out of the way, let’s get started. Like any momentous occasion, the theme of our show tonight must fit within the appropriate boundaries of weight and substance, and truly be worthy of discussion on our biggest program. What better subject to focus on than a story which has never offered a satisfying conclusion… a true mystery of our time?
The Cadence Moore story captivated mass audiences when it first came to national prominence on the weekend of Cinco de Mayo in 2002, and recently the story was plastered right back onto the speeding wind- screen of the world with the release of a fascinating, albeit flawed, documentary made by a Mr. Barnes and a Mr. Angstat, who will both be heard from during this series.
But, in spite of all the media coverage and a movie about this case, there has still never been a true end-of-the-story answer to all the speculation, evidence, and shreds of footage.
Todd Barnes and Michael Angstat tried during the making of their film to come up with indisputable proof that they’d found their man, but they failed. Some may disagree with that statement and to those people I will say this. Their film, which is highly entertaining, never accomplishes its true goal of solving the case. It simply succeeds in publicly accusing one man and presenting sensational images to support that accusation.
So, it is that we find ourselves here, with four podcasts and a live radio special to burn, in which we will pick up every clue, film strip, blood trail, and eyewitness statement, turn them all sideways, and see what no one has ever been able to see before.
When it’s over, I want you all to leave this series feeling like pioneers who finally came upon the smell of golden roses on the cliffs of El Dorado with enough sense left in your minds to call this a mystery solved.
With those words my good men and women, we begin our descent, down into the depths of pure adventure, skulking through caves and digging out trenches, to arrive on the other side with provable findings, and some real facts about the greatest mystery we’ve ever seen since Dallas in ’63. We shall answer the question… and arrive on the knowledge shore with glistening waves, pounding and pure, and we will know where it ends, and open the door to see what indeed ever happened to young Cadence Moore.

About the Author:
Gregory Sterner is inspired by the great storytelling presentations of National Public Radio, including This American Life and Wiretap, as well as novels by Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, and many others. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Albright College and is currently completing his Master’s in Philosophy at West Chester University while working as a supervisor for Penske Truck Leasing. He lives with his wife Abigail in Reading, Pennsylvania, and has four children: Jordan, Austin, Alexis, and Jack. His debut novel Solving Cadence Moore was released on November 7th, 2017. It is available for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers. Readers can connect with Gregory on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook,and Goodreads. To learn more, go to http://www.aperturepress.net/books/solving-cadence-moore/

The Bedwetter by Lee Allen Howard

The Bedwetter: Journal of a Budding Psychopath by Lee Allen Howard is a new horror/psychological thriller. It was released on May 1, 2019 and is available for sale on Amazon.
“Original, audacious and raw. A truly dark treat for fans of the serial killer genre.” – Best Thrillers
“Lee Allen Howard’s The Bedwetter is an inventive psychological horror novel with a voice that’s as stylish as it is dark.” —Dustin LaValley, author of The Deceived
“A brutal, dark, compulsive read… stark, powerful, and satisfying.” —Online Book Club
“Highly disturbing and electric, this book will have its readers only setting it down so they can come up for air during its darkest moments.” The US Review

Synopsis:
Armed with electric hair trimmers and a military fighting knife, Russell accepts his dark commission.
Russell Pisarek is twenty-six years old and still wets the bed. He grew up different from other young men because his vicious mother punished him for wetting by shaving his head. When he confided this to his girlfriend Tina, she betrayed him, advertising his problem to all their high school classmates, who turned on him mercilessly. He took out his frustration by skinning neighborhood cats.
Now Russell fantasizes about finding just the right woman—so he can shave her bald. He struggles to overcome his dark tendencies, but when his sister discovers he’s wetting again, she kicks him out of her house.
During this time of stress, the mythical Piss Fairy appears in his dreams, and Russell is driven to satisfy his twisted desires with his innocent coworker Uma, who also needs a new roommate.
When his plans go awry, the Piss Fairy commissions him for a much darker task that graduates him from shaving to scalping—and worse.

Excerpt:
I turn on my TV and fire up the PS4, then go downstairs and throw some pizza rolls in the toaster oven because Becky didn’t make dinner tonight. She usually does. She’s no gourmet chef, but she’s a decent cook, and I don’t mind eating her food. (^:
I holler up the stairs, “Becky?”
She don’t answer. Maybe she’s pooping, LOLz. Bathroom door ain’t closed, though, when I look up the stairs.
I crack open a beer. When the toaster oven dings, I scoop those bad babies onto a plate, grab a paper towel, and then carry them upstairs to my room. Worst thing about pizza rolls and Hot Pockets is, if you cook them till they’re done, they’re hot as frig­ging lava.
Becky comes out of her room and passes mine on her way to the bathroom. She closes and locks the door. I start Call of Duty, and it’s still loading when she comes back out of the bathroom and knocks on my door. It ain’t closed, so she pushes it open.
She’s got her arms crossed over her tits like she does when she’s uptight about something.
“What’s up?” I say.
“I found your tee-shirt between the washer and dryer, so I washed it and brought it up this morning.”
“Cool, thanks.”
She’s all fidgety and won’t look me in the eye, so something’s up.
Eating pizza rolls on a piss-stinking mattress ain’t the most appetizing experience. But I eat them anyway.
I say, “What’s Aiden doing? Ain’t seen him yet.”
“He’s playing with his cars you got him,” she says. “When I brought your shirt in, I couldn’t help but see your bed was stripped. And why.”
“Yeah. So?”
So? It makes me… concerned.” She tosses her head, not to get her hair out of her face—it’s tied back as usual—but because she’s gearing up to make some point or say something unpopu­lar.
“Hey, I couldn’t help it. I didn’t wake up. I washed my sheets. What are you so concerned about?”
Her lips get tight when I raise my voice. I don’t much care. It’s not like I pissed HER bed.
I toss the controller on the wet spot, then mute the TV. “Well?”
“Look, Russell, you know what it led to last time.”
“Yeah, and I was living at home then. You remember what that was like for me. I ain’t wet since I moved in with you.”
“Not that I know of.” She gets that snooty high and mighty look.
I want to shove the remote up her goddamn nose. “That was years ago, Becky. I’ve changed. I’m better now.”
“How do I know that? All I know is what you did.”
“But I didn’t do it to you, did I? I never done nothin to you.” I hurl the remote into the closet. It hits the back wall, and the bat­teries pop out.
“Calm down, Russell,” she says, pressing the air with her hands like she does when I get worked up. “You’re right, I’m sorry.” She always says that too, but it’s just to talk me down because I make her nervous. But why shouldn’t I be pissed? How come I can never express myself when I’m mad?
“I gotta get my sheets.” I push past her, out the door, and go downstairs. In the kitchen I unlock the basement door and stomp down the rickety steps. The cellar smells musty. Like I said, it’s an old townhouse, with stone walls and a concrete floor all cracked. Damn cold on my sockfeet. My sheets and bed pad and blanket are wadded up on top of the dryer. Becky does that if I forget to empty it when my stuff is done. I scoop them up and then head back upstairs.
Becky’s still standing there, hugging herself. “Here. I’ll help you.”
I turn around and get in her face. “I don’t need your help, Becky. I can do it myself. I been doing it since I was seven years old, remember?”
“All right. I’m sorry. I just… never mind.”
She walks out the door but comes right back in.
“No, I’m not going to let this go,” she says, fists on her hips. “This isn’t just about wetting the bed. It’s about that, that… dis­gusting rug you made. Cat skins. God, Russell, that’s so sick. I had no idea you still had it. Thank goodness Aiden didn’t see it.”
“And what if he did?” I say. “You think I would have told him what it was made out of? Jesus, Becky, gimme some credit.”
“I don’t care. I don’t want that thing in my house. Get rid of it.”
“I live here as well as you do. It’s not like you own the place. I pay rent too.”
She huffs. “Sometimes.”
“Oh, fuck off, why don’t you? I’m workin. I been workin. Just because I don’t got a good job like you don’t mean I ain’t pitchin in.”
“Look. I think it’s time you moved out on your own, Russell.”
I blink at her, shaking my head. “What?”
“You heard me. Aiden’s four years old. He needs his own room. He can’t sleep in my room forever, especially with Mike spending nights here.”
“It ain’t my fault you can’t screw with Aiden in the room.”
“Russell!” she hisses.
What!”
“Keep your voice down,” she says, shoving the door closed. “It’s not about me and Mike. Aiden’s getting too big for his tod­dler bed. You know that. He’s growing like a weed, and even a twin bed won’t fit in that room. Where’s he supposed to sleep?”
I lay a folded hand towel on the wet spot, make the bed on top of it, and then stretch out on it. She stands there, waiting for me to say something. She pisses me off. Ignoring her is the best I can do.
“Don’t go quiet on me, Russell. I’m trying to have a conversa­tion about something important. Do you understand why I think it’s best that you move out?”
I snatch up the controller and press start. The game begins, but I can’t hear it because I muted the TV, and I can’t unmute it because I flung the remote in the closet.
Becky steps closer. “If you got something to say, then say it. Stewing about it won’t do any good. You know what it leads to.”
“Who are you, my fuckin mother?”
She grabs her head with both hands, spins toward the door, then turns back, curling her fingers into claws and showing her teeth.
“You’re a dick, Russell. You either move your pissy mattress to the basement or out of the house, take your pick!” She rushes out, and I can tell she wants to slam my door, but she don’t.
I do. And yell, “I hope your car’s fixed, because I’m driving mine tomorrow. Bitch.”
I put the remote back together, then pick up the controller, but my hands are shaking, and I don’t feel like playing no more. Don’t feel like finishing my pizza rolls. What I really need is a smoke.
I fish in my jacket pocket for my Camels only to find my last cigarette is broke in two.
FUCK! FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!
I crush the pack and throw it on the floor. I dress, grab my coat and gentleman’s hat, then descend the stairs by threes and fly out the door into snow like freaking cottonballs.

 


About the Author:
Lee Allen Howard’s dark fiction spans the genres of horror, dark fantasy, supernatural crime, and psychological thrillers. His publications include The Sixth Seed, Severed Relations, Desperate Spirits, Night Monsters, Death Perception, The Adamson Family, Perpetual Nightmares, and The Bedwetter.
Howard earned his BA in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. He edits fiction and non-fiction, and has served as a book publishing consultant. He blogs about his fiction and fiction writing at http://leeallenhoward.com. Readers can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.
Howard is also the founder and editor at Dark Cloud Press, which has published the horror and dark crime anthologies Thou Shalt Not… and Tales of Blood and Squalor. He resides in western New York state with a lot of books.

Weave A Murderous Web by Anne Rothman-Hicks and Kenneth Hicks

Weave a Murderous WebWeave A Murderous Web is a mystery novel by Anne Rothman-Hicks and Kenneth Hicks. It is one of three books in the Jane Larson series, published by Melange Books.

Synopsis:
No good deed goes unpunished. When Jane Larson—a hot-shot litigator for a large firm in New York City—helps out a friend, she is sucked into the unfamiliar world of divorce and child support.
Jane’s discovery of the deadbeat dads hidden assets soon unravels a web of lies, drugs, and murder that keeps getting more dangerous.
Soon, Jane is involved in a high stakes race to recover a missing suitcase of cash and catch the murderer before she becomes the next victim.

 Praise:
A sleuthing lawyer returns to the streets of New York in this mystery of drugs, murder, and financial skullduggery… the husband-wife team of Rothman-Hicks and Hicks has again produced a fast-paced, engaging story… overall, this is a satisfying read. An enjoyable romp involving a shady attorney and the mob that should make readers look forward to the next Jane Larson caper.”Kirkus
“The action is breathtaking and the writing beautiful. Weave a Murderous Web: A Jane Larson Novel is a story that reminds me of the characters of John Grisham’s Gray Mountain… Jane Larson is the kind of character that will be loved by many readers… The plot is well thought out and masterfully executed, laced with numerous surprises to keep readers turning the pages. This is one of those books that should occupy an enviable place in your shelf if you are into fast-paced thrillers and compelling investigative stories.” – 5 Stars, Ruffina Oserio, Readers’ Favorite
“Weave a Murderous Web is a classic whodunit with classic New York City characters.” Gimme That Book
“Weave a Murderous Web is an enthralling murder mystery. It gets your heart pounding with action and passion, while simultaneously entangling your mind with its ambiguity. The dynamic duo has done it again. The husband and wife writing team of Anne Rothman-Hicks and Ken Hicks pens another on-the-edge-of-your seat murder mystery. Engaging. Witty. Fast paced. I love the Hicks’ contemporary writing style. The narrative is full of delightful metaphorical statements. The setting takes you into the heart of New York City – it reflects just the right amount of ambiance… As the plot progresses, the intensity heightens, catapulting you into a surprising twist, then plummets you into a sudden, yet satisfying end.” – 5 Stars, Cheryl E. Rodriguez, Readers’ Favorite
“Weave a Murderous Web involves a hotshot Wall Street lawyer who is a sassy, cynical New Yorker through and through. To help out a friend, she gets involved in a seamy matrimonial case that quickly pulls her into a vortex of murder, drugs, and dangerous games of deception.” – The Big Thrill
“Weave a Murderous Web is a smart and entertaining mystery by Anne Rothman-Hicks and Ken Hicks that will leave lovers of the genre anxiously waiting for another installment starring the intrepid protagonist, Jane Larson… Weave a Murderous Web has plenty to keep the reader engaged as Jane digs in her heels, determined to get to the truth. Witty dialogue, supported by great writing and some understated humor, makes this book not only a must-read – but also a darned good one!” – 5 Stars, Marta Tandori, Readers’ Favorite 

Excerpt:
Chapter One
I was in my office at Adams & Ridge talking on the telephone when Francine entered. At the moment, my friend, Lee, was on the other end of the wire, yakking up a storm in my ear. Her rant covered already familiar terrain. My man, my David, was drifting dangerously away from me while I did nothing to win him back. As we say around the courts, Oy.
Francine tiptoed forward and placed on my desk a two-day-old copy of The Daily News opened to the item concerning Mark Samuels’ death.
“I gotta go, Lee,” I said.
While Francine waited for me, she had backed into a corner of my office, leaned against the wall, and tried to make her six feet of lanky body less noticeable. Two large metal buttons were pinned to her heavily braided cotton sweater. One read Stop Fracking New York and the other protested against the annual Canadian seal hunt with a scarlet X through an image of a baby seal whose brains had been battered to a pink pulp.
I pointed at the newspaper and gave her a questioning glance, but she quickly averted her eyes to stare at the floor.
“Have you been listening to me at all?” Lee demanded. Her voice rose to a kind of exasperated wail. “David has been dating someone. I think he may be getting serious.”
“David was born serious, Lee,” I said.
“Stop it, Jane,” she shouted so I had to hold the phone away from my ear. Even Francine raised an eyebrow. “You know what I mean.”
“I’m sorry, Lee.”
“I don’t understand why you’re taking this so nonchalantly. You know you still love him. You could get back together in a heartbeat if you’d just spend a tenth as much time on a relationship as you spend on your career.”
“I’m a lawyer, Lee. Not a—”
A sharp intake of breath followed. “Not a baby maker?” Lee demanded. Anger replaced the plaintive wail. “Is that what you were going to say?”
Would I ever admit that the word had been on the tip of my tongue?
“No. I was going to say, ‘not a librarian’, or the owner of some other nine-to-five job. The hours come with the territory, Lee. David knows that, but deep down in that wonderful heart of his, he also thinks the hours spent at the office are A-okay for the guy, but not for the girl. In any event, Martha didn’t raise her daughter to compete over a man.”
The sound of a whale breaching the surface erupted from the phone. “You’re maddening, Jane.”
“No, I’m busy,” I replied.
Lee sighed. “Well, I have to go too. Laurie is home sick and I’m taking her to the doctor. We’ll talk more later, Jane. I’m not going to sit back and let this happen to my two best friends in the world. I’m going to fight, Jane.”
“Goodbye, Lee.”
She disconnected.
Actually, I wasn’t busy at all, or I wouldn’t have spent even that much time on the phone being lectured by Lee. She’s an old friend from Columbia Law, but enough is enough.
A major litigation I had been working on had settled just a day before and the client and powers-that-be at Adams & Ridge were very happy with me—especially Seymour Ridge. The old man himself had hammered out the settlement shortly after I made the CEO of the party suing our client look like a doofus on the witness stand. So, I had some time on my hands until I was given another assignment.
More to the point, I wanted to know why Francine was still standing in my office, staring at the tips of her shoes. She was a legal assistant with the firm. I had gotten her the job. However, she didn’t work on any of my cases. That was a rule I had laid down from the beginning.
“Hello, Francine,” I said.
“Hi, Jane.” She looked up shyly, smiled her timid smile, gave a meaningful glance in the direction of the paper and resumed looking at her shoes. I had known her for so long that she was more like a relative than a friend, in the sense that one does not choose one’s relatives. She was really really shy but also effective in getting her way with me. I read the article.
It was as depressing as I had expected. Mark Samuels was a single practitioner who worked out of a small office above a bodega on 116th Street. He wasn’t married and had no family to speak of. The exact date and hour of his demise were uncertain. The body was discovered only after fellow inhabitants of his East Village apartment house reported a foul odor during the last week in June when a heat wave had sent temperatures rising into the high nineties. Those same conditions had made his remains swell like a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
How can a person die without anyone knowing for a week or ten days? Did he have no friend or family member who cared to check on him? Were all of them as completely egotistical as he was?
The cause of death, however, was easy to determine. When the cops broke down his door, three short fat lines of cocaine were still in place on the old-fashioned hand mirror Mark used to chop the drug fine enough to snort. The coroner confirmed Mark died of severe heart arrhythmia, which is to say his ticker skipped a few too many beats before stopping altogether. Testing of the merchandise showed the stuff he’d inhaled had been nearly pure—several times the strength of what is normally available on the street. As the cops put it, either he had chosen to depart this green orb flying on nose powder or he was inordinately careless. I suppose it didn’t much matter which alternative was true. The result was the same. An overdose had killed him.
I looked up warily, unwilling to reveal I had the slightest interest in the entire subject.
“Why are you showing this to me, Francine,” I asked.
“Didn’t you know Mark when you worked for Legal Services for the Poor?”
Did she expect me to burst into tears?
“Yeah,” I said, “and he was just as big a screw-up then. They put him in the Family Law area because he could do the least harm there. At least no one could lose their apartment or get sent to jail because of him.”
Francine winced. You might think this resulted from a superstitious aversion to speaking ill of the dead. You would be wrong. Francine had an aversion to speaking ill both of the living and the dead.
“He kept doing matrimonial work after he left Legal Services,” Francine added. She nodded, as if agreeing with her own words, then fell into silence. Silence was her friend.
“And?” I said.
Francine pulled up her sweater, which was being dragged low by those protest buttons and exposing her collarbones and the top of her boney chest. Her stringy hair, a field mouse brown, had no discernible style. She had never chosen to master the art of makeup despite my efforts with pencil, rouge, and lipstick back when we were teenagers. The only jewelry she now wore was a pendulous locket with gold thread tying it together. She said she’d purchased it in a wild moment at an uptown thrift shop. Of course, those buttons and their slogans were a kind of jewelry, I suppose, in that jewelry also says, “Look at me. This is what I am.”
Francine smiled at her shoes and continued. “Well, he had a client, Gail Hollings, who is a very good friend of mine, Jane, and—”
Now I saw where this was going. “Would this friend of yours be in need of a lawyer?”
“She’s in an awful fix, Jane. She has a court appearance at two o’ clock this afternoon. She gave Mark three thousand dollars, which was all she could scrape together. She has no money left at all.”
“Ridge will be glad to hear that. No money. Great.”
Francine rummaged in the front pocket of her cargo pants, pulled out a wallet, and then drew from inside it a picture of a young child with long blond pigtails that dwarfed her diminutive round face but did not steal the scene from her toothy grin.
“She has a little girl,” Francine added, glancing from the snapshot to me and back again to emphasize her point.
“No money, no lawyer, and a kid. This just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?”
My mother, Martha, who insists I call her by her first name, always says Francine faces a bright future if Jesus’ prediction about the meek is really true. Believe me, the meek have power, especially over those of us with guilt. Martha would love that. Guilt. I was like a fish nibbling at a big juicy worm and getting closer and closer to the hook. Francine was the fisherwoman, waiting patiently for the slightest pull on the line.
“Look, you know I can’t take on this case, Francine. However, I have some free time today, so I can at least go down to court and adjourn the matter until we can find someone to help Gail and little…”
“Courtney,” Francine said with a rush of breath that made the name seem like a prayer. An expression filled her eyes that reminded me of an early Renaissance image of a martyr at the moment of supreme sacrifice, pain mixed with a kind of bliss that seems to make it all worthwhile.
The hook was set. That much was obvious. Francine had only to slowly reel me in.
I opened a drawer and pulled out a legal pad to record the names of mother and daughter.
“There’s just one thing maybe you should know,” Francine said.
My pencil poised in midair and then wrote “one thing” with an exclamation point. I still have that piece of paper in the top drawer of my desk.
“Yes?”
“Well, Carmen Ruiz has kind of taken an interest in this because of the women’s rights angle and what happened to Mark and all.”
“Carmen Ruiz? Last time I heard of her, she was spending time at a fat farm.”
This was code. Everyone knew that the ‘fat farm,’ as I had injudiciously put it, was also a place where people could lose other bad habits, such as drugs.
Francine winced again and swallowed hard. “That’s unkind, Jane.”
Chalk one up for the meek.
“You’re right, Francine. How is Carmen doing?”
“She’s got a new gig on cable. One of the local news stations.”
I nodded. I was safe from unkind remarks if I kept my mouth shut. At one time the cognoscenti had called Carmen the “female Wolf Blitzer” because she had enjoyed asking the hard questions, especially of men who were not used to being pushed around. The fact that she had the flashing good looks of a gypsy queen didn’t hurt, but now she was scuffling on cable news.
“She said she called you a couple of times.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve been busy.”
I was on the verge of getting back the advantage, never easy in a conversation with humanitarian types like Francine, especially if your mother always places such types on a pedestal, a very high pedestal.
Martha has not been affiliated with any organized religion since her mind began to function at age eleven. Still, she shares Jesus’ distrust of wealth and is fond of quoting both his advice to sell all you have and give it to the poor and his adage that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
“You don’t even believe in Jesus,” I argue.
“I don’t have to believe in Jesus as God to know he’s telling the truth,” she retorts.
When I had accepted the job at Adams & Ridge, Carmen had had some unkind things to say to mutual friends about my going for the gold. Her whole premise that Martha’s goodness had gotten lost in one generation to my grabbiness had cut a bit too close to the bone. I hadn’t forgotten.
“Carmen’s working on a series about children and the courts,” Francine said. “Kids falling into poverty are a very big problem.”
“I’m aware of the problem, Francine. I’ll skip over the question of what has made Carmen give a good hoot in hell about children all of a sudden. What does any of this have to do with that coke-head Mark?”
“Oh, nothing much. Nothing at all really.”
She was hedging, worried that the prospect of helping Carmen might have made me shut the whole thing down before it ever began.
“Go on, Francine.”
“It’s just… she knew Mark fairly well and doesn’t think his death was accidental. She says Mark did drugs too much to do something that stupid.”
“So she thinks he did it on purpose? Is that it? He committed suicide over the predicament of his client and child?”
“Not exactly,” Francine said.
In hindsight I can see clearly how nonchalant she wanted to seem, playing with the gold locket and dropping it inside her sweater, glancing in the direction of the window as if a pretty bird had alighted there.
“Carmen thinks Mark was murdered.”

Kenneth Hicks & Anne Rothman-HicksAbout the Authors:
Anne Rothman-Hicks and Kenneth Hicks have been collaborating on books for forty-six years.  Their first joint effort was a student project while Anne was at Bryn Mawr College and Ken attended Haverford. Since then, they have written over twenty books together. They are members of International Thriller Writers. They live and work in New York City, where many of their books are set.
Their Jane Larson series of mystery/thrillers involves a high-powered New York City attorney with a penchant for getting involved in situations that she would be better off leaving alone. These novels have been praised by reviewers for their gritty portrayals of city life, lively characters, fast action, surprise endings and highly polished prose. Jane is cynical and rebellious, but she finds herself drawn to the simple life her deceased mother lived as an attorney who served women unable to afford legal services. The first two books in the series are Weave A Murderous Web and Praise Her, Praise Diana, both published by Melange Books, LLC. A third novel, Mind Me, Milady, will be published in early 2017.
Readers can connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
To learn more, go to http://randh71productions.com/blog/

Frank Cavallo’s Latest Novel ‘Rites of Azathoth’

Rites of Azathoth
Frank Cavallo announced today the release of his latest novel Rites of Azathoth published by Bedlam Press (An Imprint of Necro Publications).
Necro specializes in hardcore horror fiction and aims to bring the best in modern horror to the masses, publishing the best names in modern horror like Edward Lee, Charlee Jacob, Jeffrey Thomas, Gerard Houarner, Patrick Lestewka, Wrath James White, Mehitobel Wilson and dozens of others.
“Rites of Azathoth is an occult-thriller rooted in the H.P. Lovecraft tradition, or what is sometimes called the Cthulhu Mythos. It is a book that will appeal to general horror audiences, especially any fans of Lovecraft himself, as well as fans of Clive Barker, Peter Straub and Jack Ketchum,” says Cavallo.

Synopsis:
F.B.I. criminal profiler Diana Mancuso doesn’t do field work anymore. Not since a tragic mistake that cost innocent lives. But when notorious serial killer Luther Vayne escapes from prison and resumes his campaign of brutal murders, the Bureau convinces her to take one last case.
To catch him, she must understand him. She must delve into the arcana that fuels his madness, risking her life and her sanity to follow his twisted path.
The trail plunges her into a shadowy world of occult rituals and unspeakable horrors, leading to a secret cabal operating at the highest levels—and a plot to summon the darkest of all powers, to bring forth an evil that does not belong in our world—to enact the Rites of Azathoth. 

Excerpt:

 

Cleveland Police Department
Third District
2001 Payne Avenue
October 30, 1974
2:13 am
Transcript of Voluntary Oral Statement

 

Interrogation conducted by: Detective Edward D. Sadowski
Badge No.: 366
Suspect Name: Luther Charles Vayne
DOB: 10/16/1944
Ht: 5’11”
Wt.: 185
Eyes: None
Distinguishing Marks: numerous tattoos and brandings, scars on face and hands

 

OFFICER:      You have expressed your desire to waive the presence of counsel and to make a full confession. Is that correct?
VAYNE:           It is.
OFFICER:      This is regarding the murder of Anna Dressler and Eric Dressler?
VAYNE:           Yes.
OFFICER:      What is it you want me to know?
VAYNE:           As I mentioned to your desk officer, I killed them both tonight.
OFFICER:      What exactly did you do? Can you tell me that?
VAYNE:           I have done only what I was sent here to do.
OFFICER:      Sent? From where? By whom?
VAYNE:           The shadows that speak to me are of no concern. All that matters for you is that I killed the woman and her child. That is enough, is it not? I have no wish to hide anything anymore.
OFFICER:      Anymore? You’ve done this before?
VAYNE:         Yes, many times over the last year.
OFFICER:      You’ve been killing women and children for a year?
VAYNE:           Patience, detective. As I told you, I have no wish to hide anything. The facts of this and every one of my deeds are yours to examine now.
OFFICER:      You know who this boy and his mother were, don’t you? Mrs. Dressler was an heiress. She had quite a large fortune. That’s no accident is it? You targeted this kid, and his mother, didn’t you?
VAYNE:           I know who they were, and more importantly, who they were not. I know many things about them that you do not. Believe me detective, money was not involved, in this or any other of my recent acts. These were no mere children. At least until tonight, and for that I am very sorry.
OFFICER:      Sorry? Ok, that’s a start. Why don’t you tell me what you did here?
VAYNE:           I would have thought the act spoke for itself. If you’d like a narrative however, I am prepared to oblige. Simply stated, I cut the woman’s head from her neck. I drove an iron rod through her body, then through the body of her child. Just before I cut out his heart. [Pause] Would you like to hear about the others as well, detective? Or shall we take a break? You look like you might need some water.
OFFICER:      How many others are there?
VAYNE:         The boy and his mother tonight were the thirteenth.
OFFICER:      You’re prepared to confess to thirteen murders? Thirteen double murders?
VAYNE:           I am. That is why I came here tonight, to confess to everything, to every killing I have committed. At your convenience, of course. This will have to be the end of it. For now. 

 


Author Frank CavalloAbout the Author:
Frank Cavallo is a horror and dark fantasy writer. His previous works include Eye of the Storm, The Lucifer Messiah, The Hand of Osiris, and the Gotrek & Felix novella Into the Valley of Death.
Frank was born and raised in New Jersey. He graduated from Boston University with a degree in Communications in 1994 and he earned a JD from the Cleveland Marshall College of Law in 2001. His life-long fascination with the darker side of human nature has led him to devote most of the past 15 years to a career as a criminal defense attorney, at the Cuyahoga County Public Defender Office, in Cleveland, Ohio. There he has come face-to-face with some of the truest horror in this world. Murder, rape, burglary, drugs. That’s his bread and butter.
Readers can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
To learn more, go to FrankCavallo.com

Interview with Ed Duncan, Author of Pigeon Blood Red

Pigeon-Blood RedTell us a little about yourself, your work and how you got into writing.
I retired in 2012 after 37 years as a practicing lawyer at a national law firm in Cleveland.  I’ve always liked to write and in 2008 I wrote a legal text entitled Ohio Insurance Coverage which I updated annually through 2012.  My practice involved a good deal of writing as well.  But what I really wanted to do was write crime fiction, so I retired a little early to do that and to travel.
The idea for Pigeon-Blood Red came to me while attending a legal seminar in Honolulu years ago.  As I pictured the novel then, it was far from complete.  The only thing I saw in my mind’s eye was a beautiful, mysterious woman in danger and on the run and a stranger (a lawyer, of course) coming to her rescue (or trying to).  In the final version of the novel, Evelyn, the woman, and Paul, the lawyer, are not strangers but, instead, are long lost friends who haven’t seen each other since college.  Back then he was smitten by her but she was swept off her feet by Robert, the deeply flawed man who eventually became her husband.
While Paul and Evelyn continue to be pivotal characters in the novel, despite my best efforts to prevent him from doing so, Rico, the man from whom Evelyn is fleeing, becomes the focal point of the story. He is an underworld enforcer in pursuit of Robert, who stole a pigeon-blood red ruby necklace worth millions.  He follows his prey from Chicago to Honolulu and back, but the chase goes sideways after he develops a grudging respect for Paul and Evelyn, who accidentally become embroiled in the crime.  The hardened hitman must decide whether to follow orders and kill them or spare them and endanger the life of the woman he loves.
If you were to create a writing soundtrack, what artists would be on it?
I’m a big fan of both rhythm and blues and jazz but I like music from all genres.  As Duke Ellington once said, “If it sounds good, it is good.”  That said, (showing my age) I think I would include The Temptations, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra as the artists who would be on my writing soundtrack.
How do you come up with the character names in your books? 
The characters in my novel are interracial.  I try to think of a few unusual names but ones that fit. The black characters are middle class professionals, so those are fairly standard, although I used my high school year book to come up with a couple of last names.  “Paul” is the name of my best friend in elementary and high school, and “Elliott,” Paul’s last name, is the name of a biology teacher at my high school.  I borrowed “Evelyn” from the tragic lead character in Chinatown, a movie I admire a lot.  “Rico,” the name of the underworld enforcer, just popped into my head.  Rico’s boss’s last name, “Lyptak,” is a variation of “Rybak,” the name of someone I worked with in the steel mill in the summers when I was in college.  When I’m stuck, sometimes I look for interesting names in the phone book.
Have you ever written yourself or people you know as a character in one of your books?
The lawyer is meant to be a highly idealized version of me.  He’s taller, younger, smarter, braver, better looking, and more athletic, but he has my values and ethics. 
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences? 
Some of the incidents in the book are based on real life experiences.  For instance, the childhood fight Paul remembers actually happened in about the way it’s described.  Also, the telephone call Paul receives when he’s a young lawyer actually took place, as did the trial he recalls.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author? 
Never hesitate to take a writer up on his offer for advice.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Never give up based solely on rejections from agents.  As most of them freely admit, they are often wrong. Try to get an objective reading from someone whose opinion you trust.
Who are you reading right now?
I’m always reading the latest Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child.  I take one with me whenever I go on vacation.  I recently went to a mystery writers convention and picked up Blue Heaven by C.J. Box and Burned by Valerie Plame.  They are my next projects when I can find some time. I’m also reading a nonfiction book about the last year of World War II in the Pacific, Retribution by Max Hastings and Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King, which chronicles the harrowing exploits of Thurgood Marshall defending black men in the South, many wrongly accused.
What’s next, do you already have a new project in the works? 
I’m working on the second novel in the trilogy that began with Pigeon-Blood Red.  Originally it was titled Red Autumn but I’m working on trying to come up with a new title.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Fortunately, I haven’t suffered from writer’s block thus far.  There are certainly times when the words come too slowly.  I can usually cure that problem by stepping away from the work for a few days. 
What tools have you found most successful in advertising/marketing yourself and your books?
I read numerous self-help articles and a few books but I found the task of following the advice given to be too daunting, not to mention time-consuming.  My advice to others who have a similar experience is to hire a good publicist, as I did.  It has made life so much simpler. 
Did any specific author(s) motivate you to begin writing?
The author who motivated me to begin writing was Dashiell Hammett and the novel was The Maltese Falcon.  The scene where Spade explains to Brigid O’Shaughnessy why he won’t “play the sap for her” and why he’s “sending her over” for murdering his partner, although he may love her and she may love him, is masterfully written, and I reread it whenever I need inspiration or just want to appreciate riveting dialogue.
You are hosting a dinner party and must invite 3 famous people. Who would you choose and why?
If I were hosting a dinner party and had to invite 3 famous people, I would invite President Obama, Colin Powell, and James McPherson.  The President’s story is remarkable (a bonus is he’s an excellent writer), and to be able to talk to him about his life experiences and the decisions he’s made during his presidency would be endlessly fascinating.  The same could be said of Colin Powell, his life story, and his experiences as a White House advisor and as Secretary of State.  I am a Civil War buff and James McPherson is one of the nation’s most renowned experts on that conflict.  I’ve read some of his work but would love to pick his brain further.
To learn more, go to EDuncan.net

Author Ed Duncan Announces the Release of His Latest Crime Thriller ‘Pigeon-Blood Red’

Pigeon-Blood RedFebruary 26, 2016 (Cleveland, OH) – Author Ed Duncan announced today that his latest novel, Pigeon-Blood Red, is now available for purchase on Amazon, published by Zharmae.
Pigeon-Blood Red is a fast-paced and suspenseful crime thriller. It tells the story of underworld enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders, who believed his next assignment to be an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss’s priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime.
As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?
Duncan says, “It’s always been said that you should write what you know. I may not have been on the run from an underworld hit man, but I am a lawyer – as is a pivotal character in the novel who is being pursued by a hit man – and I’m excited to be able to use my legal training creatively as well as professionally.”
Ed Duncan is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years. He currently lives outside of Cleveland, OH and is at work on the second installment in the Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy. To learn more, go to http://eduncan.net/.
The kindle version of Pigeon-Blood Red is available now, with the paperback set to be released in March 2016. The book is also in development by Voyage to be made into a movie.
For further information, to request a review copy, or to set up an interview or appearance by Ed Duncan, please contact Kelsey McBride at Book Publicity Services at bookpublicityservices@gmail.com or 805.807.9027.
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Pigeon-Blood Red is a New Crime Thriller Novel by Ed Duncan

Pigeon-Blood Red Pigeon-Blood Red is a suspenseful crime thriller novel by Ed Duncan.

 

Synopsis
For underworld enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss’s priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime.
As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?

 

Praise
“Fast-paced and full of surprises. Will keep you on the edge of your seat!”Amazon Customer
“Pigeon Blood Red has a dramatic and satisfying conclusion, leaving the reader nodding his head with approval.” – Readers’ Favorite
“In a novel with as much action as love, it is sure to be a story that will fulfill the desires of readers of all ages, genders, and areas of interest.”Red City Review

 

Excerpt from Chapter 1
When Rico knocked on Jean’s door he was happy to hear the sound of footsteps. At least she was there. Maybe it was a good omen. Jean, a stunning redhead with a figure that made the heart leap, looked through the peephole, opened the door, and greeted him wrapped in a towel. She was even more tantalizing than she’d been in the car earlier that day. She wasn’t completely dry, and here and there tiny droplets of water glistened on her arms and shoulders. Rico inhaled the subtle fragrance of her shower gel, but before it could distract him, a voice in his head reminded him, “Point one percent.”
“I wasn’t expecting you back so soon,” she began, a playful, sultry smile on her face.
From the doorway Rico scanned the living room and saw nothing amiss. He walked in and closed the door behind him. Too bad. He only knew how to do this one way. “Jean, how long have you known me?” he asked stoically.
She was baffled. “You know as well as I do. What kind of a question is that?”
“I never tried to hide from you how I make my living, true?” They stood face to face, inches apart, before she took a few halting steps backward. “So you know what happens to people who don’t tell me what I want to know, don’t you?”
“Rico,” she stammered, her voice trembling, “you aren’t making any sense. What’s this all about? I don’t know what you’re accusing me of, but I haven’t done anything, I swear.”
He took a straight razor from his coat pocket and opened it. As he walked toward her, she covered her face with her hands. He stepped behind her, thrust his left arm through the triangle formed by her hands pressing against her face, and grabbed her right shoulder. With his right hand he held the blunt side of the open razor against her right cheek.
“Where is it?”
“Please, Rico,” she sobbed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He pressed harder and tightened his grip on her shoulder. “Please, please!”
“I don’t believe you.” He turned the sharp side to her cheek.
“Rico, not my face, please! I swear I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Her tears puddled where the razor met her skin.
“Sorry, baby.”
As Jean cried out he let the razor fall from his hand and, in one uninterrupted motion, expertly muzzled her scream with the same hand before the razor hit the floor. She fainted.
When she came to, she was lying on the couch where Rico had carried her. He stood with his back to her, talking to Jerry on the phone. Jerry hadn’t been able to get past lobby security in Robert’s building.
“He palmed it, right?” Jerry asked.
Rico glanced over his shoulder at Jean. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.” He hung up. “I had to be sure,” he said unapologetically.
She shivered in her towel and glared at him, anger roiling in her eyes. He went to the bedroom and returned with a blanket, which she allowed him to drape around her shoulders.
“Sorry, baby. It was just business.”
Still too furious to speak, she defiantly turned her back to him and silently dared him to say anything about it. A small victory but it was something. Ignoring the gesture, Rico walked out and closed the door softly behind him.
She was enraged, as much at herself as at him, because she knew that the next time he called she would answer. She tried to justify her emotions by telling herself that he’d stopped short of actually harming her and that he never would have. But who was she kidding? She could hope but she could never know for sure.
When the cab pulled up in front of Robert’s building, Jerry was standing outside smoking a cigarette. It was an expensive high rise on the city’s Gold Coast along Lake Michigan’s north shore, with a security guard on duty twenty- four hours a day. There was no way around it; if they wanted to get into Robert’s apartment, one way or another they’d have to deal with him. This was admittedly a minor detail, more of an annoyance than anything else.
Jerry knew Rico hated cigarette smoke. An icy stare from him whenever Jerry lit up was as effective a deterrent as a punch in the gut, so he put the fag out as Rico left the cab. Rico kept his body rock solid by lifting weights at a neighborhood gym, jogging regularly, and minimizing his intake of junk food. He didn’t like the idea of second-hand smoke undoing any of his hard work.
“So what happened?” Jerry asked.
“She didn’t have it.”
“I could’ve told you that. She’s good people.”
“Don’t start with me.”
“But—”
“But nothing. Anybody can cross the line.”
“Including me?” Jerry hoped Rico might exempt him
but didn’t expect it.
“Yeah, including you.” The two men stared at each
other for a long moment before Rico smiled. “No, not including you.” The smile vanished as quickly as it had appeared and his eyes narrowed. “You know better.”
The comment stung and Jerry hung his head a little, but it was true and he knew it. It wasn’t easy to get close to Rico and not many people did. He was loyal to a fault, yet distant and brooding. Deadly as a cobra but with a dry, sometimes biting sense of humor. Brutally honest, he lacked guile. Hated hypocrisy. Loathed arrogance. If you were in a fight for your life against hopeless odds and could pick just one person to help even them out, he would be your choice every time. But if you needed a shoulder to cry on or even a pat on the back, you’d have to think long and hard before you settled on Rico.
“Now, about this guy…” Rico said, ignoring Jerry’s reaction.
Jerry snapped out of it. “You have to tell the security guard who you want to see. He rings the apartment. If the person answers, the guard buzzes you in.”
“High-class joint.”
“No wonder he’s always out of money.”
“How much traffic in and out?”
“Not too bad so far.”
Taking in as many details as his eyes could process in one sweep of the area, Rico slowly turned in a circle, looking for anything out of the ordinary, anything that counseled against getting on with the business at hand. Outside, there were pedestrians and cars passing everywhere, but it was a busy street, so there was nothing unusual about that. Inside, the foyer was empty except for the security guard. Nothing looked menacing. Nothing looked out of place. He nodded. “Okay?” Jerry nodded back. “Let’s go and talk to the man.”
They walked briskly to the entrance, donning sunglasses almost in unison, then glanced behind them one last time before opening the door. Rico nodded to a spot inside. Jerry planted himself there. Without slowing, Rico continued toward an oak-paneled counter facing the door, behind which sat an unarmed security guard casually reading a newspaper. He was about forty, with a gaunt face and stringy hair reaching below his collar. He was the kind of guy who went through life trying to keep from stepping on anyone’s toes and hoping everyone would try to avoid stepping on his. He looked up in time to see Rico, advancing quickly in his direction, throw open his coat and jerk a .45 out of a powder-blue shoulder holster. He leaped to his feet and raised his hands above his head. Rico slammed the gun on the counter.
“Put ’em down,” Rico said. Eyes bulging and hands shaking, the guard complied and his face took on the look of a condemned man who had just received word of a reprieve. “That’s right. Relax,” Rico said. “Now buzz Robert McDuffie’s apartment.” There was no answer. “Try again.” Still no answer. “Get the key and take me up there,” he ordered, then nodded in the direction of the .45 resting on the counter under his hand. “This’ll be pointed at the back of your head on the way. Any questions?” The guard shook his head. “Then let’s go.”

 

ED DUNCANAbout the Author
Ed Duncan is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years. He is the original author of a highly regarded legal treatise entitled “Ohio Insurance Coverage,” for which he provided annual editions from 2008 through 2012.
Ed currently lives outside of Cleveland, OH. He is at work on the second installment in the Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy. To learn more, go to EDuncan.net.
Readers can connect with Ed on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
For further information, to request a review copy, or to set up an interview or appearance by Ed Duncan, please contact Kelsey McBride at Book Publicity Services at Kelsey@BookPublicityServices.com or 805.807.9027.