Taming of the Tabby

 

Taming of the Tabby publishes on Tuesday June 20. I’m really excited about this Cait and Cody crossover with Alyson from Seacliff High.  I really had fun with the story and hope you will as well. Here is a preview if you are interested.  http://amzn.to/2sMACnM

 

I could feel something brush my cheek as I struggled toward consciousness. I swiped at it with my hand, but it didn’t seem to help. I tried to open my eyes, but my head was throbbing and the effort seemed almost more than I could bear. I felt myself drifting toward the darkness, but whoever or whatever was brushing my cheek wouldn’t allow me to drift away completely.

“Stop,” I yelled, although it came out more like a croak. God, I was tired. All I wanted to do was slip back to the comfort of nothingness.

I swatted at whatever was irritating my cheek and slowly opened my eyes. It was dark. Eerily, totally dark. The only thing penetrating the inky black night were bright eyes staring at me. I stifled a scream and tried to move away, but I realized I was trapped.

Where was I?

After a moment the creature with the glowing eyes moved away, although I could still sense its presence. I raised a hand to my throbbing head. It felt wet and sticky.

Was I bleeding?

I lowered my hand and tried to get my bearings. I was sitting up, but I was tilted to the side and something was holding me in place. I struggled to liberate my tangled limbs but couldn’t get free. My heart raced and I began to breathe heavily as panic set in. After a few seconds of emotional terror as I struggled to untangle myself, I realized I was in Cody’s truck. I took a deep breath and looked around. I began once again to panic, but after a moment more I realized I was trapped in place by my seat belt and the airbag in front of me.

“Is anyone there?” I yelled into the darkness.

I paused to listen, but the only sound that penetrated my fogged mind was a soft rumbling that sounded like … purring?

I turned my head and once again locked my eyes on the dark figure beside me. I narrowed my gaze as I realized the rumbling was coming from the huge black cat with bright green eyes who must have been the one responsible for waking me in the first place. I immediately felt my heart rate slow and my panic ebb.

“How did you get in here?”

“Meow.”

I took several breaths, blowing them out slowly. Now that I knew where I was, I knew I needed to get out. I struggled to release the catch on the seat belt, which had become trapped between my body and the airbag. In a couple of minutes I’d worked the catch free and scooted out from behind the bag. The driver’s side door was jammed, but the window on the passenger side was open. I supposed that was how the cat got in. I moved my arms and legs to make sure everything was still functioning and then moved across the front seat and climbed out onto the wet ground.

Once I landed I paused to let the dizziness and nausea pass. I put a hand to my torn dress and tried to remember where I’d been and where I was going. I’d been driving Cody’s truck, so I knew he hadn’t been with me. Had anyone else? I looked around and didn’t see anyone, so I supposed I must have been alone. The truck had settled into a ditch, but from where I stood I couldn’t see the road or hear any traffic. I looked around for another vehicle but couldn’t see much in the darkness.

I realized I needed help and looked around for my phone. It wasn’t on the ground, so it must still be in the truck. I was considering crawling back inside to look for it when I smelled gasoline.
“We need to get away from the truck,” I said to the cat who sat watching me.

I paused as I tried to decide which way to walk. Nothing looked familiar. I looked down at my dress and remembered dancing. I was certain I’d been dancing. But if that had been the case why was I alone in a location so remote that not a single car had passed since I’d been here? I looked around, trying to get my bearings, but it was so dark I could only see a few feet in front of me. I figured the truck must have rolled down an embankment, which meant the road would be up the hill, so I started in that direction. I’d lost one of the high heels I’d been wearing, so I took the other one off and tossed it aside. It was slow going as I tried to walk across the rocky ground barefoot, but I had to put some distance between myself and the truck, which I feared could explode at any minute. The cat followed along as I dragged my bruised and battered body up the steep incline, one agonizingly slow step at a time.

As I walked, I listened for the sound of…well, pretty much anything. If I had been in an accident there must have been a second car. Were there survivors in need of help? And even if there hadn’t been a second car it seemed like I should be able to hear traffic on the highway. I paused and put a hand to my throbbing head. God, it hurt, but I needed to find my way back to the road, so I kept going.

As I walked, I tried to remember the events leading up to the accident. I looked down again at my dress, which was, by this point, little more than a tattered rag barely covering my body. Yellow. Siobhan’s favorite color. The wedding! My older sister, Siobhan Hart, had finally married the love of her life, Deputy Ryan Finnegan, and I, Caitlin Hart, had been her maid of honor, while my boyfriend, Cody West, had been one of the groomsmen.

I sighed with relief, now that my scrambled mind was beginning to put things back into place. Finn and Siobhan were supposed to marry a week ago, but she’d come down with a nasty virus and there was no way, she’d declared, that she was going to try to get through one of the most important days of her life when she felt like she wanted to die. It had been a juggling act requiring a lot of hard work and negotiation, but eventually we were able to postpone the event until today. Finn and Siobhan had been cutting it close with the postponement because it meant a lot to them to have Father Kilian officiate at the ceremony, and tomorrow was his last day as a priest at St. Patrick’s before his retirement.

I paused to take a breath and once again wondered where I was. I could remember the wedding and subsequent reception, but then everything seemed to go black.

I crinkled my nose as the smell of smoke penetrated the air. I looked back toward the truck. I didn’t see any flames, but perhaps there was a small fire on the far side of the vehicle that was hidden from my view. I gauged the distance between me and the truck and realized I was still much too close should it explode. I looked down at the cat, then continued forward. The brush was dense on this part of Madrona Island, requiring me to navigate the steep hillside carefully. I couldn’t see my legs, but based on the number of scratches I could feel, I was sure it was going to be a while before I was going to be able to wear shorts again without looking like the subject of a medical experiment.

It probably took me a half hour to make it up the embankment to the road. I looked carefully in both directions, but there wasn’t a single headlight on the horizon. I did see something on the side of the road ahead of me, though. My feet were raw and bleeding and I winced in pain with each step I took, but eventually I was close enough to the object that it began to take form.

Oh God.

I put my hand to my mouth and moved forward at a slightly faster pace. On the side of the hill just a few feet down from the road was the still form of a man lying on his stomach. “Are you okay? Can you hear me?”

He didn’t move. Kneeling beside him, I placed two fingers on his neck. I’m certainly not a trained medical professional and I’ve had zero experience taking pulses, but I didn’t feel one, so I had to assume he was dead. I looked around but didn’t see a second car. I wondered who he was and how he’d come to be there.
Had I hit this man before plunging over the embankment? I didn’t remember it, but, to be fair, I couldn’t remember anything else either.

I carefully checked the man’s pockets for identification or, better yet, a cell phone, but they were completely empty. That in and of itself was strange, but I didn’t have time to dwell on it now. I looked carefully at the side of his face that was exposed. I didn’t know who he was, but for some reason he seemed familiar. Mostly, I felt certain I hadn’t known him before tonight, but a memory flashed through my mind as I studied his face. My head began to spin and I was certain I was about to pass out, so I looked away. I hated to leave him lying on the side of the road, but I needed to get help and because not a single car had passed by, I wasn’t confident waiting was the best thing to do.

“I’m going for help,” I said to him, just in case he was alive and could hear me, which, to be honest, I pretty much doubted. “I’ll try to hurry. If you’re alive and regain consciousness wait here for me.” I looked around. “Wherever here is.” I stood up, then looked down at the cat, who was pacing back and forth alongside me. “What do you think? Do you know where we are?”

“Meow.”

“Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.” The only thing that made sense was that we were on the northern end of the island, which was only sparsely populated. There weren’t any retail outlets there, but there were a few homes. Based on my best guess, if I walked long enough in either direction I should come across a house, which might contain a Good Samaritan willing to let me use their phone. “What do you think? Left or right?”

The cat took off trotting to the west and I fell in behind. I was several hundred yards down the road when I heard a boom, followed by a flash of light. It looked like Cody was definitely going to need a new truck. The ground and surrounding forest was wet from all the rain, so I doubted the fire would spread. At least I hoped it wouldn’t.

The road was narrow and twisting as it wound through the dense forest. I had the sense we were heading toward the coast and hoped that if I managed to make it that far we’d either come across a residence or perhaps a car. The loop road that hugged the coast of Madrona Island was fairly well traveled, though not necessarily on the north shore and not necessarily at this time of night.

Every step I took sent pain shooting up my leg. My feet were covered in deep cuts, making walking agony, but I needed to get help. I figured Cody must be worried and looking for me by now, although I had no reason to believe he’d be looking for me here.

I frowned. Why was I even on the north shore?

I took a deep breath, focused my mind, and struggled to remember.

Finn and Siobhan had gotten married. It had been a beautiful ceremony, with our family and friends surrounding them. Finn was the resident deputy for the island and Siobhan was the mayor, so they knew a lot of people. The church had been packed to capacity for the ceremony and the reception, which had been held in the church hall, had been a festive and happy affair.

I remembered them leaving to catch the last ferry to the mainland. They were going to Italy on their honeymoon, which struck me as perfect and romantic. Their flight left from Seattle early tomorrow morning, so they were spending the night in a hotel near the airport.

After Finn and Siobhan left the guests began to disperse. I remembered discussing cleanup duties with my best friend, Tara O’Brian, and that’s where things got fuzzy. I could picture a girl with blond hair. She was somehow involved, but I couldn’t quite nail down how.

I paused and looked around. Large clouds covered the moon, plunging the narrow forest road into almost complete darkness. Tiny fingers of panic began to work their way up my spine. I needed to fight the urge to curl up and cry if I was going to make it out of the forest alive.

I glanced down at the cat, who must have sensed my panic because he began to wind himself through my legs, purring so loudly that he chased away the eerie silence of the night. I bent over and picked him up, then buried my face in his warm fur. I willed myself to relax as I took comfort from my four-legged companion. I kissed the cat on the top of the head, thanking him for the affection he’d offered, then set him gently on the ground and looked around again.

I felt so small and insignificant. How would anyone ever find me? The temperature had dropped significantly as the time passed, but I didn’t think it would get so cold that I needed to worry about hypothermia. Still, I needed to keep moving.

It would help if I had something to wrap around my feet, but I couldn’t immediately think of anything that would stay in place as I continued my trek. After a moment I decided to tear strips from what was left of my dress and tie them around my feet to act as protection between my torn skin and the rough ground.
I ripped several strips of fabric and sat down on a log. I flinched as I tried to remove the small rocks that had become embedded into my flesh before wrapping my feet. God, they hurt.

I waited for the pain to ease and then stood gingerly. My feet felt like they were on fire and pain shot up my legs, but the only thing to do was keep going, so I did.

I let my mind wander back to the wedding. It helped to divert my attention from the pain, and I hoped determining a sequence of events would lend perspective to the situation. I could picture gathering discarded cups as I worked the room and thanked everyone as they left. I noticed that one of Siobhan’s bridesmaids, a woman named Shelby Long, had imbibed a few drinks too many and wasn’t in any shape to drive home. I’d offered to drive her, despite the fact that she lived on the north end of the island. I didn’t have my car at the church, so I took Cody’s truck. Ah; that answered the question of why I was on the north shore, but Shelby lived on the coast, so what had I been doing on an old logging road in the island’s interior?

“Meow.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m coming,” I said to the cat, who had started to pick up the pace.

Now I remembered Cody volunteering to go with me, but Tara and her date, Dr. Parker Hamden, needed help cleaning up and returning all the tables and chairs to the storage area in the church hall. We discussed it and agreed it would be better for Cody to help Tara and Parker while I ran Shelby home. I’d delivered her home safe and sound and then …

I narrowed my gaze as I tried to remember. I was in the truck driving back toward Harthaven when …
When what?

The answer to how I’d ended up on this rarely used logging road in the middle of the night probably wasn’t as important as the fact that I might have run down a pedestrian. My heart ached at the thought that I’d taken a life.

I raised a hand to my head as a wave of nausea gripped me. It felt like the wound had stopped oozing, but my head still pounded and my thoughts were still unclear. My feet were mostly numb by this point, which I supposed was a good thing considering that based on my calculations I still had a good two miles to walk before I hit the coast road.

I wasn’t sure how much time had passed when I heard the hum of an oncoming vehicle. The driver wouldn’t be expecting to find someone walking around in the dark, so I didn’t want to stay where I was, in the middle of the road. I was trying to decide how best to get the attention of the driver when headlights shone from around a corner. Before I could react the cat darted across the road and the driver slammed on the brakes.

I held my hand to my chest as my heart raced. Had the cat been hit? I looked around frantically but didn’t see it.

A man jumped out of the car and looked around. When he saw me standing on the side of the road he came in my direction.

“Are you okay?” he asked in a heavily accented voice.

My eyes darted around. “The cat. Did you hit it?”

He shook his head. “I don’t think so. I didn’t hear a thud. I tried to stop in time, but I can’t be sure. He came out of nowhere.”

“I know. I saw what he did. He wanted to get your attention. He didn’t want you to miss me in the dark.”

He gave me an odd look. I was certain he thought I’d lost my mind. “What happened to you?”

“I was in an accident. Do you have a phone?”

“Yes.”

“I need to call my boyfriend, Cody West. He’ll know what to do.”

He lent me his phone and I made the call. As I’d thought, Cody had been out looking for me and wasn’t all that far away. He assured me he’d be there in five minutes, so I thanked the man and he went on his way.
I called to the cat who had helped me while I waited for Cody, but he seemed to have disappeared. The fact that I didn’t see his body lying on or near the road meant that at least he hadn’t been killed by the oncoming car. Still, he could have been injured. My heart ached at the thought that he might have given his life for mine. I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer as tears streamed down my face.

A few minutes later Cody pulled my car to a stop at the side of the road, followed almost immediately by Dr. Hamden’s car.

“My God, what happened?” Cody wrapped me in his arms.

“I don’t know. I was in an accident. I don’t remember.”

Parker pulled up and Tara jumped out and joined us in the middle of the road. She hugged my back because Cody was still hugging my front. “What happened? We were so worried.”

“I’m fine.” I struggled to breathe amid all the hugging.

Parker walked over and shone a flashlight in my face. “You have a fairly serious head injury. We need to get you to the hospital.”

“Wait.” I put up a hand. “There’s a man down the road. I think I might have hit him, although I can’t really remember. I think he’s dead, but I can’t be sure.”

We all piled into the cars and headed down the road. We drove slowly, so we wouldn’t miss the place where the accident had occurred. The fire from Cody’s truck was still smoldering. Luckily, as I’d hoped, the damp forest hadn’t burned from the explosion. I got out of the car and walked to the edge of the embankment, a wave of nausea gripping me as I looked down. The remains of Cody’s truck were clearly visible, but up here, the man was gone.

“I found him on the side of the road. He was right here, I swear.”

Cody and Parker both used flashlights to search the area while Tara took me back to my car. The men looked for a good fifteen minutes, but neither found evidence of a body, a second car, or even any blood.
“But that can’t be,” I insisted. “I saw him. I felt for a pulse. I swear to you, there was a man in this very spot.”

Parker put a hand on my shoulder. “You were in an accident, leaving you with a serious head injury. You’re in shock. It’s completely possible you were hallucinating. We’ll notify the sheriff’s office; for now I have to insist we take you to the hospital so I can look you over.”

“But…”

“Please.” Cody placed his hands on my face and forced me to look at him. “We’ll call the sheriff’s office and they’ll handle things regarding the missing man, but Parker’s right; we need to get you to the hospital. You could have internal bleeding.”

“Okay,” I reluctantly agreed. “But I know what I saw.”

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The Future of Seacliff High

 

So, you may have been wondering, what is up with the Seacliff High series? In this blog I hope to share the good, the bad, and the ugly.

In 2015 I published the first 5 Seacliff High’s. These were books I had written for fun years earlier before I was a published author so all I had to do was polish them up and have them edited. Those who read the series seemed to LOVE it but I had a hard time getting people to try it for the first time. I think part of this problem may have been due to an identity crisis of sorts. One hand the series features teens which gives people the idea the series is for teens, but on the other hand, given the lack of sex, drugs, and violence, it really wasn’t the sort of thing to appeal to most modern day teens. While I did gain some teen readers the largest reader pool were my ‘forever teens’ in my 50+ age group. This particular age group grew up on Nancy Drew and welcomed a modern day equivalent with a little bit of paranormal thrown in.

In 2016 I decided it was not economically feasible to continue the series. By the time I paid for editing, cover, advertising, etc., I actually lost money on every book in this particular series. It seemed at the time to be a logical decision but what I didn’t know was that I had some very impassioned readers of the series who launched a email campaign to convince me to write another book.

I love my readers and want all of them to be happy so I decided to complete a Seacliff I had started but never finished. This story will publish as The Shadow on June 1, 2017. I am also definitely going to do book 7 – The Haunting in September (or maybe October). After that??? I would like to continue the series and think it has a lot of potential but I will need the help of everyone who loves the series to help me get the word out.

In an effort to introduce the series to new readers I decided to have Alyson visit Madrona Island in Taming of the Tabby. If you follow the Whales and Tails series but have not yet tried Seacliff here is an opportunity to meet Alyson and her faithful dog Tucker.  I have also moved the series from Amazon Exclusive and have published the first 5 books on all the major outlets – Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and ibooks. This is risky but in the end I hope this will help me find new readers.

 

I had already put The Shadow in Kindle Unlimited before I decided to move the series out of Kindle Unlimited so this is what you can expect from this book. It is currently on presale for $2.99. Once it publishes the price will be raised to $3.99. It will remain in Kindle Unlimited for 90 days and then it will be pulled and offered on Nook, Kobo, and ibooks like the other books in the series. If you want to buy it for $2.99 buy it while it is in preorder. If you want to borrow it do so within 9o days of publication. http://amzn.to/2p6MsTU

At this point I plan for all future books in the series to be distributed widely from the very beginning in the hope of getting a large enough following to continue with new books for years to come.

If you have read the series comment below and let me know what you think.

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Welcoming a New Series

 

I know it seems like I have been talking about my new Writers Retreat Series for months now but I am super excited about it and am hoping for a strong launch. Book 1 in the series – First Case – will publish on Monday, May 1. The series is set on Gull Island which was first introduced in Treasure in Paradise. While Tj has gone home to Paradise Lake by the time this series picks up, many of the characters such as Blackbeard the Parrot, Deputy Savage, Gertie from the diner, and Mayor Betty Sue Bell will be featured in the new series.

Preorder First Case – it will also be available for iBooks – it will NOT be in Kindle Unlimited

Kindle – http://amzn.to/2pr0aVv

Nook – http://bit.ly/2qk8aoy

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/first-case

Paperback – http://amzn.to/2qbCMJp

 

Book 2 in the series – Second Look – will publish on July 4, 2017 and I expect that book 3 – Third Strike – will publish in September or October. I’m still working out this part of my writing schedule. The story centers around a five year old murder and the revelation that the primary suspect hadn’t fled as everyone thought but had actually been the second victim who had been entombed in a secret room that no one knew existed until the house was torn down five years after the first death. I’m still writing this one and am super excited to find out how it all ends up. I’m really loving the cast in this series.

Preorder Second Look  – it will also be available for Kobo and iBooks – it will NOT be in Kindle Unlimited

Kindle – http://amzn.to/2qcO434

Nook – http://bit.ly/2oQPlZC

Paperback – http://amzn.to/2p8LlpX

 

Here is a sneak peek at First Case:

The fact that Katrina Pomeroy had been murdered was in and of itself a newsworthy event. The fact that she had been murdered on Friday, October 13, exactly eleven years after she’d been one of five teenagers to survive the Friday the Thirteenth Massacre, made her passing worthy of notice by the national news agencies I used to work for. When an old editor of mine offered me the chance to write a human-interest piece about Katrina’s life and subsequent death, I jumped at the chance. An article such as this had all the makings of becoming the exposé I, Jillian Hanford, needed to relaunch my presently defunct career. Of course to make the sort of impact I was after, I’d not only need to write about Katrina’s unusual life, but to answer the question of who was responsible for her death.

I knew I’d need help to accomplish my goal, so I gathered my friends on a dark and stormy night and, with the help of fellow writer George Baxter, presented a proposal.

“Rayleen Oswald was the first to die,” George shared in a raspy voice as thunder rumbled in the distance. “She was stabbed thirteen times and then propped against a tree that, eerily enough, would be struck by lightning before the horrific night had come to an end.”

A flash of light pierced the sky, causing everyone gathered in the three-story home we shared to gasp as they waited for the clap of thunder we knew would follow. The house, which was part of the rundown resort I had agreed to manage temporarily, shook as the wind battered the island from the south, causing the tension in the room to intensify.

George continued. “Most felt that, as the first victim, Rayleen was the killer’s intended target, the others who died merely victims of circumstance. I’m not sure we can ever know what was in the killer’s mind and heart, but despite the killer’s motive, or lack thereof, two more died before the sun rose in the morning sky.”

Rain streamed down the windows, creating a feeling of isolation in the room that was illuminated by only the light from the fire and a few flickering candles we’d set around to offset the inky darkness created when the electricity had flickered and then gone out. It wasn’t uncommon for strong storms to batter the small islands off the South Carolina coast, but I was new to the area and had yet to develop the backbone necessary to easily weather such storms.

“Why were the kids on the island in the first place?” Clara Kline, a sixty-two-year-old, self-proclaimed psychic and paranormal mystery writer, asked her traditional mystery counterpart.

George took a puff from his pipe before he spoke again. “The day had started off sunny and mild. A group of teens from the local high school decided to cut class and go sailing, even though the local weather service predicted that a major storm would blow in by midafternoon. Now, the kids, having grown up on the island, were familiar with local weather patterns, and most were excellent sailors, but for reasons that have never been fully understood, they failed to return to the marina before the tropical storm rolled in. When the teens realized they weren’t going to make it back to Gull Island, they decided to take shelter in one of the abandoned structures on Waverly Island.”

“Waverly Island?” asked Brit Baxter, George’s twenty-six-year-old niece and the newest member of our group.

“It’s about fifteen miles north of us,” I answered in George’s stead.

Brit was not only new to the group but new to the writers’ retreat and Gull Island, so I wasn’t surprised she was unfamiliar with the small settlement on the nearby island that had been occupied a half century ago but had been destroyed by a hurricane and never rebuilt. I glanced at Blackbeard, the outspoken parrot I’d inherited when I took over as manager of the resort my half brother, Garrett Hanford, owned. It appeared he was listening intently to the story, which sort of creeped me out; he was, after all, a bird. Blackbeard nodded in my direction, which made me flinch. It had occurred to me on more than one occasion that the assertion by Clara that the large tropical transplant was really an apparition in disguise might not be as wild a claim as I’d originally believed.

“So eight teenagers took refuge on a deserted island in the middle of a tropical storm…” Alex Cole, a fun, flirty millennial who’d made his first million writing science fiction when he was just twenty-two trailed off, thereby encouraging George to go on.

“The shelter where the teens sought refuge was within the walls of a structure that had been destroyed more than thirty years before. They built a fire for warmth and decided to wait out the storm. At some point after they settled in, Rayleen and her boyfriend, Troy, got into a fight. Rayleen stormed off, and the next time anyone saw her, she had been stabbed thirteen times and left leaning against a tree that had just been struck by lightning. The specifics of this story are complex,” George warned. “I’m going to suggest we keep to the overview this evening and then examine the bones of the mystery at a later time.”

“Sounds fine by me,” Brit answered. “But I still want to hear the end of the story.”

“Very well.” Charles refilled his glass of brandy from the bottle on the table. “After Rayleen was found, the others feared they weren’t alone on the island. So, after much discussion, they did what the characters in any horror movie do: They split up to take a look around. After an exhaustive search in the pouring rain, with gale-force winds hampering their every step, the seven remaining teens finally concluded that if there had been someone else on the island they were long gone. They returned to the structure where they’d initially set up camp and waited for the storm to pass.”

“And then? You said there were three victims,” Alex pointed out.

“Why is it that young people today are so anxious to get to the finish line? Stories such as this one should be drawn out and savored.”

Alex gave Charles an impatient look.

“Anyway,” Charles continued, “after a long day battling both the storm and their fear, everyone began to drift off to sleep. No one claimed to know exactly when the second victim, Trevor Bailey, left the others, but at some point his girlfriend, Brooklyn Vanderbilt, woke up and noticed him missing. When he didn’t return after almost a half hour, Brooklyn went looking for him. She found him impaled on an old ship’s anchor.”

The room fell silent as Charles paused for everyone to digest what he’d said. The shadows created by the wood fire in the old stone fireplace lent an eerie feeling to the already spooky aura that had been created by the storm and the story. Alex got up and poured himself a tall glass of whiskey while Brit wrapped her arms around her legs, as if attempting to make herself as small as possible. I wondered what must have gone through the minds of the teens that night. Knowing you were trapped on an island with a homicidal maniac had to be the most horrifying thing one could imagine. A representative from the sheriff’s office had interviewed the survivors, but they’d been so traumatized that their memories had been distorted. In the end, the stories each told were so completely different as to be rendered useless.

“And the third victim?” Alex finally asked. Most of the time you could count on Alex to interject a bit of humor into a tense situation, but tonight, as the storm raged outside and Charles shared this very true story, he looked as spooked as anyone.

“The third victim was a boy named Joshua Vanderbilt. He was Brooklyn’s cousin, who was visiting Gull Island. Joshua was found facedown in a freshwater pond. Some said he’d passed out due to the large quantity of alcohol he’d consumed that day and his death by drowning was an accident; others insisted he was murdered.”

“So Brooklyn was connected to two of the victims,” Alex commented. “She was the girlfriend of victim number two, Trevor Bailey, and the cousin of victim number three, Joshua Vanderbilt. Was she related in any way to victim number one, Rayleen Oswald?”

“Trevor was friends with Rayleen,” I answered. “In fact, it was Trevor who introduced Troy and Rayleen to each other. As far as I can tell from my preliminary research, a lot of people have spent a significant amount of time looking at both stated and secret relationships between the kids who set off on the boat that day. The reality is, this is a small island, and except for Joshua, the teens all went to the same school, so they were all connected to one another in some way.”

By this point everyone in the room was frowning. Not that I blamed them; the story was not only tragic but confusing as well. Finally Clara asked about the names of the other survivors and where they currently lived, if known.

“Brooklyn Vanderbilt still lives on the island,” George provided. “She teaches third grade at Gull Island Elementary School. She’s married to a local contractor, Flip Johnson. They have two children, a boy and a girl. She’s a well-respected and liked member of the community.”

“So theoretically Brooklyn would be available to be interviewed,” Brit commented.

“Theoretically,” George answered. “Another survivor, Carrie Quincy, also still lives on the island. She works as a waitress at Gertie’s. I’m sure most of you have met her.”

“Carrie from the diner was on the island that night?” Alex asked.

“She was, although she prefers not to speak about what happened. She was with her boyfriend at the time, Jason Rogers.”

“And Katrina Pomeroy?” Brit asked.

“She left the island after the incident. Prior to her death, she owned an art gallery in Charleston.”

“I heard her body was found at the foot of the old pier,” Alex commented. “It seems as if she’d been pushed. Do you think her murder is related to the Friday the Thirteenth Massacre?”

“Perhaps,” I answered.

“So if she’d moved to Charleston, what was she doing here when she was killed?”

“That’s one of the unanswered questions I’ve been pondering,” I said.

In the past twenty-four hours I’d been struggling unsuccessfully to outline a news article about Katrina’s murder. I’d finally brought my problem to Charles, who, after quite a bit of discourse, had suggested we bring the puzzle to the rest of the writers’ group.

“Who owned the boat the kids sailed on?” Clara asked.

“Jason Rogers. He still lives on Gull Island. He’s a marine mechanic and works over at the marina in the summer. During the off-season he does odd jobs for Troy Wheeler, who, as you’ll remember, was Rayleen’s boyfriend at the time of her death. Troy works as a bank manager. He also serves on the island council.”

The group fell into silence, trying to process everything that had been said. Although we all were writers, each of us had our own niche and tended to work alone. The writers’ group had begun meeting a couple of times a week to discuss our work the previous summer, when Charles was researching a true crime for his latest whodunit. He’d hit a roadblock and asked Clara, Alex, and me for help. The result of our work was a bestseller for Charles and a clue that led the Charleston PD to a real-life killer.

From that point we decided to use one another as a sounding board when we ran into snags in our projects. Brit had just moved out to the resort the previous week, after deciding that her degree in business was getting her nowhere. After a bit of introspection she’d realized she wasn’t taking the business world by storm because her real love was writing. Because she was Charles’s niece there was no question that she’d be admitted into the group even though she had yet to solve her first mystery or publish her first book.

“When’s your article due?” Brit asked.

“They want it by the end of next week. I could turn it in minus a resolution to the murder, but I’d really like to solve the mystery before we go to print. I could use everyone’s help.”

“I’m in,” Brit answered. “Just let me know what you need me to do.”

“I’ll help as well,” Clara offered.

“I think that even if the entire group commits we’re going to have an uphill battle, though I’m up for the challenge,” Alex agreed. “When’s Victoria going to be back? I’m not sure we can do this without her snarky comments to keep us on track.”

Victoria Vance, a best-selling novelist who specializes in steamy romances, is my best friend.

“Not until Monday. The convention is over tomorrow morning, but she planned to visit friends and do some shopping before heading home.”

“Have you spoken to Deputy Savage?” Alex asked. “I’m sure he’s the one investigating Katrina Pomeroy’s murder. He must have established a list of suspects by now.”

“I called to speak to him, but he isn’t sharing. I guess I don’t blame him. My interest in the case is journalistic, while his is in bringing the person responsible for killing Katrina to justice. I guess I’ll need to pay him a visit in person, where my powers of persuasion can shine through.”

“Couldn’t hurt to have a cop’s perspective,” Alex commented.

“What do you know about Katrina and her death?” Clara wondered.

“That shortly after the five survivors of the Friday the Thirteenth Massacre were rescued, Katrina’s family left the island. She pretty much dropped off the radar, though I found an article that said she was living in Charleston, where she owned an art gallery. It seems she was doing quite well. I have no idea why she happened to be on Gull Island exactly eleven years after the horrific night that sent her running in the first place. If she was as traumatized as the article made it sound it makes no sense that she’d return to the island, especially on the anniversary.”

“Have you spoken to the other survivors?” Alex asked.

“Not yet. I just got the call from my old editor this morning, and with the storm, I haven’t had a chance to work on it other than to do some computer research and discuss the matter with Charles. It isn’t going to be an easy mystery to solve, but I feel if anyone can get to the bottom of the whole thing we can.”

“I think we have as good a shot as anyone,” Charles agreed.

“My sense is that we’ll find our way to an answer, but I’m exhausted. I think I’ll head upstairs,” Clara announced.

Alex and Brit agreed they could use some shut-eye as well, so they followed Clara up the stairs to the second floor, where most of the house’s ten bedrooms were located.

“What do you really think?” I asked Charles when the three of them had gone. Although I’d only met him a few months ago, I felt I could trust and depend on him more than anyone else in my life. Maybe it was the kindness in his faded blue eyes, the nostalgia of the worn tweed jackets he favored, the smell of tobacco coming from his cherrywood pipe, or the careful way he considered every situation, but from the moment I met him I’d felt like I’d finally been united with the grandfather I’d always longed for but never known.

“I think this is going to turn out to be a difficult and complicated case. The initial murders occurred over a decade ago and for one reason or another have never been solved. The death of Katrina Pomeroy appears to have occurred in isolation, with no witnesses.”

“So you think I should drop it?” I tucked a lock of my long brown hair behind my ear to keep it from falling across my face.

“Not necessarily. If the case had been easy to solve it would have happened already and would therefore be of little interest to your editor or us. We have captured Alex’s interest, which is a good thing. The kid is young and cocky and occasionally tests my last nerve, but he is also bright, creative, and industrious. He has a unique way of weeding through facts and honing in on the root of the matter. I have a feeling if we can channel his focus he will turn out to be a huge asset.”

“And the others?”

“I love Brit. She is my very favorite niece. But she is young and untested. She still needs to grow into her place with the group. I’m not sure she will be a lot of help with this case, but given time, I’m sure she will fit in. As for Clara, we both know she has the potential to provide the precise insight that can make the difference between success and failure. I think the fact that teens were involved in this case has caused her to take a step back emotionally. It is my sense, however, that in the end she will make the connection to provide the insight we need.”

Clara wrote paranormal mysteries and claimed to have psychic powers. Her books were wonderful, but I hadn’t decided if the psychic part was true. Clara had provided a key insight that had allowed us to solve the case Charles had been working on the previous summer, but she tended to become emotionally involved in whatever case we were discussing, which seemed to block her ability to get a clear and concise reading. There was a part of me—the long-suppressed child part—that really wanted to believe in her psychic powers, but I was no longer a child, and the pragmatist in me had pretty much decided Clara was just very observant and that was why she picked up on subtle clues others missed.

“The reality is,” Charles added, “we have nothing to lose by attempting to figure this out. If we do you will have a wonderful twist for your article and a killer will have been brought to justice; if we don’t, we will only have wasted a few hours of our lives.”

“Thanks, Charles. I only have a week to turn in my article, so I plan to give it my all. I’m not sure if the case is solvable, but I’d like to give it a try.” I could hear thunder rumbling in the distance. “It looks like we’re in for the second wave of rain the forecasters said was coming.”

“I think I will go up and get settled in before it gets here.”

“Me too. I’ll see you in the morning.”

I tossed another log on the fire before heading upstairs. Normally Blackbeard slept in a cage in the library, but tonight, with the storm and all, I’d decided to bring him upstairs and have him sleep in my room at the top of the house. One of the first things I’d done upon moving in was remodel the attic and turn it into a bedroom. Not only did the third story have the best view in the house, but being alone on my own floor afforded me a certain degree of privacy.

“What about you?” I asked the bird as I carried him up the two flights of stairs. “Do you think we have a chance of solving this complicated case?”

“Captain Jack, Captain Jack.”

I smiled at my brighter-than-average bird. Leave it to him to come up with the exact person I’d need to bring this story home.

Bring the story home. God, how I missed that.

 

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Where Have I Been?

 

I think I missed a few blogs between my trip to Hawaii and my impossibly crazy writing schedule, but I wanted to check in and let you all know that I am still alive and kicking. I’ve been busy preparing some really fun stories to be published over the upcoming months. So what, you might ask, have I been working on? Thank you for asking I’d love to fill you in.

 

http://amzn.to/2o2zjfU

First of all up next is Treasure to Paradise – book 7 in the Tj Jensen Paradise Lake Mystery Series. This is a fun book on location on fictional Gull Island off the South Carolina Coast. This Tj acts as a bridge of sorts between the ‘old’ Tj’s I initially self published and the ‘new’ Tj’s I plan to publish with Henery Press. I think it is a fun book which includes a treasure hunt and a new romance, which I have a feeling may end up being the romance.

  http://amzn.to/2oK2g2O

As a pre-launch promotion, Henery Press is offering Bikinis in Paradise for $.99 from April 7 – 13. They don’t discount their books all that often so here is the chance to read it for the first time or to read the new edition even if you have read the first one but were curious about the changes.

http://amzn.to/2kIFlSU

Also in April we have the first half of the Zak and Zoe – Luke and Lani crossover. I really think you are going to love this story. It was super fun to write and we get to see the techy side of Zak a bit more than we have in the past. There is also a big reveal at the end you don’t want to miss so be sure to preorder today.

 

  http://amzn.to/2mDUI0R

The second half of the Zak and Zoe – Luke and Lani crossover is Murder at Water’s Edge. This is a fast paced mystery that will take you on a tour of Maui featuring real locations I visited during my last trip. We will also get a much better look into the depths of Shredder’s character and a glimpse of things that could show up on the horizon. Murder at Waters Edge will publish in May.

Also publishing in May and June:

 http://amzn.to/2kOqnvc

http://amzn.to/2n2aWBq

 http://amzn.to/2oqwHLC

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Aloha from Hawaii

 

As many of you know Ken and I are in Hawaii doing research for a super fun Luke and Lani / Zak and Zoe crossover story set on Maui. The story involves a game sort of like the Amazing Race where contestants must solve puzzles and riddles to find locations leading to clues along the way. We are visiting and scoping out many of the locations that will be mentioned in the book. Making time to do the research while maintaining my regular work schedule has been a little tricky but so far we are balancing everything and having a wonderful time.

I am posting photos every day onto all of my Facebook pages but I have a caption contest going on over on my group page so be sure to head over and enter every day. https://www.facebook.com/groups/569578823146850/ I will select 8 winners – one from each day – to receive a gift from Hawaii.

So far the most awesome thing to happen occurred Thursday morning. We are sitting on the lanai having breakfast and looking out over the water when this huge whale swims by right on the surface of the water. He is super close so you can see his entire body. After a few seconds it goes down under and we figure the show is over and then it shoots up out of the water with it’s entire body except the very end of its tail exposed and creates a giant splash. It was like being at Sea World for the whale show only way better.

Sorry I didn’t get a photo. The whole thing happened so darn fast and I didn’t have my phone or camera with me.

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Murder at Turtle Cove

 

Murder at Turtle Cove will publish while I am away so here is a quick glimpse of what to expect. The fifth installment in the series finds Lani in a bit of a sticky wicket as the book opens. Below is the unedited opening scene which is followed by a fast paced mystery which will reveal some surprising details about both her boyfriend Luke and her neighbor Shredder.

 

I sat on my surfboard, perfectly still, watching, waiting. The sun had just begun its ascent into the sky, creating a canvas of orange and red as it reflected off the clouds left from the overnight rain. I felt my body tense as I glanced toward the beach. Fins circled in a tight pattern coming increasingly closer to my dog, Sandy, who waited at the water’s edge. I hoped and prayed Sandy would stay on the beach as he’d been trained to do. So far he’d been content to pace beyond the waterline, barking aggressively as the sharks enjoyed an early meal, but I suspected it was only a matter of time before he gave in to the urge to attack the intruders in order to remove the danger I was certain he could sense. My mind screamed no as he paced closer and closer to the waterline. I knew if I called out he would be more likely to attempt to swim out to me, so I just waited and prayed, then prayed and waited some more.

 When I’d arrived that morning the beach and the water had been deserted, which wasn’t all that unusual because the sun had yet to complete its climb over the horizon. Turtle Cove was isolated on the far northwestern corner of the island, known only to the locals who lived in the area. It wasn’t likely to attract the casual surfer on holiday, which was why it was one of my favorite places to surf. I’d been enjoying some of the best waves I’d ever experienced in my life when I noticed the first of what would grow to be at least a half-dozen fins. Being a surfer living in the islands, I knew it was best to just hang back until the sharks had finished their meal, but hanging back and waiting had become an increasingly terrifying experience each time Sandy approached the water.

 After several minutes the feeding frenzy came to an end and the sharks began to disperse. My heart beat just a bit faster as several of the sharks swam within arm’s length of my surfboard on their way out of the cove. I lay flat on the fiberglass and tried not to move as two sharks approached the spot where I waited. They circled several times, inching closer with each pass, before moving on and continuing out to sea. It felt as if they could sense my presence and were curious but weren’t really sure what to make of me.

I had, on occasion, dove with the tiger sharks that populate the area. They’re not only beautiful and graceful creatures but large predators, ranging from twelve to thirteen feet in length. Although tiger sharks can be dangerous and are responsible for attacks on swimmers and surfers each year, in Hawaii they’re more than just ferocious predators. Here the shark, or mano, is woven into the fabric of Hawaiian culture and history. They’re revered and even worshipped in many native traditions.

 As soon as it looked as if the water was clear, I began to swim toward shore, quickly yet quietly. I paused between each stroke, listening for the return of my early morning friends. I scanned the water’s surface as I tried to move silently through the sea. As I approached the beach, Sandy swam out and retrieved something floating on the surface. He dragged it back to the sand, and once I landed on the shore, he lay the prize at my feet. My hand flew to my mouth when I realized what it was he’d brought me. I gasped and turned away as I willed the nausea that had overtaken me to subside. I wasn’t certain what I’d expected to find, but I certainly hadn’t imagined Sandy’s offering to be a who rather than a what. Or at least part of a who. I took several deep breaths, which seemed to quell my racing heart, before I ran to my bag, where I’d left my phone.

 

If you would like to read the rest of the story the book will publish on March 24. You can preorder it here:

http://amzn.to/2mmKmRI

 

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The Crossover Plan

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Zoe Donovan meets Lani Pope in a double crossover event.

Many of you know that I plan to introduce Zoe, from the Zoe Donovan Cozy Mystery Series, and Lani, from the Sand and Sea Hawaiian Mystery Series, in Easter Escapade, Zoe Donovan # 24 which publishes April 21st. What you don’t yet know is that I plan to continue with the crossover and have Zak and Zoe visit Maui for book 6 in the Sand and Sea Series, Murder at Water’s Edge, which will publish on May 22.

Below are the synopsis for each book.

 

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Easter Escapade – available for preorder http://amzn.to/2kIFlSU

In book 24 in the popular Zoe Donovan Series, Zak and Zoe join forces with Hawaiian visitors Luke Austin and Lani Pope, to find out who killed a historian visiting Ashton Falls. Early one morning Zoe takes the dogs out for a walk and finds a woman, Lani, towing a body toward the shore from several hundred yards off the beach. She jumps in to help her only to find that the victim is already dead.

Zoe recognizes the victim as Charles Wentworth, a friend of Zoe’s friend Ethan Carlton. Charles is in Ashton Falls to find a treasure left to his grandfather, Xavier Wentworth, while he was visiting Devil’s Den a hundred years earlier. The treasure included items owned by Tsar Nicolas Romanov of Russia and smuggled out of the country by Peter Romanov as Word War 1 was winding up. The deeper they dig the more Zoe and Lani begin to realize there may be more going on than meets the eye.

Meanwhile, Ellie and Levi move in with Zak and Zoe while the boathouse is being renovated and Alex helps Ellie prepare the nursery for baby Eli who is due to be born any day. Throw in some humor and Easter fun and you have a Zak and Zoe crossover mystery.

 

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Murder at Water’s Edge – Preorder http://amzn.to/2mDUI0R

Luana Akina, a good friend of Lani’s, calls and informs her that her sister Mailie has been killed in an auto accident. The accident was determined to be just that, an accident, but Luana isn’t so sure that is the case. It seems that prior to her accident Mailie was involved in a local contest (an Amazing Race type event) with a grand prize of $25,000. She suspected the results were being tampered with so had been quietly snooping around. The night before her accident Mailie called Luana and told her she was close to something that would expose a huge coverup. The next day she was dead.

Luana knows that Lani likes to investigate homicides so she asks for her help in uncovering the truth about what really happened to Mailie. The contest, which involves unlocking clues which lead to locations around the island where the next clue can be found, has a clause which allows for a substitute to be named should one of the contestants be unable to finish. Lani decides that the best way to help Luana find out what happened to her sister is to enter the contest as Mailie’s replacement. This will allow her, she reasons, to find out what is going on from the inside.

Lani takes two weeks off work from her job as a water safety officer and then travels to Maui with her boyfriend Luke Austin.

Once Lani gets a feel for the game she quickly realizes that someone has hacked into the computer system and is tampering with the results. Luke is good on the computer but not nearly as good as legendary computer genius Zak Zimmerman, so Lani calls new friend Zoe Donovan-Zimmerman and asks if she and Zak would be willing to come to Maui and help them uncover the conspiracy behind the mystery.

Join Luke and Lani, Zak and Zoe, as they race to uncover the clues faster than anyone else while outwitting a hacker and identifying a killer.

I plan to write this story while I am visiting Maui later in the month and will be posting real photos of some of the places the game will take Lani once she joins the race. Be sure to join in the fun on my group page if you want to be part of the journey – https://www.facebook.com/groups/569578823146850/

I know that some of you haven’t had a chance to read the Sand and Sea Series yet and I want you all to have the opportunity to do so before Murder at Water’s Edge comes out, so the first four books in the series will be on sale for $.99 this month according to the following schedule.

Murder at Dolphin Bay – March 1 – 7  http://amzn.to/2lJsDSJ

Murder at Sunrise – March 6 – 12 http://amzn.to/2lIwYUr

Murder at The Witching Hour – March 15 – 21 http://amzn.to/2m5TJDz

Murder at Christmas – March 22 – 29 http://amzn.to/2mny6B0

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Also publishing on March 24 and available for preorder Murder at Turtle Cove – http://amzn.to/2lqg95u

 

I’m really excited about both of these new crossover books and hope you will be as well. Comment below and let me know which of my characters you would liked to see in a crossover event next. (Sorry it can’t be Tj since Henery Press owns Tj now.)

It can be any two of the following:

Zoe (Zoe Donovan) – Ashton Falls

Cait (Whales and Tails) – Madrona Island

Lani (Sand and Sea) – Hawaii

Alyson (Seacliff High) –  Cutter’s Cove Oregon

 

 

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