Book Blitz & Excerpt: Nobody’s Road + Giveaway

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Nobody’s Road

by Vera Jane Cook

Sci-fi fantasy

Date Published: 01-19-2022

Publisher: Indies United

In 2045 America is ruled by ‘The Brain’. It’s a country of dried-up rivers, computer project educations, holographs, and robots. Most species have died off and even fresh air is scarce. Children don’t form bonds and therefore can’t love. They become drones – dangerous killers. The answer lies on a road in Pindar Corners but to find it is to risk the loss of your soul.

In need of a hero, Harry Erin Cooper steps up to the plate and, along with his wife, Adina, they restore what should have been.

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My last memory from that time? That I was never to return to it. 

As I ran to the rhythm of my breath, the beat of my heart provided the music of being alive. I took a hill, not as bad as it looked; steep but short. Chestnut was a single-lane road that cut through the back of town and led me onto Bishop Farm, where I picked up Maple Lane. 

Dotted with sugar maples, Maple Lane wound out ahead of me, and like a lazy letter S, it snaked around for two long shaded miles. The sycamore trees had limbs that reached across the sky like Rorschach spills. The sweat on my back saturated my T-shirt, clinging like a second skin. The road had been nothing but dirt for over a hundred years; though the town kept threatening to pave it, they probably never will. A good part of the trail was a long narrow easement that took me past a mile of farmland. The dirt kicked up a gentle cloud of dust under my feet, soft and dry. The smell of freshly hoed hay and country pine lingered in the air. 

Maple Lane begins and ends at Pindar Corners, a fork in the road with a blinking light. I picked up Robin’s Nest Road from there, turning left at the traffic signal, as I always did. How many times? I’m not sure. But I do know this, or thought I did: Robin’s Nest is the road I lived on with my wife, Adina, and our children, Teddy, who was eight at the time and Lindsey, who hadn’t yet turned six. 

The scent of flower gardens hit me like a perfumed galaxy, overwhelmingly intense, from the abundance of flowers hidden behind picket fences and green bristly privacy bushes, odiferous and colorful. I saw irises, lilies and peonies that tilted in the breeze and slipped their scents toward me with flirtatious artistry. 

Hundreds of times, I have picked up fragrances whispering from the mountains. You see, for me, one of the pleasures of jogging on a country road was catching smells. Even running through traces of horse manure carried in the wind, or the mysterious scents of unrecognizable plants and animals just behind the weeds, scents like that thrilled me. Might be perceived as such a small thing but it isn’t, not when sweet, scented air was such a new thing for me. 

I breathed in deeply. I took in passionflower vines climbing up trellises, a cacophony of color. Sometimes I can catch freshly cut grass and the sizzled scent of meat lingering on a barbeque, whetting my appetite for lunch. 

Robin’s Nest Road is paved and wide, and I liked it because it dead-ends; the only drivers who take it know exactly where they’re going, and trucks are rare. Sometimes, I could run right down the middle with my arms outstretched. Feeling good for me was sweating hard … feeling good for me was pushing up the last half mile, knowing I’d make it. 

Jogging kept me centered ─ going at my own pace, my thoughts a free association of expression. No race to win, just moving through the silence of my mind, despite the rare chatter of birds or the occasional challenge of estival winds. 

The only smells picked up back in New York City were mornings drenched in the stench of garbage and the rancid, putrid odor of the homeless inhabitants who lined the streets of midtown. I tried not to think about that because I was one of the lucky ones: I wasn’t there. And I was where I was because of the foresight of a man a lot smarter than I am. I was in Pindar Corners. A place you might want to be a hundred years from now, or maybe a hell of a lot sooner. 

The reasons why I was there, in Pindar Corners, were too complex to fathom. Mistakes too great to lament. There was no sense dwelling on the past at all. Best to just breathe in deeply and try to let it go. Besides, there was nothing we could have done about it. No, nothing. Just concentrate on the aroma of gardenias, orchids and the delirium of lilac, and forget about everything else. We still had flowers, some species of birds, animals like skunks and rodents. We had life, and most of all, we had the solace and the surety of Pindar Corners. 

However, the luxury of forgetting was the one thing I couldn’t accomplish. I was a generation too late for that. And as I jogged that day, the sound of a distant gunshot jarred the aromatic titillation of my senses. So loud, it practically threw me off my feet. It certainly wasn’t hunting season. I knew that well enough, but there were those who didn’t give a damn about laws. Could have been someone wanting to frighten off a black bear. Then again, plenty of people liked target shooting in their back yards. It might have been some bored jerk shooting cans off a fence. Or it might have been one of the children. I don’t think I was able to let in that fear. As far as I knew, there had only been one murder in Pindar Corners committed by a child. Maybe the shot I heard was just random and unintentional. That was my thought that day: that was my prayer.

About the Author

Vera Jane Cook was born in New York City and has been a city girl ever since. As an only child, she turned to reading novels at an early age and was deeply influenced by an eclectic group of authors. Before Jane became a writer, she worked in the professional theatre and appeared on television, in regional theatre, film and off Broadway.

At the age of fifty Jane began to write novels. Some of her titles include Dancing Backward in Paradise, winner of an Eric Hoffer Award for publishing excellence and an Indie Excellence Award for notable new fiction, 2007. The Story of Sassy Sweetwater and Dancing Backward in Paradise received 5 Star ForeWord Clarion Reviews and The Story of Sassy Sweetwater was named a finalist for the ForeWord Book of the Year Awards. She has published in ESL Magazine, Christopher Street Magazine and has written early childhood curriculum for Weekly Reader and McGraw Hill.

Jane still lives on the upper west side of Manhattan right near Riverside Park where she takes her delightful dogs for a jog, Peanut and Carly. She comes home to her spouse of thirty years and her two cats, Sassy and Sweetie Pie.

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: A Holiday Haunting at the Biltmore + Giveaway

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A Holiday Haunting at the Biltmore
by Eva Pohler
(The Mystery House Series, #8)
Publication date: January 1st 2022
Genres: Adult, Horror, Mystery

Ellen should have known that a gathering in America’s last castle would entail a few uninvited guests.

During a Christmas eve wedding at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, Ellen and her friends are visited by multiple ghosts. The spirits have come to tell their stories, to right the wrongs that history has done to their memories. Each of them died in Asheville with their voices stifled. One spirit is particularly adamant and threatening, despite her small size, and her mood fluctuates like the mountain winds surrounding the great estate. She claims to be the ghost of Zelda Fitzgerald, and she wants her story told, even if she has to kill to make it happen.

*Although this is book eight in The Mystery House Series, these books can be read in any order.

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Chapter One: Hot Tub Musings

Ellen clung to the handrail as she eased down the steps into the hot, bubbling water. She adjusted her black one-piece bathing suit, making sure she was still covered. The aquafit class had rearranged everything.

From behind her, Sue said, “I can’t believe I let you guys talk me into this.”

“It wasn’t that bad,” Tanya said from where she was already resting in the tub.

Ellen sat across from her. “Speak for yourself. I could barely breathe.”

Sue followed Ellen through the water, the ruffles of her polka dotted bathing suit dancing on the surface. “I may have even died for a few minutes. I thought I saw a light at the end of a tunnel and my mother waving to me.”

“That was probably just the Nazi instructor on deck telling you to lift your knees higher,” Ellen teased.

Two other women from the aquafit class, both in their early seventies, joined Ellen and her friends.

“That instructor isn’t as good as the one on Tuesdays,” one of them, a petite woman with white hair, said. She was nearly as thin as Tanya.

The other woman, rounder than Ellen but not as round as Sue, nodded. “The one on Tuesday really works you.”

“Oh, Lord.” Sue pushed her dark brown bangs from her eyes. “Let’s not come on Tuesday.”

“We already agreed that we would,” Tanya pointed out. “At least until the wedding.”

Ellen tugged at her shoulder straps, trying to keep everything in the right place. “You can count on me. I’m determined to lose twenty pounds or die trying.”

Sue scoffed. “Well, maybe I love life more than you.”

“If that were true,” the petite woman with the white hair began, “you’d keep coming. I’ve been doing this for over thirty years. I used to be bigger than both of you combined.”

The woman pointed at Ellen and Sue. Ellen tried not to be offended. The audacity of some people, she thought.

“I’m sold!” Sue said comedically, lifting her finger high in the air. “Sign me up! Oh, that’s right. Tanya already did.”

The other women laughed, and Ellen’s mood lightened.

“Did I hear you say that you have a wedding coming up?” the rounder woman asked Tanya.

“Not my wedding,” Tanya said as her blue eyes widened. “It’s Ellen’s son. He’s getting married on Christmas eve at the Biltmore Estate.”

“Oh, how nice,” the petite woman said. “That’s the most beautiful house in the country.”

Ellen leaned against the lip of the tub and breathed in the smell of lavender and musk. “That’s what my son’s future in-laws say, too. They’ve been planning this wedding since their daughter was a baby, I think.”

“Are they from Asheville then?” the petite one asked.

“They live there,” Sue said. Then, turning to Ellen, she asked, “Is it the mother that’s related to the Vanderbilts?”

“Yes,” Ellen said.

“Which means they’re getting the works,” Sue gloated. “The entire wedding party and their guests will be staying at the Biltmore House, which is never done anymore.”

Ellen gave Sue her keep-your-mouth-shut look. Maya’s parents had asked them not to talk about the event with others. They wanted to avoid a media circus.

“How wonderful,” the petite woman said. “You sure you don’t need another grandmother to come?”

Ellen smiled but said nothing in reply.

“That sounds like a once in a lifetime experience.” The round woman climbed from the tub. “I hope you enjoy it, and have a nice weekend, ladies.”

“You, too,” Ellen said as Sue and Tanya waved.

“I should go, too,” the petite woman said. “Will I see you all on Tuesday?”

“We’ll be here.” Tanya turned to Sue. “Right?”

Sue shrugged. “We shall see.”

After the two women left, and she and her friends were alone in the hot tub, Ellen said, “Poor Lane is so stressed over this wedding.”

“I thought that was the job of the bride,” Sue said.

Tanya stood up. “It can be hard on the groom, too. Poor thing. What’s been the most stressful for him?”

Ellen sighed. “Maya’s grandparents. Both sets are still alive, and, apparently, one set can’t stand the other, and vice versa.”

Sue furrowed her brows. “Do you know why?”

“Lane doesn’t know the whole story. The grandfathers were friends long before Maya’s parents were born. According to Maya, they can be really nasty when forced to be in the same room.”

“That’s too bad,” Tanya said as she took her damp blonde hair from its ponytail, and then remade it higher on her head. “I hope they won’t ruin the wedding.”

Ellen’s stomach clenched. She wanted Lane’s wedding day to be perfect for him so that only happy memories would be made.

“I would think the setting alone would be enough to sweeten even the sourest grapes of the bunch,” Sue said reassuringly.

Ellen lifted her brows. “I hope you’re right.”

“Is it Maya’s maternal grandfather or grandmother that’s related to the Vanderbilts?” Tanya asked.

Ellen submerged to her neck. She let out a small gasp of pleasure as the hot water relaxed her muscles, tight from the workout. Then she said, “Grandmother. Melissa Dresden—used to be Brown. She’s the daughter to a cousin of George Vanderbilt, the one who made it all happen. I just read a book about it called The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan. It was interesting to read about the estate’s history. George fell in love with Asheville when he took his ailing mother there to breathe.”

“To what?” Tanya asked.

“To breathe,” Ellen repeated. “Back then, they believed fresh air was the cure for almost everything—especially tuberculosis—and Asheville had become known for its breathing porches that overlooked the beautiful Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains.”

“George’s mother had tuberculosis?” Sue asked. “Most people didn’t survive it.”

“No, she had malaria, and she recovered from it, but not before George fell in love with the area and began buying up all the land.”

“What year was this?” Tanya asked.

“Late 1800s,” Ellen said. “According to the book, George wasn’t interested in the family business like his two older brothers, who took over various railroad companies when their father died. George was more of a scholar. He loved to read and to collect art, and he wanted something different for himself. So, he decided to outdo his siblings by building the largest private home in America.”

Sue nodded. “That he did.”

“It was more than that, though, wasn’t it?” Tanya asked. “Didn’t he build a famous dairy?”

“Yes—though now it’s a winery. He also hired the best forester and horticulturalist and created a forest preserve and foresters’ school. Later, his wife Edith, who outlived him by many years, created a school for the villagers that focused on textiles and crafts, I believe. Apparently, Edith did a lot for Asheville. I think she was the real heart of Biltmore, only because George died young. They had a daughter named Cornelia, but, according to the book, she was never as devoted to Biltmore as her mother.”

“How old was George when he died?” Sue asked.

“Early fifties, I think. Younger than us.”

“Can you believe I turn sixty next year?” Tanya asked.

“Already?” Sue covered her face with her hands. “I’m right behind you.”

“Brian’s sixty-two, and he’s fine,” Ellen pointed out. “It’s not the end of the world.”

“Not yet, anyway,” Sue said.

“That’s too bad about Maya’s grandparents,” Tanya said. “I really hope they behave themselves at the wedding.”

“Me, too.” Ellen sighed and leaned back on the lip of the tub. “Lane says that Maya’s Vanderbilt grandmother was originally engaged to Maya’s other grandfather, and that’s why the two sets of grandparents don’t get along. One man stole the Vanderbilt bride from the other.”

“Must be hard for the grandmother who isn’t a Vanderbilt,” Sue pointed out. “She might feel like chopped liver. Don’t you think?”

“I know I would, in her situation,” Tanya said. “How selfish of her husband that he can’t let it go.”

“Lane doesn’t think that’s the whole story,” Ellen said. “I just hope they can be civil for the sake of their granddaughter.”

“And for the rest of us,” Tanya added.

Sue shrugged. “I don’t know. Drama at the Biltmore might be fun.”

“Don’t say that,” Ellen insisted. “I’m worried enough about the other encounters we may have while we’re there.”

“Did the book say the house is haunted?” Tanya asked.

“No, and when I asked the Biltmore wedding coordinator about it, she said that they weren’t allowed to discuss it.”

“It’s rumored to be.” Sue furrowed her brows again. “And if Biltmore employees have been warned against talking about it, then you know what that means.”

Tanya stretched her arms. “It’s a good thing we’re taking along some of our equipment.”

“I’m afraid not to,” Ellen said. “Ghosts have a way of finding us, and I don’t want to be caught unprepared.”

“They find us because we have the gift, and they can sense it,” Sue said.

“What do Lane and Maya think about it?” Tanya climbed up and sat on the edge of the tub with her legs in the water.

“I haven’t mentioned it to them,” Ellen admitted. “I’d like to keep any ghostly happenings away from the wedding, as much as possible.”

“Have you done any research, to learn if anyone has written about hauntings there?” Sue asked.

Ellen combed her fingers through her short, damp hair. “I’ve read about ghosts in Asheville, but very little is said about hauntings at the Biltmore. One book claimed that George Vanderbilt’s ghost is there.”

“I wonder what unfinished business a billionaire would have, that would keep him from moving on,” Tanya said.

Ellen climbed up and sat beside Tanya. “Hopefully, it’s only a rumor, and the wedding will go off without a hitch—worldly or otherwise.”

“I’m sure it will,” Tanya reassured her.

“We’ll find out in two months’ time,” Sue said. “That is, if we survive Aquafit.”

Ellen and Tanya looked at each other and grinned.

Author Bio:

After earning her Ph.D. in English and teaching writing and literature for over twenty years, Eva Pohler became a USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels in multiple genres, including mysteries, thrillers, and young adult paranormal romance based on Greek mythology. Her books have been described as “addictive” and “sure to thrill”–Kirkus Reviews.

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