Audio Spotlight: Broomsticks and Board Games + Character Profiles

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Title: Broomsticks and Board Games

Author: Amy McNulty

Narrator: Danielle Daly

Length: 7 hours 4 minutes

Series: A Spooky Games Club Mystery, Book 1

Publisher: Crimson Fox Publishing

Released: Jan. 5, 2021

Genre: Cozy Mystery

 

Dahlia Poplar is a genuine witch, an unofficial gofer, and Luna Lane’s only cursed resident.

With a werewolf best friend, a vampire ex-boyfriend, and a ghost for a hanger-on, Dahlia is far from the most unusual dweller of her sleepy small town, but she’s the only one unable to leave. Dahlia has to perform at least one good deed per day – or she’s one step closer to turning to stone.

Fortunately, the residents of Luna Lane have plenty of tasks for Dahlia to complete to avert the curse until Cable Woodward, fetching professor and nephew of her elderly neighbor, stops by for the semester on sabbatical. Attempting to help Cable’s uncle work through the trauma of losing his wife, Dahlia uncovers the man’s collection of board games, which leads to him reminiscing about the long-forgotten Luna Lane Games Club.

Dahlia reestablishes the Games Club, only to find evidence of a number of horrible demises connected to the original group. While trying to uncover the truth about the deaths, Dahlia has to fight off her curse, protect her elderly neighbor from becoming the next victim, and most vexing of all, keep Cable from figuring out Luna Lane’s supernatural secrets.

Only, with eerie board games like these, there may not be a loser – or even a winner – who survives.

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Dahlia (sometimes “Lia”) Poplar: age 30, 5’8”, long, wavy red hair, sharp eyebrows, hazel-green eyes. Witch partnered with Broomhilde (“Broomie”), an enchanted broomstick that acts like cat. Suffers from a curse inflicted at birth. Every day, while the sun is up, she must complete a good deed without relying on magic. If she fails, she grows a stone scale on her skin. Her left arm is covered in scales, though she usually manages to do her good deed in time—unless she’s distracted. Her mom passed away ten years before; she lives alone.

Cable Woodward: age 32, glasses, dark, wavy short hair, 6’4”, muscular, brown eyes. On sabbatical from teaching American literature in Scotland. Cable spent his childhood traveling the world with his single mother, Ingrid, who had him later in life. Ingrid grew up in Luna Lane and suggests Cable visit her brother during his time off from work. She just doesn’t appear to have clued Cable in to the fact that the supernatural exists—and paranormal creatures call Luna Lane home.

Milton Woodward: age 85, spotted skin, thin, white hair. Milton has dementia, which has worsened since the passing of his wife, Leana, a few months before the story begins. He used to run the general store, Vogel’s, which he sold twenty years before to the Mahajans. Dahlia’s next-door neighbor and Cable’s uncle, though he didn’t see him in person much during Cable’s youth.

Goldie and Arjun Mahajan: age mid-50s, plump, on the shorter side, black and grey hair, Goldie a beauty. They run Vogel’s, the town’s general store, and love to stay busy. Goldie is especially protective of Dahlia and loves to play with Broomie. Both are amateur matchmakers. Their sons, Hitesh and Zashil, Dahlia’s childhood friends, moved to other cities for college and stayed there after finding their spouses.

Draven: age unknown (at least 500), deathly pale complexion, tall and trim but with defined muscles, long, blond hair like a rock star’s. Likes to wear dark leather. Runs the local pub First Taste and lives in an elegant Victorian with Ravana, his sire, and Qarinah, a newer vampire. Dated Dahlia for several years after she turned 21. They had a hot and passionate romance, but his ego and inability to apologize led her to break up with him a few years before the story begins.

Faine Vadas: age 30, wild, brown hair, 5’3”; curvy. Loves to dress in vintage styles, like a pin-up model. Dahlia’s best friend since childhood. Her husband, Grady, is 35, tall and thin. They run the local café, Hungry Like a Pup, which is connected to First Taste. Their kids are Flora (girl, 7, tall), Fauna (girl, 5, short, puffy pigtails), and Falcon (boy, 3, troublemaker). All five of them are werewolves, though they only turn during the full moon.

Virginia Kincaid: died in 1911 at age 20. Ghastly white, often transluscent, dressed like an early 20th-century Southern Belle. She’s a ghost who’s very social and talkative. Easily offended, a gossipmonger, and a flirt, Virginia has a complex about cheaters and will get very angry if she thinks anyone is cheating in even the most harmless of ways.

Sherriff Roan Birch: age late 50s, bald, handsome, wrinkled, with a gut. Dahlia considers Roan like a father since he was always helping her mom out when Dahlia was growing up. Everyone knew Roan harbored an unrequited love for Dahlia’s mother, but he never let that get in the way of an earnest friendship. Since no crime happens in Luna Lane, Roan has a pretty easy job—until Dahlia uncover clues that indicate there’s been a murder.

Eithne Allaway: age unknown, long, white hair, tall and willowy, dark eyes. The mysterious witch who cursed Dahlia at birth, most likely because she hated Dahlia’s witch mother. She’s been gone from Luna Lane for decades, but when things start going wrong, Dahlia suspects the witch’s involvement.

Amy McNulty is an editor and author of books that run the gamut from YA speculative fiction to contemporary romance. A lifelong fiction fanatic, she fangirls over books, anime, manga, comics, movies, games, and TV shows from her home state of Wisconsin. When not editing her clients’ novels, she’s busy fulfilling her dream by crafting fantastical worlds of her own.

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Narrator Bio

Danielle Daly hails from Long Island, New York but hopes you can’t tell that when she’s reading to you. Grateful for her many years of experience in narrating stories for various short story fiction podcasts, the opportunity to narrate audiobooks for a wider audience is a dream come true.

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: The Devil Whispered + Giveaway

the devil whispered

 

The Devil Whispered
by Shawn Starkweather
Science-Fiction/Mystery/Detective

Date Published: 3/1/2021

Retired special-forces commander Jacobi Slate is drawn into a downward-spiraling vortex of fear and doubt while investigating a brutal murder committed by an old friend. As evidence mounts that someone else might be pulling strings from the shadows, Jacobi struggles to understand a developing connection to his own past, which is quickly catching up to him.

Near-future cyberpunk collides with gritty detective noir in this fast-paced thriller that shines a light on both the vast shortcomings and the noble heroism of the human condition. To unravel the mystery, Jacobi will pull on every thread while chasing leads from the squalor of the most dangerous streets to the high-tech towers of the wealthy elite on his quest to understand a truth he might not be ready to face.

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Excerpt

My consciousness snapped online with abrupt decisiveness. I had the acute feeling of being alone in a world that was wrongly serene, like the silence of the dead. I’d been dreaming of something horrifying, but the details were dancing just outside the boundary of my ability to recall. The panic I’d woken with was caught in my chest. It held me frozen to the sheets as my mind reconfigured to the safety and familiarity of my apartment. Though the context of the dream was faded and surreal, the fear was vivid and raw. It was a visceral terror, compounded by a deeply rooted aversion to vulnerability.

As I lay there, waiting for the sensation of cold dread to die away, the room was unceremoniously lit up by the glow of the wide monitor that comprised the wall opposite my bed. Shielding my eyes from the sting of the sudden light, I heard Ava, my virtual concierge, ask if I would like to receive a call.

Who’s calling?” I asked with what little energy I’d mustered.

A Pavel Volkov is awaiting your response.” Her voice was always the same, mildly empathetic with a touch of encouragement.

I wrapped the sheet around me and grudgingly pulled myself up to sit on the side of the bed. Looking out from the tall windows that constituted the eastern-facing wall of my bedroom, I saw that it was still deep in the night. The only radiance beyond the panes was generated by the city itself; from the broken lines of luminous code emanating from the trickling streams of traffic far below, and the windows of the high-rises that towered above them – light and dark, the ones and zeroes of a binary skyline.

Yeah, okay.”

Then, Pavel’s finely kempt visage was smiling keenly at me from my wall. He was standing on a rocky beach, and waves were lapping at the shore behind him. He wore a white silk suit and a bemused expression that seemed inappropriately unapologetic.

It’s late, Pavel.”

Good morning, Jacobi. My apologies for contacting you at this hour, but I thought you’d want to know that I’ve located the target.”

Where are you?”

I’ll send coordinates to your CUBE.”

Pavel Volkov was a liar and a thief. He’d conned so many wealthy aristocrats that he’d become one himself, but he stayed in the game for the sake of his own twisted entertainment. He was an artist, who specialized in painting perfect illusions. Deception was his medium, but I’d worked with him for long enough that I trusted him when it came to getting the job done. Traces of malaise from my restless sleep were lingering, so the notion of lucid wakefulness was a welcome one.

I’m on my way,” I said. “End call.”

Pavel’s smirking face faded as the monitor went dark, and I was left with only my thoughts and the reiterating cycles of light from the softly glowing city outside. In the silence, I heard the faint percussion of fiery horse hooves falling away as the nightmare visiting me surrendered the assault and retreated to the depths of wherever dark dreams were designed.

About the Author

Shawn lives in Massachusetts with his wife and the handful of childhood stuffed animals that they’ve been unable to part ways with, even despite the awkward situation it occasionally puts their house guests in. He wields a coveted Associates of Liberal Arts degree from Greenfield Community college in an overly enthusiastic, flailing manner, and puts it to work writing both fantasy and science fiction stories. Using subliminal codes and hidden messaging carefully placed throughout his books, he plans to captivate the minds of his readers and insidiously manipulate them into purchasing subsequent releases.

As a novelist, musician, graphic designer, and a purveyor of fine games, Shawn is often confused about exactly who he is when he wakes up in the morning. It’s been said (by him) that perhaps he embodies all of these things so equally that a singular definition could not comprehensively impart a satisfactory description. With your support, and a sufficient demand for more novels, he secretly hopes that he’ll have no choice but to formally acknowledge the prevailing label of ‘author’ and spend the rest of his days providing a sense of wonder and adventure to everyone who helped him solidify his nebulous identity.

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Spotlight & Excerpt: Casket Case + Giveaway

casket case
Casket Case
The Cynthia Shade Mysteries Book 1
by Lee James
Genre: Cozy Mystery

 

Cynthia Shade. That’s her name. She has ADHD and cynophobia. That’s just a fancy way of saying she’s terrified of dogs. Not all dogs mind you, just the tiny ones that come at you with their razor-sharp fangs and frenzied eyes. To make it worse, she can’t find a job, rather, she can’t keep a job, and she’s about to be evicted. Just when she gets a glimmer of hope she’s blackmailed into trying to solve a murder.

Wait-what?

Cue the handsome sheriff who awakens real interest in perpetually single Cynthia, and a cast of crazed suspects. One of whom is determined she doesn’t make it out of this adventure alive. 

 

 

casket case

excerpt

Cynthia Shade.

That was her.

Past due.

That was also her.

Cynthia pressed her lips together as she scanned the rest of letter. “Power’s gonna be turned off.” She crushed the warning from P&E Electric into her canvas bag.

“You still want your balance?” The bank teller kept his tone professional but his bland blue eyes didn’t meet hers. If he’d heard her, he gave no sign.

She nodded, remembering where she was. “Yes. Please.”

He slid the printout across the counter and she stared at the circled amount.

“Thirty-seven cents? Is that right?”

He leaned over, just enough to acknowledge the question. “Must be.”

Disdain flickered across his baby smooth face before he turned his back on her to stare out the window.

“Is that your car?” he asked.

She followed his gaze to the Volkswagen parked outside, and saw it with a stranger’s eyes. Rust lined the bottom edge of the little purple Beetle. And where the rust ended, the scratches and dents began. These made it all the way up to the roof, where the chipped paint had long since lost its luster. A spidery crack spiraled out from the bottom half of the windshield. From this vantage point, her faithful ride was a homely representation of personal transportation. Heat flooded her cheeks.

“Yes,” she mumbled.

“It’s not leaking oil, is it?”

Probably. She shrugged. “I dunno.”

“We just got the parking lot resurfaced. Wouldn’t want to junk it up all ready.”

Junk it up? A teller would have no reason to care about something like that. It was just another unnecessary insult. Her lips wobbled as she crumpled the printed bank statement into her canvas bag. It could sit there along with the past-due gas bill and the latest threatening letter from her landlord. If they got lonely, they could commiserate with the termination letter from State Farm telling her she no longer had car insurance.

“If there’s nothing else, I need to be able to help other customers,” Tyler said.

Cynthia glanced around the empty bank lobby. Even the offices of the bank manager and assistant manager were empty. She cocked an eyebrow, but Tyler averted his eyes as he busied himself behind the counter.

Taking the hint, she shuffled across the lobby and pushed the heavy doors open. Hot, liquid sunshine hit her head and melted between her shoulder blades. Heat from the pavement burned through the bottom of her flip flops. If she didn’t keep moving, the thin plastic would start to melt. But that was the least of her problems. She dug out her phone with trembling fingers.

Cynthia took a deep breath. She wasn’t going to cry.

Not this time.

“Swan’s Temp Service,” a familiar, husky voice answered on the second ring. Renee’s voice cracked under the weight of a two pack a day habit, punctuated by a cough that could have doubled for a steamboat’s horn.

“Renee?” She swallowed again. “This is Cynthia Shade.” She paused a moment, but the other woman didn’t respond. “I…uh…was just wondering if you had work coming up. Something that I can do.”

“Cynthia? I-No, honey, I don’t have anything for you right now.”

Cynthia wasn’t surprised. Renee hadn’t had anything for her since “the incident.”

Renee sighed. “Cynthia, honey, it’s hard to place you. I mean you’re a good worker but I need someone reliable. I know this is a temp agency, but my clients have a reasonable expectation that the people I send will at least stay through a work day.”

“Please, Renee,” she gripped her bag, the crumpled threats crinkling as she did so. “I need work right now.”

“I don’t have anything for you.” Renee sighed again, then bellowed a cough into the phone. She paused a moment. “Dripping Springs is a small town and you know how people talk. After what happened at the accountant’s office, it’s hard to get clients to take you on. I’m sorry,” she said simply. “I just don’t have anything right now.”

“I understand.” Cynthia wiped away hot tears, now mingled with sweat, trickling down her face. “Thank you.” She hung up the phone and pulled out her car keys.

Gritting her teeth, she stuck her key into the driver-side door of the purple VW Beetle. It didn’t budge.

Gritting her teeth harder, she planted her feet and turned the key again. This time the lock clicked, but she wasn’t fooled. Cynthia jiggled the key a few more times before the lock slide up and she was able to pull the door open.

She ignored angry slash in the seventeen year old leather as she tossed her bag onto the passenger seat and half fell behind the wheel. She sat there, panting in the heat for a moment. The battle was only half won. Since the panel was missing on the driver’s side door, the only thing she had to grip was the window knob and she didn’t want to snap that off as well. Instead, she rolled down the window, and grabbing the door with both hands, slammed it shut. She didn’t bother rolling the window back up. At ten-thirty in the morning, it was already ninety-three degrees and the Beetle didn’t have air conditioning.

Her phone buzzed on the seat and she glanced at it, preparing to ignore whoever it was till she caught sight of the caller id.

Uncle Garrett. Her favorite uncle.

“You ok, Cindy?”

Cynthia glanced around the interior of the car. No sense in complaining. “I’m good, Uncle. What’s going on?”

“Can you come over to the house I got somethin’ to show you.”

“Now?”

“Yeah. It’ll only take a minute.”

She sighed and gripped the wheel.

“You’ll gonna love this. I promise,” he cajoled.

She was hot. She was tired. But this was Uncle Garrett. The bacon to her eggs. The Abbott to her Costello. Cynthia nodded even though he couldn’t see her.

“I’ll be right there.”

Cynthia dropped the phone and hesitated briefly, sending up a silent prayer as she turned the key in the ignition. The engine barked and sputtered, but after a moment it roared to life. Cynthia wiped at the sweat pooling on her brow and sighed in relief. Something was going right!

She caught a glimpse of the gas gauge and the short burst of relief faded. The gauge was very close to the red E. She studied it with a practiced eye. If she didn’t make any unnecessary stops, she could get another ten miles out of it, easy. It was going to be ok. Catching a glimpse of herself in the rearview, her eyes brimmed with tears. She would not cry!

 
 

Lee James writes stories of hope and redemption. Whether it’s fantasy, mystery or historical fiction, her beautifully awkward characters traverse a dark labyrinth on their journey to a hopeful end. She is vehement about the importance of creating and preserving the sanctity of the written word. In that vein, she supports literacy programs and her local libraries. Most importantly, she supports her fellow writers. When not writing, she enjoys photography, watching The Simpsons, and of course, reading.

  

 

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