Posted in Freebies and Special Offers

Win 5 Cat Paperbacks and Ebooks

I’ve teamed up with 4 other authors for a Cat Cozies and Feline Fantasies Giveaway that will run from October 25 through October 29 on James Cudney’s blog, This is My Truth Now. One lucky winner will win 5 paperback books, and runner-ups will win an eBook from each of the participating authors.

a Raffle copter giveaway

Check out the paw-some books:

CAT COZIES

It’s October in Cobble Cove, and Alicia is busy preparing for the library’s Halloween party when she learns that John’s aunt from Florida has died and that John’s cousins and their spouses are coming to town to bury their mother. The day after the funeral, the caretaker’s son is found dead by John’s grandfather’s gravestone, from a blow on the head. The only witness seems to be Sneaky the library cat, who, having left the library, turned up at Alicia’s door with blood and dirt on him. As Alicia, Gilly, and Sheriff Ramsay investigate, a generation of family secrets is uncovered. Are one of the guests staying at the inn a killer? Will the humans solve the crime, and can Sneaky, Kittykai, and Salem, the inn’s guest cat, team up to help?

Lynley Cannon is the crazy cat lady, but she’s not quite crazy yet, though a bizarre connection to a bumbled heist and a double homicide has got her wondering in this 1st Crazy Cat Lady mystery. Retiree Lynley Cannon usually enjoys her old Portland home with her clowder of rescue cats, but when elderly Fluffs drags in a dusky brown beach agate that turns out to be a priceless chocolate diamond, things change fast. The uncut stone, one of a pair called the Cats’ Eyes, has been stolen from its wealthy owner, but how it ended up a cat toy, even the robbers cannot guess.Threatened by theft, kidnapping, and murder, Lynley is determined to maintain her serenity, even if it means finding the crooks herself. With the police completely baffled, friends, family, and a hunky humane society investigator come onboard to help.The killer, convinced that Lynley has the diamonds, is prepared to go to any lengths to get them back. Will Lynley live to clean the litter box another day?

FELINE FANTASIES

Saving the world is such a bother when it makes you late for your nap. Blessed (or cursed, depending on who you ask) with human intelligence, Sir Edgar Allan Kipling, magical talking cat extraordinaire, spends most of his time keeping his human out of trouble. Of course, having a wizard for a human means that trouble is never far away. When Sir Kipling’s human goes away for the weekend and leaves him to guard her magical library, things start out quiet. But when he discovers a witch smelling suspiciously of demon magic snooping in his human’s office, quiet goes out the window and chaos looms on the horizon. Will Sir Kipling be able to outwit the intruders before their mischief causes permanent damage? If you are a cat person, you will adore this book. If you are a dog person, you will also adore this book, and upon completion will be inexplicably compelled to go out and adopt a cat. You have been warned.

Ever feel like your entire world has been turned on its head? That’s how I’ve felt ever since the gang and I found out that Nan has been keeping major family secrets stashed neatly away in the attic.

What’s worse, we still don’t know exactly what happened, and I have so many follow-up questions, like is she still the same woman I always assumed she was? And can I ever fully trust her again?

With Nan unable to give me a straight answer, I invite my parents to join me for a cross-country train trip so that we can all discover the truth, once and for all.

Octo-Cat hitches a ride with us, too, and it’s a good thing he does, because it isn’t long before a dead body joins us in the dining car. Now we have two mysteries to solve, and fast—our lives and legacy depend on it.

Life is supposed to get easier the older you get, right?

After a life of world travel and jujitsu competitions, retired museum curator, Dorothy Claes, is ready for a quiet life. Despite the rambunctious antics of her feline companion, Solomon, taking over the antique shop her late-father left her seems like the perfect way to settle down.

But when a mysterious stranger comes to call, spinning tales of magical artifacts, and the organization in charge of them, life becomes anything but quiet. With Solomon in tow, Dorothy heads out on her first mission: Discover, Obtain, and Neutralize the artifact that is causing pedigree cats in Paris to disappear and their owners’ memories to be wiped, before it ends up in the hands of someone far more sinister.

If you like International Travel, Feline Myth and Lore, and Tough-As-Nails Mature Female Leads, you’ll love CP Morgan’s Magical Cozy Mystery series. Grab your copy today, and curl up with your favorite feline.

Posted in Freebies and Special Offers

Award-Winning Psychological Thriller, Vista Al Mar, the Spanish Version of Sea Scope, is On Sale Through October 27

The Spanish translation of my psychological mystery, Sea Scope, is available as a .99 Kindle download from 10/23 thru 10/27. This book received a 5-star review and won a silver medal from Readers’ Favorite, in their 2020 contest. It also won a cover award from Top Shelf Magazine, and was a finalist in the mystery category of the Author Academy Awards.

Download Spanish edition for .99 via Amazon

Overview / Description:

Sarah Collins necesita un escape.

Mientras sufre el duelo por la muerte de su hermano y la inminente ruptura de su matrimonio, regresa al hogar de su infancia en Carolina del Sur, donde su familia regentaba una posada.

Sarah no había regresado a Vista al Mar durante veinte años; desde que ella y su hermano Glen descubrieron un cuerpo cerca del faro.  Ella nunca comprendió por qué sus padres se marcharon de Vista al Mar tan repentinamente, ni las razones detrás del suicidio de su padre.

Después que Sarah regresa a la posada, enfrenta recuerdos enterrados hacía mucho tiempo y unas pistas extrañas.  Algo no está bien en Vista al Mar.  Reunida con personas de su pasado, ella intenta descubrir qué está ocurriendo en el hogar de su infancia.

Cuando el pasado y el presente se encuentran, Sarah debe enfrentar las verdades de su familia, y lo que ocurrió aquel a de verano en el faro.  ¿Pero sobreviviría para contar la historia?

Vista Al Mar – Extracto del libro

Prólogo

Posada Vista al Mar, Veinte años atrás

Mi hermano Glen y yo corríamos por las escaleras del faro.  Mi cola de caballo se agitaba salvajemente a medida que mis zapatos deportivos golpeaban los escalones de hierro en espiral.  Como de costumbre, Glen tomó la delantera y yo reduje mi velocidad, con dolor en mis muslos.  Ciento sesenta y siete escalones después me reuní con él en la barandilla, doblada y jadeando.  Con una sonrisa pedante, él estaba allí de pie con sus brazos cruzados y relajado.

—Te gané de nuevo, Sara la tortuga. —Sacó su lengua.

Me enderecé. —Pequeño diablillo.  Se lo diré a Mamá.

Glen volteó los ojos y me dio la espalda mientras caminaba por el borde del balcón, mirando hacia abajo por la barandilla.

Luego se detuvo.

—Ey, ¿qué es eso? —preguntó, inclinándose por encima de la barandilla.

Vacilé.  Lo último que quería era mirar hacia abajo.  Glen, por otro lado, no le tenía miedo a nada.

—Aléjate de allí, Glen.  ¿Qué nos dijo Papá sobre acercarnos demasiado al borde de la barandilla?

—Tienes que venir a ver esto, Sarah.  Hay un hombre allá abajo, —dijo sobre su hombro, señalando el suelo con su dedo regordete.

A pesar de mi estómago revuelto, me asomé por el borde y seguí su mirada hasta un hombre que estaba durmiendo en la hierba arenosa.  Estaba boca abajo e inmóvil, sus brazos y piernas extendidos en ángulo, su camisa a cuadros rota.

Posted in Cozy Mystery, Freebies and Special Offers

Win 1 of 3 Copies of No Gravestone Unturned, My New Cozy Mystery, in Huge, Multi-Author Halloween Giveaway

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is marielavendershalloweengiveaway.jpg

I’m giving away 3 copies of my new cozy mystery, No Gravestone Unturned, featuring a murder on Halloween, in this huge multi-author giveaway on Writing in the Modern Age. My entry is #64.

It’s October in Cobble Cove, and Alicia is busy preparing for the library’s Halloween party when she learns that John’s aunt from Florida has died and that John’s cousins and their spouses are coming to town to bury their mother. The day after the funeral, the caretaker’s son is found dead by John’s grandfather’s gravestone, from a blow on the head. The only witness seems to be Sneaky the library cat, who, having left the library, turned up at Alicia’s door with blood and dirt on him. As Alicia, Gilly, and Sheriff Ramsay investigate, a generation of family secrets is uncovered. Are one of the guests staying at the inn a killer? Will the humans solve the crime, and can Sneaky, Kittykai, and Salem, the inn’s guest cat, team up to help?

Here’s a direct link to the Rafflecopter to enter the contest: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/3055b312184/

The winners will be announced on October 31st.

Posted in Blog Tour, Freebies and Special Offers, New Releases

October Giveaways, Blog Tours, Parties, and Sales (Updated)

The blog tour for my 5th Cobble Cove cozy mystery, No Gravestone Unturned, runs October 28 – November 8. It features spotlights, guest posts, excerpts, and other exclusive content from this Halloween tale. There is also a giveaway for all 4 of the previous novels, plus the three other short eBooks in the series.

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

October 28 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

October 28 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book -AUTHOR INTERVIEW

October 29 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

October 30 – Hearts & Scribbles – SPOTLIGHT, EXCERPT

October 31 – Christy’s Cozy Corners– REVIEW, GUEST POST

November 1 – I Read What You Write – GUEST POST

November 2 –  Thoughts in Progress – SPOTLIGHT, EXCERPT

November 3 – Cozy Up With Kathy – GUEST POST

November 3 – Mysteries with Character – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

November 4 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

November 5 – This Is My Truth Now – REVIEW

November 6 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT, EXCERPT

November 7 – A Chick Who Reads – REVIEW

November 8 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews– REVIEW

I’ve also teamed up with 4 other authors for a Cat Cozies and Feline Fantasies Giveaway that runs through October 29 on James Cudney’s blog, This is My Truth Now. One lucky winner will win 5 paperback books, and runner-ups will win an eBook from each of the participating authors.    

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

On Friday, October 30, my cat character, Sneaky, and I will be hosting Sneaky’s Cozy Halloween Party from 1 to 10 pm EST. on Facebook with 7 other authors and a few character cats. There will be giveaways and lots of fun. I hope you can join us.

I hope you can make all these great events. You may win some awesome reads.

Posted in Cozy Mystery, Freebies and Special Offers

Free Cozy Mystery Book October 11-15

Each week in October, a few Solstice Publishing authors are offering special sales on their books. This week, the 4th book of my Cobble Cove cozy mystery series, Love on the Rocks, is free.

Purchase Link:  mybook.to/cc4

This is the book that introduces Kittykai, the calico who becomes Sneaky, the Siamese library cat’s, gal pal. It’s the last book before my new release of No Gravestone Unturned, Cobble Cove Mystery #5. Even though you can read all the books in the series as standalones, this is a nice chance to catch up on the characters. This book also won a Certificate of Excellence from the Cat Writers’ Association.

Posted in Freebies and Special Offers, Mysteries, Thriller

October Sales, New Release, and Interview

Each week in October, I will be offering a Kindle Countdown, free book, or a 99-cent deal for my Solstice Publishing mysteries. My mystery thriller, Reason to Die, is on Kindle Countdown until October 5 when it will go back to its original price. My psychological thriller, Sea Scope, published by Next Chapter is on sale for 99 cents until October 4.

Someone is strangling disabled people in the small town of Baxter, Connecticut. Detective Courtney Lang and her ex-partner and ex-lover, wheelchair-bound Bill Thompson, are paired up again and put in charge of the investigation. During the course of their search, Courtney uncovers information that points toward a connection between the murders and an unsolved series of muggings by a masked man, the same man who shot and disabled Bill a year ago on the night he proposed marriage to her.

Complicating matters for Courtney is her guilt about Thompson’s shooting, her affair with her new partner, Mark Farrell, and her unresolved feelings over the deaths of her mother and sister who perished in a fire while she was away from home.

As the deaths accrue and the “Handicapped Strangler” as the killer is coined by the press continues to rampage the town adding victims of different ages, sex, and disabilities to the murder count, Courtney discovers a clue that could crack open the case but may put her and Bill’s life in jeopardy.


Sea Scope has been chosen by Readers Favorite as a silver-medal winner in their 2020 contest.

Sarah Collins needs an escape. Mourning her brother’s death and the impending breakup of her marriage, she returns to her childhood home in South Carolina, where her family operated an inn.

Sarah hasn’t been back to Sea Scope for twenty years; not since she and her brother Glen discovered a body by the nearby lighthouse. She never understood why her parents left Sea Scope so suddenly, or the reasons behind her father’s suicide.

After Sarah returns to the inn, she faces long-buried memories, text messages and strange clues. Something is not right in Sea Scope. Reunited with people from her past, she tries to figure out what’s going on in her childhood home.

When past and present collide, Sarah must face truths about her family, and what happened that summer day by the lighthouse. But will she survive to tell the tale?


My latest mystery, Memory Makers was featured in the October issue of the Big Thrill, the magazine of International Thriller Writers. The article included an interview and review of the book.

Besides my books, two of my short science fiction stories, Mirror Image and The Felindae Mission, have been published in What Lies Beyond, a new anthology published by Red Penguin Books.

Posted in Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Celebrating Christmas with my Characters, Cozy Mysteries, Freebies and Special Offers, holidays

3 FREE Books to Celebrate Christmas in July

Stay cool and enjoy 3 Free holiday and winter eBooks.

(Free July 17 – 21)

Celebrating Christmas with My Characters

The characters from my Cobble Cove cozy mysteries gather in the Cobble Cove library to celebrate the holidays. Each character receives a gift from the author, and Alicia, the main character, reads some excerpts from the first and second book of the series.

(Free July 18 -22)

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Librarian Alicia McKinney has put the past behind her…

Two years ago, Alicia discovered both a terrible truth and lasting love with John McKinney in the small town of Cobble Cove, New York. Now a busy mother of twin babies and co-author of a mystery series, Alicia couldn’t be happier.

Alicia’s contentment and safety are challenged…

Walking home alone from the library, Alicia senses someone following her, and on more than one occasion, she believes she is being watched. Does she have a stalker? When the local gift shop is burglarized, the troubling event causes unrest among Alicia and the residents of the quiet town.

John and Alicia receive an offer they can’t refuse…

When John’s sister offers to babysit while she and John take a much-needed vacation in New York City, Alicia is reluctant to leave her children because of the disturbances in Cobble Cove. John assures her the town is safe in the hands of Sheriff-elect Ramsay. Although Alicia’s experience with and dislike of the former Long Island detective don’t alleviate her concern, she and John take their trip.

Alicia faces her worst nightmare…

The McKinneys’ vacation is cut short when they learn their babies have been kidnapped and John’s sister shot. Alicia and John’s situation puts them between a rock and a hard place when the main suspect is found dead before the ransom is paid. In order to save their children, the McKinneys race against the clock to solve a mystery more puzzling than those found in their own books. Can they do it before time runs out?

(Free July 17 – 21)

Sneaky’s Christmas Mystery

 

Posted in Freebies and Special Offers, Sea Scope

Sea Scope, A Great Summer Mystery, on Sale June 30-July 4

My standalone psychological mystery, Sea Scope, is 99 cents from June 30 to July 4. Featuring a lighthouse and a 20-year-old mystery, it makes a great summer read.

This 5-star rated book has been awarded a silver medal by Readers Favorite, a Best Cover Award by Top Shelf Magazine, and is a Recommended Read of the Indies Helping Indies Review Project.

mybook.to/SeaScope

Sarah Collins needs an escape. Mourning her brother’s death and the impending breakup of her marriage, she returns to her childhood home in South Carolina, where her family operated an inn.

Sarah hasn’t been back to Sea Scope for twenty years; not since she and her brother Glen discovered a body by the nearby lighthouse. She never understood why her parents left Sea Scope so suddenly, or the reasons behind her father’s suicide.

After Sarah returns to the inn, she faces long-buried memories, text messages and strange clues. Something is not right in Sea Scope. Reunited with people from her past, she tries to figure out what’s going on in her childhood home.

When past and present collide, Sarah must face truths about her family, and what happened that summer day by the lighthouse. But will she survive to tell the tale?

Posted in Freebies and Special Offers

Free Download for Academic Curveball, the First Book of the Braxton Campus Cozy Mysteries by James J. Cudney

The debut book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, Academic Curveball, is available as a FREE Kindle download from 6/5 thru 6/9. This book won a Best Fiction award and was the #1 downloaded Kindle book in the highest possible category in February 2019 during the initial promotion. There are now 6 books available in the series, so why not start reading them by getting this one for FREE!

Download for FREE via Amazon

***

Overview / Description:

When Kellan Ayrwick returns home for his father’s retirement, he finds a body in Diamond Hall’s stairwell. Unfortunately, Kellan has a connection to the victim, and so do several members of his family.

Soon after, the college’s athletic program receives mysterious donations, a nasty blog denounces his father, and someone attempts to change students’ grades. Something is amiss on campus, but none of the facts add up.

With the help of his eccentric nana, Kellan tries to stay out of the sheriff’s way and solve the mystery. But can they find the killer before he strikes again?

Praise:

★★★★★ – “I read a lot of murder mystery and whodunit books, and this was one of the best I’ve read in a while. The story is full of twists and turns, and the characters are relatable. If you like cozy mysteries, you should definitely give this series a try.”

★★★★★ – “Fantastic writing and witty dialogue. Awesome.”

★★★★★ – “An exciting, cozy mystery.”

★★★★★ – “Full of twists and turns, and an ending you won’t see coming.”

Purchase Links for Academic Curveball

Kindle: http://mybook.to/ACurveball

Paperback: http://mybook.to/academiccurveballbrapb

Large Print: http://mybook.to/academiccurveballbralp

German Translation: http://mybook.to/acbde

Portuguese Translation: http://mybook.to/bolacurvapb

US Audiobook: https://www.audible.com/pd/B07X6JWYP1/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWT-BK-ACX0-162879&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_162879_rh_us

UK Audiobook:

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/B07X4JPM7G/?source_code=AUKFrDlWS02231890H6-BK-ACX0-162879&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_162879_rh_uk

Braxton Campus Mysteries Overview

A new mystery series debuting in October 2018 focusing on amateur sleuth, Kellan Ayrwick, a 32-year-old single father who solves crimes in his Pennsylvania hometown while attending to his day job as a professor at Braxton University.

  1. Academic Curveball(Oct 2018)
  2. Broken Heart Attack(Nov 2018)
  3. Flower Power Trip(Mar 2019)
  4. Mistaken Identity Crisis(Jun 2019)
  5. Haunted House Ghost(Oct 2019)
  6. Frozen Stiff Drink(Mar 2020)

 

Check out my 5-Star Review

https://wp.me/p6m4z7-2ll

Check out the Blog Tour

https://www.escapewithdollycas.com/great-escapes-virtual-book-tours/completed-tours-2019/academic-curveball-braxton-campus-mysteries-by-james-j-cudney/

***

Read an Excerpt – Chapter 1

I’ve never been comfortable flying. My suspicious nature assumed the magic suspending airplanes in the sky would cease to exist at some master planner’s whim. Listening to the whirr of a jet propeller change speeds—or experiencing the mysterious pockets of rough air jolt you up and down—equaled imminent death in an aluminum contraption destined for trouble. I spent the entire flight with my jaw clenched, hands clutching the armrests, and eyes glued to the seatback in front of me impatiently hoping the diligent crypt keeper didn’t claim another victim. Despite my uncanny knack for grasping anything mechanical and Nana D always calling me brilliant, I was entirely too doubtful of this mode of transportation. My gut promised I’d be safer plummeting over Niagara Falls naked and in a barrel.

After landing at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport on this miserable mid-February afternoon, I rented a Jeep to trek another ninety miles south into Pennsylvania. Several inches of densely packed snow and veiled black ice covered the only highway leading into or out of my secluded childhood hometown. Braxton, one of four charming villages fully surrounded by the Wharton Mountains and the Saddlebrooke National Forest, was nearly impenetrable from outside forces.

As I changed lanes to avoid a slippery patch, my sister’s number lit up the cell phone screen. I paused Maroon 5 on my Spotify playlist, clicked accept, and moaned, “Remind me why I’m here again?”

“Guilt? Love? Boredom?” Eleanor said followed by a loud chuckle.

“Stupidity?” Craving something of substance to squelch the angry noises radiating from my stomach, I grabbed a chocolate chip cookie from a bag on the passenger seat. The extra tall salted caramel mocha—free, courtesy of a pretty red-haired barista who’d shamelessly flirted with me—wouldn’t suffice on its own. “Please save me from this torture!”

“Not gonna happen, Kellan. You should’ve heard Mom when I suggested you might not make it. ‘He’s always coming up with excuses not to return home more often. This family needs him here!‘ But don’t worry, I calmed her down,” shouted Eleanor over several dishes and glasses clanging in the background.

“Did she already forget I was here at Christmas?” Another cookie found its way into my mouth. I must confess, I’m powerless to desserts—also known as my kryptonite—hence, why I’ve always thought they should be a major food group. “Two trips home within six weeks is one too many by my count.”

“How did you let our darling siblings find acceptable excuses to skip the biggest social event of the season?” Eleanor said.

“Me? I gave up trying to compete with them years ago. It’s easy to get away with things when they’re not disappointing our parents like the rest of us.”

“Hey! Don’t take me down because you can’t escape the awkward middle-child syndrome.” Eleanor put me on hold to deal with a customer complaint.

My younger sister turned thirty last month and is unhappy about it given she still hadn’t met the right man. She also insisted she’s not morphing into our mother despite every hour of every day steamrolling those figments of her imagination into oblivion. Truth be told, Eleanor was the spitting image of Violet Ayrwick, and in one of those ways where everyone saw it but the two of them. Twinsies, as Nana D always said with the cutest lilt to her voice. Eleanor will definitely be at our father’s retirement party as there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in you-know-where of me going to that boondoggle by myself. The man of the hour had been the president of Braxton College for the last eight years, but upon turning sixty-five, Wesley Ayrwick stepped down from the coveted role.

Eleanor jumped back on the line. “Was Emma okay with you visiting by yourself this time?”

“Yeah, she’s staying with Francesca’s parents. I couldn’t take her out of school again, but we’ll Facetime every day I’m gone.”

“You’re an amazing father. I don’t know how you do it all on your own,” Eleanor replied. “So, who’s the woman you plan to meet while gracing us with your presence this weekend?”

“Abby Monroe. She completed a whole bunch of research for my boss, Derek,” I said, cursing the slimy, party-going executive producer of our award-winning television show, Dark Reality. Upon informing Derek I needed to return home for a family obligation, he generously suggested adding extra days to relax before everything exploded at the network, then assigned me to interview his latest source. “Ever heard the name?”

“Sounds familiar, but I can’t place it right now,” Eleanor said in between yelling orders to the cook and urging him to hurry up. “What’s your next storyline?”

Dark Reality, an exposé-style show adding splashy drama to real-life crimes, aired weekly episodes full of cliffhangers along the lines of reality television and daytime soap operas. The first season highlighted serial killers, Jack the Ripper and The Human Vampire, causing it to top the charts as a series debut. “I’ve got season two’s massive show bible to read this weekend… ghost-hunting and witch-burning in seventeenth-century American culture. I really need to get a new job. Or kill my boss.”

“Prison stripes wouldn’t look good on you,” Eleanor said.

“Don’t forget, I’m too handsome.”

“I’m not gonna touch that one. Let Nana D weigh in before I crush you for saying something so pathetic. Maybe Abby will be normal?”

“With my luck, she’ll be another bitter, scorned victim rightfully intent on justice for whatever colossal trauma Derek’s caused,” I replied with a sigh. “I vote she’s another loose cannon.”

“When are you gonna interrogate her?” asked Eleanor.

I’d meant to schedule a lunch to get the basic lowdown on Abby, but I barely made the flight cutoff at the gate in all the last-minute rigmarole. “Hopefully tomorrow if she isn’t too far away. All Derek said is she lives in central Pennsylvania. He has no concept of space or distance.”

“It’s getting busy here, I gotta go. Can’t make dinner tonight, but I’ll see you tomorrow. Don’t commit any murders until we chat again. Hugs and kisses.”

“Only if you don’t poison any patrons.” I disconnected the phone, begging the gods to transport me back to Los Angeles. I couldn’t take the stress anymore and devoured the last two remaining cookies. Given my obsession with desserts, the gym had never not been an option for me. Some form of exercise happened daily unless I was sick or on vacation—which this trip certainly didn’t count as. There would be no beaches, cabanas, or mojitos. Therefore, I wasn’t going to enjoy the immediate future.

I navigated the winding highway drive with the heater set to die-from-sauna max and the wiper blades on maniacal passive-aggressive mode to keep the windshield clear of heavy sleet and snow. It was the dead of winter, and my entire body shivered—not a good thing when my feet needed to be ready to brake for deer or elk. Yes, they were common in these parts. No, I hadn’t hit any. Yet.

No time like the present to call Abby and suggest a meeting. When she answered, I wasn’t surprised at her naivety regarding my boss’s underhanded approach.

“Derek never said anything about meeting anyone else. You got a last name, Kellan?” Abby whined after I’d already explained who I was in the first minute of the call.

“Ayrwick. I’m Kellan Ayrwick, an assistant director on the second season of Dark Reality. I thought we could review the research you prepared for Derek and discuss your experience working in the television industry.”

There were a few seconds of silence on the phone. “Ayrwick, you said? As in… well… aren’t there a few of them working over at Braxton?”

I was momentarily stunned as to how a groupie girl would even know anything about Braxton, but then I speculated she currently attended the college or previously went to school with one of my siblings. “Let’s have lunch tomorrow to discuss it. Would one o’clock be okay?”

“Not really. I wasn’t prepared to chat this weekend. I thought I’d be flying out to meet Derek in the next few days. The timing is off.”

“Can’t we meet for a brief introduction?” Derek sure knew how to pick the dramatic ones. I could picture her twirling her hair and blinking her eyes despite not knowing what she looked like.

“I’m in the middle of an exclusive exposé about a crime happening here in Wharton County. Might be something to pitch to Derek for… well, it’s too early to say anything.” Her voice suddenly went cold and limp. She’d probably forgotten how to use the phone or accidentally muted me.

“Is this what you mentioned to him about topics for a future season of Dark Reality? I’m more interested in true crimes and investigative reporting. Maybe I could help with this scoop.” Once I realized she was in the same county as me, I tried all angles to snare a meeting.

“Are you Wesley Ayrwick’s son? I heard he’s got a whole slew of kids.”

My mouth dropped two inches. Nana D would’ve counted the flies as they swarmed in given how long it remained open. Who was this girl who knew something about my family? “I don’t see how that’s relevant, but yes, he’s my father. Do you attend Braxton, Abby?”

“Attend Braxton? No, you’ve got a few things to learn if we’re going to work together.” She laughed hysterically, reaching full-on snort level.

“Great, so we can meet tomorrow?” The woman’s tone annoyed me, but perhaps I’d misjudged her based on Derek’s normal taste in women. “Even thirty minutes to build a working relationship. Are you familiar with the Pick-Me-Up Diner?” Eleanor ran the joint, so I’d have an excuse to step away if Abby was too much to handle. My sister could arrange for one of the waiters to dump a bowl of soup on Abby, then lock her in the bathroom while I escaped. There’s nothing more I disliked than foolish, clueless, or vapid people. I’d had enough of them dating my way through a sorority’s sisterhood years ago. If I ran into one more LA valley girl, I’d consider letting Francesca’s family, the Castiglianos, take control of the situation. Scratch that, I never said those words out loud.

“No, sorry. I’m gonna be tied up for a few hours investigating all the nonsense going on around here. But I’ll see you on campus tomorrow night.”

I shook my head in frustration and confusion. I clearly heard her stifling an obnoxious laugh again. If she weren’t a student, why would she be on campus? “What do you mean tomorrow night?”

“The party celebrating your father’s retirement. Nothing’s ever as it seems, huh? You can properly introduce yourself and set up a time to talk. I hope that’ll work.”

Derek was going to owe me big-time for this ordeal. If he didn’t watch himself, I’d give her his real cell phone number and not the fake one he gave to people the first time they met.

“How exactly do you know my—” The next thing I heard was a click as she hung up the call.

I continued on the main road directly into the heart of Braxton tooting the horn as I passed Danby Landing, Nana D’s organic orchard and farm. I was especially close with Nana D, also known as my grandmother, Seraphina, who’d turn seventy-five later this year. She kept threatening to bend our town’s councilman, Marcus Stanton, over her lap, slap his bottom silly, and teach the ninny how things ought to be done in a modern world. It’s my second job to keep her in check after the incident where she was supposedly locked up in jail overnight. With no official records, she could continue to deny it, but I knew better given I was the one who had to convince Sheriff Montague to release Nana D. I hoped never again to go toe-to-toe with our county’s ever-so-charming head law enforcer, even if it’s necessary to save Nana D from prison. I felt certain that was a one-time card I could play.

The sun disappeared as I pulled up to my parents’ house, parked the Jeep, and walked toward the trunk to get my bags. Given the temperature had slipped to the single digits, and the icy snow wildly pelted my body, I tried my best to hurry to the front door. Unfortunately, fate opted for revenge over some past indiscretion and came back with the vengeance of a thousand plagues. Before long, I skated across a sheet of ice like an awkward ballerina wearing clown shoes and fell flat on my back.

I snapped a selfie while laughing on the frosty ground, to let Nana D know I’d arrived in Braxton. She loved getting pictures and seeing me make a fool of myself. I couldn’t decipher her reply given my glasses had fogged over, and my vision was worse than that of a secret lovechild of Mr. Magoo’s. I searched for a piece of a flannel shirt untouched by the falling sleet or the embarrassing crash to the ground and wiped them dry. A glance at the picture I’d sent caused the loudest and most absurd guffaw to erupt from my throat. My usually clean-cut dark-blond hair was littered with leaves, and the four days of stubble on my cheeks and chin was blanketed in mounds of white snow. I dusted myself off and rushed under the protection of a covered porch to read her text.

Nana DIs that a dirty wet mop on your head? You’re dressed like a hooligan. Put on a coat, it’s cold out.

MeThanks, Captain Obvious. I fell on the walkway. You think I’m normally this much of a disaster?

Nana DAnd you’re supposed to be the brilliant one? Have you given up on life, or did it give up on you?

MeKeep it up, and I won’t visit this weekend. You’re supposed to be a sweet and loving grandma.

Nana DIf that’s what you want, go down to the old folks’ home and rent yourself a little biddy. Maybe you two can share some smashed peas, green Jell-O, and a tasty glass of Ovaltine. I’ll even pay.

After ignoring Nana D’s sass, I ran a pair of chilled hands through my hair to look somewhat presentable and entered the foyer. Though the original shell of the house was clearly a wood-framed cabin, my parents had added many rooms over the years, including a west and east wing bookending the massive structure. The foyer ceilings were vaulted at least twelve feet high and covered in endless cedar planks with knots in all the right places. A pretty hunter-green paint coated three of the walls where the entranceway opened into a gigantic living room. It was anchored by a flagstone fireplace and adorned with hand-crafted antique furniture my parents had traveled all over the state to procure. My father was passionate about keeping the authenticity of a traditional log cabin while my mom required all the modern conveniences. If only the Property Brothers could see the results of their combined styles. Eleanor and I referred to it as the Royal Chic-Shack.

I dropped my bags to the floor calling out, “Anyone home?” My body jumped as the door to my father’s study creaked open, and his head popped out. Perhaps I had the paranormal and occult on my mind knowing Dark Reality’s next season was unfortunately in my foreseeable future.

“It’s just me. Welcome back,” replied my father, waiting for me to approach the study. “Your mother’s still at Braxton closing on the final admissions list for the prospective class.”

“How’s the jolly retiree doing?” I asked, walking down the hall toward him.

“I’m not retired, yet,” my father said with a sneer. “I finished writing my speech for the party tomorrow evening. Interested in an early preview?”

Saying no would make me a bad son. Eleanor and I had promised one another at Christmas we’d try harder. I really want to be a bad son today. “Sure, it must be exciting. You’ve had a bountiful career, Dad. It’s undoubtedly the perfect example of oratory excellence.” He always loved when I stretched my vocabulary skills to align with his own. I shuddered thinking about the spelling bees of long ago.

Academic Curveball – Book Links

Kindle: http://mybook.to/ACurveball

Paperback: http://mybook.to/academiccurveballbrapb

Large Print: http://mybook.to/academiccurveballbralp

German Translation: http://mybook.to/acbde

Portuguese Translation: http://mybook.to/bolacurvapb

US Audiobook: https://www.audible.com/pd/B07X6JWYP1/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWT-BK-ACX0-162879&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_162879_rh_us

UK Audiobook:

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/B07X4JPM7G/?source_code=AUKFrDlWS02231890H6-BK-ACX0-162879&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_162879_rh_uk

About The Author

Background

James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote some short stories, poems and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career in technology and business that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I refocused some of my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing and publishing.

Author

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind and my body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels and suspense thrillers. I think of characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.

Reader & Reviewer

Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read 2 books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review and post it on all my sites and platforms.

Blogger & Thinker

I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.

Genealogist & Researcher

I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.

Websites & Blog

Website: https://jamesjcudney.com/

Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

Amazon: http://bit.ly/JJCIVBooks

Next Chapter Pub: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/james-j-cudney

Social Media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamesJCudneyIVAuthor/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BraxtonCampusMysteries/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ThisIsMyTruthNow/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

Genres, Formats & Languages

I write in the family drama and mystery genres. My first two books are Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I’m currently writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries with six books available.

All my books come in multiple formats (Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook) and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.

Goodreads Book Links

Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (April 2018)

Braxton Campus Mysteries