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

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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

Posted in Cozy Mystery, Freebies and Special Offers

Special 99-Cent Sale on Haunted House Ghost, A Braxton Campus Cozy Mystery, by James Cudney

Not only were many of the books in the Braxton Campus Mysteries discounted to .99 this week, but the 5th book, Haunted House Ghost, is also available as a Kindle download for only .99 from 5/29 thru 6/2. To take advantage of this discount, visit Amazon via this link.

Overview of Haunted House Ghost

It’s Halloween, and excitement is brewing in Braxton to carve jack-o’-lanterns, go on haunted hayrides, and race through the spooky corn maze at the Fall Festival.

Despite the former occupant’s warnings, Kellan renovates and moves into a mysterious old house. When a ruthless ghost promises retribution, our fearless professor turns to the eccentric town historian and an eerie psychic to communicate with the apparition. Meanwhile, construction workers discover a fifty-year-old skeleton after breaking ground on the new Memorial Library wing.

While Kellan and April dance around the chemistry sparking between them, a suspicious accident occurs at the Fall Festival. Soon, Kellan discovers the true history and dastardly connections of the Grey family. But can he capture the elusive killer – and placate the revenge-seeking ghost.

Haunted House Ghost Purchase Links

Kindle: http://mybook.to/hauntedhouseghost

Paperback: http://mybook.to/hauntedhouseghostbrapb

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

US Audiobook:

https://www.audible.com/pd/B083TSCDYC/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWT-BK-ACX0-178979&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_178979_rh_us

UK Audiobook:

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/B083TNG6B1/?source_code=AUKFrDlWS02231890H6-BK-ACX0-178979&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_178979_rh_uk

In the book, we quickly learn about a fire that occurred on campus during a 1968 Vietnam War protest. I imagine it looked a little bit like the one below…

Buy the Book Today Here

Below are the key details to find the blog tour… it was so much fun. There were character posts, guest posts, interviews, and giveaways!

Visit Blog Tour Here

Early Reviews

Lost Knight

Dear Readers: I deeply appreciate the author for having sent this book on over. The character development is superb. As these books progress, the characters come alive. Kellan has a great sense of humor. If this book were made into a Halloween movie or TV show, I would enjoy seeing Kellan’s responses to various things. In addition to his great sense of humor, Kellen has a knack for finding crime scenes and the putting pieces together and solving the mystery.

Interestingly, this one is a part of a whole series of cozy mysteries. Each can be read as a stand-alone and are connected at the same time. There are a lot of twists and turns along with a good many story lines within the book. Amazingly, the author managed to see all the adventures through, and tied everything up in a neat and tidy bow.

…. And these leave the reader wanting more. Yes…. There is a cliff hanger and now, I will wait patiently for the next book. I thank the author kindly for having written this book. Everyone enjoys a good mystery. This one satisfied that urge to read a good mystery. It is greatly appreciated that one can read this book into the wee hours of the morning and still be able to sleep, and not fight off horrible scary nightmares!

Shalini

“I went to the Land of Braxton
Met up with Kellan and Ulan
A cousin from Africa he was
Wanted to move to New house
But a ghost haunted that place
A skeleton was found in old library space
A confession, an attack on the side
A new murder too on the hayride
Who was the victim no one knew
The suspects were old but still new
Father and son were present
Ex and new, old and psychic were sent
A priest and his family were shaken
Kellan and April, their time was taken
A breakthrough occurred in Kellan’s mind
He showed James J Cudney is one of a kind.”

The magician has done it again. A brilliant whodunit!! James J Cudney brought out a pack of cards from his top hat and constructed a house so deeply layered that the clues were hidden in the sleight of his hand.

Brilliant in his writing, it all started with a nightmare, the words had a haunting smoothness to it. If you listened carefully, you would hear the grim reaper with the scythe.

I have never seen autumn and Halloween in real life, the author made them come alive for me with the power of his writing. Red herrings were placed strategically amongst the orange pumpkins and the Halloween props. They blended in so smoothly that guessing the killer was beyond me.

The old characters returned, romance between Sheriff April and Kellan had its sexy moments before a skeleton and murder rudely interrupted them. The plotline had many twists as this author’s books often do, and the finale was a perfect amalgamation of real and unreal.

I repeat – a fun whodunit with shades of autumn, Halloween, and ghostly sightings.

Candace

This series is so much fun! And when I saw this title and this cover, I just knew it was going to be my favorite. I’m a huge Halloween fan and would seriously just like this holiday year round! Anyway, now that I’m going off course, let me get to my boy Kellan!

Kellan’s life is full of so much drama and I love it! There’s a ton of mystery to these stories, but what I like just as much is the family dynamic with the side characters. Kellan’s such an awesome dad, and I’ve always wanted that bond he has with Nana D. Seriously, I want my own Nana D! Also, there is some awesome chemistry between April and Kellan in this one! They need to catch a break!

There was talk about Halloween costumes, food, and an entertaining mystery that needed to be solved! Can I also mention that this book had me at skeleton being found in the library! I literally finished this one in less than 24 hours because I wanted to know what was going on! Andddddddd of course there is a cliffhanger, so that leaves me yearning for the next book! Side note: can there just be a Netflix series on Kellan’s mysteries? That would be amazing!

Anne

I’m a huge fan of Cudney’s and of course love this series! Protagonist Kellen is moving into his new home that is rumored to be haunted and the first scene will scare you enough to compel you to finish. It’s the same quirky family, featuring his sweet young daughter, feisty Nana D as well as the rest of his family and relatively new love interest, April. There are several murders and lots of characters, layers and layers of plot and history surrounding the house. Even though I recommend reading the entire series, each book can stand alone as Cudney gives us plenty of background on each. This one is a little different as it brings in some spooky and macabre elements that gives it a little bit of a gothic feel. But there’s also Cudney’s charming humor that makes you laugh out loud and now has me wondering which Halloween socks to wear! This series just keeps getting better and better so now I’m awaiting #6!

Laura

This season we are back with Kellan as he’s once again pulled in a million different directions what with parenting not only Emma but his cousin as well, along with teaching, other family obligations with Nana D, Violet, Eleanor, etc., and being co-chair of a Halloween/Fall Festival being held at Danby Landing, all while trying to complete fixing up his newold house so they can move in. But all is not smooth sailing for the Ayrwick family as strange things have been happening during the renovation process. Conveniently, Gabriel has been away so they’ve been able to stay in the cottage. And the possibility that these things are being caused by the supernatural causes Kellan (though he doesn’t believe) to agree that Eleanor can contact her psychic friend Madam Zenya to see if she can help.

The renovations for the Braxton Campus library also get underway in this book but those are put on hold when during the demolition a body is discovered in the foundation. So now Kellan feels compelled to investigate that situation as well.

I quite enjoyed reading this story, and it’s always good to catch up my friends in Braxton. I also often emulate Nana D, as I also bake pie the first weekend of October. And I think this story has just enough suspense and mystery and humour and just Fall fun to make it the perfect read to curl up with on a cool Autumn night, along with a blanket and a hot chocolate.

Book Excerpt

Hunkering behind a weathered, illegible headstone in Wellington Cemetery’s oldest and scariest graveyard, I remained silent and stationary amidst a slew of exhumed corpses. Though surrounded by tall, slender white pines, a gnarly and knotty willow tree’s sweeping canopy of dying branches furtively brushed my neck. After an onslaught of howling winds furiously whipped my quivering skin, I peered over the loosened tomb marker and gawked at the mounds of freshly flung dirt. Why had a ruthless monster dug up so many coffins near the Grey mausoleum?

Skulking two rows away, the determined villain’s soulless eyes glowed like burning coal. The chilling tone of St. Mary’s somber church bells blasted—midnight’s fortuitous arrival. Its ominous beckoning prompted my unsteady feet to falter, crunching a pile of decaying leaves and foolishly revealing my secret location. Suddenly enshrouded in fog and hovering near the nameless gravestone, the rogue’s flowing black and gray robes resembled billowing smoke from an overworked chimney. “I hear you breathing, Ayrwick. Come out, come out wherever you are. I’m not finished with this game.”

“I don’t know who you are, but your obsession with me has spiraled out of control.” As an aloof moon cast an eerie luminosity, I cursed my new modern, sporty aviator eyeglasses for clouding over. Apparition or figment of an overwrought imagination, I couldn’t be certain; nor did I care at that moment. “You can’t be real. My mind is playing tricks on me.”

The ethereal bogeyman glided inches above the churchyard’s hallowed ground. The soles of its feet would vaporize upon stepping in the sacred dirt of the meandering pathways. “Are you ready to die?” the menacing, shrill voice taunted while hunting and cornering me in the darkness of my desolate hiding spot—the cold, melancholy resonance frightening all the bats, owls, and other nightlife creatures into hurried seclusion. The masked phantom narrowed a sinister gaze and brandished a mammoth-sized, razor-sharp scythe that cut swiftly through the crisp air and aimed with precision for my neck.

My arms floundered like gelatin as I struggled to push the heavy cement slab to the ground, then jumped feet first into a vacant grave with my hands and arms protecting my soon-to-be decapitated head. The stealthy tormentor cackled wildly and seized my forearm with an uncannily strong and bony grip, delivering a blast of pure ice that raced through my veins and barreled toward my erratically beating heart. My body froze as though a glacier engulfed and preserved me for all eternity.

It was then I heard myself bellow like a rabid coyote, feverishly rolling off the uncomfortable couch toward the wooden floor in the house I’d recently renovated. My petrified body trembled uncontrollably and sweated profusely. Only a nightmare, I reminded myself while rubbing sand from my weary eyes and concentrating on the conspicuously soundless room. Ever since undertaking the massive remodel, a recurring dream about a creepy grim reaper’s intent to kill me had reared its ugly head.

The vacuous, gloomy memory of the previous night had mercifully disappeared. Hopeful rays of sunshine blasted through the living room’s new bay windows and moored on the precipice of the foyer. Sparkling collections of construction dust and a pungent combination of mothballs and musty old clothes abruptly materialized in the stifled air. When a light breeze curiously swept across my startled skin, the hair on the back of my neck tingled. A willowy shadow lingered in the adjacent central hallway, confirming someone hid inside my home.

I blinked at what was hopefully a mirage, then startled again. An eerie squeak and pervasive thump echoed in the rafters of the foyer’s vaulted ceiling. Had one of the nearby heavy wooden doors just opened and closed? I leapt to my feet and rushed through the hallway to catch the troublesome lurker, but the basement ingress was as permanently sealed as it’d been on my first tour of Judge Hiram Grey’s former abode. For a multitude of reasons, we still hadn’t located the key to the sub-level of my newly acquired, antiquated, and historic home.

The nightmare I’d just awoken from must’ve incited me to imagine the whole series of events. No one lurked inside the house, which unnerved me far worse than the half-dozen times someone had surreptitiously followed me to the new neighborhood. It was as if a stalker tracked my every move, always two steps behind me in the shadows yet never in clear sight. I never asked for this.

Three months ago, my impulsive uncle begged Nana D to raise his fifteen-year-old son, Ulan, for the foreseeable future. Uncle Zach had extended his year-long expedition to protect an African elephant species nearing extinction, but my grandmother was too preoccupied with winning Wharton County’s mayoral election to acquiesce to his request. As an alternative solution, without my consent, they’d designated me Ulan’s temporary guardian. This would force me to vacate the small cottage at Danby Landing, Nana D’s organic orchard and farm, where my daughter Emma and I lived.

Due to my snarky yet generous grandmother’s aid over the summer, I’d bought The Old Grey Place and partnered with a contractor to address the most crucial repairs and optimal redesign options. Residing on a two-acre lot, the charming Victorian home offered excellent bones but had been left in disrepair for far too long. A central hallway divided the dilapidated dwelling in half, with an imposing flight of steps leading upstairs and a basement door whose contents would apparently be a future surprise. Two large rooms anchored the left side, and two more of equal size flagged the right. The home’s original owner had spread all the quarters requiring plumbing across the rear of the house, connecting them via a circular mudroom that presented exits to a detached three-car garage and well-proportioned yet overrun backyard.

Luckily, because of the condition of The Old Grey Place and lack of any other interest, we’d brokered an impressive deal; otherwise, I couldn’t have afforded it. Throughout the last month, we implemented a major facelift to the first floor to ensure a short-term, livable place to call home—three temporary bedrooms, a functional bathroom, makeshift kitchen, and comfortable living room. Since I hadn’t yet moved in my furniture, the grand relocation would occur next weekend. Over the forthcoming months, extensive renovations on the second floor would build modern bedrooms, a private home office with state-of-the-art filmmaking technology, and a traditional formal library.

Nana D had volunteered to let Ulan and Emma sleep at her farmhouse the previous night, enabling me to tick off an entire page on the extensive to-do list gnawing at my sanity inch by inch. I’d stayed behind to paint all the remaining bedrooms, then crashed on an old couch in my provisional living room. While I wasn’t as skilled in carpentry as my younger brother Gabriel, I insisted that I could roll a brush on the walls with the best of them. Other than the tight schedule, my most terrifying concern was identifying the mischievous devil who’d snuck in and out of the house when no one else was around, attempting to frighten us with childish pranks. Thankfully, the shenanigans amounted to nothing more than harmless inconvenience.

Shaking the distress off my dampened body, I searched for my cell phone. It was nine in the morning, and a critical town meeting required my humble presence on what should’ve been a relaxing Saturday. After a text demanding status on my progress, Nana D informed me that Ulan was studying for his upcoming history exam on the Salem witch trials and Emma was helping to prepare brunch.

My mother verified she was en route to chauffeur me to our planning meeting for Wharton County’s annual Fall Festival. I say our because Nana D had announced to the entire population in her first Notes from the Mayor newsletter that my mother and I would chair the much-anticipated autumn spectacular. Again, she achieved this task sans any input or agreement from us beforehand. With only days under her belt as the county’s new mayor at the time of the proclamation, we couldn’t exactly decline Little Napoleon’s flattering nomination. My barely five-foot-tall spitfire nana, known as Mayor Seraphina Danby to everyone else, had energetically earned the nickname after seeking control over every majestic or infinitesimal item within our north-central Pennsylvania county’s jurisdiction.

I located my overnight bag and fled to the bathroom to determine the extent of the damage. Noticeable splatters of red paint marbled my wavy dirty-blond hair and narrow forehead, reminiscent of pig’s blood dripping on Carrie’s unsuspecting body at the prom in the infamous Stephen King thriller. A piece of masking tape awkwardly clung to the side of my face, hiding one half of my normally well-defined, high cheekbones and irresistible, roguish dimples. I screeched as several facial hairs adhered to the tape like ants on a sugar cube when I tore it off in one rapid, painful motion. “Ouch! How the devil did that get there?”

From my sleepy and distraught body, I stripped off a pair of worn low-rise jeans, snug striped boxer briefs, and my favorite hunter-green t-shirt emblazoned with a sarcastic quote I always preached: I’m not done recovering from perfection. Though painstaking, last month’s workouts had generously chiseled out the flawless V-shape I’d sought; and if I kept at it, those six-pack abs would become a respectable eight-pack again. Staying in shape was important to me, and not just because I was a mite vain like my mother. I also wanted to live forever like Nana D.

A quick shower scrubbed off the stains and the embarrassment over my foolish appearance, enabling me to greet my mother in the driveway. She sprung for what turned out to be the most fantastic three-bean blend of morning joe that either of us had ever tasted. She also gallantly whisked us off to the downtown civic center to verify the Fall Festival was in tip-top shape. Several arguments and compromises—concerning the overly ridiculous rules for the haunted hayrides and jack-o’-lantern carving contests—detained us longer than expected. After relenting to an exceedingly caustic fellow team member and addressing a budget deficiency, we hightailed it to Danby Landing for brunch.

“I’ll bet Nana D is baking a traditional apple pie, complete with a crispy lattice crust and gooey cinnamon sugar filling. Impeccably uniform slices, no misshapen fruit chunks either,” I repeated for the third time, salivating on par with Baxter, my daughter’s always-hungry and constantly-begging-for-food six-month-old puppy. “The loser pays for lunch next week. That is, you’ll be buying me an enormous, expensive meal, Mom. And we’re heading off campus this time.” I laughed raucously, praying Violet Ayrwick didn’t accidentally steer us into a ditch on the drive home.

“You’re on, Kellan. I know your grandmother better than you do. When the weather cools down, she always ushers in autumn with a caramel and chocolate pecan pie.” My mother brushed a clump of flyaway auburn hair from her eyes so she could see the road. A torrential thunderstorm had swept through Braxton the night before, littering the slick blacktop with dangerous wet leaves and branches. A fine mist still sprinkled from the clouds, carrying an earthy scent and foreshadowing my glib future.

“I love you to pieces, but you’re wrong.” I rolled my piercing baby-blue eyes—at least that’s what others frequently deemed them—shook my head emphatically and raced into Nana D’s main farmhouse. Only two weeks shy of my thirty-third birthday and with the well-primed body of an avid runner, I’d easily beat my enthusiastic mother into the kitchen to certify my pie-guessing talent.

“I gave you life. I can take it away, my son,” she melodramatically and affectionately chastised while clambering up the path in five-inch pink pumps. Despite sinking a heel in a puddle of thick gray mud and flopping around like a drunken, one-legged pelican, she trailed behind by only seconds.

As a tried-and-true gentleman, I waited on the classically decorated rustic porch and held the fake-spider-covered door for her. Nana D had gone all out with cinnamon and pinecone aromas. I might hold a penchant for teasing my mother, but she was entirely too special not to demonstrate the loving respect she deserved. Wispy bales of yellow-brown straw and overgrown green and orange gourds adorned both sides of the entryway. “Hey, look, it’s The Hampster,” I quipped, showing one of the oddly shaped, ridged, and warty freaks of nature to my mother. She cast a disapproving glower in my direction over the wisecrack about my older brother Hampton, who’d just moved back to Braxton. Don’t ask how he earned that nickname. As if it weren’t obvious, I tended to be a tad sarcastic, but only in a clever way.

Several wooden barrels, strategically bursting with hearty goldenrod, burgundy, and burnt umber mums, dazzled our eyes as we strolled into the farmhouse. My seven-year-old daughter, dressed in a silk cape and wearing plastic vampire teeth, soared into the living room to greet us. Long, curly dark hair framed her slightly chubby cheeks and bounced feverishly on her shoulders. “I’ve been baking up a storm all morning, Daddy. Nana D insisted we couldn’t eat brunch until we finished the pies.” Although my height had reached an unimpressive five-nine, not considered remarkably tall by any measure, Emma would surpass me. Her mother’s family, easily cast as giants by most normal-sized folk, had blessed her with the imposing stature.“Monster Mash” blasted through the background speakers.

“Tell me, sweetheart. What kind of pies are you treating us to today?” After kissing Emma’s cheek, I turned to my mother. “You’re so going down.” I giggled like an immature teenager and rushed into the kitchen, dragging Emma at my side despite my nose suggesting a loss in the latest wager. Given my commitment to round-the-clock renovations, I’d recklessly forgotten Nana’s true autumn welcome. At least I had an excuse; my defenseless mother had racked up way more years of experience than me.

“Everyone knows Nana D bakes a pumpkin pie this weekend, silly,” Emma cooed, kneeling in front of the oven and grinning widely at a golden, bubbling concoction that oozed with deliciousness.

My mother sighed loudly, then impatiently snatched a knife and scurried toward the opposite counter, where two steaming dishes cooled on wire racks. “I guess we both lost, huh?”

“Don’t touch those pumpkin pies, Violet. You might be over fifty—” Nana D headily warned but was speedily silenced before revealing my mother’s true age.

“You better put a lid on it, Mom, or I’ll convince Dr. Betscha to sedate you for your own good. Don’t you dare say how old I am in front of those two.” My mother flashed a wicked smile, then flicked a hand in Emma’s and my direction. “They’ll tell the rest of the family, and you’ll be in big trouble.”

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

Posted in Cozy Mystery, Freebies and Special Offers, Next Chapter

99-Cent Sale on Flower Power Trip, A Braxton Campus Cozy Mystery by James J. Cudney

The 3rd book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries series is on sale for only .99 cents from 5/20 thru 5/24. You can download it to your Kindle here. This book was released on March 30th, 2019 and has been getting rave reviews from mystery fans all around the world. You can visit all the posts from the blog tour the book went on last year.

Flower Power Trip (Braxton Campus Mysteries)
3rd in Series
Next Chapter Publishing (March 30, 2019)
Print Length: 270 pages
Digital ASIN: B07NDK76WF

Description of Book

At a masquerade ball to raise money for renovations to Memorial Library, Kellan finds a dead body dressed in a Dr. Evil costume. Did one of Maggie’s sisters kill the annoying guest who’d been staying at the Roarke and Daughters Inn, or does the victim have a closer connection to someone else at Braxton College? As Kellan helps school president Ursula bury a secret from her past and discover the identity of her stalker, he unexpectedly encounters a missing member of his family. Everything seems to trace back to the Stoddards: a new family who recently moved in. Between the murder, a special flower exhibit and strange postcards arriving each week, Kellan can’t decide which mystery in his life should take priority. But unfortunately, the biggest one of all has yet to be exposed – and when it is, Kellan won’t know what hit him.

Flower Power Trip Purchase Links

Kindle: http://mybook.to/FlowerPowerTrip

Paperback: http://mybook.to/flowerpowertripbraxtpb

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

US Audiobook:

https://www.audible.com/pd/B084JKVCY9/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWT-BK-ACX0-181480&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_181480_rh_us

UK Audiobook:

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/B084JTQ5J6/?source_code=AUKFrDlWS02231890H6-BK-ACX0-181480&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_181480_rh_uk

***

I appreciate watching his character evolution, and as always, his rowdy adventurous grandmother Nana D is a delight.
~Mallory Heart’s Cozies

The characters are all a bit quirky and eccentric, especially Nana D and her friends. They speak their mind and often had me laughing out loud.
~Carla Loves To Read

. . . a fast-paced, fun and enjoyable academic cozy mystery, one that is highly recommended!
~Jane Reads

I love this series! The characters, the setting, the plot lines, everything. This book was no exception. Between the twists and turns of the plot and the subplots becoming more and more mysterious, I was riveted to this book!
~Valerie’s Musings

Excerpt

A postcard with an image of lush sprawling foliage and a rust-covered antique carriage taunted me from the cushy passenger seat of my SUV. I almost veered off the road twice on the drive to campus because I couldn’t peel my eyes away from its persistent glare and blatant reminder of Mendoza. It had to be from Francesca. No one else knew about the remote South American vineyard we’d visited on our honeymoon many years earlier. I shook my clenched fist at the spooky vision of her vanishing in the rearview window. Was she following me everywhere now?

It was Francesca’s seventh message since leaving town and failing to inform anyone she wasn’t returning to Los Angeles. A torturous weekly mystery highlighting her whereabouts but leaving no way to contact her. At first, I thought she’d accepted my decision to remain in Pennsylvania and would wait until her parents, the heads of the Castigliano mob family, discovered a way to bring her back from the dead. Let me clarify—she wasn’t truly dead, but everyone thought she was. Upon getting caught in a vicious war with Las Vargas, a rival crime family, Francesca’s parents had faked her death as the only way to keep her safe. No one else besides Francesca’s parents and my sister knew Francesca was alive.

My wife just needed space to adjust to the changes. For two-and-a-half years, she’d been sequestered in a Los Angeles mansion watching from a distance as I raised our seven-year-old daughter on my own. Emma stayed with her nonni a couple of nights a week which made Francesca feel like her daughter was never too far away, but she couldn’t actually talk to Emma. Once I moved back home, Francesca lost her ability to see Emma and materialized from seclusion hoping to reconcile. Based on the postcards, she was visiting all the places we’d once traveled to together. Perhaps she needed to feel close to me since I’d refused to participate in whatever game her family was embroiled in with Las Vargas. Unfortunately, now that the Castiglianos blamed me for Francesca’s inexplicable disappearance, I anticipated their goons lurking around the corner and following me all the time. Dramatic stuff, huh?

I drove along Braxton’s main street cutting through the center of our charming, remote town and parked in the South Campus cable car station’s lot near Cambridge Lawn, a large open field filled with colorful flowerbeds, bright green blades of thick grass, and moss-covered stone walkways. It was Saturday, which meant graduation day at Braxton College—also my first one as a professor at the renowned institution. Although I’d only been back for a few months, it felt like I’d never left given my mother, Violet Ayrwick, was still its director of admissions and my father, Wesley Ayrwick, had just retired from its presidency. He would co-lead the ceremony with the new president to complete his responsibilities, thus allowing him to concentrate on converting the college into a university.

Although I’d been apprehensive in accepting my professorship, I grew excited about the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends whom I’d hardly seen since originally leaving town a decade ago. When my cell phone vibrated, I clicked a steering wheel button to display the text message on the SUV’s dashboard screen. The previous owner, a family friend who’d been murdered earlier that year, had added all the bells and whistles making it easy to remain hands-free. Was I the only one slightly unnerved by driving a dead woman’s car?

Nana DAre you still coming by after the graduation? I’ve got sticky buns and a broccoli and Gouda quiche for a late brunch… and I’m getting nervous about the race.

My grandmother, known as Seraphina Danby to everyone else, had finished the third and final debate in her surprise quest to become the next mayor of Wharton County, the larger geographical area encompassing Braxton and three other villages in north-central Pennsylvania. She was neck and neck with Councilman Marcus Stanton, her dreaded enemy for reasons she refused to share with anyone. I secretly suspected she was angry with him because of a bad date or his failure to flirt with her once Grandpop had left us for the great big afterlife in the sky.

Me: You’ll be the new mayor. I’m confident. Focus on the numbers. Emma doing okay?

Nana D: Yep. She’s in the stable talking to the horse groomer about finding her a puppy.

Me: Never committed to it! You told her she could have one if we moved into Danby Landing. Not me.

I’d been living with my parents in the Royal Chic-Shack, a huge modernized log cabin they’d built before I was born thirty-two years ago. When it became clear I needed my own space, Nana D thoughtfully suggested a move to her farm’s guesthouse to provide Emma and me some privacy. We’d agreed to give it a chance for the summer, but if it didn’t pan out, I’d look for our own place posthaste.

Nana D: Emma loves it here. She keeps me out of trouble. You and your mother should be grateful.

She was right. Without a chaperone or extensive supervision, Nana D often found herself skirting too close to disaster. I parked the car and told my seventy-four-year-old cross to bear—I mean that as lovingly as possible—to expect a two o’clock arrival. The graduation ceremony would last longer, but I was only making a brief presentation to declare this year’s cable car redesign winner.

Between North and South Campus ran a one-mile electrical track transporting students and faculty back and forth to dorms, academic halls, administrative offices, and other student buildings. The old-fashioned cable car was the only one of its kind in the area and often brought in visitors—and much-needed surplus income—from all over the country. Braxton’s graduating class voted each year to redesign the interior as its outgoing gift to the college. There was a surprise victor this year which would make my friend and colleague, Dean Fern Terry, quite relieved. At one point, she worried an apocalyptic dystopian world of aliens would litter the inside of the two-car transportation system she used daily. It was not happening under my watch. I checked the time, stole one last glance at the ominous postcard, and walked across Cambridge Lawn.

As I approached the last stone pathway, I heard my name being called in the distance. I turned to see Ed Mulligan talking with an unknown bald man in his mid-to-late forties. Dean Mulligan, the head of all academics at Braxton, wore an impeccably tailored three-piece suit—his normal highbrow approach to dressing—and scuttled toward me as if he were in a desperate rush to the finish line.

“Kellan, I’d like you to meet George Braun, a visiting professor who arrived in town a few weeks ago to teach a summer course,” Dean Mulligan said. When the sunlight landed on George’s face, it highlighted the rippled, leathery texture of his skin. Perhaps he suffered from the effects of a recent sunburn or battled a case of rosacea.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Kellan. Dean Mulligan tells me you recently joined Braxton and might lend a new guy some pointers about how to survive on this exquisite campus,” George replied with an unusual accent. Although I was adept at picking up common enunciations, his was a mixture of too many unbalanced inflections to be certain of its origin. There were hints of a gruff Midwest tone with drawn-out vowels, yet I sensed a cultured European style as he finished each of his words.

When Dean Mulligan nodded to confirm George’s statement, his jowls jiggled like Santa’s belly. “I can think of no one else more qualified,” he added with an exaggerated wink.

“Certainly, happy to play tour guide. I’m late at the moment, or I’d stay and chat. I have ceremonial duties for this morning’s graduation.” Upon shaking George’s hand, I noticed he wore a pair of thin leather gloves despite the warm temperatures making it unnecessary. Germaphobe?

I wanted to ask what area he’d be working on given my boss, the indomitable Dr. Myriam Castle, head of the communications department, had brought in a new professor for curriculum redesign and expansion. It was supposed to be a chunk of my role at the college, but she’d quickly made a play for additional money to hire someone other than me to prepare the future vision. Now that my father was no longer the president, but Myriam’s wife Ursula Power was in that role, things were changing.

“Perhaps we could have breakfast on Monday morning? I’m due on campus at ten o’clock to meet with Dr. Anita Singh about the courses,” George explained. A dark gray sportscoat covered broad shoulders and attempted to slim his stocky figure. Given he was noticeably several inches taller and wider than me, it didn’t appear to help.

“That sounds like a plan. Let’s meet at eight thirty at the Pick-Me-Up Diner?” I proposed, knowing it’d lend me an excuse to judge the eatery’s latest renovations.

Dean Mulligan haughtily teased,” Ah, George, you’ll soon come to learn the Ayrwick family has a long-standing establishment in and around Braxton. Eleanor, Kellan’s sister, owns the diner, a favored restaurant by most employed at or attending our fine institution.”

As Dean Mulligan provided directions to George, I caught a puzzled expression on the visiting professor’s face. He muttered something unintelligible before his gaze narrowed and highlighted two ultra-thin blond eyebrows. “Pardon?” I inquired.

“Ayrwick, you said?” he added, cocking his head to the left and focusing on the pastoral landscape behind me. He wouldn’t look me in the face without glancing away. Was he sensitive about his skin condition or his funny way of speaking? I hoped I hadn’t offended the man with my transitory stare and state of confusion.

“Yes, Dean Mulligan’s correct. My family’s been in Wharton County for close to three centuries. I look forward to speaking with you on Monday,” I replied, excusing myself and dashing toward the backstage area to locate Dean Fern Terry. Since she oversaw the graduation as head of student affairs, Fern could tell me when I was needed for the ceremony.

George Braun not only seemed familiar with the name Ayrwick, but I was certain that was concern or alarm etched on his face. After a quick catch-up with Fern, I found a spot on the east side of the stage as the ceremony began. I could stand there until it was time to declare the winner of the contest. Although I knew a few students in the graduating class, I hadn’t been at the institution long enough to serve as an announcer of graduate names nor to deliver any inspirational departing speeches.

Fern initiated the ceremony by reminiscing about the school’s history and highlighting the graduating class’s accomplishments. She introduced Ursula who took the stage to congratulate the outgoing students, then turned it over to my father for his last opportunity to say goodbye to the future alumni. As he spoke, Ursula navigated the stage’s steps like they were a catwalk and headed toward the back of the seating area.

Once my father finished boorishly riffing about something in Latin, Fern commandeered the stage and announced my name. I walked to the center and stood behind the lectern looking out at a mostly unfamiliar sea of people. With over two hundred graduates, the audience teetered around a thousand guests including their families and nearly all the college’s administrative and academic staff. I talked about the process to nominate and vote for different cable car designs, then explained how it was an awfully close race. Only two people had been told the final winner. Ursula and I agreed to surprise Fern with the results given how disappointed she’d be if the apocalypse had won. She’d tried to bribe me with a homemade coconut cream cake at Easter, but I stood firm. Where desserts were my weakness, keeping secrets was my strength.

“It gives me immense pleasure to reveal today’s winner,” I said, pointing and clicking the button on a tiny remote toward the digital screen. “I’ve been a huge fan of these two larger-than-life characters since I was a small boy, and I often find myself involved in solving a few mysteries of my own.” A series of conversations between Agatha Christie’s famed detectives, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, materialized on the large screen behind me. Various quotes and images from the books, movies, and PBS shows would appear inside the cable car to share different interpretations of the characters.

“It’s because you’re our inspiration for solving those two murder investigations,” Jordan Ballantine shouted followed by a bunch of cheers. “We wanted to honor your service to the campus!” Jordan was one of the graduates who’d be leaving Braxton to attend an MBA program in New Orleans.

In my three months at Braxton, I’d solved a couple of murders and been deemed a campus hero. I looked at Fern, Jordan’s aunt, and smiled with humility. We’d come a long way from her disciplining me when I’d been the president of my fraternity pleading forgiveness after various mischievous activities. Fern beamed back at me and lifted her hands in the air as if to say ‘holla’ like the bellowing students. Somehow the image of a sixtyish woman built like a quarterback in a gray pixie-style haircut performing such a move was frightening beyond any comfort.

As I thanked everyone for their votes, I noticed one of the graduates, Sam Taft, speaking with my brother, Gabriel. I’d caught the two of them in a cozy embrace last March shortly after someone had killed Gwendolyn Paddington to ensure an inheritance of the family fortune. I’d been shocked to see my brother after eight years but even more astonished to learn he might be gay. If you’d seen that kiss, there wouldn’t have been any question of might be, but until I spoke with him, I didn’t want to assume. Neither one had realized I’d seen them that day, and for the last seven weeks, I’d kept the information to myself. I didn’t know whether to ask Sam about it or hire a private investigator to track Gabriel.

Once I finished my speech, I sprinted down the steps to interrogate or to hug my brother—still hadn’t decided which one. I tried to reach him, but Gabriel winked and escaped in the opposite direction. Before I could rush off to beg Sam for help, Ursula stepped in the way. “Kellan, I’m glad we ran into one another. I was curious if you found out anything new?” she said with a gleam of hope.

By now, Sam had lined up on stage to receive his diploma, and Gabriel was long gone. I breathed a gulp of warm air and felt my body begin to wane. For the third week of May, the heat had come from nowhere and grown inordinately stagnant. All the comforting breezes were blocked by tall fir trees surrounding one side of Cambridge Lawn and the massive church holding firm on its southern border. I liked the hot weather, but this was intense.

Ursula had recently pleaded for help with a problem involving the past finally catching up to her. I’d learned a lot about my new boss during our conversations, some of which explained the reason she was taciturn about her history and some of which shocked me to the core. Not even Myriam knew about her wife’s tragedy or the years she’d been running and hiding from the truth about her real identity. While I felt the palpitating fear emanate off Ursula’s normally serene exterior, I tried not to judge her for the damage her prior actions had caused.

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

Posted in Cozy Mysteries, Freebies and Special Offers

Special 99-cent Sale on Frozen Stiff Drink, A Braxton Campus Cozy Mystery by James J. Cudney

Frozen Stiff Drink: Death at Danby Landing, the 6th book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, will be available as a .99 Kindle download. Below you’ll find several highlights, and if you are interested in reading the book, you can purchase it as a physical book or a Kindle version via Amazon.

About Frozen Stiff Drink

Frozen Stiff Drink: A Kellan Ayrwick Cozy Mystery
(Braxton Campus Mysteries)

Cozy Mystery
6th in Series
Publisher: Gumshoe – A Next Chapter Imprint (March 18, 2020)
Digital Edition – ~270 Pages
ASIN: B0849MJH6H

A winter blizzard barrels toward Wharton County with a vengeance. Madam Zenya predicted the raging storm would change the course of Kellan’s life, but the famed seer never could’ve prepared him for all the collateral damage. Nana D disappears after visiting a patient at Willow Trees, leaving behind a trail of confusion. When the patient turns up dead and a second body is discovered beneath the snowbanks, Kellan must face his worst fears. What tragedy has befallen his beloved grandmother?

Kellan’s brother Hampton learns essential life lessons the hard way after his father-in-law accuses him of embezzlement. While trying to prove his innocence, Hampton digs himself a deeper hole that might lead to prison. Sheriff Montague wants to save him, but she receives the shock of her life as the past hurtles forward and complicates her future.

Between locating Nana D and solving the scandalous murder of another prominent Braxton citizen, Kellan and April’s worlds explode with more turmoil than they can handle. Too bad neither one of them knows what to do about the psychic’s latest premonition. The suspicious deaths happening around town aren’t ending anytime soon.

5 out of 5 stars
This was a really great book! The suspense was just right and I had only a small inkling of who the villain MIGHT be.
~Valerie’s Musings

The story is well-written and James Cudney does a great job pulling all the storylines together to give us a wonderful conclusion.
~Carla Loves to Read

Frozen Stiff Drink by James J. Cudney is a complex plot with multiple crimes and intriguing characters.
~Baroness’ Book Trove

Mr. Cudney has written an intricate story that is multifaceted with subplots twisted together and Kellan in the middle of them all . . . Full of twists and misdirections, the pace is at a constant high. The ending was exciting and full of surprises.
~Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book

This was good clean cosy mystery that will keep you guessing, once again I thought I had the culprit down but a few red herrings made me rethink and once again I was off the mark! Now that makes a good mystery in my eyes,
~eBook addicts

Where to Buy It

Kindle: http://mybook.to/fsd

Paperback: http://mybook.to/frozenstiffpb

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

Blog Tour

https://www.escapewithdollycas.com/great-escapes-virtual-book-tours/completed-tours-2020/frozen-stiff-drink-a-kellan-ayrwick-cozy-mystery-braxton-campus-mysteries-by-james-j-cudney/

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

March 18 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – SPOTLIGHT

March 19 – Valerie’s Musings – REVIEW

March 19 – Diane Reviews Books – GUEST POST

March 20 – Carla Loves To Read – REVIEW

March 20 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT

March 21 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – SPOTLIGHT

March 21 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT

March 22 – Gimme The Scoop Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 23 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

March 23 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW

March 24 – Mysteries with Character – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

March 24 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT

March 25 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

March 25 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 26 – eBook addicts – REVIEW

March 26 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

March 27 – Rosepoint Publishing – REVIEW

March 27 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT

Book Excerpt

“Grrr! Argh! Blech!” Circling the shopping district’s downtown lot for the third time, I begged the parking gods to graciously relinquish an open spot. Everyone and their mother roamed the streets in frenzied pursuit of supplies and their cowering sanity. A vicious blizzard barreled toward Wharton County, and all four towns had flipped their lids in fear of Doomsday’s imminent arrival. I insisted Madam Zenya’s premonition of the disaster was a hallucination despite worrying she often hit the proverbial bullseye.

“Was that gibberish? Are you speaking English, Kellan?” Lara, a late-forties former supermodel turned news reporter, bellowed through the staticky phone. We’d met the previous year when she moderated Nana D’s mayoral debates. After the charming Ms. Bouvier had co-investigated a suspicious death that summer, we’d become good friends and colleagues on our television show, Dark Reality.

I hurled the headset onto the passenger seat, switched my cell to speakerphone, and gripped the steering wheel with such ferocity it permanently imprinted my palms. “Sorry, the hands-free device cut out. It’s good you didn’t hear my mumbling. They weren’t the most flattering words.”

“For heaven’s sake, park in the loading zone outside Nutberry Pharmacy. Your grandmother is the mayor. You’re dating the sheriff. I doubt you’ll get a ticket.” Lara chortled with amusement regarding my current predicament. “Unless they’re conspiring to exact revenge on you… ummm… on second thought, you’re right. Drive around one more time. I suspect you’ll get lucky soon.”

“Yep, Nana D and April rarely get along, but torturing me is the one pastime they share in common.” Upon noticing an empty spot in the far corner, I swiftly cut the steering wheel and expediently navigated toward it. “You were right! I found one.”

It was my second trip in the last hour to the drugstore. My visits hadn’t exactly delighted the Nutberry family ever since I’d discovered the crimes one of them committed the previous spring. Murder wasn’t known to unite people in blissful harmony. Neither was the threat of inclement weather.

Fresh off a full day of teaching students who prayed for the cancellation of next week’s classes, due to the monster-sized winter storm whizzing our way, a dozen last-minute errands still plagued my to-do notes. After I’d ticked them off the list, my fifteen-year-old cousin informed me he’d run out of deodorant. Ulan had become my ward after Uncle Zach extended his African expedition to protect a rare elephant species. Under normal circumstances, notwithstanding the teenage hormones and noxious fumes emanating from his bedroom, I’d wait until tomorrow to buy it. Procrastination wasn’t possible this time. Ulan and my seven-year-old daughter, Emma, were leaving for Disney World in the morning.

“Excellent. We need to discuss Hiram’s Dark Reality segment. Although he’s improved since emerging from the coma last month, his recovery will take months. He’s agreed to step down and recommend a temporary replacement judge before the next election,” Lara exclaimed after her impromptu visit to Willow Trees Rehabilitation Center. Judge Grey, her former father-in-law, was recuperating from a haunted hayride accident that’d threatened his life four months ago.

“And Wharton County collectively breathes a sigh of relief. Nana D will dance an Irish jig when the crusty magistrate vacates the bench. Sayonara to the ancient red tape she’s trying to eliminate.” Truthfully, the man had no chance of re-election. When news leaked about his conspiracy with a psychiatrist to murder a healthy and sane patient years ago, citizens would revolt. The only reasons for a delayed uproar were his submersion into a coma and inability to perform judicial duties.

Lara raved about Nana D’s plans for ridding our county of corruption. “When I got there, some young girl with a pastel green streak in her hair yelled at him about destroying families. Good for her!”

“Judge Grey is a blight on Wharton County. Did he reveal his replacement nominee?”

“Nope, he refused. It honestly looked like the Grim Reaper was knocking at his door. My heart swells for Imogene. My daughter loves her grandfather in spite of all the shameless things he’s done.” Lara shared an update on Hiram’s condition: alive, more arrogant than usual, and begging for someone to sneak in a bottle of expensive bourbon. “Can you believe that man stashes a special crystal tumbler at the rehab center for his hourly cocktails? Even that persnickety red-haired nurse threatened to clobber him if he barked one more order at her.”

“Given my frustrations at this unbearable moment, Hiram’s demands don’t sound half bad.”

“You need to relax. Finish your errands, meander home, and drink something potent to squelch your attitude.” Lara suggested we meet for breakfast the following morning at the Pick-Me-Up Diner, my sister’s famed cozy eatery, to plot the episode we were filming on the Garibaldi and Grey families.

“Duly noted.” I slammed on the brakes, causing my neck to crash into the seat’s headrest and seesaw until I practically collided with the dashboard too. “I don’t believe it! Who does he think… of all the moronic things… what the—”

Lara interrupted before I could mutter another stream of obscenities that would prompt Nana D to wash out my mouth with soap. “What’s going on? You’re back to gibberish again, darling. For a literature and film professor at Braxton, words don’t come naturally to you, do they?”

“Some idiot stole my parking spot. He gunned ahead of me.” I rolled down my window, shivered at the frosty gusts pricking my cheeks, and waited for the sneaky louse to exit his tiny red sports car.

A tall, well-built man in his early thirties, the same age as me, stepped out of the convertible and strolled by without a care in the world. I swear he bobbed his head and hummed Michael Jackson’s “Bad.” I grunted and stink-eyed the jerk strutting around in dark jeans, a black V-neck tee, and a Nordic ski hat that covered most of his unshaven, structured face. The guy had zero body fat to speak of—how did he walk the streets dressed like we weren’t approaching an ice age again? It was the middle of February and colder than the Arctic. No matter how hard I tried—regardless of growing up in this snow globe—I couldn’t acclimate to the harsh Pennsylvania winters after living in LA for the last decade.

“Hey, sorry, man. Didn’t realize you wanted that spot,” he carelessly called out, shrugging as he sauntered away with a poorly concealed and immature chuckle. “Better luck next time.”

As he turned, a tattoo of a snake—with the longest tongue I’d ever seen—roamed the entire length of his beefy arm, both surprising and confusing me. Although I didn’t know everyone in our small town, I was certain he hailed from other parts. “Seriously? You’re gonna walk away like that?” While idling in the middle of the lot, I snarled and shifted the car into park, remembering Lara lingered on the phone. “Hold on. That was the last spot, and I’m in a rush.”

“Life’s short, dude. You gotta take what you want and never look back.” The obnoxious spot-stealer winked, sped into a jog, and waved at a shorter, dark-skinned man near the corner of Nutberry Pharmacy. He proffered the other man a small package, and in return, the spot-stealer collected a bank envelope he discreetly stuffed inside his back pocket. Had I witnessed a drug deal in progress?

Lara hollered my name. “Let it go. Find another space. See you tomorrow morning if we both survive the impending apocalypse. Ciao, babe.”

“Thanks for the advice!” I swallowed my rising anger and considered my options. It would take five minutes to run into the store, select a stick of deodorant that’d protect us from Ulan’s death sweat, and dash back to the car. With the decision unanimously agreed, I parked behind the red sports car, ensuring its delinquent driver couldn’t back out, and executed my errand. It was rare I fought fire with fire, but he deserved my wrath, and I would return before him—most likely.

As I approached the counter in our local family-run pharmacy, frowning at the five people in front of me, I held up the deodorant to Tiffany Nutberry. I gestured something that volunteered I was in a hurry or had gotten my tongue stuck to an icy pole, then begged her to add it to my tab. My brother’s former college gal pal nodded and focused on her next customer. Sometimes living in a small town where everyone knew your name was a beneficial curse.

I retreated to the front door, scanning the area for the creep who’d stolen the spot, but found no sign of my newest mortal enemy or the stranger he’d surreptitiously met. While I catapulted across the lot, a note on the windshield and an empty parking space garnered my attention. The spot-stealer had driven over the low curb rather than wait for me to return. I anxiously read the message:

Your plan backfired. Mine won’t. I know how to get even. I also don’t give up easily.

A petulant man would’ve kicked the tires in frustration. An intelligent guy would’ve shaken it off and escaped without a colossal tantrum. Judging by the throbbing in my foot when I pressed the gas pedal to dart away from the vacant space, my level of maturity sputtered in a non-ideal direction.

It had been a day. If I could’ve returned it for a refund or shoplifted a new one from a discount rack, I’d have been better off. While driving to Danby Landing, Nana D’s organic orchard and farm, I conjured ways to avenge the spot-stealer and heeded the tail end of a regional weather report—or desperate warning that we’d soon march to a painful death. I couldn’t decipher his bleak tone.

“To recap for those who missed my detailed forecast, temperatures will drop like atom bombs overnight into the teens. By afternoon, snow flurries will descend on us poor, unfortunate souls. Although the weekend will sprinkle only a trifle of snow, be cognizant of fierce and major precipitation by Sunday evening when you will become unavoidably trapped—housebound for days like suffering prisoners. Some are nicknaming it the blizzard of the century, and one thing’s for sure, folks… don’t leave your pets and shoes outside this weekend. By Monday, we will greet three feet of snow with another six inches dropped on us by dinnertime. No one wants to lose a pinky toe to frostbite or visit the local taxidermist.”

I switched the channel and snorted at the static blasting through the speakers. “It’s a good thing my parents and the kids are leaving on vacation.” Though I spoke to myself, it was better than listening to the weather forecast. I’d wanted to escape with them on the trip, but Braxton’s Spring Break wasn’t until the following week. I couldn’t abandon my job. My parents were doing me a favor by watching the kids, which allowed me extra time to address the premier episode of Dark Reality with Lara. We needed to focus all our spare energy on preparing for the thrilling series revitalization.

I’d also spend quality time with April. Our lack of intimacy had descended into sore subject territory. Although we’d shared a romantic Valentine’s Day earlier that week, a burst pipe in the sheriff’s office had slashed our time shorter than a matchstick. The kids were always a priority. And ever since she’d revealed that a divorce from her husband had not formally taken place years ago, we’d been tracing the mysterious man’s whereabouts to resolve the itty-bitty complication.

During April’s and my first official date on my birthday last Halloween, Madam Zenya interrupted to warn us she foresaw danger imminently hurtling in our direction. Months had passed without Beelzebub’s fireballs singing us, but she’d also suggested it would prevail during a winter blizzard. Could the approaching storm be what she’d hinted about?

That night, April had also given me a birthday present—a fake certificate awarding me an honorary degree in meddling and nuisance studies. The gift came with a plastic badge she brazenly directed to affix to my lips whenever I yearned to solve murders. Irony prompted half the town to refer to me as The Unlikely Death Locator. I’d somehow innocently involved myself in five of her murder investigations in the last year, and despite the frequent trouble it caused, we’d still developed a fiery attraction to one another. Unfortunately, my separation from a not-so-dead mobster wife, Francesca Castigliano, had just begun, and April’s split from her globetrotting not-so-divorced husband, Fox Terrell, was an unexpected new obstacle. Quite a pair of hot messes, weren’t we?

As I drove past the Danby Landing cottage, my brother and his boyfriend zoomed down the path on his motorcycle. Of all the idiotic things to do given the threat of a snowstorm, Gabriel would be the one knucklehead to risk his and Sam’s lives on a bike. I hastily waved through the window, knowing we’d scheduled dinner for Sunday, unless the looming winter disaster rendered that impossible. I’d decided to introduce my girlfriend to my family in a non-official capacity by testing the waters with Gabriel. His sarcasm and humor were on par with mine. It would be easy to relax in a group setting while Sam was on a break from graduate school. They’d been dating for six months even though the long-distance had occasionally caused a few issues cum calamities. Gabriel could be quite an obnoxious handful.

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

Posted in Blog Tour, Cozy Mystery, New Releases

Spotlight and Blog Tour for Frozen Stiff Drink, A Braxton Campus Mystery, by James J. Cudney

Frozen Stiff Drink:
A Kellan Ayrwick Cozy Mystery (Braxton Campus Mysteries)
by James J. Cudney

About Frozen Stiff Drink

Frozen Stiff Drink: A Kellan Ayrwick Cozy Mystery
(Braxton Campus Mysteries)

Cozy Mystery
6th in Series
Publisher: Gumshoe – A Next Chapter(March 18, 2020)
Digital Edition – ~270 Pages
ASIN: B0849MJH6H

A winter blizzard barrels toward Wharton County with a vengeance. Madam Zenya predicted the raging storm would change the course of Kellan’s life, but the famed seer never could’ve prepared him for all the collateral damage. Nana D disappears after visiting a patient at Willow Trees, leaving behind a trail of confusion. When the patient turns up dead and a second body is discovered beneath the snowbanks, Kellan must face his worst fears. What tragedy has befallen his beloved grandmother?

Kellan’s brother Hampton learns essential life lessons the hard way after his father-in-law accuses him of embezzlement. While trying to prove his innocence, Hampton digs himself a deeper hole that might lead to prison. Sheriff Montague wants to save him, but she receives the shock of her life as the past hurtles forward and complicates her future.

Between locating Nana D and solving the scandalous murder of another prominent Braxton citizen, Kellan and April’s worlds explode with more turmoil than they can handle. Too bad neither one of them knows what to do about the psychic’s latest premonition. The suspicious deaths happening around town aren’t ending anytime soon.

About James J. Cudney

 

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. I’ve spent twenty years building a technology career in the retail, sports, media, and entertainment industries. I enjoyed my job, but a passion for books and stories had been missing for far too long. I’m a voracious reader in my favorite genres (thriller, suspense, contemporary, mystery, and historical fiction), as books transport me to a different world where I can immerse myself in so many fantastic cultures and places. I’m an avid genealogist who hopes to visit all the German, Scottish, Irish, and British villages my ancestors emigrated from in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind, and my body. I decided to pursue my passion by dusting off the creativity inside my head and drafting outlines for several novels. I quickly realized I was back in my element growing happier and more excited with life each day. My goal in writing is to connect with readers who want to be part of great stories and who enjoy interacting with authors. To get a strong picture of who I am, check out my author website or my blog. It’s full of humor and eccentricity, sharing connections with everyone I follow—all in the hope of building a network of friends across the world.

When I completed the first book, Watching Glass Shatter, I knew I’d stumbled upon my passion again, suddenly dreaming up characters, plots, and settings all day long. I chose my second novel, Father Figure, through a poll on my blog where I let everyone vote for their favorite plot and character summaries. It is with my third book, Academic Curveball, the first in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, where I immersed myself in a college campus full of so much activity, I could hardly stop thinking about new murder scenes or character relationships to finish writing the current story. I can’t believe I’ve finished writing the sixth book in this series. Come join in the fun…

Websites & Blog

Website: https://jamesjcudney.com/

Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

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

Social Media Links

Amazon: http://bit.ly/JJCIVBooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

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

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

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

List of Published Books

Braxton Campus Mysteries – Purchase Links

Academic Curveball – #1 (October 2018)

Broken Heart Attack – #2 (November 2018)

Flower Power Trip – #3 (March 2019)

Mistaken Identity Crisis – #4 (June 2019)

Haunted House Ghost – #5 (October 2019)

Frozen Stiff Drink – #6 (March 2020)

Author’s Other Books

Watching Glass Shatter (Contemporary Fiction / Family Drama)

The wealthy Glass family lost its patriarch, Benjamin Glass, sooner than expected. Benjamin’s widow, Olivia, and her 5 sons each react to his death in their own way while preparing for the reading of his will. Olivia receives a very unexpected confession from her late husband about one of their sons that could shatter the whole family. Prior to revealing the secret to her children, Olivia must figure out which boy Ben refers to in the confession he left her in his will. While the family attorney searches for the mysterious Rowena Hector whom Ben says holds the answers, Olivia asks her sons to each spend a week with her as she isn’t ready to let go of the past. When Olivia visits her sons, she quickly learns that each one has been keeping his own secret from her. Olivia never expected her remaining years would be so complex and life-altering, but she will not rest until her family is reunited after Ben’s untimely death. We all need family. We all want to fit in. We’re all a mix of quirky personalities. Will Olivia be able to fix them, or will the whole family implode? What will she do when she discovers the son behind Ben’s secret? Check out this ensemble cast where each family member’s perspective is center stage, discovering along the way who might feel the biggest impact from all the secrets. Through various scenes and memories across a six-month period, you’ll get to know everyone, learning how and why they made certain decisions. Welcome to being an honorary member of the Glass family where the flair for over-the-top drama pushes everyone to their limits. Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (Contemporary Fiction / Family Drama)

Between the fast-paced New York City, a rural Mississippi town and a charming Pennsylvania college campus filled with secrets, two young girls learn the consequences of growing up too quickly. Amalia Graeme, abused by her mother for most of her life, longs to escape her desolate hometown and fall in love. Contemplating her loss of innocence and conflicting feelings between her boyfriend and the dangerous attraction she’s developed for an older man, Amalia faces life-altering tragedies. Brianna Porter, a sassy, angst-ridden teenager raised in New York City, yearns to find her life’s true purpose, conquer her fear of abandonment, and interpret an intimidating desire for her best friend, Shanelle. Desperate to find the father whom her mother refuses to reveal, Brianna accidentally finds out a shocking truth about her missing parent. Set in alternating chapters two decades apart, the parallels between their lives and the unavoidable collision that is bound to happen are revealed. FATHER FIGURE is an emotional story filled with mystery, romance, and suspense. Father Figure (April 2018)

BRAXTON CAMPUS MYSTERY SERIES

Academic Curveball: Death at the Sports Complex (#1)

When Kellan Ayrwick, a thirty-two-year-old single father, is forced to return home for his father’s retirement from Braxton College, he finds the dead body of a professor in Diamond Hall’s stairwell. Unfortunately, Kellan has a connection to the victim, and so do several members of his family. Could one of them be guilty of murder? Then he finds a second body after discovering mysterious donations to the college’s athletic program, a nasty blog denouncing his father, and a criminal attempting to change student grades so the star baseball pitcher isn’t expelled. Someone is playing games on campus, but none of the facts add up. With the help of his eccentric and trouble-making nana weeding through the clues, Kellan tries to stay out of the sheriff’s way. Fate has other plans. Kellan is close to discovering the killer’s identity just as someone he loves is put in grave danger of becoming victim number three. And if that’s not enough to wreak havoc on his family, everything comes crashing to a halt when his own past comes spiraling back to change his life forever. In this debut novel in the Braxton Campus Mystery Series, readers discover a cozy, secluded Pennsylvania village full of quirky, sarcastic, and nosy residents. Among the daily workings of Braxton College and the charming Ayrwick family, Kellan weighs his investigative talents against an opportunity to achieve a much sought-after dream. When this first book ends, the drama is set for the next adventure in Kellan’s future… and it’s one you won’t want to miss. Academic Curveball – #1 (October 2018)

Broken Heart Attack: Death at the Theater (#2)

When an extra ticket becomes available to attend the dress rehearsal of Braxton’s King Lear production, Kellan tags along with Nana D and her buddies, sisters-in-law Eustacia and Gwendolyn Paddington, to show support for the rest of the Paddington family. When one of them appears to have a heart attack in the middle of the second act, Nana D raises her suspicions and asks Kellan to investigate who killed her friend. Amidst family members suddenly in debt and a secret rendezvous between an unlikely pair, Kellan learns the Paddingtons might not be as clean-cut as everyone thinks. But did one of them commit murder for an inheritance? Kellan is back in his second adventure since returning home to Pennsylvania. With his personal life in upheaval and his new boss, Myriam, making life difficult, will he be able to find a killer, or will he get caught up in his own version of stage fright? Broken Heart Attack – #2 (November 2018)

Flower Power Trip: Death at the Masquerade Ball (#3)

Braxton College is throwing the Heroes & Villains Costume Extravaganza to raise money for renovations to the antiquated Memorial Library. While attending, Kellan stumbles upon a close family friend standing over a dead body that’s dressed as Dr. Evil. Did one of Maggie’s sisters kill an annoying guest at the Roarke and Daughters Inn or does the victim have a more intimate connection to someone else on campus? As Kellan helps the school’s president, Ursula, bury a scandalous secret from her past and unearth the identity of her stalker, he unexpectedly encounters a missing member of his own family who’s reappeared after a lengthy absence. When all the peculiar events around town trace back to the Stoddards, a new family who recently moved to Wharton County, the explosive discovery only offers more confusion. Between the special flower exhibit that’s made an unplanned stop on campus and strange postcards arriving each week from all around the world, Kellan can’t decide which mystery in his life should take priority. Unfortunately, the biggest one of all has yet to arrive at his doorstep. When it does, Kellan won’t know what hit him. Flower Power Trip – #3 (March 2019)

Mistaken Identity Crisis: Death on the Cable Car (#4)

A clever thief with a sinister calling card has invaded Braxton campus. A string of jewelry thefts continues to puzzle the sheriff given they’re remarkably similar to an unsolved eight-year-old case from shortly before Gabriel vanished one stormy night. When a missing ruby is discovered near an electrified dead body during the campus cable car redesign project, Kellan must investigate the real killer to protect his brother. Amidst sorority hazing practices and the victim’s connections to several prominent Wharton County citizens, a malicious motive becomes more obvious and trickier to prove. As if the latest murder isn’t enough to keep him busy, Kellan partners with April to end the Castigliano and Vargas crime family feud. What really happened to Francesca while all those postcards showed up in Braxton? The mafia world is more calculating than Kellan realized, and if he wants to move forward, he must make a few ruthless sacrifices. Election Day is over, and the new mayor takes office. Nana D celebrates her 75th birthday with an adventure. A double wedding occurs at Crilly Lake on Independence Day. And Kellan receives a few more surprises as the summer heat settles in Wharton County. Mistaken Identity Crisis – #4 (June 2019)

Haunted House Ghost: Death at the Fall Festival (#5)

It’s Halloween, and excitement is brewing in Braxton to carve jack-o’-lanterns, go on haunted hayrides, and race through the spooky corn maze at the Fall Festival. Despite the former occupant’s warnings, Kellan renovates and moves into a mysterious old house. When a ruthless ghost promises retribution, our fearless professor turns to the eccentric town historian and an eerie psychic to communicate with the apparition. Meanwhile, construction workers discover a fifty-year-old skeleton after breaking ground on the new Memorial Library wing. While Kellan and April dance around the chemistry sparking between them, a suspicious accident occurs at the Fall Festival. Soon, Kellan discovers the true history and dastardly connections of the Grey family. But can he capture the elusive killer – and placate the revenge-seeking ghost. Haunted House Ghost – #5 (October 2019)

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TOUR PARTICIPANTS

March 18 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – SPOTLIGHT

March 18 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – CHARACTER GUEST POST

March 19 – Valerie’s Musings – REVIEW

March 19 – Diane Reviews Books – GUEST POST

March 20 – Carla Loves To Read – REVIEW

March 20 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT

March 21 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – SPOTLIGHT

March 21 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT

March 22 – Gimme The Scoop Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 23 – I Read What You Write – REVIEW

March 23 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

March 23 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW

March 24 – Mysteries with Character – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

March 24 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT

March 25 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

March 25 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 26 – eBook addicts – REVIEW

March 26 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

March 27 – Rosepoint Publishing – REVIEW

March 27 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT

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Posted in Cozy Series, Reviews

Review of Academic Curveball : A Kellan Arywick Cozy Mystery (Braxton Campus Mysteries #1) by James Cudney IV

Purchase Links:

eBook (and Kindle Unlimited): https://amzn.to/2LOOc2g

Paperback: https://amzn.to/2RMjXNs

Audio: https://amzn.to/35eaDWk

Five Stars *****

Academic Curveball is the second book I’ve read by James J. Cudney and the first of his Braxton Campus cozy mysteries. Having enjoyed his first novel, the standalone family saga Watching Glass Shatter that I reviewed here, I was curious to see how he would handle a cozy mystery. I wasn’t disappointed. The characters in Academic Curveball were all well portrayed. I especially liked Kellan, the main character, a widower with a young daughter who was called home for his father’s retirement party as president of Braxton College. Upon his return, Kellan who is currently working for Dark Realities, a television reality crime show, plans to meet Professor Abby Monroe who has material for the second season of his show after his father’s party. Unfortunately, he never gets to do so because Abby’s dead body is found during the party by his father’s assistant Lorraine Candito.

A number of people, some close to Kellan including his own father, are suspects in Abby’s murder, but the murder weapon is missing along with two other items, one that was intended as a gift to Kellan. The motive is believed to have involved the changing of a grade for an athlete so he can compete in a game that a college scout will attend. But when another murder occurs and they find the possible weapon hidden in Kellan’s father’s desk, Kellan has even more reason to solve the case despite the warnings by the town’s female sheriff who refers to him as “Little Arywick.”

Aided by his sassy grandmother, Nana D. and his old school friend Connor who is dating both his sister Eleanor and his college girlfriend Maggie, Kellan sets out to find the person responsible for the murders. Although I had a funny feeling about the character who the killer ended up being, I didn’t know the identity of the murderer until it was unveiled . . .  and then it all made sense. What surprised me even more was the cliffhanger at the end of the book that was totally unexpected. I won’t reveal any spoilers, but I love double twists. This one was done exceptionally well. I can’t wait to read the second book where it should be explained. My only criticism of this book was that the plethora of characters were introduced close together which made it somewhat difficult to keep them all straight initially. Otherwise, I highly recommend this series to those who like academic settings, a variety of interesting characters including a male protagonist, and cozy mysteries with lots of subplots and twists.

In addition to being a talented writer, Cudney also has a terrific WordPress blog called This is My Truth Now.

Posted in Blog Tour, mystery, New Releases, Romantic Suspense

Spotlight For Mistaken Identity Crisis, A Braxton Campus Mystery, by James J. Cudney

 

Mistaken Identity Crisis
(Braxton Campus Mysteries)
by James J. Cudney

About the Book


Mistaken Identity Crisis (Braxton Campus Mysteries)
Cozy Mystery
4th in Series
Creativia (June 30, 2019)
Digital Edition, 260 pages
ASIN: B07Q6YSTPN

A clever thief with a sinister calling card has invaded Braxton campus. A string of jewelry thefts continues to puzzle the sheriff, given they’re remarkably similar to an unsolved eight-year-old case, back when Gabriel vanished one stormy night.

When a missing ruby, and a body, are discovered at the campus, Kellan must investigate the killer’s motive to protect his brother. As if the latest murder isn’t enough to keep him busy, Kellan partners with April to end the Castigliano and Vargas crime family feud. What really happened to Francesca while all those postcards showed up in Braxton?

The mafia world is more calculating than Kellan realized. If he wants to move forward, he’ll have to make a few ruthless sacrifices. And as the summer heat begins to settle in Wharton County, a couple more surprises are also in store.

About the Author

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. I spent fifteen years building a technology career in the retail, sports, media, and entertainment industries. I enjoyed my job, but a passion for books and stories had been missing for far too long. I’m a voracious reader in my favorite genres (thriller, suspense, contemporary, mystery, and historical fiction), as books transport me to a different world where I can immerse myself in so many fantastic cultures and places. I’m an avid genealogist who hopes to visit all the German, Scottish, Irish, and British villages my ancestors emigrated from in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind, and my body. I decided to pursue my passion by dusting off the creativity inside my head and drafting outlines for several novels. I quickly realized I was back in my element growing happier and more excited with life each day. My goal in writing is to connect with readers who want to be part of great stories and who enjoy interacting with authors. To get a strong picture of who I am, check out my author website or my blog. It’s full of humor and eccentricity, sharing connections with everyone I follow—all in the hope of building a network of friends across the world.

When I completed the first book, Watching Glass Shatter, I knew I’d stumbled upon my passion again, suddenly dreaming up characters, plots, and settings all day long. I chose my second novel, Father Figure, through a poll on my blog where I let everyone vote for their favorite plot and character summaries. It is with my third book, Academic Curveball, the first in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, where I immersed myself in a college campus full of so much activity, I could hardly stop thinking about new murder scenes or character relationships to finish writing the current story. Come join in the fun!

List of Books
Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)
Father Figure (April 2018)
Braxton Campus Mysteries
Academic Curveball – #1 (October 2018)
Broken Heart Attack – #2 (November 2018)
Flower Power Trip – #3 (March 2019)
MistakenIdentity Crisis – #4 (June 2019)

Websites & Blog
Website: https://jamesjcudney.com/
Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

Social Media Links
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/James-J.-Cudney/e/B076B6PB3M/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamesJCudneyIVAuthor/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BraxtonCampusMysteries/
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

Purchase Links – Amazon

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TOUR PARTICIPANTS

June 21 – Mallory Heart’s Cozies – REVIEW

June 22 – Babs Book Bistro – SPOTLIGHT

June 22 – LibriAmoriMiei – REVIEW

June 23 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

June 24 – Books Direct – MAP & CHARACTER LIST POST

June 25 – Rosepoint Publishing – REVIEW

June 25 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – SPOTLIGHT

June 26 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

June 27 – Jane Reads – REVIEW

June 28 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT

June 29 – Bibliophile Reviews – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST

June 30 – A Blue Million Books – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

July 1 – Carla Loves To Read – REVIEW

July 2 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

July 2 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

July 3 – Island Confidential – GUEST POST

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Posted in Cozy Mysteries, New Releases

Spotlight for Flower Power Trip, A Braxton Campus Mystery, by James J. Cudney

Flower Power Trip
(Braxton Campus Mysteries)
by James J. Cudney

About the Book


Flower Power Trip (Braxton Campus Mysteries)
Cozy Mystery
3rd in Series
Creativia (March 30, 2019)
Print Length: 270 pages
Digital ASIN: B07NDK76WF

At a masquerade ball to raise money for renovations to Memorial Library, Kellan finds a dead body dressed in a Dr. Evil costume.

Did one of Maggie’s sisters kill the annoying guest who’d been staying at the Roarke and Daughters Inn, or does the victim have a closer connection to someone else at Braxton College?

As Kellan helps school president Ursula bury a secret from her past and discover the identity of her stalker, he unexpectedly encounters a missing member of his family. Everything seems to trace back to the Stoddards: a new family who recently moved in.

Between the murder, a special flower exhibit and strange postcards arriving each week, Kellan can’t decide which mystery in his life should take priority. But unfortunately, the biggest one of all has yet to be exposed – and when it is, Kellan won’t know what hit him.

About the Author

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 with a degree in English literature. I spent fifteen years building a technology career in the retail, sports, media, and entertainment industries. I enjoyed my job, but a passion for books and stories had been missing for far too long. I’m a voracious reader in my favorite genres (thriller, suspense, contemporary, mystery, and historical fiction), as books transport me to a different world where I can immerse myself in so many fantastic cultures and places. I’m an avid genealogist who hopes to visit all the German, Scottish, Irish, and British villages my ancestors emigrated from in the 18th and 19th centuries. I frequently blog and publish book reviews on everything I read at ThisIsMyTruthNow via WordPress.

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind, and my body. I decided to pursue my passion by dusting off the creativity inside my head and drafting outlines for several novels. I quickly realized I was back in my element growing happier and more excited with life each day. My goal in writing is to connect with readers who want to be part of great stories and who enjoy interacting with authors. To get a strong picture of who I am, check out my author website or my blog. It’s full of humor and eccentricity, sharing connections with everyone I follow—all in the hope of building a network of friends across the world.

When I completed the first book, Watching Glass Shatter, I knew I’d stumbled upon my passion again, suddenly dreaming up characters, plots, and settings all day long. I chose my second novel, Father Figure, through a poll on my blog where I let everyone vote for their favorite plot and character summaries. It is with my third book, Academic Curveball,, the first in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, where I immersed myself in a college campus full of so much activity, I could hardly stop thinking about new murder scenes or character relationships to finish writing the current story. Come join in the fun!

List of Books & Blog

Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (April 2018)

Braxton Campus Mysteries

Academic Curveball – #1 (October 2018)

Broken Heart Attack – #2 (November 2018)

Flower Power Trip – #3 (Early 2019)

Websites & Blog

Website: https://jamesjcudney.com

Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

Social Media Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/James-J.-Cudney/e/B076B6PB3M/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase Link – Amazon

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TOUR PARTICIPANTS

April 5 – Mallory Heart’s Cozies – REVIEW

April 5 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

April 6 – Carla Loves To Read – REVIEW

April 6 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – SPOTLIGHT

April 7 – Cozy Up With Kathy – CHARACTER GUEST POST

April 8 – Babs Book Bistro – SPOTLIGHT

April 8 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT

April 9 – I’m Into Books – SPOTLIGHT

April 9 – Books Direct – GUEST POST

April 10 – Jane Reads – REVIEW

April 10 – Dee-Scoveries – SPOTLIGHT

April 11 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT

April 11 – Readeropolis – SPOTLIGHT

April 12 – View from the Birdhouse – SPOTLIGHT

April 12 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

April 13 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT

April 13 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

April 14 – A Blue Million Books – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

April 15 – Valerie’s Musings – REVIEW

April 15 – Laura’s Interests – SPOTLIGHT

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Posted in Author Spotlight, Blog Tour

Author Spotlight of James J. Cudney, Author of Academic Curveball, a Braxton Campus Mystery

I’m pleased to have author James J. Cudney from New York City here to speak about his writing and new release, Academic Curevall that’s on blog tour with Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book. He’s asked me to call him Jay because he’s actually the fourth in a direct line with his name.

Nice to meet you, Jay. I’m a Long Islander, so we don’t live too far from one another. How long have you been published? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.

My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, a contemporary family drama about a woman who loses her husband in a car accident and learns a huge secret about one of their 5 adult sons, was published on October 8th, 2017. Over the last 15 months, I’ve published another 3 books all with Creativia Publishing. My second book, Father Figure, is also a contemporary drama and was published in April 2018. It alternates perspectives and stories between two college-aged girls who struggle through life over two different decades. Readers have to figure out what their connection is, but more importantly, which of them will survive in the face of major trauma. My third and fourth books are the Braxton Campus cozy mystery series: Academic Curveball (1) and Broken Heart Attack (2) both published in the fall of 2018.

I haven’t self-published anything and am happy with Creativia. We shall see what the future holds for us!

Sounds great. I’ve never heard of Creativia before. I publish with Solstice Publishing and have been happy with them, but I’m always interested in hearing about authors’ experience with other publishers.

Tell us a little bit about your books — if you write a series, any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress. If you have an upcoming release, please specify the release date.

Stand-Alone Books

Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (April 2018)

 Braxton Campus Mysteries

Academic Curveball – #1 (October 2018)

Broken Heart Attack – #2 (November 2018)

Flower Power Trip – #3 (Early 2019)

Flower Power Trip, the third in the series, picks up from the cliffhanger dropped at the end of the second book, with Ursula and the secret she shares with Kellan. How will he help his new boss while hoping he doesn’t cause problems with his other boss, Myriam, who just so happens to be Ursula’s wife! Not only that… Kellan’s brother, Gabriel, has been found and has a secret of his own that only Kellan knows. Will he keep it or share the truth with the rest of their family? And let’s not forget about what Kellan’s former mother-in-law called to tell him at the very end of Broken Heart Attack. If you thought the cliffhanger in book 1 was a doozy, just wait until you see what happens next.

These sound great.

Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?

I want to write everything forever. Is that achievable? No, unfortunately, so I have to figure out the best order. My 2019 goal is to write 2 more books in the Braxton Mysteries and 1 or 2 other stand-alone novels… well sort of… I am planning a sequel to my debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, where the Glass family hopes they can recover from the fallout in the first book. But they won’t. What happens in book two will be far worse. I do like to torture my characters, don’t I? The 4th book is a collection of related stories written in a unique format and with a varied approach on genres.

My hope is to continue this pattern for a few years… a few cozies each year and a stand-alone family drama. I have 4 book plots fully fleshed with outlines, but I never know which one will be the most attractive to begin writing at the time. As a writer, my goals are fairly simple – to create characters and plots people connect with and want to share with others. I tend to prefer book series because I can invest in settings and characters, but it also helps build a larger readership. To achieve these goals, besides writing, I’m also an avid reader. I tend to read 3 books per week: usually 1 cozy, 1 contemporary drama, and 1 other. The other ranges from science-fiction to YA and everything in between, so I can stay current on trends but also connected to newer readers.

I, too, like to vary my writing and reading. In addition to my Cobble Cove mystery series, I write standalone mysteries and hope to start another new series soon.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

I’m most definitely a plot writer. Readers who enjoy my books need to thirst for clever plots, cliffhangers, surprise twists, and long-term relationships / secrets. From there, it’s about creating characters who feel thoroughly real. I want it to seem as though (s)he is sitting next to you telling you the story. I’m also a relatable writer. What I mean by that is I tell stories and focus on situations that we’ve either experienced or can understand. To me, my book is a conversation with the reader. I picture myself reading it aloud while the reader sees and hears it happening between us in the room. Sometimes I go overboard with descriptions. Sometimes I get a little formal in dialog. But this is who I am as a person in reality, so it is how I write, too. There is always depth, rarely fluff. I like fluff, but I’m not good at writing it. I like multi-dimensional, complex characters.

Sounds like you offer a reader quite an immersive experience.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Authors have to make decisions. Do they want money and fame, or do they want to tell stories to make people feel various emotions? You can do both, but it’s not easy to achieve. If you set your mind only to achieve both, you will struggle and have a difficult life. If you can accept it, then go for it. If you cannot, then find a compromise in the beginning. Is writing your only source of income, or do you have your bills and expenses covered in other ways (partner, spouse, family, etc.)? Once you know these parameters, then decide how much you want to market and advertise for yourself. You can choose to self-publish or find a smaller press without an agent. You can wait for the big break and focus only on finding the agent. There are dozens of ways to make it happen, but you need to understand the impact and responsibilities associated with each one. You need to know what kind of a person you are and what your strengths are before you choose a specific path to get there.

Good advice.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

I knew I wanted to publish a few books but that I had no contacts in the industry. While I was writing, I began blogging. I posted reviews of every book I read in the last ten years that I could remember. I built up a readership (a few hundred people at first) just so I could test the waters. I connected with some of them more than others and felt comfortable sharing bits and pieces of my story. After 6 months, I suddenly had a thousand followers. One thing that is critical for bloggers or writers to understand – you can’t just put content out there and expect people to follow. It’s not like that saying, “Build it, and (s)he will come.” You need to interact with others. LIKE their content. Comment on their content. Share their content. Chat with them as you would with someone you met in a bar, coffee shop, club, work, or park. Build your connections, develop relationships. Then, when you have a book to publish, you might have a few people who like your style and are willing to help promote for you.

It’s rare success happens quickly for new writers. It takes years in most cases depending on your definition of success. I’d love to be on all the TV shows, best seller lists, and top viral or digital sites, but I’m not there – YET! In the meantime, I’m thrilled with all the connections (close to 7k at this point) I’ve made and new authors and readers I get to know. It took me a while to figure out the balance of writing, editing, marketing, reading, and networking. And it isn’t always the same split, but at least I now understand how it works and can adjust my scheduled when needed. That’s critical for new authors looking to make some sort of splash or find some sort of break.

I agree that balancing all the parts of writing, publishing, and promoting is a challenge for authors.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?

I do not. I had to decide what I had time for and didn’t have time for. There are only so many hours in the day. I have a group of wonderful beta readers who help me with my books, and I beta read for a few folks I’ve come to know through their blogs. It provides me the same sort of experience as a writing group without a formal date, time, and place to meet.

Writing groups aren’t for everyone, and beta readers are very helpful.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

Genealogy! I love to find new ancestors. I’ve got ~3k at this point and traced most of my roots back to Germany, England, Scotland and Ireland. I love to cook. I have a young shiba inu dog, Baxter, who takes up a lot of my time. And I like to travel and read a lot.

Nice hobbies. I can see how Genealogy would be an interest with so many generations of James Cudney’s.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

I don’t like the sales stuff. Even in business, I’ve never been the kind of guy to push a product or company. I prefer to lay out the pros and cons, then let the true owner or decision-maker decide. As an author, that doesn’t work. I can’t send a list of books to readers saying what’s good and bad about mine and others… so I post about my book, share when it’s free or discounted, put a call out for beta or ARC readers, etc. I try not to email directly to ask someone to read it. My toughest challenge is the in-person stuff. I’m fantastic at finding new avenues through social media or digital technology. But I can’t figure out the best way to get set up with book signings, store connections, or awards and magazines. I probably need help in that realm when I’m ready to spend more marketing dollars on that area of focus.

Many authors find different areas of marketing challenging.

What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?

The readers are an amazing group of people. There are so many styles and themes, it’s a prolific place to be. I love writing about a consistent group of characters but revealing new details about the same setting or supporting cast – evolving with each successive book. The mystery aspect is also such a fun adventure. I can create bad characters and punish them for things they’ve done without actually doing anything more than writing a cruel death scene. (Think of all those people who bug us, and we wish we could give them a taste of their own medicine!). Coming up with clever murder plots or weapons, building fake alibis, finding a balance between witty and serious… it’s all a writer’s dream.

Writing cozies is definitely as fun as reading them.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?

I’m beyond grateful for your help and support. It’s a long and difficult process for writers to become successful within a market already flooded by talented authors. When readers take personal time to share their experiences through reviews, blog posts, marketing, and social media, it truly makes a difference. I do this for writers myself, so I understand what it takes. I read and review 3 books each week and try to promote them as much as I can so I can help their sales and careers. Thank you for all you do to help us in return.

It’s always great to meet a fellow author who promotes other authors. Thanks so much for the interview, Jay, and I’m sharing the info on your blog tour and rafflecopter below. Good luck with your series and future books.

Academic Curveball (Braxton Campus Mysteries)
by James J. Cudney

About the Book


Academic Curveball (Braxton Campus Mysteries)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Independently Published (October 14, 2018)
Paperback: 281 pages
ISBN-10: 172877876X
ISBN-13: 978-1728778761
Digital ASIN: B07HMYSQFH

When Kellan Ayrwick returns home for his father’s retirement, he finds a dead 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.

Someone is playing games on campus, but none of the facts add up.

With the help of his eccentric and trouble-making nana, Kellan tries to stay out of the sheriff’s way. But who is behind the murder?

About the Author

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 with a degree in English literature. I spent fifteen years building a technology career in the retail, sports, media, and entertainment industries. I enjoyed my job, but a passion for books and stories had been missing for far too long. I’m a voracious reader in my favorite genres (thriller, suspense, contemporary, mystery, and historical fiction), as books transport me to a different world where I can immerse myself in so many fantastic cultures and places. I’m an avid genealogist who hopes to visit all the German, Scottish, Irish, and British villages my ancestors emigrated from in the 18th and 19th centuries. I frequently blog and publish book reviews on everything I read at ThisIsMyTruthNow via WordPress.

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind, and my body. I decided to pursue my passion by dusting off the creativity inside my head and drafting outlines for several novels. I quickly realized I was back in my element growing happier and more excited with life each day. My goal in writing is to connect with readers who want to be part of great stories and who enjoy interacting with authors. To get a strong picture of who I am, check out my author website or my blog. It’s full of humor and eccentricity, sharing connections with everyone I follow—all in the hope of building a network of friends across the world.

When I completed the first book, Watching Glass Shatter, I knew I’d stumbled upon my passion again, suddenly dreaming up characters, plots, and settings all day long. I chose my second novel, Father Figure, through a poll on my blog where I let everyone vote for their favorite plot and character summaries. It is with my third book, Academic Curveball,, the first in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, where I immersed myself in a college campus full of so much activity, I could hardly stop thinking about new murder scenes or character relationships to finish writing the current story. Come join in the fun!

List of Books & Blog

Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (April 2018)

Braxton Campus Mysteries

Academic Curveball – #1 (October 2018)

Broken Heart Attack – #2 (November 2018)

Flower Power Trip – #3 (Early 2019)

Websites & Blog

Website: https://jamesjcudney.com

Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

Social Media Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/James-J.-Cudney/e/B076B6PB3M/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase Links

Amazon

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ACADEMIC CURVEBALL TOUR PARTICIPANTS

January 7 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – GUEST POST

January 7 – Mythical Books – REVIEW

January 7 – Here’s How It Happened – SPOTLIGHT

January 8 – Books,Dreams,Life – SPOTLIGHT

January 8 – Teresa Trent Author Blog – SPOTLIGHT

January 9 – Valerie’s Musings – REVIEW

January 9 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 9 – Bobo’s Book Bank – SPOTLIGHT

January 10 – Jane Reads – REVIEW

January 10 – Babs Book Bistro – SPOTLIGHT

January 11 – Socrates Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 12 – MJB Reviewers – REVIEW

January 12 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

January 13 – Mallory Heart’s Cozies – REVIEW

January 14 – Carla Loves To Read – CHARACTER GUEST POST

January 14 – The Book’s the Thing – REVIEW

January 15 – My Reading Journeys – SPOTLIGHT

January 15 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 15 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

January 16 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

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