Thursday, April 26, 2018

"The Staircase of Fire" by Ben Woodard


EXCERPT and GIVEAWAY
The Staircase of Fire
(A Shakertown Adventure Book 3)
by Ben Woodard


The Staircase of Fire, the third book in the Shakertown Adventure series by Ben Woodard, is due for release on 25 May but is currently available for pre-order at the special price of $2.99 (save $1.00). Also available: A Stairway to Danger (read my blog post) and Steps Into Darkness (read my blog post).



This book blast and giveaway is brought to you by BeachBoundBooks.


Description
A quiet town in Kentucky explodes from a racial incident and fourteen-year-old Tom Wallace is in the thick of it. His past haunts him and now he’s witness to a horrific event leaving him devastated and afraid.
Tom and his cousin, Will, search for lost Shaker gold he believes can help him escape his town and memories. But leaving has consequences. He will lose his friends and his new love.
On a fiery staircase Tom finally realizes that he must face his inner demons and his terrifying nightmares. To do so he must take a stand that could change his life … or end it.
Author Ben Woodard relies on firsthand experience and family history to tell this moving story of personal tragedy and racial hatred set in the rolling countryside of Kentucky in 1923.

Excerpt
Chapter 1
Rose stood up.
"They could kill you," whispered Tom.
"Tom, sometimes a person has to stand for what they believe, and this is one of them. Go on home."
The County Clerk's door opened and Rose and James moved toward it. A crowd followed.
Tom's eyes pleaded with James. His friend ignored him.
"Rose," said Tom. "Don't do this. It's not that important. Your vote won't change anything."
"You don't understand," she said softly. "You can't understand. The Nineteenth Amendment says I have the right to vote. I intend to use it."
"But you know an amendment passed a couple of years ago won't change anything. Mercer County will never allow you to register, much less vote. Few Negroes ever have — especially women."
Rose moved closer to the door and eyes, dozens of eyes, followed her.
"She wants to register," an elderly man yelled.
Tom tensed as the crowd pressed toward them.
A stench of hate filled the stale, tobacco-laden air and constricted Tom's throat. Doors slammed, feet pounded on steps and curses echoed through the tight courthouse space.
The news had sped like a bullet through the small town and an angry crowd of white people filled the tiny courthouse room, spilling into the hallways and out the door.
Tom unconsciously eased away from his friends. He stopped himself. They needed to get out of here. He leaned closer to Rose, "We have to leave, now."
"Go home, Tom," James spat out the words.
Tom flinched. This wasn't the James he knew. The gentle and quiet farm hand Tom worked with on a daily basis.
James stared straight ahead, the muscles in his face like granite, his eyes hard. Showing only confidence and determination.
Rose and James edged toward the Clerk's office and the crowd surrounded and jammed against them.
Tom stood horrified. As he tried to push his way back to his two friends, a rawboned farmer in overalls stopped him.
"Are you with those two?" he asked.
"I'm trying to get them out."
"I seen you with them. You need to leave. We'll take care of them."
Another man spoke up, "I've seen him before. He knows those Negroes."
"Yeah," said the first. "Isn't he the one from Nicholasville who —"
Tom moved with the crowd into the Clerks office. He had to escape before they figured out who he was, and what he did.
Sweat formed on his upper lip as he glanced in every direction desperately trying to find a way out of the courthouse.
The two men were now in the door and continued to point at him as Rose reached the counter. She said above the din, "I want a voter registration form."
The room went quiet. Deathly quiet.
Then, a woman to Rose's left screamed, "Damn Negroes."
Beside Rose stood an older woman in a simple cotton dress with a bonnet covering her mousy-gray hair. Her face was contorted with rage. The rest of the crowd joined her in shrieking at the small, brown woman.
A glob of spit and tobacco juice smacked into the back of Rose's starched calico dress and the screaming woman yanked out Rose's yellow hair ribbon. James spread his arms around his mother and took the brunt of the slaps and pushes.
The women behind the counter stood confused.
The County Clerk came out of his office and held up his hands for quiet. He glared at Rose.
"What do you want?" he said.
"I want to register to vote."
The crowd growled again and the Clerk quieted them.
"We don't allow your kind to vote," he said.
Rose only smiled. "What kind?" she asked.
The two men came closer to Tom and others now pointed in his direction. They must have figured out who he was and they might turn on him next.
Tom remembered a stairway to the basement that led to a rear exit. He wormed his way toward it finding the stairway door closed, but unlocked.
Tom jerked it open.
His body tightened.
The sounds faded as memories and fears came charging back at the sight of wooden steps vanishing into the shadows.
Sweat stung his eyes and salted his lips. Tom's hands trembled. He wiped his face on a sleeve.
He couldn't go down. He wouldn't.
But the men still watched. Tom was trapped.
The bedlam of the room returned and he heard the Clerk scream at Rose and James telling them to get out.
He had to help them, but fear glued him in place.
Tom jerked as Sheriff Smith pushed his way into the room bellowing for the mob to get away from Rose. Two grim-faced deputies armed with shotguns flanked the lawman. They elbowed their way to Rose and James and the Sheriff whispered to Rose. She shook her head. He spoke to her a few more minutes and she finally nodded.
The three lawmen surrounded Tom's friends and led them through the crowd. Screams and curses followed.
Tom snuck through the throng and barreled down the front courthouse steps. The Sheriff and deputies escorted Rose and James to their wagon
Tom stared as their rig bounced down the dusty road toward Shakertown. His stomach rolled. He should have done something.
Anything. Except freeze in fear.
The reeling in his gut got worse and he staggered toward the clump of trees where he'd tied his horse.
Tom untied the reins and slipped into the saddle. He was sure, or at least tried to convince himself, that the Sheriff would protect Rose and James.
He spun the horse around and headed for Shakertown.
As he rode, the fear for Rose and his fear of the staircase still gripped him. Was every set of stairs he saw going to terrify him? Cause the memories to come crawling back?
And no matter where he was in Mercer County, someone might recognize him.
He released the reins, the horse knew the way home, and dropped his head on the animal's neck. Trying not to throw up. And then the sweats started, soaking his body.
The usual. Caused by a memory from that morning at Grandfather's house. Still there after four years.
He needed to get himself under control before he saw Will or Helen. His best friends. But he couldn't tell them, or anyone, what happened that Sunday morning. The memory hurt too much.
But he had to talk to them about Rose and James. His friends would understand.
And right now, Tom needed a friend.

Praise for the Book
The Staircase of Fire succeeds in offering dramatic action, mystery, social insights, and a story line that evolves from pure adventure to something deeper…” ~ D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
The Staircase of Fire is a riveting and intense tale ...” ~ The Children's Book Review
“Tom grows a lot in this book and I really enjoyed reading his journey. It seems like almost every white character is racist in some way (which is historically accurate) and it was refreshing to see Tom learn to break out of the narrow-minded thinking that he had and which surrounds him.” ~ Eustacia Tan
“An inspiring adventure where the reader discovers that strength of character, the belief in what is right, and facing your demons, is the only answer to true inner peace – Highly recommended.” ~ Susan Keefe

About the Author
Ben Woodard
Ben Woodard is a (mostly) retired amateur adventurer who has traveled across Tibet, climbed to 18,000 feet on Mt. Everest, and solo backpacked wilderness areas. Now his adventures come in the form of imagining stories, writing and telling them to kids and teens. He works with teachers, schools and literacy organizations spreading the word that books are vital - and fun.



Giveaway
Enter the blast-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash.

Links

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

"A Hole in One" by Judy Penz Sheluk


INTERVIEW and GIVEAWAY
A Hole in One
(A Glass Dolphin Mystery Book 2)
by Judy Penz Sheluk

A Hole in One (A Glass Dolphin Mystery Book 2) by Judy Penz Sheluk

A Hole in One is the second book in the Glass Dolphin Mystery series by Judy Penz Sheluk. Also available: The Hanged Man’s Noose.


A Hole in One is currently on tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an interview with the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.


For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on Skeletons in the Attic.

Description
Hoping to promote the Glass Dolphin antiques shop, co-owners Arabella Carpenter and Emily Garland agree to sponsor a hole in one contest at a charity golf tournament. The publicity turns out to be anything but positive, however, when Arabella’s errant tee shot lands in the woods next to a corpse.
They soon learn that the victim is closely related to Arabella’s ex-husband, who had been acting as the Course Marshal. With means, opportunity, and more than enough motive, he soon becomes the police department’s prime suspect, leaving Arabella and Emily determined to clear his name - even if they’re not entirely convinced of his innocence.
Dogged by incriminating online posts from an anonymous blogger, they track down leads from Emily’s ex-fiancĂ© (and the woman he left Emily for), an Elvis impersonator, and a retired antiques mall vendor with a secret of her own.
All trails lead to a mysterious cult that may have something to do with the murder. Can Arabella and Emily identify the killer before the murderer comes after them?


Excerpt
Arabella Carpenter ran her hands over the smooth surface of the shiny new jet ski. It was the hole in one prize at the Second Annual Kids Come First Golf Tournament. The tournament—a charitable initiative supporting program for at-risk youth in the tri-community area of Lount’s Landing, Miakoda Falls, and Lakeside—was being held at the Miakoda Falls Golf and Country Club.
Somehow, Gillian “Gilly” Germaine, the tournament organizer, had convinced her that sponsoring the contest would be good advertising for Arabella’s Glass Dolphin antiques shop. Well, “convinced” wasn’t entirely accurate. It was her new business partner, Emily Garland, who’d talked her into it, though what jet skis and golf had to do with antiques was beyond Arabella. Nevertheless, their deal was that Emily would be in charge of advertising and promotion, leaving Arabella to concentrate on purchasing and sales. Nixing Emily’s first real A&P idea would have been bad form.
Arabella didn’t have much choice in the matter. Emily had been adamant. A jet ski, she had explained, would be the kind of prize the well-heeled folks in Lakeside would gravitate toward. The Glass Dolphin sponsoring such a prize would give it the sort of chichi street cred that would make them want to visit the shop. Once they made the twenty-five-minute trek to Lount’s Landing, they were bound to buy something. Especially once they saw the quality of the Glass Dolphin’s merchandise.
“What if someone actually hit a hole in one and they had to give away the jet ski?” Arabella had asked. Emily had a ready answer. The odds were astronomical. The third hole, a nasty par three, was one hundred and forty yards to carry over a pond, another twenty-five yards to the pin, with a thicket of trees on both sides, and a sand trap that beckoned from behind. Downright nasty it was.
Having played the course on a couple of occasions, Arabella had conceded that number three was challenging. But that didn’t make it impossible. Not by a long shot—pun fully intended.
Even better, Emily had countered. “If no one won the jet ski, it would be that day’s news, quickly forgotten. But if someone won, imagine the headlines. For sure it would make the local press, but they might even get some coverage in the Toronto papers, not to mention the rampant word-of-mouth machine that ran in the tri-communities.”
The sound of a golf cart heading in her direction stopped Arabella’s thoughts midstream. She glanced over the green and watched as Emily wound her way along the paved path, a cardboard sign propped up in the basket at the back of the cart. She parked the cart a few feet from where Arabella was standing, hopped off, smoothed out her black golf skort, and positively sprinted over to the jet ski.
As always, Arabella felt a touch of envy at Emily’s glossy, dark hair, now neatly tied into a ponytail, her bangs held gently in place by a black and gold Miakoda Falls Golf and Country Club visor. Arabella’s own hair was a mass of auburn curls that behaved well enough on a cool, dry, winter’s day, but got wilder and woolier as summer’s heat and humidity ratcheted up. On a hot, muggy day like today, it was virtually unmanageable. Stick a cap on top of it and she resembled Bozo the clown. Not exactly the look an almost forty-year-old woman was after, but there wasn’t much she could do about it. Even if she took the time to flat iron it straight, it would last all of an hour in this heat.
“Gorgeous,” Emily was saying, her fingers caressing the jet ski. “Too bad we’re ineligible to win. You know, on the off-chance one of us gets a hole in one.”
“I think the odds of that happening are pretty slim.” And slim just left town.
“Yeah, you’re probably right. Wait ’til you see what I’ve got.” Emily ran back to the golf cart, pulled a gold-lettered placard out of the basket, and inserted it into the rectangular tee sign currently advertising the club’s twilight rates, fussing and fidgeting until she got it positioned just right.
“Print It! did a great job, don’t you think? Gave us a good deal, too. I think Harvey felt sorry for me, and to be honest, I did milk getting fired from Inside the Landing to broker a deal. Plus I let him put his Print It! business logo on the bottom.” Emily grinned. “I think that was rather a stroke of genius.”
A good cost-saving idea, sure. A stroke of genius? That might be taking things a bit far. “They look great. The sign, the jet ski. Except I’m the one doing the books, and believe me when I tell you, and not for the first time, that the Glass Dolphin is barely breaking even. I’m just not sure we can afford it.”
Emily sighed. “First off, it’s a bit too late to renege now, the night before the tournament, don’t you think? What would that do to our reputation? Second, I’ve already explained how little money this will actually cost the shop. One good sale should easily cover it. If it makes you feel any better, I’ll go over the numbers one last time.”
“Humor me.”
“Fine. The jet ski is being supplied by Luke’s Lakeside Marina. Luke transported it from the marina, at no cost to us, and he’ll either take it back to the marina after the tournament, or arrange delivery to the winner, should there be one. He’s also springing for half the insurance and fifty percent of the sign, which, as I already told you, is costing us next to nothing. Essentially, we’re co-sponsoring the hole with him.”
Arabella suspected Emily’s relationship with Luke Surmanski ran a lot deeper than co-sponsoring a hole in one contest at a golf tournament, but she let it go. Emily would confide in her when she was ready.
“Explain the insurance again.”
This netted another sigh, along with an exaggerated eye roll. “I gave you the policy to read over two weeks ago. Didn’t you do that?”
Arabella had meant to, but she’d been busy. Then there’d been that two-day multi-estate auction in Pottageville. She’d won more box lots than expected, and had been sorting through them ever since. It wasn’t easy to decide what items to keep for sale in the shop, which to reserve for sale online, and what should be donated to the local ReStore. Before she knew it, the day of the tournament had arrived. She shook her head and did her best to look sufficiently contrite.
The look must have worked, because the exasperation on Emily’s face softened ever so slightly. “I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version. I went to Stanford McLelland Insurance Brokerage, and you’ll be happy to know that I dealt directly with Stanford.”
That, at least, made Arabella feel better. Before opening the Glass Dolphin, she’d worked for Stanford doing a variety of claims-related tasks, especially those involving antiques and collectibles. When it came to the insurance business, there wasn’t much the man didn’t know.
“Stanford found a company that specializes in hole in one insurance. That’s all they do, actually.”
Incredible. Here they were, trying to diversify to boost sales, and there was a company that did nothing but sell hole in one insurance.
“How does it work?”
“They calculate the number of golfers participating in the tournament, which in this case is nine holes with four golfers per hole for a grand total of thirty-six, minus our foursome, which leaves thirty-two possible winners. Then they calculate the degree of difficulty for the hole along with the value of the prize. The cost for the Glass Dolphin, all in, is two hundred dollars, which we’ll split down the middle with Luke’s Lakeside Marina.”
“It does sound like you have every angle covered.”
“That’s the spirit. Trust me, nothing will go wrong.”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]


Praise for the Book
“The reader is taken on a journey to find the answers, the truth and to clear Arabella’s ex’s name.” ~ My Reading Journeys
“What fun! A twisty tale chock full of clues and red herrings, antiques and secrets, and relationships that aren’t what they seem. And who doesn’t love an Elvis impersonator?” ~ Jane K. Cleland, award-winning author, Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries and Mastering Plot Twists
“A bang-up mystery! Two friends, two murders, secret pasts, and a touch of romance. Who could ask for more?” ~ Lea Wait, USA Today bestselling author, Shadows Antique Print and Mainely Needlepoint mysteries
“With its sharp, smart writing, and engrossing plot, Judy Penz Sheluk’s latest addition to her terrific Glass Dolphin Mystery series is a hole in one.” ~ Ellen Byron, award winning and USA Today bestselling author, Cajun County Mysteries
“A captivating page-turner set in the world of antiques dealing where dangerous secrets simmer until they lead to murder. Sheluk is an expert at writing intriguing characters, delivering a fast-paced story with twists that keep you guessing until the very end. You don’t have to be a love golf to love A Hole In One.” ~ Kristina Stanley, bestselling author, Stone Mountain Mysteries

Interview with the Author
Judy Penz Sheluk joins me today to discuss her new book, A Hole in One.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
There is no overt sex, bad language, or violence (the murder takes place off screen), so 16 to 116.
What sparked the idea for this book?
I’ve been golfing for 15 or 20 years, and during that time I’ve played in my fair share of charity golf tournaments. There’s always a sponsored par 3 with a prize like a car or a boat, and it’s typically set up on the most challenging par 3 on the course. But it was actually one day, when golfing in a Ladies League at Silver Lakes Golf & Country Club in Holland Landing, Ontario, that the idea came to me. I was at the third hole and, in trying to hit over the pond, my ball ended up beyond the green and into a heavily treed area. As I was hunting for my ball, I thought, “What if there was a dead body in here?” And then I thought, “That’s the premise for my next book.” It took the sting out of landing in the woods.
Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
I always start with a basic premise. For example, in The Hanged Man’s Noose, the first book in the series, I thought, “What if a greedy big city developer came to a small town with plans to build a mega-box store, thereby threatening the livelihood of all the local, independent businesses.” And then I thought, “What if someone was willing to kill to stop it?”
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
I’m always worried about getting the facts correct. I took a lot of time researching antique guns. I’m not a gun person and online research only took me so far. Fortunately, I found an expert in the field, Sean McGuire, who was willing to walk me through it.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
This isn’t Shakespeare! I want people to enjoy the book for what it is: a cozy mystery with a happy ending.
How long did it take you to write this book?
About a year, including revisions.
What is your writing routine?
It varies, but when I’m working on a book, I aim for a chapter a day, five days a week. But those can be any five days, not just Monday to Friday. If I can write seven days a week, I’ll do that, too. It really depends on what else is going on in my life. One thing that doesn’t change is that I write listening to talk-radio. I even listen to those infomercial kind of programs on weekends. I can’t write to music - maybe it goes back to my years of working in a noisy office.
How did you get your book published?
With my first book, The Hanged Man’s Noose, I faced plenty of rejection but I refused to give up. It took me about 8 months to land a publisher (Barking Rain Press). They are small, but MWA-approved and great to work with. When A Hole in One was ready, they took it on right away. They’ve also published Skeletons in the Attic, book 1 in my Marketville Mystery series.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
I always quote Agatha Christie when I’m asked this question: “There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.”
Great quote! What do you like to do when you're not writing?
In summer, golf or hang out by the lake at our cottage (camp) on Lake Superior. I love walking my 2½ year old Golden Retriever, Gibbs (named after Mark Harmon’s character on NCIS), and I run 3-5km three times a week. I’m also an avid reader, mostly crime fiction, but I do read other things as well.
What does your family think of your writing?
My husband, Mike, is hugely supportive – in fact, he paid for my first Creative Writing course as a birthday gift back in 2000. He’s also my first beta reader, and trust me, he finds the niggliest things. My mom was so proud of me, but she passed away in September 2016. She was actually handing out my bookmarks to the doctors and nurses in the hospital. I like to think she’s handing them out in heaven, now. I really miss her.
She sounds great. Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I’m the only child of very strict immigrant parents, no sleepovers in our household. I spent a lot of time in my room, reading and making up stories in my head.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
Yes. I read every Nancy Drew book, Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, etc. Emily Climbs by L. M. Montgomery, the story of Emily Starr wanting to grow up to be a writer, really inspired me (so much so that I named a character Emily in my first book). When I was twelve, I read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, and that really opened my eyes to the power of words.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I think I was born a writer, it just took me a few decades to start writing my stories down.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
I think all of our experiences form an author’s writing. But one of the strongest examples of how my childhood influenced me can be found in Unhappy Endings, a collection of three flash fiction stories (Kindle only). The story, “Cleopatra Slippers”, is based on something that happened to me as a 14-year-old girl.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
John Sandford; he’s the master of pacing. Sue Grafton; I’m going to miss her. AgathaChristie, the queen of mystery.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I don’t, actually, but I’d be happy to hear from them. There’s a contact form on my website if they’d like to drop me a line.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I’m hoping to have the sequel to Skeletons in the Attic out this Fall.
Sounds good. Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, Judy. Best of luck with your future projects.
Thank you for hosting me.

About the Author
Judy Penz Sheluk
Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of two mystery series: the Glass Dolphin Mystery series (The Hanged Man’s Noose and A Hole in One) and the Marketville Mystery series (Skeletons in the Attic). Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, The Whole She-Bang 3, Flash and Bang, and Live Free or Tri.
Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she currently serves on the Board of Directors as the Regional Representative for Toronto/Southern Ontario.
Find Judy on her website/blog, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

Giveaway
Enter the blast-wide giveaway for a chance to win an ebook copy of A Hole in One by Judy Penz Sheluk (US only).

Links