Tag Archives: Forge Books

My Musing ~ Dark Signal by Shannon Baker

Dark Signal by Shannon Baker is the second book in the “Kate Fox” mystery series. Publisher: Forge Books, coming October 17, 2017

Reeling from her recent divorce, Kate Fox has just been sworn in as Grand County, Nebraska Sheriff when tragedy strikes. A railroad accident has left engineer Chad Mills dead, his conductor Bobby Jenkins in shock. Kate soon realizes that the accident was likely murder.

Who would want to kill Chad Mills? Kate finds that he made a few enemies as president of the railroad workers union. Meanwhile his widow is behaving oddly. And why was his neighbor Josh Stevens at the Mills house on the night of the accident?

While her loud and meddling family conspires to help Kate past her divorce, State Patrol Officer Trey closes in on Josh Stevens as the suspect. Kate doesn’t believe it. She may not have the experience, but she’s lived in the Sandhills her whole life, and knows the land and the people. Something doesn’t add up—and Kate must find the real killer before he can strike again.

The next stage in Kate’s life begins when she is sworn in as sheriff, but the “good old boys” won’t let her be. Her instincts tell her one thing, but the facts point elsewhere and it’s Kate’s dogged pursuit of the truth that lends itself to this gratifying tale of suspense and mayhem.

Who wants Chad dead? Is it a co-worker? His wife? Or someone with a grudge? That’s the mystery that surrounds this well-written drama that casts aspersions on those closest to the decease. The narrative was visually descriptive making me see beyond the written word as the on-going action takes over the story from the discovering of the body, to notifying the spouse, to a secondary plot that rears its ugly head and impacts the main plot, to questioning friends and associates and to the family dynamics that plays a strong role in Kate’s daily interactions. And that fast and frenetic scene towards the end kept me immersed in all that was happening as it kept my eyes on the prize in this terrific sequel.

Who killed Chad? That’s the story that you’ll find in this wonderfully executed tale that will leave you hungry for more adventures in Grand County and with Kate Fox.

Buy Link


FTC Full Disclosure – I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from the author/publisher.

Double-Booked Blog Tour with Shannon Baker and Jess Lourey – Part II

Hi Dru Ann and all you LOVElies (see what I did there?).

Thanks for letting me (Shannon Baker) and Jess Lourey share a little taste of our characters’ days. Jess and I are globetrotting with our second Lourey/Baker Double Booked Blog Tour and we wouldn’t travel a mile without stopping at Dru Ann’s.

Jess’s newest in the laugh-out-loud Murder by the Month mystery, March of Crime, launched in September and my next Kate Fox mystery, Dark Signal, is slated for October 17th. (Pre-order!) Forge is releasing a .99 Kate Fox short story September 17th, but at the time of this writing, I don’t have a link, so I’ll put it in the comments. So here’s some Mira James (from Jess) and Kate Fox (from Shannon) playing dueling dumba**es. Who wins?

KATE FOX:
I shuffled the sheriff department budget worksheet pages for the billionth time. I’d calculated and recalculated and concluded I could afford a new computer to replace the antique on my desk that was as big as a two-ton boulder and about as efficient. Done with that chore, I checked email, picked up my pencil, dropped it on the desk and took the ponytail elastic from my hair. Put it back in my hair and grasped the pencil again.

When the phone rang, I nearly shouted for joy. Anything to break the monotony. “Sheriff.”

Marybeth, dispatcher extraordinaire, spoke in staccato. “Nine-one-one call from First National. Sounds like attempted robbery in progress.”

Holy moly. A real crime in Grand County. It took me less than five minutes to run from the courthouse to the bank.

Skeeter Duning stood on the polished pine floor, in the middle of the bank lobby. He held a gun like he might dangle a horse halter from his right hand. Faded jeans hung from skinny hips, greasy felt cowboy hat limp on his head, he looked like something from an Ace Reid comic.

Joanne, the gray-haired teller, stood behind the worn wood counter looking irritated. “He’s all yours, Kate.” Since this was a Tuesday afternoon, the branch manager would be in Broken Butte for the weekly regional meeting, leaving Joanne alone in the bank.

I kept my tone light. “Hey, Skeeter.”

His shoulders dropped even further and he didn’t raise his face to look at me.

I took slow steps his way, keeping my eyes on his gun. “Why don’t you take that pantyhose from your face and tell me what you’re up to.”

* * * * * * * * * *

MIRA JAMES:
“Convince people that Otter Tail County is safe.”

Shouldn’t have been too hard, what Ron Sims was asking. Otter Tail County was plop in the heart of gorgeous northern Minnesota. From the air, it appeared more lakes than land, a fistful of sapphires scattered across an emerald field. On the ground, at least in March, it smelled like melting snow and rich black dirt. Most residents didn’t lock their doors, and they’d be sure to stop and ask if you were okay if they happened upon you stalled on the side of the road. Five bucks at a local café bought you coffee, juice, bacon, toast, and eggs done any way. Kids sold lemonade on corners come summer, about the same time of the year as the turtle races started back up. Norman Rockwell surely had held the area gently in mind when he painted his folksy vision of America.

Convince people that Otter Tail County is safe.

Not only should Ron’s demand have been a slam dunk, as editor, owner, and publisher of the Battle Lake Recall, his request was reasonable. It’s not like he was, say, my gynecologist requesting that I spin a shiny PR web across a whole county. I’d written articles for his newspaper since I’d relocated to Battle Lake, Minnesota, one year ago this month.

But here’s the deal. I’d just found out that what I thought was a quiet restaurant patron sitting two stools down from me was actually a life-sized, realistic doll crafted by an elderly woman named Ida.

Battle Lake, right?

Still, I was considering his request when the restaurant’s door opened behind me.

Ron’s face dropped.

He was not happy to see who had just entered.

I swiveled to check it out.

And immediately regretted my decision.

* * * * * * * * * *

KATE FOX:
Skeeter’s sigh sounded like final surrender. He raised his gun hand and I closed my fingers on the handle of my Smith and Wesson.

Then I understood he wanted me to hold his revolver so he could lift his hat to peel off the pantyhose. I checked the cylinder. No bullets.

The bank’s phone rang and Joanne lifted her plucked eyebrows at me. “I’ve got to get that.”

I nodded and waited for Skeeter to mash his old hat back on his nearly bald head. I didn’t offer the gun back to him.

His chin sank to his chest. “Sorry to roust you from your business.”

I led him to the cracked leather couch under the front window and waited for him to sit. “I wasn’t busy. What’s going on?”

Sad eyes swam in his wrinkled face. “Welp, that ol’ caddy of Ava’s, you know the blue one?”

I knew. Skeeter saved for years to buy his wife that car. A ranch hand doesn’t earn much, so a Cadillac, even in the early 70’s would take a commitment.

Not sure I’d ever seen a face so sad. “Welp, the transmission went out. You know, Ava’s got the cancer, ain’t ’spose to last the year. She loves that car, calls it her baby. I just wanted to make sure she gets to ride in it until the end.”

Joanne mumbled into the phone and I hoped she wasn’t starting the rumor race about Skeeter.

* * * * * * * * * *

MIRA JAMES:
Battle Lake’s Mayor Kennie Rogers, she of the country-music name and the death-metal soul, famous far and wide for her thick make-up, outrageous clothing, questionable politics, fake southern accent, and far-fetched business ventures, was striding into the Stew. Today she appeared to be sporting an ensemble from the Ride Me Barbie collection, starting with a tiny plastic cowboy hat nestled in her crunchy platinum beehive and plastic Barbie boot earrings dangling from her lobes. The accessories would be ridiculous if they didn’t so beautifully accent her sheepskin coat and over a Western snap-front red shirt—currently more front than snap what with her ample bosoms pushing toward the light—and jeans so tight that her camel toe had spawned fingers. Bright pink stiletto cowboy boots finished off the outfit.

Whoo-boy. My roller coaster morning was taking another screeching dip.

It wasn’t her outfit, which I had to admire for its sheer commitment to a single message. Nope. It was that Kennie was one of those people who made your life harder simply by occupying the same space as you. In a special twist of fate, something about me intensified her life-hardening superpower. She sought me out like it was her job, always wanting to involve me in her money-making schemes, either as a customer or a partner.

Before you say “that doesn’t sound so bad,” here’s a sampling of the businesses: a reused marital aid company called “Come Again”; coffin tables (place your coffee cups on it now and your body in it later!); a home bikini waxing service; and her most recent, sales of a raspberry-flavored hair tonic that rumor had it was actually a veterinary-class sedative that caused baldness. I didn’t want to stick around to find out what was up next.

* * * * * * * * * *

KATE FOX:
I wanted to pat Skeeter’s hand or give him a hug, but I’m sheriff and that didn’t seem appropriate. “You know you can’t rob the bank to pay for your car repair.”

He slumped against the couch. “I couldn’t see no other way.” Ranch jobs didn’t offer 401k’s or pension packages. Skeeter and Ava would be getting by on social security. Proud as the old cowboy was, he wouldn’t allow anyone to have a benefit pancake feed or even a collection can set out at the Conoco.

Joanne hung up and watched us from behind her counter. I couldn’t read her expression.

I thought of my budget, the new computer I wouldn’t be getting next year. “It happens I’ve got some odd jobs that need taken care of around the courthouse. If you’d be willing to help me out for a week or so, I’d be grateful.”

Skeeter didn’t move for a few seconds, then he sat up straighter. “I guess I could see my way free to do that.”

I reached out to shake his hand.

His grip was firm and when he let go he smiled, showing the gap where the mama cow had kicked out a tooth. “Can I have my gun back?”

I stood and we walked out together. “I’ll hang on to it for a while.”

I love Grand County and I’m settling into my new job, but I’d bet a rhubarb pie (I hate rhubarb) that no other county has weirder crimes.

* * * * * * * * * *

MIRA JAMES:
I waved at Ron, who was still regarding Kennie like a child watches an incoming spoonful of cough syrup, pitching my voice low so as not to draw Kennie’s attention. “Thanks for the coffee, Ron, but I need to head out.”

Kennie hadn’t noticed us in the rear of the restaurant yet. She was working the crowd near the front door. I’d never been more grateful for the Turtle Stew’s side entrance. I could sneak out unseen! I turned toward the rear exit, a satisfied smile pinching my cheeks. Dang if I wasn’t going to salvage this morning.

“Mira James!”

Kennie’s southern-tinged yell drew the attention of the handful of patrons who hadn’t yet noticed her Western-themed resplendency. I shrank into myself, tossing all my eggs into the “she can’t see me if I don’t look at her” basket.

“Stay where you are, honey!” she continued. “I have a proposition for you.”

My stomach dropped below Battle Lake’s water table. I spun on my heels, committed to sprinting if need be. Unfortunately, I turned so fast that I collided with the nightmarish doll. Ida’s freakshow toppled toward the floor.

“I’m so sorry!” I hollered at the world, watching the crapfest play out in slow motion. My physical reflexes kicked in almost as soon as my apologetic ones, and I dove toward the doll, trying to catch it before it fell. I slipped a hand under it a nanosecond before it hit the floor. My plan was to keep it from smacking in case there were any breakable parts. Instead, surprised by the weight and density of the doll, I found myself falling along with the human puppet.

Something primal recoiled as I plummeted with the doll, a sickly-sweet smell causing my flight response to kick in, though I was off balance and powerless to flee. The doll hit first, with the weight and slap of a side of frozen beef. I tumbled on top immediately after, knocking her akimbo in my effort to not land directly on her.

The doll’s hat and wig went flying, and the coffee cup she’d been holding crashed to the floor. After a collective gasp, the restaurant went deathly silent, everyone watching me scramble to balance myself and fix this mess.

Something was shrieking at me to run, something dark and terrible and slimy, but the terror was so great, so enormous, that it couldn’t get ahead of my mouth, which was still trying to negotiate the social faux pas of tumbling the life-sized doll. “Don’t worry! I’ll put her back just like I found her!”

I gathered the wig and hat, planning to slam them back onto the doll and hoist her back onto the stool before the other patrons had a chance to process what was happening. That’s when the terror caught up to me, silencing me, crashing me finally, fully into the moment.

My slack-jawed horror was reflected in the faces of every person in that restaurant.

They were staring at the doll, their mouths agape.

I followed their horrified gazes.

The only sound I could make was a greenish oof as my heart plummeted.

What had been sitting on that stool all morning wasn’t a doll at all.

When she’d tumbled to the ground, her China doll mask had slipped enough to reveal gray human flesh underneath the macabre porcelain.

I saw a hand reach forward to remove the mask. When the cold porcelain shocked my system, I became aware that the hand was mine, and it was working without my permission. A gentle tug, and the mask was free.

Underneath was a human corpse, female, her icy cold death stare pointed at the drop ceiling, her mouth in a tight angry rictus as if she’d died yodeling.

The mask dropped from my numb hands, crashing to the ground and shattering into white and red shards.

That’s when the screaming started.


We are each giving away three books on the Lourey/Baker Double-Booked Tour. For every comment you make along our tour stop, you’ll get another entry in the contest. Don’t be shy; we love talking to you.

September 2 – Mysterious Musings
September 5 – Janice Hardy
September 7 – The Creative Penn
September 9 – Write to Done
September 12 – Wicked Cozy Writers
September 20 – Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Blog
September 21 – There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room
September 23 – Femmes Fatales
September 24 – Writer Unboxed
September 25 – Dru’s Book Musings
September 27 – Do Some Damage
October 3 – Terry Ambrose
October 12 – Jungle Red Writers

About the authors
Shannon Baker is the author of the Kate Fox mystery series (Tor/Forge). Set in the isolated cattle country of the Nebraska Sandhills, Kirkus says, “Baker serves up a ballsy heroine, a colorful backdrop, and a surprising ending.” She also writes the Nora Abbott mystery series (Midnight Ink), featuring Hopi Indian mysticism and environmental issues. Shannon makes her home in Tucson where she enjoys cocktails by the pool, breathtaking sunsets, a crazy Weimeraner, and killing people (in the pages of her books). She was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2014 and 2017 Writer of the Year. Visit Shannon at www.Shannon-Baker.com.

Jess Lourey (rhymes with “dowry”) is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, which have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing “a splendid mix of humor and suspense.” She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a recipient of The Loft’s Excellence in Teaching fellowship, a regular Psychology Today blogger, and a sought-after workshop leader and keynote speaker who delivered the 2016 “Rewrite Your Life” TEDx Talk. March of Crime, the 11th book in her humorous mystery series, releases September 2017. You can find out more at www.jessicalourey.com.

All comments are welcomed.

A day in the life of Edith Head by Renee Patrick

As reported by Miss Head’s close personal friend and confidante, Miss Lillian Frost, formerly of Flushing, New York and crowned Miss Astoria Park of 1936.

Los Angeles, California. December 1938.

Ahem.

Morning does not greet Edith Head, bespectacled queen of costume design at Paramount Pictures, as it does us lowly mortals. Morning comes for Miss Head, in the words of the poet Carl Sandburg, on little cat feet. She is awakened in her palatial estate by a chorus of birds chirping in flawless harmony. She dines upon a breakfast of the freshest eggs while contemplating the day’s wardrobe, selecting her attire being so time-consuming an affair that she rises out of necessity with the sun.

Soon she is whisked to work, police escorts from multiple jurisdictions stopping traffic at each intersection to speed her arrival. Miss Head’s mind is already awhirl as she travels. Inspiration is everywhere, the clouds overhead suggesting the drape of fabric. She arrives at her studio salon, a taste of Paris under the palm trees. Famous faces from the silver screen await, eager to absorb her acumen. Miss Head makes subtle suggestions, each accepted as gospel truth. There are no questions. There is only admiration. For luncheon, she—

Sorry. I can’t keep this gag up. I’m no Jack Benny.

Here’s all you need to know about my friend Edith Head: she’s busy. Proof of that pudding is you’re hearing about a day in her life from yours truly instead of the McCoy. Edith? She simply doesn’t have the time.

I can’t tell you when she wakes up because no one’s ever seen the woman sleep. I can tell you she doesn’t live in a palatial estate but a darling cottage on the Silver Lake Reservoir that makes you feel like you’re in Italy. Or at least I assume so. I haven’t yet sallied to the Continent.

Edith drives herself to work, her roadster a winged fury striking fear in the hearts of motorists and pedestrians alike. She’s the first person to arrive at the studio and will be the last to leave. Her office smells faintly of paint because she’s just finished redecorating. Edith hasn’t been Paramount’s top designer very long. Ignore the soft soundtrack of whispers suggesting she pushed her predecessor and mentor Travis Banton aside. It’s the bunk. Her job isn’t so much designing wardrobe for Paramount films as it is walking a tightrope. All day long she deals with directors who don’t understand clothes and actresses who think they’re the next Elsa Schiaparelli. I love Claudette Colbert as much as the next starry-eyed fan—Did you see her in Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife with Gary Cooper?—but she told Paramount brass Edith is no better than an art student. An art student! Yet Edith smiles and goes about her business, namely making everyone around her look better.

That includes me. I met Edith last year, when I was a lowly department store salesgirl who’d traded dreams of stardom for steady employment. Then my former roommate was found murdered, wearing an Edith Head original purloined from Paramount. The police initially suspected me. I don’t know why. I don’t look a thing like Peter Lorre. Fortunately Edith got me out from behind the eight ball. She figured out who the real killer was—with a little help from me, I like to think, plus a gracious assist from my favorite movie star, Barbara Stanwyck.

Edith also proved instrumental in my securing gainful employment as social secretary to movie-mad millionaire and all-around good egg Addison Rice. Addison loves pictures so much he’s always willing to let me slip away to visit Edith at the studio—and even, on occasion, to do her a favor.

For instance, she wants me to help Marlene Dietrich find a missing piano player. Marlene is toying with a nightclub act—if you ask me, she’d be swell —but her usual accompanist has disappeared. She’s convinced the Nazis had something to do with it, and I told her that world affairs are a good bit out of my league. But Edith insists that’s just Marlene’s flair for the dramatic. A few phone calls are all that will be required. So naturally I agreed.

I’d do anything to help Edith. And I know she’d never put me in a situation where I don’t look my best.


You can read more about Edith in Dangerous to Know, the second book in the “Lillian Frost & Edith Head” series.

Los Angeles, 1938. Former aspiring actress Lillian Frost is adjusting to a new life of boldfaced names and endless glamour as social secretary to a movie-mad millionaire. Costume designer Edith Head is running Paramount Pictures’ wardrobe department—though her position is precarious and her eight Academy Awards are far in her future.

Lillian recently attended a swanky Manhattan dinner party at which well-heeled guests insulted Adolf Hitler. Now, a vengeful housemaid with Nazi sympathies has all New York society running for cover—and two Paramount stars, Jack Benny and George Burns, facing smuggling charges. Lillian tries to lay low while the studio is in an uproar over the scandal, but she has no such luck. Edith asks Lillian to look into the disappearance of Jens Lohse, the émigré pianist in Marlene Dietrich’s budding nightclub act, as a favor to Dietrich. Lillian reluctantly agrees, and soon finds him—dead.

Dietrich blames agents of the Reich for his murder, and Lillian investigates further. Could Hollywood—thought to be a safe place for German exiles and émigrés—be hiding a sinister Nazi element beneath its glitzy veneer? As Lillian and Edith unravel intrigue that extends from Paramount’s Bronson Gate to FDR’s Oval Office, only one thing is certain: they’ll do it in style.

# # # # # # # # # # #

About the author
Renee Patrick is the pseudonym for married authors Rosemarie and Vince Keenan. Rosemarie is a research administrator and a poet. Vince is a screenwriter and a journalist. Both native New Yorkers, they currently live in Seattle, Washington. Their debut novel, Design for Dying, is nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Mystery and a Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel.

You can friend Renee on Facebook , follow her on Twitter at (@RPatrickBooks) and Instagram at reneepatrickauthor, and find more information at her website: reneepatrickbooks.com.

All comments are welcomed.

Dangerous to Know is available at retail and online booksellers or you can ask your local library to get it for you.

Cover Reveal ~ Dark Signal by Shannon Baker

I’m excited to reveal the cover for the second book in the “Kate Fox” mystery series, coming October 17, 2017.

dark-signal

Title: DARK SIGNAL
Series: Kate Fox
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Forge Books
Website: Shannon Baker

Dark Signal by Shannon Baker is the second installment in the Kate Fox mystery series, called “A must read” by New York Times bestselling author Alex Kava, starring a female Longmire in the atmospheric Nebraska Sandhills.

Reeling from her recent divorce, Kate Fox has just been sworn in as Grand County Nebraska Sheriff when tragedy strikes. A railroad accident has left engineer Chad Mills dead, and his conductor, Bobby Jenkins in shock. Kate soon realizes that the accident was likely murder.

Who would want to kill Chad Mills? Kate finds that he made a few enemies as president of the railroad workers union. Meanwhile his widow is behaving oddly. And why was his neighbor, Josh Stevens, at the Mills house on the night of the accident?

While her loud and meddling family conspires to help Kate past her divorce, State Patrol Officer Ridnour closes in on Josh Stevens as the suspect. Kate doesn’t believe it. She may not have the experience, but she’s lived in the Sandhills her whole life, and knows the land and the people. Something doesn’t add up―and Kate must find the real killer before he can strike again.


About the author
Shannon Baker is the author of Stripped Bare, the first in the Kate Fox mystery series (Tor/Forge). Set in the isolated cattle country of the Nebraska Sandhills, Kirkus says, “Baker serves up a ballsy heroine, a colorful backdrop, and a surprising ending.” She also writes the Nora Abbott mystery series (Midnight Ink), featuring Hopi Indian mysticism and environmental issues. Shannon was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2014 Writer of the Year.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Stripped Bare. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends January 31, 2017. Good luck everyone!

Dark Signal is available for pre-order at retail and online booksellers.

Tosca’s Quandary by Hank Phillippi Ryan

say-no-moreMay I have your advice? I don’t want to tell you my name right now, so I’ll just call myself Tosca. And I’m happy that we can do this privately. I’m a young woman, a student at a prestigious Boston college.

I guess I should’ve known better, I am a senior after all, and an opera student. I always planned to be an opera singer, or some sort of performer, but now I stay home in my little apartment overlooking Boston’s bustling Kenmore Square, barely able to go outside.

It’s a little embarrassing to tell you, but all I do now is watch out the window, looking at the packs of students hustling by, living their fun and busy lives, and I watch for the guy who assaulted me last February. February 21 to be exact.

I awoke one horrible morning, in his dorm room. How did I get there? And what had happened?

Now, in seclusion, I take classes via the internet. And what’s more, I keep track of his every move in a file I have labeled “Someday.” I know his Facebook friends, his Instagram photos, all his new girlfriends and his leading roles and when he’s at the library and Java Jim’s and I’ve even seen his new car parading up Beacon Street. “Someday”? I’m not quite sure what someday means. But perhaps it means someday I will do something about him.

I also check the campus sexual assault websites, because I have to get better someday, right? I need my life back. And the other day I saw a posting from a person who wanted to talk to survivors of campus sexual assault.

I hesitated, and then I called. Turned out it was a reporter named Jane Ryland, who said she was working on a documentary about campus sexual assault.

She wants me to talk to her about what happened. She says it’s time to empower college students, to let them know they have a right to be safe.

And she wants me to tell my story.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to do it, but here’s what I need advice about. There’s something else going on at the college campus, something dangerous, and potentially deadly, and I could be putting my life in danger if I say anything about that. On the other hand, how can I let it continue?

What should I do? Should I tell Jane the truth? She seems like a nice person. . .very sincere and reliable and trustworthy. Or. . . should I say no more?


Say No More is the fifth book in the Jane Ryland mystery series, published by Forge Books, November 2016.

A Boston newcomer watches a murder–but won’t tell police. A college sexual assault victim is trapped in a sinister scheme to force her silence. And after reporter Jane Ryland witnesses a hit-and-run, she discovers that revealing the truth may put her life in danger. What if staying silent is the only thing that keeps the three women alive? Hank Ryan’s newest ripped from her own headlines thriller: SAY NO MORE.

When Boston reporter Jane Ryland reports a hit and run, she soon learns she saw more than a car crash—she witnessed the collapse of an alibi, and now she’s under pressure to tell all to the police. She’s also digging up the inside scoop for an expose of sexual assaults on Boston’s college campuses for the station’s new documentary unit, and is working with a victim to reveal her heartbreaking experience on camera. But, a disturbing anonymous message—SAY NO MORE—has Jane really and truly scared.

Homicide detective Jake Brogan is on the hunt for the murderer of Avery Morgan, a hot-shot Hollywood screenwriter. As Jake chips his way through a code of silence as shatterproof as any street gang, he’ll learn that one newcomer to the neighborhood may have a secret of her own.

A young woman faces a life-changing decision—should she go public about her assault? What’s really going on behind closed doors at a prestigious Boston college? And when will the killer strike again? Jane and Jake—now semi-secretly engaged and beginning to reveal their relationship to the world—are both on a high-stakes quest for answers. Can they handle the consequences of the truth?

# # # # # # # # # # #

About the author
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate, winning 33 EMMYs and dozens hank-steve-bucci-pressmore journalism honors. The bestselling author of nine mysteries, Ryan’s also an award-winner in her second profession—with five Agathas, two Anthonys, two Macavitys, the Daphne, and Mary Higgins Clark Award. Critics call her “a superb and gifted story-teller.” Her What You See is an Agatha and Anthony nominee and Library Journal Best of 2015. Ryan’s newest novel is Say No More — Jeffery Deaver says “Superb!” and a Library Journal starred review says “A fast-paced, edgy mystery.” Hank is a founder of MWA University and 2013 president of National Sisters in Crime.

Visit Hank online at HankPhillippiRyan.com, on Twitter @HankPRyan and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthor.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win one of Hank’s book – winner’s choice. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends November 14, 2016 at 11:59 AM EST. Good luck everyone!
hank-books

My Musing ~ Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan is the fifth book in the “Jane Ryland” suspense series. Publisher: Forge Books, November 2016

say-no-moreHer career is all about the truth–but now, keeping silent may be her last chance to stay alive.

When Boston reporter Jane Ryland reports a hit and run, she soon learns she saw more than a car crash—she witnessed the collapse of an alibi. Working on an expose of sexual assaults on college campuses for the station’s new documentary unit, Jane’s just convinced a date rape victim to reveal her heartbreaking experience on camera. However, a disturbing anonymous message—SAY NO MORE—has Jane really and truly scared.

Homicide detective Jake Brogan is on the hunt for the murderer of Avery Morgan, a hot-shot Hollywood screenwriter. Her year as a college guest lecturer just ended at the bottom of her swimming pool in the tight-knit and tight-lipped Boston community called The Reserve. As Jake chips his way through a code of silence as shatterproof as any street gang, he’ll learn that one newcomer to the neighborhood may have a secret of her own.

A young woman faces a life-changing decision—should she go public about her assault? Jane and Jake—now semi-secretly engaged and beginning to reveal their relationship to the world—are both on a quest for answers as they try to balance the consequences of the truth.

This fast-paced drama immediately grabbed my attention and I could not put this book down. The momentum of every chapter never faltered and I found myself wrapped up in the narrative as the author told a multifaceted story that underlies some of what is happening in society today. The angst of the characters, the pull of the situation, the roles that were cast all gave way to a story embroiled in the turmoil that existed for the detective, the reporter and the victim and it is the author’s cleverly written treatment that kept me engrossed in the ensuing play-by-play action. And what a testament to the author’s ability to weave a multi-plot story like no another, that sets the stage for a series of revelations that led to the resolution that was justified in all that mattered. One of the things I find enjoyable in reading this book is that with each segment, there are different viewpoints that enhance the telling of this tale. This is one of the best books in the Jane Ryland series and I can’t wait to see what exciting adventures awaits this dynamic duo.

FTC Full Disclosure – I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from the author.

Double-Booked Blog Tour with Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker – Part I

stripped bareThis is IT!

The culmination of Shannon Baker and my 30-ish-day, 24-ish stop Double Booked blog tour. Woof. We are so tired that we have hired monkeys to type for us. Fortunately, they are smart monkeys and there is little typing involved here because all we need to do is sit back and watch as Kate Fox, star of Shannon Baker’s Stripped Bare (releases today!) and Salem Wiley, protagonist of Jess Lourey’s Salem’s Cipher (also releases today! Smell that hot ink), serendipitously meet across books, on an airplane headed to Virginia.

Salem's Cipher“I have to use the bathroom.”

The woman from Nebraska stood to let Salem pass. The red-eye flight Lu had booked for her was surprisingly full. The bathroom line was three deep. Salem was okay with that. It gave her time to uncramp her legs. She thought about all she had to do—land, rent a car, buy gear, follow the coordinates, crack Beale’s vault, fly back to San Francisco to hand over to Agent Stone what they’d found—and how little time she had to accomplish everything.

I settled back on the rough fabric and stared across the empty seat to clouds outside the window. Flying to Richmond was a fool’s errand if ever there was. I figured Carly would be long gone before I got there. Still I had to try.

I unclenched my fists and tried to relax. I wasn’t the only one with problems. The woman next to me seemed to be wrestling with her own. She’d given me a strained smile when I sat, even ventured a little conversation, but it felt like maybe she pushed herself into it, like she ought to. She told me her name and I was about to give her mine but the flight attendant piped up with his safety spiel before I got it out.

Funny name. Salem. She probably had a story, guess we all do. She didn’t seem interested in sharing and I didn’t feel inclined to get into my pile of woes with a stranger I’d never see again.

The man in front of Salem turned, smiled. He wore sunglasses. She didn’t smile back. Something about him made her uncomfortable. Was it his smell? But if he had an odor, it was too mild to pick out on the plane. His face appeared pleasant enough around the metal rims of the sunglasses. She didn’t recognize him. She looked away, but he didn’t.

“Been to Virginia before?” His voice rumbled just above a whisper. A couple sleeping in the seats next to him shifted, the woman pulling the thin airplane blanket closer to her.

Is he really picking me up on an airplane? Salem shook her head and looked away. She hoped he’d get the hint. Did it bother her that he was wearing sunglasses at night, in the air?

He nodded and turned back toward the bathroom door accordioning open. A woman squeezed out and another sardined in. The line was now down to two, plus Salem. The man in sunglasses returned his attention to her.

“Where in Richmond are you going?”

A whispering voice chilled me, even though I shouldn’t have heard it above the swirl of conversation and roar of the engine. I twisted to see Salem giving the stink-eye to a guy who looked as wrong as a badger in the chicken shed.

Salem felt trapped. She wanted to be polite, but his attention was making her uncomfortable. Her body language should have made that clear, but she gave it one more shot, shrugging by way of an answer.

The guy was a certifiable creep and Salem seemed shaky, but I hated to jump into the fray, like some Lone Ranger. Salem had given a clear signal for him to back off, so she’d be fine.

That must have registered loud and clear, finally, because he turned away from her. Thirty seconds later, though, he turned back, his lower lip trembling. “I’m just trying to make conversation, you know? I don’t know if you think you’re too good to talk to me, or what, but I think I deserve some decent human interaction here.”

First the sunglasses and the voice like a rattlesnake, now upping the sleaze factor. My gut tensed but, I held back. I didn’t even know Salem. She might be black belt for all I know. And I’m not in the saving game. Except for Carly. And any of my other brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, or just about anybody in the whole damned Sandhills. My list was long enough.

Every one of Salem’s fears came crowding back in. She felt terrible for making him feel bad. She opened her mouth to speak, but found the woman from Nebraska, a stranger she’d made only cursory conversation with, at her side.

With the list so long, what was one more. “All right, cowboy, why don’t you use the bathroom at the front of the plane?”

“It’s okay.”

Not okay, none of it. A five-hour drive to Denver to catch a flight in a desperate race to find Carly when I knew she was long gone. And then compensating by trying to rescue Salem. But it wouldn’t make me feel any better. I stared at Salem, asking her silently if she needed me.

“Really, it’s fine.” She appreciated the woman’s reaction, but she didn’t want a scene. She certainly didn’t want to make this man mad. They were going to be stuck on this plane together. “You can sit down. I’m okay. He’s going to leave me alone, and everything will be all right.”

The woman glanced at her, tossed an angry glare at the man, then nodded and shuffled back to her seat.

I slumped into my seat, my face burning. I had all the self-control of a six month old black lab. Too bad there were millions of ways to make a fool out of myself because I seemed determined to try them all.

Salem stopped herself short of apologizing to the man in sunglasses, just, and shoved her hands in her pockets. She wished she had a phone to look at.

The bathroom door opened again and places were traded. The man in sunglasses was next in line. Salem was glad she wouldn’t have to stand next to him much longer.

“You never said where in Richmond you were going,” he said, without turning.

Her breath caught. Really? She opened her mouth to say something to him directly then snapped it shut. The plane ride was almost over. She could keep her peace until they landed. Besides, the man wasn’t even looking at her.

That voice! He was at her again, like a dog after a bone. I tried not to listen.

Then he did. He turned. She saw her own face reflected in his lenses, upside down and tiny. “Northern Richmond is pretty this time of year. Are you visiting friends?”

She didn’t know what exactly it was about the interaction that dug up, dusted off, and pushed her fuck it button after all these years, and especially after the last five days. Maybe it was his simpering aggressiveness, his shaming of her for not doing his bidding, the way he’d ignored all of her nonverbals. Maybe it was that she realized she’d gone without Ativan for four days, and that she was surviving. Better than surviving. Probably accumulated stress had something to do with it, too, but suddenly, she found herself caring much more about her own comfort than his. “You’re being a dick.”

Something inside me busted, like a cinch that had been on too tight, and I took a breath like I hadn’t since I’d raced to Denver. Salem was taking control. She didn’t need me to protect her. Carly and Salem, two women who could take care of themselves. Without my help. Salem had asked me to back off, Carly had done the same. Mom would spout something about the universe giving me messages. Maybe I’d tell her about this bit of serendipity after I caught the first flight west.

He jerked as if she’d hit him. “What?”

“I clearly don’t want to talk to you, and you won’t let it go, so fuck you. Fuck you for thinking I have to speak with you because we’re both standing in line and fuck you for your creepy sunglasses on a plane. I will stand in this line until it’s my turn, I will not talk to you, and you will respect that.”

“Let ‘er buck,” I muttered just loud enough to be heard.

Salem realized her chest was moving up and down rapidly, her heart racing. She’d heard the Nebraska woman’s words, knew she wasn’t alone. She waited for the man to react. He opened and closed his mouth. Time unspooled at a snail’s pace. He finally responded, sort of. He pushed past her and returned to his seat four rows ahead of hers. She waited until the bathroom door opened, went in, and slid the lock closed.

She leaned against the bathroom door, laughing quietly.

There may have been tears mixed in.

I gave Salem a grin when she sat back down. We might only have an hour left of the flight, but I thought it might be enough time to share a story or two. “Kate Fox, Grand County Sheriff. I’m glad to meet you.”

Salem took it. “It’s been a heckuva week for me. You?”


Uff da, now I not only want to read Shannon’s new book, I want to write a book with her! Dang that woman can spin a story.

Thank you so much to Dru Ann for hosting us, for those of you who have followed us across this massive, cross-country blog tour, and for any of you who have stumbled in today. We are so happy to share the news of our simultaneous book release today here, on the blog of one of our dear friends and one of the mystery community’s biggest supporters.

In celebration and out of thanks to you all, I am giving away a copy of Salem’s Cipher and Shannon is giving away Stripped Bare. Tell us which two mystery protagonists you’d most like to have a chance meeting, or leave a comment for a chance to win. Shannon and I are also going to bring in award-winning and bestselling authors to join in on the conversation below, so keep checking back to see what’s up!

About the authors
Jessica (Jess) Lourey is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, which have JessLoureyearned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing “a splendid mix of humor and suspense.” She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a recipient of The Loft’s 2014 Excellence in Teaching fellowship, and leads interactive writing workshops all over the world. Salem’s Cipher, the first in her thrilling Witch Hunt Series, hits stores September 2016. You can find out more at www.jessicalourey.com, or check her out on Facebook or Twitter.

Shannon Baker writes the Kate Fox mystery series. Stripped Bare, the first in the series, features a ShannonBakersheriff in rural Nebraska and has been called Longmire meets The Good Wife. Baker also writes the Nora Abbott Mystery Series, a fast-paced mix of murder, environmental issues and Hopi Indians published by Midnight Ink. Baker was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2104 Writer of the Year. She writes from the Colorado Rockies to the Nebraska Sandhills, the peaks of Flagstaff and the deserts of Tucson. Visit her at www.Shannon-Baker.com.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: The giveaway will end September 8, 2016 at 12 AM EST and US entries only, please. Good luck everyone!

My Musing ~ Stripped Bare by Shannon Baker

Stripped Bare by Shannon Baker is the first book in the NEW “Kate Fox” mystery series. Publisher: Forge, September 2016

stripped bareKate Fox is living the dream. She’s married to Grand County Sheriff Ted Conner, the heir to her beloved Nebraska Sandhills cattle ranch, where they live with Kate’s orphaned teenage niece, Carly. With the support of the well-connected Fox Clan, which includes Kate’s eight boisterous and interfering siblings, Ted’s reelection as Grand County Sheriff is virtually assured. That leaves Kate to the solitude and satisfaction of Frog Creek, her own slice of heaven.

One night Kate answers a shattering phone call from Roxy at the Bar J. Carly’s granddad Eldon, owner of the ranch, is dead and Ted has been shot and may never walk again. Kate vows to find the killer. She soon discovers Ted responded so quickly to the scene because he was already at the Bar J . . . in Roxy’s bed. And to add to her woes, Carly has gone missing.

Kate finds out that Eldon was considering selling his ranch to an obscenely rich environmentalist. Some in town hate the idea of an outsider buying up land, others are desperate to sell . . . and some might kill to get their way. As she becomes the victim of several “accidents,” Kate knows she must find the killer before it’s too late. . .

Shannon Baker does this to me every time I read one of her stories – and this one does not disappoint as it immediately grabbed my attention and nothing existed at that moment except what was happening in the Nebraska Sandhills. We meet Kate Fox who heads to the hospital when she learns her husband has been shot. Unbeknownst to her, she learns a secret that the whole town has known and it rocks her to the core. Connecting the dots between the shooting and the disappearance of her niece starts a journey that Kate must follow and what a wonderful ride this becomes.

A fast-paced and well-written drama that sets the tone in how this tale is told with the picturesque beauty of the land that takes center-stage in all that has transpired in this page-turning treatise. This mystery was fraught with danger here and there, especially not knowing who it was coming from, which increased the suspense factor up a notch and had me rooting for Kate. The author did a great job in dispensing clues throughout this book and when I first thought I had it figured out, the author changed directions with some surprising elements for the betterment in this intriguing tale. And that ending, pure heaven. Boasting an eclectic cast of characters led by strong-willed Kate, an engaging mystery and clever dialogue, this was an excellent read and I can’t wait to see where we go next with Kate and her friends in this exciting new debut series.

FTC Full Disclosure – I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) book from author.

A Day in the Life of Lillian Frost by Renee Patrick

Design For DyingLos Angeles, California. November 1937.

Coffee. That’s the first, second and third order of business after a restless night with a busy day ahead.

Step one, rinse out the percolator and pry open the coffee can. So far, not so good. There’s just enough java left to make an eyedropper’s worth.

Nerts.

I bought a new can last week. Didn’t I? I don’t understand how I can misplace food in a kitchen the size of a phone booth. It takes two sorties to unearth the unopened tin of Chase & Sanborn. Soon, the invigorating aroma of coffee fills the air.

While the pot perks away I don my lucky navy blue suit. With its high-waisted skirt and slim jacket I’ll look every inch the professional saleslady. Today it’s vital I look my best. I’m facing a test of sorts, hence the rough sledding through Slumberland.

Tremayne’s Department Store will be my proving ground. It may not be downtown’s largest or chicest shopping emporium. But we strive to outfit our patrons in elegant yet affordable ensembles. We even hold regular fashion shows spotlighting our exclusive lines.

Last week, after I’d hounded him daily, my boss Mr. Valentine finally relented and allowed me to select the peignoir set that would serve as the finale in today’s sartorial soiree. Blotting his forehead with a vermillion pocket square he’d proclaimed, “We shall see, Miss Frost, if your eye for fashion is as keen as your voice is relentless.”

Dressed and with half a cup of coffee in me, I consider nourishment. I scavenge two heels from the breadbox and a jar of orange marmalade from the cupboard. One of the girls at Tremayne’s made it herself. Her father owned an orange grove, she’d said. I didn’t believe her at first. I’m a city girl through and through. To me farmers are more otherworldly than movie stars.

If I make a good impression this morning, I’ll get a leg up in my new career. Not that my last career had ever taken off.

I came to Hollywood like so many others, convinced I’d see my name – Lillian Frost! – in lights. And why not? Bronson gateI’d won a beauty contest back home in New York (although my red velvet bathing suit deserved most of the credit). The prize of a screen test tempted me onto a westbound train. I soon learned movie star dreams come a nickel a gross.

My then-roommate Ruby Carroll knew that from the start. “Talent only gets you so far, mermaid,” she’d say, “mermaid” being the nickname she’d bestowed upon me because of that velvet swimsuit. “In this town it’s who you know. And who knows you.” And I knew no one. One disastrous screen test later, I scampered to Tremayne’s seeking steady employment.

I’m too jittery to think about work now. I need distraction. I slip downstairs and borrow my landlady Mrs. Quigley’s newspaper. On the front page there’s more about the “Alley Angel,” a mysterious young woman found dead close by. Too close by. I shudder and page quickly to Lorna Whitcomb’s gossip column, craving news of Hollywood notables.

I hope to find Ruby mentioned in Lorna’s column someday. She’s still plugging away for her big break, supporting EdithHead1936herself with the occasional day job. Her last was as a wardrobe girl at Paramount Pictures. I can’t deny I envy her, working behind the scenes making movie magic alongside a genius like Travis Banton. Paramount has a girl costume designer now, too, name of Edith Head. One of the movie magazines profiled her. I clipped the article, thinking that would be my dream job, tailoring togs for leading ladies. Too bad my drawing is as bad as my acting.

Breakfast done, I check my change purse for streetcar fare to Tremayne’s and send up a quick prayer to Saint Lucy, patron of salesmen (and presumably –women). I adjust my cream-colored hat in the mirror and manage not to wake the neighbors with a terrified yelp when I spot motion behind me. Miss Sarah Bernhardt struts across the window sill. The landlady’s dusky Burmese cat had deigned to visit my abode. I decide to treat her appearance as an omen.

“Wish me luck, Miss Sarah.” I close the door behind me, and set out to make my mark in the world.


Design for Dying is the first in a series of mysteries featuring Lillian Frost and real-life Hollywood costume designer Edith Head. It was published in April 2016 by Forge Books.

Los Angeles, 1937. Lillian Frost has traded dreams of stardom for security as a department store salesgirl … until she discovers she’s a suspect in the murder of her former roommate Ruby Carroll. Party girl Ruby died wearing a gown she stole from the wardrobe department at Paramount Pictures, domain of Edith Head.

Edith has yet to win the first of her eight Academy Awards; right now she’s barely hanging on to her job, and a scandal is the last thing she needs. To clear Lillian’s name and save Edith’s career, the two women join forces. Unraveling the mystery pits them against a Hungarian princess on the lam, a hotshot director on the make, and a private investigator who’s not on the level.

All they have going for them are dogged determination, assists from the likes of Bob Hope and Barbara Stanwyck, and a killer sense of style. In show business, that just may be enough. . .

# # # # # # # # # # #

Meet the author
Renee Patrick is the pseudonym for married authors Rosemarie and Vince Keenan. Rosemarie is a research administrator and a poet. Vince is a screenwriter and a journalist. Both native New Yorkers, they currently live in Seattle, Washington.

You can friend Renee on Facebook, follow her at @rpatrickbooks or find more information at her website: reneepatrickbooks.com

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a signed copy of Design For Dying. The giveaway will end July 27, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!