Thursday, March 31, 2022

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Monday, March 21, 2022

The Raven and the Pig by Lou Kemp (NBtM, guest post, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT


It is my pleasure to share a guest post by author Lou Kemp, who explains...

Which authors have influenced me and why


Lou Kemp


               Long ago, when I first started writing, I read voraciously exclusively in the mystery genre.  Then in horror.  I loved Elizabeth Peters' Egyptian series because it was hilarious.  The point wasn’t the plot, it was the relationship between the characters and their world.  The historical elements painted the story with so much realism, I could feel the warm sand between my toes.  To balance that, I became a fan of Jonathan Kellerman’s psychological thrillers, and to this day I favor him over others because of his plots.  Both authors contributed to finding what I liked in books, which became what I would write about. 

               In horror, Nancy Holder had the subtle smooth flair that kept the story a story, not a gore fest, and she only used blood where necessary for the plot--- not as the plot.

               Fast forward to the 1990s.  I do not know her name, but while at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, where we read our stories aloud, I found something that changed my direction entirely.  I do not know her name, but the author read a story that was part real, part fantasy, but it couldn’t be proved it didn’t happen.  From then on, I wanted that in my stories and the next year won the award there for Fantasy and Horror with my story The Black and the Ivory.  It was in a small press at the time, and might be available.  One day I’ll put all my short stories into a volume.

               Zippppppppppp.  Now it is 2016, and I used all of my fascination with fantasy and mystery to enter the story In Memory of the Sibylline in the Mystery Writers of America’s anthology Crimes by Moonlight, edited by Charlane Harris.  It was the first appearance of Celwyn.  It became the catalyst to explore his world and learn from him as we go.  I’m working on book 6 of the series now.

               I believe in unpredictability.  It makes the story interesting and strong.  I’ve found great feedback and help from authors Anita Dickason, Benjamin X. Wretlind, and James Backstrom.  Each sees things I don’t and are not afraid to tell me about them.


The Raven and the Pig


Lou Kemp




GENRE:   Magical realism




Synopsis of The Raven and the Pig   Book 2

As the music dies, the magician Celwyn is mortally wounded.  His darker, immortal brother Pelaez brings him back, barely, with his magic. The party of protagonists travel on the Nautilus to the Cape Verde Islands and the healer of immortals.  During the journey, Professor Kang and Bartholomew can not tell if Pelaez will keep his brother alive.  Captain Nemo is ready to evict Pelaez forcibly, and keeping Celwyn alive is the only thing that restrains him.


After Celwyn is saved, the healer requests payment for his services. This sends the adventurers to the catacombs in Capuchin where their experience is one they will not forget. Before it is over, several of the protagonists question why it seems everyone from warlocks and vampires to witches, seem to be congregating in their world. Before it is over, some of them become surprising allies, and a few of their allies turn against them.


In part II, work on the new flying machine begins in earnest bringing attention from the Mafioso and a cherub-like warlock called Duncan.  After a final battle with Duncan, the flying machine is destroyed and everyone at their compound is murdered by one of their own. 






Captain Nemo had joined them, watching the undersea scene as they passed by dozens more buildings.  The glow of the Nautilus’ lamps illuminated the ruins, then dissipated and the inky water enveloped everything.  They slowed in front of a procession of grand marble stairs leading upward and a mirroring set of steps led downward to an abyss below.


“The main temple,” Captain Nemo told them as an enormous ivory building materialized out of the dark water.  “I’m not sure what that is.”


Kang tried his best to see further into the water, but failed.  “I would love to use your diving apparatus to explore this, Captain.”


From beside him, Verne licked his lips and said, “What is all of this?”


Nemo hesitated and looked at the author as though deciding if he should tell him. 


Pelaez had joined them, without using the door or walking across the room.  He just appeared.  After enjoying Bartholomew’s gasp, he had no reservations in describing the scene.  “It has to be Atlantis.  Nothing else would be this big, or advanced.”  He leaned toward the glass.  “My, my.  Just as I imagined it.”  He examined the landscape another moment.  “Though, I do not see a great deal of destruction, considering.”


The Professor stared.  He didn’t see any bones from human corpses, just from animals.  How odd.  Pelaez had referred to the sudden disappearance of Atlantis, one minute a thriving metropolis of culture and wonderment, the next, gone, as if it never existed.  Where were the people? 


Thousands of bubbles erupted from under the ship as they passed over another underground steam vent, this one much larger than the others.  As the shadow of the submarine covered the vent, Bartholomew stared into the roiling water and said, “No destruction at all.  Do you know what happened here, Captain?”


Nemo’s glance at the author probably included a wish that Celwyn was healthy enough to put a block on what Verne saw and heard.  Pelaez might be able to do something similar, but he couldn’t be trusted.


With a shrug, Nemo said, “There are many theories.  Plato wrote a great deal about Atlantis, as did Mikonisis.”


“Yet, this looks like neither one,” Bartholomew speculated.  “There are differences in what we see here compared to the long-standing descriptions from Plato and others.”  He pointed to the building in front of them. “Such as the sculptures depicted on the buildings.  I wonder …. that last steam vent was huge.  As wide as this ship.  I … I think we’re passing over an active volcanic cap ….”


“Perhaps.  The field of ruins here is enormous.  Doesn’t it seem like this city just sank beneath the waves?”  the Professor asked.  “However, I see no volcanic ash or sludge on the buildings.  Why?  The lava would have hardened when it met the water.”


As they talked, the Nautilus had gradually ascended as the seafloor rose, and the reflection from streaks of brighter water painted their faces.  Bartholomew pointed to the buildings.  “Is it simple? That the sea levels rose, and covered everything?”


Pelaez had watched the last of the buildings and houses go by with a special kind of light behind his disturbing eyes.  He asked a question intended to make things even more puzzling.


“Gentlemen, what if they built the city under water in the first place?”


 Amazon link




AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Early work was horror and suspense, later work morphed into a combination of magical realism, mystery and adventure painted with a horrific element as needed.

I’m one of those writers who doesn’t plan ahead, no outlines, no clue, and I sometimes write myself into a corner. Atmospheric music in the background helps. Black by Pearl Jam especially.

More information is available at I'd love to hear from you and what you think of Celwyn, Bartholomew, and Professor Xiau Kang.


2009 The anthology story Sherlock’s Opera appeared in Seattle Noir, edited by Curt Colbert, Akashic Books. Available through Amazon or Barnes and Noble online. Booklist published a favorable review of my contribution to the anthology.

2010 My story, In Memory of the Sibylline, was accepted into the best-selling MWA anthology Crimes by Moonlight, edited by Charlaine Harris. The immortal magician Celwyn makes his first appearance in print.

2018 The story, The Violins Played before Junstan is published in the MWA anthology Odd Partners, edited by Anne Perry. The Celwyn series begins.

Present The full length prequel, The Violins Played before Junstan, to the Celwyn book series is published on Kindle. The companion book, Farm Hall is also published where Pelaez, another immortal magician and Celwyn's brother, makes his first appearance. The remaining books in the series: Music Shall Untune the Sky, The Raven and the Pig, The Pirate Danced and the Automat Died, will be available beginning in August 2021.






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Wednesday, March 9, 2022

The Woods of Hitchcock by Ann W. Jarvie (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

The Woods of Hitchcock

The Henrietta series


Ann W. Jarvie

GENRE: Thriller, Psychological Suspense






The Woods of Hitchcock by award-winning author Ann W. Jarvie is a thriller about a psychically gifted Chicago copywriter and victim of violence who returns to South Carolina's equestrian country to solve a riddle involving murder, the metaphysical and the secrets of her eccentric family.


Suzanne Clayborn is a psychically gifted southerner working in her dream job in Chicago, which also conveniently takes her away from the ghosts of her past. But when she's nearly killed, she realizes all she wants is to return home to her eccentric family, her horse and the one place she feels safe: Hitchcock Woods, an enchanting equestrian forest in South Carolina.


But instead of finding solace, Suzanne becomes entangled in a murder spree, while stumbling upon an old manuscript, written by her sage grandmother. As she explores it, Suzanne uncovers a tome of long-buried family haunts and ancient metaphysical secrets offering healing and inspiration. She also begins to understand her unwanted psychic abilities, especially after meeting a mysterious stranger in the Woods whose ominous riddle suggests others close to her will die within the week...


Brimming with raw emotion and a trail of psychological twists, a story of hope and transformation begins to unfold. Yet with the riddle's deadline looming, Suzanne's present must ultimately collide with a violent past. Will she be able to solve her life's riddle and fulfill her destiny? Or will she die along with those she loves?





“Don’t take this the wrong way, Gran, but do you think Joe Loco could be a ghost?” Suzanne asked, recognizing some physical similarities to JB, although they did not look exactly the same.


“My heavens, no,” Henrietta said and paused as though trying to sense the truth of it. After a few moments, she looked straight into Suzanne’s eyes. “No,” she repeated. “He is most assuredly not an earth-bound ghost.”


Suzanne let out a breath of relief. “Good!”


“Bears Repeating, whom we called Joe Loco, was not a confused soul, and he had no unfinished business,” Henrietta said. “He lived an extraordinary life of helping people recover from trauma and other soul-loss issues. He was the only truly enlightened person I’ve ever had the honor and privilege of knowing in this life. I’m sure he ascended into heaven when he passed from his physical body. That was more than ten years ago. But sometimes, I’ve felt his presence. I know when he visits me.”


“Do you see him?”


“No, I don’t have the gift of clairvoyance as you do. For me, I can empathically sense his good energy just swoop in and visit sometimes. It may sound funny, but I can also feel his deep sense of humor. He reminds me to laugh. And then I do.” She let go a stream of giggles and tears.


“I’m really glad to hear that,” Suzanne said, joining in with Gran’s laughter. “I was beginning to think JB, the guy I met in the Woods, might be your Joe Loco. You’ve no idea how relieved I am.”


Henrietta slowed her giggling and wiped her eyes. “I’m well aware that you believe Hitchcock Woods doesn’t allow ghosts.”


“Guess it’s just a coincidence that JB and Joe Loco have a lot in common.”


“What makes you say that?”


“JB speaks like a guru, although he has a strong southern accent. Like Joe Loco, he has light-brown skin, shiny black hair and wears colorful clothing. Except his clothes are not Elvis style, but rather, as I mentioned before, those of a southern frat boy.”


“I don’t believe in coincidences,” Henrietta said. “Perhaps he is your Joe Loco.”

Amazon link

Barnes and Noble



AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Ann W. Jarvie has a B.A. in journalism and twenty-five years’ experience as a writer in advertising and public relations agencies, in Chicago and South Carolina. Although it stands completely on its own, The Woods of Hitchcock is an indirect sequel to Jarvie’s award-winning debut novel, The Soul Retrieval, which received four literary awards, the highest score by Writer’s Digest e-Book Awards’ judges (5 out of 5 on all points) as well as myriad positive reviews. Jarvie currently lives in Paradise Valley, Arizona with her husband, their boxer dog and boxer mix rescue.


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My review:

3.5 out of 5 stars


“The Woods of Hitchcock” by Ann W. Jarvie follows successful copywriter Suzanne Clayborn on her journey as both her professional and personal life are thrown into chaos by another frightening near-death experience. She has to find a way to integrate the advice she’s receiving with the disturbing events that surround her and to connect with her abilities and reach her true potential before things turn fatal…possibly for her or someone close to her.


This metaphysical and paranormal suspense story starts with a chilling event that gives a glimpse of Suzanne’s powers. As the story unfolds, more details about how her life was changed are interspersed with hints about spiritual connections and her family’s ties to Native American mysticism. There are a lot of poignant twists and turns, and danger that mounts as Suzanne encounters more and more mysteries, and one gets a feel for a different way of life through the extensive descriptions of Hitchcock Woods and some of the events it hosts.

I would have liked to have more depth to the secondary characters because so many of them seemed to have pivotal roles but only a brief time in the spotlight, so it was difficult to establish an emotional connection to them. Suzanne’s powers to see and communicate with ghosts are only intermittently alluded to, and I was surprised at some of her actions as I would think she’d want all of the clues she could get.

Those who are concerned with such things should be advised that there are occasional limited forays into a secondary character’s point of view, as well as a few inconsistencies and stereotypes that are a bit frustrating.

I liked the guidance to self-knowledge that Suzanne receives from several sources, and I think the advice that we need to empower ourselves to heal the spiritual wounds we carry because, “A negative mindset and negative emotions about it all keep old wounds in place.” is very apropos to all of us. The wonderful connection between horses and those who work with them is nicely evoked, and I think those who enjoy a mystery thriller with a mystical twist should give this story a try.


A copy of this title was provided for review