SleuthFest – Day 1

Nancy's Notes From Florida

SleuthFest 2018 began on March 1, 2018 with “Third Degree” Thursday and a full day of writing workshops at this premier mystery writers’ conference held in Boca Raton, Florida. I arrived in time to give my presentation on “Developing a Mystery Series.” It was well attended and attendees asked a lot of good questions. That afternoon, I did my stint at the registration desk while greeting old friends and making new ones. In the middle photo is Steve Brown and Jeffrey Philips. Then to the right is Marty Ambrose with me and Michael L. Joy.

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Panelists from earlier that day had a booksigning in front of the on-site bookstore run by Murder on the Beach. We had the chance to buy raffle tickets from the boa ladies. Here I am with James R. Benn and Hallie Ephron.


After a welcome speech by conference co-chairs Michael L. Joy…

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Lucknow by Annie Hall Blitz

Women’s Fiction
Date Published: February 2018
Publisher: Threekookaburras
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When Rosie’s marriage suddenly ends one night in Sydney, nothing makes sense any more. She doesn’t know what to do next. Her sister, Juliette, suggests she come and live where she is — in Lucknow,  a town in Central Victoria, that they knew in their childhood. It doesn’t seem to offer much at first. But her life changes in ways she had not thought possible. Lucknow isn’t just a romance, it’s about life in a small country Australian town.
Praise for Lucknow:
“Heartbreak, comedy, tragedy, farce, romance, secrets, even love. Annie Hall lifts the lid on the way things are in this Australian country town with the beguiling name of Lucknow.” — Carmel Bird

While Hamish was being minded by Mrs Pickett for a couple of hours, Juliette and Rosie grabbed their bathers and headed out to the old reservoir. It was the perfect time for a swim, the sun had real warmth, the wind held its breath, there was a clarity of light in the air and the fragrance of eucalyptus and spice. The old reservoir shimmered and sang with bird calls that afternoon. Save for two fishermen sitting on the levee wall mute and still as statues, Juliette and Rosie had the place to themselves. Near the water’s edge they baked on bare rock like lizards, their towels rolled under their heads for pillows. Juliette lay on her back staring at the sky while Rosie lay on her front gazing at the water.
‘I heard about your quiet night at the pub,’ Juliette said. ‘Jade said you were announced on stage as single. Really putting it out there, aren’t you Rosie? Next it will be an ad in the local paper.’
‘I had no idea Eloise would do that,’ Rosie said. ‘It was so embarrassing.’
‘You don’t know the half of it,’ Juliette said. ‘If you heard what they were saying about you.’
‘Like what?’
Juliette looked at her sister, and didn’t want to hurt her feelings. ‘It’s a wonder you weren’t raffled off like a tray of meat.’
There was a pause.
‘Eloise grew up here. People know her, they don’t know you. You’ve just arrived.’
She looked at her sister, always slight, like a teenager in her blue bikini with yellow buttercups. She didn’t look strong enough to have had Hamish or gone through a torrid marriage breakdown. She is tougher than she looks, Juliette thought. If she didn’t physically show signs of suffering she must have felt it somewhere. But where did Rosie feel it? wondered Juliette.
‘I know I’ve just arrived, Juliette,’ Rosie said, yawning. ‘To another age, it seems, as well as another place.’
‘In Lucknow, you must take care,’ Juliette said earnestly. ‘Gossip spreads faster than a virus, it’s more invisible than hepatitis. It just floats around and somewhere decisions are made about you, your reputation is decided. It might not be the truth but it is what will pass as the truth.
‘You will be stuck with it. And, and,’ Juliette said, warming to her point, ‘it will be very hard once your reputation is fixed to change it. It will stick with you no matter what you do. If people find that you vary from your reputation then they will find it curious, but they won’t disbelieve the gossip.’
Rosie thought about what Juliette was saying. ‘If people can’t distinguish the truth from gossip then why is their opinion of any value?’
‘They only know what they hear,’ Juliette said. ‘You need to take care.’
The smooth grey rocks were hot beneath their bodies. Rosie felt sweat beginning to trickle and the water looked invitingly cool.
‘I’m going in,’ she told Juliette. ‘Race you.’
As warm and brown as a bottle of beer in the shallows, the water was chilly and fizzy as champagne at waist height. Rosie dived under and came up tingling with shock at how cold it was. Juliette was already ahead, arms and legs slicing cleanly through the water. Rosie set off like a threshing machine, churning the water white as she overtook Juliette and raced the one kilometre to the other side. She stood in the shallows, her ribs heaving and subsiding as she gasped for air, her body bent, head down near her knees, eyes swimming with red, brain nearly blacking out from a lack of oxygen. Juliette came up behind her, the water draining off her body in silvery rivulets and watched her sister.
‘You always push things,’ she said, casually. ‘You always go too far.’

About the Author


Annie Hall has worked as a journalist in country towns as well as Sydney and Melbourne. She lived for a number of years in the Goldfields area of Victoria.
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A BELTANE GIFT Beyond Time, Book 1 by Holly Barbo

Genre: Paranormal Short Story

Original Release Date: April 2016

Cover Designer: Darkmantle Designs

Publisher: Paper Gold Publishing

A paranormal short story set in Scotland, with cultural heritage at its heart.

Summer in Scotland, and Mari is working on an archaeological dig of a Viking burial ship during Beltane, a time of the year when the veil shrouding the spirit world thins.
What could possibly go wrong?
A Beltane Gift is a contemporary story with historical elements and a wee bit of the paranormal. It won first prize in the PGP Short Story Competition in August 2015. It is also available as part of the anthology Tendrils.

A Beltane Gift, Beyond Time: Book 1, is a story that begs for more. You can follow Mari as she searches for answers in A Bell for Valor. And watch for additional adventures in the Beyond Time series of Quick Reads.

A Quick Read book is a short story available as a single small book. In both ebook and paper format, it is a perfect small gift or for escaping to another place and reality when you only have a tiny block of spare time.

A wisp of a sound snatched her attention and she looked up, startled. The red fox stood just inside the circle of light cast from her fire. The source of the sound came from what it held in its jaws.
Standing, she moved toward the fox, anticipating it would run away. The fox allowed her two steps toward it, then slowly lowered its head and deposited a small animal on the ground before drifting back a few paces into the shadows.
It was a kitten of approximately two months of age, with long hair, bushy tail, ginger-colored thick fur around the head and large paws, but the rest was in shades of black and gray tiger stripes. It studied Mari with eerily intelligent heather-blue eyes. She approached the little animal and held out the back of her hand to be sniffed. In a quiet voice, she spoke to the fox. “Why do you have a kitten and why bring it here?”
A strange, almost atonal, voice came from the archeological dig. “Tha kitten is here ’cause I asked Ruadh ta bring it.”
She whirled, seeking the source of the voice.
It came again. “T’was ah good name an tha fox appreciates it.” Emerging from the shadows was the unsubstantial form of a Viking.
With wide eyes she watched… speechless.
“My greeting ta ye, Mari. Ye’re ah descendant…” The spirit chuckled, “Many times an hundreds o’ years removed, yet ye bear ah resemblance ta my beautiful Leda.”
Holly’s world is shaped by her love of family (which includes an adorable rescue kitty who has stolen her heart), the beauty of nature and an irrepressible curiosity that frequently has her turning over rocks and questioning what she finds. This sometimes sends the reader down a rabbit hole into an alternate view of the world than what they expected. Holly’s mind can be an interesting place.Her motto: Weaving Alternative Worlds with Threads From Today.


INCONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE The McAllister Justice Series, Book 3 by Reily Garrett

Publication Date: March 26, 2018

Genre: Romantic suspense/technothriller

Content Warning: 18+ due to explicit sexual content

Braiding nanotechnology and medicine equals magic to the psychopathic mind.

Megan Chauner has achieved her dream of opening a veterinary practice when she receives a mysterious package with a dire warning from a college roommate turned investigative reporter. Entering a world of advanced surgical techniques, polymer microchips, and nanotechnology, she discovers twisted minds merging the latest science with progressive surgical procedures in a bid for power and wealth.
Lucas McAllister faces the biggest upheaval of his life. From chick magnet to wounded cop wasn’t a fall he’d foreseen. Now facing a forced retirement, he returns home to find a gun-toting enigma with multiple IDs deciphering reams of technical, medical jargon and embroiled in a plot destined to alter mankind’s path.
Stalkers and assassins draft reality checks that test Luc’s skill and endurance in keeping Megan and her furball alive while the McAllister brothers unite to thwart a bi-coastal conspiracy.

Death in degrees


Jackie Milburn didn’t do fear.
The late-night walk to her car had never provoked an accelerated heart rate. Tonight, however, a bone-deep foreboding arose from vestiges of instinctual awareness, all merging to question her mission’s strategy. If she failed, millions would suffer and life as anyone knew it, would end.
Indistinct shadows granted a cozy ambience where she often lurked, but dingy light filtering through overhead branches mocked her bravado. Shadow limbs shook with laughter as Fate’s sense of humor conspired with nature to saturate creation’s mindset with malice.
Regardless of destiny’s intentions, she squared her shoulders while scanning the deserted parking lot, alert to any threat. A sense of relief had washed through her after depositing the damning evidence in the USPS blue box. The evil shits would never expect an investigative reporter to mail the sophisticated mechanisms across country. Precautions taken with the dispatch ensured no one could trace the recipient. Always have a backup plan.

This was the biggest scoop of her career and would spotlight one of Delaware’s billion-dollar companies as a collection of hi-tech, sociopathic thugs.
It wouldn’t take CSV Pharmaceuticals long to discover crucial evidence missing and ferret out their traitor. As corporations went, they were as paranoid as any. She prayed Dr. Sorenson made it out of the country alive, and not as shark chum. Paranoia had compelled her to refuse him the number to her newest burner phone. Intuition saw the last one tossed in the Willamette River after tapping out a quick message to her old college roommate. Jackie survived by instincts and prayed they would serve her well—one more time.
Making the last stop to pick up her go-bag would supply the necessary items to disappear until her story broke. The finishing touches included copies of lab reports and communication between the Delaware scientists and a company on the West Coast, ClickChip.
Various colored and styled wigs, plain lens glasses, makeup, and diverse fashion ensembles would allow her to blend with any crowd, but wouldn’t prevent CCTVs and facial recognition programs from pinpointing her location. Planning ahead, she had a well-stocked safe house outside city limits.
Trembling fingers failed to punch the unlock button on her key fob. Instead, her headlights cut a swath through the misty ground cover, a beacon to any waiting goon. Shit. The subsequent knocking of heart against ribs rivaled the best hammer drill while sweat coated her palms and face despite her warmed exhalations sending puffed smoke signals in the frosty air.
A slow, deep breath reclaimed her sense of calm and allowed the subtle scent from emerging camellia blossoms drifting on the night’s currents to settle her spirit. There. This is who I am. For visual affirmation of her feelings, she glanced at her reflection in the driver’s side window.
The sudden thrust of a phantom arm emerging from the dark pinned her against a hard chest. The steely limb angled and applied pressure to tilt her head back as if she were a rag doll.
“Oomph.” Collision forced air from her lungs while shock produced a gasp that inhaled a sickly sweet odor from the cloth rammed over her mouth and nose.
“Wanna play?” Malice drew out each syllable in a parody of innocent sport.
Momentary panic barred all reason. Instinctive reaction initiated clawing at the viselike grip. Subsequent kicking and twisting of her body yielded no compromise in her position.
In her periphery, she caught sight of a malevolent smile and glinting dark eyes under a black fedora. The boogeyman does exist.

Lethargy and disorientation. Another breath or pass out from hypoxia. No more pain. All her muscles relaxed against her will. The invading blackness closed in from the margins.
NO! An enraged cry died in her throat.
A Dark Prequel to Digital Velocity

Theft of spirit is no one’s birthright.
A quirk of her X chromosome furnished Alexis with an edge few others enjoyed. After fate plunged her into orphan status and an intolerable foster home forced her to the streets, a group of prostitutes sheltered her from their vicious pimp. Seeing something special within, they nurtured and shielded her from their harsh reality until she could forge her own path in life.
Destiny frequently takes us back to our roots. Lexi’s return journey begins when a serial killer attacks one of her adopted sisters. Relying on courage and wit, she must stay a step ahead and secure evidence to free her family from a psychopathic murderer.


Book 1
The deadliest weapons are the ones we never see.
Keyboard prodigy, Lexi Donovan has risen from teenage orphan of the streets to complete independence with little help along the way. When a pervert threatens her friend, she sends an anonymous message to police, leading to a firefight that leaves a cop wounded.
Detective Ethan McAllister’s well-ordered life turned upside down the day an obscure text message led to a sexual predator’s identity and arrest. Since then, Callouston PD’s finest can’t trace the elusive hacker. The latest tip leads him to a brutal mutilation and a riddle indicating the identity of the next murder victim.
The dark net houses a playground for the morally depleted and criminally insane. When Lexi discovers the killer’s digital betting arena, she finds herself centered in a cyber stalker’s crosshairs, a psychopath bearing equal talent.
Street life strengthened Lexi while toughening her protective shell, but nothing could shield her from the shrewd detective forging a path to her heart.
Book 2
The architect of fear employs many forms.
Kidnapping and murder never crossed Kaylee’s mind when seeking a fresh start in Portland, a new beginning to shed the remnants of tragedy dogging her steps. After escaping from an underground cage, she fights to stay one step ahead of the killer bent on silencing his only witness. Kaylee.
Two months after dodging a sociopathic murderer’s best efforts, Caden McAllister flounders within a social sink hole, unable to move forward, too stubborn to step back. Guarded and wary, the private investigator’s stagnant lifestyle detonates into chaos when a battered and bloody young waif stumbles into his care.
Framed for a murdering a past lover, Caden must clear his name and overcome his charge’s doubts while keeping her out of the sex-slave trade. When betrayal ends with Kaylee’s re-capture, Caden must conquer his past and risk all or lose the one he has come to love.
Murder, mystery, underground tunnels, and romance are intertwined in this standalone romantic thriller, the second installment of the McAllister Justice Series.

Reily’s employment as an ICU nurse, private investigator, and work in the military police has given her countless experiences in a host of different environments to add a real world feel to her fiction.

Though her kids are her life, writing is Reily’s life after. The one enjoyed…after the kids are in bed or after they’re in school and the house is quiet. This is the time she kicks back with laptop and lapdog to give her imagination free rein.
In life, hobbies can come and go according to our physical abilities, but you can always enjoy a good book. Life isn’t perfect, but our imaginations can be. Relax, whether it’s in front of a fire or in your own personal dungeon. Take pleasure in a mental pause as you root for your favorite hero/heroine and bask in their accomplishments, then share your opinions of them over a coffee with your best friend (even if he’s four legged). Life is short. Cherish your time.
Website ✯ Blog ✯ Amazon ✯ Goodreads ✯ Twitter ✯ Facebook ✯ BookBub ✯ Newsletter

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Murder on Saint Patrick’s Day (A Ridgeway Rescue Mystery Book 3) by P. Creeden

Ridgeway Rescue Mysteries can be read in 1-2 hours. Perfect for when you’re waiting for an appointment or just want a fast read. Don’t miss out on this quick, clean, cozy mystery that will keep you guessing until the end!

It’s St. Patrick’s Day and 20-year-old Emma Wright is working hard at training five-month-old Molly, her foster puppy, to become a therapy dog. But her training coach and neighbor gets an emergency call, cutting the lesson short, and Emma volunteers to pick up her daughter at a St. Patrick’s Day concert in town.

When Emma arrives, the concert has just finished up, and the teenage girls are visiting with the band. Then the lead singer stumbles and falls to the ground, dead. Emma becomes the only level head in the crowd and calls for help. When the Sheriff and Colby arrive, they investigate it as a potential accident. But Emma finds subtle clues that something more sinister is going on. Did the leader of the band die in an accident, or was it murder?

Get it on Amazon (also in Kindle Unlimited)

P. Creeden

Pauline Creeden

P. Creeden is a horse trainer from Virginia, but writing is her therapy. In her fiction, she creates worlds that are both familiar and strange, often pulling the veil between dimensions. She becomes the main character in each of her stories, and because she has ADD, she will get bored if she pretends to be one person for too long.


Follow Pauline Creeden:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter

One for the Price of Two Release

Fiction, Thriller, Crime
Date Published: March 15, 2018
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He’s a special forces operator, a trained assassin. He marries into an organized crime family. Not an ordinary crime family, but one with a tradition and specialty in murder for hire.
About the Author

Howard Weiner is a recent addition to the literary genre of fiction. Writing mysteries, thrillers, crimes—with a touch of romance—an approach described by one reader as “one bubble off.”
Many authors sharing the genre have characters whose fortune is determined by others. They literally have dodged the bullet that otherwise would have killed them. Weiner’s characters make their own fortune—good or bad—and they live with the results.
Weiner’s own experiences are blessed with no small number of noteworthy characters and events. He brings these slightly off-kilter individuals to life, complete with their own stories and dramas. Like the child prodigy in his first novel, “It Is Las Vegas After All”, who comes to the starting edge of adulthood and then loses the approval of his doting parents, the sponsorship of one of America’s great institutions of higher education, and gains the enmity of his girlfriend’s father—an international arms dealer—to become a home-grown terrorist operating on U.S. soil.
A survivor of rich, nuanced bureaucracies in the public and private sector, Weiner writes about characters whose career choices and decisions are morally questionable. A student of personal behavior in complex circumstances, Weiner brings these often cringe-worthy characters to life. Some are amoral, others immoral in a narrow slice of their lives, yet they otherwise look and act like people we all know from work or even childhood. Like one of the female leads in his novel, “Serendipity Opportunity”, an out-of-the-box thinker who flunks most of life’s basic relationship tests, yet she is someone you never want pursuing you in the cause of justice. There’s a former foreign security official who uses his protected status as a witness for federal prosecutors to provide cover for his own mayhem and murder in Weiner’s third novel, “Bad Money”.
Many of Weiner’s stories are born out of real life events: The mix-up in luggage claim at the airport in, “Bad Money”, the chronic high school slacker in “Serendipity Opportunity” whose one stroke of good fortune creates his opportunity to perpetrate a complex series of frauds, or the brilliant student in “It Is Las Vegas After All” who uses his prodigious talents toward an evil end.
As a former federal official, Weiner can neither confirm nor deny having the highest security clearances in classified security programs. Yet, his knowledge of the dark web, criminal organizations, and security organizations takes stories from the popular press to the next level.
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VICTORIAN TOWN by Nancy Thorne

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance with Mystery & Time Travel elements

Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing

Abby Parker planned out her whole life: complete her final year of high school, go to college, get a job, move away from her insane family, stay best friends with Jessica.

But, that was before she broke into the nearby tourist attraction and unwittingly answered a call from a centuries-old spirit who dragged her into the 19th century.
Now she must solve a Victorian mystery without getting herself killed, or worse, spend a lifetime trapped in the past, leaving behind everyone she loves and altering their lives forever.
When she meets gorgeous Benjamin, the future looks a lot like wreckage.

I waited for him to make the next move, to tell me how inappropriate, how forward that was of me. As I struggled to think of how best to offer an explanation, he turned to me. Gently but deliberately, he moved his hand up my arm, stopping at the nape of my neck beneath the ribbon of the bonnet.

The moment he leaned in, I closed my eyes. His lips, soft and full, touched mine with the modest pressure of an indecisive act. A warm energy coursed through my body, but the strangest thing was that everything felt unbelievably familiar, like it had all been rehearsed before that moment. I held onto this profound feeling, not wanting it to leave, until Ben removed his lips from mine.
Even with the whistled melodies from a pair of cardinals outside the church’s entrance, the following silence felt awkward. It persisted, and I assumed Ben was already regretting kissing me.
“Miss Abigail−”
I brought up a hand and covered his mouth. “It’s okay.”
We walked down the hill without saying another word. A lot of activity was happening on Main Street: coaches lined the front of the Royal Hotel as travelers zipped in and out of the main entrance; horse carts delivered goods in dashes of haste; store merchants hurried beyond their open doors; street sellers sold goods out of baskets; helpers swept the boardwalk; ladies could be seen purchasing last minute necessities behind the windows of each shop.
Ben accompanied me up the stairs of Town Hall’s entrance and stopped on the landing before we reached the front door. I peered through the window. Martha arranged long-stemmed flowers in a vase on a table at the side of the ballroom. A young man placed a candelabra on a table and then another on top of a piano. Ben had already started back to the street when I turned. He waved. I waved back. Still a chance he’ll change his mind.

The gloves were easier to remove now that one was missing its button. I placed them, and the button, on the ledge of the window and took off the ring.
Jess was still sitting on my bed when the haze cleared, but her tapping fingers had moved from her chin, which now rested on her knuckles. It was obvious it had taken longer for me to return this time. It made sense to me right then that the ring held within it a finite amount of energy with which to transport me to the past and back home, like a battery depleting its energy with each use. And, I had no idea how to recharge it
Nancy Thorne is an award-winning author of fiction inspired by the romance, courage and struggles of youth.
Born and raised in a suburb of Toronto, she fostered a passion for creating stories in grade school but hid it much too well. Five years ago she stepped away from the pediatric health care field to pursue her lifelong dream of telling them.
When she’s not writing books or reading, she’s dreaming.
Nancy lives outside of Toronto with her husband, two sons and an incredibly energetic fox-red labrador.
She loves to hear from her readers, even just to say hi.