BLOG TOUR SPOTLIGHT: Don’t Lie to Me — Willow Rose | #Mystery #Thriller

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SPOTLIGHT

Don’t Lie To Me
Eva Rae Thomas Mystery Book 1

Willow Rose

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Don't lie 3D paperback

When twelve-year-old Sophie Williams went on a Girl Scout summer camp, she never returned home.

Three months later, her body is found inside her sleeping bag in the most frequented area of Cocoa Beach, and the town is outraged.

The girl isn’t just any child. She’s the town’s most beloved surf idol, and it was believed that she could be the next Kelly Slater.

As another child, the son of a well-known senator is kidnapped, and the parents receive a disturbing video, FBI profiler Eva Rae Thomas — who has just returned to her hometown, divorced and out of a job — plunges into the investigation, breaking her promise to her children not to do police work again.

Local law enforcement, with her old flame Matt Miller in charge, are the ones who ask for her help in a case so unsettling that only she can solve it. But the deeper they dig, the deadlier it becomes for Matt and Eva Rae. Soon, everyone she holds dear is in grave danger as this case hits a little too close to home.

DON’T LIE TO ME is the first book in the Eva Rae Thomas Mystery Series and can be read as a standalone.

Goodreads | Amazon

About the Author: The Queen of Scream aka Willow Rose is a #1 Amazon Best-selling Author and an Amazon ALL-star Author of more than 60 novels.

willow roseShe writes Mystery, Thriller, Paranormal, Romance, Suspense, Horror, Supernatural thrillers, and Fantasy.

Willow’s books are fast-paced, nail-biting pageturners with twists you won’t see coming. Several of her books have reached the Kindle top 10 of ALL books in the US, UK, and Canada. She has sold more than three million books.

Willow lives on Florida’s Space Coast with her husband and two daughters. When she is not writing or reading, you will find her surfing and watch the dolphins play in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

Website | Facebook | Twitter Bookbub Amazon | Goodreads

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Giveaway

$50 Amazon

Follow the tour HERE for exclusive content and a giveaway!

https://www.silverdaggertours.com/sdsxx-tours/dont-lie-to-me-book-tour-and-giveaway

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BLOG TOUR & INTERVIEW: The Good Inside Me — Barbara Russell | #YA #ParanormalRomance

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An Interview with Barbara Russell, author of The Good Inside Me

Today I welcome YA author Barbara Russell and her book The Good Inside Me for a quick but fun interview!

Julianne: Welcome Barbara, why don’t you take a few moments to introduce yourself to my readers.

Barbara RussellBarbara: I’m an entomologist and a soil biologist, which is a fancy way to say that I dig in the dirt, looking for bugs. Nature and books have always been my passion. I was a kid when I read The Lord Of The Rings and fell in love with fantasy novels.

When I discovered cozy mystery and crime novels, I fell in love with Hercules Poirot and Sherlock Holmes. Then I grew up and… Nah, I’m joking. I didn’t grow up. Don’t grow up, folks! It’s a trap.

PS I hate gardening. There, I said it. Sorry fellow Kiwis.

Julianne: What inspired the Good Inside Me?

Barbara: I like to play ‘what if’ when I’m thinking about a new story, so I thought what if a demon is possessed by a human? And what if the human is a really good young woman? I thought it’d be fun to have two different people—a teen demon boy called Shax and a teen girl called Tolis—forced to be together.

Julianne: What is your favourite scene in The Good Inside Me?

Barbara: The scene when Shax has to beg an angel to save Tolis’s brother. I had so much fun writing it. I hope the readers will like it.

Julianne: What do you do when you aren’t writing?

Barbara: Trekking and climbing! I love hiking with my dogs. Forests are the best places ever to think about plot holes and characters’ developments. Not to mention that a good trekking recharges me. I need to get out of the city and its noises now and then and be surrounded by trees and nature. And I like sketching as well. I’m not really good, but it’s fun.

Julianne: What advice would you give new writers?

Barbara: Read everything, from memoirs to sci-fi novels. I love fiction, but true stories are the amazing. There’s a lot to learn from non-fiction books as a writer, and you never know what might inspire you.

Julianne: What’s your work in progress?

Barbara: I’m currently writing something new, a spin-off of my Auckland Steampunk series.

Julianne: Which character can you relate to the most and why?

Barbara: They say that an author is the sum of all of his characters, including the villains, lol. But I feel closer to Shax, the male protagonist. He’s fun to write, and I like how he denies to be a good person.

Julianne: If you choke a Smurf, of what colour does he turn?

Barbara: The same colour he turns when he’s freezing.

Julianne: Anything else you’ll like to add?

Barbara: Actually yes, I’d like to the tell to those people who say they don’t read book to please don’t say out loud. Every time a person says they don’t read, somewhere a writer gets a writer’s block.

And now let’s take a little time to get acquainted with the book!

The Good Inside Me_400x600Dragons, short-tempered archdemons, and hysterical damned souls—Shax is used to dealing with all that. He’s a young fire demon and lives in Hell, after all. What he’s not used to is being possessed by a human. A very good human and a pretty girl at that: sixteen-year-old Tolis. Despite still having control of his body most of the time, Shax can hear Tolis’s voice inside his head and feels what she feels constantly.

Shax’s mentor claims that Tolis hides an ancient, powerful grimoire, a book of spells, and proposes a deal: if Shax finds it, he’ll help Shax get work as a dragon keeper—Shax’s dream job. Tolis swears she doesn’t have the grimoire and asks Shax to help her father, whose soul is turning evil by the minute. Unless Tolis does something, her dad’s soul will end in Hell. Hoping to convince her to give him the grimoire, and not because Shax cares about the man’s soul, he agrees to help.

Goodness is overrated. Since Shax decided to help Tolis, his life has turned into a hurdle race. Thugs chase him, the scientists in Hell want to prod and examine the first possessed demon in history, and he can’t find the darn grimoire.

And the worst part? Due to the unavoidable presence of Tolis, who keeps intruding into his evil thoughts, Shax discovers an almost decent side of himself. In no time at all, he catches himself doing actual good deeds. Is he becoming—yuck—good?

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Goodreads | Amazon

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Giveaway

$25 Amazon Card

Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!

https://www.silverdaggertours.com/sdsxx-tours/the-good-inside-me-book-tour-and-giveaway

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STILL DARK BLOG TOUR: #Spotlight #Horror #MindControl #Paranormal with @DWGillespie @Sirens_Call

STILL DARK BLOG TOUR – JANUARY 19 TO 27

Still Dark

D.W. Gillespie

DWGillespie_StillDark_cover_promoWhen a thunderous explosion rocks an idyllic cabin resort in the Great Smoky Mountains, animals and humans alike begin to act strange. Jim, along with his wife Laura and son, Sam, are cut off from the outside world, but they soon realize the true nightmare is just beginning…

Deep in the snow-covered woods, something is waiting. The creature calls itself Apex, and it’s a traveler. Reading the minds of those around it, Apex brings the terrifying fears hidden in the human psyche to life with a singular purpose: to kill any that stand in its way.

Locked in a fight for their lives, Jim and his family must uncover the truth behind Apex, and stop the creature from wreaking a horrifying fate upon the rest of the world!

Amazon Digital and Print: US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico| Brazil | India | The Netherlands

Kobo | Barnes & Noble (Digital or Print) | iTunes | Smashwords

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Gillespie-Family-Nov2014-53ABOUT THE AUTHOR — D.W. Gillespie has been writing dark fiction in one form or another since he was old enough to hold a pencil. He’s been featured in multiple horror anthologies, both in print and online. Still Dark is his debut novel, and his second book, a short collection titled Handmade Monsters, arrives in 2017. He lives in Tennessee with his wife and two children.

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BOOK TOUR: Dusk’s Warrior by Emerian Rich @emzbox | #Vampires #Horror

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41c2I1adCiL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Heaven has opened up and welcomed the vampires of Night’s Knights into a new reality. As they struggle to find their place in their new world, trouble brews on Earth.

Demon servant, Ridge, is causing havoc by gathering up all the souls on Earth that have been touched by immortality. When he injures one of the Night’s Knights crew, he launches a war between the vampires of Heaven, the Big Bad in Hell, and a mortal street gang of vigilante misfits.

Will Julien, Markham, and Reidar be able to defeat the evil that’s returned, or will they once again need Jespa’s help?

Dusk’s Warrior is now available on Amazon

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emz1smallABOUT THE AUTHOR — Emerian Rich is an artist, horror host, and author of the vampire series, Night’s Knights. She is the hostess of the internationally acclaimed podcast, HorrorAddicts.net. Under the name Emmy Z. Madrigal, she writes the musical romance series, Sweet Dreams and she’s the Editorial Director for the Bay Area magazine, SEARCH. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

Facebook | Twitter | Website

SCREAMS THE MACHINE BLOG TOUR: Spotlight! | #SciFi #Dystopia

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Cash carries a disease; one that’s already killed a large majority of the population and something needs to be done. To stop the crisis from escalating, The Solution (a worldwide organization) is formed and rises to great power. They monitor people’s dreams and shape reality to fit their own wants and needs. In an effort to control existence itself, The Solution is searching for what they believe to be the ultimate tool; a person with the ability to master a deep connection with the mysterious, pervasive energy known only as The Ultimate Reality.

Watching her neighborhood decay, her friends and family perish, Elizabeth Reznik needs to find meaning in her life. She discovers her existence is more meaningful than she could ever have imagined. Operatives of The Solution seek her out, take her from her home and perform brutal experiments on her. Their conclusion? Elizabeth is the one they have been searching for; she is the key to gaining complete power.

The stratagem of The Solution is single minded – own the resources and you own the people. And the last resource available is free will. They will own your thoughts, they will orchestrate your dreams; they will dine on your fears. But there is always a cog in the machine… or in this case, a scream.

Available on:

Amazon: US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil | India | The Netherlands

Amazon Print: US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil | India | The Netherlands

iTunes | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | CreateSpace (Print)

***

sammortimer-authorpicture.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR — Sam Mortimer has worked the graveyard shift in law enforcement, attended film school, and has been writing strange stories since age eleven. He loves reading, music, and strives to meet the demands of his five cats.

SCREAMS THE MACHINE BLOG TOUR: Sam Mortimer Gets Interviewed! | #SciFi #Dystopia

Today I’m happy to have Sam Mortimer here with me as he tours the internet with his newest release Screams The Machine. Welcome Sam, why don’t you tell everyone a little about yourself?

One of my first completed stories was called Complete Havoc, which was about a serial killer cyborg. I was about eleven years old. Gravitating toward horror, science fiction, and fantasy happened rather helplessly. I was smitten and wanted to consume everything possible about the genres. That doesn’t mean I’m any sort of lexicon, but it does mean checking out a plethora of related material is a happy goal. 

Once upon a time I worked as a jailer. I garnered some hefty experience at dealing with odd situations. The bright side is that the job proved beneficial to writing, but the real-life situations could be violent, heartbreaking, and depressing. It was perpetually saddening to witness some of the circumstances. 

In the end, I’m just a citizen of the cosmos who loves reading and writing in the English language. 

What is your writing process?

When an idea wraps around me, I make sure writing that idea will massages a part of my brain. It’s like a requirement for a story to feel imperative. I’ll happily dedicate to a story that’s meaningful. Screams The Machine was like that for me.

First drafts are usually completed in silence, because I want the world I’m writing about to be as pure and raw as possible. The story feels like it’s actually happening and full of sound anyway. I’m just reporting to you about it. Listening to good music occurs in following drafts, which is an important part the process.

Otherwise, I just write until the story is finished and my muse and cats are satisfied.

Is there a genre, other than the one you currently write in, that you wish you could break into?

I’d love to write badass, steamy romance novels. I mean they would be seriously hot, like ‘hawt’ hot.

What are the 5 books that have influenced you the most, and why?

The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty, because it’s extremely well written, manages to be meaningful, interesting and entertaining. It’s a visceral tale that deserves its success.

Nueromancer, by William Gibson, have you read it? That’s the first science fiction book that blew my mind and introduced me to cyberpunk. Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is great as well (also a favorite), but the sheer rawness, imagery and prose of Neuromancer is stunning.

The Art of Peace, by Aikido Master Morihei Ueshiba is a work of beauty. The book feels rather cosmic, suggesting we can work in unison with the universe. It promotes solving problems peacefully, truly making it the most tranquil book I’ve ever read. The Art of Peace is good for the soul and expands the mind.

Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a 1000 Faces blew my mind. It’s an intelligent look at the hero archetype throughout various mythologies. The knowledge is presented with depth, and at the time I had no idea anything that smart existed. Plus, it’s the same book George Lucas read that helped inspire Star Wars.

Reading All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque, was a watershed moment in my life. Its language was clear, and for the first time outside of G.I. Joe cartoons, it showed me the reality of war.

If you could cast Screams The Machine, who would you choose to play your main characters

I’d love to see new talent play the characters, but I’d want an experienced production team. That said I wouldn’t be opposed to Jenson Ackles playing Randal.

What is the first thing you would do if you woke up one morning to find one of your books on the NY Times Bestsellers List?

I’d be enjoying a freshly brewed cup of black coffee while processing the news. I’d be very thankful to the readers and anyone involved that made it happen. I’d call my mom and tell her. She’d be proud.

Do you have any vices that you turn to while you are writing?

Indeed. Coffee and chain-smoking are always vices during writing. For example, even if I had actually stopped smoking at one point, when it comes time to dedicate to longer works, cigarettes happen. Coffee intake is increased by 50%. Sleep is a rare gem. 

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I usually create and record electronic rock music with a bandmate. I’m currently in a two-man piece called Anifail. We have some music on Spotify. Years back I produced a project called Universal Thought Process, and one of my songs was picked up in a horror movie, The Slaughter. I’ll read, watch movies, and play select video games during downtime. My day-job requires much driving, so I do that too.

How do you define success in the realm of writing?

I’m going to paraphrase what I’ve said in a different interview. Seems like there’s personal, critical, and monetary success. Finishing the story is huge, and I’d say that’s the first step in writing success. Then, I suggest sending stories out to people you don’t know. That’s an ultimate testament to your belief in the story. If writing covers a bill that month, I’d deem that a success too. In the end, being happy is about the most success anyone can achieve. Happiness is most important. 

In 10 words or less, describe Screams The Machine to me.

It’s bionic horror in a self-aware universe. Don’t play.

Thank you Sam for taking the time to answer my questions! Now let’s take a look at Screams The Machine

***

screamsthemachine_sammortimer_frontcover_fullsizeCash carries a disease; one that’s already killed a large majority of the population and something needs to be done. To stop the crisis from escalating, The Solution (a worldwide organization) is formed and rises to great power. They monitor people’s dreams and shape reality to fit their own wants and needs. In an effort to control existence itself, The Solution is searching for what they believe to be the ultimate tool; a person with the ability to master a deep connection with the mysterious, pervasive energy known only as The Ultimate Reality.

Watching her neighborhood decay, her friends and family perish, Elizabeth Reznik needs to find meaning in her life. She discovers her existence is more meaningful than she could ever have imagined. Operatives of The Solution seek her out, take her from her home and perform brutal experiments on her. Their conclusion? Elizabeth is the one they have been searching for; she is the key to gaining complete power.

The stratagem of The Solution is single minded – own the resources and you own the people. And the last resource available is free will. They will own your thoughts, they will orchestrate your dreams; they will dine on your fears. But there is always a cog in the machine… or in this case, a scream.

Available on:

Amazon: US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil | India | The Netherlands

Amazon Print: US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil | India | The Netherlands

iTunes | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | CreateSpace (Print)

***

sammortimer-authorpicture.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR — Sam Mortimer has worked the graveyard shift in law enforcement, attended film school, and has been writing strange stories since age eleven. He loves reading, music, and strives to meet the demands of his five cats.

BLOG TOUR: The Calling @BrentTAbell | #Horror #Supernatural #Spotlight #Excerpt

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Carl Volker has a problem. After waking one morning with a hangover to find his wife gone, he notices a crow stalking around his yard.  As days go by with no word from his wife, more and more crows gather.

Frank Hill is sheriff in the seemingly pleasant town of White Creek. Up until recently, his job has been fairly mundane but after a recent spree of murders, bodies are beginning to pile up and Frank has no clue as to who the killer may be.

White Creek has kept its secrets hidden well over the years but the sins of its past are coming to light; the town harbors an evil and the bindings that keep it in check are beginning to unravel.

As Frank and Carl’s friendship is tested and their destinies are revealed, the dead accumulate while the crows watch and The Calling begins!

Available on:

Amazon: US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil| India | The Netherlands

Amazon Print: US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil| India | The Netherlands

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

iTunes

Smashwords

CreateSpace (Print)

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BrentAbellPicABOUT THE AUTHOR — Brent Abell lives in Southern Indiana with his wife, sons, and a pug who sits around eating the souls of wayward people. His stories have been featured in over 30 publications from multiple presses. His work includes his novella In Memoriam, collection Wicked Tales for Wicked People, and novel Southern Devils; which are available now. He also co-authored the horror-comedy Hellmouth series. Currently, he is working on the second book in the Southern Devils series and the next book with Frank Hill in the White Creek Saga.

Facebook: Brent T. Abell

Twitter: @BrentTAbell

Blog: https://brentabell.wordpress.com/

***

And now for a quick excerpt of The Calling

Chapter 1:

June 1994

Carl Volker awoke that morning with a hangover that split his head in two and the rooster outside calling out the dawn didn’t make things any better, but instead drove the alcohol’s wedge deeper in his brain. Rolling over, he felt for Maggie’s body and found her half of the bed empty. The early morning light streamed into the window and hit Carl like a sledge hammer. He rubbed his blood shot eyes and pulled the pillow over his head. He drifted off to sleep again, the pillow blocking out the sounds of the rooster and the outside world.

Two hours later he awoke and found the other side of the bed was still empty. He sat up and sniffed the air, hoping to catch a whiff of breakfast cooking or any faint scent of recently cooked food. He smelled nothing and wondered what the hell Maggie was up to. This late in the morning, she usually would have some food cooked up for him before he headed out to the fields for the day. Carl swung his legs over the side of the bed and put on his slippers. His bladder was killing him and his stomach rumbled in hunger.

Carl wandered through the house in his boxer shorts, first visiting the bathroom to unburden his bladder, and then heading down the stairs to fix the stomach issue. He sniffed the air again and was once more denied the smell of breakfast. Stopping in the kitchen doorway, he opened his eyes fully and saw nothing had been moved or used. The skillets lay in the sink where they were left the night before and the loaf of bread sat with no other slices removed. He scratched his head in disbelief.

“Where the hell is that woman?” Carl muttered to himself as he sat down at the kitchen table. “Not even any damn coffee either.”

He turned his head to the window to see if maybe Maggie had headed out to the fields to feed the cows and the pigs. From his vantage point, the cows were lined up at the fence waiting for food and the pigs were poking around in their pens seeking a bite. Carl started to be very concerned, not only because he had no coffee or breakfast, but because Maggie seemed to be gone and that was highly unlike her.

Carl began to retrace his steps, only this time he decided to keep his eyes open. The morning hadn’t been kind and his vision remained blurry no matter how many times he rubbed them. He trudged back up the stairs, all of his fifty-two-year-old body protesting every step. This time when he opened the bedroom door, he noticed that Maggie’s clothes were thrown from her drawers and strewn across the floor in a crumpled pile. Carl scratched his head and went to the closet door. Opening it up, he saw that the suitcase was gone. He still didn’t compute what was going on until he peeked into the bathroom and saw her makeup case missing too.

Carl scratched his head again and said, “Well ain’t that a bitch,” to nobody in particular at all.

***

The chores were done by three in the afternoon and Carl decided to leave the field alone for the day. He had to figure out just where his wife went. The last thing he remembered was drinking his whiskey straight from the bottle while Maggie downed glass after glass of wine. They laughed, they drank, they made love, and they drank some more. As he thought back, he couldn’t place anything that Carl thought would make her want to walk out on him. He hung his hat up by the back door and walked to the fridge and grabbed a beer. He removed the church key from the hook besides the fridge and opened his Busch Light. Carl found himself dismayed that supper was not being cooked for him and decided to sit on the porch swing while he finished his beer.

It was when he saw it for the first time; the crow perched in the tulip tree next to the birdbath.

Carl fixed his gaze on the jet black bird that stared back at him; its red eyes burning Carl straight down to his soul. The crow’s beady little eyes unsettled him greatly.

“Get the hell out here ya’ bastard!” Carl hollered out to the bird. He reached down and took off his boot. He stood up quickly and chucked the shoe in the direction of the tree. The boot fell far short of its intended target and thudded harmlessly to the ground. The crow called out like it was laughing at Carl and it really pissed him off. First his wife vanished, he still was hung over, and now a damn crow mocked him. After thinking about it for a few minutes, he figured it would be better if he just fired up the Ford and went into town to have supper and get a drink or five at Telly’s Tavern.

Taking one last look at the crow, it spread its wings and took off into the darkening sky. Carl tossed his empty beer can off the porch and went in to get ready to go.

***

An old black man sat up in front of the bar and picked the strings on his beat up old guitar. The instrument looked like it’d been through Hell, but the blues ringing out from it sounded like Heaven to the crowd at Telly’s. The farmers and hands all drank while they tapped their feet and smacked the heavy wooden bar as the music struck a chord with the working men. A cloud of cigarette smoke hovered in the air and the haze grew thicker the further away from the bar one got.

Carl sat hunched over a beer at the bar and he stared off at the various signs hanging behind Telly.

“What the Hell wrong with you Carl? You’ve been sitting there quiet as a mouse all evening. Maggie got you in the dog house?” Telly bellowed and laughed.

“Ain’t seen her all day,” Carl answered and took a long pull from the beer bottle.

“What do you mean you ain’t seen her all day? Don’t you control your wife out there at the farm?” Telly prodded and let out another loud laugh.

“You let me worry about her, Telly. Why you got an old Negro in here playin’?”

“Times changed a long time ago you old bastard and he picks the best blues strings for miles,” Telly retorted.

Carl took another long pull from his beer and emptied it. Slamming the glass on the table, he tossed a few dollars beside it and got up from his stool. “Well, I gotta go and see if she’s come back yet. See ya tomorrow, Telly.”

Telly watched Carl stager from the bar to the door and he shook his head. If he knew Maggie like he did, her splitting was a permanent thing and she wouldn’t be back no matter how much Carl begged. He’d known Carl since high school and he knew he would never beg her to come back. What did surprise him was if what happened was terrible enough she left, she didn’t say anything. His cousin knew how to argue and she’d let Carl have it on her way out of the door. Someone hollered for another round, so he buried his thoughts and went back to work.

***

The first thing Carl noticed when he pulled his old Ford truck in the drive were the four crows perched along the fence by the well. None of them flew off and their heads followed him as he parked the truck and opened the door. In the dark, Carl felt their bright red eyes burn through him.

Picking up a rock, he hurled it at the fence and it smacked the post with a loud thud. The rock bounced to the ground and the crows sat there glaring at him, none of them taking flight.

“Go on! Get outta’ here ya’ bastard birds!”

He ran at the fence waving his arms around like a mad man yelling and screaming. The crows stayed perched and remained still.

Caw, caw, caw, the crows sounded out in unison.

Carl froze a few feet from their perch. They stared at him and he felt his booze laced blood go cold. Their eyes locked onto his and he held their gaze for a moment. Neither moved nor blinked. After a few seconds, Carl turned and stormed off into the house.

Inside, he heard the crows begin their song again. The four birds and their constant calling grated on his nerves as he rushed to the hall closet. Flinging the door open, he grabbed his twelve gauge and broke it open to make sure it was still loaded. Everyone told him keeping a loaded shotgun in the house wasn’t a good idea, but he figured at some point, he’d need to defend his property.

Right now, he needed to clean the yard of some annoying birds.

“Here you go you bastards!” Carl cried out as he kicked the screen door open. He brought the shotgun up and fired it at the fence.

Flames danced from the gun’s muzzle and he heard the buckshot pepper the fence posts and rails. The sound he didn’t hear pissed him off. He didn’t hear the crows die. Instead they sat motionless, still perched on top of the fence. Quickly, he cracked the casing open and ejected the spent shell. Slamming another shell in, he closed the barrel and aimed at the fence.

The crows were gone.

Carl walked to the fence and studied it. He found splintered wood along the top rail and on the center post where the crows were sitting. Running his finger along the wood, he felt the deep grooves, but he couldn’t find any blood or sign the crows were even there.

“I know I saw them sons a bitches,” he muttered and dropped to his knees. “If them crows were here that long, they must have shit.”

The grass below the fence appeared to be all green without a trace of white. Frantically, Carl ran his fingers through the cut grass and only found clippings from where he cut it three days ago. Shaking his head, he stood up and sulked back to the house. Once inside, he poured a shot of bourbon and watched out the window with his shotgun leaning up next to the kitchen door.

He wanted the crows to return…

Keep up to date with the rest of the tour – The Calling Blog Tour

BLOG TOUR: Remnants | #Crime #Mystery #Thriller #GuestPost @Carolyn_Arnold

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Why read the Brandon Fisher FBI series?

CAROLYN ARNOLD

If you find yourself intrigued by serial killers and fascinated by murder investigations, you probably love police procedurals. And if you also like getting inside the mind of a killer, exploring the dark and disturbing side of humanity, and you are an avid reader—or even if you only pick up a book a few times a year, actually!—you’ve met your match with my Brandon Fisher FBI series.

This serial-killer series isn’t like all the others out there in today’s entertainment world, though. When it came to writing this series, I wanted to do something unique, not only to make it stand out but to challenge myself and my readers. I wanted to dig deeper by tapping into the mindset of serial killers, and I wanted to do so with a rookie agent, not a veteran. Books in the mystery genre often depict a tough, seasoned detective or agent as the protagonist. I decided to flip that on its head and experience what it’s like to be a brand-new FBI agent.

In the first book in the series, Eleven, Brandon Fisher takes on his inaugural case with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit and learns that an investigation can get personal quickly. In fact, he even comes to fear for his life and that of his wife’s. Readers witness him being trained by his veteran boss, Supervisory Special Agent Jack Harper, and get a front-row seat to his dealing with the heinous murders and the emotions he must deal with as a rookie.

As the series progresses, Brandon becomes more experienced, and he finds that nothing much surprises him anymore.

“With each new case, I wondered how the next would top the last, but somehow they always came to us more gruesome and depraved than the previous.” – FBI Agent Brandon Fisher

The Brandon Fisher FBI series can be enjoyed in any order, as each book stands alone, or you can start from the beginning.

And now a little bit about Remnants

Remnants-350-high-book-coverAll that remains are whispers of the past…

When multiple body parts are recovered from the Little Ogeechee River in Savannah, Georgia, local law enforcement calls in FBI agent and profiler Brandon Fisher and his team to investigate. But with the remains pointing to three separate victims, this isn’t proving to be an open-and-shut case.

With no quick means of identifying the victims, building a profile of this serial killer is proving more challenging than usual. How is the killer picking these victims? Why are their limbs being severed and bodies mutilated? And what is it about them that is triggering this killer to murder?

The questions compound as the body count continues to rise, and when a torso painted blue and missing its heart is found, the case takes an even darker turn. But this is only the beginning, and these new leads draw the FBI into a creepy psychological nightmare. One thing is clear, though: the killing isn’t going to stop until they figure it all out. And they are running out of time…

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Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 18 of Remnants…

TELEVISION WAS FOR THE WEAKMINDED, and he found the futility of sitcoms to be tedious and mind-numbing. His thoughts would always drift—as they often did anyway—to the freedom of the spirit, to being rid of the flesh that bound him to Earth. There was one program that held his attention, though, when he decided he felt like watching something, and that was the news. Events most people considered to be tragic, to be evidence of a world full of chaos, he rather enjoyed hearing about. The car bombs, the terrorist attacks, the murders—these things only proved how fleeting an earthly existence was and how the way one spent one’s time mattered.

When he wasn’t making sacrifices, he was usually thinking about them—either past offerings or those yet to come. There was a hunger that raged through him that made such sacrifices necessary, and the constant natter in his brain told him he was living his life with purpose and according to divine plan.

He went to the fridge, took out a bunch of grapes, and broke off a cluster. He put them into a bowl and then filled a glass with cold, filtered water. Sitting down in front of the television with the bowl of grapes on his lap and the glass of water on the side table, he was ready for the eleven o’clock news.

“Hey, honey.” His mother padded toward the sofa, wearing a robe over her pajamas and slippers on her feet.

He smiled at her, yet felt nothing for the woman who had given birth to him. And she knew how he viewed her, how he didn’t have the same feelings other sons had for their mothers, but she accepted him for who he was. She didn’t try to fix him when the rest of the world saw him as a freak.

He’d had no friends in school and was teased excessively for being different, but that was a small price to pay for being chosen. It had taken him awhile to fully realize his purpose, but once he had, there was no stopping him. He lived on a higher plane of existence than his human peers, one they couldn’t comprehend. He saw the entire spectrum from life to death and beyond.

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Carolyn-Arnold-Author-Photo-Hi-ResABOUT THE AUTHOR — Carolyn Arnold is an international best-selling and award-winning author, as well as a speaker, teacher, and inspirational mentor. She has four continuing fiction series—Detective Madison Knight, Brandon Fisher FBI, McKinley Mysteries, and Matthew Connor Adventures—and has written nearly thirty books. Her genre diversity offers her readers everything from cozy to hard-boiled mysteries, and thrillers to action adventures.

Both her female detective and FBI profiler series have been praised by those in law enforcement as being accurate and entertaining, leading her to adopt the trademark: POLICE PROCEDURALS RESPECTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT™.

Carolyn was born in a small town and enjoys spending time outdoors, but she also loves the lights of a big city. Grounded by her roots and lifted by her dreams, her overactive imagination insists that she tell her stories. Her intention is to touch the hearts of millions with her books, to entertain, inspire, and empower.

She currently lives just west of Toronto with her husband and beagle and is a member of Crime Writers of Canada.

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There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:

$10 Paypal Cash

Giveaway is International.

Ends July 17th at 11:59 PM ETRafflecopter

FIXING SYDNEY BLOG TOUR | #YA #Suspense #Romance @dianezparkki

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FixngSydneyCover-front-RGBSydney Sommer’s world fell apart after senior prom. Since then, her life had become a constant loop of unfortunate scenarios that kept her in constant fear of what might be lurking around the next corner. Her trust in others was at a standstill. Even those who were closest to her were held at a distance.

After serving active duty overseas, Jaxon Triggs moved away from his hometown, hoping the change in scenery would help him build a new future for himself. What he wasn’t expecting was to fall for a girl who was broken.

From the first moment Jaxon laid eyes on Sydney, he was curious. He became determined to do everything he could to break through the armor Sydney held around her so securely. His instinct to protect her and keep her safe kicked in as the dangers she encountered became more personal.

With dread always looming close by and secrets discovered, would Sydney be able to handle the new changes in her life yet heal at the same time?

Amazon | Kobo

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Diane Zparkki lives in the greater Toronto area. She is a working mom, and with her husband, she has raised three great kids. She is a thrill seeker who usually drags her family along with her.

Photo-120x180px-1She was never a big reader or writer in her youth—Coles Notes were her best friend through college. Her enthusiasm for reading came later in life when she joined a book club. She loved those books, but she wanted raw, simple, and happily ever after with a bit of get down and dirty. That was when her love for bad boys on a Harley was set in motion.

After reading so many books, her mind started to create her first story, and she needed to get it out.

Fixing Sydney of the Branson’s Kind of Love trilogy is her first book, and she hopes you enjoy it as much as she has enjoyed having these characters running around in her head.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

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And now a guest post from Diane Zparkki…

Home Office of Diane Zparkki

My home office is located above my garage. It has a small alcove in the front and larger rectangular room directly behind it. In the alcove sits a grey sectional with a weathered side table that a television sits on. Across the way is a long desk which is placed up against the wall.

Printer to the far right. Above the desk are three display boards with each book I intend on writing for the trilogy. “Fixing Sydney” is completely full of pictures from the internet that I think would represent my character or songs that inspired a scene. My next book that I am working on has a few pictures of characters but that is so far all I have…Oh! Hold on, did I tell you that this is my vision of what my office would look like if I was a full time writer. My real office is wherever I pull out my computer. You see, I still have a full time job through the week. Writing is something I would love to do full time, but as a starting out author it does not allow me to quit my job quite yet.

My office hours consists of three days a week for an hour and half sitting in a Tim Horton’s  writing while my son is at soccer practice. Some days I have the privileges of a quiet house while my husband takes him. My forty minute lunches are spent writing or looking for pictures for my cover. My favourite day of the week is Saturday. You would think it is a rest day, but in fact it is my day to write without any interruptions. I leave the house at around nine in the morning and head over to my girlfriend’s husbands garage. Yes, you heard me correctly. I sit in a quiet office off to the side of an auto mechanic shop with my girlfriend and we write for the majority of the day. The room is painted blue/gray colour with a large fish tank off to the side. There are four worn brown leather wingback chairs that circle a round coffee table.   We have a few visitors here and there but for the most part it is the clicking of our laptops and conversations of what we are writing. The room can get quite full some days with all our characters hanging around.

At the end of the day which is usually around two or three in the afternoon. I head home to look at my empty space over the garage. My character boards (which I really do have) lean against the wall where I pictured they would hang. I hope some day soon I hope I will be able to set them up on the wall just as I described.

As anything great in life you have to imagine, put into action and one day it may just materialize.

WORTHY OF THIS GREAT CITY BLOG TOUR | #Excerpt #Satire @asmikemiller

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COVERRuth Askew, a minor celebrity, is spouting some highly incompetent philosophy about the end of virtue. Con Manos, a journalist, is attempting to uncover a political scandal or two. Add some undistinguished members of City Council, an easy listening radio station, a disorganized charity, a prestigious Philadelphia newspaper, and any number of lawyers and other professional criminals. In Worthy Of This Great City the compelling stories of two stubborn individualists intertwine in a brisk, scathing satire that invites you to question everything you think you think about today’s most discussed issues: populism and elitism, the possibility of truth, the reach of profound stupidity, and the limits of personal responsibility in these post-truth, morally uncertain times.

Amazon

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR — If you know my website and Twitter addresses (asmikemiller.com and asmikemiller, respectively), you must realize Mike Miller is only an author name. It’s not a matter of privacy or secrecy; anybody can find me with minimal effort. It’s about keeping things separate. My writing is about what appears on the page. It’s not about my personal politics or religion or history. 
Worthy Of This Great City is a B-game book. I’m ambiguous about this, being interested in money like most people, but I don’t want to compete with a slick professional cover or smooth editing so I’ve stuck to a sort of reasonable, human middle ground. I value those things for what they are, of course, but I see them as artifacts, part of a system of publishing that fought like hell for a week’s worth of shelf space, that fought to catch the eye, not the mind or heart. 
As my character Con Manos says: “It’s a revolution, isn’t it?” I say: Why fight on the side of the enemy? Why imitate and thus perpetuate a business model that stifles originality? Just to show you can? Unless, of course, you’re fighting to attract the eye, not the mind or heart.
I’ve played a joke with this novel – my first, incidentally. Played with the idea of narration and who can be speaking after all. It’s all very literary.

Website | TwitterGoodreads

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An now an excerpt from Worthy of this Great City...

CHAPTER ONE

Earlier that day, I lay in the shade with only my bare toes exposed to the vicious sun, part of a modest audience similarly disposed beneath the modest fringe of trees surrounding the field. Light fell down through the foliage, thick victorious beams that described powerful angles in their descent inside the usual breathtaking green cathedral. Around me the grass was withered and compressed into a flattened mat over ground still saturated from the previous night’s thunderstorms; everything smelled of baking wet earth, sunscreen, and greasy event food. I don’t remember any intrusive insects or even visible birds except for a couple of extremely distant hawks, dull specks in the otherwise empty sky.

Another respectable scattering of spectators occupied the baking field, most sprawled directly in front of the small Camp Stage, true fans eagerly upright despite the merciless heat. So just as expected, one of those perfectly innocent afternoons you buy with the ticket, monotonous while deeply nourishing, readily absorbed through the whole skin like childhood summers.

didn’t know about the witches yet, but they were out in force. Yeah, it’s a silly description but I don’t know how else to capture the awful effect of those damn women. So they were witches who’d been summoned by a highly demanding assembly of affluent suburbanites, people accustomed to commanding natural forces. And while arguably these were all benevolent females who only meant well, with witches you never know how it’s going to turn out.

Every August for more than a decade I’ve headed out to Schwenksville for this dependable throwback party. And not precisely to enjoy the music, because although it commands my absolute respect I find it too intense for everyday entertainment. It’s a kind of church music, an unashamed church of humanity: pure sound, plaintive and honest, twanging and rambunctious, dulcimer gentle. Fitting, then, for this late-summer pagan rite in honor of righteousness, and I immerse myself in it to perform a spiritual cleansing of sorts, processing across the fields from one rustic venue to another, affirming a succession of bluegrass pickers and ballad wailers and theatrical tellers of old tales. And it’s a mildly uncomfortable ritual in another sense, but that’s because of the mostly undamaged people, the one’s who wholeheartedly enjoy everything and applaud too often.

As with anything religious, there are incredibly subversive undercurrents longing to manifest, easy to exploit by those portending witches. Two of them performed that day, one with such tragic skill and clarity it unintentionally aroused huge amounts of self-loathing and subsequently resentment, at least in me. The second inspired a joy vigorous enough to move the plot. And the third exerted an indirect but equally damning influence courtesy of her own celebrity, her mere idea inciting a shaming nostalgia. In fact it was dangerously stupid to speak her name aloud. All three arrived wearing absolute certainty.

This current festival setting, the Old Pool Farm, is perfectly suited to the occasion. There are wide fields to accommodate the generous crowds, a nicely crisp and sparkly creek, and the requisite gates and groves, all at a situation remote enough to evoke a wholly separate culture despite easy proximity to the city. Although that’s not difficult, because even today you only have to poke your nose outside the nearer suburbs to spot a rusty silo on some decrepit farm with another of those filthy black-and-white, diarrhea-spewing dairy cows leaning against a sagging wire fence, its pelvis practically poking through its muddy hide. Peeling paint and hay bales directly across the road from another mushrooming pretentious development, a slum of dull, identical cheapjack townhouses. So despite the fervent country claptrap the festival is essentially a metropolitan scene, drawing a sophisticated crowd, and therefore in one sense condescending, an insult.

Murmurs of anticipation brought me up on my elbows to discover Hannah Lynch already onstage, a typically modest entrance. I sat up and paid attention, catching sight of her inside an amiable circle of probable musicians, a glimpse of her face and one thin shoulder between competent-looking backs in cowboy or cotton work shirts, all of them endlessly conversing there in surprisingly gentle voices.

Until finally they broke apart and here she came gliding towards the front of the tiny platform, moving within a reputation so illustrious it made her physical presence unlikely and you had to struggle for it. A tiny bird of a woman, an elderly, fragile sparrow with fine gray hair and hazel eyes and translucent skin, nodding to us and smiling nicely with small unremarkable teeth while seating herself on a wooden folding chair. She was dressed like good people, like a decent Christian farmwife in a faded print skirt and cotton blouse of mixed pastels, pink and beige and blue. Only with dangling silver jewelry to be noticed, since after all she was a major star.

With this one unshakable article of faith: that her famously quavering soprano was entirely unrelated to her own ordinary self, more of an imposition or a trust, an undeserved gift from God that in no way merited personal praise. So she has stated. And accordingly she exuded genuine empathy with all of us waiting out there for her, straining forward to better capture the spirit and stamina investing each word. A curve of laughter lit her face, and there was grief there too, but nothing to diminish that serene spirit.

Beside me Crystal, blatantly artificial trendoid in that audience of cosmopolitan pseudo-naturals, for once had the good sense to keep her mouth shut. Crystal, please note, was present only because she suspected this event mattered to me and meant to chain herself to it in my memory. She was an unashamed criminal, and really sweet, and I admired her.

Lynch sat there looking at us and hugging her guitar, once giving it a surreptitious pat like a favorite pet before launching into one of those unexpectedly piercing old songs, a rather shocking rush of raw bitterness and despair – nothing silvered there – railing rather than mourning yet cleanly tragic because without any confusion of entitlement or excuse, in fact totally untainted by melodrama, an expression of rightful fury to upend your sensibilities and make you cringe inside your pampered, complacent soul.

And onward, commanding that summer hour with a repertoire of futile longing, black misery, true love, unalloyed injustice, and journeying away as only the truly dispossessed can journey. How inadequate we were by comparison, what undeserved good fortune to be sitting there vicariously sharing the infinite human endurance of those former generations, thus beatified now. Sharing a deep pride in our good taste and our faultless fundamental values.

And that’s how this festival always goes for me: a fusion of rapture and fleeting realization, of purging and rebirth I suppose. We avid celebrants being served by true vicars, unassuming conduits of grace because essentially craftspeople evincing the unquestioning self-respect of their kind, therefore automatically accepting us as equals and worthy of their respect, refusing to cater. That’s how Lynch and her ilk deliver their deadly blows, how they incite our reckless, self-destructive impulses.

Because the problem is, nothing is enough and never can be, not in any case. And in addition to that, this particular event carries an impossible burden of triumphant civil rights baggage. A weight of expectation, purest gold and just as heavy, presses down on those fields like an approaching storm, flattening the trees, placing an unbearable strain on our moral muscles, making even the most authentic and engaged participant stagger for reasons most often never identified.

You see there’s no battle here anymore, a situation as frustrating as it is pathetic. I mean, what’s so pitiable as striving mightily to wage a war already won, or achieve a moral victory already popularly embraced? Like you’re on some lone and dangerous crusade instead of enjoying a mere reenactment, an amusement park ride. As if any real social hazard or physical extremity ever threatened most of these initiates. As if they could face the real front line today. Come to that, what in the world ever sprang from this placid piece of Pennsylvania countryside anyway, or even its nearby metropolis, so far from the bloody front lines of decades past? What justifies this hallowed ambience? Everyone knows the real struggle was over in another state, in the deep South or New York or California, all that televised passion and pain. Yet here’s a similar legacy, an undeserved renown.

Seriously, you have to consider this heritage of the sixties, that era of righteousness and innocence and victory, you have to ponder the connection to the contemporary lives and events I’m describing here. Resurrect that intoxicating scent of possibility. Realize how strong it is, what it can do. Watch any old news film and it’s literally like viewing creatures from another planet, those young people are so alien, their gestures and expressions so certain and strident, an entire new world in their angry, accusatory eyes. What can any of that mean in this age of spent possibility?

So today the Folk Fest is largely a masturbatory farce of self-congratulation, courtesy of this pushy, upscale audience basking in its accustomed sunshine, displaying that forceful amiability that means money, smiling too brightly over bare freckled shoulders. Uniformly pale people displaying their ease on this bucolic faux battlefield, all aggressively self-aware. And meanwhile a barely perceptible, slightly demented energy flutters along at grass level, an intrepid narcissism bent on having a significant experience and more than a little desperate to measure up to itself.

I’m as progressive as anyone, I secretly gloat over my superiority, so for me all this underlying energy eventually manifests as low-grade irritation, and the fact that bad temper is implicitly verboten at this event only makes it that much worse. And then here comes Lynch to further emphasize everyone’s obvious unworthiness and what can you do but silently seethe with frustrated moral ambition. This is the one Folk Fest constant I always dismiss until it’s too late and I’m climbing aboard one of the yellow school buses that shuttle people in from the parking fields, listening to all the boisterous but balanced chatter. Probably a deliberate amnesia, because as I say, for me it’s a religious event.

So by later that Saturday afternoon I was largely disgusted with myself and as you can imagine, wonderful company. Once again stretched out on my back but this time my whole body obstinately exposed to the brutal heat, and while I had a bucket hat shielding my face I’d raised my knees to better facilitate the burn penetrating my jeans. I reached my left hand out past the edge of Crystal’s spongy blue blanket, feeling for the heart of the earth deep underneath the dispirited vegetation, Edna Millay style.

There we greeted the second witch, and for an interlude of spontaneous revelry the whole phony carnival dissolved, wiping away our precious fictions to reveal the one face behind the infinitely varied masks. Rather commonplace moments to underline the supertext, a brief but blessed release from introspective angst, an intoxicated dance that anyway began wholeheartedly but inevitably dwindled into posturing before ultimately discarding us back into isolated, shattered pieces of humanity scattered over a sunlit field.

We were in front of the main stage, the Martin Guitar Stage, a venue that backs into some tame leftover woods. The smaller Tank Stage was to my right, with behind it a private area for performers, and to my left the equally small Craft Stage. Further left was all the familiar festival retail, folkie variety, striped tents selling hippie throwback goods like handcrafted ceramics, carved wooden bowls, tie-dye skirts, hand-strung glass beads, and bad art. In between the main and Craft Stages a tiny dirt path paralleled a shallow creek of sparkling mica and soft mud; both disappeared into the dim coolness of the Dulcimer Grove, a rather precious habitat of jugglers and magicians and others of that Renaissance Faire ilk, a determinedly magical place more or less reserved to scantily clad or frankly naked children, their cheeks painted with stars and moons in indigo and crimson. Either they’re truly mesmerized by these archaic amusements or they’re convinced they should be by the adults and the daycare atmosphere, because they all sit there expending fierce concentration on colored sand and sparkly fairy dust, their little pink tongues extended in effort. I mean, all the world is fake, even the kids. Around them circles a protective hillside of slender trees roped together by string hammocks in bright primary colors, a haphazard effect of beggars’ rags pegged out to dry.

If you follow that same path straight on you come out on field with more dry grass, more distant trees, and another vacant horizon. On the right is the Camp Stage, site of Lynch’s morning concert; on the left an unremarkable gate gives onto the campers’ settlement, one of those ephemeral constructions of funky tent-and-RV fantasies, castles and pyramids and suburban estates complete with lawn furniture and barbeques and anything else you need for rustic comfort. The affable professional performers come here after the regular shows to sit and drink and play their music well into the summer nights, just for these special stalwarts. Notice how everyone’s personal effects are carefully positioned to define private family spaces but without absolutely excluding the requisite hobnobbing community, because that would repudiate the spirit of the thing.

And anywhere you care to look there are all these exceptionally pleasant people, a seasonal confluence of the enlightened: middle-aged, nattily-bearded men with thick hairy ankles showing beneath those long gauzy skirts; visibly well-educated younger couples falling all over each other in reassuring mutual recognition; friendly teens aglow with their own laudable social spirit or familiarity with meaningful music or both; and grimy toddlers in T-shirts and shimmering plastic haloes with their baby curls shining and their fingers to their mouths and their tiny feet covered with dirt. Skimpy tank tops and glittery backpacks, idiosyncratic witches cones and sombreros and straw cowboy hats covered in button collections, pale muscled calves and freckled backs red with sun and damp with perspiration.

All these regulation types navigate cordially across the fields, buying and eating and exercising their approval, until later in the afternoon when the heat is truly intolerable and it’s a matter of claiming a place for the folding chairs and coolers and settling in for the afternoon concert. When for a couple of hours all these enervated devotees create for themselves an enormous patchwork quilt of blankets and tarps, an American prayer rug rolled out beneath the glare.

I among them, hiding under my hat, squinting up from under the brim, intending not so much to watch the performances as to absorb them from a neutral distance. Meanwhile I was relishing the sense of Crystal beside me, resentful at having to endure all this legitimate music.

When here came a second celebrated woman into this extraordinary and disorganized day, an ineffably cosmopolitan presence in a white silk shirt that billowed out over notably slim hips and tight black jeans tucked into cowboy boots. The costume only emphasized the unmistakable sophistication in the sharp angle of her jaw and the sleek black bob swinging at her shoulder. That taut body edged itself onto the stage and into our attention, anticipation suffusing her narrow face, her whole person radiating the intrinsically cool self-content of a magician about to pull off the big illusion and astonish us all.

Lifting fiddle and bow, lowering them to call a comment offstage, bringing them back up to her pointed chin experimentally while a guitarist, drummer, and another violinist fooled with getting into position, and around me an expectant rustle shook off the afternoon lethargy, and once again I sat up and wiped the sweat and sunscreen from my forehead.

She leaned forward a fraction to acknowledge us.

“Hello all you very special people.” Now decisively raising her instrument. “Three jigs.”

Well, you know that kind of tritely manipulative music, but then her exceptional skill, that energy climbing into a frenzy, the first notes reaching us with the adolescent enthusiasm of uncurling spring leaves. Music so familiar and yet astonishingly fresh, something behind the insistence of it transcending its own rather sentimental imagining. Passages as fleet but powerful as pure energy, and you’d actually have to defend against the physical impact but why would you bother to fight off such delirious joy?

They have a reserved seating section in front of the main stage, a modest pen containing rows of wooden folding chairs surrounded by a fence of deliberately rickety palings. It was largely unpopulated for the afternoon performance. A dirt lane about ten feet wide separated this area from the field of common folk. Crystal and I were up front, right near the dusty edge of this path, and close to us, in the lane itself and with one tiny hand firmly grasping the enclosure fence, stood a fairy-slim blonde girl of five or six. Just as I fully noticed her she launched into the familiar steps of an Irish jig, lifting first one exquisite bare foot and then the other into tentative arcs, curving each arm alternately above her head. From her shoulders a pastel summer dress floated out in the shape of a loose triangle, and her movements caused her hair to caress her perfect little back.

With the increasing confidence of the music her delicate feet, fragile pale-pink petals, rose and crossed each other in an assured sequence that bespoke formal lessons, and meanwhile her eyes never lifted from her toes and her pallid face was tense in concentration. Only once did she manage a quick glance up to a middle-aged scholarly type, probably her father, who nodded mild encouragement but displayed, I thought, some slight annoyance.

Now complex annotations around the tune turned tight elegant spirals; it was all self-interest now, you understand, nothing to do with us but instead its own internal voyage. In the path the child reworked her steps, her frown expressing frustration with her own limited expertise.

When suddenly appeared two barefoot, competent-looking women in their early thirties skipping down the lane, then widely twirling, then skipping again, their hands clasped and arms outstretched to form a traveling arrow. Both flaunting gauzy pastel skirts and silvery tank tops that exposed perspiring firm flesh, both draped with multiple glittering strands of Mardi Gras beads flashing purple and green and mauve. They acknowledged the blond child with an upward swing of their joined hands high over her head, a bridal arch speeding by on either side. It made her giggle but move closer to the fence.

The fiddler was bending practically in half over her bow and the second fiddler not being any slouch either, their hands and arms pushing towards the absolute limits of muscular possibility, straining against themselves to maintain their momentum.

Then four ethereally lithe teenage girls forming two pairs, and they were in regulation T-shirts and shorts except all bore silvery translucent wings that flapped at their slim shoulders; they went whirling around and around each other and simultaneously forward, delightful gyroscopes with their feet stomping hard on the infectious strain yet for all that maintaining the ludicrously disinterested expressions of runway models.

Promptly followed by a young couple charging along in an outright polka, aggressive but a tiny bit shamefaced, too: he was slim and wore a neatly-trimmed dark beard; she was sturdy and short with a pixie haircut and a refined air, like an educator. The little dancer flattened herself against the fence but continued a rhythmic bopping, presenting no less enchanting an image. And she was proved wise, because here came the same young couple back again, being the kind of people who need to underline the obvious.

Passing midway an approaching male pair, seeming now a little more obliged than inspired, their muscular calves flashing below their khaki kilts: one was broad in the shoulders and chest with a thin ass and spindly legs; his partner was entirely slim, remarkably tall, and balding. Presenting the impression although little of the force of a strong wind, they nevertheless managed to turn the little dancer halfway round, her moist mouth open in wonder. She paused there, staring after them.

Now the dancing was everywhere. I stood up to confirm a modest sea of erratically bobbing heads at every side but especially to the right, past the Tank Stage: enlightened middlebrows and emotionally stranded hippies and likeable healthy teens and self-disciplined mandolin players and confident cultural elitists and miscellaneous commonsensical types engaged in a nearly impromptu production number, for one bright second emerged from behind the mask of individualism, openly expressing one joyously creative soul.

Well, we were dancing out in the field as well, all of us to some extent, the more exhibitionist characters gyrating on their bright blue tarps and lifting their hands in the air, and some efficient types illegally occupying the marked-off aisles, prancing with impudent liberty up and back. Patrons excessively enthusiastic or self-consciously hesitant but almost everyone involving themselves in the music. I was dancing too, not to make a spectacle of myself or anything but feeling myself a part of the gala. And about then I realized it was already ending because that’s how these things always go.

Frenzied vibrations, faster than you could believe, and we listeners attended first with our ears and then with our bodies, stilling them now, desperate to capture every last second until inevitably all of it was swiftly and immaculately recalled into one compact point of silence and we found ourselves abandoned to our accustomed exile, returned to the pretense of our separate selves.

She played two more sets, we in her audience dutifully imitating our initial enthusiasm, grateful for the continuing reprieve. I’ve said it before: reality moves so fast anymore, we’ve all become experts at polite deceit.

Folk Fest protocol is to kick everyone out around six, sweep the grounds, then ticket everyone back in for the evening concert. You wait in a cattle shoot, at least if you’re fairly close to the gate, or anywhere nearby if you’re not, until finally the loudspeakers blare a Sousa march and you grab your chairs and blankets and coolers and run like hell to beat the other folkies to a premium patch of grass. Therefore it’s prudent to leave early enough to ensure you’re at the front of the return pack, and that afternoon, as usual, the knowledgeable attendees ignored the high, unrelenting sun, ignored even the name performer just introducing himself, and started unobtrusively filtering out.

I was making my own preliminary moves when I recognized Ruth off to the right, by herself and slightly beyond the audience proper. She was rather elaborately brushing grass off her shirt, and her hair was drifting into her face as usual; her entire aspect projected excruciating self-consciousness. It was the intricate performance of a woman uncoordinated at life yet used to being watched. She was in a lacy peasant blouse that didn’t suit her big-boned frame – it was lavender, too, which didn’t help – and loose black jeans over black cowboy boots. Her attention shifted to getting the blouse centered correctly; when finally she noticed me, that man standing perfectly still and staring at her, I waved a hand over my head in greeting. I have no idea why I didn’t just avoid her.

She assumed an automatic grin but then recognized me back and her smile turned beaming, and with it she transformed herself into a reasonably attractive woman, an odd but intriguing combination of big straight white teeth, thick dirty-blond hair, low forehead, pale freckles, and a long, arched nose that enlivened her profile with an aquiline swiftness.

Behind me Crystal was standing with our blanket gathered up in a big, baby blue synthetic wad; we watched Ruth maneuver through the half-seated, half-moving spectators, visibly enduring our inspection. When she got closer you noticed the deep frown lines between her brows and realized how much older she was than you’d assumed from the juvenile posturing.

A forthright greeting to Crystal and a frankly offered hand, all fraught with the deep disdain of the intelligent, accomplished woman encountering the undeserved self-esteem of the merely lovely. To which assault Crystal responded with her typical flaccid grip and a near shrug, an implied refusal to expend any more of her precious personal energy on uninteresting shit. Ruth turned away from us, towards the stage, where an athletic-looking but otherwise unassuming man of about forty in a tired cowboy hat was inaudibly explaining a song. That duty done, she faced us again.

“This is all new to me. It’s wonderful! That dancing.” She opened her arms wide to encompass the stage, the field, and the discreetly dispersing audience. “Very Caucasian.”

Well. The cowboy strummed an acoustic guitar, meanwhile calmly examining his surroundings for concealed gunslingers. And naturally I remembered our lunch but that was months ago, so surely whatever she was babbling about then was probably old news and anyway too vague to reference or be embarrassed over now.

She was brushing at her jeans for no discernable reason. “Did I tell you about Leticia Rowan?”

Just typical. What about Leticia Rowan? How aggravating when I hadn’t seen Ruth for months! I knew Rowan was the night’s closing act. Meanwhile my brain was automatically playing familiar media images backed by the old uplifting refrains: that bold soprano keening from the Capitol steps, debunking the myth of American justice; the slim, avid girl of the famous photograph where she’s perched on a stool in a Greenwich Village coffee house, radiant with the novel excitement of causing real change. Set on living a validated life, perfectly exemplifying those decisive, glorious years, that age of energy and faith. Today still socially engaged, as you would expect, and while no longer that wondrous sylph just as lovely in the clean bone beneath the motherly padding. But most often appearing during those public broadcasting fund-raisers, programs aimed at prosperous boomers eager to relive a spurious past.

“I’m introducing her tonight.”

“The hell you are.” It was such a stupid lie, not even remotely sustainable. Especially outrageous when you considered Ruth’s musical identity: her morning drive-time show featured one of those feel-good formats: generic soft rock interspersed with headlines, traffic, celebrity gossip, and a few carefully screened listener calls. Media hypocrisy providing a safe harbor for the harried immature listener, carefully friendly and slick and sympathetic and definitely never politically or socially oriented when that might mean causing offense. Also never mind that Gene Shay, comfortably stout folkie radio program host from a very different station, legendary teller of truly horrendous jokes, always introduced the performers here, world without end, amen. Come on.

“Right, you know everything. I forgot. And you’re never wrong.” I suppose that was an ostensibly genial poke at my renowned erudition. I happen to think if someone asks you a question they should have the courtesy to listen to the answer.

“I’m speaking after Gene.” Gene! And she was looking repulsively self-satisfied. “I asked Leticia Rowan if I could say a few words and she agreed, for some strange reason.” Now slipping into her professional mode, that rather arch blend of certainty and faux intimacy delivered with an indelible Lina Lamont slur: cay-unt um-an-jin. Fingering the silver holy medals at her throat, a crucifix and two others piled up together on a single delicate silver chain: Jude of the impossible and the Virgin Mary.

And she laughed at my horrified expression and launched into what I assume was a fairly mendacious account of a reception for Women in the Media at the lovely old Bellevue, where at that sort of event there’s a rigid social hierarchy: the unfed proletariat leaning forward from chairs up on the mezzanine to watch on monitors, and the elite dining at tables down on the ballroom floor. Ruth skipped over who was speaking on what and cut straight to dessert for the privileged few, she naturally among them being her gracious public self, wandering around being affable and networking with vibrant women in suits too bright for an office and intelligent men with refined, open faces, clearly expensive slacks and jackets, and beautifully cut hair.

And there was Leticia Rowan already in town and seated comfortably in a corner behind a tortured centerpiece of bamboo and tiny orange orchids, casually chatting with a couple of intimates. So Ruth went up and offered another of those frank handshakes. “I’m truly awed.” Basically insinuating herself into the party, making it clear who was honoring whom.

Then went prattling on in her practiced glib fashion about youthful idealism and her own fictitious activist past, seasoning it with ingenuous regret over her current disengaged state to smooth along the manipulation. Although this with a woman surely inured to dubious approaches? There’s something unconvincing about this I haven’t the time to investigate but the result must hinge on Ruth’s accumulating nervous tension, the months if not years behind the coming explosion. That kind of stress sets you performing impulsive actions, forcing unaccountable outcomes.

In retrospect I think Ruth once again mistook a fortuitous encounter for the hand of destiny and just barged ahead. Either that, or else she fell victim to that common desire to cleave to what one professes to despise.

I was dumbfounded. “Why?”

“Oh, envy I guess. I wanted to be part of it.” Charmingly stated, her forehead furrowed in recollection. And what was I supposed to say to any of it?

Behind us the cowboy mooed through a mild dirge, disrupting nothing; around us the field was nearly empty, abandoned to the insistent sun. And Ruth was standing before me explaining too much and nothing at all, once again too intense, setting off all sorts of warning bells.

Crystal lifted a pastel spaghetti strap from a pink shoulder and raised her impudent big gray eyes, looking at Ruth with that innocent expression women use to express contempt. Her private opinion of Ruth: “Nobody has to be seen looking like that.”

Crystal was another communications major and model manqué hoping to become, of all things, a personality. That ubiquitous blond hair, the pleasant features of no special distinction just slightly out of proportion: another responsibly raised, college-educated harpy bereft of individuality because nature abhors individuality. Instead she emanates sex, it’s in her bones and baby face, her short upper lip and outrageous ambition. Don’t expect her to evolve, because she’ll never be other than she is right now. Fortunately she’s immune to jealous criticism, not being that kind of stupid nor shy to succeed. She held some kind of entry-level management job at the Center City Holiday Inn Express, an occupation that never seemed to seriously impact her real life. Crystal is her birth name.

“Thom here?” I asked.

Ruth’s husband, a frequent guest on her program as either political insider or amiable comic foil, was a local celebrity in his own right, a Philadelphia familiar, a compendium of agreeable ugliness, frightening intelligence, crooked teeth in a moist marshmallow grin, Ivy League polish, loud patterned shirts, genuine charm, horrible posture, an unrepentant gift for outrageous flattery, and an impudent, cutting wit. Outsiders considered him the epitome of Main Line class.

“He’s in Harrisburg.” Acknowledging my disquiet, looking amused for my benefit, but her eyes were shading into wariness. She pushed that uncontrollable hair from her damp forehead. “I’m running around loose today.”

And she gave me a minor, tight smile, raised a few fingers in a little goodbye salute, and strode purposefully towards the gate.

“Hunh!” Crystal said for both of us.

Festival security is handled by costumed volunteers: polite, energetic young people impersonating funky pirates or medieval wizards or just nameless creatures of purely idiosyncratic design. This clean-cut constabulary was now shepherding we stragglers to the main gate with cordial efficiency, their intricate hats, adorned with oversized badges of authority, visibly bobbing over the heads of the crowd. The cowboy singer had vanished.

I stood there in the empty afternoon glare, again hunting around for a rational line of thought but failing to find one. Finally, today, I have an insight: my being there that afternoon helped determine the event.

I navigated us out of the grounds and smuggled us under the rope to a decent spot not too far back in the queue; none of the polite people already there objected. Crystal was perking up now she could catch the scent of approaching evening, her posture opening up to opportunity, her eyes brightly observant. I ducked back under the ropes to get a couple of Cokes from a vending machine and together we waited out the forced restorative lull, letting the afternoon settle down around us, watching the families in lawn chairs eating their dinners, relaxing in public. At length the loudspeakers sounded and we all pushed forward through the gates and launched into the usual painfully hilarious sprint. I got us fairly far up front on the center aisle and bent over gratefully, hands to knees, while from the corner of my blurred vision I saw Crystal plop herself down with her mildly victimized face.

Faint applause, which had to be for the traditional bagpipe welcome; a moment later I could hear the piper myself, and then came Gene Shay with his terrible jokes. By twilight we were enduring a young bluegrass quartet of some nascent merit but an unfortunate air of artsy superiority. Then an enjoyable mambo interlude evoking romantic images out of fifties movies, and by full darkness the Jumbotron screens displayed a close-up of a frail, dedicated Canadian singer-songwriter, another of those admirable females. Insidious damp was seeping through my jeans and sweatshirt, chilling my ass. Disembodied light-sticks moved at random, children giggled, and the kindly scent of marijuana wafted by in sporadic gusts.

Crystal and I outlasted the Canadian over strawberry smoothies doctored with vodka while around us the night coalesced into a blackness that seemed physical and bulky, something you could push aside like drapes. Then there was that huge yellowed moon illuminating the speeding brown clouds, making the entire universe feel unusually sentient.

Gene Shay was back with even more of those horrendous jokes, to be replaced by a middle-aged dignitary in a blazer over jeans, quietly defiant.

“We are the light of truth, the truth the capitalists and the banks and the conglomerates want forgotten. But we’re still here, still burning bright through the darkness.” He actually said that, sure of the personal politics of these many music lovers, all these people who could afford to share his opinion. Declaiming thus in an understated but confident bass, Main Line meets simple country boy to produce unfaltering self-respect. Positions shuffled onstage and there was Gene Shay back, leaning sideways into the standing mike to signal brevity.

“And now let’s talk about one particular brilliant candle shining through the darkness, brighter than almost any other, one of the iconic voices of an era of civil renaissance: the inimitable Leticia Rowan.” Grinning back offstage as if to a good friend, as maybe she was. “And just to underline how special this really is, we have an additional guest, because Philly’s very own Ruth Askew is going to provide us a more personal introduction.”

There was a kind of group shrug but nothing worrisome.

A further positional dance, the screens displaying indistinct blobs and random emptiness, and finally there was Ruth behind the microphone. We observed her taking us in: waving lights skittering over dull shapes, anticipatory shifting and murmurs, a few people in motion pausing on their way somewhere to see if it was worth the wait. Magnified, she looked brutally plain, with noticeable lines around her mouth and those disproportionately large, disturbingly vulnerable blue eyes.

And she just stood there, absolutely rigid, until we all paid complete attention. I think she was overwhelmed by pure contempt, that it confounded her ability to speak, so instead she spat at us

When everyone instinctively recoiled, as you can imagine, but now she was past her initial paralysis. More, she was beyond pretense, out in the wild ether, and you could almost see the crazy. We instinctively coalesced into a tight defensive silence.

“That’s for all you virtue thieves.” She’d struck this theatrical posture of aggressive confidence, all very square and speaking directly down to us.

“But unfortunately for you, we’ve reached the end of righteousness. Not in this electronic age. No more fleeing consequences and calling yourself good. Time itself is nothing but our continual separating away from the primordial dead nothingness of absolute truth and rightness.”

It’s almost over, but I hope you see how excruciating it was. I’m sorry to have to assault your sensibilities with this shit but we were all squirming in unforgivable embarrassment and you should understand.

And to be fair, is your religion less silly? Isn’t every great religion or even philosophy as impossibly childish? And here’s something else: she was handing us a diagram of her own psyche and circumstances, issuing a perfectly clear warning that went ignored simply because it was way too obvious. Because this is, after all, a story about stupidity where everything is fucking clear if you just pay attention.

Ruth put a hand to the mike, still keeping that confident posture.

“This is the next great evolutionary leap. We will claim the future responsibly, and we will become more like God.”

Just at that moment, the words flown, the energy abating, I could sense her dawning comprehension of the enormity of her situation. She looked to her side – for something, someone? And then she sent a little nod out to us, to the compact, alert darkness.

“Then to the elements be free, and fare thou well!”

That’s Prospero, retiring his magic and releasing the slave-spirit Ariel at the end of The Tempest.

But Ruth stayed out there, holding that same strong, taut pose until a calm Gene Shay was suddenly present and gently thanking her from the stage, sending us a tolerant nod while herding her aside. And there at last was the great Leticia Rowan herself, that vast, benign goddess in a golden caftan, smiling an unrestrained country smile, exuding inexhaustible strength and kindness. Clearly decent people, both of them.

Ruth was barely visible now, but I saw her turn to take a final glance back at us, her face for one moment revealed to the giant screens, then as abruptly absent. Terrified of course, because terror is her resting state, and still insolent, and definitely smug.