Archive for the ‘Coming Soon’ Category

burn all alke cover smallBurn All Alike is the second novel in the Mackenzie Cross Paranormal Mysteries series that started with The Consequence of Murder, published by Bella Books.

A series of mysterious fires lead Mackenzie Cross and her partner, sheriff’s deputy Veronica Birdwell, into an investigation into the past, to a part of local history some people would rather forget. Who is the hauntingly strange Japanese woman present at the fires both present and seventy years ago? If Mackenzie and Veronica don’t figure it out soon, the whole town of Antioch may go up in flames.

Here’s an excerpt from the forthcoming novel:


Few things frightened Mackenzie Cross. Almost dying of a rattlesnake bite in the recent past had turned her liver white, as Meemaw Cross used to say, but haunted by the ghost of a murdered woman from the Fifties? Not so much. She’d been more annoyed than scared until Annabel Coffin had taken a poisonous revenge against her killer and presumably gone on to whatever reward awaited her on the Other Side.

World without end, amen.

However, sitting in her office and confronting the attorney seated across from her desk turned her heart to a cold, lumpy fist clenched tight in the middle of her chest.

“Well, Ms. Cross, here we are,” Alexander Purvis said primly, every syllable laced with poisoned honey and surrounded by an artificial smile. “Anyone can make a mistake. Oh, good heavens, yes, even I’ve been wrong a time or two.” His expression suggested otherwise. “But my client trusted you to make a fair and informed valuation of his…let me see—”

Mackenzie interrupted. “Reproduction desk,” she said flatly.

“No, no, no,” Purvis said, wagging a finger at her. “A secretary desk in the Chippendale style crafted by Goddard and Townsend, circa 1780, worth an estimated seven point five million dollars. Your negative, and may I say, negligent, ill-advised, and incorrect appraisal of my client’s property caused him to underinsure this valuable antique, which was subsequently destroyed in a warehouse fire last month.”

Mackenzie shook her head. Was this jackass serious? “The piece of furniture I examined was a modern replica worth, on a good day, a couple of hundred dollars.”

“My client strongly disagrees with you.” Purvis extracted a sheaf of papers from his briefcase. “He’s suing for the full value of the piece. However…” He paused.

“What?” Mackenzie snapped.

“If you agree to pay him reasonable compensation of a million dollars plus legal fees and expenses, he’ll agree to drop the suit,” Purvis said, his eyes gleaming. “An out of court settlement will save you a great deal of hassle, not to mention the expense of—”

“Get out,” Mackenzie gritted, clutching the edge of her desk to prevent herself from leaping over the top and knocking the smug bastard over the head with a blunt object.

He had the audacity to pretend surprise. “I beg your pardon?”

“I said, get the hell out of my office, you blackmailing son-of-a-bitch.” She rose from her chair, buoyed on a wave of righteous indignation. “You can tell your client, that goddamn chicken hearted, lily livered, moronic ass clown Turnip Erskine—”

“Turner Erskine,” Purvis corrected.

“There’s a reason we called him Turnip in school,” she went on darkly. “If you’d ever seen the boy without his Underoos, you’d understand.” She let a breath whistle out between her bared teeth. “You tell him he’ll not see one red cent of my money, nor will you, sir. Now get your overpriced butt out of my office before I call the police.”

“I had hoped to avoid unpleasantness.”

“Too late.”

“Very well.” Purvis stood, his dignity intact. He took a moment to smooth his tie. “I will so inform my client. Good day, Ms. Cross. I’ll be in touch with Mr. Erskine’s decision. If you’ll take a piece of advice, free of charge: hire your own attorney. You’ll need one.”

As soon as Purvis left, Mackenzie collapsed in her chair. She knew, with a certainty in the very marrow of her bones, the piece of furniture she’d examined for Turner Erskine two years ago as a favor for his sister, Debbie Lou—her ex-girlfriend and Queen Bitch of the Universe—had been a reproduction, likely no more than a few years old.

“What the hell is Turnip’s game?” she wondered aloud.

The answer was a no-brainer: to extort money from her, of course. Turner had a pretty good chance of getting some kind of payment, too. In a case of his word against hers in court, the judge might rule in his favor.

On the plus side, she had a much better reputation than a jailbird who, at last count, owed support to two ex-wives, a passel of illegitimate children, and lived with a stripper named Twinkle Starr. On the negative side, she had no proof her assessment had been correct in the first place since the secretary desk in question was gone, destroyed in a fire…wait a minute. An incredibly convenient fire.

She halted the train of suspicious thought, reached for her cell phone and called her friend James “Little Jack” Larkin, a reporter at the local newspaper, the Antioch Bee. He answered the call on the first ring, surprising her until she heard a series of rapid-fire beeping tones. “Jack!” she cried loudly. “I’m on the line!”

“Kenzie?” he asked tentatively after a moment. “I didn’t hear my phone ring.”

Mackenzie put a smile in her voice. “Oblivious and busy as usual.”

“Well, actually, now that you mention it, I am in the middle of something.”

“Just a quick question: did the Bee cover a warehouse fire last month? The one in that industrial park over to the soup factory. I think I saw a piece about it on the news.”

Larkin sounded distracted when he muttered, “Soap factory… soap factory…”

“Oh, come on, Jack. Ma Parker’s Pot O’ Soup. You used to swear by the chicken noodle when you had a cold,” Mackenzie reminded him. “Anyhow, a warehouse close by the factory caught fire and burned to the ground about a month ago.”

“And you want to know if we covered the fire? I’m sure we did.”

“Can you help me out with a copy of the story and any follow-ups?”

“Why don’t you come over later this afternoon, Kenzie? I’ll get an intern to help you with the archives. Okay? Right now I’ve got to—damn it, Roy, that’s not what I asked for!” he shouted, making Mackenzie’s ear ring before the call abruptly disconnected.

She sighed and decided she needed a strong dose of caffeine to get through the rest of what promised to be a long and aggravating day. Leaving the office, she headed around the block to her favorite coffee shop, Mighty Jo Young’s—owned and operated by her best friend since high school, Josephine Joanna Young.

As usual, the shop was busy, the lines at the counter long, and Jo-Jo herself worked frenziedly behind the counter pouring, steaming and sprinkling at the monstrous espresso machine. The space had been customized to accommodate her big boned, broad hipped, Amazonian frame and still allow the baristas access to the machine and other supplies.

Somehow, Jo-Jo sensed when Mackenzie came up to the counter. She turned, her lipsticked mouth curving in a big grin. “Hey, Kenzie!” she called. “What’ll it be?”

For a brief moment, Mackenzie allowed herself to admire Jo-Jo’s magnificent bosom, almost an entity unto itself and covered by approximately an acre of pink, polka dotted, frou-frou dress and a lacy apron. Maybe her ogling was sexist or something, but if Jo-Jo minded, the woman hadn’t said a word in all these years.

Her girlfriend, sheriff’s deputy Veronica Birdwell, theorized that Jo-Jo liked the attention. Case in point: when Jo-Jo had worked as a professional female wrestler, her signature move in the ring was called the Snuggle Pup Slam.

“Cappuccino,” Mackenzie ordered, ignoring the filthy looks she received from assorted customers standing in line. She briefly examined the contents of a new baked goods display case. “And a slice of chocolate Swiss roll with blood orange mousse.”

“Bakery Sam’s trying out some new recipes. I tasted a sliver of the Swiss roll this morning. Gooder n’ grits,” Jo-Jo remarked over her shoulder.

A college age barista, her hair dyed an unnatural shade of blue that clashed with her shocking pink uniform top, slapped a slice of cake on a plate and slid it across the counter at the same time Jo-Jo delivered the cappuccino in a thick, white china cup.

Taking her order, Mackenzie surveyed the tables. Occupied to capacity, damn it. She squeezed through the mass of people at the counter, earning more stink-eyes and muttered imprecations, and took a position in the corner where no one could jostle her. She didn’t need to spill hot coffee down the front of her blouse. She might be scrawny, flat-chested and possess no curves to speak of, but a scalding wouldn’t help.

She tasted the cake, finding it as delicious as advertised. A light chocolate cake, not too sweet and slightly bitter, offset by a tangy orange filling coating her mouth with richness. Sam with the unpronounceable last name, who owned the bakery next door to her office, ought to win gold medals with a cake like this, she thought.

Under the soothing influences of chocolate, cream and sugar, she could almost forget Turner’s bullshit lawsuit. She took a sip of cappuccino and licked foam off her upper lip. A loud siren caught her attention. The sound originated outside in the street and grew louder as the source came closer to Jo-Jo’s place. Police? Ambulance?

She stuck the last forkful of cake in her mouth and moved to the big window at the front of the shop in time to see a fire engine go screaming past, emergency lights strobing red and white. An ambulance and a second engine followed.

Somewhere in Antioch, something burned. She blinked the dazzle out of her eyes.

A man in a business suit stumbled inside. “The police station’s on fire!” he shouted.

The plate and cup slipped from her nerveless hands to shatter on the floor.


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consequence of murder coverThe first book in my new paranormal mystery series is The Consequence of Murder, and will be published by Bella Books in February. In case you missed out earlier, you can read an excerpt here.

“The gruesome discovery of a mummified corpse wakes up something inside investigator Mackenzie Cross. Seeing and hearing things that just don’t happen in Antioch, Georgia, she finally accepts that the very angry ghost of the dead woman is demanding Mackenzie find out who murdered her.

Under ordinary circumstances, she would turn to her best friend, sheriff’s deputy Veronica Birdwell, but not only is Mackenzie unsure how to bring up a very real ghost, she is uncomfortably attracted to Veronica who is straight and off limits. She also has another case involving a cheerleader, a blackmailing preacher and a rattlesnake—life is already too complicated to risk love.

I’m already hard at work on the second book, which will be titled Burn All Alike.

If you like to read about solving puzzling cases, danger, supernatural goings-on, a little romancin’, and lots of Southern charm, you’ll like the Mackenzie Cross Paranormal Mysteries.

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BARKING-AT-THE-MOON - cover small

That’s right, my award winning paranormal romance about werewolves in the Georgia woods will be re-issued by Bella. I don’t have a date yet, or any other details, but I’ll keep you informed.

The sequel, Once in a Blue Moon, will also be published by Bella. The writing’s done, now it’s time for editing and all that other good stuff. And I’m working on the third book in the trilogy, Hanging the Moon.

For now, here’s the new cover for Barking at the Moon. Ain’t it beautiful?


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consequence of murder coverBella Books will be publishing my paranormal mystery, The Consequence of Murder.

This is book one in a proposed series. In The Consequence of Murder, Mackenzie Cross has to figure out who murdered a pretty teenage girl, Annabel Coffin… but the victim’s been dead since the Fifties, her spirit’s on the warpath, and there are people still alive who want to keep the truth buried. Here’s a taste of the book for you to enjoy!



Mackenzie crossed the street quickly, feeling chilled despite the heat. What the hell had happened back there in the coffee shop? An image of the gray woman, especially her flat black gaze, sprang to mind. Cold. Unfriendly. Almost menacing.

She told herself to stop being silly.

Fact: people did not vanish into thin air.

Fact: coffee cups did not spontaneously break of their own accord.

Fact: eyewitness testimony was unreliable. Human memory was fallible, the senses imperfect, the brain given to filling in blanks with fantasy.  Just because a person claimed to have seen something did not mean they actually saw it. They just believed what they saw, a subtle but important distinction.

The inevitable and reasonable conclusion: she had spilled coffee on herself, gotten flustered, and caught a glimpse of someone—maybe a woman seated elsewhere—which her agitated brain had imagined as a ghostly figure that subsequently disappeared. Afterward, she’d jerked in surprise or bumped the table, breaking her coffee cup.

Satisfied by the logical explanation, she entered the dry cleaner’s shop, dropped off her blouse, and left. By the time she reached her office, the event had become a memory of clumsiness and her own embarrassing suggestibility. Tomorrow, she’d have to apologize to Jo-Jo for making such a fuss over nothing.

Maynard was still at her office, supervising the removal of the mummified remains into a black station wagon illegally parked in front of a fire hydrant. He’d been joined by Dr. Hightower, a gastroenterologist and Antioch’s part-time medical examiner.

“Don’t make faces at me, Jimmy. You know I live above the bakery,” Mackenzie said when she approached, hoping to forestall a lecture from Maynard. “I’m not snooping. I want to go home. There’s a shower with my name on it.”

“What did you hope to accomplish by sticking your nose in my crime scene, Kenzie?” he asked, giving her a decidedly evil eye. “You could’ve compromised evidence.”

She returned his glare, though her heart wasn’t really in it. “I call shenanigans, Jimmy. There’s no evidence and you know it. We already had this argument. As I recall, I won.”

“We’ll see about that.”

“Besides, it’s my damned office. I have files in there, things I need to have so I can find things for my clients and make money. I make money, I pay my taxes. Your salary is paid by my taxes. See the way it works? The circle of life. Now do we still have a problem?”

Looking irritated, he waved her through without another word.

Mackenzie sidled past Dr. Hightower, who had a habit of inquiring about people’s bowel movements at inconvenient times and places like the grocery store checkout line. She wasn’t his patient, but her Uncle Anderson was, and she didn’t need the doctor loudly whispering to her about Uncle Anse’s chronic constipation problem in front of Maynard.

Using her key, she opened a green painted metal door set into a narrow wall between the building that housed her office and the bakery next door.

A fluorescent light flickered on when the door closed behind her, revealing a flight of cement stairs sandwiched between the outer brick walls of the two buildings. The space was claustrophobically small, airless, and hotter than outside. The air was redolent of baking, scented with cinnamon and spices, sugar, yeast, and chocolate.

Mackenzie trudged up the steps, trying not to brush her borrowed T-shirt’s sleeve on the stained  bricks. Another metal door at the top of the stairs—this one painted peacock blue—yielded to another key, and she went inside her apartment, blessedly cool since she’d had the foresight to leave the air conditioning set on seventy-five degrees that morning.

She dropped her keys on a small table, added her wallet and cell phone, and kicked off her shoes before going to her bedroom.

In the act of pulling the oversized T-shirt over her head, Mackenzie paused when she caught her reflection in the mirror above the dresser, half expecting to see a silver-gray woman. She relaxed when the mirror only showed familiar amber eyes gazing back at her, set in a face that resembled her maternal great-grandfather more than her mother or father. Long dead before her birth, she’d seen pictures of the stiff-backed old man in the family albums. He’d been a quarter Cherokee and a quarter Creek, and two thirds son-of-a-bitch according to her grandmother. His ancestry lent her complexion its reddish-brown tint.

She changed into a worn cotton shirt and shorts, and ran a brush through her thick, coarse,  black hair. Moisture in the air had made her naturally kinky hair more unruly than usual, puffing it up into a frizzy mare’s nest. Gathering the mass together, she secured the ponytail high on her head with an elastic band to keep it off the back of her neck.

In the living room, she flopped down on the L-shaped sofa and reached for the remote control, which should have been on the side table. When her groping hand closed around nothing, she glanced over and found the remote missing. She grimaced, trying to remember where she’d left it. She looked around. Not on the coffee table. Not on the floor. Not on the sofa. Not on the chair. Not on the bookshelves lining the walls. Where had the remote gone?

She stuck her hand between the sofa cushions, coming up with $2.49 in change, a silver bracelet she thought she’d lost last week, a handful of popcorn kernels, a ballpoint pen, and a lint fuzzed peppermint.. At last, her fingers closed around a solid plastic shape. The remote! Smiling, she drew out… her cell phone.

What the hell? She frowned, certain she’d left her cell phone on the table in the hall.

Mackenzie rose and padded barefoot to the hall. On the little ebony side table with the malachite top, a bijoux French antique and a thrift store find, were her wallet and keys, apparently undisturbed. Yet she clearly remembered leaving her cell phone here, too.

Am I going crazy? she wondered.

The skin on the back of her neck prickled. Goosebumps swept over her arms. Mackenzie inhaled. For a second, she could have sworn she detected the faintest hint of a dry, dusty scent that reminded her of the smell in her office. She exhaled and returned to the living room, deciding she had better turn down the thermostat before she froze into a popsicle.

When she returned to the living room, her gaze zeroed in on the remote sitting on the side table next to the sofa, exactly where she recalled putting it last night.

“I must be losing my marbles,” she muttered, thinking about a few weeks ago when she’d misplaced her car keys in the refrigerator of all places. She carefully put the phone on the coffee table in plain view, sat on the sofa, and used the remote to turn on the television.

The screen flared to life, but she was only able to press the button for the next channel before the television clicked off. She turned it back on. As soon as the picture appeared on the screen, she tried to change the channel. Again, the television cut off.

Mashing the ON button did nothing. The remote was dead.

“What the hell?” Must be something wrong with the batteries, she thought.

Growing annoyed, Mackenzie heaved herself off the sofa and stomped to the kitchen for fresh batteries. When she returned, the television remained stubbornly off when she pressed the remote’s ON button several more times. She turned on a lamp, confirming the electricity in the apartment was working. The problem must be with the television itself.

She knelt on the floor to check behind a bookcase for the electrical outlet, making the baffling discovery that the television wasn’t plugged in. But it had turned on twice, hadn’t it? Stretching her arm as far as possible, she grabbed the cord, plugged in the television, and sat back on her heels to use the remote.

Nothing happened. She scowled.

Her phone rang.

She stood to retrieve her phone and answered the call. “Cross speaking.”

“You ever hear of Annabel Coffin?” Maynard asked without preamble.

“Who?” she replied.

“She was buried behind your office wall.”

Mackenzie crossed to the sofa and sat down. “Don’t know her.”

“Doc Hightower found a charm bracelet on the body when it was being moved,” Maynard said, the line crackling slightly with static. “One of the charms was inscribed with that name. I’m trying to find out if anyone knew her.”

“And you called because you miss hearing me talk? I told you before, Jimmy, I moved into the office three years ago. The body must’ve already been there. Why would you think I’d know anything about this dead woman?”

“I called because I want you to ask your mother about her.”

Meredith’s stomach lurched in alarm. “What does Mama have to do with any of this?”

“According to another inscription on the charm, your mother attended the same high school in the same year as our victim. It’s possible she’ll recognize the name.”

Put that way, how could she refuse? “Fine, I’ll go over there tonight,” she said. “Although I don’t know why you can’t just talk to Mama yourself.”

“Let me know what you find out.” He terminated the call.

She stared at the phone in her hand and snorted. Putting down the cell phone on the coffee table, she went to grab the remote, only to find it gone.

After a brief, internal debate, she walked to the hall. Sure enough, the remote sat on the ebony and malachite table.

Unbidden, memories of campfire stories and family legends sprang to mind. Her great-uncle Stapleton swore he’d seen a ghost in an abandoned funeral parlor when his friends had dared him to peer inside the window. And great-grandmother Beryl Rose had maintained to her dying day that the spirit of a child haunted a well on her property.

Like many small Southern towns, the city of Antioch had its share of strange happenings. As a child, she’d heard about the ghostly motorcycle rider on Conklin “Haint” Hill, the crying stone angel in the old Oak Grove Cemetery, the ghost of a headless woman who groped along the railroad tracks near the Weatherholtz Bridge on full moon nights, and other restless spirits. She hadn’t believed a grain of truth existed in the stories until now, when she was forced to reconsider her skepticism.

The more she tried to find an explanation for the television becoming unplugged, and the remote and her cell phone shifting places without human intervention, the more she came to the reluctant conclusion that the cause might—just maybe—be supernatural.

Cold dread settled heavy in her guts. Feeling foolish as well as apprehensive, she returned to the living room and cleared her throat.

“Uh… is anybody there?” she asked aloud, praying she wouldn’t receive a reply.

After several minutes of waiting, no answer seemed forthcoming.

Sighing in disappointment mingled with relief, she turned away, only to violently start when the television came on with a blast of sound that left her deaf to her own scream.

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It’s official! PD Publishing has picked up my newest novel, Once in a Blue Moon – the sequel to the award winning Barking at the Moon. Yep, it’s time for Annalee and Lunella’s next adventure. The book is scheduled for publication at the end of 2012. Here’s the blurb to tease you:

“Some Things Come Once in a Blue Moon…

After the spine-tingling events of Barking at the Moon, Daredevil County Sheriff Annalee Crow has settled down with her lover and mate, Lunella Skinner – one of the Skinner clan who can change into golden eyed, pale furred wolves that rule Malingering Deep – but the threat against the clan she thought had ended with the death of a greedy rich man may still be out there and very much alive. When a woman is killed in a grisly attack that seems to have been committed by a vicious white wolf, and other attacks soon follow, Annalee’s investigation leads her down a dark path that may end in her own destruction.”

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Yes, I know, the original publication date has come and gone. The delays were beyond my control. However, I have some good news for those who’ve been waiting ever-so-patiently:  I’ve been assured that Miss Smith & the Devil’s Library will be published in August, which is just a couple of months away. Yay! As soon as it becomes available, I’ll post an update here.

This is an exciting, action packed, thrill a minute adventure novel, if I do say so myself. And it’s the first novel in what I hope will be a series to remember, so be sure to get your copy (and hey, books make great gifts, too, hint hint). 🙂

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Good news! Fans of my multi-award winning paranormal romance, Barking at the Moon will be very pleased to hear that I’ve finished writing the sequel, titled Once in a Blue Moon, and it is currently in my publisher’s hands. When I know more, I’ll make an announcement. Right now, I’m just glad it’s done!

Just as a little teaser,  the tiniest taste to whet your appetite, here’s an amuse-bouche of a blurb for you:

“After the spine-tingling events of Barking at the Moon, Daredevil County Sheriff Annalee Crow has settled down with her lover and mate, Lunella Skinner – one of the Skinner clan who can change into golden eyed, pale furred wolves that rule Malingering Deep. However, her contentedness is short-lived when she learns the threat against the clan she thought had ended with the death of a greedy rich man may still be out there and very much alive. When a woman is killed in a grisly attack that seems to have been committed by a vicious white wolf, and other attacks soon follow, Annalee’s investigation leads her down a dark path that may end in her own destruction.”

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