Three ballroom dancers had been murdered over forty-years ago. Wow, that’s one old cold case. What’s more, the murderer thought to have been killed during a police chase has resurfaced in Pittsburgh. Yikes! How can that be?Worse, ballroom dancing simply isn’t Detective Nathan Landry’s forte. After weeks of practice, Nathan still has two left-feet. Can Fiona step in to guide Nathan through this dancing debacle or will it take forty-years for the detective to find his footing? Double yikes!Join Fiona and Detective Landry in this high-stepping whodunit!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from iRead Book Tours. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.
Right out of the gate (Prologue), we had a crime on our hands! While Nathan was investigating the burglary, secrets buried long ago came forth. Did Vincent Di Volante really die 40+ years ago in a fiery car wreck? If not, who did?
If these two questions were enough to wet your whistle, Fiona and the people in the neighborhood have been getting mail postmarked back in the 70s. I know mail runs slow, but that gives a new definition to “snail mail.”
I think it’s worth noting, Mambo and Murder: A Fiona Quinn Mystery (book #6 in the series) by C.S. McDonald is NOT just adults. Since there are no curse words or suggestive scenes, it’s perfectly acceptable for teens and young adults to read it. As a family who loves playing clue, this book is right up our alley, and I’m thrilled to share it with my teen.
Oh, and BTW, I love the cover!
Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest)
For twenty-six years C.S. McDonald’s life whirled around a song and a dance. Classically trained at Pittsburgh Ballet Theater School, The Pittsburgh Dance Alloy, and many others, she became a professional dancer and choreographer. During that time, she choreographed many musicals and an opera for the Pittsburgh Savoyards. In 2011 she retired from her dance career to write. Under her real name, Cindy McDonald, she writes murder-suspense and romantic suspense novels. In 2014 she added the pen name, C.S. McDonald, to write children’s books for her grandchildren. In 2016 she added the Fiona Quinn Mysteries to that expansion. She decided to write the cozy mystery series that everyone, including teens and tweens, can read and enjoy. Presently, the Fiona Quinn Mysteries nine books with a tenth slated for 2021. The books are also available on audio, narrated by Maren Swenson Waxenberg. Cindy’s newest venture is The Owl’s Nest Mysteries. Once again, she has set her cozy mystery in Pittsburgh. The female protagonist, Alexa Owl, is much different from Fiona Quinn. The Owl’s Next Mysteries has a little grit, a little time travel, a little romance, and a whole lot of cozy! Ms. McDonald resides on her Thoroughbred farm known as Fly by Night Stables near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Bill, and her poorly behaved Cocker Spaniel, Allister.
A haunted teen outcast and her snarky ghostly best-frenemy outwit enforcers, monsters, and the scars of the past in a race to take expose a deadly conspiracy and escape a bloody end. A lush, award-winning debut to a captivatingly eerie YA Urban Fantasy trilogy. Discover a labyrinthine, post-climate-collapse dystopian Vancouver overrun by monsters and magic in this intricate and startlingly original journey of discovery, restoration, and revenge.
It’s hard not to be a little obsessed with survival when your only “friend” is an unruly ghost and the wrong thought could get your soul devoured by eldritch horrors. Haunted 17-year-old outcast Cole wants nothing more than to hide her forbidden fascination with the monster-taken and blend in with the (dreary) scenery. Her plans for a peaceful life take a turn for the deadly when a mesmerizing stranger and his dangerously tempting offer drive her into the middle of a grisly conspiracy.
But Cole hasn’t yet uncovered the biggest secret of all, and it might just have something to do with the mysterious threads tugging her into horrifying visions—not to mention the shimmering boy at their dark heart. Uncovering the truth will cost her dearly as she fends off scheming enforcers, dreamjacking ghosts & soul-sucking nightmares in a desperate quest for survival and retribution. Can she escape the scars of her past and expose the lies before she’s the next to die?
Blind the Eyes is the first book in a lush and labyrinthine trilogy of paranormal-meets-gothic-dystopian YA Urban Fantasy filled with glittering underworlds, delicious-and-deceptive strangers, and facing down the voices in your head. This slow-burn fantasy with an edge leads readers on a captivatingly unexpected journey of self-discovery, reclaimed identity, and conflicted sisterhood for those who like a little sparkle with their monsters (it glistens so nicely on all the blood.) Fans of post-climate-collapse dystopias, monsters-and-magic, and genre-bending dark fantasy will love this award-winning series starter in a complete and 100% binge-ready trilogy.
K.A. Wiggins (Kaie) writes award-winning speculative fiction for young people and adults that explores the tangled webs of society, environment, and identity through intricate, dreamlike tales of monsters and magic.
Her debut novel was a Page Turner Awards 2020 Book Spotlight Prize winner and a Barnes & Noble Press “20 Favorite Indie Books of 2018,” kicking off a celebrated and recently completed YA Urban Fantasy trilogy set in a gothic-dystopian post-climate-collapse Vancouver. Her short fiction has appeared in small press anthologies, genre magazines, and in translation for international audiences.
She’s also the President of the Children’s Writers and Illustrators of British Columbia society, co-founder of marketing and business services consultancy The Creative Collective, and a creative writing coach with the Creative Writing for Children society, and was recognized in the 2021 Arty Awards, taking first place in Literary Arts category.
I want to welcome author Sandra Kopp to Kam’s Place.
For those who might not be familiar with you, would you be a dear and tell the readers a little about yourself? How did you get your start in the writing business?
Sandra: Howdy, Kam! It’s a pleasure to be here. I grew up on an Idaho potato farm along with two brothers, one sister, an accordion, and an assortment of dogs, cats, horses, and cows. I’d wanted to be a farm wife, but Fate propelled me into the wonderful world of IBM and computer programming, a career I pursued for 33 years. A music lover and history buff, I played the trombone and accordion semiprofessionally and served as a docent at a number of historical homes, notably the Pittock Mansion in Portland, OR. As for writing, I have loved books since childhood. In grade school I spent more time reading library books than doing my homework (which landed me in the corner more than once!), and my active imagination churned out stories I would scribble down and show my teachers who, in turn, asked me to share with the class! As I entered adulthood, however, career demands and social commitments forced my writing onto the back burner. But the fire never died, and neither did my imagination. A mundane event might spark a plot that took intriguing turns as it evolved into a full-blown novel (case in point: THE WINDWILDER HAUNTING, inspired by the Moore Mansion fire in Pasco, WA). In 2003 I decided to get serious. Now that I’m retired, I have committed myself to honing and polishing my craft and producing the best work possible.
Kam: Holy smokes, that’s an impressive amount of time in one establishment. Now days, it seems no one can stick that long in one place. I’m also in awe of your musical achievements. I can’t play any instrument, but I do appreciate the time and effort it takes to learn a single instrument and you’ve mastered two. NICE!
Let’s Check Out The Windwilder Haunting
Once acclaimed the Crown Jewel of Twin Bridges, Washington, a derelict mansion with a sordid past sits condemned, awaiting demolition. At the eleventh hour the great-grandson of its original owner intervenes to rescue and restore it. But few rejoice, particularly those whose lives the malignancy within those walls destroyed.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, please share how you handle it.
Sandra: Oh, yes; in fact, for a while writer’s block so crippled me that I went for weeks and even months unable to write anything. In 2003 I enrolled in a creative writing course. Each session began with a 10-minute exercise during which we were to WRITE. Wasting time trying to pick a subject was NOT allowed—those pencils had to move! “If you can’t think of anything,” the professor told us, “just write ‘I can’t think of a thing to write, but the prof says I have to write something, so here I go.’ Write that sentence over and over, and pretty soon ideas will come.” Surprisingly, his method worked. The first session I think I wrote it twice. After that I always had a topic for class.
While effective for beginning a piece, the method didn’t work so well for works already in progress. My major hurdle stemmed from striving to write the finished product on the first try. Every few sentences I stalled, fumbling for the “right” words, until I became so mired in verbiage I forgot what I wanted to say. Finally I decided to, rather than flounder, just output the main points and then flesh out the details the following day. This actually works best for me. As I read over the previous day’s effort the creative juices flow, providing the missing elements and a running start into developing new material.
Will you please share with the visitors what genre(s) you write? Also, when you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Sandra: Except for sci-fi and romance, I love most genres. My current books are fantasy and paranormal, but I find myself leaning more toward contemporary, historical fiction, and a children’s series I started several years ago, along with a western based on an event in my father’s life when he was 10.
When not writing, I enjoy photography, hiking, bicycling, playing the accordion, knitting, and gardening. I’m also planning a You Tube channel featuring my better half, Sassy the Cat!
Kam: What a cutie!
Do those close to you know you write? If so, what are their thoughts?
Sandra: Yes. One or two consider me gifted, but the majority recognize the flaws and weak spots in my work and aren’t afraid to point them out. It nettled me at first, but I quickly found their criticism valid and invaluable during the editing process. My Mom and sister are especially good beta readers, quick to pick up on parts that don’t flow right. I thought them too critical at first; but when my critique group pointed out the same issues, I decided I’d better listen! At any rate, all of them urge me to keep the stories coming.
Will you share with us your all-time favorite authors? If you’re like me, it’s a long list so give us your top ten.
Sandra: This is tough; I love so many! Colleen McCullough and Charlotte Bronte top the list, followed by Johanna Spyri. I still own a copy of HEIDI I received as a gift when I was eight. That book so captivated me I could smell the fresh alpine air and hear the wind roaring through those huge branches. Lately I’ve discovered several excellent indie authors, including: Rebecca Carey Lyles, Ken Stark, Bibiana Krall, MK Whiting, Mike Wells, Isis Sousa, and Anastasia Abboud.
If you could choose one book to go to the big screen, yours or otherwise, which book would you choose and whom would you love to see cast in the parts?
Sandra: Peter Jackson’s movie series, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings had a huge impact on me. That said, I would like to see my book, REALMS OF GLORY, REALMS OF DEATH hit the big screen, since it contains many similar elements. I’m not sure, though, which actors I would choose, as I really don’t spend much time watching movies. Probably many of those that appeared in the Peter Jackson movies.
Valhalea lies in ruins, the victim of sorcerer Lucius Mordarius’ wrath.
In the black forests of Barren-Fel Ryadok, a rival sorcerer possessing a weapon capable of leveling the continent, snakes his destructive tentacles across Epthelion. Amid the chaos Destiny unites five unlikely allies: an ostracized mystic and his younger brother; a tradesman and a battle-hardened mercenary; and the daughter of a murdered nobleman–each a thorn in a sorcerer’s side and marked for death.
Battling nature’s wrath, the sorcerers’ relentless pursuit, and a land notorious for devouring its inhabitants, they find temporary sanctuary only to be thrust to opposite ends of Epthelion–the girl to the west where she falls into the hands of the blood-thirsty Horse Lords; and the men into the dark reaches of the shadowy east.
Victory is essential; defeat spells certain death for their world. The girl must survive the Horse Lord’s brutality and rally them to her aid in defeating Mordarius while the mystic races to destroy Ryadok before his sweeping holocaust.
Would you care to tell us what you’re working on now?
Sandra: I am working on the illustrations for the first book of my children’s series, TIMOTHY WONDER AND THE MAGIC SHIP. I started that story when I was twelve but never finished it. That magic ship took Timothy and his dog into the clouds but never brought them back! Now, several decades later, I decided it’s time to bring them home. In addition, I am putting together notes for a humorous ghost story and an historical fiction novel, both inspired by my docent experiences at the Pittock Mansion.
Kam:I can’t wait to read them both.
Where can we find your stories, and is there a particular reading order?
Sandra: I gave each book a satisfying end, with no cliffhangers that resolve in subsequent books. Because many of the characters in later books are introduced and developed in the earlier volumes, reading the series sequentially provides a more even flow.
Would you please share how your present and future fans can contact you?
Sign up for my newsletter for updates on new releases, giveaways, and other fun things!
Before we conclude this enlightening interview, do you have anything else you’d like to share? The stage is all yours.
Sandra: First of all, Kam, thanks so much for this spotlight opportunity. Marketing has proven the toughest part of indie publishing, and I welcome the chance to introduce my work to new audiences. Taking this plunge opened up a whole new world. Not only am I an author and publisher, I’ve had to become a publicist, marketer, and I even designed and built my own website!
I appreciate my readers and am grateful for each and every one. I also appreciate their opinions of my books! One of the nicest things you can do for an author is leave a review. Of course, I love 4 and 5 stars best, but I also want to know the downside so that I can improve. I have developed a newsletter, which you can sign up for on my website. From time to time I host giveaways, contests, and opportunities for readers to become a character in an upcoming book!
Becoming a writer was my dream come true. I encourage all of you to pursue your dreams. You never know what you can do ‘til you try!
As a fellow author, I know the struggles of marketing a story. It’s a never-ending battle to get a story in front of new readers and build up reviews. As I stated above, my review of REALMS OF GLORY, REALMS OF DEATHwill be live on August 14th, and you’ll love the score.
For those visiting Kam’s Place, I highly encourage you all to check out Sandra Kopp’sworks and sign up for her newsletter. I know once you read one story by her, you’ll want to be instantly notified when she’s created something new.
To Sandra Kopp, thank you so much for allowing me to interview you and graciously asking me to read your stories. I can’t wait to read your future stories and/or the ones I haven’t read yet.
Bristles brushed her feverish cheek. Merewyn moaned and tried to move, but unbearable pain wracked her body. Every bone felt broken and she lay still, wishing whoever hovered over her would thrust her through and end her torment. Velvety lips nuzzled her ear and then her neck. A horse nickered softly.
Merewyn rolled onto her back and opened her eyes. Windrunner lay down beside her and nudged her cheek. Gritting her teeth against the searing pain, Merewyn mustered her strength and crawled into the saddle, clinging to the horse’s mane as Windrunner hoisted herself to her feet.
“My faithful Windrunner.” Merewyn could scarcely talk. “Take me to the king.”
Windrunner stepped out, and as they crossed the corpse-littered plain, Merewyn’s heart sank. Familiar faces stared vacantly through the cold gray light. Some appeared to slumber peacefully. Others grimaced in agony.
“Ohhhh!” Merewyn’s anguished soul poured out its misery. Bitter tears rolled down her cheeks. Feeling dizzy, she closed her eyes, wishing only to distance herself from this place of death. Windrunner walked on, her head bobbing lightly as she deftly stepped over and around the dead.
Gradually the faintness passed. Merewyn’s senses cleared. She opened her eyes and recognized Aethelion, Elund, Hamiel, and Zithri amid a small group a short way ahead. Zithri saw her first and alerted Hamiel and Aethelion. Together they raced to Merewyn.
“My queen!” Aethelion reached up and helped her dismount.
Zithri alit and rushed to her side. “You’re hurt, my lady.”
“No worse than any of you. Where is the king?”
“We don’t know.” Aethelion grimly surveyed the field. “Ryadok decimated our forces last night, both here and on the river.”
“How many of your five hundred remain?” Merewyn asked.
“Less than a hundred. As yet we have no final tally.”
“And the enemy?”
“We drove them back after that fiery brute fell, but they’ll return in numbers beyond our strength to withstand.”
“The beast. . .slain?” Merewyn’s memory had clouded.
“Yes.” Aethelion frowned. “How, I don’t know. The carcass burned, leaving nothing to examine. When we engaged him at the river we made what should have been mortal strikes with every weapon we had, to no avail.” His frown deepened. “I would give my best horse to know what killed this one.”
“So Destroyer can be killed.”
“If, indeed, that was Destroyer.”
With great effort, Merewyn remounted and turned Windrunner toward the battlefield. “First we must see to our wounded and find the king.”
The sun slowly rose, gouging the sky with blood-red shafts before hiding itself behind a curtain of somber gray clouds. The Horse Lords wandered among the carnage, hoping against hope that some among their warriors lying there yet breathed.
They found only death. Over half of the valiant warriors of Ha-Ran-Fel had fallen, and the company could only guess what percentage of the enemy now littered their land. Many wore the crest of Ryadok, but even more Lucius Mordarius’ green dragon.
The roughly four hundred remaining warriors fanned out to search for their wounded, strip the enemy corpses, and kill any foe still alive. Merewyn searched for Ruelon, refusing to believe what she already knew. Aethelion, Elund, Hamiel, and Zithri still lived. Surely, she reasoned, God had spared Ruelon as well.
But hope quickly waned. Ruelon neither answered her calls nor rode to meet her.
And then she saw him, lying beside his beloved charger, his sword impaling an enemy’s throat, his ashen face turned to the sky. Red streaks trickled down his side from the bloody pool on his breastplate, and another from one corner of his mouth. For a moment it seemed he looked at her, and she thought he would speak. But his vacant blue eyes stared past her; his strong voice forever stilled. Never again would he hold her close and soothe her in the night. Never again would he whisper words of tender love.
“My lord.” Swallowing hard, Merewyn knelt beside him and tenderly stroked his cheek. The world blurred around her. “Beloved husband. . .do not leave me.” But she knew that he already had, and now the tears came fast and hot. Merewyn collapsed on his chest, sobbing.
Between the covers of Darkest Hours, you will find academics in distress; humans abusing monsters; demons terrorizing people; ghostly reminiscences; resurrected trauma; and occult filmmaking. Ranging from satirical to dreadful, these sixteen stories share a distinct voice: urgent, sardonic, and brutal.
This expanded edition includes a new foreword by Sadie Hartmann (Mother Horror) and author notes for every story describing Thorn’s process, influences, and more. This updated release also features seventeen of Thorn’s essays on horror cinema, which cover films by Tobe Hooper, George A. Romero, Rob Zombie, M. Night Shyamalan, Wes Craven, and Dario Argento, among others.
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
When I look at anthologies (multiple authors) or a compilation of works by a single author, I hope to walk away loving 1/2 of the short stories. With Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition by Mike Thorn, 11 out of the 16 horror tales scored a 4 or 5. That’s huge! It just shows you how well Mike Thorn crafted each storyline.
Each story caused various reactions from me. Here are some examples:
Hair: As a germaphobe, the idea of hair getting in my food or the possibility of eating hair is nightmarish. Ugh, just thinking about it makes my stomach turn. However, the inquisitive part of me wanted to know about hair fetishes. Oh my word, my browser history would raise some eyebrows. Curiosity made me read about hair eating (trichophagia), Rapunzel Syndrome (basically, hairballs), trichophia, and pubephilia. I’ll let readers of my review look those up for themselves. 🙂
While the plot 100% disturbed me and grossed me out, I was fascinated by the medical information surrounding the perversion to hair.
Economy These Days: This story wasn’t gory or horrific. It was, however, very plausible. In desperate times, people will do anything for money. So, I can absolutely fathom someone using their body as a punching bag. $450 a day, $2,250 a week, 9K a month, that amount of money is too irresistible to resist. Economy These Daysmade me wonder what I would do if there were no hope in sight. What would be my price?
Lucio Schluter: In real life, humans are the real monsters of the world. They are the ones who abduct, inflict pain, suffering, torture, and kill. Every adult has probably watched at least one documentary of a famous serial killer, so you know the horrors that lurk in this world. For me, when Mike Thorn writes about plausible scenarios, that’s the stories that haunt me the most. The ones I won’t soon forget.
Quick responses to 5 more stories featured in the Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition:
I’m never camping, thanks to Fusion!!!
Mirrors are overrated, so I have no issue tossing all of mine in the trash. The possible result if I don’t is scary as shit! (Story, Long Man)
Mired: The absolute horror of the story was the blob eating all the textbooks. 😀
I’ve had many conversations about ghosts, so I loved the philosophical and theoretical discussions in Speaking of Ghosts. I wouldn’t want to face the actual outcome presented in the tale. Nope, I like to live in a world in hypotheticals. Leave the “seeing is believing” for other folks. 🙂
Mike Thorn ended the compilation with a fascinating tale. It’s a story through the eyes of a ghost. Remembering Absence wasn’t gory. It was another “thinker” story. While I love a good gory tale, I found this type of story sticks with you much longer because you’ll find yourself talking about the possibility of such an occurrence with your friends.
After reading the sixteen stories, I learned several important facts.
No sober person had any supernatural encounters. Nothing good happens after dark, so stay the F*** home. Oh, and mirrors are evil so get rid of them! Now!
Heart Rating System: 1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) Score: ❤❤❤❤
Mike Thorn is the author of the short story collection Darkest Hours. His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including Vastarien, Dark Moon Digest, The NoSleep Podcast, Tales to Terrify, and Prairie Gothic. His film criticism has been published in MUBI Notebook, The Film Stage, and Vague Visages. He completed his M.A. with a major in English literature at the University of Calgary, where he wrote a thesis on epistemophobia in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness.
Kennet Singleton cremates the dead—and then they speak… “Avenge us!”
Nineteen-year-old Kennet Singleton lives with his invalid mother in a personal care facility, but he wants out. He operates the crematory at the local funeral home, where he discovers he can discern the cause of death of those he cremates—by toasting marshmallows over their ashes.
He thinks his ability is no big deal since his customers are already dead. But when his perception differs from what’s on the death certificate, he finds himself in the midst of murderers. To save the residents and avenge the dead, Kennet must bring the killers to justice.
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
The gift of knowing a cause of death without insider information would come in handy for specific jobs — coroner and law enforcement. However, it’s more of a parlor trick for non-detective related occupations—unless you work in a crematory and the dead seek your help for vengeance. Then, it’s absolutely a welcomed gift.
Kennet’s super power, gift, or whatever you want to call it, really came into play during the last 100 or so pages of the story. During this portion, things started to heat up. 😀
The dead wanted vengeance. Kennet wanted vengeance.
Spirits communicated with the living to carry out their plan, and not all the angry souls were rooting for the good guy (Kennet).
While the cover screams horror, in my opinion, I didn’t find Death Perception scary at all. I’m pretty sure I’d be singing a different turn if spirits wanted me dead and if one (or two or more) appeared before me.
Was Death Perception weird? YES.
Was it creepy? Yes!
Seriously, roasting marshmallows over ashes and then eating them is WEIRD and CREEPY!
I only wish we would’ve seen more interactions between the spirits and the living. I wanted more creepiness. More horror. More suspense.
I was pleased by the ending, though. If anyone deserved a HEA, it was Kennet.
Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest)
I write dark fiction: horror, erotic horror, dark fantasy, dark crime, psychological thrillers and suspense. And technical manuals. All terribly horrifying.
Lee Allen Howard has been a technical writer in the software industry since 1985. (Why do fiction writers pretend like they don’t have day jobs? I like to eat just like everyone else!) I also edit fiction and non-fiction projects. I’ve done book layout and publishing consultancy.