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Blood of the Dragonfly: The Moccasin Hollow Mystery Series, Book V by Hawk MacKinney (Book Spotlight)

Adult Fiction (18+), 227 pages

 
While dangling a fishing hook from his flat bottom skiff before dawn, former SEAL-turned-PI Craige Ingram spots grey-black smoke coiling above the treetops across the river in the direction of the Georgia bayous and Corpsewood Manor. Bayou or bogs, fire in the uncut cypress and pines bodes a sense that the river is no barrier to the fire that threatens his ancestral home, Moccasin Hollow. Neither are the bodies later found in the burned mansion of Corpsewood Manor. Craige wastes no time in helping his ex-SEAL buddy Lt. Graysen MacGerald who is now Head of Buckingham Homicide Investigations by unofficially investigating the bodies and an exquisite dragonfly brooch found in the mansion with a reputation for evil, hauntings, and mystery.
 
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Excerpt

Craige had known Mattie to flip-flop a few times between past and present about things and happenin’s. Mix details of what and when and turned backside forward. Her seein’s coming in jumbled threads were often hard to make sense of. She frequently had no idea what the seein’s meant, but she never wavered about describing what she was sensing. Craige unhurriedly placed his cup into its saucer and carefully unfolded the inner wrappings of the jeweler’s box, and opened the box. Crisp sunbeams slanting through the lace of the window curtains glinted across the brooch, flashing shards gleamed along the truly diaphanous lifelike wings. He hadn’t told Mattie anything about where he’d found it or about Gray’s investigation. The hovering intaglio shimmered as though hoarding its secrets, beckoning with an unreal seduction, as he laid the brooch in her palm.

Her cup delicately paused in mid-air. “How lovely.” Mild ripples trilled across the smile lines of her face. She squinted for a closer look, “There’s something carved into the shiny black jewel.”

“A dragonfly.”

“How fanciful. I’ve seen butterflies, crickets, frogs, all manner of doodads for lapel pins and lavalieres but never a dragonfly such as this. Its wings even look see-through. I’m sure—” Her words stopped.

Her pleasant expression crumpled into clouded bemused bewilderment. The sunny room seemed to feel smothered. Her teacup quivered. Ever so carefully, she placed her cup just so in its saucer. Her eyes grew wide in a pinched strained expression. She pulled back, as though some shapeless trepidation hovered about her, ready to seize her. Her hand moved up to the starched bleached, crocheted collar of her navy-blue paisley print dress. She clutched her throat, then gingerly rested her hand aside the unsettled quiver at her cheek, “How dreadful.” She stared at the brooch in her palm. As if the brooch was blistering hot with blazing embers, Mattie tentatively placed it into Craige’s outreached hand, “Such beauty to be so wicked.” In a shaded whisper, “Mister Craige, take this vile thing with its temptations.”

Craige had seen her upset by her visions, but never so abrupt. “Mattie, let’s not go any further with this if it bothers you.” He placed it back in its box.

“Ugliness and cruelty always hover about those what are vulnerable. Such occurrences do bother me, but too shy from it implies acceptance. Good people must be watchful. Malice feeds on fear; drives good folks from facing it. The poor dead creature was being burned, burning away her name so she will be forever forgotten, so no one will ever know what happened to the poor unfortunate woman. There are others. I can’t see their faces. Someone was with her—another woman either with or perhaps following her.” Mattie caught a quick, shallow breath, “You must have nothing more to do with such a bloodstained harbinger. It didn’t belong to her. She took it,” Mattie frowned, “And now she’s dead.”

“Took it from whom?”

“Evil wanted it. It is a bringer of trouble.” Mattie winced, “Someone wanted it from—” Her face puzzled, “Flames were too hot for the hand that reached for the brooch. That awful fire couldn’t wipe clean where she died.”

“She died in the flames?”

“Perhaps somewhere near? Or perhaps somewhere else. I get no feeling of where.”

Mattie’s words didn’t surprise Craige so much as stirred a thing deep inside him, somewhere in those secret whispers between sleep and awake and an unfinished nightmare. From Frannie at PDK to Mattie’s forewarnings, Craige no longer discarded happenstances as coincidence, especially Mattie’s bit about “another woman.” He wrapped the brooch. Closed the box lid tight. “Can you see how the fire started?”

She shook her head slightly. Her expression one less of fear than trepidation, “Only the faces watching you, watching your friend.”

“Who’s watching Gray?”

“Not Lieutenant MacGerald. Your other friend, the one visiting you, the one who swims in the ocean and jumps out of airplanes and hunts with a bow and arrows.”

Her words jarred Craige. Only Gray, Fred, Mabel, and Terri knew Spinner was here. He hadn’t mentioned Spinner to Mattie or that he even had a visitor at Moccasin Hollow.

“Mister Craige, you must take extra care. That pretty bauble in its velvet box belongs to some kind of devil. Washed in blood with terrible long-dead secrets, crawling from their long-dead places. Don’t keep it near you. There is smoke and fire over your home, over that bauble from where she burned.” Mattie’s hands trembled as she reached for her cup of tea and took a long slow sip to calm herself. Her tremulous cup rattled into its saucer, “I will feel so much better once that pretty thing is rid away from you.”

He stood, “I want to let Gray know what you’ve told me.”

A bit calmer, Mattie insisted, “You must promise to not keep that thing inside your home.”

“I will take care.”

Mattie’s face strained, “I most truly enjoy the tea.”

Her hand still lingering at her throat, as Mattie stood in the doorway and waved as Mister Craige drove away. She hadn’t wanted him to know how upset it had truly made her.

* * *

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Meet the Author:
Author Hawk MacKinney
Hawk MacKinney began writing mysteries for his school newspaper, served in the US Navy for over 20 years, earned two postgraduate degrees with studies in languages and history, taught postgraduate courses in the United States and Jerusalem, authored professional articles and chordate embryology texts on fetal and adult anatomy, and is well known for his works of fiction. Moccasin Trace, a historical novel, was nominated for the prestigious Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction and the Writers Notes Book Award. Both his CAIRNS OF SANCTUARIE science fiction series and the MOCCASIN HOLLOW MYSTERY series have received worldwide recognition.
 
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The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris by Steve M. Gnatz (Book Spotlight / Guest Post)

Content Rating: PG-13. There is mild (romantic) sexual content and very mild profanity.

 
 
1776: Benjamin Franklin sails to Paris, carrying a copy of the Declaration of Independence, freshly signed. His charge: gain the support of France for the unfolding American Revolution. Yet Paris is a city of distractions. Ben’s lover, Marianne Davies, will soon arrive, and he yearns to rekindle his affair with the beautiful musician.

Dr. Franz Mesmer has plans for Marianne too. He has taken Parisian nobility by storm with his discovery of magnétisme animale, a mysterious force claimed to heal the sick. Marianne’s ability to channel Mesmer’s phenomena is key to his success.

A skeptical King Louis XVI appoints Ben to head a commission investigating the astonishing magnétisme animale. By nature, Ben requires proof. Can he scientifically prove that it does not exist? Mesmer will stop at nothing to protect his profitable claim.

The Wisdom of The Flock explores the conflict between science and mysticism in a time rife with revolution, love, spies, and passion.

 
 

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Were Benjamin Franklin and Marianne Davies really lovers?

Benjamin Franklin was sent to France in 1776 at the outset of my book The Wisdom of the Flock to help secure the aid of the French in the American Revolution against the British.

But prior to the beginning of the book, Franklin had spent most of the past 20 years (1757-1775) in London, away from his wife Deborah. Ostensibly, this was because she had a strong aversion to sea travel and would not follow him across the Atlantic Ocean. Deborah, in fact, passed away in late 1774 at home in Philadelphia while Ben was still in London.

Franklin was, of course, famous as a ladies’ man. Historians have often wondered if he was up to any hanky-panky during those nearly 20 years in London.

In 1761, Franklin attended a concert in London. There Ben observed a lovely young musician named Marianne Davies performing on the musical glasses. Despite how beautifully she played, she appeared to be in constant pain from the activity. Franklin conceived of an instrument with glass bowls attached to a rod at their center and bathed in a tub of water. The rod was turned by a treadle mechanism, keeping the turning bowls moistened. The musician could then gently apply her finger to the appropriate bowl to produce the note she wanted – resulting in music without any pain. He named his invention a glass armonica and had the first one made for Marianne Davies. It has been suggested that this was an extravagant gift for the gentleman to give the lady.

In 1767, a young Philadelphia artist named Charles Willson Peale showed up unannounced at Franklin’s lodgings on Craven Street. While waiting to see the great man, Peale apparently observed (and sketched) Franklin with a paramour in the next room through an ajar door.

https://twonerdyhistorygirls.blogspot.com/2018/05/a-scandalous-sketch-of-benjamin.html

Some authors have suggested that the woman pictured might have been Franklin’s landlady Margaret Stevenson’s daughter Polly – but I believe this to be unlikely. While Polly would have been about the same age as Marianne Davies, and both women were much younger than Franklin, he generally considered Polly as a “surrogate daughter”. It seems unlikely that they would be openly engaged in such activity in her mother’s house.

There are very few, if any, established pictures of Marianne Davies – see my blog post on this issue here: https://stevegnatz.com/2020/10/why-are-there-no-pictures-of-marianne-davies/

There is not much help from the written historical record in terms of letters between Marianne Davies and Franklin. In The Wisdom of the Flock, I imagined that they had agreed to burn their private letters to each other – in order to solve this dilemma. It is historical fiction, after all! The only two letters known to exist in the real world are those that Marianne wrote in 1783 complaining that Franklin no longer seemed interested in protecting her “franchise” to play the glass armonica. Of course, in The Wisdom of the Flock, this is explained by Ben’s love interest having waned – and other actions on Marianne’s part that I will not reveal here so as not to spoil it for you.

I hope that you will enjoy the story of Benjamin Franklin and Marianne Davies love affair in The Wisdom of the Flock, even if it only represents the fictional part of historical fiction.

 

 

Meet the Author:

Steve Gnatz is a writer, physician, bicyclist, photographer, traveler, and aspiring ukulele player. The son of a history professor and a nurse, it seems that both medicine and history are in his blood. Writing historical fiction came naturally. An undergraduate degree in biology was complemented by a minor in classics. After completing medical school, he embarked on an academic medical career specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. There was little time for writing during those years, other than research papers and a technical primer on electromyography. Now retired from the practice of medicine, he devotes himself to the craft of fiction. The history of science is of particular interest, but also the dynamics of human relationships. People want to be good scientists, but sometimes human nature gets in the way. That makes for interesting stories. When not writing or traveling, he enjoys restoring Italian racing bicycles at home in Chicago with his wife and daughters.

connect with the author:  website ~ facebook ~ goodreads

 

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Save the Date by Ellen Fannon (Book Spotlight / Author Interview)

Content Rating:  G

 
What if you were given the chance to rekindle the flame with your first love? What happened to all those girls who were mean to you in school? Should Hannah Jensen take the chance of attending her high school reunion to find out?

Hannah hasn’t been back to her hometown in more than twenty years. Now, a widow, raising a teenaged daughter, she has the opportunity to go home for her twenty-fifth high school reunion. The invitation to the reunion stirs up a lot of old memories at the same time she is dealing with loneliness, the challenges of single-parenting a teenager, people who want to “set her up” with eligible men, her own insecurities, and her eccentric family.

The story interweaves the present with scenes from Hannah’s past and her fantasy of “happily ever after” with her high school boyfriend in a humorous and entertaining manner. Her feelings from being “shunned” by the cool kids resurface as she reflects back on her time as a teenager. There are several roadblocks on Hannah’s journey from a teenager through her present. The growing pains and amusing situations in which she finds herself are ones to which we all can relate. As she walks the path of self-discovery, she also discovers the most important life lesson of all–her relationship to God.

 
 

Ellen Fannon

Author Ellan Fannon

Award-winning author Ellen Fannon is a practicing veterinarian, former missionary, and church pianist/organist. She originated and wrote the Pet Peeves column for the Northwest Florida Daily News before taking a two-year assignment with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. She and her retired Air Force pilot-turned-pastor husband have been foster parents to more than 40 children, and the adoptive parents of two sons. Her first novel, “Other People’s Children,” is a humorous account of the life of a foster parent. She is a regular contributing author for One Christian Voice, and her stories have been published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series as well as Lifeway’s Open Windows devotional booklets, among many other publications. Her third novel about a veterinarian entitled “Don’t Bite the Doctor” will be released in 2021. She lives in Valparaiso, Florida, with her husband, sons, and assorted pets.
 
 
What is your next project?
My next book is called “Don’t Bite the Doctor.” It’s about the adventures of a young veterinarian.
 
 

What genre do you write and why?
I like writing fiction because I can use my imagination.

 

 

What is the last great book you’ve read?
I am actually re-reading the classic “All Creatures Great and Small.”
 
 
Do you snack while writing? Favorite snack?
Sometimes I’ll have some almonds. They last a while and I can crunch on them to release the tension.

 

 

Where do you write?
I always write in my bedroom office area.

 

 

What is your writing schedule?
I try to write two days a week on my days off. I’ll also write on Saturdays sometimes. I don’t write on workdays because my brain is dead by the time I get home.

 

 


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