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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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Death Perception by Lee Allen Howard (Book Review)

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.

 

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(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) 
Score: ❤❤❤1/2

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About the author

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.

A long time ago I earned a BA in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I also received an MA in Biblical Studies from CI School of Theology and an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.Pride Flag

My publications include, but are not limited to:

I’m also the founder, editor, and publisher at Dark Cloud Press (http://www.darkcloudpress.com), publisher of horror, dark crime, and psychological thrillers.

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Death Perception by Lee Allen Howard (Book Showcase)

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.

 

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Read the first chapter here.

 

 

 

Lori S.
⭐⭐     Death Perception full of clever twists
 
Kennet Singleton is a young man with one of the worst part-time jobs I can imagine – he works in the local funeral home, operating the crematorium. Being a teenager, his mind is capable of dark humor adults might not understand and Kennet decides to try toasting some marshmallows over the remains of the corpses he burns in the oven.

Okay, he’s a little strange. Then he realizes that eating those marshmallows gives him the knowledge of how the deceased died. And that’s not so bad, until he realizes that the message he gets doesn’t match the information from the death certificate. Someone is murdering people and Kennet thinks his own mother might have been one of the victims. Kennet, with the help of a couple friends, investigates the murders, leading to all kinds of twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing.

Lee Allen Howard is a fine writer, with a knack for creating characters you’ll both love and hate. Everyone in the book comes to life under Howard’s skillful hands. Although the topic is a bit of a gross-out, this isn’t a disgusting book nor is it overly graphic. It’s a good book and I’d highly recommend it.

 
 
A Reader in the Mitten
⭐⭐     Death Perception full of clever twists

I’ve read a few of Lee Allen Howard’s other books, and I believe this is his best. They’re all gritty, realistic and chilling — not in a blood-and-guts way (although some details in Death Perception do spill out), but what I loved is Howard’s more-than-heroic hero. Kennet Singleton has had a rough life, and things just get worse due to some creepy people in the town – his greedy funeral director boss, the cold-hearted owner of the home care place where Kennet’s mother lives, and the half-stoned orderly who targets Kennet whenever possible. Howard does a masterful job peeling the layers in this deeply moving novel, revealing Kennet’s unusual gift of perception, plus the evil surrounding him. I cheered for Kennet every step of the way. A great, satisfying read.
 
 
Jennifer
⭐⭐ 

I’ve always enjoyed a good underdog story and Lee Allen Howard delivers just that with Death Perception. Our protagonist, Kennet, has had a hard life so why shouldn’t he enjoy some of the sweeter things? His boss may not like him roasting marshmallows on the job at the crematory but the dead don’t seem to mind. In fact, Kennet isn’t your average teen and that momentary pleasure brings him more than just a sugar rush. He soon finds he’s able to make contact with the deceased, giving him knowledge no one else is aware of. Part ghost story and part murder mystery Howard’s clean prose and spot-on timing make for a compelling read. The story is told with compassion for the less fortunate and insight into the way the world often torments the weak. But it also contains some truly laugh-out-loud scenes at the expense of the evil-doers and the ultimate triumph of the underdog. If you enjoy ghosts, revenge tales and mysteries this book is for you.
 
 
 
 

 

About the author

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.

A long time ago I earned a BA in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I also received an MA in Biblical Studies from CI School of Theology and an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.Pride Flag

My publications include, but are not limited to:

I’m also the founder, editor, and publisher at Dark Cloud Press (http://www.darkcloudpress.com), publisher of horror, dark crime, and psychological thrillers.

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Treoir Dragon Chronicles: Book 1 by Dianna Love (Book Showcase)


New York Times Bestseller Dianna Love has a brand new series from the Belador world for first time readers as well as current Belador fans and it’s full of explosive reveals. Dragons didn’t just show up out of thin air centuries ago and not all of them died in the Dragani war.

Atlanta hovers on the edge of chaos and pandemonium as rumors fly about supernatural beings living among humans. Deadly preternaturals predators have been held in check for many years by the most formidable pantheons. One angry being has had enough and accesses majik of an ancient grimoire to release abominations capable of taking down the most powerful of humanity’s supernatural protectors.

As the dragon-shifter king over Beladors living secretly among humans, Daegan is tortured by having failed to save his loved ones two millennia ago when a vindictive goddess captured him. With a second chance at life, he’s vowed to protect his new family and destroy anyone who harms them. He’ll have to find all the parts of a grimoire divided up and hidden thousands of years ago for any hope of saving his captured people and a world ready to launch high-tech weapons to wipe out unnatural beings.

The entire human race has one hope of surviving what’s coming for them, but only if fear of the unknown does not drive the humans to kill their greatest protector first.

This is book 1 of a 9-book spinoff series for first time readers as well as current Belador fans. All 9 books will release within a year and be available in e-book, print, and audiobooks.

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READ AN EXCERPT

“If you don’t fight for what you love, then don’t cry for what you lost.”

~ Unknown

 

Every major war and crisis can be traced to a specific moment in time.

During the medieval time of chieftains and kingdoms in ancient Ireland, betrayal triggered a dragon war and consequences have rippled through time to today’s world. A supernatural being on a path to expose nonhumans is sparking chaos across the world with Atlanta at the epicenter. Powerful preternatural beings have waited patiently for an opportune moment to strike at their enemies and with no regard for human casualties. Now is the time.

The Belador supernatural race living secretly among humans freed a cursed dragon shifter, who now reigns as their king. Daegan takes a stand to fight for his nonhuman followers as well as vulnerable humans. Tortured by what he lost two millennia ago, Daegan has vowed to destroy any who threaten his new family and allies.

Atlanta and the entire human race have one hope of surviving what’s coming for them, but only if fear of the unknown does not drive them to kill their greatest protector first.


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Pivot: Jack Harper Trilogy, Book 1 by L. C. Barlow (Book Showcase)

From the age of seven, Jack Harper is raised by the leader of a mystical cult, Cyrus Harper. Through Cyrus, Jack receives a full education in all usual subjects―economics, literature, mathematics, history―as well as one unique skill useful to a person in Cyrus’s position: assassination. With the help of Roland James, a man incapable of dying, Cyrus hones Jack into the perfect weapon to use against all who oppose him.

It is not long, however, before Jack discovers that Cyrus and Roland are not the only ones living in Cyrus’s mansion. There, too, exists a mysterious creature in the depths of the house with supposed immortal magic. According to Roland, this creature is responsible for all the miraculous things Jack has witnessed throughout her childhood, including Roland’s resurrection. The creature, potent and powerful, only weakens in the presence of Cyrus’s red velvet box―a dark, enchanted tool that grants Cyrus his invincibility and ensures his reign.

Lonely and terrified by her life in the cult, under Cyrus’s neverending watch, Jack desperately pursues the mysterious being. When they finally meet, her world is turned upside down, as he offers her more than she could have ever expected―the possibility of escape and her own secret, magical power.

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Excerpt:

“The repetition of these particular lessons helped me—the time and effort I devoted to them. Winning a fight had nothing to do with an instantaneous surge of power and awareness but was about maintaining a sense of normality in the moment. It was about what I could forget. I got used to the sensation of a body against my body, of someone coming at me, the foreign twisting, pulling, and driving. When it became the norm, then it all fell away, much like a common denominator. Only the crosshairs, the target, the wind, the heart, the head, the veins were left. Training meant learning what one should remember and, more importantly, what one should forget. The winner is the one for whom the fight feels most like home.” – Jack Harper, PIVOT

 

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L.C. Barlow is a writer and professor working primarily in the field of speculative fiction.  She has an MA in English from the University of Texas at Arlington and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program.  She has studied with popular writers, including Nancy Holder, Elizabeth Hand, Ted Deppe, James Patrick Kelly, Elizabeth Searle, David Anthony Durham, and Theodora Goss.  Her work has been published in Oak Bend Review, Flash Fiction World, Linguistic Erosion, Flashes in the Dark, Separate Worlds, Every Day Fiction, and Popular Culture Review.  Her fiction has reached over sixty-five thousand readers and garnered praise, including a finalist for the Next Generation Indie Awards, a winner of the IndieReader Discovery Awards, a winner of the eLit Awards, and IndieReader’s Best Books of 2014.  On Quora, her posts have received over 1.4 million content views. Barlow’s horror trilogy – PivotPerish, and Peak – was picked up in 2018 by California Coldblood Books, an imprint of Rare Bird Books.  The first of the trilogy, Pivot, was released in October of 2019.  Perish will be released in October of 2020.  Peak will be released in October of 2021. Barlow lives in Dallas, TX with her two cats, Smaug and Dusty.

 

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