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Andrew's erotic novelette, 'Eton Mess', is now available!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Writing Review of 2017

I’m jumping on the bandwagon again as I do every December, and doing a review of my writing year.  So, here’s what has happened in my writing world in 2017.

I’ve had two erotic shorts published, both featuring (so some extent) my favourite PhD student, Kerry-Jane.  ‘Eton Mess’ stars Kerry-Jane and Amy, her best friend.  The duo go out for a meal and enjoy the contents of the sweet trolley perhaps a little too enthusiastically, to the delight of their two waiters.

Eton Mess SmallWeekendTreat Small

Weekend Treat’ is a story around Rachel, Kerry-Jane’s supervisor, who thinks in her early thirties she is too old to be attractive.  The attentions of two handsome plumbers have her realising she’s still got it. Rachel was introduced to the world in my time travel novel, ‘The Door into War’, and this short develops some aspects of her character I couldn’t work on in the book.

Elsewhere my novel, ‘The Fairy Wife’ was accepted by Rebel ePublishers and is likely to be published in 2018.  It’s a similar story to ‘The Footholder’s Tale’ that Rebel published in 2015, being a retelling of a traditional Welsh story and set in the remote past.  Like ‘Footy’, this was great fun to write and I’m delighted Jayne at Rebel has taken it on.

So, what else do I have to look forward to in 2018?


  • I’ve got a handful of finished horror novels and novellas hanging around which I’m quite pleased with.  They’ll be looking for publishers;
  • A few more erotic shorts, as usual ‘starring’ Kerry-Jane;
  • I’m in the final stages of a violent horror set around Irish myth;
  • I’m in the planning stages of a couple of novels.  I’m not sure what I’ll write next – it looks like a toss up between a horror based around a heavy metal band, and a fantasy-horror set against the backdrop of witchcraft in the mid-seventeenth century English Civil War;
  • Several years ago I wrote a horror novel (‘Dana’s Children’) about a group of archaeologists who come across some creatures from Celtic myth.  The story was accepted by Wild Child Publishing before the house folded, and has been professionally edited.  I might consider self-publishing it this year.

Finally, I’d like to give a big thanks to everyone who helped with my writing in 2017, especially Carole and Phil.

    Sunday, 3 December 2017

    Site Updated

    After a bit of a delay caused by other projects (and, I admit, a bit of laziness and a lot of technophobia) I’ve found time to update this blog. 

    My ‘Publications’ page is now up to date. 

    I’ve also updated my ‘Reviews’ page.  If anyone out there has read any of my books and feels like adding a rating – or even a few comments - on either Amazon or Goodreads, that’d be great.

    Sunday, 12 November 2017

    Welcoming Nancy Avery Dafoe

    I’d like to welcome author Nancy Avery Dafoe and her new book, ‘You Enter a Room’, published by Rogue Phoenix Press.  During this book tour, Nancy will give away a digital copy to a lucky commenter.


    ISBN: Ebook 978-1-62420-339-8

    Print 978-1977744630

    Author: Nancy Avery Dafoe

    Genre: suspense

    Excerpt Heat Level: 1

    Book Heat Level: 2

    Buy at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble


    Advena Goodwin didn’t set out to become a detective. She would rather write her dissertation and fall in love, but her friend has been murdered.


    You Enter a RoomHeroine Advena (Vena) Goodwin does not set out to become a detective. She is more interested in untangling a literary mystery, writing her dissertation, and falling in love, but the young man who fascinates her has killed himself or, as she suspects, been murdered.

    A smart, resilient young woman, Vena attempts to trap the clever murderer Professor Gould by using his over-sized ego against him. With no one believing her suspicions at first, she is on her own in dangerous territory masked by a scholarly campus setting.

    This upmarket murder mystery takes place in the settings of Rochester in upstate New York and Rome, Italy. The crimes, murder and theft, are interwoven with a literary puzzle the protagonist solves even as her life is imperiled.

    EXCERPT: You Enter a Room

    “Yeah, well, they meant business, so I knew something was going down there. After circling the house, the cops pounded on the door again, then one of them looks through a window he’d already passed and returned to, standing on his toes, and yells something. The other one comes back to the front, or I guess, really a side door, and starts kicking at it. Then both of them were smashing their boots against the door. I mean, I’ve seen this kind of smash in the door on TV, but to actually see these guys break something down is damned impressive.”

    Suddenly, I wanted him to slow up and not say the next part out loud, but Sam urged him on. “Then?”

    “They went in, and I ran across the street like I was still jogging and looked in the open doorway because I guess I wasn’t thinking about anybody having guns, and I realize that wasn’t the smartest thing for me to do—see, I wasn’t even thinking about myself at that point.”

    “Andrew!” I wanted to slap him.

    “It was awful, really. This guy, he was hanging from the ceiling fixture at the top.” I covered my face and Sam gripped my arm, her painted nails digging in and leaving little impressions. “They were trying to get him down, so they didn’t see me. One cop grabbed his legs and pulled him back to the top of the stairs to check for a pulse. Then he let him go, accidentally, I think, and the guy starts swinging back and forth like a pendulum. I stepped back then because I’d never seen a dead person hanging like that, and that’s when I saw his boot at the bottom just inside the door. One of his boots was still on, but the other had fallen. I was so close that I could have picked it up. I went back to the other side of the street and called my friend Jay to come get me. I was starting to feel sick.”

    At first the detail of the boot seemed pointless and then I saw the image as clearly as Andrew had, marking the death of the individual. Michael’s boot, the worn, old leather ones that he wore every day. “How do you know the shoe or boot was Michael Lawler's?” Sam asked. “Did you know him?”

    “No, never heard of him, but when an ambulance pulled up and the EMTs went in, I was still waiting for my friend. Jay had been sleeping in that morning because he didn’t have class, so he wasn’t there yet. See, I didn’t feel like running anymore, I was nauseous, like you.” He looks at me, then said, “Just like you. Another cop came and took pictures, then they brought out his body covered up like on a TV show. One of the cops said to the other, ‘Anything in his pockets?’”

    ““License says Michael Lawler,” I’m pretty sure the cop said. “Student ID on him too. University of Rochester student. Suicide.” I didn’t want the cops to notice me, so I stepped back further and ducked around behind a house. Thinking about what I did now, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea because they might have thought I had something to do with it, like I was involved in a murder or something. I mean, he was hanging, but who knew how he got there, even if he did say suicide?”

    “Oh, no,” was all I could get out. Sam was crying. Looking back later, I realized Andrew might have been the one to put the word 'murder' in my head.

    “You’re sure?” Sam asked, and he nodded. I liked Sam a little bit more during those moments we were drawn together in horror. Whatever else life held for either of us, we experienced a temporary bond in that claustrophobic space where breathing becomes more difficult.

    Andrew waited a few minutes but saw that neither one of us was up to questioning him further, so he walked off, ready to repeat his tale. He probably had friends back home who had yet to hear of his dramatic morning. That would be all the experience was for Andrew, an opportunity to enlarge his life.

    Sam hugged me, and I took that solace greedily. We finally stopped holding one another. “You okay?” she asked.

    I nodded, “I can’t believe it.”

    “Me either. I’m so sorry, but I’ve got to go,” and we parted. As soon as I left the bookstore, I was hit again, my whole body aching. By the time I reached my apartment, my head hurt so badly that I turned off the lights, pulled the curtains, and rolled into a fetal position on my bed where I stayed for hours. It didn’t help and changed nothing. Hours later, I woke to restless fear and more nausea.

    Although I didn’t know Michael well, I was aware of his peculiarities, his withdrawn silence, his intelligence and gentleness. What was certain was I wanted to know him better. What I recognized him best for, however, was his talent. We had read each other’s work on multiple occasions, wrote a few comments that were generous rather than critical. I couldn’t quite believe that Michael had taken his own life, that he was gone. Logically, my search should have ended there with his death and certainty. We were told he had hanged himself. Everything should have been obvious, as related circumstances appeared to be to nearly everyone around me, but suicide and Michael did not fit, would never fit.

    My mind kept seeing Michael’s worn boot at the bottom of the stairs and then him swinging when the cop let go of his body either accidentally or deliberately. Unlike Andrew, I was not a witness, had not been at the crime scene, but I might as well have been because I conjured up the sight as clearly as if I had been standing outside in the snow, looking through that open doorway. My eyes followed a line of dread up narrow stairs in disbelief, but I kept turning away before seeing his distorted face, as if I couldn’t bear to look at him in death, even in imagination.



    Nancy Dafoe picWriter, poet, and educator Nancy Avery Dafoe, Homer, NY, has published books on teaching writing, Breaking Open the Box and Writing Creatively: A Guided Journal through Rowman & Littlefield Education in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Her latest book on education policy, The Misdirection of Education Policy: Raising Questions about School Reform was published by Rowman & Littlefield in June 2016. Her first chapbook of poetry, Poets Diving in the Night, is due out from Finishing Line Press in January 2017.

    She recently won the William Faulkner-William Wisdom creative writing award in poetry for 2016 and previously won the New Century Writer award for short stories. Dafoe’s poems, essays, and stories have appeared in numerous literary publications. Her fiction work also appears in the anthology Lost Orchard, published by SUNY Press in 2014.


    Murder mystery; Woman amateur detective

    Website URL:

    Blog URL:

    Facebook page: Nancy Dafoe, Nancy A. Dafoe, Dafoe Writing and Consulting

    Friday, 22 September 2017

    ‘Eton Mess’ Published

    It’s always thrilling to have a book published, especially when it’s one that was great fun to write.

    Eton Mess Big

    ‘Eton Mess’ certainly fell in the ‘fun to write’ category.  It’s another erotic novelette featuring my two favourite PhD students, Kerry-Jane and Amy.  In this story the friends go out for a meal and enjoy both the waiters and the contents of the sweet trolley at the same time.

    I’ve written some background about Kerry-Jane and Amy here.

    Grateful thanks to Mary at Keith Publications for accepting the story, to Summer for an excellent editing job, To Elisa for a great cover, and to Phil for reading over an early draft.

    ‘Eton Mess’ is available from Amazon – as a all my other books.

    Monday, 18 September 2017

    Hey, Joey Journal

    I’d like to welcome author Colleen June Glatzel and her new book, ‘Hey, Joey Journal’, published by Rogue Phoenix Press.  During this book tour, Colleen will give away a digital copy to a lucky commenter.


    Title: Hey, Joey Journal

    Author: Colleen June Glatzel

    ISBN: 978-1-62420-332-9

    Genre: Literary Fiction

    Excerpt Heat Level: 1

    Book Heat Level: 3

    Buy at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble


    After her father’s death, wild child Rosie Dwyer is introduced to journaling. She initially calls this writing form cliché, but eventually a cathartic obsession begins.


    After the psychologically scarring death of her father, wild child Rosie Dwyer is introduced to journal keeping. She initially considers this writing form to be cliché. Before the death, Rosie valued chaos and rebellion- from “protest-peeing” in class to shoving a Twinkie in a classmate’s eye. However, once Rosie gives into this mode of writing, a cathartic obsession begins.

    Her entries often focus on her childhood enemy, Logan Fields, after he becomes Rosie’s permanent peer editor in creative writing class. While Rosie loses touch with both loved ones and reality, an unlikely friendship builds between her and Logan. Together, they must try to find the meaning behind insanity- in the school theatre, in the public library, and in the middle of a false Apocalypse.


    August 17, 2012

    Hey, Journal,

    That “Dear journal” shtick is overused, so I’ll address you with the word “hey.” Hey, journal. I usually write exclusively on scraps of paper. Underneath my bed is my literature’s habitat and the paragraphs are seldom about anything. Last year, I discussed career goals with my high school’s counselor. Once my writing aspirations were revealed, Counselor became giddy and asked about my writing style. She said, “I’d love to hear about it, Rosie.”

    “It’s disorganized,” I said. Then she handed me this ginormous journal and I witnessed a disgusting “I’m-a-cool-adult” wink.

    This is the first time I’ve cracked you open.

    Time seems to have decelerated. The slowing of time is the only gift August 2012 has coughed up. There’s been a drought, among other eyesores. I’m beneath our backyard’s oak tree, its gargantuan arms stretching far, shade encompassing the entire lawn. Many leaves are dehydrated. It’s as pleasant to lie beneath as Magic Mike is to watch. Allow me to explain that analogy. The film’s previews had me expecting a rollicking rom-com...something less serious. It differed from the ads. Still, every scene featuring scantily clad men made it worth the cash. That’s what happened with this shade. I’m below it, experiencing a full body itch, but it could be worse. Due to lacking rain, the ground isn’t summer turf in the slightest. Imagine wearing a pantsuit crafted out of hay and sandpaper. The shade is nice, though. Makes me able to bear my eyes being open.

    Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick. I kid you not, as I placed the period after “open,” a bird landed in my eye line and inched toward me. Soon, it was atop this journal. I thought, Birds are flighty. Timid. Not this one. Its eyes were a familiar mess. I was confronted by the undeniable fact that birds were my dad’s favorite animal. I blinked, eyelids capturing wetness and holding it hostage. Moisture subsided and the bird was all kinds of nowhere.

    I wonder what it would be like to sprout wings. To be gone. My pencil is begging me to release it from my monstrous grip and my legs are screaming, “Let us run far away, Rosie.”

    I’ll do what I do best and let my impulses win. Run until I get scared and retreat. Run until I realize it’s not the same as flying. Run.


    August 18, 2012

    Hey, Journal,

    I’m not counting the days that have passed since it happened. When a person starts counting the days following an event, it becomes part of a timeline. Then, by consequence, it is cemented in reality. I’m fortunate. My brain is still too immobilized to visualize random numbers floating in space. I’m unable to make numbers relate to each other, events, time or anything at all. Because of this, I don’t know how long it’s been since he died. It’s messed up, but I prefer this ambivalent uncertainty.

    I’ll speak of something I know for sure. Today’s bike ride destroyed me. August is going too fast. It’s only the 18th, but it feels like the month is nearing its conclusion. The weather is far too chilly, honestly. Deflated bike tires carried me down the sidewalk of my street. I normally ride in the road, but I haven’t been in the mood to care about the well-being of pedestrians lately. Those tires were spinning, moving like the earth’s orbit around the sun, constant and circular, at least seemingly so. Home was in sight. My eyes were on the trees above. I was gliding. Gliding. The leaves were rustling. The world was unsettled. God attached a handle to the South Pole, stuffed the globe full of beads and shook this planet like a giant rattle. God’s infant-like cries resonated and the wheels came to a screeching halt, all because the malicious fates placed a tiny, dauntless bird on the sidewalk of Kale Avenue. I ran over the motionless bird. Accidentally. Then I pried my fluttering hand from my mouth and threw my wheels into the street. Seconds later, a police car demolished the bike and veered to the roadside.


    The uniformed man shot out of his vehicle, completely uncentered. There was a restricting quality to his aura, accompanied by an unprecedented ability to snap. Light brown is the color of a traditional rubber band, and when it comes to auras, it’s a color associated with discouragement. His body language was discouraging me the second he exited the car.

    No, I’m not a psychic. I don’t see colors framing the forms of people. However, I do see people for who they are and enjoy describing this reality I perceive with the same language aura seers use. I heard all about auras growing up under the care of parents who lived to study metaphysical concepts. Much of the gobbledygook they taught me is too much for my logical brain to handle. Both my parents underwent past life regression, for example. Listening to my dad talk about his life as a Vietnamese peasant girl creeped me out. But auras? I was somehow able to get on board.

    While laying eyes on me, the uniformed man eased. He’s one of the cops who came when my dad’s body wasn’t doing things it should be doing. Like, you know…living. I was the girl the cops found in the disheveled garage, after I found… Nope. No. Nope.


    Colleen June Gatzel photo

    Colleen June Glatzel is a writer from Waukesha, WI. She writes mostly fiction, but is interested in exploring other categories now that her first book, Hey, Joey Journal, is published. When Colleen isn’t writing, she deals antiques, acts, performs improv comedy, makes collages, paints and spends time with her family.


    teenagers, mental illness, suicide, Bipolar Disorder, journaling




    Facebook page:

    Wednesday, 9 August 2017

    Jak Barley, Private Inquisitor

    I’d like to welcome Author Dan Ehl and his new book, ‘Jak Barley Private Inquisitor, and the Case of the Annoying Assassins’, published by Rogue Phoenix Press.  During this book tour, Dan will give away a digital copy to a lucky commenter.

    Title: Jak Barley Private Inquisitor, and the Case of the Annoying Assassins
    Author: Dan Ehl
    ISBN: 978-1-62420-328-2

    Genre: fantasy
    Excerpt Heat Level: 1
    Book Heat Level: 1
    Buy at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

    One again Private Inquisitor Jak Barley cannot escape dreaded adventures – this time murderous bank robbers, nasty goblins, furious dragon chases, demonic foes and becoming the quarry of the Assassin’s Guild.


    Jak Barley, Private Inquisitor, is tired of adventures and is ready to take on only hum-drum cases offering no drama–those of missing husbands, unfaithful spouses, or fat merchants paying well for outing thieving employees–anything not involving traveling, swords, or the darker magics.

    Yet once again his otherworldy friend, Lorenzo Spasm, drags him into cases involving corrupt CIA (Clandestine Information Authority) agents, murderous bank robbers, nasty goblins, furious dragon chases, demonic foes, and going uncover at an elders’ RW (recreational wagon) park set atop a butte overlooking a harsh desert floor. To top it off, Jak finds himself the quarry of the Assassin’s Guild after an anonymous adversary takes out a whack contract on him.

    Helping him get through this will be his intended, the beautiful witchling in training, Morgana.


    “What-t-t-t?” I managed to croak in answer to the incessant hammering on my sleeping room door. I keep it bolted along with several magical wards after a number of tedious attempts upon my life by diabolical assassins, blood-thirsty necromancers, and numerous bat-turd crazy priests and neophytes of ancient and deranged deities. Other than that, my life is fairly normal.

    I am back to yawn-inducing cases dealing with unfaithful spouses, stolen silverware, and runaway teensters—and I intend to keep it that way. You will not be kidnapped by piss dragons for investigating a horse theft, hounded by nasty wizards over a missing spouse case, nor forced to traipse through monster-laden wastelands to answer a simple paternity question. I now choose my private inquisitor cases wisely in my hometown of Duburoake, and again, that means no adventures. I hate adventures.

    “Come on Jak, open up.”

    What kind of hedge-born miscreant would be trying to wake a person this early in the morn?

    “Jak, it’s almost afternoon. Open up, you dipsomaniac.”

    “Ugh-h-h,” was all my dry throat could sound. I tried opening my eyelids, but it appeared some twisted jester glued them together. I was forced to pry them apart with palsied fingers.

    What had that demented lunatic been shouting last night as he kept refilling my ale mug? “There be no tomorrow.” Yes, in principle there be no tomorrow. The clock strikes midnight and it be today, with tomorrow pushed another twenty-four hours away. We all chase a tomorrow that never comes. Unfortunately, today has again arrived and it be not pleasant.

    My idle thoughts were just about to lure me back into a feverish slumber when the caller again began shouting. “Jak Barley, get out of bed, you lazy ne’er-do-well sot.”

    Like some pitiable prisoner coerced to climb the steps to the gallows pole, I forced myself to sit up and then fight the sudden centrifugal force that threatened to send me rolling across the room to be plastered against the wall like some youngster in a harvest carnival ride. The spinning slowly receded to where I could safely pull on my trousers, though it set off an angry outburst behind my eyeballs.
    “Jak, get up, you wretched lay about.”

    I lurched to the door and waved my hand across the latch, letting the ring cancel the charms placed upon it. The magical band and its wards were a gift from my betrothed, Morgana, a novice witch at the Kuu Academy of Mystical Arts and Witchcraft. Beginning at the top, I slid the five bolts over and then hesitated at the latch. I knew the grotesque vision I would see on the other side. I sighed in resignation and opened the door, there to view the huge, mocking, obnoxious, leering, and gleeful smile of my supposed friend, Lorenzo Spasm.

    “Holy crap, Batman, what wizard cursed you with that aging spell?” he exclaimed.

    I was used to his outlandish phrases and words because that is what they literally are—outlandish. Spasm claims to be an inhabitant of a parallel firmament, one similar to our world in many ways, but devoid of any magic. Partial proof of that claim is Spasm’s immunity to spells. Any enchantment will rebound off my friend and back onto the mage or witch who cast the curse.

    “What in Hades do you want? Cannot you see I am ailing?” I managed to moan. I could not even lift my head to look in him eye-to-eye without setting off another round of thunderbolts.

    Lorenzo is about six-foot, two inches, to my five-nine. I took in his droopy mustache and slightly greying hair that went to his shoulders—and the outlandish mixture of clothing reflecting his exotic wanderings. It is difficult to estimate his age, though I would guess in the late forties. He was taciturn when it came to personal details and background.

    “Downed by the brown bottle flu is my guess,” Lorenzo observed with little sympathy. “You reek of a brewery.”

    My answer was a glowering stare that failed to wipe away his enthusiastic demeanor. “What do you want?” I finally asked.

    “I have a job for you. It seems . . .”

    I slammed the door in his face and staggered back to bed. Anything Lorenzo found so enjoyable could only mean peril and hardship. I made the mistake of not locking the door and Spasm pushed it open. He crossed the room to open a window and then took a chair at the foot of the bed.

    Author Bio:
    Dan Ehl has been a journalist and editor at both weeklies and daily newspapers in Iowa. The winner of numerous journalism and photo awards, including first in humor from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, he enjoys breaking out of dryer newspaper writing to pen fantasy novels. He served in Germany as an Army photographer during the Vietnam War. “With a lot of Vietnamese people digging pits with sharpened stakes at the bottom for people just like me, I knew I wasn’t really wanted. I didn’t want to be rude and show up anyway. Being from Iowa, we always try to be polite. And Germany during the early 1970s was interesting enough with the barracks always reeking of beer, vomit and hashish every weekend.” His favorite hobbies are hitchhiking and hopping freights.

    Keywords: fantasy, private inquisitor, goblins, witches, demons, adventure


    Friday, 23 June 2017

    ‘Choke’ – by Lisa Towles


    What does a missing hospital patient in San Francisco have to do with a scientific discovery on the opposite coast that could put a serious dent in pharmaceutical industry profits? It’s a mystery that crime novelist Lisa Towles draws to a riveting conclusion in her fourth full-length novel.

    Kerry Stine is a nursing assistant at a San Francisco hospital who is blamed for the disappearance of a patient from the intensive care unit, while Adrian Calhoun is a scientist on the East Coast who finds himself in danger from Big Pharma operatives after developing a cancer-curing cigarette.

    Choke (Rebel E Publishers) features two seemingly unrelated plot lines, relentlessly paced through multiple layers and fascinating twists before leading its unwitting heroine down a perilous path toward truth and redemption.

    Video Trailer


    “A cleverly-written, smart thriller that kept me guessing, and at times holding my breath.”
    - Christine Husom, author of the Winnebago County and Snow Globe Shop series of mysteries

    “This unusual thriller completely intrigued me from the first page.”
    - Marilyn Meredith, best-selling author of two mystery fiction series

    “Towles takes the reader on a heart-pounding journey. The unlikely intersection of their stories delivers unparalleled suspense. It’s a smart, well-written thriller that will deliver on the big screen someday as well as it does on the page.”
    - Leo Bottary, author of The Power of Peers

    “A cigarette that cures lung cancer? Who could be against such a concept? If you can’t figure that out, just heed the basic advice of any crime investigation—follow the money, which is what Lisa Towles has done in her magnificent story. I read this with the pleasurable company of a pack of Marlboros … smokin’ good read!”
    - Les Edgerton, award-winning author of The Death of Tarpons, The Rapist, The Bitch, The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping and others

    “Choke’s complex characters fascinated me. Its layered dilemmas – threating both individual lives and the lives of cancer victims across the world – grabbed me by the throat. Lisa Towles’ new thriller is a must-read. It kept me in suspense the whole way through – and inspired me in the process.”
    - Judith Schiess Avila, NYT best-selling author of Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII

    “Lively descriptions, characters, and dialogue make this a highly readable page-turner.”
    - Albert Noyer, author of The Secundus Papyrus and other novels


    Lisa Towles specializes in writing crime mysteries when not working full time in the tech industry and completing an MBA. The author of numerous short stories (under her previous name of Lisa Polisar), Towles also has contributed feature articles, columns, art reviews and book reviews for a variety of newspapers and periodicals.

    An active member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Crimespace, Towles is a New England native who earned two journalism awards from the National Press Women’s Association and the 2016 National Engaged Leader Award from the National Society of Leadership and Success.

    Towles graduated from the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music with a Bachelor’s degree in music, majoring in flute with a minor in psychology.

    Facebook page
    Buy link


    In her five decades on earth, Grace Mattson had learned to pay attention to instinct. And right now hers was telling her not to touch the envelope sitting beside Neville’s note. Instead, she gazed upon it, using her powers of perception and everything Sherlock Holmes had taught her about the observation of details. The most significant of which, however, was the churning feeling in her stomach.

    “You’re right to be cautious.” The female voice startled her. “I would be too.”

    Grace noticed the umbrella even before seeing the woman’s face. It was a smooth, sculpted face with mistrust woven into its elegant features. “I can’t decide whether to invite you for tea or sick my Doberman on you.”

    The woman blinked, revealing dark blue eyes. “I would prefer tea with an English woman than death by an invisible dog.”
    Grace allowed a momentary smirk. “I don’t suppose I look like a dog-person.”


    Something about her, this woman with impeccable taste in clothes, fashionable without a hint of overstatement, and her steely voice, caused Grace’s heart to thud inside her chest. The blue eyes stared evenly, and Grace’s palms felt clammy. What was this about, and why had this woman watched her and Adrian at Atticus?

    “Come in then,” Grace said finally, “we’ll have tea in the garden.” And I hope I live through the experience.

    The woman followed her inside, and Grace unlocked the back door. “I’ll boil some water. Please, make yourself comfortable.” She pointed to the back yard, to a vine-covered trellis, under which sat two Adirondack chairs adorned with flowered pillows. She hated those pillows. A gift from Neville, she’d wondered if they were Neville’s way of making her more soft or feminine, somehow.

    “We’re interested in your research,” the woman said after Grace came out to meet her.


    “What I mean is …very interested,” the woman went on, ignoring the question. Her voice was flat, monotone, controlled, without a hint of inflection or emotion. Was she an android? A highly functioning artificial life form such as she’d seen on the SyFy channel so many times? The woman’s face looked as though it hadn’t ever cracked a smile. The skin was beyond smooth and the eyes looked hard, almost menacing. Just as the woman used her voice simply to deliver instructions, rather than the sharing of communication.

    Grace fondled the sealed black envelope. “And this is to offer me a million dollars for it?”

    “It’s an offer … of exchange, yes.”

    “Who’s we?”

    “Me and … my employers.”

    “And who are you, exactly?”

    The woman slowly crossed her legs. “You can call me … Beth.”

    “Well, I could call you a lot of things. But that doesn’t answer my question.”

    “I’ll say it again – my employers are very interested in your research.”

    “What research are you talking about exactly? I’m a retired ethnobotanist, I teach gardening classes and breed rare species of plants. It’s not very exciting, I assure you.”

    “Orchids. Isn’t that right?”

    “Not only orchids. But yes. You want to know how I do it? Come to my greenhouse, I’ll show you.”

    “We’ve been to your greenhouse.”

    Grace’s palms felt slick with sweat. She took a slow sip of tea, reminding herself to breathe.

    “In fact, we’ve been going there for the past six months. It’s not there.”

    “Excuse me? You’ve been … what’s not there?”

    For what felt like a long time, neither of them spoke. Not one single bird chirped, no traffic sounds, pedestrians, car alarms, or sirens.

    “We’re prepared to pay for what we want.”

    “That’s very kind of you,” Grace joked.

    “We’re not in the business of kindness, I’m afraid.”


    The woman sighed, uncrossed her legs. Then crossed them the other way. She looked uneasy, as if she were about to launch a different tactic. “The decisions we make affect the economy, on global levels.”

    “Really? You don’t look like a banker.”

    The woman smiled and looked toward the house.

    “Water’s boiling. Pardon me, I’ll be right back.”

    Grace returned with a bamboo tray containing a pot of tea, two cups, a pitcher, and tiny bowls for milk and lemon.

    “Royal Doulton,” Beth commented with what seemed like admiration. But Grace knew already that she was not what she seemed.

    “It was my mother’s,” Grace said and swirled the brew around in the teapot and then poured.

    Beth held the cup and stared intently into the liquid, glanced at Grace, and returned her gaze to the cup.

    “I’m still not clear on what research you want.”

    “You know what we want.” The woman sipped the tea.

    “Careful, could be poison,” Grace said and stared.

    She watched the woman take two more sips and then soundlessly leave down the side walkway toward Kensington. She continued watching her all the way out toward Chapel Street, and then slowly opened the envelope. On one heavy sheet of stationary paper appeared a single typed sentence.

    The research in exchange for your partner’s life.

    Adrian, my God, she thought. What have you done?