The Long Weekend- Reflections, Energy and Rambles

Good morning and happy Sunday! I’m really trying to slowly get back into this ‘just writing’, personally and from the heart with updates and rambles.  I  miss the daily writing prompt challenges from WordPress, it’s been a good few years they stopped it. I was just trying to search WordPress for a blogger that does daily challenges, or picture writing prompt challenges without much luck. Can you recommend a great blog to follow that does these? 

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Reflections…the last week in my world ‘locked down’

Anyway, another week down, another week in lock down too in my house. And another week of no school! Last week, I did a lot of reflection on the return to and re-opening of schools.  Not much has changed in my mind on further reflection. However yesterday I did find a fantastic resource to help with home schooling those that are continuing with this. A children’s author on Facebook shared her handwriting books which are available on Amazon, really inexpensive and look good! I snapped one up to keep us going until September.

Home schooling generally is going well I’m trying to be consistent with it, in all honesty I have seen the improvement in my son’s overall abilities in writing and spelling. So that I am thankful for.

Last week, I also got the edits back finally from my publisher for Sacrifices. A historical romance with a touch of suspense, I wrote about a year ago. I’m really keen to get going on the ‘early edits’ as they called it, as I’ve not actually read my work since they accepted it back in February.  August is set to be the release date, not long to go. I’m also really excited to see what they do with the cover, based on the brief I gave them as this is unlike any other story I’ve created before. I enjoyed setting a story in the 1950s-1960s and right in the height of the civil rights movement across the USA. It was a challenge, but a different and enjoyable one.

Last week’s Highlights…

We had some nice weather last week, and the BBQ was pulled out too. I do love a good BBQ I seem to be getting better at it LOLZ. It’s only a tiny one but it does so well, I hope next week and over this long weekend we get some more sun so I can make use of it. I don’t plan on leaving the house or taking any trips. I myself and family are staying very much in ‘lock down’ and social distancing. I thank the goodness for the small outside space to get some fresh air.

This morning read a few blogs here that I follow, many people have  highlighted the front of this weekend’s New York Times newspaper. It has 1,000 names on of those who have passed away from Covid-19. I was really touched by it ‘1,000 people, damn’ I said out loud in disappointment. And that’s only those that have been recorded, I’d take a bet there are many more.

Talking of Covid-19, over this last week I had a conversation with a friend who is living over in Brazil she told me, that their president has been against the ‘lock down’ all along! And as a result, the country is really losing it’s battle against the virus. I asked myself how could anyone be totally against it? Just look at the statistics, it’s eye watering reading over the amount of cases and deaths. But…. I won’t rant on.

How are things going with the management of Covid-19 where you are? I’d love to hear in any comments.

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Fresh energy…Reiki Anyone?

This weekend for me has been a very relaxing for me, I’ve not done much apart from read. But, I did sign myself up to an online Reiki course which  I am soooooo excited about, I was up until about 4:00a.m I started the course’s reading materials. It’s an online course and I was originally looking at an offer I saw for a soap making course, something else I wanted to learn how to do. (May as well up-skill myself during the pandemic aye). The Reiki course was on offer so I could hardly pass it up, but it wasn’t the price that really attracted me (even though it’s an absolute steal!) Those of you who know me well, know I really enjoy things like metaphysics, physics, astrology the strange and unusual so naturally I’d be drawn to this. However, a few months ago I had my first ever Reiki session performed on me….from a distance too! The practitioner was in a place in the world I have on my bucket list to see— New Orleans, USA.

She’s a qualified practitioner of Reiki of course, and many of you may wonder if this would even work at a distance….well it did! I felt the ‘energy’ transition to me it was wonderful I felt great after, I really needed it. At the same time, I relaxed on my sofa as she did the Reiki for me and at one point, I felt like I was being pulled off my sofa. Seriously, I kid you not this really works!! Don’t doubt it. Have you ever had a Reiki session? What’s your views on it?

There are three levels to the course, it mainly involves reading and some meditations in order to qualify to a level that you can teach others. There’s also a part on charging crystals with Reiki energy. I don’t think I’ll teach it even if I complete the Reiki Master level, but I’d love to carry it out on myself or others.  So far,  listening to the lectures has been very interesting learning about the founder of the energy healing method, and how it made it’s way from Japan to the western world. So this is my new ‘up skill’ course for the rest of this long- term lock down. And learning how to make soap.

My plan for today is, to finish reading a horror book I have for a book tour, listen into some of my Reiki course lessons and generally chill. If the weather picks up, may even crank the BBQ up. Right now, it’s pretty cloudy as I sit out and write this, today may not be the day but I remain hopeful for this afternoon’s weather! I hope you have a wonderful long weekend, and keep safe wherever you are! What are your plans?

 

0.99 Cent Sale ‘ Father Figure’ by James. J. Cudney (Family Drama/Mystery) 23-27th May

Father Figure is a .99 Kindle download from 5/23 thru 5/27 – help yourselves! Thank you so much for your support in sharing, downloading, reading, and reviewing. I appreciate it! You should pick it up before the virtual book club coming up soon… check it out @

Download @ http://mybook.to/FatherFigure for only .99 this week

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Overview of Father Figure

Between the fast-paced New York City, a rural Mississippi town and a charming Pennsylvania college campus filled with secrets, two young girls learn the consequences of growing up too quickly.

Amalia Graeme, abused by her mother for most of her life, longs to escape her desolate hometown and fall in love. Contemplating her loss of innocence and conflicting feelings between her boyfriend and the dangerous attraction she’s developed for an older man, Amalia faces life-altering tragedies.

Brianna Porter, a sassy, angst-ridden teenager raised in New York City, yearns to find her life’s true purpose, conquer her fear of abandonment, and interpret an intimidating desire for her best friend, Shanelle. Desperate to find the father whom her mother refuses to reveal, Brianna accidentally finds out a shocking truth about her missing parent.

Set in alternating chapters two decades apart, the parallels between their lives and the unavoidable collision that is bound to happen is revealed. FATHER FIGURE is an emotional story filled with mystery, romance, and suspense.

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Father Figure was officially launched for sale on Amazon on April 2, 2018 as both an e-book and a physical book. Reviews have been extremely positive between Goodreads and Amazon since the 5-day free download and 5-day book blitz.

  • Book Blitz: For 5 days, (4/30 thru 5/4) we posted promotions, hints, and feedback
  • Blog Tour: For 5 days (6/4 thru 6/8) we posted reviews, interviews and a giveaway

 

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Reviews

★★★★★ – “The book deals with abuse, identity, acceptance, overcoming obstacles, crime, sexuality, family secrets, and knowing who you are. Another great story to read, especially if you love emotive, suspenseful family dramas.”

★★★★★ – “Gripping and emotional… Mr. Cudney has written a book full of twists and turns that kept my eyes glued to its pages.”

★★★★★ – “Amalia and Brianna are fully developed characters with all the fears, naivety, anxiety and angst of teen, young adults; full of questions and doubts… Can’t wait for James Cudney’s next work.”

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Book Excerpt

Chapter One – Amalia, August 1984

“I didn’t raise no harlot, Amalia. When you’re done with softball practice today, you will go directly to the hardware store and help your father manage that cash register.” The stagnant air, sealed tightly like an old glass jar of long-forgotten jelly, refused to dissipate in the Graeme family home—even it was afraid of Janet’s wrath.

“But Momma, I’ll be home to cook dinner before sunset.” The strains in Amalia’s voice weakened with each of her mother’s refusals to let her live the normal life of a teenager.

“Didn’t you hear me the first time, child? Only little whores go to the lake.” Janet’s stern voice emptied through thin lips stained from devouring a blueberry cobbler before they’d started cooking breakfast. “Are you a little whore, Amalia?”

Retribution for daring to break any of her mother’s rules was always swift and fierce. Amalia had obeyed every word since her mother locked her in the storm cellar for ten hours when she was a toddler —punishment for spilling juice on an antique lace tablecloth. “No, I’m sorry. I thought you might let me celebrate just this once…”

The plea had barely escaped Amalia’s hesitant lips before the clammy grip of Janet’s bony hands shoved her down the hallway. “Stop your sass talk, girl. We can take another trip downstairs if you don’t care to mind me.”

Amalia’s left arm grazed the wall when stumbling from the kitchen into the dark mudroom. Dingy white paint chips rained to the floor and clung to her favorite new red blouse while passing through the dilapidated archway. She cradled her elbow, flicked off the last few flakes of her mother’s venom, and firmly held her ground. “It’s not fair. You let Greg hang out with his friends all the time.”

“Leave your brother out of this conversation. Your responsibility belongs first to this family and then to the hardware store. Who said anything about friends? Now get yourself off to practice.” Janet’s one good eye stubbornly left behind after diabetes stole the vision in her other glared while Amalia reluctantly marched toward the back door. “You’re a spiteful little child.”

“I’m taking out the trash, Momma.” Her voice carried the defeat of a soul unable to find the words or summon the strength to defend herself anymore. As she leaned over, the scoop neck on Amalia’s blouse revealed the slightest hint of cleavage between her ample breasts.

“Stop right now. What are you wearing?” Janet’s tone lingered thick over such insubordination. A special brand of disdain had been developed by watching her daddy preach to his Southern Baptist congregation for nearly forty years before he anxiously married her off to Amalia’s father.

“It’s just a pretty shirt I found at a yard sale. I’m not showing too much skin.” Amalia dropped the trash bag on the mudroom’s gray linoleum and recalled the similar, previous lectures. She refused to turn around to face the woman. “I’m not a child anymore, Momma.”

Janet stampeded through the kitchen and kicked the garbage into the far corner. Though the vinyl flooring had peeled away from the walls as the house settled, it was still not one of the more noticeable improvements desperately needed in their home. “It’s lesson time, girl.”

Amalia yelped and dashed to safety after a cast iron frying pan full of hot grease collided with bare skin on the back of her arm. “No, Momma, please…” She dropped to her knees, scooted across the mudroom floor, and cowered behind the pantry door to protect herself from any further blows. An acrid burnt plastic odor from a fiery singe on the linoleum beneath her wafted through the air as she shuddered in pain. The nerves in her forearm and elbow convulsed when the wound began to blister from the impact of her mother’s lesson.

“Someday you’ll learn how to behave yourself.” Janet grudgingly placed the frying pan on the washing machine and lifted Amalia by the curls of her hair. She tightly squeezed her daughter’s breasts while trying to raise the blouse over Amalia’s head. “I don’t know where you got these girls from. You’re hoping to entice all the boys to put their dirty little hands where they don’t belong.”

Amalia pushed away her mother’s sticky fingers willing to risk more punishment if she kept them off her trembling body. The putrid smell of Janet’s three-day-old sweat and decaying teeth littered the air between their lips. “Leave it. I’ve got a bra on underneath to keep them strapped down. I know the rules.”

Amalia’s breasts had begun to develop when she turned eleven years old. By thirteen, a custom-size bra was bought to contain them. Dresses were never allowed given the attention they’d drawn to her body’s hourglass shape. Though Janet’s words were enough of a rebuke, reduction surgery was still threatened should Amalia’s breasts grow any larger.

“I pray every night for them to stop getting bigger and for God to teach you some morals. It’s like you’re rubbing my great Aunt Tilly’s rose garden’s Miracle Grow on those dirty pillows. Tramps like you get themselves into some mighty trouble when they don’t protect their bodies.” Janet stomped back to the kitchen with the now-emptied frying pan and quickly snapped her fingers. “Cover yourself up or forget about going away to college this summer.”

“Yes, Momma.” Amalia heaved herself from the floor with the help of the door handle and collected the remains of her veiled dignity.

“And put out the trash already. It smells like a sewer in here,” snickered Janet.

Fighting back the tears brimming on the surface of her weary eyes, Amalia sighed with relief upon noticing the frying oil hadn’t ruined her blouse. In a rush to tend to her wounds while running through the living room and up the flight of stairs, Amalia crashed into her father, Peter. At sixty, he’d begun to settle into a grandfatherly presence contented by a quiet and ordinary life. He’d aged quickly in the Graeme household. Everyone did.

“Daddy, I’m so sorry. I was…” Amalia hugged her father, rested her head against his narrow chest, and listened to his enfeebled lungs wheeze with exertion.

Peter fell toward the wall and knocked over the family portrait they’d photographed during Greg’s high school graduation. “Oh, my pet, what’s wrong?” He pulled Amalia closer with one hand and adjusted the brass picture frame with the other. A thin layer of ashen skin on his face failed to cover years of misery being married to Janet. He’d long-accepted divorce would never be permitted by the daughter of a Baptist preacher and that his life would be fraught with reproach. “Did you have another squabble with your mother?”

Amalia sniffled and concealed her burns, desperate to splash cold water on the pain. “She hates me, Daddy. Momma never loved me the way she loves Greg.”

“That’s not true, honey. She’s tougher because you’re leaving later this month.” Peter brushed away a few loose curls from Amalia’s face and smiled with a fatherly love that hadn’t receded over the years. “What happened this time?”

A cherubic expression brightened her pale face with the hope he would understand but disappeared once she remembered begging had never helped before. “I asked if I could go to the lake today with the rest of the softball team for Brant’s town fair, but Momma says I have to work at the store like I do every other day.”

The population of their hometown, Brant, Mississippi, founded in 1784, hovered around five hundred inhabitants, the majority born and raised in the surrounding isolation. The Graeme family, still considered outsiders, had arrived in the mid-1800s settling about a half mile from Lake Newton—the livelihood once used to transport goods to the neighboring settlements. Over the years, as the county paved new roads to share crops more efficiently among all the nearby villages, the lake became a gathering place for the local families and visitors to enjoy each summer. Store owners had organized a bicentennial celebration for the upcoming weekend where all the citizens would barbecue ribs, hold square dancing lessons, and play various outdoor games. Amalia looked forward to it every year believing she always had the chance to find a new friend who might make the rough days pass by a little easier.

“Your momma knows best, honey. We need to be available for our customers.” Every penny was important to Janet Graeme, especially with two kids attending college—they could never close the store early. Janet often reminded them how pitching in around the house or store was impossible on account of her many illnesses. Peter nudged Amalia away and kissed her cheek. “You can leave work early to meet your teammates at tomorrow’s picnic. Will that make you happy?”

“It helps, but I’ll be the only one not going tonight.” Amalia buried her flushed cheeks into the crook of his left arm. He always smelled of Old Spice. She’d bought him the same cologne for Father’s Day every year since shopping on her own.

If Peter noticed the stinging red color or the slight favor of her left arm, he either ignored it or thought she’d injured herself in a recent softball game. He adhered to an insulated belief that his wife’s normal way of parenting didn’t include hurting or abusing their daughter. It wasn’t the first time he’d misjudged a situation. Peter once took Amalia to a movie theatre as an early birthday present telling Janet they’d stayed behind at the store to count inventory and order stock, but she found a few popcorn kernels on the floor of the family Dodge the next morning while driving to church. Janet waited until Amalia arrived home from school later that week to teach her daughter a lesson about lying. Though Amalia had only been trying to catch a schoolboy’s attention by lightening the color of her hair with lemon juice, it was a vengeful wrath she’d unexpectedly invited as Janet took a pair of shearing scissors to her daughter’s golden mane. The emotional scars from an abusive homelife were profound, but Amalia never regretted sneaking off to watch the movie. She was proud of being a daddy’s girl. He was her hero, the father she’d always treasure, the man who made it easier being the daughter of the wicked Janet Graeme.

Peter patted Amalia’s back offering any chance to ease her disillusion. “I know, but tomorrow when you go to the lake, everything will be back on track. Bring some clothes to change into so that you don’t have to come back home in between. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“I can’t wait. I love you, Daddy.” She hugged him again and raced up the stairs to change her shirt before her mother had another outburst. Amalia applied cream to her wounds, then chose a long-sleeve button-down sweater she fastened two inches above the dip in her neck. After checking the mirror and wishing a bit of foundation could hide the uneven colors, she splashed water on her face to erase the evidence of her pain. One of Janet’s more ridiculous judgments echoed among Amalia’s numbed thoughts. ‘Only the vile women in this town wear makeup!’

Amalia flew back down the stairs and searched for the trash bag she’d left behind, realizing it would mean another lashing if her mother had stumbled upon it first. As she rushed into the living room, her father handed her a banana and elbowed her out the front door. “I already put it in the outside bin. Get to softball practice, my pet.” His voice barely audible, his expression as loud as a parade.

Amalia smiled and released an uncontrollable giggle as her countenance relaxed for the first time that morning. Although the tense nerves in her neck retreated into partial hiding, her body remained hypervigilant and always waited for the next blistery strike from her mother. She left the house flickering with excitement for the town’s festivities over the weekend but frightened at what her teammates would say about her missing the lake party. No one ever declined their much sought-after invitations without hazardous repercussions.

Although she’d graduated high school two months earlier, Amalia continued playing in the county’s summer tournaments to keep her pitching skills primed for college games. Risking a loss of the unexpectedly received scholarship—as it was the only reason she could afford to go away to school—was not an option. After practice, where she conveniently forgot to tell her teammates about missing the upcoming lake party, Amalia worked side-by-side with her father for a few hours and avoided any further trouble with her mother at home. Once Amalia climbed into bed that evening exhausted from an emotionally and physically grueling afternoon, she drifted asleep clutching her pillow and wished things would somehow improve the next day.

****

The following morning, Janet took the family’s only car to the First Baptist’s services leaving Amalia and Peter to trudge the two-mile distance to the center of town. Graeme Hardware Store was part of the town’s original train depot when first built in the mid-nineteenth century. Shortly before World War I, the train line was re-routed to a larger city a few miles away. This prompted Brant’s town council to vote in favor of converting the train depot into a lunch café and expanding the footprints of local shops hoping it would draw more income from surrounding villages. The loss of the train station left Graeme Hardware Store with far fewer customers managing barely enough to keep afloat during a good year.

Peter unlocked the store and began his morning routine to review the previous day’s sales and prepare the inventory. While he dragged a rolling stand filled with buckets of nails and screws to the exterior porch of the store, Amalia brewed a fresh pot of strong coffee. She retrieved a starter till from the safe under the desk and counted a hundred dollars in small bills and coins, then placed it in the cash register atop the laminate countertop. She grabbed a few dollars to buy breakfast from the local café and strolled to the front of the store. The sharp clank of the bell loosely hung by a nylon cord on the door bounced off all the metal tools and reverberated throughout the building. Amalia held the outer screen door to prevent it from slamming shut and made a mental note to convince her father to repair the hinge that afternoon. Customers didn’t appreciate buying tools from a hardware store with a broken front door.

“I’ll be right back, Daddy.” Amalia bounded down three short steps and traveled the building’s main wooden pathway. Frustrated by the inability to meet the girls from the softball team the prior night, Amalia recoiled at how much of an encumbrance Brant had become to her over the years. She often daydreamed of leaving it all behind but remembered no one had ever escaped. She scoffed at her emotions, slid her fingers across the pathway’s splintered handrails, and ignored the desire to run deep into the woods.

Father Figure Purchase Links

Kindle: http://mybook.to/FatherFigure

Paperback: http://mybook.to/fatherfigurepb

Large Print: http://mybook.to/fatherfigurelp

 

 

About The Author

 

Background

James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote some short stories, poems and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career in technology and business that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I refocused some of my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing and publishing.

 

Author

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind and my body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels and suspense thrillers. I think of characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.

 

Reader & Reviewer

Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read 2 books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review and post it on all my sites and platforms.

 

Blogger & Thinker

I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.

 

Genealogist & Researcher

I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.

 

Websites & Blog

Website: https://jamesjcudney.com/

Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

Amazon: http://bit.ly/JJCIVBooks

Next Chapter Pub: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/james-j-cudney

 

Social Media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamesJCudneyIVAuthor/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BraxtonCampusMysteries/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ThisIsMyTruthNow/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

 

Genres, Formats & Languages

I write in the family drama and mystery genres. My first two books are Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I’m currently writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries with six books available.

All my books come in multiple formats (Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook) and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.

 

Goodreads Book Links

Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (April 2018)

Braxton Campus Mysteries

 

Hot New Crime/Thriller Series 0.99 Cent! + $20.00 Giveaway By Christer Tholin! #amreading

Guilty?
Stockholm Sleuth Series Book 4
by Christer Tholin
Genre: Mystery Crime Thriller
Stockholm: From one day to the next, 16-year old Hanna just vanishes without a trace. Her worried parents hire detectives Lars and Elin to find their daughter. The two of them do just that and very quickly. However, Hanna’s problems are far from over – she is trapped in the clutches of a “loverboy”. Just a couple of months later, the two private detectives are asked to help once again, because now Hanna is facing a much more serious issue. This difficult assignment pushes everyone involved to their limits …
GUILTY? is the fourth, standalone book from Christer Tholin’s Stockholm Sleuth Series.
 
If you like fast-paced action and surprising twists and turns, then you will love Christer Tholin’s sleuth series. 
 
Buy GUILTY? to see how this suspenseful case is solved! 
Murder?
Stockholm Sleuth Series Book 3
Christina’s idyllic existence with her husband Patrik comes to an abrupt end when Patrik suddenly vanishes from their suburban home in Stockholm. Christina is precipitated into a hellishly desperate and anguished search for Patrik – which after six weeks turns up nary a trace of him.
At her wits end, she contacts local sleuths Lars and Elin, who, after a brief investigation, reach the conclusion that Patrik simply decided to abandon his cushy existence to embark on a new life –without Christina.
Lars and Elin ultimately trace Patrik’s movements to the wooded wilds of northern Sweden, but too late – he’s found dead. The police rule his death an accident, but Christina thinks otherwise – and so she asks Lars and Elin to do a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding Patrik’s demise. Was his death really accidental, or was foul play involved? And was the mysterious Natalia somehow implicated?
Unfortunately, none of the countless leads that Lars and Elin follow up gets them any closer to solving the mystery of Patrik’s death. But then they get a startling break that results in Christina having to make a tricky and extremely consequential decision that plunges our three protagonists into a life or death struggle.
MURDER? is the third, standalone book from Christer Tholin’s Stockholm Sleuth Series.
If you like fast-paced action and surprising twists and turns, then you will love Christer Tholin’s sleuth series. 
**On Sale for .99 cents May 20-27**
Secrets?
Stockholm Sleuth Series Book 2
“Dammit! She’d made a huge mistake. She’d never make it out of here – they were going to kill her.”
In the crime novella SECRETS?, fledgling private investigator Elin Bohlander takes on what looks like an easy assignment — at first: to determine if her client’s boyfriend is having an affair with another woman. To do this, Elin follows him to a secluded cabin in the woods, where she soon discovers that what’s actually transpiring is stranger than anyone thought. Having ventured too far, she’s stumbled upon a hornet’s nest and put her life at risk. But it’s too late. Can Elin win the unequal fight against a gang of brutal child molesters?
SECRETS? is the second, standalone book from Christer Tholin’s Stockholm Sleuth Series. In the previous novel VANISHED?, Elin and her colleague Lars solve their first case together.
If you like fast-paced action and surprising twists and turns, then you will love Christer Tholin’s sleuth series.
**On Sale for .99 cents May 20-27**
Vanished?
Stockholm Sleuth Series Book 1
She: a very hot 30 something Swedish woman. He: a native of Berlin, on vacation in rural Sweden, seeking solace for his broken heart. They meet. He finds her irresistible. But before their relationship can get off the ground, she vanishes mysteriously, having apparently been abducted. So Martin sets out to rescue Liv from her captors, with the aid of two Swedish detectives in a race against time – and across Sweden. In so doing, Martin and his intrepid detective duo put their very lives on the line.
VANISHED? is the first book in the Stockholm Sleuth Series and where we meet the two private investigators, Elin and Lars. If you like fast action and surprising twists, then you’ll love Christer Tholin’s Swedish crime novels.
 
Get VANISHED? today, and join the hunt across Sweden!
The second English edition was edited and partially retranslated by Doreen Zeitvogel and is an improved version in all aspects.
**On Sale for .99 cents May 20-27**
The author grew up in the North of Germany, Schleswig-Holstein. Today, he lives together with his family in Stockholm, Sweden, where he works as a management consultant.
Already for ages he has been a great fan of crime stories and therefore, had the desire to write his own crime story with the characters acting in Sweden. This crime-fiction is now available under the title “Vanished?”.
The crime novel starts at a slower pace – like Martin’s holidays, but the tension goes up more and more. It comes to a number of surprising turns giving new impulses to the story. Apart from that, the lovely country Sweden is described with the view of a foreigner.
$20 Amazon
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!
 
 

 

0.99 Cent Sale! ‘Braxton Campus Mysteries Series’ by James. J. Cudney 21-25th May

The 4th book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, Mistaken Identity Crisis, is available for only .99 as a Kindle download from May 21st thru 25th. If you haven’t experienced this mystery and family drama, get it now via Amazon.

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Overview:

A clever thief with a sinister calling card has invaded Braxton campus. A string of jewelry thefts continues to puzzle the sheriff given they’re remarkably similar to an unsolved eight-year-old case from shortly before Gabriel vanished one stormy night. When a missing ruby is discovered near an electrified dead body during the campus cable car redesign project, Kellan must investigate the real killer in order to protect his brother. Amidst sorority hazing practices and the victim’s connections to several prominent Wharton County citizens, a malicious motive becomes more obvious and trickier to prove.

As if the latest murder isn’t enough to keep him busy, Kellan partners with April to end the Castigliano and Vargas crime family feud. What really happened to Francesca while all those postcards showed up in Braxton? The mafia world is more calculating than Kellan realized, and if he wants to move forward, he’ll have to make a few ruthless sacrifices.

Election Day is over, and the new mayor takes office. Nana D celebrates her 75th birthday with an adventure. A double wedding occurs at Crilly Lake on Independence Day. And Kellan receives a few more surprises as the summer heat begins to settle in Wharton County.

 

Mistaken Identity Crisis Purchase Links

Kindle: http://mybook.to/mistakenidentity

Paperback: http://mybook.to/mistakenidentitycrispb

Large Print: http://mybook.to/mistakenidentitycrislp

US Audiobook:

https://www.audible.com/pd/B07Z9QSVVF/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWT-BK-ACX0-168714&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_168714_rh_us

UK Audiobook:

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/B07Z9M885W/?source_code=AUKFrDlWS02231890H6-BK-ACX0-168714&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_168714_rh_uk

 

Blog Tour

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Check out the 2-week blog tour with great reviews, interviews, and posts.

Both character evolution and character delineation well populate the Braxton Campus Mystery Series by James J. Cudney. In this installment, the atmosphere gains a strong twinge of Noir . . .
~Mallory Heart’s Cozies

 

I really love the style of this author, since the first pages he manages to completely involve you in the adventures of the protagonists and keeps you in suspense until you solve the case with them.
Highly recommended.
~LibriAmoriMiei

 

The well-plotted and complicated mystery keeps a steady pace and provides red herrings and twists, turning the focus on one then another of the many characters involved in the storyline.
~Rosepoint Publishing

 

The mysteries are resolved with some clever sleuthing and nosy snooping, which result in secrets revealed and red herrings cleared. All this makes Mistaken Identity Crisis an engaging page-turner, one that I didn’t want to put down.

~Jane Reads

 

The well-plotted mystery and complicated story keeps a steady pace throughout. There are some red herrings and twists that had me focusing on various characters in the story and I did not figure out who the murderer was until the final reveal.
~Carla LovesTo Read

 

Mr. Cudney has blended together an amazing story that I just could not read fast enough.
~Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book

 

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Book Excerpt

“The first time we met, I knew you’d cause me to gray prematurely,” April griped while clawing at clumps of her brassy blonde hair and squeezing her golden badge until a star-shaped imprint marked her left palm. “But I honestly thought I’d have a better chance at predicting the Pennsylvania state lottery numbers before guessing you’d paint a bullseye on your own forehead for the Castigliano mob family. Seriously, Kellan, you’ve made a royal mess of this situation. Are they gonna take potshots at me next?”

We bantered steadfastly in her downtown office at the Wharton County administrative building with the door glued shut. Very few people knew what’d happened to my supposedly dead wife, Francesca. I shrugged and offered my best apology face, which unintentionally resembled a confused puppy in search of a warm place to sleep, rather than a truly sorrowful man who’d never intended to wreak such havoc. “We’ve covered this several times in the last three weeks. I should’ve immediately informed you that Francesca’s family faked her death. I didn’t know what to do until that last note from Cristiano Vargas confirmed they’d kidnapped her as a revenge tactic to punish the Castiglianos.” I rested both hands and my chin on the heavily papered desk, grinned widely as if my jaw were about to unhinge, and blinked twice through stylish glasses to endear myself to the sheriff.

At least she’d stopped calling me Little Ayrwick. Of all the nicknames I’d heard during my thirty-two years, that was the most insulting. There was nothing little about me anymore. Upon graduating from Braxton a decade ago, I’d transformed from an awkward middle child in a complex, overachieving family into what many women eagerly deemed a devilishly handsome and well-built guy blessed with clever wit and a charming personality. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an egomaniac. I’ve merely settled into myself and accepted the positive and the negative. Lately, there were tons more negative than I cared to tolerate. At least Nana D still called me brilliant one, which melted my heart every time.

“That’s your apology?” April vigorously shook her head and slammed a Tweety Bird coffee mug on the desk’s smooth metal surface. Drops of cold, muddy brown liquid splashed across it and landed on my upper lip. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do that,” she whined repentantly while handing me a napkin from a squeaky drawer. “Oh, and in case you forgot, that’s how you ask for forgiveness.”

Had it not been for the tiniest of curls at the sides of her sarcastic mouth, I wouldn’t have known April was teasing me. We’d spent an inordinate amount of time joined at the hip, organizing everything that’d happened in the last two-and-a-half years since the accident. Okay, backstory time—Francesca and I had arrived separately at a Thanksgiving party because I’d been working out of town earlier in the week. Our daughter, Emma, begged to ride home with me—a monumental blessing in disguise—rather than her mother. Little did I know at the time, Francesca’s parents, Vincenzo and Cecilia Castigliano, had orchestrated the entire façade. When I received the call that my wife had been struck and killed by a drunk driver, I did my best to rally with the help of Nana D, my five-foot-tall spitfire grandmother. Meanwhile, Francesca lived covertly in the Castigliano mansion until her parents could divine a way to resolve the turf war with Las Vargas, the rival mafia family controlling much of the West Coast. Two years had zipped by without a viable solution or anyone learning their secret.

A few months ago, Emma and I moved back home to Braxton, the small town in north-central Pennsylvania where I’d been raised and now worked as an assistant professor specializing in communications and film studies. Francesca chose that moment to materialize from hiding, jealous and angry about the sudden inability to watch her daughter grow up in LA. After I refused to hibernate in captivity, she took off, letting her parents and me think she was visiting all the places we’d once vacationed in—a blissful trip down memory lane. At some point, Cristiano Vargas had discovered Francesca was alive, captured my not-so-dead wife, and forced her to mail postcards from every location to dangle us in a state of confusion. Now, we pondered their next move.

“I’m sorry, April. I know you intended to leave this spectacle of intense drama when you relocated from Buffalo, but I’m confident we’ll find a solution.” I wiped the coffee from my lip and internally chuckled over her persnickety comments. “I should teach you to brew a better cup of joe. I guess it’s true that cops will drink any sludge someone—”

“Don’t continue with that stereotypical, inflammatory insult unless you want me to handcuff you to my desk and head out for the day!” April released a long pent-up sigh and shuffled through stained papers in a worn manila folder. “Let’s focus on our next steps. The Castiglianos will soon arrive in Braxton, and they better have answers. I agreed not to formally include the FBI until we received an official ransom request. We also need proof Francesca is alive before they’ll get further involved.”

April and I hadn’t been friends previously, especially because I’d unexpectedly solved four murders sooner than she had—not a helpful icebreaker for our relationship. She mostly viewed me as a prickly thorn that irritated every nerve in her body. We’d brokered a tepid alliance in the last three weeks, and I convinced myself that the intense display of awe-inducing fireworks in her office, when our fingers had accidentally brushed against one another, was only a freakish blip on the radar. Then, a visceral flash of lightning surged inside my body and a sensual, steamy dream left me quite flushed and bewildered. I was technically still married and shouldn’t have welcomed those types of thoughts about other women, right?

Once the war ended between the two families, Francesca could reveal herself to the rest of the world, and we’d deal with the repercussions. I only cared about the impact on our seven-year-old daughter. Emma didn’t deserve this level of pain and confusion. Neither did I, but in the few encounters I’d already had with Francesca upon her triumphant reincarnation, it’d grown clear we were both different people. As a good Catholic—my family attended church on Sundays—divorce was a tricky solution. I knew I loved Francesca, but I was no longer in love with her. After all the lies and deception, how could I forgive her? Yes, her life had been in danger from Las Vargas, but she could’ve told me the truth years ago. I’d only discovered the reality of her shady family business by accident after she ‘died.’

“Cristiano’s latest update said he’d contact me soon with next steps. Maybe he’ll offer easily attainable ransom terms for the Castiglianos. Then, this whole mess will blow over.” All remaining confidence drained from my body with each reticent word. “Ugh! Why am I in the middle of this quandary? Las Vargas should work directly with Francesca’s parents for her safe release.”

“Excellent point. Perhaps your uniquely innate charm just begs for more attention? Regardless, I’m collecting evidence on the Castigliano drug-trafficking exploits to put them away for good. Someone will go to prison over this entire ordeal. I won’t be able to protect her, you know,” April said convincingly with a pointed stare. “I get she’s your wife, but the mafia princess committed several crimes. I’m glad you never collected any insurance payments upon her death.”

“I was a fool not to ask more questions about her background when we’d met.” Although my immediate family members were a fantastic crew, the Ayrwicks also liked to pry into each other’s business much too often. When I’d moved to Los Angeles to escape their clutches, an all-encompassing, powerful first love had blinded me from recognizing the truth. Francesca and I married way too quickly, and before long, I’d obtained my PhD, gotten a job as an assistant director at a Hollywood television show, and become a father upon Emma’s arrival in this world. We lived a good life, but I’d always known something important was missing between Francesca and me.

“We’ll sort it out, Kellan. You’re going through a lot, but you can’t tell anyone else until we dismantle Las Vargas. Anyway, I have to follow up on another jewelry heist that happened last week.”

“I’ve been meaning to ask Nana D about those pesky robberies. Anything you can share?”

April swallowed heavily. “Jewelry was stolen. Victims are unhappy. Is that what you need to know, oh holy meddlesome one? Don’t even think about inserting yourself into another one of my—”

“Blah, blah, blah. I read the papers and have some clue, April. I’ll just ask Nana D. She tends to dig up the latest facts. I vaguely recall something about an unusual calling card being left behind, right?”

“I’d rather not discuss it. The ineptitude of the former sheriff still infuriates me. My predecessor had a penchant for burying facts from his townspeople.” April grunted and shook her head.

“Nana D claims he took bribes to hide petty crimes,” I said, hoping to keep her talking about it. “Maybe you and I should compare notes about the case. I have been helpful in the past.”

“And we’re officially done here,” April muttered as she advanced toward me with alarming concentration in her eyes. “Let’s talk tomorrow about your wife’s kidnapping.” Moist, hot breath from her lips passed over mine, and her skin smelled like black peppercorns and coriander—spicy yet fresh.

Although tempting comfort swayed between us like a pendulum jam-packed with uncertainty over its destination, I retreated before April and I approached a line we weren’t prepared to cross. Too many intimate moments had encircled us lately, and I couldn’t fathom how to properly interpret them. “Sure, I’ll update you as soon as I hear from Cristiano.”

Leaving her office, I noticed my reflection in the shiny glass pane of the door. Several days of dirty-blond stubble peppered my cheeks and chin, and dark circles occupied the sunken spaces below my disconcerted blue eyes. At least I’d managed to comb my frequently untamable hair, so I didn’t look horribly disheveled. Nana D would slap my bottom silly—her words, not mine—for drawing shame to her, especially now that she’d won the election to become the new mayor of Wharton County.

***

Later that Saturday afternoon, I drove to Wellington Park in Millner Place to celebrate Nana D’s seventy-fifth birthday in style with the party of the century. Millner Place and Braxton made up two of the four towns in Wharton County—the others, Woodland in the northwest and Lakeview in the northeast. Ninety miles south of Buffalo, New York, our county was one of the earliest settlements in Pennsylvania and had been founded by my ancestors.

“Is today the double wedding, Daddy?” Emma asked as I steered the SUV into a narrow spot.

Aunt Deirdre, a famous novelist and one of my mother’s siblings, had returned from England and coordinated Nana D’s party while simultaneously planning her own upcoming nuptials to Timothy Paddington, an international business mogul.

“Nope, that’s in two weeks on Independence Day,” I reminded my precocious daughter. Timothy’s sister was also engaged, prompting their family to suggest a double wedding to make it easy on all the guests. Both couples had only recently met one another, and it made more sense as a way to reunite the Paddington family who’d experienced several traumatic events earlier in the year. “Do you know what Independence Day is about, honey?”

When Emma nodded with enthusiasm, mahogany-brown pigtails bounced feverishly against her slightly chubby, olive-tinted cheeks. My mother had located a picture of seven-year-old Nana D and designed a matching outfit for my daughter since Emma looked so much like her at that age. “We talked about it on the last day of school. It’s when we shoot firecrackers into the sky!”

“Yes, that’s part of it, but it’s also when we became our own country. Aunt Deirdre thought it would be amusing to shed her independence on the same day America officially separated from England two-and-a-half centuries ago,” I explained. Having lived there for half her life, Aunt Deirdre deemed herself British for all intents and purposes. She also lived inside her head where she dreamed up Victorian romances all day. Ply my aunt with more than two glasses of wine and her American roots were more obvious than the henna rinse in Nana D’s wild, three-foot-long braids.

“That sounds like an adult joke. I don’t get it.” Emma gave a thumbs-down symbol. “When will Nonna and Nonno be here?” My daughter referred to Francesca’s parents by the Italian words for a grandparent. Her hazelnut-brown eyes were darkening this summer, highlighting how much she also resembled her mother before my wife had adopted various disguises. Emma was being kept far away from any conversation about her not-so-dead mother, something even the Castiglianos had easily agreed to with everything exploding around us.

“Monday evening.” I grabbed her hand and rambled toward Wellington Park. Nana D had chosen the cherished location across the Finnulia River, touting it as a critical place to rebuild. She’d also promised free ice cream every weekend in her campaign speeches during the mayoral election. “Look, here’s Uncle Gabriel,” I added when my brother caught up with us at the tree-lined entranceway.

At a complicated and sentimental family dinner earlier in the month, Gabriel had announced his unexpected homecoming and the not-so-earth-shattering news that he was gay. Not surprisingly, the Ayrwicks openly welcomed him back into their fold with minimal concern. My mother cried the entire time at her youngest son returning to the roost. Our older siblings couldn’t visit for that dinner or for Nana D’s birthday party, but I hadn’t expected them to travel. When both had mentioned they would come back for the birthday party or the double wedding, Nana D vehemently insisted on the wedding.

“Emma? It can’t be! She’s grown two feet in the last few days,” Gabriel teased while picking up my best girl and swinging her from side to side. In observance of the warm late June weather, Gabriel donned a pair of dressy long shorts and a collared, black polo shirt. One of his many tattoos peeked out from the shirt’s sleeve as his taut, muscular arms carried Emma in near-perfect circles.

“It’s too fuzzy! Does it hurt?” Emma giggled as she touched his lip piercing and trim, dark-blond beard. He was four glorious years younger than me, as he always reminded me, but our semblance remained uncannily similar. Although he projected a mysterious and rugged appearance, I erred toward the clean-cut side—except for days like today when I hadn’t shaved. I secretly clung to the worthy excuse of dealing with a back-from-the-dead wife. Also, Gabriel had been accepted by the family and was currently the favored, treasured sibling whom our parents and Nana D couldn’t stop fawning over. Even our father, the resolute Wesley Ayrwick, seemed overjoyed at his prodigal son’s return.

 

 

About The Author

 

Background

James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote some short stories, poems and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career in technology and business that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I refocused some of my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing and publishing.

 

Author

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind and my body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels and suspense thrillers. I think of characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.

 

Reader & Reviewer

Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read 2 books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review and post it on all my sites and platforms.

 

Blogger & Thinker

I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.

 

Genealogist & Researcher

I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.

 

Websites & Blog

Website: https://jamesjcudney.com/

Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

Amazon: http://bit.ly/JJCIVBooks

Next Chapter Pub: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/james-j-cudney

 

Social Media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamesJCudneyIVAuthor/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BraxtonCampusMysteries/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ThisIsMyTruthNow/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

 

Genres, Formats & Languages

I write in the family drama and mystery genres. My first two books are Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I’m currently writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries with six books available.

All my books come in multiple formats (Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook) and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.

 

Goodreads Book Links

Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (April 2018)

Braxton Campus Mysteries

 

0.99 Cent Sale! ‘Braxton Campus Mysteries Series’ by James. J. Cudney 20-24th May

The 3rd book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries series is on sale for only .99 cents from 5/20 thru 5/24. You can download it to your Kindle here. This book was released on March 30th, 2019 and has been getting rave reviews from mystery fans all around the world. You can visit all the posts from the blog tour the book went on last year.

 

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Flower Power Trip (Braxton Campus Mysteries)
3rd in Series
Next Chapter Publishing (March 30, 2019)
Print Length: 270 pages
Digital ASIN: B07NDK76WF

 

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Description of Book
At a masquerade ball to raise money for renovations to Memorial Library, Kellan finds a dead body dressed in a Dr. Evil costume. Did one of Maggie’s sisters kill the annoying guest who’d been staying at the Roarke and Daughters Inn, or does the victim have a closer connection to someone else at Braxton College? As Kellan helps school president Ursula bury a secret from her past and discover the identity of her stalker, he unexpectedly encounters a missing member of his family. Everything seems to trace back to the Stoddards: a new family who recently moved in. Between the murder, a special flower exhibit and strange postcards arriving each week, Kellan can’t decide which mystery in his life should take priority. But unfortunately, the biggest one of all has yet to be exposed – and when it is, Kellan won’t know what hit him.

Flower Power Trip Purchase Links

Kindle: http://mybook.to/FlowerPowerTrip
Paperback: http://mybook.to/flowerpowertripbraxtpb

Large Print: http://mybook.to/flowerpowertripbraxtlp
US Audiobook:

https://www.audible.com/pd/B084JKVCY9/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWT-BK-ACX0-181480&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_181480_rh_us
UK Audiobook:

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/B084JTQ5J6/?source_code=AUKFrDlWS02231890H6-BK-ACX0-181480&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_181480_rh_uk
***

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I appreciate watching his character evolution, and as always, his rowdy adventurous grandmother Nana D is a delight.
~Mallory Heart’s Cozies

The characters are all a bit quirky and eccentric, especially Nana D and her friends. They speak their mind and often had me laughing out loud.
~Carla Loves To Read

. . . a fast-paced, fun and enjoyable academic cozy mystery, one that is highly recommended!
~Jane Reads

I love this series! The characters, the setting, the plot lines, everything. This book was no exception. Between the twists and turns of the plot and the subplots becoming more and more mysterious, I was riveted to this book!
~Valerie’s Musings

Excerpt
A postcard with an image of lush sprawling foliage and a rust-covered antique carriage taunted me from the cushy passenger seat of my SUV. I almost veered off the road twice on the drive to campus because I couldn’t peel my eyes away from its persistent glare and blatant reminder of Mendoza. It had to be from Francesca. No one else knew about the remote South American vineyard we’d visited on our honeymoon many years earlier. I shook my clenched fist at the spooky vision of her vanishing in the rearview window. Was she following me everywhere now?
It was Francesca’s seventh message since leaving town and failing to inform anyone she wasn’t returning to Los Angeles. A torturous weekly mystery highlighting her whereabouts but leaving no way to contact her. At first, I thought she’d accepted my decision to remain in Pennsylvania and would wait until her parents, the heads of the Castigliano mob family, discovered a way to bring her back from the dead. Let me clarify—she wasn’t truly dead, but everyone thought she was. Upon getting caught in a vicious war with Las Vargas, a rival crime family, Francesca’s parents had faked her death as the only way to keep her safe. No one else besides Francesca’s parents and my sister knew Francesca was alive.
My wife just needed space to adjust to the changes. For two-and-a-half years, she’d been sequestered in a Los Angeles mansion watching from a distance as I raised our seven-year-old daughter on my own. Emma stayed with her nonni a couple of nights a week which made Francesca feel like her daughter was never too far away, but she couldn’t actually talk to Emma. Once I moved back home, Francesca lost her ability to see Emma and materialized from seclusion hoping to reconcile. Based on the postcards, she was visiting all the places we’d once traveled to together. Perhaps she needed to feel close to me since I’d refused to participate in whatever game her family was embroiled in with Las Vargas. Unfortunately, now that the Castiglianos blamed me for Francesca’s inexplicable disappearance, I anticipated their goons lurking around the corner and following me all the time. Dramatic stuff, huh?
I drove along Braxton’s main street cutting through the center of our charming, remote town and parked in the South Campus cable car station’s lot near Cambridge Lawn, a large open field filled with colorful flowerbeds, bright green blades of thick grass, and moss-covered stone walkways. It was Saturday, which meant graduation day at Braxton College—also my first one as a professor at the renowned institution. Although I’d only been back for a few months, it felt like I’d never left given my mother, Violet Ayrwick, was still its director of admissions and my father, Wesley Ayrwick, had just retired from its presidency. He would co-lead the ceremony with the new president to complete his responsibilities, thus allowing him to concentrate on converting the college into a university.
Although I’d been apprehensive in accepting my professorship, I grew excited about the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends whom I’d hardly seen since originally leaving town a decade ago. When my cell phone vibrated, I clicked a steering wheel button to display the text message on the SUV’s dashboard screen. The previous owner, a family friend who’d been murdered earlier that year, had added all the bells and whistles making it easy to remain hands-free. Was I the only one slightly unnerved by driving a dead woman’s car?
Nana D: Are you still coming by after the graduation? I’ve got sticky buns and a broccoli and Gouda quiche for a late brunch… and I’m getting nervous about the race.
My grandmother, known as Seraphina Danby to everyone else, had finished the third and final debate in her surprise quest to become the next mayor of Wharton County, the larger geographical area encompassing Braxton and three other villages in north-central Pennsylvania. She was neck and neck with Councilman Marcus Stanton, her dreaded enemy for reasons she refused to share with anyone. I secretly suspected she was angry with him because of a bad date or his failure to flirt with her once Grandpop had left us for the great big afterlife in the sky.
Me: You’ll be the new mayor. I’m confident. Focus on the numbers. Emma doing okay?
Nana D: Yep. She’s in the stable talking to the horse groomer about finding her a puppy.
Me: Never committed to it! You told her she could have one if we moved into Danby Landing. Not me.
I’d been living with my parents in the Royal Chic-Shack, a huge modernized log cabin they’d built before I was born thirty-two years ago. When it became clear I needed my own space, Nana D thoughtfully suggested a move to her farm’s guesthouse to provide Emma and me some privacy. We’d agreed to give it a chance for the summer, but if it didn’t pan out, I’d look for our own place posthaste.
Nana D: Emma loves it here. She keeps me out of trouble. You and your mother should be grateful.
She was right. Without a chaperone or extensive supervision, Nana D often found herself skirting too close to disaster. I parked the car and told my seventy-four-year-old cross to bear—I mean that as lovingly as possible—to expect a two o’clock arrival. The graduation ceremony would last longer, but I was only making a brief presentation to declare this year’s cable car redesign winner.
Between North and South Campus ran a one-mile electrical track transporting students and faculty back and forth to dorms, academic halls, administrative offices, and other student buildings. The old-fashioned cable car was the only one of its kind in the area and often brought in visitors—and much-needed surplus income—from all over the country. Braxton’s graduating class voted each year to redesign the interior as its outgoing gift to the college. There was a surprise victor this year which would make my friend and colleague, Dean Fern Terry, quite relieved. At one point, she worried an apocalyptic dystopian world of aliens would litter the inside of the two-car transportation system she used daily. It was not happening under my watch. I checked the time, stole one last glance at the ominous postcard, and walked across Cambridge Lawn.
As I approached the last stone pathway, I heard my name being called in the distance. I turned to see Ed Mulligan talking with an unknown bald man in his mid-to-late forties. Dean Mulligan, the head of all academics at Braxton, wore an impeccably tailored three-piece suit—his normal highbrow approach to dressing—and scuttled toward me as if he were in a desperate rush to the finish line.
“Kellan, I’d like you to meet George Braun, a visiting professor who arrived in town a few weeks ago to teach a summer course,” Dean Mulligan said. When the sunlight landed on George’s face, it highlighted the rippled, leathery texture of his skin. Perhaps he suffered from the effects of a recent sunburn or battled a case of rosacea.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Kellan. Dean Mulligan tells me you recently joined Braxton and might lend a new guy some pointers about how to survive on this exquisite campus,” George replied with an unusual accent. Although I was adept at picking up common enunciations, his was a mixture of too many unbalanced inflections to be certain of its origin. There were hints of a gruff Midwest tone with drawn-out vowels, yet I sensed a cultured European style as he finished each of his words.
When Dean Mulligan nodded to confirm George’s statement, his jowls jiggled like Santa’s belly. “I can think of no one else more qualified,” he added with an exaggerated wink.
“Certainly, happy to play tour guide. I’m late at the moment, or I’d stay and chat. I have ceremonial duties for this morning’s graduation.” Upon shaking George’s hand, I noticed he wore a pair of thin leather gloves despite the warm temperatures making it unnecessary. Germaphobe?
I wanted to ask what area he’d be working on given my boss, the indomitable Dr. Myriam Castle, head of the communications department, had brought in a new professor for curriculum redesign and expansion. It was supposed to be a chunk of my role at the college, but she’d quickly made a play for additional money to hire someone other than me to prepare the future vision. Now that my father was no longer the president, but Myriam’s wife Ursula Power was in that role, things were changing.
“Perhaps we could have breakfast on Monday morning? I’m due on campus at ten o’clock to meet with Dr. Anita Singh about the courses,” George explained. A dark gray sportscoat covered broad shoulders and attempted to slim his stocky figure. Given he was noticeably several inches taller and wider than me, it didn’t appear to help.
“That sounds like a plan. Let’s meet at eight thirty at the Pick-Me-Up Diner?” I proposed, knowing it’d lend me an excuse to judge the eatery’s latest renovations.
Dean Mulligan haughtily teased,” Ah, George, you’ll soon come to learn the Ayrwick family has a long-standing establishment in and around Braxton. Eleanor, Kellan’s sister, owns the diner, a favored restaurant by most employed at or attending our fine institution.”
As Dean Mulligan provided directions to George, I caught a puzzled expression on the visiting professor’s face. He muttered something unintelligible before his gaze narrowed and highlighted two ultra-thin blond eyebrows. “Pardon?” I inquired.
“Ayrwick, you said?” he added, cocking his head to the left and focusing on the pastoral landscape behind me. He wouldn’t look me in the face without glancing away. Was he sensitive about his skin condition or his funny way of speaking? I hoped I hadn’t offended the man with my transitory stare and state of confusion.
“Yes, Dean Mulligan’s correct. My family’s been in Wharton County for close to three centuries. I look forward to speaking with you on Monday,” I replied, excusing myself and dashing toward the backstage area to locate Dean Fern Terry. Since she oversaw the graduation as head of student affairs, Fern could tell me when I was needed for the ceremony.
George Braun not only seemed familiar with the name Ayrwick, but I was certain that was concern or alarm etched on his face. After a quick catch-up with Fern, I found a spot on the east side of the stage as the ceremony began. I could stand there until it was time to declare the winner of the contest. Although I knew a few students in the graduating class, I hadn’t been at the institution long enough to serve as an announcer of graduate names nor to deliver any inspirational departing speeches.
Fern initiated the ceremony by reminiscing about the school’s history and highlighting the graduating class’s accomplishments. She introduced Ursula who took the stage to congratulate the outgoing students, then turned it over to my father for his last opportunity to say goodbye to the future alumni. As he spoke, Ursula navigated the stage’s steps like they were a catwalk and headed toward the back of the seating area.
Once my father finished boorishly riffing about something in Latin, Fern commandeered the stage and announced my name. I walked to the center and stood behind the lectern looking out at a mostly unfamiliar sea of people. With over two hundred graduates, the audience teetered around a thousand guests including their families and nearly all the college’s administrative and academic staff. I talked about the process to nominate and vote for different cable car designs, then explained how it was an awfully close race. Only two people had been told the final winner. Ursula and I agreed to surprise Fern with the results given how disappointed she’d be if the apocalypse had won. She’d tried to bribe me with a homemade coconut cream cake at Easter, but I stood firm. Where desserts were my weakness, keeping secrets was my strength.
“It gives me immense pleasure to reveal today’s winner,” I said, pointing and clicking the button on a tiny remote toward the digital screen. “I’ve been a huge fan of these two larger-than-life characters since I was a small boy, and I often find myself involved in solving a few mysteries of my own.” A series of conversations between Agatha Christie’s famed detectives, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, materialized on the large screen behind me. Various quotes and images from the books, movies, and PBS shows would appear inside the cable car to share different interpretations of the characters.
“It’s because you’re our inspiration for solving those two murder investigations,” Jordan Ballantine shouted followed by a bunch of cheers. “We wanted to honor your service to the campus!” Jordan was one of the graduates who’d be leaving Braxton to attend an MBA program in New Orleans.
In my three months at Braxton, I’d solved a couple of murders and been deemed a campus hero. I looked at Fern, Jordan’s aunt, and smiled with humility. We’d come a long way from her disciplining me when I’d been the president of my fraternity pleading forgiveness after various mischievous activities. Fern beamed back at me and lifted her hands in the air as if to say ‘holla’ like the bellowing students. Somehow the image of a sixtyish woman built like a quarterback in a gray pixie-style haircut performing such a move was frightening beyond any comfort.
As I thanked everyone for their votes, I noticed one of the graduates, Sam Taft, speaking with my brother, Gabriel. I’d caught the two of them in a cozy embrace last March shortly after someone had killed Gwendolyn Paddington to ensure an inheritance of the family fortune. I’d been shocked to see my brother after eight years but even more astonished to learn he might be gay. If you’d seen that kiss, there wouldn’t have been any question of might be, but until I spoke with him, I didn’t want to assume. Neither one had realized I’d seen them that day, and for the last seven weeks, I’d kept the information to myself. I didn’t know whether to ask Sam about it or hire a private investigator to track Gabriel.
Once I finished my speech, I sprinted down the steps to interrogate or to hug my brother—still hadn’t decided which one. I tried to reach him, but Gabriel winked and escaped in the opposite direction. Before I could rush off to beg Sam for help, Ursula stepped in the way. “Kellan, I’m glad we ran into one another. I was curious if you found out anything new?” she said with a gleam of hope.
By now, Sam had lined up on stage to receive his diploma, and Gabriel was long gone. I breathed a gulp of warm air and felt my body begin to wane. For the third week of May, the heat had come from nowhere and grown inordinately stagnant. All the comforting breezes were blocked by tall fir trees surrounding one side of Cambridge Lawn and the massive church holding firm on its southern border. I liked the hot weather, but this was intense.
Ursula had recently pleaded for help with a problem involving the past finally catching up to her. I’d learned a lot about my new boss during our conversations, some of which explained the reason she was taciturn about her history and some of which shocked me to the core. Not even Myriam knew about her wife’s tragedy or the years she’d been running and hiding from the truth about her real identity. While I felt the palpitating fear emanate off Ursula’s normally serene exterior, I tried not to judge her for the damage her prior actions had caused.

About The Author

Background
James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote some short stories, poems and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career in technology and business that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I refocused some of my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing and publishing.

Author
Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind and my body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels and suspense thrillers. I think of characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.

Reader & Reviewer
Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read 2 books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review and post it on all my sites and platforms.

Blogger & Thinker
I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.

Genealogist & Researcher
I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.

Websites & Blog
Website: https://jamesjcudney.com/
Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com
Amazon: http://bit.ly/JJCIVBooks
Next Chapter Pub: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/james-j-cudney

Social Media
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamesJCudneyIVAuthor/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BraxtonCampusMysteries/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ThisIsMyTruthNow/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

Genres, Formats & Languages
I write in the family drama and mystery genres. My first two books are Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I’m currently writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries with six books available.
All my books come in multiple formats (Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook) and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.

Goodreads Book Links
Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)
Father Figure (April 2018)
Braxton Campus Mysteries
• Academic Curveball – #1 (October 2018)
• Broken Heart Attack – #2 (November 2018)
• Flower Power Trip – #3 (March 2019)
• Mistaken Identity Crisis – #4 (June 2019)
• Haunted House Ghost – #5 (October 2019)
• Frozen Stiff Drink – #6 (March 2020)

 

Sign Ups With Silver Dagger Book Tours Is Open, If You Wanna Support/ Join A ‘Book Blitz’ The 27th June! Calling All Bloggers!

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So exciting! This is the second  virtual book tour I have with the lovely Silver Daggers Book Tours, if any bloggers wish to receive pre-made HTMLs or content to share on their blog and/or social media on the 27th June just after 365 Days Of Writing Prompts For Romance Writers is published jump in add your blog/email here. All details will be sent from the company just just copy and paste! And there’s a giveaway too for  all who participate $20.00. Much love to you,  if you join in! Anyone can.

What Made You Write That, Kim?…

Good question! Many of you might be wondering ‘why the hell have you written a writing prompt book?’ The long answer is very long, the short answer is, well I just love writing prompts. And writing prompt for romance writers are even better!  Those of you who have followed my blog since day one will know this, I have been blogging using writing prompts for short stories, random thoughts and to allow you all to get to know me since day dot when this blog started. I love picture prompts too. Back in the day say 2016-2018,  I used to participate in weekly writing prompt challenges much more than I do now. I think it’s so exciting to be given something, or even half of something and then to complete it and make it your own.

Also, they are really great for motivation also, writers often can suffer with procrastination a lot they can help overcome this.

What was the process like writing it?

Very different to a romance or thriller that’s for sure, and a hella-lot quicker! The idea started a little while back, if I think back to pin point it I’d say just before Didi and I started really working on The Suspenseful Collection #2 – Blurred Lines. I started to write down ideas, sentences, situations and things as prompts. I collected a lot and tucked them away. I took inspiration from situations or people (characters I guess), that just came to me.

Fast forward many, many months, one of my author friends on Facebook a fellow romance author Kristi Tailor had also been a busy bee. She has actually launched a line of journals, like notepads that are simply beautiful. She tagged me in on them on Facebook  I bought one yes, but it gave me the push I needed to actually get my manuscript together and write the damn book! So I did!  I kinda thought ‘get out of your fiction writing for a bit, do something different during lock down.’

The first step was to look at what I had so I could organise them somewhat, and try to ensure that they are not too similar. Then, from here I thought okay, let’s make it 365 days of prompts because really where possible, I’d love to help keep my fellow writers going all year! You see lots of 101 or a less books of writing prompts. I wanted to make it as full as possible.

I decided on a ‘theme’ for each month, be it new directions in love, love in an unexpected place etc also some genre focused months, like historical, paranormal etc. However each of the prompts can be adapted to any genre really. If you’re an urban romance writer  for example just place the situation or characters you feel drawn to, in an urban setting. So from here, I organised the prompts from January – September with a focus for each month.

January- New Directions Love
February- Unexpected New Love
March- Fresh Starts and New Beginnings
April- Love in Unexpected Places
May- Historical, Regency and Multicultural
June- Contemporary Romance
July- Paranormal, Horror and Dark Romance
August- Christmas and Holiday Love
September- Mixed Bag of Goodies!

How Did You Put Your Own Spin On Things? So Others Can Put Their Own Spin On Things?

In three main ways, firstly within  365 Days of Writing Prompts For Romance Writers  nothing is set in stone and I make that clear, I want writer’s imaginations to run wild, which means take an idea and make it your own. Secondly, I have learned the beauty over the years since 2016 of personal blogging, not just for myself but the beauty of it or readers of your work or those that simply wish to follow your online author site/blog. Therefore, I dedicated three months of the year to personal blogging with prompts that are general, random and allow writers to express themselves as people. Not just creatively in fiction. I really want to encourage writers to put their personalities and self out there! To grow, engage, interact etc. On Facebook I am a moderator for a book club group, we have ‘question of the day’ each day. One question I asked was ‘what do readers like to receive in newsletters?’ To my surprise ( really it should not have been) a  book club member responded, ‘to know the author and their personality and snap shot of them and their lives.’ This got me thinking, as my response was ‘ I do all that on my blog’ and it dawned on me that even if bloggers, writers whatever you want to call yourselves feel that no one tunes into YOUR blogs, some really do!! So do it!! Write those personal rambles and give a feel of who you are, as a person. Be human. October- December Romance Writers’ Blog Writing Challenge Prompts.

That’s why I have included the ‘three month romance writer’s personal blog challenge,’ with prompts dedicated to this within 365 Days of Writing Prompts For Romance Writers. In a nutshell, I’ve created a two for the price of one, or two in one book. Creative writing fictional prompts for romance writers yes, but also inspiration for those with a copy of the book to be themselves and engage, and to encourage them to start a blog and how!

Thirdly, I’ve kept the prompts pretty open. There are so many directions writers can go in, with questions like ‘what happens next after character A and B do x,y.z’  or ‘you decide why they are broken-hearted’, ‘you decide how they are linked’. I’ve provided situations for love to bloom or people/characters for writers to create the love in a particular context. There is a lot of room for creativity with a starting point.

What About Structure?

There is none LOL if it’s January and you like  writing a prompt in September, so what? You do not need to work to dates at all. This is just purely for organisation. Also some prompts are based on particular days that are celebrated around the world, like World Braille Day for example. There’s a prompt with a partially sighted character. But nope, no real structure also the personal blogging challenges I encourage writers to start as soon as they pick up the book don’t wait until October.

Will You Do Another One?

Yes, yes and yes! I think I have the bug. I plan on doing one for crime, thriller, mystery and suspense writers. Also,  I actually have some other things up my selves for the series of ‘savvy writer’s’ books I wish to put out. So stay tuned.

So in a nutshell… you did it because, Kim?

I wrote this book because it was an idea that had to be brought to life! One I’ve had for a while and  got a real taste for. Of course I will still write romantic suspense and crime, thrillers but I also wish to do writing reference books too. In a nutshell I want to help all of you! And share creative ideas.

Here’s my baby!

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