Thursday, October 27, 2016

Reader: Reading Now - Susan Bernhardt’s The Ginseng Conspiracy, A Kay Driscoll Mystery, Book 1

Publisher's Page

Yes, I’m an editor for MuseItUp, Susan’s publisher. I’m even involved in the submission process; however, that doesn’t mean I pass up reading the authors I don’t get to team with during the process…

Genre:  Cozy Mystery

Back Cover:
On her way to attend a Halloween Ball, Kay Driscoll, a newcomer to town, witnesses the murder of a local professor. When the official coroner's report rules the cause of death to be accidental and the community accepts the judgement, Kay decides to uncover the truth for herself. Through her personal investigations, Kay exposes a complex conspiracy, woven deep within the thriving local ginseng industry, that involves some of the more prominent figures and families of Sudbury Falls.

With her new friends, the free-spirited herbalist Deirdre and the untamed modern woman Elizabeth, Kay discusses new clues over tea and pastries at Sweet Marissa's Patisserie, their crime-fighting headquarters. As Kay gets closer to the heart of the conspiracy, additional murders happen in quick succession. Before long, Kay learns that the villains are gunning for her, too. Phil, her musically talented but preoccupied husband, determined to keep her safe, withholds from her the one thing she needs most: the truth.

I supposed I should have kept going and minded my own business, but when had I ever done that? My curiosity kept calling me. I had told Elizabeth and Deirdre that Phil and I would meet them at seven-thirty. It was seven-fifteen, and I was just two blocks away. I had plenty of time to find out what was going on. It was a bit creepy, but I could just take a peek. Not knowing was killing me, so I made the decision to check it out.   

  I ducked into the dark alley and went around to the double back door of the store. The entire area looked shabby and desolate. I'd never been in the alley behind the stores before. This presented new territory for me. A smell of wilting trash prevailed. Trashcans on their sides spilled their ancient contents into the rutted pavement. Piles of old wood and broken pallets leaned against the side of the building. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to be here after all, but I continued on to satisfy my curiosity.

 I pulled open one of the unlocked doors, entered, and heard faint voices coming from behind an inner door down a hallway. Slowly, careful to not make a sound, I opened the inside door and just as silently closed it behind me. A curtain blocked my view into the room, so I moved forward to peer around its edge. 

Six people stood in a storage room in a circle, all of them wearing the same silk gossamer hooded robes. It was a bizarre scene. No party atmosphere here. Fresh footprints from the mystery people scattered around the thick dust on the floor. Cobwebs covered the walls. This was becoming much more like The Da Vinci Code than I would have liked. All that was missing was a body. I was beginning to think I had been right in the first place. I shouldn't be here. Way past having a bad feeling about this, the hair on my body stood on end. But I didn't move for the door. I was determined to stay and find out what was happening. The robed people all gazed down at the floor. Stepping onto a low box in front of me, I strained my neck to see what they were looking at. Lying on the floor was a person. Had someone passed out? I could see a man. He was someone I knew, the professor we saw on our morning walks, who passed our home on his way to the college, whom Elizabeth hadn't introduced me to yet. I couldn’t believe it. The professor was lying there, looked lifeless. My skin tingled. I held my breath as my heart raced.

I stumbled as I stepped down from the box that I stood on. Backing away from the curtain, I swung the door open wide and ran toward the alley door. Footsteps sounded in the hallway as I slammed the back door shut. I grabbed a thick piece of wood lying beside the door, shoved it though the door handles, and raced through the dark alley behind the stores. I got about a block away before I heard the sound of splintering wood. It was only a short distance to get to the Vermilion Pathway where Elizabeth, Deirdre, and I walked each morning. I hoped to lose myself in the wooded area.

I reached the pathway, removed my slippers to make it easier to run, and sprinted down a short distance before I made a sharp left turn up an embankment. I heard hurried voices coming in my direction on the path. Halfway up the embankment, I hid behind an old gargantuan oak tree I had often admired on our walks I pulled the skirt of my cloak tight around my legs and held my breath. My heart pounded so loudly in my chest, I thought for sure they would be able to hear it. The pursuing group passed without slowing, within twenty feet from where I hid. The moonless night concealed me. Why the chase? What had I interrupted? Everything spun out of control. I couldn't believe this was happening to Sudbury Falls! 

I waited until I no longer heard their voices and then continued up the embankment and ran through backyards that were parallel to Main Street. I put my slippers back on. I needed to head for the safety of home where I could process the adrenaline-fueled events of the last several minutes. In the middle of the block, with no direct streetlights overhead, I dashed across Main Street and through two backyards. I kept in the shadows, running between the houses. 

This was a night of shadows. I could see a woman through her back picture window standing over at the stove as I ran through her yard. Her dog, tied up in the backyard, started barking as he saw me. But I was already gone before I heard her backdoor slam shut. I crossed Elm Street, hoping not to be seen in the streetlights. Eerie Jack-O’Lanterns leered out at me from the corner house. Phil and I had just laughed about them last night when walking home from Jo's, but now they were unwanted eyes watching me as I tried to move undetected through town. Their sneers looked fixedly at me as I passed. Stretches between the yards seemed longer. Running under brooding trees on Maple Street, I reached the entrance to the alley behind our house. 

  I stopped in the shadows, searching the night for any signs of movement, making sure I wasn't followed. It was creepier back here than I expected. A cat screamed. I jumped and bolted down the alley, through our squeaky gate, and let myself in the back door, locking it behind me. 

I pulled my knees up to my chest and laid my head on them. What was going on? What had I just witnessed in the vacant store?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Editor: My Muse Author Larion Wills - Curse of the Sire, The Sire Series book 2

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Genre:  Historical Western Romance

Tags:  Westerns, historical westerns, Colorado, family saga, cattle ranches, family dysfunction, dominating father, Civil War,

Back Cover:

Feeling an outsider when his best friend and partner is re-united with his family, Kyle heads out to repay a debt ignored too long. Instead of what should have been a simple journey to find Jenny, thank her for saving his life, and attempt to repay in her some manner, the search takes him from Kansas to Montana, straight into trouble and a death trap only the Vanders Clan can rescue him from.


“Do you…do you think he’ll be angry when he learns he was married without his consent?”

“I don’t think so, least ways not at ya, not when the circumstances are explained ta him.”

Abby went out, and Blue Hand came in. “Sleep too little,” he stated.

George nodded. Abby had been hovering over the boy, sitting beside him day and night since his fever broke and he’d gone into a deep sleep. When they saw to the personal things like bathing him were the only times they’d been able to get her to leave.

“He asked who she was. That upset her. Damn it all, what are we gonna do when he wakes up enough ta tell her he ain’t Samuel?”

“Hears what wants hear.”

“He won’t. Once we get them clear of har, once he can travel on his own, he’ll leave her. Her heart will be broke all over again.”

“So sure?”

“That he’ll leave?” He nodded slowly. “Yeah.” Looking behind him to make double sure she couldn’t hear, he whispered, “She ain’t right in the head. No man would tie himself up to that.”

* * * *

The next time Kyle woke, his body fought the need for fluids with his mouth over accepting the bitter taste of the water the ugly old man poured in his mouth. He gagged, fearing he might puke, but it stayed down. The second water from a canteen came sweet, going down easy compared to the first, though it had a bit of a tin taste.

“Blue eyes?” he murmured. Where were the pretty blue eyes?

“She’s sleeping.”

“Sleeping?” Maybe he still slept. The pain eased away. Maybe he dreamed about pretty blue eyes, startled because he’d spun and nearly drew his gun on her. Abby, her name, pretty Miss Abby. Missy Abby. Abigail.

The old man moved, and Kyle’s head swam. His eyes rolled before he could get them back in focus. Farther away, the old man sat in a chair, staring.

“Hep the pain?”

“You talk like Faraway.”

The old man blinked and leaned forward. “Ya know Faraway?”

“Smart old man.” He felt like he floated. “Drug?”

“Yeah, the doc gave it ta us,” he said and dismissed it. “Faraway? Sure, should’a put it tagether. Colorado and the Lance ranch. Yar old Lance’s boy?”

“No, not son,” Kyle said, his thoughts drifting away. If he’d been a son, he would have stayed, but he was an outsider. Chancy and Lon needed time to get to know each other without any outsider. They both needed time to know their father without someone who didn’t belong to the family.

Three times more Kyle woke and either she or the old man poked a spoon in his mouth with a liquid so bitter he nearly choked, then water, followed by soup. The fourth time he got his hand up to block the spoon of bitter liquid.

“I know it must taste bad from the face ya make, but it’s ta ease yar pain.”

“No, not now.” Weak. God he could barely hear himself his voice was so weak. “I can’t think. Can’t…things slip away from me.”

George dribbled the laudanum back into the brown glass bottle. “Reckon it can wait a piece.” He traded the bottle for the canteen, finding the narrow opening of it made it easier to get water to Kyle’s mouth with him flat on his stomach. “Figure ya got some questions ta ask.”

“Why they’d shoot me?”

“Orders from Harsboro, no one trespasses and no one asks questions about Jenny. No one asks about a lot of things ’bout people dying on account of Harsboro.”

“He killed her. You told me he killed her.”

“Yeah.” He traded the canteen for a bowl and spoon, feeding Kyle while they talked. “Yar rememberin’ things now, so’s I’m gonna tell ya something. Harsboro knows yar har. He forced Missy ta marry up with ya. Told her he’d kill ya if she refused.”


“Now it ain’t legal, and me and Blue Hand, we’re gonna get you and Missy away from har afore Harsboro can do anything more, but ya gots ta pretent yar goin’ along with being her husband.”

Not that any of it much made sense to him, Kyle centered in on one thing to question. “Why would he make her marry me?”

“She’s his only offspring, and he can’t breed no more. Hell, he ain’t been able for a long time, but now he’s taken it in that head of his she’s gonna give him an heir of his bloodline.”

“He just married her off to the first man to come along?”

“The first he figured she’d agree ta. She thinks yar someone else who heped her, Samuel. ’Member, I told ya ’bout him that first night I found ya.”

“Jen—” Kyle started in exclamation and ended in a groan, clenching his hands and jaw against the pain of moving too much.

“Long ’nough,” George said, picking up the bottle.

“She was…all…glowing.”

“Yeah, she come back after Abby’s man went away, ’bout six months now. She’s been hauntin’ old man Harsboro ever since, scarin’ his hands off, and tormentin’ him. Swolla this down now, no matter how bad it tastes.”

Kyle took it, shuddering as the liquid burned its way down his throat. “Why…Indian…why?”

“Give yarself a minute and I’ll tell ya.”


“Boy, ya ain’t gonna stay awake that long.”

He couldn’t stay awake even long enough to put up a token argument, but his mind was clearer despite the pain and weakness. He was lucky to even still be breathing, his last thought as he drifted off in the haze of the opium derivative.

About the Author

Mistress of western romances, Larion writes a collection of others as well as the Sire Series though she is not limited to one genre. Contemporaries, mystery and suspense are published under the same name, while science fiction and fantasy come from Larriane Wills.

Though the Sire Series takes place primarily in Colorado, her interest in the time period came from living in an area in the southwest rich with history and a love of antiques. She would love.