The Story Behind ‘Little Girl Gone’ by Margaret Fenton

The Story Behind the Book

LGGcoverHello everyone!  I’ve been asked to write about the story behind the story, so here goes.  First, please allow me a little background.

Little Girl Gone is the second in the Claire Conover mysteries, and is the sequel to Little Lamb Lost.  Claire is a child welfare social worker in Birmingham, Alabama.  In Little Lamb Lost, Claire gets to work one morning to discover that one of her tiny clients is dead.  Michael was just two years old, so how could he have died?  Soon the police arrest his mother, who has worked so hard to get sober, get her life stabilized, and get him out of foster care.  Claire is convinced his mother had nothing to do with Michael’s death and sets out to prove it.  Claire also meets a handsome computer scientist and a sexy reporter who help her in this mission.

When it came time…

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The Story Behind ‘The Bronx Kill’ by Philip Cioffari

The Story Behind the Book

CioffariCoverColorI should say first that stories don’t come to me all at once. They arrive in fragments, over time. That is especially true of my latest novel, The Bronx Kill. I had the title first. A number of years back—ten or more—I was perusing a map of the Bronx, where I lived into my twenties, and came across the name. The Bronx Kill is a channel of water (so named by the early Dutch settlers) that runs between the Harlem River and the East River in the southernmost tip of the Bronx. I knew immediately it would become the title of a book I would write one day. No story came with the name; that would take another decade to materialize. But that name cried out to me. What a set-up for a double or triple entendre. I loved titles with multiple levels.

Unrelated to this discovery—or so I…

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Spotlight and Chapter Reveal: Echoes of Terror, by Maris Soule

The Dark Phantom Review

EchoesOfTerrorFrontTitle: Echoes of Terror

Author: Maris Soule

Genre: Mystery

Publisher: Five Star

Websitehttp://marissoule.com 

Find out more on Amazon

The latest release by award-winning novelist Maris Soule, Echoes of Terror is a taut, tense tale about secrets, deadly intentions, and what happens when murder hits way too close to home.   Set against the backdrop of Skagway, Alaska,Echoes of Terror introduces protagonist Katherine Ward, a Skagway police officer who finds herself thrust in extraordinary—and extraordinarily frightening–circumstances when her past, present and future threaten to collide in a most dangerous way.

About Echoes of Terror:  Rural Skagway, Alaska’s small police force is accustomed to an occasional crime–a stolen bike here, a DUI there.  But when a teenager goes missing, the Skagway Police force is hardly prepared, especially with its Police Chief  in the hospital and an officer missing. Officer Katherine Ward is assigned the case, never expecting it to parallel…

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Talking Craft with Mystery Author Harley Mazuk

The Dark Phantom Review

101044HarleyinTuscanyHarley Mazuk was born in Cleveland, and majored in English literature at Hiram College in Ohio, and Elphinstone College, Bombay U. Harley worked as a record salesman (vinyl) and later served the U.S. Government as a computer programmer and in communications, where he honed his writing style as an editor and content provider for official web sites.

Retired now, he likes to write pulp fiction, mostly private eye stories, several of which have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

Harley’s other passions are reading, his wife Anastasia, their two children, peace, running, Italian cars, and California wine.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, White with Fish, Red with Murder. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A: White with Fish, Red with Murder is the story of private eye…

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First Chapter Reveal: The Heatstroke Line by Edward L. Rubin

the-heatstroke-lineTitle: THE HEATSTROKE LINE
Author: Edward L. Rubin
Publisher: Sunbury Press
Pages: 223
Genre: Scifi/Cli-Fi (Climate Change Science Fiction)

Nothing has been done to prevent climate change, and the United States has spun into decline.   Storm surges have made coastal cities uninhabitable, blistering heat waves afflict the interior and, in the South (below the Heatstroke Line), life is barely possible.  Under the stress of these events and an ensuing civil war, the nation has broken up into three smaller successor states and tens of tiny principalities.  When the flesh-eating bugs that inhabit the South show up in one of the successor states, Daniel Danten is assigned to venture below the Heatstroke Line and investigate the source of the invasion.  The bizarre and brutal people he encounters, and the disasters that they trigger, reveal the real horror climate change has inflicted on America.

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Chapter One:

Daniel Danten didn’t really want to have a family.  What he wanted was to be a scientist, to teach at a university and produce original research.  But this seemed so unlikely, given the state of things in Mountain America, that he decided to hedge his bets or he’d have nothing to show for his life.  So he married a woman he convinced himself he was in love with and had three children.   As it turned out, somewhat to his own surprise, he achieved his original goal, probably because he switched fields from astronomy to entomology, a subject of enormous practical concern these days.  And now, with a secure position at one of Mountain America’s leading universities, his own lab, and a substantial list of publications to his credit, he spent most of his time worrying about his family.  His wife, Garenika, was depressed, his ten year old son Michael was suffering from one of the many mysterious ailments that were appearing without warning or explanation, and his fourteen year old daughter Senly was hooked on Phantasie and running wild.  Worst of all, his sixteen year old, Joshua, who had always been such a reliable, level-headed and generally gratifying son, had become an American Patriot.

On a blazing, early September afternoon, with the outdoor temperature spiking at 130 degrees Fahrenheit, he was sitting with Garenika in the waiting room at Denver Diagnostic Clinic while Michael was being examined by still one more doctor.  Garenika thought they would get some sort of answer this time, but Dan was convinced that the doctor would come out of the examining room and say that she really couldn’t tell them what the problem is.  Senly was spending a rare evening at home and Joshua was on his way back from his field trip to the Enamel, an expedition that, Dan felt sure, was designed to make the participants angry, rather than providing them with information.    The doctor appeared and Garenika jumped to her feet.

“Well,” the doctor said,” I really can’t tell you what the problem is.”

“Why not?” Garenika asked, her voice tinged with its increasingly frequent sense of panic.  “Why can’t you find an answer for us?  Look at him –he’s losing weight, his skin keeps getting blotchier, and he’s exhausted all the time.”

“I’m sorry.  As you probably know, we’re pretty sure that we’re seeing all these new diseases because the climate change has wiped out a lot of the beneficial bacteria that we used to have in our bodies.   Commensals, they’re called.  But we’ve never really figured out how they work, so it’s hard to compensate for their disappearance.”

“Okay,” said Dan.  “So what can we do for Michael?”

“Keep him comfortable and give it time.  Put cold compresses on any area where there’s a rash.  Try to get him to eat, lots of small meals if he can’t tolerate a large one.  We’re expecting some new medicines from Canada that may relieve the symptoms.  Michael’s getting dressed; he’ll be out a few minutes.”

When Michael came out, they went back down to the clinic carport.   Dan set the car for Return and sat in the rear with Michael, letting Garenika sit alone up front.  They were quiet on the drive back home.  Dan kept watching his discolored, fragile little boy, trying to think of something reassuring to say, but nothing came to mind.  So when they arrived at the house, where Senly was waiting for them, he just gave Michael a long hug and told him to take a nap.

“Be quiet when you go into the room” Senly said to Michael.  “Josh is sleeping.”  She turned to Dan and Garenika.  “He was really tired out from the trip, so he decided to rest up.  But he’s looking forward to having dinner with you.”

“Wonderful,” said Dan, “we’ll all be together.”

“Well, actually,” Senly answered, “I figured you’d be occupied with all the news from Josh, so I made plans to go out.  Anyway, the kitchen might break if it we have to program another meal for tonight.  It hasn’t been working very well.”

“That was our decision to make, Senly, not yours,” said Garenika.

“I was just trying to be considerate. Remember, you told me that you wanted me to take other people’s feelings into account without being asked.  So that’s what I did.  I even took the kitchen’s feelings into account.”

Dan couldn’t suppress a grin.  Senly got up to leave.  “You can reach me on my wristlink.  I’ll just be having a quiet dinner with Ranity and  Sharana.”

As soon as she was out of the room, Garenika turned on Dan. “You did it again.  You smiled at her for her smart-ass comeback.  You seem to think that anything she does is okay, as long as she acts clever.”

Garenika was right.  Dan knew that he valued intelligence too much.  Somehow, he thought Senly’s good mind and quick wits would make up for her surly irresponsibility, and that she would turn out well in the end.  But it was his job as a parent to exercise more control over her, to keep her from getting into some kind of trouble she couldn’t get out of, and maybe even to teach her some sense of morality.

“You need to be more careful, Dan.  You have a career, but these three children are all I’ve got.”

In fact, Garenika was a food inspector for the government, but she hated her job.

Josh appeared in the multi-purpose room promptly at 7:15, just as the servo-robot was putting out the plates for dinner.  He looked completely refreshed and as handsome as ever.  After announcing that he was glad to be home, asking where Senly was, and telling Michael that he was looking better, he launched into his account of the trip by using his wristlink to project images onto the wall.

“I couldn’t send anything from the Enamel, of course, but that’s what it looks like.   I know you’ve seen it Dad, but Mom and Michael haven’t.  Isn’t it awful?”

A scene appeared of wide, flat land, part brown rock and part dark clay, with scattered pools of water, jumbled piles of brick and stone, and a few stunted, scrawny bushes.  Josh had taken the footage on an overcast day to heighten the effect.

“This used to be the richest farmland on Earth,” he continued.  “Until the Canadians raped it.  You know where the term Enamel comes from, don’t you?”

“Yes,” said Dan.  “NML — No Man’s Land.”

“I didn’t know that,” said Michael.

“They called it that because it’s supposed to be a buffer between us and the UFA, didn’t they?” Garenika asked.

“That what I thought, particularly because of the Canadian communications blackout there,” said Josh, “but Stuart told us that the Canadians would actually have been glad if we kept fighting with the UFA.  American netnews writers named it No Man’s Land because no one could live there after the Canadians got through with it.  Stuart really knows a lot about it.”

“I should hope so,” said Dan, “he’s probably the leading American history professor at the University of Mountain America.”

“He’s really nice.  And he ran a great trip.”

“If he hadn’t been running it, dear, we wouldn’t have let you go,” said Garenika.

“There are the train tracks,” said Joshua, switching scenes.  “You can’t really get a good sense of them from a picture, but it’s horrible to see them in real life.  There are three sets, each twenty feet wide and running straight into Canada.  Did you see them Dad?”

“No, I went to the Enamel to find insects. I never got that far east.”

“Maybe if you’d seen the tracks you would feel different about the whole thing.   Stuart said it took three years for them to transport all that topsoil up to Canada, even with those giant trains.  Just think, three years ripping the surface off seven states.”

“Well, we did drop nuclear bombs on their two largest cities,” Dan replied.

“We were justified.  They were supposed to let our citizens move into the Arctic, instead of taking in all those Aussies, Brits and Frenchies.  They just let us die from the heat.  What were we supposed to do?”

“Not that.  Even the Russians didn’t do that when China conquered East Siberia.”

“But both sides used nuclear weapons.”

“Just tactical ones, on the battlefield.  The United States was the only country that ever used them against civilian targets.”

“Are you two going to start arguing again?” said Garenika. “I thought we were just hearing about Josh’s trip.”

“Well, the purpose of Josh’s trip was to get him revved up so he’d argue with me.”

“The purpose of my trip was to provide me with information so I can explain to you why it’s so important to be a Patriot.  We were the most powerful nation on Earth before the Second Civil War.  And we could be powerful again if the three Successor States united.  Just think, we’d have almost as many people as Canada.”

“How do you figure that?” said Dan.

Josh was obviously waiting for that question.  “Mountain America has 24 million people, the UFA has 25 or 26 million, and Pacifica has 12 or 13.

“Well, that’s a little over 60 million by my math.  Canada has 150 million.”

“Yeah, but five million of them are in New England, and another 20 are in Alaska.  Those used to be part of the United States.  If you subtract 25 million people from Canada and add them to us, the difference gets a lot smaller.”

“But why would all those people want to leave a richer, stronger country with a decent climate to join three smaller, overheated  ones?”

“Because they used to be part of the greatest nation on Earth.”

“Not the people in Alaska. They came from Australia, Britain and France, as you just mentioned.”

“Only some of them.  There are plenty of Patriots in Alaska.   Plus another five million people in the Confederacies, and almost all of them are Patriots.”

“They may be Patriots,” said Dan, “but according to the last count, there’s only about three million of them.”

“That information comes from a Canadian satellite survey, and they falsify the data to make the Patriots look weak.”

“Did Stuart tell you that?”

Josh was getting rattled, but he held his ground.  “No, Noah told us that.”

“Noah!” Dan exclaimed, with a snort.

“Noah knows a lot.”

“Noah’s a nut case,” said Dan. “A Revivalist nut case.”  He was about to add that Josh would be a nut case too if he kept listening to people like that, but he caught Garenika’s eye and restrained himself.

“I’m tired,” said Michael.  Can I go back to bed?”  Dan noticed that he had barely touched his food.

“Of course, darling,” said Garenika.  “I’ll come in to say goodnight in a few minutes.”

“Actually,” Dan continued, trying to be slightly less contentious, “even three million people is impressive.  Most of the areas below the Heatstroke Line are completely uninhabited these days.”

“That’s American ingenuity for you,” Joshua said.

“And that’s just a Patriot slogan.”

“Dad, if all the Successor States were unified, we could repopulate the South.  Crops grow there, so there’s no reason it couldn’t hold more people.”

“That’s impossible, Josh.  I’d be surprised if they can even sustain the present population very long.”

“Why exactly is that?” Garenika asked.  “You can live below the Heatstroke Line if you have air conditioning.  I mean, I’m a nutritionist, not an h-vac engineer, but the Halcyon units are really good.  Ours can handle 150 degree weather easily.”

“So it would seem,” said Dan, “but it never works.  It’s a matter of social organization, not engineering.  You’ve got to keep a power plant going all the time.  As soon as it breaks down, or the fuel supply is interrupted, or one of your enemies blows it up, you die.  Then there are the biter bugs.  And you’ve got to give everyone a stun gun or life is just intolerable.  Even with the guns, it’s pretty damn unpleasant. You’re always on edge.”

“But everyone in the Confederacies does have a stun gun” Josh responded.  “And the power plant situation isn’t as bad as you say, because they’re not so far south.  You can survive in winter without air conditioning, so it’s only a little more than half the year that a power failure actually kills you.”

“Well, that was the idea behind President Garcia’s program of repopulating West Oklahoma, Central Texas and New Mexico,” said Dan, “but the problem in that case is that there’s no water.  It’s a lost cause.”

“The problem,” said Josh, “is that it created an unnecessary conflict with the Confederacies in Arkansas, East Oklahoma and East Texas.  We need to start working together, not competing for little bits of extra territory.  The Canadians never could have invaded us if it hadn’t been for the Second Civil War.”

“Well then,” said Dan.  You should be an enthusiastic supporter of President Simonson.”

“Simonson’s a lot better than Carletta Garcia.  At least he’s trying to establish better relations with the Confederacies.  But he’s not a Patriot.  He has no vision.  One day we’ll elect a real Patriot as President and start putting this country back together.”

“One day,” said Dan, “you’ll go back to fantasizing about being a medieval knight, or hunting dinosaurs, or something else that’s more realistic than the lost cause you’ve got for yourself now.”

When Dan and Garenika were in bed that night, she told him that he was being much too hard on Josh. Dan   was tempted to respond that he was just following the advice she had given him about Senly, but he realized that would be a smart-ass, Senly-type remark and stopped himself.

“You know,” he said instead, “what Josh is doing can be dangerous, maybe more dangerous than Senly’s Phantasie parties with those so-called friends of hers.   I trust Stuart, but when they were looking at the train tracks, they were pretty close to territory claimed by the UFA.  And American Patriotism is a criminal offense there; they could all have been arrested.”

“But it’s legal here.  And at least he’s using his mind and doing something constructive.”  She paused.   “Oh hell, you’re right.  I’m worried about him too.  I’m worried about all of them.”

 

About the Author

edward-l-rubinEdward Rubin is University Professor of Law and Political Science at Vanderbilt University.  He specializes in administrative law, constitutional law and legal theory. He is the author of Soul, Self and Society:  The New Morality and the Modern State (Oxford, 2015); Beyond Camelot:  Rethinking Politics and Law for the Modern State (Princeton, 2005) and two books with Malcolm Feeley, Federalism:  Political Identity and Tragic Compromise (Michigan, 2011) and Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State:  How the Courts Reformed America’s Prisons (Cambridge, 1998).  In addition, he is the author of two casebooks, The Regulatory State (with Lisa Bressman and Kevin Stack) (2nd ed., 2013); The Payments System (with Robert Cooter) (West, 1990), three edited volumes (one forthcoming) and The Heatstroke Line (Sunbury, 2015) a science fiction novel about the fate of the United States if climate change is not brought under control. Professor Rubin joined Vanderbilt Law School as Dean and the first John Wade–Kent Syverud Professor of Law in July 2005, serving a four-year term that ended in June 2009. Previously, he taught at the University of Pennsylvania Law School from 1998 to 2005, and at the Berkeley School of Law from 1982 to 1998, where he served as an associate dean. Professor Rubin has been chair of the Association of American Law Schools’ sections on Administrative Law and Socioeconomics and of its Committee on the Curriculum. He has served as a consultant to the People’s Republic of China on administrative law and to the Russian Federation on payments law. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton and his law degree from Yale.

He has published four books, three edited volumes, two casebooks, and more than one hundred articles about various aspects of law and political theory. The Heatstroke Line is his first novel.

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First Chapter Reveal: Sealed Up: The Course of Fate: Book One by Steve Dunn Hanson

sealed-up

Title: Sealed Up
Author: Steve Dunn Hanson
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 402
Genre: Action/Adventure/Suspense

The Da Vinci Code unsettles. SEALED UP shakes to the core!

UCLA anthropologist Nathan Hill, in a funk since his young wife’s death, learns of staggering millennia-old chronicles sealed up somewhere in a Mesoamerica cliff. This bombshell rocks him out of his gloom, and he leads a clandestine expedition to uncover them. What are they? Who put them there? No one knows. But, self-absorbed televangelist Brother Luke, who funds the expedition, thinks he does. If he’s right, his power-hunger will have off-the-charts gratification.

Striking Audra Chang joins Nathan in his pursuit and brings her own shocking secret. As they struggle through a literal jungle of puzzles and dead ends, she finds herself falling in love with Nathan. Her secret, though, may make that a non-starter.

When a shaman with a thirst for human sacrifice, and a murderous Mexican drug lord with a mysterious connection to Brother Luke emerge, the expedition appears doomed. Yet Nathan is convinced that fate—or something—demands these inscrutable chronicles be unearthed.

And if they are . . . what shattering disruption will they unleash?

Intricately layered and remarkably researched, this enthralling suspense-driven and thought provoking tour de force begs a startling question: Could it happen?

Pick up your copy at:

Amazon

First Chapter:

Thursday, December 21, 2000

NAJA, CHIAPAS, MEXICO

Nacom was dying.

Guanacaste trees filtered the twilight into gold slivers that shimmered across Laguna Naja. The lake bore the name of the Lacandón Maya village nestled against it. Kish squatted on the ribbon of beach that framed the giant pond and stared at the darkening blue water. His black hair hung like string around his face, and his white tunic draped him like a sack. Koh Maria told him to wait there. She said her grandfather wanted to speak with him.

Kish knew what Nacom wanted.

“Who will follow a nineteen-year-old shaman,” he groused. Guttural growls of howler monkeys sounded like mocking laughter, and his shoulders slumped. A sharp tug on his tunic pulled him from his petulance.

“Now,” Koh Maria said.

Kish followed her to Nacom’s hut where she pushed open two square-ish boards hinged to weathered posts. Inside, roughhewn mahogany planks of random widths formed the walls. The shaman’s shriveled body lay in a hand-loomed hammock of faded palm-green and corn-yellow stripes. He cracked open his eyes as Kish stood beside him. With the back of his hand, he dismissed Koh Maria.

“You. Chilam.” Nacom whispered. “Itzamná speaks.”

“Priest? Me?” Kish stuttered as he shook his head.

“Obey!” Nacom responded, and his finger pointed to the arcane mahogany box beneath his hammock. Kish did not know what was inside, but something about the box unsettled him. The old man moved his fingers back and forth. Once. Twice. Kish was to pick it up. His hands quivered as he set the box on the simple table by the hammock’s side.

Nacom mumbled something. Kish bent closer. Nacom spoke again. “What day?”

Kish replied in Hach T’ana, the pure Mayan tongue: “Lahca baktun. Bolonlahun katun. Uuc tun. Canlahun uinal. Uuclahun kin.” December 21, 2000—winter solstice.

“Yes,” Nacom slurred. “You prepare. Lahca baktun. Bolonlahun katun. Bolonlahun tun. Uaxac uinal. Hun kin.” In four-thousand-one-hundred-eighty-four days. His hand moved to a thin cord around his neck. He labored as he pulled it from under his white tunic revealing a small key. Kish was to remove it.

With care he raised the old man’s head and slipped the cord over it. For a long moment Nacom lay still; his breath hardly there at all. Then the index finger of his right hand pushed toward the box and wiggled. Kish fought his anxiety as he inserted the key.

“Should I open it?” His voice was high, tense. Nacom’s head bobbed a little. Kish turned the key and raised the lid. A rectangular-shaped object on top was enfolded in white cotton cloth. The one on the bottom, shaped the same but thicker, was wrapped tight in the black pelt of a jaguar and bound with four cords. Kish reached to pick up the white one.

“No!” Nacom’s fingers lifted an inch as he forced out the word with startling firmness. “You. Prepare. Listen Itzamná.” His breath was heavy. “You. Keep box. Sacwa’an (white). Study. Follow. I’ic’ (black). No you. Give. Lahca baktun. Bolonlahun katun. Bolonlahun tun. Uaxac uinal. Hun kin.” In four-thousand-one-hundred-eighty-four days. His breath was a gasp and almost ceased. For a long moment there was no movement; no sound, except for Kish’s own nervous panting. Then Nacom whispered, “Not fail. Lock box. Koh Maria.”

Kish closed the lid and fastened it. His hands shook as he put the cord with the key around his own neck. He scrambled to the doorway and motioned to Koh Maria. She entered, opened her eyes wide at Kish’s ashen face, then went to her grandfather and held his hand. His face puckered into a tiny wrinkled smile. With effort he lifted his eyes to reveal red-veined film, and words like a ghost-rustle parted his lips. “The box. Kish.” Koh Maria nodded.

With a gurgle, Nacom breathed in.

Breathed out.

Then no more.

About the Author

steve-dunn-hanson

I’ve lived in places that grew me . . . from a small Idaho farm town, a run-down neighborhood in St. Louis, and a middle-class southern California community, to Sydney, Australia, and Bucharest, Romania. My experiences are as varied as the places I’ve lived. I have a hopper full of “reality” including being a volunteer jail chaplain and flying with a U.S. presidential candidate in his small plane when an engine conked out. And all of this is fodder for my writing.

My latest book is the action/adventure/suspense novel, Sealed Up.

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Meet Barb Caffrey, Author of ‘Changing Faces’

The Dark Phantom Review

barbcaffrey_authorpixBarb Caffrey is a writer, editor, and musician who holds two degrees in Music.
She has a particular fondness for the clarinet, lived in Nebraska for the better part of three years, and appreciated the ability to combine both her loves with the writing of Changing Faces.

Her other books are An Elfy on the Loose and A Little Elfy in Big Trouble (otherwise known as the Elfy duology), while her short stories have appeared in a number of places (most recently in Realms of Darkover). She’s also the co-writer of the Joey Maverick series of stories (with late husband Michael B. Caffrey), so the next story you might see from her could be military science fiction—or better yet, military science fiction with romance.

She lives in Wisconsin.

Barb Caffrey’s Elfyverse: https://elfyverse.wordpress.com

Link to book: http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/ChangingFaces_ch1.html

Amazon (US): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N3CQKWJ

INTERVIEW:

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Changing…

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