Thursday, November 21, 2013

Queen of Elements and Queen Mother

Please join me in welcoming an awesome pair of authors  mother and daughter ..... or more affectionately known as Queen of Elements Terri Talley Venters and Queen Mother Leslie Talley

(Just a side note: I've read numerous stories by Terri and they are great, which is why she's been dubbed Queen of Elements. Just recently I had the pleasure of reading Leslie's first book Make Old Bones, which is up for a 2014 Epic Award, but make no bones about it, that book is great. Terrific pair of writers.) Now on with the show..................... I mean blog tour......

Mother/Daughter Writing, From Mother’s Point of View
My daughter Terri’s interest in writing was sparked by a writers’ conference we attended in Melbourne, Florida, when she was in high school. Years elapsed during which time she mulled over an idea for a series which became Elements of Mystery.
Meanwhile, I had published travel pieces and a few short stories, but the publication of my mystery novel, Make Old Bones, eluded me. It had won first place in the mystery/suspense category at the Space Coast Writer’s Guild in 2000. Finally in 2008 Terri and I attended a conference sponsored by the North Florida Writers’ Association at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Make Old Bones once again won first place in the Lighthouse Book Awards for mystery/suspense. Terri was so proud, she cried! That spurred me on; that spurred her on. She finished writing her mystery novel, Carbon Copy. She hoped to ride in on my coattails. The opposite happened.
She submitted to Wild Child Publishing, an electronic publisher; I had never thought of doing that. When her book was accepted, I submitted also and was accepted. Since then we have critiqued each other’s work. She is my biggest fan! We feed off each other. My main characters, Otis and Clarice Campion, became her main character, Lilly Allen’s, Uncle Otis and Aunt Clarice. When we are together and we hear an interesting turn of phrase, we both screech, “I call it!”
One way I may have unconsciously influenced her is by setting, or a sense of place. According to my professor, Dr. Richard Adicksfrom Literature of the South at the University of Central Florida, there are six prominent features in Southern writing: a sense of history or of the past; a sense of religion or original sin; a sense of the grotesque; a sense of place; a sense of family or genealogy; and agrarian, or rural.
I write from a sense of place. Set your novel in a unique setting, and all manner of ideas pop up. Terri imbibed this from somewhere. Her first novel is set in New York and the Florida Keys, the sequel in Charleston. Her upcoming takes place in Scotland. My first takes place in Daytona Beach, the second in St. Augustine, the third in Ireland, and my work-in-progress in Scotland. We both have hurricanes and castles figuring prominently.
Even though we are much alike we have differences. My degrees are in English with some nursing thrown in. Hers are in Accounting and Taxation. She comes up with better plots. And while my mysteries are Cozies, hers are more modern.
But the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree, to be trite! Great minds, and all that!

Mother/Daughter authors,From daughter’s point of view
Wow! Where do I start? 18 years ago, my mother and I only dreamed of writing a novel, let alone getting it published. Our dreams of becoming mother/daughter published authors was just something we fantasized about. Now we’ve both published not only our debut novels, but their sequels as well.
Reflecting back over the last 18 years, I realize how much hard work went into our first books: Make Old Bones for my mother and Carbon Copy for me. The hardest part for me was starting. I thought about it for 8 years before I finally started writing. The next hardest part for me was finishing. I spent 5 years writing Carbon Copy. My mother was the reason I started and finished it. I always tried to have a chapter for her to read whenever we planned a visit. Then the next hardest part about the writing process was the waiting. Although I was blessed to find a publisher within six months of finishing Carbon Copy, it was another 2 and half years in editing before it was finally released in June 2012.
Now that we both have the same awesome publisher, Wild Child Publishing, the writing and editing are much easier for the both of us. I’ve recently finished writing my fifth book, Silver Lining, the epic conclusion to the Carbon Copy trilogy, while my mother is almost finished writing the fourth book in her bone series - The Bonnie, Bonnie Bone. My mother and I are case in point that hard work, patience, and determination, can make your dreams come true. We couldn’t have done it without each other’s constant encouragement all of these years.
So now that we’ve had our dream of being mother/ daughter published authors come true, what’s our next dream? I still dream big. I’m looking forward to having both of our books out in print so that we can do book signings together. And although I loathe public speaking, I can’t wait to do a mother/daughter presentation at a writer’s conference. Thank goodness my mother is an award winning Toastmaster. I’ll just smile, nod, and show cleavage. We’re brainstorming a co-authored book which is a prequel to Carbon Copy and Make Old Bones. The characters in our books are related.My heroine, Lilly, is the niece of my mother’s heroine, Clarice. The title will contain both a “bone” and an “element.”
My biggest dream of all is to have one of my books get made into a movie. My mother and I promised to be each other’s “plus one” if either of our book movies get nominated for an academy award for best adapted screenplay. And yes, I’ve mentally started writing my acceptance speech. Who knows what the future holds for our books, but the best part of all is that I’m enjoying this wonderful journey with my mother. I love you, Mom!

Bred in the Bone Synopsis

In this sequel to Make Old Bones Otis, Clarice, and Miss Letty act as exchange innkeepers at Castle Keep in St. Augustine, Florida.
Castle Keep, built of timbers from a shipwreck, has a disturbing history which carries over to the present.Recently a series of break-ins by a homeless man and the sound of chains dragging in the attic complicate matters.
Miss Letty and Clarice visit the original plantation site where Clarice discovers a skeleton in the icehouse. In addition, they find the burned body of the homeless man in a dragon sculpture, causing them to make connections among disparate events separated by over a century.
Add to the mix a psychic, an African-American journalism student, the Donner wedding party, Florida Gators, two snobbish Southerners, father and son mural painters, an obstreperous Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Charles Dickens, and an obnoxious, but, unwittingly, helpful twelve-year-old named Beddington.

Tin Roof

the sequel to Carbon Copy

In the sequel to Carbon Copy, Lilly Allen returns to her hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, to be closer to her mother, help with her injured brother, and heal from the disappearance of her fiancé Grier Garrison. While she awaits Grier's return, she busies herself with her mansion renovations, her best friend's wedding, and her job as a news reporter.
But even her busy schedule cannot stem the worry over her brother's persistent amnesia and changes in personality. Is he her real twin? Or did they rescue a clone?
On top of this, the months of pining without a word from Grier begin to take their toll. She finds herself growing closer to her favorite cameraman, Joe. His confession of undying love, followed by a passionate kiss, has her questioning how much longer she can wait, and whether she wants to.
To further complicate matters, two unrelated news stories drag her into the seamy underbelly of the Charleston Police Department where murder and drugs are common occurrences.
In the chaos of a hurricane, another body washes ashore, and Lilly comes face-to-face with the murderer.

Leslie Talley
Author of Make Old Bones and Bred In The Bone
Leslie Talley received her B.S. in Nursing from the University of Kentucky and a B.A. and M.A. in English from the University of Central Florida, Orlando, where she subsequently taught, as an adjunct, Technical Writing and Business Writing for ten years.
Leslie and her husband Luke have two children: Terri Talley Venters, Wild Child author of Carbon Copy, Tin Roof, and Copper Cauldron; and Damon Talley, video conference lead at Harris Corporation. Leslie and Luke have lived in Titusville, Florida, for forty-five years.
Make Old Bones and Bred In The Bone are both available from Wild Child Publishing,, and Purchase links can be found on her website.

Terri Talley Venters,
Author of Carbon Copy, Tin Roof, Body Of Gold, Copper Cauldron, and Silver Lining

Terri received her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Master’s degree in Taxation from the University of Florida. She is a licensed CPA and a Second Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo. She lives in St. Augustine, Florida, with her husband, Garrison, and their two sons.
Terri has two other published works available from Wild Child Publishing. Carbon Copy and its sequel, Tin Roof, plus her unrelated novella, Copper Cauldron. She recently finished writing Silver Lining, the epic conclusion to the Carbon Copy trilogy, coming soon from Wild Child Publishing. Her romantic/suspense novel, Body Of Gold, is coming soon from Freya’s Bower. Terri also posts free short stories on her website each month. Follow her as she weaves her way through the Periodic Table of Elements.
Terri is the daughter of Leslie S. Talley, author of Make Old Bones and Bred In The Bone which are also available from Wild Child Publishing.
For the purchase links and more info about Terri’s books, visit her website.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Welcome Dorothy A. Bell

Please help me welcome, Dorothy A. Bell. It's a treat to have an author as a guest who I've also read her work. When you're finished reading this post, please scroll down the home page for my review of her book The Reprobate. Dorothy is with Freya Bower, the sister house of my publisher, Wild Child Publishing. We decided, that's Dorothy and me, to celebrate Halloween a tad early by swapping Halloween stories. So after you've read her poem and all about her books, hop on over to her blog ( and read my scary short story.

Enough of my rambling, take it away Dorothy:

This poem stems from memories of my childhood. Raised in a small Iowa farming community everyone knew everyone. These days, neighbors rarely meet or exchange greetings. Halloween trick or treaters are shunted quickly in and out of homes, or stores grabbing the candy and moving on. Some parents won’t allow their children to go door to door for fear of compromised treats. But the fun of disguise is still in me, and every Halloween I get butterflies in my stomach in anticipation, and I transform from stuffy adult to giddy child again.

A Halloween poem, by author Dorothy A. Bell

Beware Granny Dot’s House
In my neighborhood everyone knows,
Beware Granny Dot’s house on Halloween.
She’s my mother and yet,
I never know how or where she’ll appear.

If you’re lucky she’ll be a fairy queen,
smiling, eager to tap you with her magic wand,
Although, in all my thirty years of trick or treating,
I’ve never seen her be anything so insipidly benign.

I’ve seen my sweet mother transform herself
right before my eyes into a fiendish vampire,
fangs glistening, dripping with blood and slime.

When she’s a witch, she’s at her worst.
She cackles, slobbers, squints one eye
and mutters incantations, cooks over an open fire pit,
adding ingredients disgusting and fantastic to the pot.

Beware Granny Dot’s house, you’ll get no treat until you perform.
You can choose: dance, sing, make a face, tell a joke, recite a silly rhyme,
stand on your head, hop in a circle on one foot,
pat your head while you rub your tummy.

It’s torture, to be sure.
But everyone knows the treats are the best at Granny Dots.
The child in me wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Beware Granny Dot’s house,
Halloween is her favorite time of the year.

An Oregon Historical Romance
Fiddle playing, hard drinking Royce O’Bannon believes he’s worthless like his oldman, no woman should have anything to do with him.
Music teacher, Cleantha Arnaud, her virtue long spent, believes her life is over; crippled, and barren, no man would want her.
When the two outcasts become lovers, hopes and dreams blossom within their parched souls.
Royce’s vengeful daddy begins a campaign of retaliation against his traitorous sons and the town that gave them a second chance.  Royce, feeling the weight of responsibility thrust upon him runs his daddy to ground  in the smoke-filled tunnels  beneath Pendleton’s streets where  vice and hedonistic pleasures distort reality. But one swift crack on the head could shatter all of Royce’s newly found hopes and dreams like candied glass if there’s no one who cares enough to rescue a reprobate, a worthless man.

$5.99 e-book

The Cost of Revenge
A Laura Creek Historical Romance
Freya’s Bower

Quinn O’Bannon knows he should want a sensible girl, an amenable young woman to be his wife, his helpmate, his partner. But he can’t stop fantasizing about the thieving, sloe-eyed vixen Tru McAdam who has taken an oath of vengeance against the whole darn O’Bannon family.
Tru wants to believe the O’Bannons, all of them are rotten, heartless cheats. God help her, most of all she wants to believe the handsome, arrogant flirt Quinn O’Bannon is the worst of the lot.
Quinn and Tru learn when destiny shuffles the cards, strange pairs show up in the hand—you can’t fight it—you have to play the cards your dealt.

$ 5.99 e-book

 Keep up with Dorothy and her work, by stopping at her website: or her blog:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Lycanthrope Book Two by Robert Clark

Lycanthrope: Book 2Lycanthrope: Book 2 by Robert Clark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book picks up where book one stopped. We're still on a college campus in Pennsylvania. We know there's a lycanthrope, uh, werewolf on the hunt. No one wants to believe it but all the signs and by signs, I mean dead bodies, are piling up. The creature is now destroying anyone in its path, including police officers.

The college students continue to plot and research, trying to find a solution. They are not sure if the werewolf is one of them or not. No more going in groups of one or two, at least three at all times, all armed to defend themselves. The police do their best to help, but plans go wrong and people die.

Lots of suspects so keep your eyes and mind open. Is it an outsider? Is it one of the students? Can there be more than one werewolf? Perhaps the next full moon, they will discover the answer.

Read the exciting conclusion of Lycanthrope Book 2 by Robert Clark.

Lycanthrope Book One by Robert Clark

Lycanthrope: Book 1Lycanthrope: Book 1 by Robert Clark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Don't confuse this book with a shape shifter story, this werewolf isn't looking for love but victims. The setting is a college in Pennsylvania and our potential victims, I mean, our main characters are college students.

Nothing like young minds being curious and calling out the wild, so to speak. Lycanthrope is a work of fiction but there are moments, quite a few of them actually, that it does make one pause and wonder. Let's put it this way, no more walks in the woods under the full moon for me. Oh and don't stand near windows.

The adventure starts innocently enough, when a group of close friends are discussing various things and one tosses out his spin on the existence of a werewolf. Doesn't help matters when the full moon arrives a couple weeks later and there's a vicious murder. The first dead body sends chills through all of the group. Next full moon, two more murders. The group is dwindling.

It's not long before the students and the police are trying to figure who or what has decided to kill off this particular bunch of friends. The students race against the next full moon to find ways to stay alive while the cops are trying to understand what in the world is out there. Not easy to try to convince the police force there could be a werewolf on the prowl and silver bullets could help them. This is a book for horror fans. Now for Book 2 and the finale.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Autumn Blog Hop with Wild Child Publishing & Freya's Bower authors

Do you have a favorite fall memory linked to a train? What do you imagine you would see if you were riding a train in the fall? Join the authors of Wild Child publishing and Freya's Bower as we Take an Autumn Train Ride through our blogs.

Prizes will include
  • Four $50 gift certificates (two for Wild Child and two Freya's Bower)
  • An awesome swag package that includes:
    • Bookmarks
    • Books
    • Wild Child T-shirt and mug
    • Wild Child and Freya's Bower bags
    • Four handmade, crochet coasters by Kit Wylde
    • An autographed copy of Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
    • A rare DVD copy of the Matheson/Furst classic "Up The Creek" (lovingly used)
    • One ebook copy of Nita Wick’s short story, The Dream (previously published as part of a Freya's Bower anthology.)
    • Book trading cards
    • Signed Dangerous Waters poster
    • Copy of "Battle for Blood: The Blood Feud"
    • Winner's name used as a character in Kissa Starling’s next sweet romance story.
    • A Yankee Candle
    • more...
Mystery on the Autumn Train

By Cassie

The old-fashioned door bell jangled as Sheryl Locke Holmes entered her antique shop, Homes by Holmes and Watson. “Dot! Dot!”

Dot Watson stepped out of her office and watched Sheryl weave in and out of the antiques. “Are you packed?”

“Yep. Explain to me again how it’s more cost effective to ride a train to check out antiques?”

“Elementary, my dear Holmes.” Dot giggled when Sheryl rolled her eyes. “Because I found us a great deal. With the work van in the shop and we need to make such a long trip to check out those antiques, why not do it in style? We’ll ride on a vintage train with all the comfort we could want and enjoy the scenery. Perfect time of year to see the fall foliage. No heat or bugs to contend with and it’ll be a mini vacation for us.”

“I’m not sure how cheap that is compared to us renting a moving truck.”

“Trust me, it is. We better get on the road. The train pulls out in ninety minutes.”

Sheryl eyed Dot for a moment, then nodded. “Let’s go. I could use a mini vacation.”

“I’ve printed out spec sheets for you to go over while we travel.”

“Oh, that’s what you meant by ‘mini’ vacation.”

“Look at it this way, no arguing over why we should use the GPS instead of a map or why the laptop is necessary or the cell phone. We’ll basically be technology free.”

“Now that was your selling point, you should have started with that explanation.” Sheryl laughed at the expression on Dot’s face.


“Wow!” Dot said once they stepped on board. “This train looks like it’s right out of a movie.”

“It sure does.” Sheryl said. “Talk about stepping back in time. I’m expecting to see Clark Gable or Cary Grant.” Dot and Sheryl were standing in the lounge car. The interior was right out of a 1940s classic movie. The light from etched glass sconces flickered upon glossy wood panels. Fresh Flowers in crystal vases along with vintage magazines adorned table tops. Plush velvet chairs surrounded a baby grand piano. Sheryl was going to love this trip.

“I’ll make sure our luggage is in our sleeper,” Dot said.

“How many nights are we going to be staying?”

“Three. But we’ll have stops and can explore some of the antique shops along the way.” Dot took a step, stopped and handed a manila envelope to Sheryl. “Inside are the list of antiques we need for the shop and a list of what our customers requested. Plus I added some of the brochures about the train. Get comfy and I’ll be back.”

Sheryl found a seat by a window. She removed the items from the envelope but watched the passengers outside waiting in line to hand over their tickets. There were several women chatting in a group. Behind them was an elderly couple, followed by a woman with a young girl. A rather tall, lanky man wearing a black top coat, scarf and black leather cap stood behind them. He pulled a pocket watch out of his vest pocket to check the time. His lips pursed as he snapped the watch case shut before he turned to glare to his right, then to his left. Apparently his traveling companion was running late. At the rear stood a man and woman who clung to each other and every so often he would sneak kisses and she would blush. Newlyweds?

“Care for something to drink, miss?” said a deep voice.

Startled, she looked up. The tall gentleman, slender and mature, was dressed in a black tux sporting a red carnation. He wore white gloves. “Yes, thank you. An iced tea with lemon would be lovely.”

“Very good, miss.” He turned on his heel. Moments later he returned with a tall glass of iced tea.

“Thank you, uh?”

“Maurice. My name is Maurice and I’ll attend to your needs here in the lounge and in the dining car.”

“My name is Sheryl Holmes.” She thought his eyebrow quivered but she couldn’t be sure. Just in case he recognized her name, she added, “I’m on a small vacation with my business partner searching for antiques.”

“Let me know if you need anything, Miss Holmes.” He left.

The sun beamed bright and the heat warmed Sheryl enough that she slid open the window a bit and half-listened to the voices outside on the platform. She glanced out in time to notice the elderly couple presenting tickets. They didn’t climb aboard. Instead, he pulled her to the side of the train, close to Sheryl’s window.

“What’s wrong with you?” the man said.

“I feel like I’m choking.”

“Nonsense, dear.”

Sheryl peeked. The woman fidgeted with the sage green printed silk scarf that appeared to be wrapped around her neck several times. The man patted her back.

“Can’t I remove all of this?” she said and tugged at her throat.

“No, safer where it is.”

“I feel weighed down.”

“Nonsense. The scarf adds the perfect touch.”

A voice interrupted her eavesdropping.

“Oh, Maurice, did you say something?”

“Would you care for a refill?”

The glass was empty, nothing was in it but the long silver tea spoon. Sheryl was stunned. She didn’t recall drinking a drop. “Yes, please.”

When he returned with the iced tea, he asked, “Is something wrong on the platform, Miss Holmes? You seem studying something out there.”

“No, nothing is wrong. Since I’m in the antique business, I couldn’t help but take in my surroundings. The train depot looks vintage. Do you know if it is the original station?”

“I wouldn’t know, miss. Since most things that are called antique or vintage nowadays were around when I was little, I wouldn’t have a clue.”

She smiled and nodded. “How long have you worked on the train?”

“Almost five years. Ever since my Esther passed on.” He sighed.

“I’m so sorry to hear that.”

“Everything in our home reminded me of the dear woman, so I had to get away. This job is perfect for that. Get to travel a lot. If that’ll be all?” He hesitated.

“When do we pull out?”

Maurice brought up his left arm and with his right thumb and forefinger, pushed a button on his wrist watch. “In twenty minutes. Our Conductor Fred Wilson will sound the whistle and announce ‘all aboard’ and another whistle blast follows, then we will depart. Town residents and patrons expect the gesture. Gives the illusion of how it once was around here.”

“Interesting watch.”

“The lighting in here is ofttimes dim and my eyes are old.” With a curt nod, he moved on to the next table.

When Sheryl glanced out the window, everyone was gone and she returned her attention to the train brochures. Minutes later she heard the whistle, the conductor’s shout and finally the last blast before the train chugged away from the station.

“Here’s the local newspaper.” Dot dropped the paper on the table and sat down. “Our accommodations are great. Small but very nice. At least we have a private bathroom or water closet as the maid called the facility.”

“Maid?” Sheryl gaped at her.

“Yep. Clara will make sure we have plenty towels, soap or whatever toiletries we need. She even brings us fresh flowers. Tonight while we’re in the dining car, she’ll turn down our beds for us and leave a mint.”

“And all of this is cost effective?” Sheryl gestured around them with her hand.

“We’re the winners in this deal.” Dot grinned.

“Uh huh. Here comes Maurice. He’s our server. Want an iced tea?”

“What time do we eat? I’m starved.”

“Would you care for something to drink, Miss Watson?”

“I’d love an iced tea. No lemon. What time do we eat?”

Again, Maurice checked his watch. “The dining car opens in an hour and exactly fifteen minutes. Last call for meals is around one or two o’clock. The time depends on how many passengers we are carrying. I’d say one o’clock will be it for this trip. The lounge remains open all evening and features an open bar with bartender. Both cars will have snack items and beverages.”

“Forget the iced tea, I’ve got to check something, I’ll be right back.” Dot jumped up from the table.

Sheryl picked up the newspaper. “Thieves run rampant,” the headline read. Items were missing from various department stores, jewelry stores, and specialty stores. No one knew how anything was stolen since the clerks had to get the missing item out of display cases. Yet a solid gold cigarette lighter vanished, a silver flask, diamond earrings, ruby brooch, emerald pendant, ivory picture frame, a strand of pearls and the list continued. Sheryl read the detailed description of the stolen goods plus employee interviews and opinions stating they believed the culprits were a young athletic couple who talked nonstop about biking, hiking and rock climbing. Except descriptions varied: redheads, blondes and jet black hair to wearing glasses versus no glasses. She frowned. If it weren’t for the train journey, she’d stay and solve the case.


“This dining car is right out of the early 1900s. Look there are place cards with engraved names,” Sheryl said, while trying to gawk at everything. The tables were covered with the finest linen tablecloths she’d ever touched. Crystal glassware sparkled. China place settings and top grade silverware with ivory handles were ready for the diners. The table lamps had stained glass shades that resembled something from Tiffany’s. The larger tables had small chandeliers hanging overhead.

Dot spotted their names. “Here’s the table where we sit.” An elegant table for two awaited them.

“We’re going to be in hock for years to pay this bill. My husband will kill me.” Sheryl looked around, then focused on Dot. “No, he’s going to kill you.”

“Pish tosh.” Dot picked up the menu. “Look at these selections. I may never leave.”

“They might not let us go. You might have to stay to wash dishes—forever ”

Dot snorted.

Sheryl noticed everyone she’d spotted on the platform was already seated, wearing their coats. “Looks like you’re not the only one hungry.” She shivered and realized why everyone was dressed like they were. “Do you think it’s cold in here?”

“Yes, I do.” Dot stood. “I’ll get our jackets.”

“Thanks, but I can get them.”

“Nope, you stay.” Dot rushed off. “I don’t want you to miss a thing.”

“Iced tea, Miss Holmes?” Maurice asked.

“No, thanks, Maurice. Coffee, please. Why is it so cold in here?”

“A malfunction with the heating unit. If one of our personnel can’t fix it, we’ll have to stop in the next town for repairs.” He frowned.

Although there was a chill in the air, spirits were high. As the evening progressed, Sheryl and Dot chatted with their fellow travelers. The excellent food certainly helped as did the free flowing wine.

The elderly couple were Edith and Harold Brummel. Edith’s glasses were perched on her nose as she read over a wine list.

“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Brummel, I’m Sheryl Holmes.”

The woman put down the list and placed her glasses on top. “Lovely meeting you, honey. So many wines to select from. I want to try something sweet and not so tangy.”

“Let me suggest something for you.” Sheryl picked up the glasses and skimmed the list and pointed. “Port. Sweet and fruity, makes an excellent dessert wine.”

“Perfect. Thank you, dear.”

The tall guy who had yet to remove his leather cap was Arthur Henning and not talkative. Since he was alone, Sheryl wanted to say something. “Nice pocket watch, Mr. Henning.”

“What? Oh the time.” He pulled out his watch and flipped open the case. “There’s the time.”

“Thanks, Mr. Henning.” Apparently the man was still angry that his companion didn’t show.

The newlyweds who fed each other between kisses were Sissy and Brad Short and wrapped up in themselves. Sheryl said hello and left. The rest of the passengers blurred together. She joined Dot back at their table.

“I don’t know about you,” Dot said. “But I’m exhausted and ready to turn in.”

“Me too. Right behind you. If I have more coffee, I’ll float to bed.”

“Didn’t you have wine? I saw you carrying a goblet.”

“Decided to stick to club soda.”

In no time the two women were bathed and settled. Lights out. The steady rhythm of the clickety-clack relaxed Sheryl as she snuggled under the covers ready for dreamland. Instead an annoying noise soon filled in the room. Sheryl sat up and contemplated murder. Dot’s snoring sounded like a buzz saw. The digital clock read eleven twenty. Quietly as possible, Sheryl dressed and made her way to the dining car, which by now had dimmed lights. The romantic atmosphere was lost on her. Maurice appeared out of nowhere.

“Something wrong, Miss Holmes?”

“Yes. My bunk mate snores. It was either murder her or leave.”

He chuckled. “Wise decision. Use this table. Coffee?”

“Why is it so dark in here?”

“We’re having issues with the lighting. I can get you a candle if you want.”

“Please and yes to a cup of coffee. I shouldn’t but I have to ask, do you have anything to snack on?”

“Hmmmm how about cookies? We have a large selection.”

She shook her head.

“Pumpkin pie?”

“No. Thanks anyway.”

“Lemon cake?”

“Oh yes!”

“Coming right up.”

Sheryl enjoyed the coffee and cake. The Brummels sat at a nearby table whispering to each other. At another table was Henning still wearing his cap drumming his fingers on the table. There were a couple of other people sipping coffee and talking. Voices remained low and matched the ambiance. The hallway between the dining car and lounge and the other sleeper cars had several dark patches. If this were the city and those were alleys, Sheryl would be concerned that thugs were lurking.

Glad she’d brought something to read to occupy herself, she picked up the train brochures. The candle gave enough illumination to see the words, not that it mattered. Sheryl was reading the room.

Mrs. Brummel got up and walked down the dark hallway, then returned. Mr. Brummel left. Mr. Henning left. Mr. Brummel returned and squeezed his wife’s shoulder. Sheryl noticed a silhouette hovering in the hall. There was enough light to distinguish he wore a long coat and a cap. She saw movement and could tell he was checking the time on his watch before he moved further away. Her attention returned to the brochure.

“What are you doing?”

Sheryl looked up at Dot. “Marveling at my restraint in not strangling you.”

“Strangle me? Why?”

“You snore!”

“I do not!”


“What were you eating?” Dot peered at the plate on the table.

“Lemon cake.”

Dot’s eyes widened and her mouth dropped open.

Before Sheryl could say a word, Maurice appeared with a carafe and another coffee cup.

“Thanks, Maurice. Could you bring another piece of lemon cake for my companion?”

“Of course, Miss Holmes. I’ll start a fresh pot of coffee and get more cake from the kitchen. Will that be all?”

“Uh, well, could you bring me another piece, just a sliver?” Sheryl held up hand with her thumb and forefinger indicating the size, which moved from a half-inch to over three inches.

He smiled. “Will do.”

“I love lemon cake,” Dot said. “And I do not snore.”

“You didn’t in a our college days, but now it’s buzz saw city.”

“I’m glad we’re up. Isn’t this place romantic?”

“Most definitely.”

“Besides the autumn run, the train goes out during Valentine week, weather permitting, and again during June for newlyweds.”

“Guess our newlyweds couldn’t wait until June.”

“That couple was certainly enjoying each other during dinner,” Dot said and grinned.

“They were not social at all.” The two women giggled. Sheryl heard a clang and turned to look in the direction of the noise when a woman’s scream broke the quietness. Sheryl jumped to her feet and peered into the hallway. She could make out a staggering female figure.

“That was my wife!” Mr. Brummel shouted. “I know that’s her.”

Sheryl hurried toward the female only to have Mr. Brummel stumble and fall into her. “Mr. Brummel, please, you need to sit down.” Sheryl held onto his arm and moved the man out of the way. “Dot, help him to a chair.”

Before Sheryl took another step, Mrs. Brummel rushed into the room, “I’ve been mugged!”

“Mugged? Here?” Sheryl shook her head. “Never mind that, Mrs. Brummel, what was taken? Did you see the mugger?”

“It was that.... that....” Mrs. Brummel’s hand flailed through the air. “That hat wearing guy. That tall thin man. You know, you saw him. He was in the hallway waiting for me.”

“Yes, I saw him or I should say I’m seeing him.”

Mr. Henning entered the dining car with the conductor right behind him.

“There he is!” Mrs. Brummel shrieked. “Arrest him.”

Mr. Henning turned to look at the conductor who looked right back at him, both men clearly puzzled.

“What happened, Miss Holmes?” Maurice joined Sheryl.

“I believe the game’s afoot.”


“Stay near me, Maurice, I may need your assistance.”

“Of course, Miss Holmes.”

People crawled out of the woodwork and the sound level was deafening or so it seemed to Sheryl. “Please everyone, let’s quiet down and have a seat.”

Once it was a low roar, Sheryl said, “Mrs. Brummel, please explain what happened.”

“Why should she explain anything to you, young woman?” Mr. Brummel asked.

“Because this is THE great Sheryl Locke Holmes and she’s also a police officer from Millstone,” Dot said. “You couldn’t have a better investigator. Go ahead, Sheryl.”

“Dot!” Sheryl was aghast at the statement.

“Continue, Miss Holmes,” Conductor Wilson said.

“Thank you, sir. First, we need some light.”

“As I told you, Miss Holmes, there is something wrong with the lighting,” Maurice said.

“Let me check.” Sheryl went behind the serving counter, knelt and moved some glasses. She spotted a metal box, opened the cover, and turned a knob. The lights brightened.

Everyone clapped.

“How did you know what to do, Sheryl?” Dot asked.

Sheryl winked and turned to the older woman. “Now, Mrs. Brummel, please tell me what happened.”

“Well, uh, I was in the hallway when that man accosted me.” She pointed at Mr. Henning.

“Madam, I never touched you.” Mr. Henning glared at Mrs. Brummel.

“It’s okay, Mr. Henning, please remain seated,” Sheryl said. “Mrs. Brummel show me where you were when the incident occurred.”

The woman led Sheryl down the hallway. Sheryl spotted the scarf and picked it up. “Am I to assume that this is the spot?”

“Yes. That hateful young man practically choked me when he yanked my necklace from my throat.”

“I did not!”

“What was stolen?”

“An antique pearl necklace. It belonged to my mother.” Mrs. Brummel held the scarf against her mouth and sniffled.

Sheryl shone her flashlight up and down the hall. “Thank you. Okay, why don’t you sit down and relax. Dot, will you help her to a seat and keep an eye on her?”

“Mrs. Brummel.” Dot escorted the woman over to her husband.

“Sheryl, do you know where the necklace is?” the conductor asked.

“Yes, sir, I know who stole the necklace, who hid it and where it’s hidden.”

“I better get security,” Maurice said.

“No, I need you with me,” Sheryl said.

“Are you saying there are two people involved?”

“Let’s clear out the area and have all of the passengers return to their rooms or to the lounge car, except for the Brummels and Mr. Henning.”

“Very well.” The conductor nodded. “Listen up, everyone please return to your sleeping accommodations or the lounge.”

“But we want to know what’s going on,” said one woman.

“And you will, but first we need to finish our questioning. My assistant, Robert, will help you get settled. Robert, be sure they get whatever they want. If you need help, wake a crew member.”

“Yes sir.” The man ushered everyone out of the dining car.

“Miss Holmes, please continue. Are we searching for two people?”

“Let’s sit down and discuss this rationally.” Sheryl sat next to Mrs. Brummel and patted the woman’s hand. Once everyone was seated, she continued, “No, Conductor Wilson, actually three people are involved. The Brummels stole the necklace and several other items.”

“We did not!” Mr. Brummel jumped to his feet.

“Sit down, sir, before I help you sit.” The conductor stood next to the man.

“Sheryl, they are senior citizens,” Dot said.

“Not exactly.”


Sheryl stood and grabbed a handful of Mrs. Brummel’s hair. The wig came off.

“I’ll sue you!” Mrs. Brummel grabbed her head.

“A wig?”

“It’s part of the illusion. Just like the ambiance on the train. I noticed earlier her reading glasses were nothing more than plain glass. When I rubbed her hand a few minutes ago, her age spots came off. That’s why no one could find the thieves. They went from a young couple to senior citizen status and remained under the radar.”

Mrs. Brummel glanced at her hands and glared at Sheryl. “Humph! Doesn’t prove a thing. Search our room, you won’t find anything that isn’t ours.”

“Oh, I’m sure we won’t—now. You’ve been busy stashing the goods all over the train. Those robberies I read about in the local newspaper stated that small items were stolen, each piece easy to hide. Then you two exit the train at some predetermined stop. If you were ever stopped and searched when you leave, you both are clean. Then at the end of the line, your accomplice gathers the items while he’s cleaning the cars, doing his job. He’ll later pawn them. If an item is found by a passenger or personnel, the piece would be turned into Lost and Found. Since people lose things all the time, no one would think anything of it. Your accomplice would later retrieve the item if possible. Except this time, my being on board spooked one of you three. Which is why the elaborate mugger story.”

“I was mugged! That crook stole my pearls.” Mrs. Brummel glared at Mr. Henning.

Robert returned and whispered to the conductor.

“Mrs. Brummel, Mr. Henning’s compartment was just searched and nothing was found.”

“I told you I didn’t steal your old piece of junk.”

“Of course they didn’t find anything, you got rid of the evidence.” Mrs. Brummel smirked.

“Where’s the necklace, Sheryl?” Dot asked.

Sheryl glanced around and spotted a metal dome lid on a serving platter—the clang she’d heard earlier. She lifted the lid and nestled in the leaves of lettuce was the pearl necklace. She dangled the item from her finger. “If Mr. Henning had truly yanked a strand of pearls from around Mrs. Brummel’s neck, the necklace would have snapped and pearls would have scattered. As you can see, the pearls are intact and the clasp unharmed.”

“Humph!” Mrs. Brummel snorted.

“Who is their accomplice?”

“For my next trick...” From under the counter, Sheryl withdrew and held up a coat and cap. “As you can see, Mr. Henning is still wearing his coat and cap. So he is not our perp.”

“Who is their accomplice?”

“The same person who dimmed the lights and who claimed the heating unit was on the fritz. The Brummels’ accomplice kept it cold in here so his fall guy would remain wearing his top coat and leather cap. His actions were like that of a magician. He was trying to get us to focus on one person when we should have been looking at another. The mugging was another illusion so we’d think Mr. Henning was the thief, hopefully arrest him and it would be over. In fact I was seated at a particular table to witness the tall thin man lingering in the hallway. I’m not one bit happy to have to say the name of the person who could wear this getup—Maurice. He’s the fence and their accomplice.”

The noise level rose. 

“Robert, let’s get these three locked up. Next stop isn’t for another hour.”

“Yes, sir.”

The conductor and Robert led the Brummels and Maurice away.

Sheryl and Dot watched them leave.

“How did you know it was Maurice?” Dot asked.

“I saw him checking his watch in the hallway.”

“It was dark, how could you know for sure it was him?”

“His watch dial lights up, I saw the blue glow. Mr. Henning uses a pocket watch and it doesn’t glow. I checked earlier during my short talk with him.”

“How did you know about the dimmed lights?”

“Elementary, my dear Watson, the brochure you gave me. Earlier when you mentioned about the June train ride for newlyweds, I remembered reading a blurb about dimming the lights for the lovers, making it a romantic outing and a great start for a honeymoon.”

“How did you zero in on the Brummels and not our newlyweds?”

“Besides the obvious, the newlweds didn't know any of us were on the train, I overheard the Brummels talking before they boarded the train. She was complaining about the thing around her neck being heavy. A scarf doesn’t weigh anything, but several necklaces would weigh a lot. In the newspaper you gave me, I read details of the stolen goods. Numerous pendants were listed. So, it fits.” Sheryl leaned back in her chair. “Dot, you pulled a fast one on me. Why did you trick me into solving this case, why? How did you know the train was involved?”

“I didn’t know anything. My Uncle Paul is on the force and is a close friend of the conductor. The local police thought the train was the means of transporting the goods out of the city, since nothing ever turned up in area pawn shops, but miles away. Except they couldn’t find a connection. None of the stores’ security footage had the same people in the stores. Everyone working on the train was checked numerous times. Even the passengers, but zilch. Uncle Paul asked me if you could help and I said we would solve the case for a free ride.”

“Lucky guess.”

“Not a guess. I knew you’d do it.” Dot grinned. “After all, you are the great Sheryl Locke Holmes.”

“Let’s say, I like that illusion, but let’s keep it to ourselves.” Sheryl laughed and her best friend joined her.

The whistle shrilled and the train chugged along to the next stop.

Don't miss any of the adventures of Sheryl Locke Holmes and Dot Watson.

Amber's Mysterious Death introduces readers to Sheryl Locke Holmes and her best friend, Dorothy "Dot" Watson. After her parents die from a car accident, Sheryl inherited the family business -- an antique shop and Dot joins her.

Dot is the tech geek with business savvy while Sheryl is old school and doesn't know the first thing about websites or cell phones. Their best friend from college, Amber, died under mysterious circumstances. While at an antique auction, Sheryl spots Amber's husband Roger who had disappeared.
This time, Sheryl will stop at nothing until she gets some answers and avenges her friend's death.
Amber's Mysterious Death can be purchased in various formats at Wild Child Publishing.
Also available at Amazon for your Kindle and Barnes and Noble for your Nook.

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